Thursday, February 09, 2006

John Piper on the Muslim Outrage Over Cartoons of Mohammed

Justin Taylor have received a personal email from John Piper who gave the following comment:
"Am I missing it, or is there an unusual silence in the blogosphere about the Muslim outrage over the cartoons of Mohammed. To me this cries out for the observation that when artists put the crucifix in a flask of urine, Christians were grieved and angered, but not one threatened to kill anyone. Our longing is to convert the blasphemers with the Good News of Christ's death and resurrection, not kill them. Our faith is based on One who was reviled not just in cartoons but in reality and received it patiently for the salvation of the cartoonists. These riots are filled with intimations about the glorious difference between Christ and Mohammed, and between the way of Christ and the way of Islam. And the cowing of the press around the world and the US government is ominous for the fear we are under of Islam--not just extremist Islam. I do not respect the teachings of Islam which when followed devoutly lead to destruction. So I have been pondering which will take me out first, Islam, Uncle Sam, or cancer. No matter, all authority belongs to Jesus. I just want to bear faithful witness to his glorious gospel of peace to the end."
Let us rejoice that Jesus Christ taught us to love our neighbors as ourselves and to love our enemies. When Christianity is mocked by others, do not return hate for hate, but rather like what Piper wrote, "convert the blasphemers with the Good News of Christ's death and resurrection."

John Piper has also written an article titled "Being Mocked: The Essence of Christ’s Work, Not Muhammad’s."
That’s the most basic difference between Christ and Muhammad and between a Muslim and a follower of Christ. For Christ, enduring the mockery of the cross was the essence of his mission. And for a true follower of Christ enduring suffering patiently for the glory of Christ is the essence of obedience. “Blessed are you when others revile you and persecute you and utter all kinds of evil against you falsely on my account” (Matthew 5:11). During his life on earth Jesus was called a bastard (John 8:41), a drunkard (Matthew 11:19), a blasphemer (Matthew 26:65), a devil (Matthew 10:25); and he promised his followers the same: “If they have called the master of the house Beelzebul, how much more will they malign those of his household” (Matthew 10:25).

The caricature and mockery of Christ has continued to this day. Martin Scorsese portrayed Jesus in The Last Temptation of Christ as wracked with doubt and beset with sexual lust. Andres Serrano was funded by the National Endowment for the Arts to portray Jesus on a cross sunk in a bottle of urine. The Da Vinci Code portrays Jesus as a mere mortal who married and fathered children.

How should his followers respond? On the one hand, we are grieved and angered. On the other hand, we identify with Christ, and embrace his suffering, and rejoice in our afflictions, and say with the apostle Paul that vengeance belongs to the Lord, let us love our enemies and win them with the gospel. If Christ did his work by being insulted, we must do ours likewise.
A religion with no insulted Savior will not endure insults to win the scoffers.
John Piper is currently scheduled on February 14 to undergo surgery for his treatment of prostate cancer.


Blogger HairyFairy said...

i think inter-group understanding is very important during this period as well. they've got to stop generalizing or stereotyping a person for the group they perceive him to be in.

hopefully there will be no more casualties incurred due to this incident.

9/2/06 7:10 PM  
Blogger beowulf said...

Yes I agree.

It’s kind of like Christianity, where the world might probably stereotype Christians as belonging to the charismatic variety, when there are, of course, a substantial number of Christians who are cessationalists.

Like Christianity, Islam is made up of different groups of believers. The moderate Muslims may regard the teachings of the extremist Muslims as deviant and vice versa. We Reformed Christians and many Arminians would regard the teachings of the word-faith teachers as deviant also. These teachings may be deviant according to our theology, but no matter what, these deviant teachings are held by a large number of people. Like the word-faith movement, Osama bin Laden’s brand of Islam is regarded as legitimate by many Muslims. This fact cannot be ignored.

9/2/06 8:51 PM  
Blogger Ignatius said...

Though there may be difference between Christ and Mohammed, and between the way of Christ and the way of Islam, both Christianity and Islam teaches the importance of loving others. This understanding is important. One should not generalize or stereotype.Islam and Muslim deserve our respect.Most Muslims are people who love others, it's just the extremist Islam who is causing all the destruction.Even so, let us, as Jesus Christ taught us, we should love our neighbors as ourselves, and this include loving our enemies. ... but it's not going to be easy as we see us Christians fighting among ourselves! ...over doctrines, over church polity,over almost everything...

though it's difficult to love, we should never give up doing so. ... after all, the greatest commandment is to love.

9/2/06 9:43 PM  
Blogger beowulf said...

I would balk at using the term "respect" with regard to Islam or any other religions as it might be misconstrued as religious pluralism. I would prefer the term “tolerate.” Religious pluralism is where you believe that more than one religion holds the way to salvation, whereas religious tolerance supports the right of individuals to have their own religious beliefs and practices without necessarily validating the religions themselves. Religious pluralism would also deny that there is such thing as absolute truths.

So to put it another way, I would respect the rights of individuals and tolerate their religious practices even though I know that the beliefs of other religions are absolutely wrong. Salvation is by grace alone, not by works as taught by other religions according to Ephesians 2:8-9. The greatest gift of love we can give our neighbors is the gospel of Jesus Christ. To "respect" other religions is to disrespect the Great Commission’s call for missions and evangelism.

And may I add, the Muslim violence over the cartoons is like George W. Bush's invasion of Iraq over the attack of the World Trade Center in 11 September 2001. Innocent human lives are lost because of their foolish vengeful actions. Both behaviors are inexcusable and unnecessary.

10/2/06 1:42 PM  
Blogger Ignatius said...

