To Burn or not to Burn?

Do not repay evil for evil or reviling for reviling, but on the contrary, bless, for to this you were called, that you may obtain a blessing. (1Pe 3:9)

There has been much rhetoric over the last week about Terry Jones and Dove World Outreach’s plans to burn the Koran on the anniversary of the 9/11 attacks. At the risk of being “politically incorrect”, I thought I would put in “my two cents worth.” I have attempted to read the theology behind Jones’s bon-fire extravaganza,; but, was disappointed to learn that their website server had canceled their site due to “contractual issues.” (if anyone does know their theology behind this act, please let me know, see author tab for contact info) So, being unable to hear their side of the story, I can only speculate as to why a Christian would desire to burn the Koran. I would like to examine two points in this post. First, is there a biblical precedent for book burning. Secondly, does this precedent apply to the current situation.

There is one occasion in scripture were we do, in fact, see book burning. In Ephesus, Paul is leading a very large revival. Multiple spectacular manifestations of the Spirit are taking place and thousands of people are being brought into relationship with Jesus. As a result of their new found experiences with God, they bring out the sacred texts of their former religions and burn them. The Bible states, “And a number of those who had practiced magic arts brought their books together and burned them in the sight of all. And they counted the value of them and found it came to fifty thousand pieces of silver. (Act 19:19) The value of these text could have been anywhere from 10,000-12,000 dollars. They decided that they were of little value coming from a source other than their new found faith. Hence, they consigned them to the flames as being demonically inspired. Therefore, there is a biblical precedent for book burning. Next, we must discern if this precedent applies to the Gainesville congregation.

Even a cursory glance at the situation yields a resounding “No!” First, the folks in Acts 19 were Christians who had just converted from alternative religions. I’m quite certain that the bulk of members attending the Koran burning are not recently converted Muslims. If that were the case, one could justify a Koran burning, but, it wouldn’t need to be broadcasted internationally as an event to be watched around the world. Why? It would bring cause to offense. This brings me to the second reason.

I can sum up the entire mission of the Christian in one word. That word is “love.” Christians are called by God to love people without condition. The Christian does not love the radically fundamental terrorist only when they stop killing innocent people. The Christian loves them until they stop. This is the nature of the love that God has for all of humanity. (see Jesus comments below) We are to model God’s love to the world. We are called by scripture to not return “evil for evil.” (I Thess 5:15) Simply because certain Muslims want to burn the Bible does not mean that I need to burn the Koran. (1) The Scriptures states, “See that no one repays anyone evil for evil, but always seek to do good to one another and to everyone. (1Thess 5:15) The main question to ask here is, “Does this action communicate love to the world of Islam?” The obvious response is absolutely not. In fact, it is hard to find anyone who believes that this will actually benefit the international community. Even the President has spoken against it. I’m not sure how well the President knows his Bible, but, he got this one right. What possible benefit could come from offending Muslims in Jesus name? We would do better by arranging material and medical resources to assist the Muslims in Pakistan with their horrendous flood situation. This is what the Bible teaches, “Beloved, never avenge yourselves, but leave it to the wrath of God, for it is written, “Vengeance is mine, I will repay, says the Lord.” To the contrary, “if your enemy is hungry, feed him; if he is thirsty, give him something to drink; for by so doing you will heap burning coals on his head. Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good. ” (Rom 12:19-21) The words of Messiah Himself reiterate this, “You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I say to you, Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, so that you may be sons of your Father who is in heaven. For he makes his sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust. For if you love those who love you, what reward do you have? Do not even the tax collectors do the same? And if you greet only your brothers, what more are you doing than others? Do not even the Gentiles do the same? You therefore must be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect.” (Matt 5:43-48) If Christian would act accordingly, it would dispel the myth that Americans (mostly Christians) hate Muslims as much as the radically fundamental Islamist hate us. The Koran burning only solidifies the radically fundamental Islamist worldview and will be used to recruit young Muslims into their ideology. Burning the Koran is attributing to the problem rather than the solution. In fact, it is, in this case, unbiblical and an embarrassment to Christianity. Personally, I think they are wrong and need to apologize.

One may say, “Well, the Koran is a demonically inspired book; therefore, it should be burned.” Again, here is a half-truth. It is my opinion that the Koran has some demonically inspired parts in it, particularly, what it has to say about Jesus. Nevertheless, we are not called by God to breed hatred in the world under the banner of eliminating demonically inspired literature. If burning the Koran would bring folks to a relationship with Christ, then burn them all. However, if burning them would further drive them from that endeavor, then we are working against Christ and aligning ourselves with Satan. We find ourselves working against the same Spirit that has called us in Christ. This places our allegiance in the camp of the enemy and only furthers his agenda to “kill, steal, and destroy.” (John 10:10) Many zealous disciples have made this error. (2) We must not repeat it. Let us breed love as a community of Christians, as a united body, and not breed hatred while working for the enemy in Jesus’ name.


**All Scripture quotations are taken from the English Standard Version of the Holy Bible, Crossway Bibles, Wheaton IL, 2001. Unless otherwise stated.

1. Incidentally, it has been a number of years since I read the Koran, but I don’t remember ever reading anything that tells the Muslim to burn the Bible. In fact, the Koran and Islam does support the idea that it is inspired by God, but the Koran is a more recent revelation so it takes precedent.

2. See also my post entitled, “Know ye not what Manner of Spirit?”