Islamic Cultural Center and Fundamentalists Christian Exegetes of the Koran

In the past weeks, we have heard everything from: pastors having Koran burning ceremonies (source: James-Michael Smith), to Christians being up in arms about an Islamic Cultural Center being built near “Ground Zero” (source: Chad Holtz). I can understand why fear has gripped many within the American church and why some concerns about ‘radical Islam’ exist, but lets make sure that we do not characterize all of a religion based on a single sect. I wonder, if you are in the frustrated camp about the mosque, if you share the equal concern for ‘radical “Christianity”‘ in the worst sense? Like the Baptist church that holds signs saying: “God hates Fags” or those who bomb abortion clinics? My belief is that these issues arise from hyper-fundamentalist-literalistic readings of the Bible (and some demonic influence).  I think we need to recognize that our camp (although I would personally say that those I have just mentioned are not true Christians [which would be what most Muslims would say about the terrorists]) has similar types of radicals.  Ok, granted that they have not done quite what a few terrorist Muslims have done.  Nevertheless, radical Islam, like radical fundamentalist (pseudo) Christianity, is only a slim minority and should not be the brush we paint the whole of either group with.

My second thought is that if we were to take the Bible fully literally without a robust exegetical/ theological/contextual approach to it, there are many acts of ‘terrorism’ within its pages as well; especially in the Old Testament (I am not saying that the Bible has terrorism, but could ‘appear’ to contain such is our interpretive method is flawed!). But, of course we understand the flow of the biblical narrative and have a theological understanding, which allows for such nuances. Think about this: if a Muslim or anyone for that matter were to pick up a Bible and simply read ‘this text and that one,’ we Christians could be accused of supporting many things that we simply do not. I think the same is true of peaceful Muslims (which make up the largest sect of the faith). They too, understand their ‘revelation’ through the lens of a theological grid rather than the selective literalism that I see many of my Christian friends applying to their sacred text. Perhaps if more Christians had better exegetical methods for approaching the Bible, then maybe many would not jump too quickly to unfair fundamentalist based conclusions about the Koran. I think we need to be fair in that regard and not allow the minority (terrorists) to overwhelm the majority (peaceful Muslims).

Finally, this current issue is about religious freedom… THAT’S IT. If you value your freedom to worship anywhere in the USA, we cannot condemn a peaceful group of Muslims for doing the same. They acquired property and it is their constitutional right to hold religious gatherings wherever they want to. And, I am sure that they will do many good things for that portion of the City of New York. We must ask ourselves questions about how this little issue makes the church look to the world… it makes us look like fear-driven religious bigots… it damages the mission of God and our influence towards nonbelievers.


If you support the Islamic Cultural Center, I invite you to join this group that a Facebook friend recently started!


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  • “My second thought is that if we were to take the Bible fully literally without a robust exegetical/ theological/contextual approach to it, there are many acts of ‘terrorism’ within its pages as well; especially in the Old Testament.”

    Thank you. This is something that never fails to amaze me when I read comments about Islam & the Koran. Heck, just read something like the story of Daniel & the Lions den — that ends with families (including women & children) being tossed to the lions. This is pretty horrific sounding stuff. Armies being tricked into cutting off foreskins and then being slaughtered while they recover. Entire families being destroyed. Calls for the stoning of children. Heck, even in the New Testament we have God striking down people for lying about money. One could very easily cherry-pick through the Bible and find plenty of ammunition to “prove” that Christianity is a primarily violent religion.

    Great article!

  • “Perhaps if more Christians had better exegetical methods for approaching the Bible, then maybe many would not jump too quickly to unfair fundamentalist based conclusions about the Koran.”


    Well said, Kurt.

  • Thanks very much for that excellent article, Kurt. Around February of this year I started doing some ‘investigating’ of Islam in response to one of the Muslim bashing e-mails that swamp the Internet (this particular one maintained that Muslims are required by Allah in the Qur’an [Koran] to slaughter all ‘infidels’). As a result, I wrote the first of several blog articles exposing bigoted distortions of Islam ( ).

