Pastor James McConnell delivered a sermon at the Whitewell Metropolitan Tabernacle in Belfast on 18th May 2014, in which he denounced Islam in language that seems, at least as first, reminiscent of the language of, e.g., the homily on the time and place of prayer in the second book of homilies. These old sermons and this new sermon have in common that they seek to commend the worship of the one true God by clearly refuting the error of Islam. But there are differences. Martin Luther was as clear as anyone on distinguishing between the Allah to which the Quran testifies and the true and living God we know from the Bible. (See also my earlier post on Do Christians and Muslims worship the same God?) But he was not promoting ignorance. Indeed, he wrote a preface to a printed edition of the Quran:
"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….
Muhammad acknowledges, however, that he is devising a new belief that dissents from the prophets and apostles. Therefore, as you firmly repudiate the beliefs of the Egyptians who worshipped cats and of the Arabians who worshipped dogs, so you shall denounce the new creation of Muhammad, because he himself openly admits that he does not embrace the teaching of the prophets and apostles. If there are any who are so without understanding that they do not have this conviction fixed in their mind that the only true religion is that which was from the beginning handed on by God, with clear testimonies, through the prophets and apostles, even if these persons do not now read the writings of Muhammad, but either only hear about the Turks or see them, how will they fortify themselves against their beliefs? Rather, it is a shameful and impious ignorance if they do not daily admonish themselves in intercession concerning this belief, if they do not separate themselves from the Jews, the Turks, and other nations in prayer; if they do not meditate on the fact that this one alone is the eternal and true God, the creator and sustainer of all things, who hears us and will grant life eternal, who revealed himself in the writings of the prophets and apostles, who willingly sent God’s Son to be a sacrifice for our sake. Those who meditate on these things in prayer will acknowledge that this stupidity is no light sin."
Source: http://wordandworld.luthersem.edu/content/pdfs/16-2_islam/16-2_boyce-henrich.pdfThe churchmen of the sixteenth century had virtually no contact with Muslims. Their knowledge of Islam was second-hand and shaped by the serious threat to Christendom presented by "the Turks".
Today we know, or ought to know, that the Islamic world, while maybe not as diverse as the Christian world, is nevertheless far from monochrome. We have many more means of getting to know Islam and, maybe even more importantly, many more opportunities to meet Muslims. When we preach, we are addressing people who know Muslims and maybe even speak to Muslims, especially if the sermon is streamed online. When we reproduce these old homilies today, we are not doing the same thing as the readers of them did in centuries gone by. Today's preachers ought to be better informed. They ought to speak differently. And they can. As Archbishop Cranmer points out, there is a better way.