There is no question that a knowledge and understanding of the Qur’an is a sine qua non (an indispensable condition) in relating meaningfully to Muslims whose worldviews, customs, daily rituals, speech and thought patterns have been indelibly shaped by the Qur’an and its ethos.1 Knowing Muslim scriptures and their culture hold out the prospect to better communicate the gospel. But how so? Does the Qur’an contain redemptive analogies that can be used as bridges to present biblical faith?2 Or would its direct and tacit subversion of the essential elements of the Gospel deny such and press one to better present biblical faith?3 Lively conversation continues regarding the legitimacy of using the Qur’an as a bridge to the Bible or not at all.4 When I propose thinking biblically about the Qur’an, I do not have in mind the reading of the Qur’an through biblical eyes (the Bible as an under-text) in order to unfold biblical gospel themes from the Qur’an for Muslims.5 Rather, I intend critical, biblical engagement of the Qur’an’s “inner logic” system on the macro hermeneutical level6 in order to better use the Bible in gospel work among Muslims.7 It assumes that the Qur’an exhibits a core logic. If so, then that inner system inevitably effects the interpretation of its parts. If the Qur’an has no core logic, then its text is open to the confusion of multiple interpretations including Christian eisegesis. 8 The Gospel worker’s goal is unfolding Gospel themes from the Bible in relevant ways for his/her listeners. In Muslim contexts, that is best accomplished when he/she understands the Qur’an’s core logic. In doing so, they can better imagine the existential impact, which the Qur’an’s worldview has on the Muslim soul. We will not know how to use the Bible most effectively in Muslim contexts until we understand the real soul need of a Muslim as nuanced by his/her exposure to the Qur’an—its worldview and ethos. This is a fundamental starting point for mission. Thus, the question of bridging to Muslims should be reversed: Rather than “How do we better use the Qur’an as a bridge to lead Muslims to the Bible?” we should ask, “How can we better use the Bible as a bridge to lead a Muslim to the Bible?” This requires a deeper understanding of the Qur’an than what biased eisegetical9 and proof-text approaches—which manipulate the text for missional purpose—can enable.10 It requires also, a deeper understanding of the Bible on its own macro-hermeneutical worldview level. Our question here, is not whether one uses the Qur’an in Gospel work among Muslims. That is a given. Rather, we ask: Why do we use the Qur’an? When do we use it? How do we use it? Do we allow the Qur’an to speak for itself, or are we manipulating the text via Christian qur’anic eisegesis? In what way is the Qur’an advanced as an authority? Is it ethical to create redemptive analogies/bridges from qur’anic phrases and texts which were never intended so in either their immediate context or the Qur’an’s core metanarrative? Most of all, how can we nuance biblically relevant theological or soteriological themes from the Qur’an without implying that the Qur’an authoritatively teaches such? At bottom is the question: What hermeneutical guidelines are we bound to when handling Islam’s holy text? 11 We ask these questions knowing that the Qur’an is positive towards both Jesus and what we today call the Bible.12 But how so? And can the missional bridge between what the Qur’an means and the truths of the Bible be unwittingly dulled or short-circuited by Christian eisegesis of the qur’anic text? This study asserts that the Qur’an has its own hermeneutic together with a complex labyrinth of interpretive prism and historic precedent. If so, one must first analyze qur’anic concepts within their own historic and literary contexts as well as within the Qur’an’s own worldview and interpretative framework (core logic). Only then can one critically analyze qur’anic concepts and their equivalents in both the Old and the New Testaments with integrity—and which, 1) allows the Qur’an to speak for itself and not impose on it a contrived Christian reading or meaning, i.e., eisegesis; and 2) enables the Gospel worker to use God’s Word wisely and effectively in response. While asserting such, we explore four aspects of the Qur’an in relation to the Bible: its self-image, worldview, hermeneutic, and Christology. In the process two critical concerns of Gospel work among Muslims are informed: the position and status of Bible in relation to the Qur’an on the one hand, and the person and work of Jesus on the other. Clarity of what the Qur’an does or does not say on these two issues inevitably determines the kind of bridge one can and/or needs to create. Some orienting principles are helpful as we would think biblically about the Qur’an: 1) the difference between a Muslim and Islam; 13 2) the hermeneutical priority of biblically informed worldview and cosmic conflict narrative;14 3) the revelation of God’s character of love;15 and 4) the finality of God’s revelation in Jesus Christ. 16 Additionally, there are two assumptions: 1) that the Qur’an is not an inspired document in the biblical sense or in keeping with the Bible’s core logic, worldview, values, redemptive trajectory, view of God and finality of God’s revelation in Jesus Christ; and 2) that Muhammad is not a prophet of God in the biblical sense. If these assumptions are valid, how then do we relate to apparent biblical truths or values that may be found on the surface level at least in the Qur’an?
Lichtenwalter, Larry L.
"Thinking Biblically about the Qur’an: An Exploration of Qur’anic Self-Image, Worldview, Hermeneutics, and Christology,"
Journal of the Adventist Theological Society: Vol. 32:
1, Article 7.
Available at: https://digitalcommons.andrews.edu/jats/vol32/iss1/7