God must have been laughing up his sleeve," muses Jobst Schöne. The retired bishop of the Independent Lutheran Church in Germany is applying a German paraphrase of Psalm 2:4 to the baptism of seven former Muslims from Iran. Early Easter morning, the seven were baptized in the Berlin parish where Schöne serves as associate pastor. The baptisms were an emblem of something bigger—a nationwide surge of such conversions in several denominations and a spate of reports of Muslims seeing Jesus in their dreams. But Martin Luther's Bible translation, now nearly 500 years old, also played an important role in their story.
The group baptism happened at an unsettling time for European Christians. During Lent, radical Muslims handed out large numbers of Qur'ans on street corners and announced plans to distribute 25 million German-language copies of their holy book in order to win Germans to their faith. But on the night before Easter, some 150 worshipers filed silently into St. Mary's Church in the Zehlendorf district of Berlin to witness conversions in the opposite direction.
Until midnight, the sanctuary was dark. Then Gottfried Martens, senior pastor, chanted from the altar: "Glory to God in the highest." All at once the lights went on, the organ roared, and the faithful broke jubilantly into song: "We praise you, we bless you, we worship you." Like Christians everywhere, they celebrated the Resurrection of their Lord.
For the six young men and one woman in the front pew, the moment had additional significance: They were placing their lives in danger in exchange for salvation. Under Islamic law, apostasy is a capital crime, a fact brought home to the German public by press ...1