On reformation in the Muslim world, some reflections on the three so-called “religions of the book.” Note that “book” isn’t capitalized; Muslims use the term not in reference to our Bible, which they trashed as being incompatible with their version of truth, but in the generic sense. That is, there is a book that is central to their belief system.
As for our Book, the Bible, we Baptists believe (ok, some of us do) that “all Scripture is totally true and trustworthy”, or, as we say around our church, inerrant. Does this mean that we believe every single word is uttered by God? Some might; I suspect that most folks in my church in Virginia don’t. I don’t, but do subscribe to the Baptist teaching that the “Holy Bible was written by men divinely inspired and is God’s revelation of Himself to man”
But we all believe that there is unalterable truth behind the words. As for Jews, those who are Orthodox would likely tell you that the Torah was literally dictated, letter by letter, word for word, to Moses at Sinai. As Jesus said in a different context (Mt 5:18, KJV) “For verily I say unto you, till heaven and earth pass, one jot or one tittle shall in no wise pass from the law, till all be fulfilled.” And, just as Islam tells its faithful that Arabic is the only true voice of the Koran, so in like manner is Hebrew the only true language of Torah.
So what? Does this mean that fundamentalist (Orthodox) Jews and pious Islamists are the same? Hardly. You don’t read of Orthodox rabbis blowing themselves up on buses, nor of inciting the faithful to kill the infidels. Likewise, you don’t hardly ever hear (never, actually) of fundamentalist Christians doing such. And these are the fundamentalists in both faiths.
As for those of us who are not literalists when it comes to Scripture, which is to say the vast majority of Christians and Jews, we for the most part support freedom of religion. We today do not take Scripture as the literal word of God. Rather, we take Scripture as the liberal word of God, with varying interpretations of what the underlying truths are. How else do we get to the point where there are literally tens of thousands Christian denominations? We just don’t fight wars over such things. Well, mostly we don’t, and I’d prefer to think that in places like the Balkans (Orthodox Christians vs. Catholics) and Northern Ireland the conflicts were never really about competing interpretations of Scripture — they were about secular power.
Right now, however, it appears that Islam is still at the fundamentalist stage. Period. The Koran as the literal word of God is (sorry ’bout that) all she wrote. Wars continue to be fought between segments of Islam (Shi’ia against Sunni) and especially against us infidels. Islam does not support freedom of religion. Period. Islam is predicated on the conversion, submission (hence the meaning of “Islam”), or killing, of non-Muslims. Period.
All of the talk about reforming Islam needs to start by changing the status of the Koran to something more akin to Christian and (Conservative or Reform or Reconstructionist) Jewish views of Scripture. That is, the good old Baptist teaching “written by men divinely inspired and is God’s revelation of Himself to man.”
Man is fallible, and I’d think we’ve made several transcription errors over the centuries — without destroying the underlying truth. I would hope that Islam could first come to this conclusion — that it is mere mortal man who has written down the Koran based on their vision of God. Of course I believe that Islam’s vision is totally wrong. What I would pray for is that the Muslim world can make the same statement about Christianity and Judaism without attempting to correct us with the sword.