    It constantly amazes me how people can be so willing to attack others based on short, out-of-context snippets from their Scriptures or theological writings – such as: “slay those who ascribe divinity to aught beside God wherever you may come upon them” (Qur’an 9:5). Anyone who will read that in its context will easily see that it is talking about the response of Muslims when they have been militarily attacked by the idolaters, who have broken a treaty or covenant they had with the Islamic people. It is an act of self defense, not aggressive violence. Aggressive attacks are not permitted by the Qur’an. And compulsion in religion is strictly forbidden.

    Yet some Muslims, who complain about their Scripture being twisted and distorted, turn around an do the same thing with the Christian Scripture.
    I have seen some Muslims (not just Muslims, though) claim that Christianity is a violent religion, not peaceful, because Jesus said in Matthew 10:34 – “Do not think that I have come to bring peace to the earth. I have not come to bring peace, but a sword.” There you have it: solid proof that Jesus advocated violence and rebellion! And of course, one could pull out little snippets from Paul’s letters, like his exhortation to Timothy to “fight the good fight of faith”; or his statement “I have fought the good fight”. Hey, what could be more violent and militaristic than that?!

    I’m spending quite a bit of time these days focusing on the anti-Muslim bigotry which abounds – I even feel more like a Muslim than anything else these days. 😀 I just sent a reply to an e-mail which gave a lengthy quote from Newt Gingrich (supposedly “clear, sensible, and historically accurate”) in which he says we shouldn’t let any more mosques be built in our country because Saudi Arabia doesn’t allow churches and synagogues! Wow! The principles embedded in our Constitution should be discarded, and what other nations do should now become the standard for us! 🙄 Never mind the hypocrisy of decrying the Saudi Arabian actions as evil, and then saying we should follow their example.

    Anyhow, I could go on and on about the matter, but I’ll stop with just thanking you once again for your article.

  • I love this. A lot. Thanks for being willing to point out the flaws in fundamental rationale!

  • With the “radical” Christians you mention–abortion clinic bombers and violent gay-bashers–I also recall the “Hutaree,” the Christian militia recently apprehended in Michigan while planning an armed uprising against the state … on religious grounds.

    Of course you’re right: Muslim terrorists, like Christian terrorists, are not representative of the majority. Thanks for making the point.

  • John F

    Your point is well taken. I am concerned when I see protesters outside of an abortion clinic, because I wonder how far they will go. I do not want to be associated with “Christian Terrorists”.

    This mosque should be a simple issue of property rights, but it has turned into something much larger. Both the left and right are all over the place because of the very real complexities involved.

    The First Amendment generally tolerates even hate speech, unless it prompts someone to violence. The issue here rising to the surface is, what if the religious text prompts followers to violence? Is this Islamaphobia or a legitimate concern?

    • John, I can assure you that as I said in my earlier comment, the Qur’anic text does not incite its followers to violence. I showed the contextual meaning of a number of the ‘violent’ texts of the Qur’an in this article: . You can check it out if you’re interested.

      • John F

        That’s an interesting article Mystic. When I read the text, without commentary, it appears to my small mind to legitimize violence against non believers. I am not siding with the Newt Gingrich’s, but I do see cause for concern. Unlike past warmongers who’ve veiled their personal ambitions with religious ideology, there are those who truly believe the Koran promotes violence and are willing to act on it.

        • Well, thanks for reading the article, anyhow. 🙂 I can’t quite see how just a simple reading of the text itself would fail to reveal that the fighting being advocated in the Qur’an is strictly defensive. Sure, it’s not the nonviolence of Gandhi, but it is the defensive warfare that those who believe in nonaggression advocate. The text itself specifically says such things as to fight against those who “have been first to attack you” (9:13); and “Thus, if anyone commits aggression against you, attack him JUST AS HE HAS ATTACKED YOU” (2:195). And 2:193 commands that when the enemy ceases fighting, the Muslim believers are to desist also. Other passages point out that only the actual combatants are to be harmed.

          Yes, violence is legitimized against non believers WHO ATTACK THE BELIEVERS; but that is the only situation in which violence against non believers is legitimized. 4:90 specifically puts it this way: “Thus, if they let you be, and do not make war on you, and offer you peace, GOD DOES NOT ALLOW YOU TO HARM THEM.” I fail to see that there is anything in the least ambiguous in the text, when little snippets aren’t pulled out and interpreted non-contextually.

