As a result of comments on a previous message I have become minded to express a few thoughts on an evangelical approach to the textual criticism of the Qur'an. It is especially important that evangelicals should be able to show that their approach is consistent with their theology.
Thesis 1: Evangelicals should beware of wholesale adoption of the conclusions of 'Orientalist' scholars who work basically within a secular framework. I have seen a tendency amongsts some evangelicals to accept without criticism the conclusions of scholars like Nöldeke on the Qur'an, when the same evangelicals would not similarly accept Nöldeke's conclusions on the Pentateuch. Evangelicals have options open to them to explain the Qur'an's origins that secular scholars do not. They also may have a greater understanding of the nature of religious commitment and the way this affects the choices of scribes in the transmission of religious texts.
Thesis 2: Evangelicals approach the textual criticism of the Bible with sympathy because they 'know' that God has spoken truthfully through Holy Scripture. Being evangelicals they naturally do not believe that God has similarly spoken through the Qur'an (and they might be able to give some justifications for this belief; however, this is not the forum to justify such a belief). However, the divine imperative to judge impartially means that they must give as sympathetic a hearing to any explanation of a Qur'anic 'problem' as they would to an explanation of a biblical 'problem'.
Thesis 3: Evangelicals do not believe that historical information may justifiably be held back from investigation and therefore expect information about biblical manuscripts to be made widely available. They therefore have every reason to call the relevant authorities to make early copies of the Qur'an available in scholarly editions, facsimiles and digital images.
Thesis 4: Just as evangelicals (or at least many in this blog) believe that theological reasoning may be used in a justification of an evangelical approach to textual criticism of the Bible, so also they should accept that Muslim scholars may legitimately seek to justify their approach to the text of the Qur'an within a theological framework.
Anecdote: In response to a written attack by some Muslim on the text of the Bible, I was approached by an evangelical apologetics organisation to write a response. I prepared a brief response which sought to justify an evangelical approach both theologically and historically and openly declared my evangelical commitment (or bias, if you prefer). The organisation decided not to publish it, perhaps because it was too brief, but I also suspect that they wanted me to pretend to be some 'neutral' academic who would come to the Bible's defence as an 'objective' observer. Why do apologists so often think that their arguments are more effective when they feign neutrality?