Three Reasons The Holy War Surpasses The Pilgrim’s Progress

Were a short list composed of the greatest works ever written by man outside the Bible, certainly The Pilgrim’s Progress by the uneducated Baptist John Bunyan should be on that list. His mind dripped Scripture and Christian’s journey to the Celestial City has helped a great many people in the narrow way.

Yet Bunyan’s The Holy War is superior.

Summary

The holy war is the conquering of the beautiful town of Mansoul first by the wicked giant Diabolos and secondly by the golden prince Emanuel. The story follows six turns of the plot.

1. Diabolos conquers the town of Mansoul.
2. Emmanuel takes it back.
3. The town falls back into sin.
4. Diabolos takes it again.
5. Emmanuel takes it back.
6. Diabolos tries twice more and fails.

Covering the Whole Bible

If you do not know the Bible, the story will surprise you at every turn, and if you know the Scripture it may surprise you even more so. How can it surprise a Bible-reader? Bunyan secures verses from at least 54 books of the Bible turning them to his purpose of telling the story of redemption. Even after reading it three times, I am constantly amazed at how many doctrines and verses the author calls into service. The image of God is found in Mansoul’s Heart Castle. The Trinity is reflected by King Shaddai, His Son Prince Emanuel, and the Lord High Secretary who fully knows the minds of the King and His Son. The Covenant of Redemption is found in several places as well as total depravity, the glory of grace, a definition of effectual calling, the glory of the resurrected body, and nearly every other doctrine in Scripture.

The story is practically a systematic theology wrapped in a memorable story with fascinating characters. This is the first reason that The Holy War surpasses The Pilgrim’s Progress.

Intensity

Secondly, the Bible’s basic plot is terribly intense, and no other earthly metaphor captures that earnest, grim, desperate, hopeful tone as well as war. Jesus compares the Christian life to farming (Matt. 13:3-9), building (Luke 14:28-30), and taking a journey (Matt. 7:13-14). Paul agrees with these and even adds marriage (Eph. 5:22-32). But more commonly found in Scripture is the picture of a war.

  • Luke 14:31 Or what king, when he sets out to meet another king in battle…
  • 1 Tim. 1:18 Fight the good fight… (Also 2 Cor. 10:4; 1 Tim. 6:12; 2 Tim. 4:7)
  • 2 Tim. 2:3 Suffer hardship with me, as a good soldier of Christ Jesus.

Most of the books of Joshua and Judges are accounts of war, and these were given to us as our examples. Imprecatory psalms such as 55, 58, 69, 109, and 137 are written to produce in the Christian a warlike mood.

But even more so than these explicit references to war or fighting are the main plot lines of Scripture. Satan is a lion on the prowl hunting for our souls. His thousands or millions of demons are our desperate enemies. They are diabolical fiends with implacable hatred and immense power. The end of all those who oppose Jesus Christ is a lake of fire and brimstone for all eternity.

In The Holy War Bunyan writes about soldiers being “brained” and taking great wounds. He has townspeople lying dead in the streets. Men fight with bandages if by any means they might save their families. Nearly all of these intense lines are taken from different verses in the prophets.

The sobriety of this story calls up manliness that approaches the reality, and that effect on the reader is more palpable here than in Christian’s dangerous journey.

The Lord Jesus Christ

Thirdly, Prince Emanuel is the main character of the Bible and the main character of The Holy War. It is not surprising to hear that someone might weep while reading for a new kindling of love to Jesus Christ in this story. He is called the Golden Prince. His cross work is mentioned. His offices are the goal of the narrative. When He arrives to defeat Diabolos your heartbeat quickens. His speech that closes the book is like the grand finale of fire works. Bunyan’s presentation of the Lord Jesus matches for beauty The Letters of Samuel Rutherford or The Poems of Isaac Watts.

Perhaps there is an author who can paint our Savior’s Face with more lively colors, but if there is, I haven’t seen the portrait. And to the point of this review, The Holy War is more fitting to this pleasing task than The Pilgrim’s Progress.

Conclusion

  • The Holy War is a systematic theology covering nearly every doctrine of the Bible.
  • It captures the intensity of New Testament salvation.
  • Our dear Lord Jesus is magnified delightfully.

In these three ways, this book surpasses the other better known allegory and maybe all other books written merely by men.

Quotes
“For here lay the excellent wisdom of him that builded Mansoul, that the walls could never be broken down, nor hurt, by the most mighty adverse potentate, unless the towns-men gave consent thereto.” 9 compare with page 96, “But after three or four notable charges by the Prince, and his noble captains, Eargate was broken open, and the bars and bolts wherewith it was used to be fast shut up against the Prince, was broken into a thousand pieces.”

Captain Conviction says to the town: “Consider if it be not amazing grace that Shaddai should so humble himself as he doth. … Has he that need of you, that we are sure you have of him?” 51

“Mr. Carnal Security did after all this mercy bestowed on this corporation, bring the town of Mansoul into great and grievous slavery and bondage.” 163

Mr. Godly fear said, “Though several of their petitions should be answered with nought but silence or rebuke: For it is the way of the wise Shaddai to make men wait and to exercise patience and it should be the way of them in want, to be willing to stay his leisure.” 174

“Then they took courage, and sent again, and again, and again, and again; for there was not now one day, nor an hour that went over Mansoul’s head, wherein a man might not have met upon the road one or other riding post, sounding the horn from Mansoul to the Court of the King Shaddai.” 174

Prince Emanuel: “Nothing can hurt thee but sin; nothing can grieve me but sin; nothing can make thee base before thy foes but sin: Take heed of sin, my Mansoul.” 264

“And dost thou know why I at first, and do still suffer Diabolonians to dwell in thy walls, O Mansoul? It is to keep thee wakening, to try thy love, to make thee watchful, and to cause thee yet to prize my noble captains, their soldiers, and my mercy.” 265

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Should Christians be Concerned About Freedom?

If your only spiritual concerns deal with the propositions surrounding Jesus’ death, burial, and resurrection, you have spiritual eye problems. Some think themselves particularly far-seeing because on top of doctrines like atonement and inerrancy, they also care about election and sovereignty.

Yet political and societal freedom is also a Christian virtue. South Africa’s apartheid (circa 1964-1994) stood in opposition to Jesus Christ in part because it denied freedom to a majority of its citizens. Those freedoms are melting like ice in the sun when a black bride is pushed into the back of a police car on her wedding day for the crime of carrying on with their planned wedding when government officials decided that was too risky.

