May There Be None So Infirm In the Church

July 19, 2011

You may be surprised to learn that Martin Luther wrote a preface to the 1543 Latin edition of the Qur’an.  Perhaps even more surprising is that that edition of the Qur’an would likely never have existed except that Luther had argued so persuasively for its publication.

Luther was no friend of Islam.  To the contrary, his eagerness to see the Qur’an published stemmed solely from his unshakable confidence in the gospel of Jesus Christ.  Luther believed that if the Qur’an could be read in its entirety, the error of Islam would be plain.  Consequently, the teachings of Muhammad would be more sharply refuted and dismantled, some might be rescued out of Islam, and Christians would be fortified in the truth.

The objection to Luther’s argument is that some Christians themselves might be led astray by the Qur’an.  Luther was aware of this objection and responded with his characteristic flair.  We should read his response with the awareness that Islam is growing in the United States; that Muslims are becoming our neighbors; that the teachings of Muhammad will in time become familiar even to the person who has never had a comparative religions course.  In other words, what was for Luther a practical concern rather than merely a theoretical one is the same for us.  May his 470-year-old response strengthen us today:

Given the fact, however, that some persons fear that by reading such a book weak minds might be corrupted as it were by an infection and turned from Christ, to such persons I respond in this way. May there be none so infirm in the church of God that they do not have this conviction fixed in their mind, that, as certain as they know that they are alive as long as their senses and bodily motor functions are still vital, as certain as they know that it is day, as long as they see the sun passing above the earth in the middle of the sky, so certain should they be that it is patently impossible that any religion or doctrine about the worship or invocation of God be true that utterly rejects the prophetic and apostolic writings.

(“Martin Luther — Translations of Two Prefaces on Islam,” 266)

Is the Bible the word of God, or is it not?  May there be none in the church so infirm as to hesitate on this point.


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