          But all I can do is ask you to examine the evidence and decide for yourself. You apparently have at least briefly looked at the texts, and somehow failed to see the same thing I, and most Muslims, see. Perhaps more thought will give you a different perspective. I’ll leave that to God, who is certainly able to guide in the right path. 🙂

          • John F

            If you are using out of context verses to change the meaning of in context text, aren’t you guilty of what you accuse others of? OK, that wasn’t entirely fair, but things like the doctrine of abrogation call into question using earlier verses to tame later ones. Let’s assume you are absolutely correct (and I’m not saying you aren’t), then this “non-Muslim” group has hijacked a peaceful religion, and, while perhaps in the minority, are certainly not a “fringe”. Pew research polls put terrorist sympathizers, those that see attacking Western civilians in the name of Islam as justified, in the majority in Pakistan and Jordan and fully 1/3 in “peaceful” nations like Turkey (which has a secular government).
            As I stated earlier, I largely see this “ground zero Mosque” as a private property rights issue and don’t believe there are any legal grounds to oppose it. I do see the swell of opposition however, as a sign Americans feel, perhaps legitimately, threatened by Islam.
            What is the answer? Well, I think you should be commended for educating yourself and researching Islam and attempting to educate others, however, I do think it is important to state the obvious; Islam teaches Jesus is not “the way the truth and the life”, he did not die on the cross, he is not the son of God and that he is not the way to the Father and any reading of the Koran’s doctrine of abrogation nullifies the teachings of the Bible. So what do we do? Foremost, remember the greatest command, ‘Love your neighbor as yourself’ and look at Paul’s example; be a brother and meet people where they are and try to find a connection. We all share the same fallen world and and a void that can only be filled by God.

          • My comments, of course, only had to do with the assertion (or possibility) that the Islamic texts themselves promoted indiscriminate violence against ‘infidels’. How many misguided “Muslims” may believe otherwise is another matter. I don’t much trust polls and statistics, though. I know you’ve heard the old adage: “statistics don’t lie; but liars use statistics”. 😆 (I’m not accusing you of being one of those liars, though. 🙂 )

            Concerning quoting snippets of passages “out-of-context”: it’s not merely that only a sentence of two is actually quoted. We certainly aren’t going to necessarily quote long paragraphs or chapters every time we refer to a passage. But when those quotations are interpreted as though there is no context, or no qualifications in the context, that’s what is truly out-of-context quotation. For instance, if I quoted some Qur’anic passages that speak of treating people with kindness, and tried to assert that those passages show that Islam promotes a Gandhi style of pacifism, it would be very easy to prove me wrong. When I quoted the ‘snippets’ that showed there were contextual qualifications to the ‘violence’ promoted in the Qur’an, though, it was precisely as qualifications of texts that deal with fighting that I quoted them. The fact that the Qur’an calls on ‘believers’ to fight ‘unbelievers in the cause of God is not called into question. The idea that such fighting is aggressive and indiscriminate, though, IS questioned (and denied). I merely pointed out that within the context of those verses that call on believers to physically fight, there are other verses that qualify that by saying only those who physically attack the believers are to be fought or harmed. And when those attackers cease their fighting, the believers should also cease.

            As to the doctrine of “abrogation”, in the sense of later portions of the Qur’an abrogating earlier portions, that is simple untenable. There are a number of portions of the Qur’an which specifically deny that such a thing is possible. The two or three passages that speak of abrogating “former revelations” pretty clearly refer to revelations earlier than the Qur’an (portions of the Old and New Testaments, for instance). A very “mainstream” Islamic scholar who argues intelligently against abrogation within the Qur’an is Muhammad Asad (who helped write Pakistan’s Constitution, and served as a representative from Pakistan to the United Nations). You can find a couple of his comments on the subject in his English translation of the Qur’an: notes on Sura (chapter) 2:106 and 41:42. You can find that translation online here: . The Sura number is located on the top right of the page (there’s a ‘box’ with the Sura name and number, and a ‘drop down’ arrow you can click to search for the Sura you want to read). Once you’ve found the correct Sura, simply scroll down to the notes section and locate the note (or notes) for the particular verse. In the printed edition of the Qur’an, the notes are numbered consecutively; but in the online edition, they’re numbered to align with the verse numbers.