Christians love freedom because the Bible teaches that society should be free. Where does the Bible promote freedom?

1. Christians believe in freedom because the Bible teaches men are all sinners.

Jesus is very clear that we are all born sinners (John 1:10; 3:19; 7:7; 8:44, etc.). Because of the virus of sin, we are all untrustworthy. Given enough power, sin will dominate each of us, and history is a clear example of that. The barbarism of the destruction of the Ndebele people by the hands of Shaka and then again by the Shona kingdom in the north is one example. King Leopold’s vile treatment of the people in the Congo is another example. These men acted wickedly because they had wicked hearts. This is the uniform testimony of the entire Bible.

  What is a sinner?  
  Sinners have wicked thoughts continually. Gen. 6:5
  Sinners are committed to sinning. Gen. 19:11
  Sinners are like irrational sheep. Is. 53:6
  Sinners have only filthy rags to offer God. Is. 64:6
  Sinners have rotten hearts. Jer. 17:9
  Sinners have nothing to offer. Matt. 5:3
  Sinners are blind spiritually. Luke 4:18
  Sinners are condemned to be executed. John 3:18
  Sinners hate Jesus Christ. John 7:7
  Sinners are children of Satan. John 8:44
  Sinners do not desire God. Rom. 3:11
  Sinners do not understand truth. 1 Cor. 2:14
  Sinners have no strength or ability. Rom. 5:6
  Sinners are born with these conditions. Rom. 5:12
  Sinners are willing slaves of evil. Rom. 6:17
  Sinners are dead spiritually. Eph. 2:1
  Sinners are children of wrath. Eph. 2:3
  Sinners have a twisted moral compass. Tit. 1:15
  Sinners are enemies of God. James 4:4
  Sinners are criminals before God. 1 John 3:4

If this is really the case, then it applies to leaders as well. If we are all sinful, then the leaders are also sinful. If they have a great degree of power, they will use it according to their sinful desires.

Of course, individual citizens are also sinners, but in the capacity as a citizen they do not have power to infringe on the freedom of others. As a dictator, that sinful citizen can act like Idi Amin in Uganda or Sadaam Hussein in Iraq or Muammar Gadaffi in Libya.

Practically each page in history shows a similar story. This is why we want a president, not a king. He must be checked by the courts which must be checked by the Parliament which can be vetoed by the president. The 1.3 million government workers are all a collective group of sinners receiving paychecks larger than the average citizen and carrying power to enforce their ideas on the country.

Christians believe in the sinfulness of man, in fact, if you deny this, you may have forfeited any Biblical right to claim to be part of this religion. But if you agree that men are sinful, then naturally you will be distrustful of giving power to those in authority.

2. Christians believe in freedom because we love our neighbors.

Jesus told us to love our neighbors, and then he showed us what that means by giving to meet the needs of others. We want each person to be able to flourish in society by making whatever choices they feel will best tend to their good as long as those choices do not harm others.

At this point, someone will say that the lockdown is necessary as a means of loving our neighbors so that they will not die. That is a fine sentiment for individuals, but it is extremely tricky for government to determine. It is tricky because you do not know what all the citizens want, because your judgments are clouded by peer pressure, and because authoritative decisions rarely end in freedom. Some citizens choose to take the risk of riding in vehicles even though each day 38 people die in our country from road accidents and 3,200 around the world pass away from car accidents. Has the country voted to relinquish their liberties? Swimming kills 870 people per day around the world. Why have we not banned swimming pools? The USA loses 14 people per day from choking, and those lives would be saved if the government mandated soup as the only diet.

In the book Death by Government, R. J. Rummel shows that government has been directly responsible for 262 million deaths in the 20th century alone. Every one of those lives was lost because government did not respect personal freedom. But the majority of those murders was perpetrated while the officials were saying that they were trying to help. The government should never take away freedom because there is the possibility of risk. That is not loving your neighbor.

A large number of citizens would choose to take the risk of sickness in order to continue working, and when I allow that freedom to others, I am honoring their judgment and their choices.

3. Christians believe in freedom because each person must be allowed to read the Bible and follow the Lord Jesus Christ.

If men must be free in the most important decision—what to do with Jesus Christ, then we may safely build a free society on all smaller decisions. The Great Commission presupposes freedom. How can we tell others the gospel if movement, church meetings, and travel restrictions are in place?

Incidentally, the great Baptist Roger Williams promoted the doctrine of religious freedom, and Christians today believe that every religion should be free to promote its ideas in society as well. If a majority of people in society are Islamic, they are free to put Islamic ideas into the government or schools. While Christians may not agree with Islam, they support the freedom that allows Muslims to be Islamic.

4. Christians believe in freedom because lack of freedom results in theft.

About 3,500 years ago, God said, You shall not steal. But in a society dominated by government, every one of those posts must be paid, and usually much larger than the average worker. As the government writes more laws, it needs more “public servants.”

Money for grants, social programs, handouts, and corruption also comes unwillingly from the average worker at a small company or farm. When government has more power, freedom is reduced because theft through unjust taxes are high. When a man has lost a certain portion of his material goods, he has lost the freedom of using them in the ways he would have if they had remained in his possession.

The government—which here in South Africa calls itself Government with a capital “G” and no article as if it were your Uncle Keith—calls the lockdown essential to save lives, but the cost is freedom. At the least, we should be clear on the price if we are forced to pay it.

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29 Evidences That Christ Loves Sinners

Even before Good Friday Christ loved sinners…

  1. Christ restricted Himself to a six foot body that He might explain God to a race of men living in deadly darkness while the fullness of His divine glory was veiled (John 1:18; Luke 1:79), and this restriction was love to me.
  2. Christ dwelled with men enduring by His perfection heightened sensitivity to every prick of sin and wickedness on this earth from those who drink iniquity like water and whose devotion to disobedience defiles them from the sole of the foot to the crown of the head (Matt. 17:17; Job 15:16; Isa. 1:6), and this walking with men was love to me.
  3. Christ walked to Jerusalem knowing the outcome of His journey would be a display of injustice, torture, and personal pain enough to make the long history of human crimes seem a drop in the bucket (Luke 9:51-53), and each step was love to me.

