Idols for Destruction: Burning Books and the Things They Represent

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Idols for Destruction: Burning Books and the Things They Represent

Copyright © April 6,2011 Douglas W. Jerving.
All Rights Reserved.

And many that believed came, and confessed, and shewed their deeds. Many of them also which used curious arts brought their books together, and burned them before all [men]: and they counted the price of them, and found [it] fifty thousand [pieces] of silver. ĖActs 19:18 & 19.

On March 20th, 2011, Florida pastor Terry Jones decided it was time to bait the media a bit more in what appeared to be political or theological posturing for attention rather than an attempt at evangelism. The wrath and condemnation of the Western World came down against him, even charging him with blood on his hands. How dare he be so brash as to exercise his American freedom, burning a book that belonged to all people (even though it was bought and paid for with his own (or his churchís) money.

Soon thereafter, on April 1st, Muslim extremists in Afghanistan decided to do some posturing of their own, attacking a United Nations base and killing twelve people, merely because they were offended by the actions of Terry Jones and Co. Of course, the news media reasoned, those deaths were the Florida pastor's fault, and not the responsibility of the murderous thugs! Talk about a cruel April Fool's joke; but those are the kind of games the left wing media like to play.

The hypocrisy of the American news media becomes clear when we recall that in 2009 our military burned dozens of Christian Bibles intended for distribution in Afghanistan bcause we didn't want to appear to be proselytizing. For this, see the UPI article at:

It is odd when we are mortified that a scattered bunch of radical Muslims might be offended by one eccentric pastor's decision to burn their sacred book. No one, however, is the least concerned that millions of Christians in our own country and more around the world may be put off by the same sort of action toward their holy book!

As a Christian I find no need to go rioting in the streets, burn effigies of our president, or desecrate our flag. I have no desire to kill "infidels" just because they donít like my country, or hate my faith and my God, or because they despise the Book that I believe is the very Word of God. I also donít see any reason to burn Korans or the Bhagavad-Gita, or the Book of Mormon just because they represent ideologies that I consider deceptive.

Acts such as these show unfortunate insensitivity towards others who differ in worldviews from my own. In those same sorts of ways the Florida pastor and his congregation displayed a disregard for the values of the Muslim worldview. I may not appreciate their ideology, but I can't possibly hope to win them by stomping them.

Christian apologetics does not in any way require a believer to be overtly antagonistic toward other religions. Even the great Apostle Paul recognized the positive values of ancient Greek religious poets when he quoted them on Mars Hill before the Athenians! (Acts 17:22-32.)

No doubt the message of Jesus is one of absolute and uncompromising discipleship. But that is quite the opposite of destroying things that are held sacred by others merely for the sake of political or religious posturing. The false-witnesses who spoke against Jesus in His trial before the High Priest Caiphus (Mark 14), claimed that Jesus said He would literally tear down the revered Jewish temple, when in reality, he had spoken clearly enough about His own death and resurrection.

In the Acts chapter 19 passage above, we read about an early case of book burning that took place in the ancient Christian community of Ephesus. It is obvious from the context that the people burning the books (probably books of magical incantations, etc.) were folks who had just recently converted to Christ from the pagan community to which those books had been related.

Acts 19:11-20 is the whole context. There we see that Jewish exorcists had made an attempt to cast out demons by adjuring the spirit using the name of Jesus, as if the name were a sort of Talisman, or had magic powers. Their mistake became evident when the demon spirit retaliated against them.

This event caused many in Ephesus to recognize the true authority of Paulís message, and many were converted. As an act of their personal faith in Christ they gathered up their no longer needed, or wanted, books of witchcraft and publicly burned them. They were not burning books just to make a statement against their neighbors.

This was not a political event for the new converts in Ephesus. This was a personal act of faith in their new Savior Jesus Christ. It was the personal and conscious immolation of the things that represented their lives prior to their salvation. It was literally a burning down of all the former things that their lives were previously bound by and a stepping forward into their new faith in Christ.

I am sure that when the church actively preaches the message of the Kingdom of God in this world, we do not need to antagonize the worldviews of our opponents. When the Gospel is proclaimed, as it was in Ephesus, converts are made, and the fear of God dispels the darkness of former lives and displaces the need for superstitions.

I donít need to burn the sacred books, or tear down the temples of idols, or become an iconoclast. If I am really preaching the message of Christ crucified, and our resurrection with Him to newness of life than I donít need to do any of those sorts of things. The converted will do the job themselves!

Stop and think about what you know of mission work amongst indigenous tribes in Africa, or Irian Jaya. When the people receive the Gospel, the first thing they do is put clothes on! No one has to tell them this is what they need to do! It just comes automatically when the Holy Spirit changes the heart.

Idolatry, witchcraft, murder, envy, hatred and enmity all disappear when the Word of God comes into a person's life. "The entrance of thy Word gives light." (Psalm 119:130). There is no need for religious or political posturing against our opponents. It is enough that Jesus Christ has "disarmed principalities and powers...[making] a spectacle of them, triumphing over them in it (the cross)." Col 2:15. Jesus' message did more than merely burn books in Ephesus. It openly displayed power over, and subjugated, the demonic powers that had, until then, held the Ephesians bound.

Inevitably all of heaven and earth will one day declare that Jesus Christ is Lord (Romans 14:10-12 with Philippians 2:10,11). The graven image of the Philistine god Dagon fell down flat before the Ark of the Covenant and its head and hands were broken off (1 Sam 5:1-5). In like manner, idols for destruction always fall in the presence of the King of kings and Lord of lords.


Doug Jerving is the publisher of the You may contact him at


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