            I don’t believe it would be correct to say that the Qur’an speaks of abrogating the Old and New Testaments, if the sense is that the whole of those former revelations were being abrogated. Only portions would be seen as having been replaced by “something better”, just as the Christian New Testament replaced certain things in the Old Testament with the “better covenant”. Aspects of the former revelations which were time or culture bound would be replaced, while that which is of abiding value is confirmed and retained. That, I believe, would be a “mainstream” way of looking at it.

            I think it’s quite legitimate to criticize actual teachings of the Qur’an which you find unacceptable. It’s important to make such criticisms in a polite way, though. Actually, I don’t see anything at all impolite in anything you have said. Just always maintain the same kind of friendly – as opposed to mocking – way of presentation.

            With regard to some of the things you say that Islam denies, I would say that Islam just has a different way of understanding them (like Jesus is “the way, the truth and the life”). Unitarian Christians (even though some evangelicals will consider those contradictory terms :grin:) also view such statements concerning Jesus from a different perspective, without denying the ‘truth’ of the statements.

            I think it’s pretty clear that Islam for the most part denies the crucifixion and death of Jesus (and therefore denies the resurrection also); though I’ve read some Islam scholars who teach that Jesus was indeed crucified but didn’t die (God caused the Roman soldiers to mistakenly believe Jesus was dead, so they allowed him to be taken and buried even though he wasn’t really dead). Interestingly, though, a Christian missionary “friend of a friend” introduced me (by letter) to an interpretation of Sura 4:155-158 (which seems to deny the crucifixion and death of Jesus) which would in fact be consistent with the Biblical revelation. He uses this interpretation with Muslims to whom he is “witnessing” to show them that they can accept the Biblical Gospel without having to reject the Qur’an. I have written about it in an article entitled “The Death of Jesus in the Qur’an” ( ). If you would like to read that,and perhaps comment on it in my blog, I would be honored. Mind you, I don’t know of any Muslims who have ever interpreted that passage in the way I present; but I believe it’s viable, and would resolve one area of conflict between Christianity and Islam. In most other respects, Unitarian Christianity is compatible with Islam.

  • I am Christian and I am an American. So I see it as problematic to deny any religious group a place of worship. If you deny Muslims a place to worship then you have to deny……it goes without saying. I am also concerned with anyone not knowing what violence is. Screaming at someone and burning property are violent acts albeit on a smaller scale than bombing. But for me I wonder how many Christians understand Jesus came to change our hearts by His work rather than us acting like a political or social group. He is the man we must present! Not ideas based on who or what group is right or wrong. See my blog for my response to the Codoba mosque issue!

  • Britt Hester

    Thank you for posting this, Kurt. I have to admit, I have been wanting to blog on something similar; however, in the past couple of weeks I have been criticized and chastised by many “Christians” who think I am being tolerant of ungodly terrorism. My response has been similar to what you have posted here. Indeed it is sad that most WASP’s cannot read between the lines and realize that most Muslims do not in fact support terrorism. Many of the same Christians who proclaim we need to “reclaim our faith” go against this ideal when they say Muslims cannot build a mosque wherever they want. The baseline of our identity as United States citizens is freedom. Those who begin to make exceptions regarding religious freedom open the door for exceptions regarding all freedoms. Martin Luther King Jr. said it well: ” A threat to justice anywhere is a threat to justice anywhere.” Hopefully we will soon realize this and move beyond our cynicism and bigotry to embrace the way of Christ.

  • Thanks for point out the double standard here Kurt. As you say, part of the psychology of bigotry is that the majority group cherry-picks unfavorable pieces of minority and uses that as the lens to view the entire minority group, even though it sounds absurd to apply similar logic to one’s own group.

    A white person sees a black person being arrested for gang violence and says, “black people are so violent”, but then sees Timothy McVeigh get arrested and thinks “what a lunatic, glad I’m not like him”.

    A wealthy person sees a homeless person drinking a beer and thinks “people are homeless because they’re lazy drunks”, but then sees the Enron executives or Bernie Madoff arraigned and thinks “They really dropped the ball”.