At Good Friday we remember…

  1. Christ persevered in prayer three times in the garden of Gethsemane (Matt. 26:39-44), and this perseverance in prayer was love to me.
  2. Christ refused every impulse of His flesh that urged Him to call 12 legions of flaming spirits (Matt. 26:53), and this refusal was love to me.
  3. Christ bore in His body the most humiliating degradation of laughter from His earthly peers though they were really the works of His hands, nor did He hide His face from their spitting, slapping, and cruelty (Matt. 26:67; Isa. 50:6; John 1:3), and these born indignities were love to me.
  4. Christ held his tongue when mocked by men (Matt. 27:14; James 3:2), and this holding was love to me.
  5. Christ suffered meekly from the stripes laid upon Him by a leather whip and a coarse soldier who plied His cursed strength until the back and legs of the Father’s only Son hung like strips of a slaughtered beast (Isa. 53:5; Matt. 27:26), and this scourging was love to me.
  6. Christ steadied Himself when lithe branches were twisted together and crowned His royal head though a staff pressed the thorns until His face ran with His own vital life (Matt. 27:29-30), and that steadied head was love to me.
  7. Christ placed the cross bar on His shoulders and walked amidst the great men, soldiers, and the crowd to Golgotha (John 19:17), and the bearing of that cross was love to me.
  8. Christ laid His sinless arms and legs upon a rugged tree binding Himself to the curse of the law in all its damning weight so that in the holiest and most terrible mystery He might be made a curse for me (2 Cor. 5:21; Gal. 3:13; Deut. 21:23), and His resignation to death was love to me.
  9. Christ did not withdraw His flesh when a soldier’s arm raised a hammer to strike through His wrist (Matt. 27:35; Mark 15:24; Luke 23:33; John 19:18), and that unflinching will was love to me.
  10. Christ lifted His voice through parched lips to gasp out a plea that the Father would not forget mercy when He looked down on the vile creatures murdering His Son (Luke 23:34), and this prayer was love to me.
  11. Christ gave hope to every sinner when He instantly pardoned, received, and comforted the condemned criminal hanging by His side (Luke 23:42-43), and this offer of hope was love to me.
  12. Christ cries, “It is finished,” so that the firmest confidence and truest happiness might one day be mine (John 19:30; Dan. 9:24), and this completed work was love to me.
  13. Christ gathered up in arms no less than infinite the terrifying flood of His Father’s accumulated wrath on sinners from Adam to today, and to testify to all the ages of the unfathomable extremity of His anguish He summoned His waning human strength to cry, “My God, My God, why have You forsaken Me?” (Matt. 27:46; 1 John 2:2), and this quenching of the wrath in unknown agony to Himself was love to me.

At Easter we remember…

  1. Christ endures for three days the place of departure and desecration (Mark 8:31; Eph. 4:9-10), and this burial was love to me.
  2. Christ plants His foot firmly on death’s neck and thus destroys the last enemy which no human art or kingly power could ever subdue but His (1 Cor. 15:20; Heb. 2:14), and this dominion over the grave was love to me.
  3. Christ rose from the dead that I might rise (Heb. 7:23-25), and this rising was love to me.
  4. Christ sent His Spirit to dwell within men and thereby to seal them indissolubly to Himself in a union prefigured by marriage (John 15:26; Eph. 1:13), and this sending of His Spirit was love to me.

Yet long before He came to earth He loved sinners…

  1. Christ communed with the Father and His Spirit before all worlds and spoke the words which have shaped all history, “Behold I come, I delight to do Your will,” that none could deny that He first loved us (Psalm 40:7-8; Heb. 10:7; 1 John 4:19), and this covenant was love to me.
  2. Christ saw with unmistakable accuracy every evil that I would commit compounded immeasurably by the excuses I would effortlessly spin out along with the habits of selfishness, worldliness, and complacency that would mark my life and feed my own smug sense of fitness to be a son of God: He saw all this and yet chose me when I did not choose Him (Eze. 8:12-13; Eph. 2:1-3; Isa. 53:5-6), and this seeing and choosing were love to me.
  3. Christ created the worlds and continually sustains them so that all the beauty, plenty, and comfort of all that can be seen may be enjoyed by all men (1 Tim. 6:17; Psalm 8:4-8), and this creating was love to me.

And even today there are more tokens of His love…

  1. Christ stands perpetually before the Holy One interceding for sinners (1 John 2:1; Rom. 8:34; Heb. 7:25-28), and this never-ending advocacy is love to me.
  2. Christ removes our sins as a surgeon removes the disease unfalteringly and regardless of our confusion as to His methods (Gal. 2:20; Rom. 8:28-29), and this removal is love to me.
  3. Christ protects me so that neither tribulation, nor distress, nor persecution, nor famine, nor nakedness, nor peril, nor sword, nor things present, nor things to come, nor height, nor depth, nor any of my own foolishness though it be deeply ingrained in me shall be able to separate me from His love (Rom. 8:35-39), and this protection is love to me.
  4. Christ prepares a place far superior to this world wherein dwells righteousness and where we will live forever with our Lord serving Him and being served by Him in that eternal joy that comes in the morning (John 14:2-3; Rev. 22:3; Luke 12:37; Psalm 30:5), and this home is love to me.
  5. Christ goes with His people to the ends of the earth that each of His sheep would be found (Matt. 28:19-20; John 10:16; Luke 15:4), and both His aim for all men and His accompanying of His servants to the ends of the earth are love to me.
  6. Christ promises to return with His reward in His hand for all the called, and chosen, and faithful (Rev. 22:12; 17:14), and this promise is love to me.
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A CHRISTIAN RESPONSE TO THE CORONA VIRUS, Part 3

6. Money that is printed by governments without gold or other wealth behind it is theft.

“You shall not steal.” These words seem very simple, but they imply private property, ownership, and even a work ethic. They strictly forbid not only “breaking and entering” but also taking things through a third party such as receiving unjust government benefits, wasteful taxation, and increasing the money supply through fiat currency, i.e. inflation.

The US government is trying to pass out free money to each family as if money was simply paper. They have forgotten that money without wealth behind it is a time bomb. The previous recessions and depressions of the world have taught them nothing because they refuse to obey simple commands like, “No stealing.”

Since God is not mocked, they (and we) will reap what has been sown because we can be sure that our sin will find us out (Num. 32:23). We have the most trifling thoughts about the consequences of ongoing, generational theft, and we forgive ourselves without confession or repentance because we fear the changing winds of an election as if there were no Master who set up kings and appointed rulers.

Eph. 4:28 He who steals must steal no longer; but rather he must labor, performing with his own hands what is good, so that he will have something to share with one who has need.

Summary: Christians reject government sponsored theft even if it makes their lives easier.

7. The fear of death only reaches those who have not laid hold of Christ.

What is the worst that could happen during COVID 19? You would die. Unbelievers are afraid of death, but they are not afraid of God. Or perhaps, secretly, they are terrified of God which is why they are afraid of death.