I think the Moderate Muslims deserve respect for their action of urging Muslims not to retaliate with violence, even though Moderate Muslims themselves are sharply critical of the cartoons. One such eg is the Islamic group Nahdatul Ulama. Though they find the Muhammad cartoons "condemnable",they do refuse to retaliate with violence.

While I agree there is the possibility that having "respect" with regard to Islam or any other religions might be misconstrued as religious pluralism,I don't think "respect" carries with it the connotation of religious pluralism. I don't think to respect other religons means to endorse or accept their beliefs as true.

The term “tolerate” is more suitable for beliefs and behaviour, but using "respect" for someone (in this case, the Moderate Muslims) or something seems fine to me!

"Respecting" other religions means acknowledging their good qualities.Respecting other religions doesn't mean that one believe more than one religion holds the way to salvation, or that one deny that there is such thing as absolute truths.

So to put it more nicley, yes,I would respect the rights of individuals. I respect religious Moderates (in this case, the Muslims) for having admirable qualities. I would also tolerate individuals' religious practices even though I know that the beliefs of other religions may not be right.

However, I do strongly believe the scriptural teaching that salvation is by grace alone, not by works(Ephesians 2:8-9). It is true that the greatest gift of love we can give our neighbors is the gospel of Jesus Christ. However, I believe respecting others is the first step towards successful evangelism and mission. If we do not respect them, there will never be a chance for talk. I dislike the word "tolerance" as it sort of carries with it negative connotation. It seems to imply that the thing we are tolerating is SOMETHING UNPLEASANT or ANNOYING. As such, I don't think it is to disrespect the Great Commission’s call for missions and evangelism by being respectful, regardless whether it is other individuals or their religion.

11/2/06 12:23 PM  
Blogger beowulf said...

What I am trying to put across is simply this: love the sinners, hate the sin. The sin might be a religion or any of the sins found in 1 Corinthians 6:9-10. By worshipping gods other than God of the Bible, one would be breaking the greatest commandment. That would be the greatest sin.

Let me put it another way. Homosexuality is a sin. Adultery is a sin. Worshipping false religions is a sin. It would seem kind of absurd to “respect” homosexuality and adultery, knowing full well that they are abominations in the eyes of God. In the same way, this would be how I feel towards false religions.

However, I stress that I strongly support the rights of individuals to practice their beliefs as long as they do not infringe on the rights of others. I would tolerate homosexuality in our society. I would tolerate adultery. I would tolerate the creation of casinos in Singapore. I would tolerate Islam and all other religions. I will love the sinners even though I hate their sins.

I do have some strong concerns about this controversy. If the Islamic extremists win this time round, then it might set a precedent where they can label anything as offensive to Islam. To preach Jesus Christ is the ONLY way, the truth and the life is to imply that Islam isn’t. That can be labeled as religiously offensive. The next thing you know, it might be a crime to preach the gospel of Jesus Christ. Our constitutional right to propagate our Christian faith might be taken away under the pretext of “religious harmony.”

11/2/06 8:09 PM  
Blogger Ignatius said...

"love the sinners, hate the sin" is often quoted by Chistians, but this is not true in all cases. This is a popular evangelism technique not given in scripture!
The Rev. Dr. John H. Gerstner has written on this:

“Repent or Perish” forces people to ponder seriously the popular slogan, “God hates the sin and loves the sinner.” Is a necessary repentance consistent with “God loves the sinner?” If God loves the sinner while he is alive, it is strange that God sends him to hell as soon as he dies. God loves the sinner to death? Loves him to everlasting torment?

I do agree that worshipping false religions is a sin. However, respecting believers of other faith is still important in successful evangelism and mission. If we do not respect them, there will never be a chance for talk, there will never be a chance that they will listen.

Yes, Jesus Christ is definitely the ONLY way.I pray that “religious harmony”will continue so that the Gospel of Christ can be preached to the ends of the Earth.

13/2/06 12:14 AM  
Blogger beowulf said...

I am afraid you are mistaken about the “love” I am referring to. When I say “love the sinners,” I was referring to the teachings that are found in the following verses:

“Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you.” – Matthew 5:44

“Love your neighbor as yourself.” – Matthew 22:39

This kind of love we have is different from God’s electing love – His love for the elect. Does God have love for the non-elect? I imagine He does. We do know that sometimes the ungodly and the wicked are divinely blessed with good fortune while the elect suffers. However, this general indiscriminating love for the ungodly is different from the electing love God have for His chosen people.

I do agree that God do hates those He has not chosen. For it is written: “Jacob I loved, but Esau I hated.” – Romans 9:13

The hate God feels for the non-elect should be seen in perspective with God’s electing love. Theologically, God’s love for the non-elect is known as common grace, while God’s electing love is known as special or saving grace.

The doctrine of common grace is one of the debated issues among Calvinists.

Honestly, I do not see how religious harmony, when taken to its logical conclusion, would work for the cause of missions and evangelism. It is like Arminianism, where one to be logically consistent, one must adopt open theism or universalism. For a society to be really religious harmonious and without any conflict whatsoever, laws must be enacted to prevent any religious group from proselytizing anyone.

I do not think it is possible for practicing Christians to co-exist peacefully with the rest of society. There will always be tensions between Christians and the rest of the world. For it is written:

“If the world hates you, keep in mind that it hated me first. If you belonged to the world, it would love you as its own. As it is, you do not belong to the world, but I have chosen you out of the world. That is why the world hates you.” – John 15:18-19

I am in absolute agreement with you that we should respect believers of other faiths. By loving our neighbors and our enemies, we regard them with respect. But I do draw the line at using the word “respect” for these religions, which Exodus 20:3 defines to be abominations in the eyes of God. That is why I think “tolerate” is a more appropriate word.

13/2/06 1:51 AM  

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