Tony Reinke - On Burning Religious Books

>> Wednesday, September 8, 2010

After my last post I continued to think about and to keep an eye out for Gospel oriented views on the well publicized Quran burning scheduled for this September 11th by Pastor Terry Jones and the 50 member strong Dove World Outreach Center. But since I was distracted by crazy events this evening and being unsatisfied with my own reasons and articulation for why this Quran burning is not God honoring, I was fortunate to come across this post by Tony Reinke thanks to Justin Taylor.

Mr. Reinke makes 6 basic points that I will share here with his most relevant comments (to the 6 points). If you would like to read his post in its entirety, which I would encourage you to do, please follow this link.

The Bible, as far as I can tell, mentions one account where religious texts are thrown to the flames (Acts 19:11-20). On the heels of the great work of God in Ephesus, the people had come to fear God and to trust in the Savior. As a result, “a number of those who had practiced magic arts brought their books together and burned them in the sight of all. And they counted the value of them and found it came to fifty thousand pieces of silver” (v. 19). In modern terms they ignited a bonfire using very expensive magic books.

What were these books? According to Eckhard Schnabel, they were occultist documents that described how to make amulets to protect against demons and how to make love charms (Early Christian Mission, 1221). The books gave directions for casting spells on others, either for good or ill, and they would have been quite expensive, which highlights the effect of the gospel upon the wealthy inhabitants of Ephesus. That Paul went toe-to-toe with the owners of documents, which later led to a book burning, tells me they qualify as religious texts, and probubly comprised the pop religion of the day.

From this account here are six points to ponder:

1. The Ephesian people burned their own books. These new believers renounced their past. This was not an act of Christians barging into homes to ransack libraries for kindling, or weeding out the public library, or buying up all available copies from the local bookshop. They gathered the valuable books from their own houses.

2. No Christian leader encouraged the book burning. At least the text doesn’t say it. Or would have been better for the books to be sold and the money given to the Apostolic ministry? Perish the thought. There there is no indication that Paul advised the people to burn (or sell) their occultist books.

3. The books posed no threat to the gospel. The gospel overcame the magic power of the books. The gospel is like a hurricane and nothing will stop its wind, certainly not a book of demonic spells.

4. God’s display of power convinced the people that their books were worthless. There was no need to address the value of the magic books directly. Once God’s power and his gospel were seen in the city, the matter was settled.

5. The book burning was a display of godly sorrow. The recently converted Christians wanted to confess their sin before “all.” The high value of the books (50,000 days wages worth!) made a strong statement. It was an act of personal sorrow for their own sin.

6. The burning illustrated the victory of the gospel. The magic books were burned because the gospel was spreading like wildfire: “So the word of the Lord continued to increase and prevail mightily” (v. 20).

These six points should make us very hesitant about burning other people’s religious books.

I concur with Mr. Reinke's thoughts and believe Pastor Jones would do well to give them careful consideration as well. As Christians, we must always do our best to ensure that God is glorified by and through our actions. I have no reason to believe that Pastor Jones doesn't think what he is doing somehow honors God, but I believe he is very mistaken and would encourage him to reconsider his and his congregants scheduled burning.

God bless and veritas supra omnis!


Kyle Cheng September 11, 2010 at 11:18 AM  

I heard about the plans for the Quran burning on the radio, and yes,Pastor Jones needs to rethink his decision. Who knows what kind of conflicts this book burning may instigate?

Mark Hutchins September 11, 2010 at 11:42 AM  

Kyle, since I posted this Pastor Jones has called off his church's plan to burn the Quran, a decision which I applaud. :-)

Miss Sarah Jean September 12, 2010 at 7:52 AM  

Hmmm, it does raise some issues doesn't it? I am in agreement with your thoughts on this. I have given it some thought previously and came to the conclusion that while the Quran is obviously not a book that I would encourage anyone to read (understatement) the public burning of such a book by Christians would only cause more hatred toward the church and damage our testimony as followers of Christ.
Glad to hear that Pastor Jones decided to call off the plan. Praise God!
Thanks for sharing!

Mark Hutchins September 12, 2010 at 10:28 AM  


I think there is a need for at least strong leaders to read the Quran so that we can better refute it's claims, point to its contradictions, compare Allah to Christ, etc. NOt saying a young believer should, but there is a place for somebody to.

As to the response it could illicit from radical I said in a comment on my previous post..."I am less concerned with what radical Islamists will /would do in response to the now called off burning (to die is gain, after all, if it means dying in the service of our Lord) and more with how this sort of event represents the Gospel to Islamists."

Thanks for the thoughtful comment! :-)

Kyle Cheng September 12, 2010 at 3:13 PM  

I do too. :) Though I find it strange that the Muslims would burn Bibles, yet not want their own book burned...

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