No Reformation for Islam, Please

The sun sets over the Ottoman-era Suleymaniye mosque in Istanbul. (Photo: Reuters)
Many smart people – including Thomas Friedman in The New York Times, Naser Khader in Newsweek, John Lloyd in The Jerusalem Post, Ayaan Hirsi Ali in The Wall Street Journal – are hoping that the Reformation will come to Islam. Some are calling for an Islamic Martin Luther.

By Stephen Hicks | Church and State

Sorry, but no. Islam needs reforming but definitely not a Reformation.

The history matters here, so consider first what the Reformation activists were fighting against. During the Renaissance, the dominant Catholic religion had become worldly. Its thinkers read the naturalistic Greeks and Romans and began to emulate them. The quest for sex, money, and power replaced the ascetic Christian mandates of chastity, poverty, and obedience. Consequently, abuses occurred up and down the Church hierarchy – from orgies in the Vatican to base politicking and bloody war-making and the crass selling of indulgences to pay for all of the high living.

So the major Protestants – Luther, Calvin, Zwingli, and others – were calling for Christian Europe to abandon its wicked ways, to purify itself, and to return to fundamental Christianity.

But what is fundamental Christianity? Martin Luther is the most famous Reformer, so let’s sample a few Lutheran themes. Luther condemned reason as “the Devil’s Whore.” He blasted Aristotle – that rational and worldly Greek – as a “devil,” a “liar,” and a “beast” whose followers are “locusts, caterpillars, frogs, and lice.”

Luther urged that we return to Scripture to learn the true meaning of faith – especially by learning the lesson of God’s demand that Abraham sacrifice his own son Isaac. Luther praised Abraham’s willingness to obey blindly, noting that true faith “wrings the neck of reason.” He agreed with the critics that Christianity requires one to believe many absurdities: “He who wants to be a Christian must tear the eyes out of his reason.”

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