    A heterosexual person sees the excesses of a Pride parade and thinks “Gay people are promiscuous and irresponsible”, but sees the hookup culture in a straight nightclub or bar and thinks, “That’s just a phase of life people grow out of”.

    The current controversy surrounding Islam in America is just the most pressing manifestation of our deep seeded tendency to scapegoat a minority and to cast unfair judgment about that minority.

  • John Holmes

    a robust exegetical/ theological/contextual approach to it, Kurt…

    Lets put that to the test, I neither want to be classified in the fundamentalist camp, as being a charismatic, they have been my life longer persecutors in a Christian context, but is my only alternative, to think like a Unitarian, and throw overboard all historic Christian faith and belief?

    Underlying many of these kind of articles, is the theological idea that there is one God, all are saying the same thing, Koran, Bible, Bagadavita, Book of Mormon, and on it goes.. Is not this a new form of liberal fundamentalism unless I believe that, I’m a bigot….? A kind of intellectual end run, which sounds profound on the surface but than the monumental differences come to the fore and all hell breaks loose and intellectual suicide as well…
    The fact is they don’t all say or teach the same thing or the same god/God… The religious professor says so, but it isn’t so easy….

    I believe if was CS Lewis who said something to the effect if all religions teach the same thing than all religions teach nothing….. Truth is a fabrication…

    Also, I was thinking if I was a Muslim and saw a Christian wishy, washy about his faith and convictions, I would think he does not believe his own faith and is not worth listening too…

    Use your famous hermeneutics here:

    Acts 4:12 There is salvation in no other name else for there is no other name given among men whereby we must be saved… Context Paul and the Religious scholars off Judaism telling them they have to bow to the Messiah, Jesus Christ.

    John 14:6 I’m the way the truth and the life, no one goes to the father except through me…

    Acts 9, Scales fell from his eyes, the rabbi comes out of one faith to another, and the text says he was spiritually sick….

    Is the only option Unitarianism or can we still be historic Christian’s, robust in faith and conviction, without being bigots… In US, 100,000,000 Million Catholics, 100,000,000 million Protestants or more, what say you…? You can be pope for a day…

    • John… This is a classic case of missing the point, my friend. I am in no way advocating universalism! I invite u to read “How to Read the Bible for All It’s Worth.”.

      BYW… I am also a charismatic. I wish more of our people would read Gordon Fee instead of John MacArthur or other fundamentalists who say that operating in the Spirit’s gifts is satanic. That is for a different post 🙂

      I am not referring to the types of texts u mentioned here. I believe Jesus is the exclusive path to the Father! I am discussing some of the difficult texts that advocate violence in both the bible and the koran. Do u take those “literally?” I sure hope not or else the message of Jesus is undermined!

      Finally, your attack here is unwarranted. Read the article again. You are the only person to accuse me of syncretism. Not fair.

      Sent from my iPhone

  • One God: yes, all three Abrahamic faiths believe that, and they all have the same roots for tradition and theology, thus similar themes and stories.

    I don’t see Kurt using syncretism in his examples above, but I have said it before- *all* religion is syncretic. Those three faiths are closely related.

    Jesus was not a Christian- he was Jewish, and the churches which have formed in his name came long after him and have used aspects of his teachings but never come close to the Kingdom of God he envisaged.

    Strangely enough apart from the evangelical perspective it is the Unitarian Universalists I have found to be the most Christ-like churches in the US in terms of compassion, non-materialism & charity, peace-making and social justice. As a christian I feel more comfortable there than in many churches where Jesus is worshipped as a God but his basic teachings aren’t followed.

    • I’m sorry–but you’ve read Acts right? Church didn’t come some long time after Him. It was there in Acts we became and were called Christians. The Church is the body of people that represents Christ–for good or ill, unfortunately. As St. Augustine himself said, “The Church is a whore, but she is our mother.”

      The Church has failed in the centuries after Acts. This has everything to do with denominations and the stupidities of humans. Even in the Bible people were wanting to say “We follow Paul” or “We follow Peter.” Paul spoke against that. Follow Jesus. Read your Bible in prayer and with some historical understanding and love God with all your heart and your neighbor likewise.

