Wednesday, February 11, 2015

Professor Warren Larson on Islam: Violent or Peaceful?

Professor Emeritus Warren Larson
Columbia International University

Christianity Today editor-at-large Stan Guthrie interviewed Professor Emeritus Warren Larson in the Zwemer Center for Muslim Studies at Columbia International University to inquire about an evangelical Christian response to the question "Islam: Inherently Violent or Peaceful?" (Christianity Today, February 9, 2015):
How do we handle questions about the "true" nature of Islam and whether someone is a real Muslim?

There are no easy answers because of the complexity of Islam and divisions among Muslims as to what is true Islam and what is not. We need to find a balance between two extremes: (1) not to insist on the defiance of Charlie Hebdo and (2) not to simplistically say, "This is not Islam," . . . [for a] balanced position lies somewhere in between, but ultimately it is up to Muslims to decide who is a real Muslim. My sense is that many Muslims are going through some serious soul-searching at the moment . . . .

What is the best perspective for Christians? . . .

Muslims are broken and becoming more broken as the days go by. More will reject Islam . . . . Christians must be on the alert to reach out to them with love and understanding.

Some observers say that there are two Islams in the world today - one that is basically peaceful, another that is inherently violent.

Although there is an Islam with its rigid dogma, founded on canonical texts, I prefer to think of Muslims in their great variety with deep felt needs . . . . [Interestingly, most] Muslims in our world have a worldview that includes charms, amulets, curses, blessings, and a whole lot of fear. Of course, Islam is not a religion of peace, but is any human philosophy really peaceful? . . . [Moreover,] the way some Christians are acting toward Muslims today is not too peaceful, either. Most of us in the West couldn't care less what happens to Muslims - eternally - as long as we stay safe and Muslims behave. Let's have more hope . . . . My sense is that we are far too fearful, and many of us lack a sense of mission.

Some scholars believe "the law of abrogation" animates jihadists. They say if there is a contradiction between early, peaceful verses in the Qur'an and more brutal ones, the latter must hold sway because they were written later.

I do not think abrogation alone can explain bad behavior. Many reasonable Muslims reject the doctrine, and so I hesitate to tell them what they should believe. If a Muslim says to me, and some have, "My religion tells me to love and care for you," why should I say, "No, your religion tells you to hate and despise me"? . . . [Of course, the] Qur'an is convoluted, and if I were a Muslim, I also would be confused as to how to respond to Christians.
Professor Larson's solution to Islam's current-day aggressiveness is to encourage more mission work among Muslims, for - he thinks - many Muslims are going to abandon Islam in the near future, and the best thing to offer them is Christianity.

I suppose we'll see about that . . .

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