Friday, January 13, 2017

Should the Koran Be Read During Christian Worship?

I saw this reported on a few websites in the past couple days that an Episcopalian cathedral in Glasgow had invited a Muslim woman to read from the Koran during their liturgy for the Feast of the Epiphany (or Theophany in the East). Thank God this would never be allowed in a Catholic Church, but nonetheless, this act is scandalous to Christians of any creed. At least it should be. What makes it even more problematic was that the reading that was used was from the 19th Surah. While this selection speaks of the Annunciation and Jesus' conception, it is wholly inappropriate as the 35th verse completely denies that Jesus was divine. It flat out affirms that that Jesus was not God. And this selection was read during a Christian liturgy, where Jesus, God the Son, is worshiped.
The Theophany in Heaven with the Blessed Virgin Mary and Saint John the Baptist

One commentator (who I assume was Christian by her capitalization of pronouns used for Jesus) said "Jesus is honored in the Qu’ran, and it was a passage appropriate to the season. There is nothing wrong with this. It harmed no one and helped people understand and love each other a little more. That’s the message of Jesus Christ. It’s not your message. I’ll go with Him, not you."

I don't know how this woman could reach this conclusion, but there is something very wrong with reading the Koran, let alone this specific Surah, in the context of Christian worship. Remember, when we gather to worship, we gather to worship Jesus, not just simply "honor" him like we would, say, the Holy Virgin Mary. Jesus is God, the second Person of the Holy Trinity; if He were merely a man, then all Christians would be guilty of idolatry as we'd be worshiping someone who is not God. And yet, this is the subject of Surah 19... that is, Surah 19 explicitly sets out to show that Jesus is not God the Son; that Jesus is not God incarnate. Let's take a look at verses 34-35 of Surah 19, which as mentioned above, was read during this worship service in a Christian church:
"That was Jesus, the son of Mary, and this is the truth of this matter, about which they continue to doubt.
 It does not befit GOD that He begets a son, be He glorified. To have anything done, He simply says to it, 'Be,' and it is."
And if we look at the footnote at the beginning of Surah 19, in this specific translation of the Koran, look at what is said:

"...this sura deals with such crucial matters as the miraculous birth of John and the virgin birth of Jesus, and strongly condemns the gross blasphemy that considers Jesus to be a son of God. The five initials [in verse 1] provide a powerful physical evidence to support these issues."

I ask honestly of anyone who thought this was a good idea: how does this help people understand and love each other more? How does this harm no one? In watching some video of the service, it's hard to understand the woman in her reading, but if someone in the congregation knew what Surah 19 contained, or the church provided a printed version of Surah 19 for the congregation to read along with, wouldn't it be true to say that this could greatly harm the faith of someone to hear it said in a building dedicated to Christ that He was not worthy to be the Son of God? Would it not be harmful to the faith of someone wavering to hear that it does not befit God the Father to send the world His only begotten Son?

How is having a Muslim read this Surah in the context of Christian worship in any way analogous to the message of Jesus Christ? Quite simply, it's not. What's even worse, there are many more passages in Christianity's own holy book, the Bible, that are appropriate to the season of the Epiphany. Perhaps some are unaware, but the word "Epiphany" translates to "manifestation" or "revelation". On this feast of the Epiphany, Christians celebrate that revelation, that manifestation of God on Earth in Jesus Christ. While Western Christians focus on the manifestation of Jesus' divinity at the Visit of the Magi, two other "epiphanies" are celebrated on this feast:

1. Jesus' baptism in the River Jordan
2. Jesus' Miracle of turning water into wine at the wedding feast in Cana

As the Catholic publication Our Sunday Visitor put it"The link is not hard to see. The Magi’s homage shows divinity of this child-king who is to die for his people. Jesus’ baptism in the Jordan reveals a glimpse of God’s inner life as Trinity. And the wedding feast of Cana reveals the divine power at work in this carpenter from Nazareth."
Saint Peter Chrysologus

Perhaps those involved in making this happen should study more about their Christian heritage. There's plenty of "appropriate" passages throughout the Gospels to use on this feast day, so we don't have to take something from the Koran. One of the early Church Fathers, and Doctor of the Church, St. Peter Chrysologus said this in a homily for the feast of the Epiphany:
"In the mystery of our Lord’s incarnation there were clear indications of his eternal Godhead. Yet the great events we celebrate today disclose and reveal in different ways the fact that God himself took a human body. Mortal man, enshrouded always in darkness, must not be left in ignorance, and so be deprived of what he can understand and retain only by grace. In choosing to be born for us, God chose to be known by us. He therefore reveals himself in this way..."
Our Muslim friends do not profess that Jesus is God; as you can see above, they believe that to say as much is blasphemy. And some really think "there is nothing wrong" with reading Surah 19 during Christian worship? I sincerely hope more don't fall into the trap of relativism as these Episcopalians did. Jesus' message is this: "I am the Truth, the Way, and the Life." If He's only a man, like Surah 19 tell us, then He is a liar. But Christians believe that Surah 19 is the text that holds the blasphemous idea, that Jesus is not God. Since I believe that Jesus is the Way- that He is God... I'll go with Him.

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