The Word on the Week

Book Burning Ceremonies

Here in the West we are more accustomed to book signing ceremonies although these too can be stormy affairs as witnessed this week when Tony Blair signed his biographical account of his term in office at Eason’s bookshop in Dublin. But this was insignificant compared to the waves created throughout Islam by Terry Jones, Pastor of Dove World Outreach Center’s threat to publically burn the Qur’an. The stated purpose of this action is to raise awareness of the ideology and teaching of Islam and to warn against its dangers. What seemed to start out as a protest to mark the September 11th anniversary has become an attempt to move the planned mosque from its proximity to the ground zero site which has now become something of a shrine to the dead. Book burning has a history that goes back to the beginning of printing. In the 14th century John Wycliffe had his Bibles burned by the hierarchy. He predicted that they would burn his Bibles and burn him too! This they did by having him disinterred over 40 years later and publically burning his bones. Indeed there has been an unhappy correlation between burning holy books and burning people down through the centuries. Islam’s ability to capitalise on these acts to ratchet up tension is wholly in keeping with her expansionist desires. For the Christian, living in this world gets harder by the day! So what does the Bible have to say? At the core of Christianity is the belief that we have been saved by God’s stupendous grace to totally undeserving sinners. This grace has been applied to those who actively rebel against him – who choose to answer only to their own philosophy of life. When God steps into a life in converting power, we see ourselves as the pathetic creatures we really are, and catch a glimpse of the marvellous goodness of God providing in Christ a saviour who exactly meets our needs. The resultant transformation brings with it enormous consequences for how we treat others. Jesus illustrated it well when he said we are to turn the other cheek. If we think that gives us a problem with some folk then how about loving your enemies? It’s hard to live with this Man! Harder still when He closes off the normal escape route whereby we justify ourselves by saying, “his life does not match up to his words” therefore we can ignore him! Christ loved His enemies – even praying for their forgiveness from the cross. You cannot out forgive or out love our triune God! So what about Pastor Jones? He should re-read Acts 19. At Ephesus amazing things followed the proclamation of the gospel. Many were converted. Their lives changed and those things which they once held sacred were seen in a new light. St Luke records, Many of those who believed now came and openly confessed their evil deeds. A number who had practiced sorcery brought their scrolls together and burned them publicly. When they calculated the value of the scrolls, the total came to fifty thousand drachmas. (Verses 18/19). You don’t burn religious books for other people. You preach the gospel of the love of God in Christ and when they are converted the Holy Spirit will guide them in the lifelong task of sanctification.