By Rabbi Allen Maller
Why Shouldn’t Muslims Be Next?
Rabbi Allen S. Maller
During October 1517 Martin Luther wrote the “The 95 Theses,” a list of questions and propositions for Christians to debate; and on the last Friday in October, 1517 he nailed a copy of his 95 Theses to the door of the Wittenberg Castle church. None of the issues he chose to debate then were about Jews or Muslims; although later he had lots of negative things to say about both religions.
Now, for the Reformation’s 500th anniversary, Germany’s main Protestant church has officially renounced its mission to convert Jews to Christianity. As a rabbi I applaud this statement. However I hope and pray that the church will also stop trying to convert Muslims to Christianity.
In practice, the Evangelical Church in Germany (EKD), mostly gave up efforts to convert Jews in the decades after the Holocaust, and closing that chapter should have been a formality. But
officially abandoning the Mission to the Jews, turned out to be theologically complicated.
In Matthew’s Gospel, Jesus gave his Apostles the Great Commission to “make disciples of all nations.” And small groups of evangelicals in a few member churches have long opposed an official statement against conversion, despite calls from Jewish groups to issue one.
The EKD finally drew up a resolution that was passed unanimously on November 9, 2016 that stated Christians: “are not called to show Israel the path to God and His salvation.” “Since God never renounced his covenant with the Jews, his chosen people, they do not need to embrace the new Christian covenant to be saved”, the resolution said.
As a Rabbi I would add that my monotheistic brother Muslims also do not need Christian salvation to go to heaven.
Perhaps Christians should follow the Qur’an injunction: “To each of you We prescribed a law and a method. Had Allah willed, He would have made you one nation [united in religion], but [He intends] to test you in what He has given you; so race to [compete in all that is] good. To Allah you all return together, and He will [then] inform you concerning that over which you used to differ. (5:48)
“All efforts to convert Jews contradict our commitment to the faithfulness of God and the election of Israel,” the resolution read. That Christians see Jesus as their savior and Jews don’t is “a fact we leave up to God,” it said.
Christians can, and should also say this about Muslims.
Although Martin Lither initially expressed concern about the Catholic Church’s discrimination against Jews in medieval Europe, and hoped to bring them into the Christian fold with kindness, Luther changed his views 20 years later when Jews did not start converting to his reformed Christianity.
In a treatise titled “On the Jews and Their Lies,” he urged his followers to burn down the Jew’s homes and synagogues and confiscate their money. The EKD Church had already last year denounced the “undisguised hatred of Jews” in Luther’s writings; and acknowledged that his anti-Semitism had inspired the Nazis centuries later.
In fact, the EKD synod had already broken with traditional theological anti-Semitism in 1950 by declaring that God’s covenant with the Jews was still valid. But it wasn’t until the 1990s that most member churches came out clearly against evangelization efforts.
Will it take a large scale European Crusader massacres of Muslims, like what happened to Jews in 1096, for churches to accept the concept that Muslims do not need the Christian religion for their salvation?
The EKD wasn’t alone in changing its approach to Jews very slowly. The Roman Catholic Church renounced its theological anti-Semitism in 1965 at the Second Vatican Council.
Yet it took another 50 years before the Vatican issued a clear statement in December 2015, that it “neither conducts nor supports any specific institutional mission work directed towards Jews.”
Will Muslims be Next? I hope so.
Yet the conservative Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod, the second largest Lutheran denomination in the U.S., which has also denounced Luther’s diatribes against Jews, still follows the Church tradition “to pray for them, so that they might become converted.”
Rabbi Maller’s web site is: www.rabbimaller.com His new book ‘Judaism and Islam as Synergistic Monotheisms: A Reform Rabbi’s Reflections on the Profound Connectedness of Islam and Judaism’ (a collection of 31 articles by Rabbi Maller previously published by Islamic web sites) is now for sale ($15) on Amazon and morebooks.