But to be a believer is a kind of death.

Gal. 2:20 I have been crucified with Christ; and it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me; and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself up for me.

Luke 9:23 If anyone wishes to come after Me, he must deny himself, and take up his cross daily and follow Me.

Those who believe are marked by no fear of death, rather a unique relief by death.

Phil. 1:21 For to me, to live is Christ and to die is gain.

2 Cor. 5:1 For we know that if the earthly tent which is our house is torn down, we have a building from God, a house not made with hands, eternal in the heavens.

Of believers, Scripture says, “He sleeps.” Jesus promised that they would be raised again (John 5:28-29).

John 11:25-26 I am the resurrection and the life; he who believes in Me will live even if he dies, 26 and everyone who lives and believes in Me will never die. Do you believe this?”

Where does panic in an epidemic come from? The soul of a man who is secretly terrified by death. By the grace of our modern standard of living, we believe that we should be free from all risk. To this our Lord says, “They will put some of you to death” (Luke 21:16). To become a Christian is to accept a risky calling.

Living without the fear of death is now on display—not simply ignoring this crisis because these kinds of things don’t scare you, nor baseless “god-talk” about speaking life, but genuinely feeling the absolute confidence that being absent from the body is present with the Treasure hidden in the field. The last day of your time on earth is the first day of a new life with Christ. When viewed that way, I wonder that every professing Christian is not eager for his earthly time to be shorter.

Col. 3:2 Set your mind on the things above, not on the things that are on earth.

The world is marked by an intense interest in this life. That means all the things of this world are very prominent in their eyes.

1 John 2:15 Do not love the world nor the things in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him.

The sin of worldliness is loving this world and the things in it. How does a Christian feel? He holds the world with an open hand—ready to lose it at any moment.

Summary: Fear of death has motivated the world’s massive response, but this does not move Christians who are prepared and even eager for death.

8. Prayer in an emergency should first ask for forgiveness from sin.

When Israel is in captivity, Daniel asks only that God would forgive Israel for their many sins (Daniel 9). When Solomon opens the temple, he asks five times that God would forgive the sins of the nation in the future (1 Kings 8).

  • 1 Kings 8:33-34—When Israel is beaten by its enemies, they must pray for forgiveness of their sins.
  • 1 Kings 8:35-36—When there is no rain, they must ask to be forgiven.
  • 1 Kings 8:37-39—When there is any plague or national disaster, the first request is forgiveness of sins.

It will become very clear to us very quickly when we have only just entered the next life that the greatest and—it will seem—only thing that matters is whether our sins have been cleansed and removed. We will wonder that we ever pondered comfort or health or riches without a corresponding concern for salvation, conversion, and evangelism. At the time, the amazing power of sin with all its bewitching force will be laid bare, and we will rue with strongest feeling every thought and prayer that neglected this great reality.

Certainly, we can pray for people to be healed and for the virus to stop. But would it not be better—if we had to choose one option over the other—for great numbers of men to wake up to their sin and to fall on their faces in repentance and to kiss the Son lest He be angry even if the virus climbed into the ranks of history’s deadliest plagues?

Summary: A Christian’s prayers at this time ought first to be for the conversion of sinners and for a great spiritual awakening of humility and repentance.

Conclusion

There are Christian ways to view history, providence, politics, humanity, economics, science, and psychology. All other views and solutions built on them are wrong, and therefore, they will end up hurting more than they will help. Each of these should be viewed with Christian glasses. In other words, a Christian worldview will help us see each problem correctly. If we have the right glasses, everything comes into focus.

Most of us simply do not read the Bible enough. Or, in other words, we are too worldly. One reason God has allowed you to live at this time, is to draw you into thinking Biblically. Is the Corona Virus the worst ever? No. Is the Corona Virus sent from God? Yes. Is the Corona Virus a judgment from God? Possibly. Is the Corona Virus a good reason for the government to take away freedoms? No. Possibly some freedoms such as international travel bans, but in general: no.

Is the Corona Virus an opportunity for evangelism? Yes, because people are afraid of death.

Series navigation
A Christian response to the Corona Virus, Part 1
A Christian response to the Corona Virus, Part 2
A Christian response to the Corona Virus, Part 3

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A CHRISTIAN RESPONSE TO THE CORONA VIRUS, Part 2

2. Plagues are divinely ordained and sent by God.

  • Lev. 26:21 If then, you act with hostility against Me and are unwilling to obey Me, I will increase the plague on you seven times according to your sins.
  • Exodus 7-11 The ten plagues on Egypt.
  • Numbers 11:1 The Lord sent a fire that consumed the people.
  • Numbers 11:33 They were consumed by a plague from the Lord.
  • Numbers 16:46-49 They were consumed by a plague from the Lord.
  • Numbers 21:6 The Lord sent an abundance of poisonous snakes.
  • Numbers 25:3-4, 9 The Lord killed 25,000 by a plague.
  • 1 Samuel 24:15 God sent a plague that killed 70,000 Jews.
  • Jeremiah 25:27-29 You shall say to them, ‘Thus says the Lord of hosts, the God of Israel, “Drink, be drunk, vomit, fall and rise no more because of the sword which I will send among you.” ’ 28 “And it will be, if they refuse to take the cup from your hand to drink, then you will say to them, ‘Thus says the Lord of hosts: “You shall surely drink! 29 “For behold, I am beginning to work calamity in this city which is called by My name, and shall you be completely free from punishment? You will not be free from punishment; for I am summoning a sword against all the inhabitants of the earth,” declares the Lord of hosts.’
  • Amos 3:6 If a calamity occurs in a city has not the Lord done it?

Did God send COVID 19? Yes. Is He trying to get our attention? Yes, of course. But the right response is repentance and humility.

The president of Zambia declared his country was Christian and prayed that the virus would be healed. Is this more than a political stunt in a country where 86% call themselves Christian? Public prayers are easy to make and mean very little unless they are backed up by widespread repentance and humility.

Proverbs 28:9 He who turns away his ear from listening to the law, Even his prayer is an abomination.

Summary: Disruptions in society are controlled by God and are often a direct response to the society’s defiance of His laws.

3. A crisis does not make government more dependable or efficient.

Romans 13:1-7 gives government the right to punish criminals and reward law-abiding citizens. But experience teaches what could be learned from Scripture that government has a very narrow specialty and when it steps outside that realm, it is usually inefficient, corrupt, and cumbersome.