  • John Holmes


    Think about this: if a Muslim or anyone for that matter were to pick up a Bible and simply read ‘this text and that one,’ we Christians could be accused of supporting many things that we simply do not. I think the same is true of peaceful Muslims (which make up the largest sect of the faith). They too, understand their ‘revelation’ through the lens of a theological grid rather than the selective literalism that I see many of my Christian friends applying to their sacred text

    Your argument seems to suggest, that there is a moral equivalence with the Koran properly read, whatever that means, and the Bible, properly read, whatever that means….

    This sounded like, a Universalist lean, I’m glad to hear you have safeguards in your theology for that… My point; too many bloggers from different camps and persuasions, claiming they are Christian, have not explored the real theological differences between Islam and Christianity At our church, they started teaching about the very issue you spoke of, how do we speak to the unbelievers, or neighbor next door as they said, in our modern context, when lets say 5%-10% of them may be Muslim? Chuck Colson at a lecture at Gordon Conwell, said a recent study of Evangelicals had 57% did not believe the system of truth answered the ultimate questions of God better than any other religion. So he called it an intellectual crisis to the pastorate… That is the question you have to answer, as well as all other Christian leaders in the West at this time.

    Can we point out that the Koran teaches, that Jesus is not God, and the New Testament teaches he is, than maybe for the first time that can look into it for the first time and see for themselves the exhilarating journey of reading the New Testament… Two, the Koran teaches that Jesus did not die on the cross, did not bring them and it is finished redemption, so you have the very pillars of Christianity under ideological and theological attack. What is a Christian to do, he can gently, and humbly lead, the Muslim to consider the New Testament truths, and see what happens.

    This is exactly what happened to many Muslim converts…They found Christ in saving grace answered there deepest needs and search for God., and realized things they had never considered before…in there Islamic context.. So, may this be a great season for many of them coming to faith, like the Jews for Jesus movement…in our country..

    I have no interest in a political thinking left, or right, just proclaiming the Kingdom of God in the earth, as the New Testament demands.

    I have read Fee’s book, and his classic on Paul and listened too many of his classes at Regent, so enjoy his lectures and books.
    In my view, the scholar Roger Stronstad, schools both Dunn, and Fee, at the art of Hermeneutics dealing with Acts. The best book on hermeneutics that I know of in practice…
    I will recommend the book: Prophethood of All Believers: A Study in Luke’s Charismatic Theology (Journal of Pentecostal Theology Supplement Series, 16) [Paperback]
    Roger Stronstad

  • Seán McG

    I think not only should christians exegetical methods be better, but also the ways in which people evangelize in the Western world. If Christianity is centered on Jesus and his teaching the way we proclaim the gospel should reflect that teaching. One of the plainest teaching in the NT is that of love (of God and each other), so the way we approach other people and religions should reflect that love-ethic teaching. “Attacking” (note the violent connotation of the word) another religions has been the approach of evangelism for many Western Christians over the last number of decades (and, to be honest, throughout the history of Christianity in general), but in our postmodern culture the moment you attack another person your credibility is lost.

    While Christians do believe that Islam is false, how we approach proclaiming the gospel to Muslims will have a large effect on how they listen to it. Terry Jones may believe that he is doing something loving in telling Muslims that their religion is false by burning the Koran and “spreading the truth” that “is love and the hope of salvation”, but his approach is anything but loving or Christocentric. Who knows, it is possible that burning Koran’s may have been able to work at some point in the past to help bring people towards Jesus, but in our post-Holocaust world it looks more like bigotry and hatred than an act of love.

    We could apply the same idea of evangelism-based-on-love to street preachers who yell at passers-by that they need to repent or else. While the message they are preaching is one that can be birthed out of a love for people and their want for people to come into relationship with Christ, the way they go about it can sometimes be anything but loving towards the very people they are trying to save. I don’t know about anyone else, but when someone yells at me it doesn’t seem loving it seems abusive and I instantly distrust both them and their message.

    It’s important to be focused on the wine, but we ought not lose focus on how the wineskin is holding up.

  • Good post and very good point about how we read things.