Nevertheless, politicians are always looking for more power. A previous mayor of Chicago, Rahm Emmanuel said, “You never want a serious crisis to go to waste. And what I mean by that is its an opportunity to do things that you think you could not do before.” Who is Emmanuel referring to? The government. What new things will they do? Whatever they can get away with in a crisis. They do this by passing more laws which sometimes make innocent people criminals.

Who treats you better: The waitress at a restaurant or the lady at a government office? Politicians are glad to have a crisis if they can manipulate it to get more taxes or power for their own agenda. The Communists of Eastern Europe and China during the 20th century are the best bad example of the danger of expanded government. Every new law in a free society chips away at the liberty while adding to the burgeoning girth of government.

In 1 Sam. 8:11-18, Samuel warned Israel that a king would raise taxes until the people are exhausted and infuriated. This is exactly what happened by the third king of Israel (1 Kings 12:4). The people hated the exhausting taxes of Solomon’s reign, but Solomon’s son Rehoboam would not listen to them (1 Kings 12:12-16)!

Christians however do not look to government for help in most areas of life. First, they are commanded to work for themselves in secular work to “make certain about His calling and choosing you” (2 Pet. 1:10). Second, Christians don’t trust sinners in the government (Jer. 17:5).

The “separation of powers” is the control that the president has over the parliament and the courts have over the president. It is the political innovation that tries to stop the power of any one group. It also recognizes that government constantly tries to grab more power because of the sinful nature of those who work for it. The most important application of the doctrine of total depravity to society is a government with a very small scope of operation.

Unfortunately, a crisis gives the government the chance to grow. But a growing government is no more a blessing to society than a thriving thief is an entrepreneur. Sadly, many governments are taking freedoms from their people in order to stop COVID 19. Then we can expect them to borrow or simply print massive amounts of “money” in order to “pay” for the consequences of the things they decreed.

It strains credulity to the breaking to think that the government and its cadre of media—a group that thinks men and women are the same, we should all stop driving cars and eating meat so the world does not burn up, children should be taught in school that chickens came from the Tyrannosaurus Rex, and money can be printed to stop poverty—are really dependable to restructure our entire economy, force small businesses to stop working, and then fix it by sending out free money that we had to borrow. 

Summary: Christians are cautious of a government that takes freedoms away from its people by multiplying laws.

4. Sensible hygiene saves lives.

The most common piece of advice is: Wash hands. Filth, germs, and contaminants are spread more easily than cleanliness.

Hag. 2:12-14 ‘If a man carries holy meat in the fold of his garment, and touches bread with this fold, or cooked food, wine, oil, or any other food, will it become holy?’ ” And the priests answered, “No.” 13 Then Haggai said, “If one who is unclean from a corpse touches any of these, will the latter become unclean?” And the priests answered, “It will become unclean.” 14 Then Haggai said, “ ‘So is this people. And so is this nation before Me,’ declares the Lord, ‘and so is every work of their hands; and what they offer there is unclean.’

Cleanliness, washing, and quarantine were in the law of God.

Deut. 23:13 and you shall have a spade among your tools, and it shall be when you sit down outside, you shall dig with it and shall turn to cover up your excrement.

Leviticus 13-15 teaches the Israelites how to handle infectious diseases. Science did not discover germs and viruses for many hundreds of years, but God revealed the basics of hygiene long ago. Those who were the victims of false religion did not know this for many centuries and so they died more quickly. Perhaps the single greatest tool to save human lives was the simple habit of washing hands with soap and water.

The virus passes through the air, through droplets in coughing, and as it is left behind from touching. Some studies believe that it can live possibly up to 72 hours outside a host. Each person infected with the flu infects approximately 1.3 other people, but COVID 19 infects 2-3 other people. Yet it may not be as bad as some original reports had feared: “So far, the new coronavirus seems to be more contagious than most strains of the flu, and roughly as contagious as strains that appear in pandemic flu seasons.” Denise Grady, NY Times

So far the most important safety advice includes:

  • Wash hands constantly with soap or sanitizer.
  • Cough and sneeze into your elbow.
  • Avoid direct contact or close quarters with others.
  • Wear a face mask.
  • Quarantine yourself if you are sick or show symptoms until the virus passes.

Matt. 7:12 In everything, therefore, treat people the same way you want them to treat you, for this is the Law and the Prophets.

Summary: Since filth breeds disease and the bacteria and viruses that destroy, cleanliness really is a godly trait.

5. Personal responsibility is God’s plan for mankind.

God gave Adam and Eve only one law in the garden because He was glad that they were free (Gen. 2:17). Yet they did have a law, and they were responsible to obey it. Ezekiel 18 tells the story of three generations, a man, his son, and his grandson. In each generation, the man is judged or rewarded based on his own actions and merit. God would have us to live with our decisions and their consequences.

The Mosaic law is only 613 laws—compare that with the many thousands of laws in countries today. In 2013, the House of Representatives in America asked the Congressional Research Office for a list of all the laws. One government office replied to the other, “We don’t have enough staff or money to count the laws.” A private firm, the Heritage Foundation counted at least 4,450 and said there were many more.

Personal responsibility is the father of freedom, and freedom is the soil in which the Great Commission grows best. Personal responsibility means that each person has the right to make his own decisions and enjoy the results of them. Some people choose to buy TV’s before the Bible or books. What good would it do if I wrote a law requiring men to buy Bibles? What if they had to recognize the church? Would that make them Christian? Would a law give them a new heart?

Some or even many people will use their freedom in a foolish and irresponsible way. But restricting freedom will usually have repercussions that are far-reaching and long-living. This is the main point in Henry Hazlitt’s excellent Economics in One Lesson or in the brief article by William Graham Sumner, “The Forgotten Man.” Cutting off the head may cure the headache, but it leaves the body with a greater problem.

Specifically for this situation: Some people are willing to take more risks than others. David took a great risk when he went to fight Goliath, but we remember him because he won.

Summary: Personal responsibility urges each man to develop his skills including his judgment and ability in order to achieve the goals he wants.

Series navigation
A Christian response to the Corona Virus, Part 1
A Christian response to the Corona Virus, Part 2
A Christian response to the Corona Virus, Part 3

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A CHRISTIAN RESPONSE TO THE CORONA VIRUS, Part 1

In Dec. 2019, in Wuhan China, a new disease was identified that attacks the lungs making breathing very difficult. Within 3 months, it had spread to 180 countries with approximately 250,000 cases. COVID-19 (Corona Virus Disease 2019) currently has a death rate of 3-4%. But we can expect these figures to drop as more cases of those who recovered are included. In 2014, West Africa saw Ebola with a death rate of 40%.

On 15 March 2020, President Ramaphosa declared that South Africa was in a state of emergency. Then on 23 March, a lockdown was imposed whereby all traffic was reduced to the necessities such as hospitals, groceries, and police. As of 25 March, there are 709 confirmed cases and not yet any fatalities. Beginning Friday, 27 March until 17 April, the entire country is banned from most travel, work, and public gatherings.

The infections grow exponentially pictured as a line sharply turning upward. After the virus begins to weaken, the infections cease to increase and then decline. When this action is shown on paper, it looks like a bell curve. Governments around the world are taking measures in order to “flatten the curve.”

This virus provides a platform from which to inspect a Christian worldview. How should Christians respond? If you had read from Genesis to Revelation 50 times, how would you respond?

Christians live by the great principles of their faith especially during a crisis. So, here are some wrong responses followed by a list of eight Biblical principles that ought to guide us.

Three unbiblical responses

“We will be safe in Jesus’ name.”

This may also be heard as: “My faith is in God, so I am protected.” Or, “God told me He would keep me safe.” Or worst of all, “I bind you, Satan, and all your viruses!”

This is a very common response from people who think of themselves as Christian, but it is a silly blend of positive thinking and spirit worship.

“It does not matter. There’s nothing to be concerned about.”

As of this writing, 19,000 have died who had this virus. They have stepped into eternity with no hope of returning or changing the destiny to which they are now trapped. Families have lost loved ones and breadwinners and mothers. Even more so than other flu epidemics, it is specially contagious. There is a great risk that it could reach poorer areas where water, hygiene, and close living could spread the disease quickly to people without resources for medical care.

“This could kill off whole towns and villages!”

The death rate is especially pronounced for those over 60. For example, the average age of those who died in Italy is 79. The great majority of those who are younger without previous health problems are coming through the virus in a few weeks.

1. History reveals many plagues that have taken great numbers of people.

History is filled with numerous stories of plague, famine, and tragedy. We are all tempted to think that our problem at the moment is the worst ever. What person over 70 has not said or thought, “The young people these days are terrible?”

COVID 19 is a serious threat, but there are an infinite number of gradations of seriousness which we may apply to any threat. History supplies the long term perspective to help us battle disease on one side and to keep our fears and our response in check on the other.

We might be tempted to overreact as if this was the first time or the worst time. The majority of those who have passed away had pre-existing conditions and were over 60 years old. But historically, far more people died in the previous plagues of history.

Even in recent history there are terrible physical tragedies. In 2017, 3,561 people died per day from TB. Yet this is not a worldwide concern. Influenza kills many thousands per day, but governments are not shutting down their countries. Each day, 3,287 people die from road accidents around the world. This last number is particularly remarkable because we could solve this problem by reducing the speed limit to 30 k’s per hour (19 mph), and yet there is no global travel on this road.

Millions dead Area Date Disease
5-10 million Roman Empire 165-180 Possibly smallpox
25-50 million (40% of population) Europe Egypt, and West Asia 541-542 Plague
approx. ​1⁄3 of entire Japanese population Japan 735–737 Smallpox
50–200 million; 10–60% of European population Europe, Asia and North Africa 1331–1353 Plague (Black death)  
5-8 million Mexico 1520 Smallpox
5–15 million (80% of population) Mexico 1545–1548 Possibly Salmonella enterica
2–2.5 million (50% of pop.) Mexico 1576–1580 Possibly Salmonella
> 2,000,000 Persia 1772 Plague
1,000,000 Russia 1852–1860 Cholera
>22 million in India, more worldwide Worldwide 1855–1960 Bubonic plague
1,000,000 Worldwide 1889–1890 Influenza
1.5 million worldwide 1915–1926 Encephalitis lethargica
25-100 million Worldwide 1918-1920 Influenza
2,000,000 worldwide 1957–1958 Influenza A virus subtype H2N2
1,000,000 worldwide 1968–1969 Influenza A virus subtype H3N2
> 32,000,000 worldwide
(from Congo Basin)
1920–present HIV/AIDS

Christians should be good students of history because hundreds of pages of the Bible are historical accounts. History is the story of God’s will. If He had wanted it to turn out differently, He was certainly able to change things. Yet in history He sits in the Heavens and laughs at sinners (Psalm 2:4), pours out kindness on both believers and unbelievers (Matt. 5:45), and shows again and again that every doctrine in His Word is true. As we read about yesterday, we ought to make theological connections. The diseases of history show the horror of sin (Rom. 8:20-22), and the marvelous medical breakthroughs display the grace, providence, and creativity of God.

Summary: History can correct us from the natural selfishness which tempts us to exaggerate our own problems and quickly forget the great trials of others.

Series navigation
A Christian response to the Corona Virus, Part 1
A Christian response to the Corona Virus, Part 2
A Christian response to the Corona Virus, Part 3

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False Teachers Promoted by Bars

Thursday morning at 11:00 am I arrived in Mpombo, the western section of Valdezia to visit house by house and begin Bible studies in ongoing efforts to evangelize. The houses display a mix of the middle class and the poor. But as I walked between them, I heard a Tsonga man “preaching” in English while a Tsonga woman translated after him into Tsonga. Because the grass was growing tall, I could not see the unusual church that would have a service on Thursday morning. The man shouted that “all my enemies will fall before me” along with all the other mantras of the prosperity religion.

Tsonga home in Valdezia

Eventually, I met two men on the road who were both drunk and carrying bottles away from the sound of the “preaching.” I spoke with them briefly about their souls, but they could not carry any serious thought. Shortly after them, I reached a beautiful home with a gardener and a decorated wall. The woman at home kindly told me that the bottle store (bar, see the photo) next door was owned by her and that she played these things from the TV in order to attract people to drink there. The two men I had met came from this place.

The tavern that played the Prosperity preachers

So here is the situation: A shouting preacher is being blasted by enormous speakers from a tavern throughout a large swath of Mpombo. The owner and the inhabitants appear to find no noticeable incongruity between the religious message or the business of alcohol. Why?

1. The Prosperity Gospel appeals to the base sentiment of globalized entertainment.

The overall volume combines with the undulating rhythms of the speaker’s voice. He has copied so many television preachers that he can bounce and screech in an ear-catching way. There is a lot about vague “enemies” who are trying to “take you down.” And there is a lot of God-talk about a salvation without the Cross from the demons of poverty.

2. The Prosperity Gospel soothes carnal habits rather than confronting sin.

Nothing about this kind of preaching would awaken a drunkard. There is no word of warning unless the preacher begins to shout about someone “coming out from under my umbrella of authority.” I have a newspaper behind me on my shelf from a prosperity preacher in this area announcing that sex before marriage does not matter. I don’t think most Africans in the rural areas are surprised at these things because they have grown up nourished with a diet of ATR over which they don the clothes of Prosperity. Many in the West however accept this as Christian.

3. The Prosperity Gospel bypasses the Christian God.

There is no tremendous lightning and fire coming from the Mountain to terrify sinners. There is no heart-stopping grace to melt hard hearts. There is no exaltation. A man might understand and enjoy the presentation of this kind of religion immediately without the interposition of a new heart or even any conviction of sin. Though it is loud, it deadens the senses by an entire visceral experience.

In the mind of the average person in the rural areas, alcohol is immediately and intrinsically connected to drunkenness. The rural mind takes alcohol as antithetical to Christianity because traditional brewing took place among the Tsongas after the harvest and lasted a number of days during which drunkenness and sexual sins were commonplace.

The point of this post is to demonstrate not the evil of beer, but the unconscious statement that the dominant religion in the villages fits neatly with the culture of the bar. It does not call for and could not co-exist with holiness, repentance, Bible study, reflection, or Christian faith.

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Seven Types of Pastor in Africa in 2020

Recently, I received a text message with 12 types of pastors in Africa. But the list needed to be reorganized and reduced a little. Here are the seven most common pastors I have seen these days.

1. The Illogical Pastor

Description: He preaches without clear terms because his mind is not clearly organized. Therefore, he can talk generally about repentance, redemption, faith, humility, heaven, salvation, or God, yet he is never really able to give a simple definition of what these things are and what they are not. His mind is like a closet with many thoughts inside, but they are not placed carefully on the right shelves. He has never studied logic, and sometimes he even denigrates clear thinking. He has even told his church members to “stop using your mind, and start using your spirit” or something similar to that.

Basic motives: He wants to serve the Lord, but he does not want to take the effort to discipline his mind.

Demerits: Since Jesus commanded us to love the Lord with our minds, this man is doomed to fail at the most important command. Eventually, his church may grow, but if you ask the people on the way out the door what they learned, it will always be some form of a cliché rather than solid, time-tested, exegetically derived theology.

Way out: Carefully define every word especially the important words in each passage before you preach. Make the goal of every sermon the point of the passage rather than what someone else said or what will make the people shout, “Amen.”

2. The Lawless Pastor

Description: He talks much about grace so that his sins and the sins of the most important givers will never be fingered. He also loves the line, “Do not judge!”, but he hates Jesus’ words, “Judge righteous judgment (John 7:24).” This pastor overlooks the clear statement that women must be silent in the church, that they must not teach men, that they must learn in submission. He does not bother to obey the command that at the most only three may speak in tongues at a single church meeting and every time, they must have an interpreter. He ignores the fact that if pastors have unbelieving children or have divorced they must resign immediately. And many other laws, this man (or woman) sidesteps.

Basic motives: Peter tells us that their motives are greed and love of sin (2 Peter 2:14).

Demerits: Since he is an antinomian (lawless one), he will ultimately hear Jesus say, “Depart from me, I never knew you, you who practice lawlessness.” (Matt. 7:23)

Way out: We must begin taking every command in the Bible seriously. We must obey it whether we lose friends, whether we have small churches, whether we suffer, and whether we lose money. God’s approval is more important than man’s approval.

3. The Sensational Pastor

Description: This man loves a show. He will dress to please the people. His pictures always shows his rings and jewelry. He holds the microphone even if he is only preaching to 50 people because he likes the superficial look and sound. Everything he does is copying show business from the sinful state of Hollywood.

Basic motives: This man is so immature that he models his ministry off of television rather than the apostles. He has watched more hours of TV than he has spent reading his Bible. He can impersonate T. D. Jakes and Pastor Chris better than he can quote Peter or John.

Demerits: No church can come to the fullness of the stature of Christ (Eph. 4:13) with a man like this.

Way out: Turn off the TV. Put it in the trash. Throw out the dish. And begin reading your Bible until you are terrified of God’s holiness, mesmerized by His grace, humbled by your sin, captured by His love, filled with His Spirit, and ready to suffer hardness as a good soldier.

4. The Church-growth Pastor

Description: He judges every decision based on whether more people come to the meetings. A sermon was good only if people liked it and more people come back. Another pastor is a “man of God” and has the “anointing” if he has a large following. The number of “likes” on Facebook is more important to him than if he is obedient to the laws in the Sermon on the Mount.

Basic motives: Simple, Jr. high love of popularity. This man has never grown up so now he desperately wants to be loved by people rather than being content with God’s love toward him.

Demerits: This man will break more and more commands of Scripture in order to attract a crowd. Bring in worldly music? Sure, if more people come. Overlook sexual sin in the church? Sure, if more people come. Ignore false doctrine from guest speakers? Sure, if more people come.

Way out: This man needs to see God like the children of Israel in Deut. 5:25. Where they cried out in terror that they would die if they ever saw God’s glory again. He needs to learn the fear of the Lord (Pro. 1:7), and true holiness without which no one will see God (Heb. 12:14).

5. The “Fire” Pastor

Description: This man shouts “fire” throughout his sermons. He can repeat this single word 20 times in a sermon. He will also mix it with other words like “blessing” and “breakthrough” and “success.”

Basic motives: Since he has not studied, he does not know what to say. He is like Ahimaaz who ran to speak to David, but he had no message (2 Sam. 18:29-30).

Demerits: He will lead his people away from the gospel by teaching them to look for external entertainment.

Way out: Study the Bible. Say only what the text says. Let it be your master in the pulpit.

6. The Politically Correct Pastor

Description: His sermons never offend anyone because he is very careful to always speak about general themes. He does not mention Hell or the sins that would send a man there. He does not rebuke African traditional religion on one hand or transgender foolishness on the other. His convictions change from day to day according to polls or news stories. He is afraid to apply the Bible to economics or spanking children or male-headship or entertainment.

Basic motives: The fear of man drives this man. He could never rebuke his superiors who pay him or his inferiors who validate him.

Demerits: Without courage, he will not tell his people that there is only one way to God. He will not tell them that we are all barbarians before we had the gospel. Because he withholds hard truths, his people will be lost.

Way out: Read your Bible marking all the places where men and women were courageous for God. Ask Jesus to make you bold as a lion (Pro. 28:1). Fix your heart on revival rather than comfort and popular acceptance.

7. The Biblical Pastor

Description: This man cares more about humility than huge offerings. He teaches the Bible verse by verse rather than the TV preacher frame by frame. He is hard on his own sin, bold for the truth, gentle when he is wronged, and full of love for the lost. He would rather see someone saved than receive a large gift. He could not be paid enough to lie. He studies theology more than sports. He reads well because he first of all a teacher.

Basic motives: He loves and fears the God of the Bible. He thinks much about the Second Coming of Jesus Christ. He finds joy in God.

Demerits: This man will likely not be popular. He will suffer like all who live godly. He will give away his wealth to missionaries sooner than live a flashy life.

Way out: Sin. If this man gives in to sin, he will be like Samson with his hair shaved. He will quench the Spirit and spiral downward.

Conclusion

When the Lord comes, a great number of men will be shocked to find out they have been false pastors all along. But there is still time now to change! Now, we have the chance to repent of foolish, unbiblical practices and return to the real power of God through the gospel in the book of Acts.

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Multiculturalism, Part 5: Directions for Dealing with the Influence of False Religion

Do not learn the way of the nations… For the customs of the peoples are delusion.
Jeremiah 10:2-3

What should someone do who has been converted from a culture that is heavily influenced by paganism?

  1. They should examine every part of their lives, every cultural practice, and every custom in light of the Bible.
  2. They should cultivate a teachable spirit so that they readily receive instruction in areas where demons had previously deceived them by vain traditions.
  3. They should follow the examples of those societies who have been sanctified by the gospel.
  4. They should guard themselves from the culture in which they were born knowing that it was largely influenced by demonic religion.
  5. They should happily retain any cultural practices that by God’s grace tend to promote goodness, truth, and beauty as defined by Scripture.
  6. They should remember examples of Gentiles who were converted in Scripture such as Ruth who gladly left every vestige of her old religion and its cultural baggage.
  7. They should study the doctrine of total depravity so that they would not tend to overemphasize the goodness of man outside of Christian light.
  8. They should lean away from cultural conservatism since they do not want to protect practices that are vain.

What should someone do who has grown up in Christianity?

  1. They should study the precepts of false religion so that they can more accurately refute the errors and more persuasively communicate the gospel.
  2. They should keep the “antithesis” firmly placed in their minds—the battle between the one true religion of Jehovah and all other religions as demonic enemies.
  3. They should be particularly wary of media and art which passes on pagan values in a subtle, entertaining manner.
  4. They should examine themselves to see if any worldly or pagan practices are pulling them away from the highest love for God as Solomon’s wives pulled his heart away.
  5. They should deal in love and patience yet boldness with those who are coming out of paganism.
  6. They should happily acknowledge any cultural practices that by God’s grace tend to promote goodness, truth, and beauty as defined by Scripture even in a society that has been dominated by false religion.
  7. They should study the doctrine of total depravity so that they would not be ensnared by the spirit of this age who is currently promoting the notion that all cultures are equally good, true, and beautiful.
  8. They should lean toward cultural conservatism since they want to protect practices that have strengthened believers for many generations.

As globalization has brought diverse peoples together, and as modern economies have brought the benefits of unprecedented wealth and cultural advance, Jeremiah’s prophecy in chapter 10:1-8 stands to remind the people of God that false religions produce a worthless way of life that will degenerate a people almost as proportionally low as the gospel can raise them. Though there can be glimmers of common grace, Jeremiah has almost nothing to say about that. His inspired message from 600 years before Christ still fits 2,000 years after our Lord: The religions of the world produce worthless cultures.

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Multiculturalism, Part 4: Is It a Sin to Learn About False Religions?

Do not learn the way of the nations… For the customs of the peoples are delusion.
Jeremiah 10:2-3

God commanded His people not to learn the unbiblical, foolish way of life produced by false religions (Jer. 10:2).

  • This way of life is actually what we commonly call a culture.
  • The culture of the nations came from their religions.
  • Their religions and the cultures they produce are worthless.

So then how much should someone learn about false religion? How can you evangelize someone if you do not understand their theology?

God orders His people not to learn their religion in Jer. 10:2, but then…

  1. He explains their source of knowledge—astrology (10:2).
  2. He explains their art forms—idols (10:3-5).
  3. He explains their mental state—foolish and stupid (10:8).
  4. He explains their jewelry and clothing—silver, gold, and fashions (10:9).
  5. He lists the names of these gods—Baal and Molech (32:35).
  6. He tells where they worship demons—the valley of Ben-hinnom (32:25).
  7. He lists some of their practices—sacrificing their children (19:5).

The command not to learn the way of the nations is not a simple or absolute prohibition. It does not mean or prohibit certain learning. It does not stop a Christian from learning the false religion’s doctrines or the culture’s practices. Those disciplines can be very helpful in convincing the sinners of their errors. We should study their theology so that we can debate and communicate like Paul did (Acts 19:8-9, etc.).

Rather the command addresses the affections. Do not learn about the heathen culture so that you may imitate it.

You shall not do what is done in the land of Egypt where you lived, nor are you to do what is done in the land of Canaan where I am bringing you; you shall not walk in their statutes.
Lev. 18:3

When the Lord your God cuts off before you the nations which you are going in to dispossess, and you dispossess them and dwell in their land, 30beware that you are not ensnared to follow them, after they are destroyed before you, and that you do not inquire after their gods, saying, ‘How do these nations serve their gods, that I also may do likewise?’ 31You shall not behave thus toward the Lord your God, for every abominable act which the Lord hates they have done for their gods; for they even burn their sons and daughters in the fire to their gods.
Deut. 12:29-31

The prohibition to learn is a warning about imitation. Study carefully to refute so long as your heart retains its love for God and its hatred of sin. The Lord Jesus Christ was honored because He hated sin while loving righteousness (Heb. 1:9). Do not learn about the heathen culture in a way that would allow your mind to sympathize with it or learn to enjoy it. Alexander Pope captured the danger in his Essay on Man.

Vice is a monster of so frightful mien,
As to be hated needs but to be seen;
Yet seen too oft, familiar with her face,
We first endure, then pity, then embrace.

An Essay on Man, Epistle II, line 217

William Carey required his students at Serampore College to study the theology of Hinduism so that they could effectively answer the arguments and evangelize. To learn about false religions so as to imitate or sympathize is a study forbidden to all believers because it tends to weaken our devotion to Jehovah.

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