Multiculturalism, Part 3: God’s Evaluation of the Cultures of the World

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

The words of Jeremiah may have felt like a hammer when they were originally delivered. This is why riots formed after his prophecies (Jer. 26:8-11). Ten years later his free speech rights were violated again when his prophecies landed him in jail (37:15-16). Another decade passed and his words were so angering that he was thrown in an old well and left to rot in the mud (38:6). It would not be surprising if his words produced the same response today because they have not lost their edge.

God would have His people stay away from this culture (10:2). It is dangerous because it does not have truth. It is deceptive because it has support from a large group of people. It is despairing because it offers no hope either spiritually or for this present world. The command to stay away from pagan cultures is itself a judgment about their goodness, truth, and beauty.

Not only does God imply a divine condemnation of the world’s cultures by commanding His people to learn their way or customs, but the text tells us explicitly what God thinks of these cultures. They are worthless (10:3 “vanity” ESV; “delusions” NASB). This is God’s judgment on every culture outside of the one that would be produced by a consistent application of the Bible.

Cultures must be judged by the degree of influence that Christianity has had on them. The determining factor in judging a culture is the presence of Jesus Christ and His Light in that people group. Though He comes to lighten every man (John 1:9), yet they are still ignorant of Him (John 1:10) and the nearer he gets to them, the more strongly they reject Him (John 1:11). Instead they give themselves to religions inspired by demons.

The rest of mankind, who were not killed by these plagues, did not repent of the works of their hands, so as not to worship demons…
Rev. 9:20

For all the gods of the peoples are idols…
Psalm 96:5

They sacrificed to demons who were not God…
Deut. 32:17

How could a religion produce anything good, true, or beautiful if it were inspired by demons?

Though it may perturb postmodern professors and strike the sensibility of celebrity snowflakes, Jehovah says that the religions of the world produce cultures which actually downgrade the society to stupidity, foolishness, and ignorance (10:8, 14). Twice Jeremiah condemns the entire group and all their thinking. Their minds do not work correctly because of their religion.

10:8 “Their idol is wood.” NASB
10:8 “The instruction of idols is but wood!” ESV
Lit. “The teaching of worthless things [idols] is wood.”

Idolatry has a kind of catechism and yet it rises no higher than something as basic as wood. Do you want to trust your life and society to that?

Knowing that you were not redeemed with perishable things like silver or gold from your futile way of life inherited from your forefathers,
1 Pet. 1:18

God has often destroyed whole societies because of their wicked cultures.

Now go and strike Amalek and utterly destroy all that he has, and do not spare him; but put to death both man and woman, child and infant, ox and sheep, camel and donkey.
1 Sam. 15:3

That command is given to Israel on other occasions (Deut. 23:3-6; Jos. 10:40; et. al.). Christians should assume that a false religion will produce wicked and foolish judgments among the members of society.

One of themselves, a prophet of their own, said, “Cretans are always liars, evil beasts, lazy gluttons.” 13 This testimony is true. For this reason reprove them severely so that they may be sound in the faith, 14 not paying attention to Jewish myths and commandments of men who turn away from the truth.
Tit. 1:12-14

A Christian’s basic posture toward a culture produced by a false religion should be negative rather than positive or neutral.

“When the Lord your God brings you into the land where you are entering to possess it, and clears away many nations before you, the Hittites and the Girgashites and the Amorites and the Canaanites and the Perizzites and the Hivites and the Jebusites, seven nations greater and stronger than you, 2 and when the Lord your God delivers them before you and you defeat them, then you shall utterly destroy them. You shall make no covenant with them and show no favor to them. 3 Furthermore, you shall not intermarry with them; you shall not give your daughters to their sons, nor shall you take their daughters for your sons. 4 For they will turn your sons away from following Me to serve other gods; then the anger of the Lord will be kindled against you and He will quickly destroy you. 5 But thus you shall do to them: you shall tear down their altars, and smash their sacred pillars, and hew down their Asherim, and burn their graven images with fire.”
Deut. 7:1-5

As members of the New Covenant, this passage teaches the essential worth of false religions and the cultures they produce. They are not to be pitied. We may not let our children marry into them. Christianity stands in absolute opposition to them. We ask for no help from them. There is no spiritual unity between light and darkness. Of course, this refers to religion only since the Canaanite Rahab was in the lineage of our Lord and Moses also married a woman who looked different physically yet had left her false religion.

Surprisingly, the word “way” is in the singular while the word “nations” is in the plural in Jer. 10:2. All the cultures of the Gentiles are bottled together in this command. The general principle is all nations have similar culture except for that one culture produced by God and given by revelation to His people. This is confirmed by Paul in Ephesians 4:17-19 where he describes all Gentile cultures before Christ:

So this I say, and affirm together with the Lord, that you walk no longer just as the Gentiles also walk, in the futility of their mind, 18 being darkened in their understanding, excluded from the life of God because of the ignorance that is in them, because of the hardness of their heart; 19 and they, having become callous, have given themselves over to sensuality for the practice of every kind of impurity with greediness.
Eph. 4:17-19

Furthermore, the NT uses the word “gentile” as if they are people to be pitied and reached with the new religion (Acts 11:1; Rom. 2:14; 1 Cor. 5:1). Because the culture of the Gentiles is worthless, it actually harms those who follow it.

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Multiculturalism, Part 2: What Is the Source of Culture?

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

In Jeremiah 10:2 the people of God are commanded not to learn the way of the Gentiles. Today, we call the way of life and customs that Jeremiah spoke about, culture. Who is the mother of culture? Where does it find its origin? God told Judah through Jeremiah the answer to this question.

The culture of the nations is connected to their religion. They take their knowledge from religious observance of stars (10:2). They dedicate their art to idols (10:3-4). They fear dead idols (10:5). They have been taught by idols (10:8).

Paul connected his childhood culture with the religion of Judaism.

For you have heard of my former manner of life in Judaism, how I used to persecute the church of God beyond measure and tried to destroy it;
Galatians 1:13

What questions does a religion ask?

  1. Who is the final authority to determine good and bad in life?
  2. What is the great goal of life?
  3. Where did the world come from?
  4. How do we deal with guilt, fear, shame, and death?
  5. How can we know that something is true?
  6. What is beautiful?

Doesn’t a culture try to answer every one of these questions? In fact when a group of people gather themselves they inevitably form traditions bent on dealing with just these difficulties. As an example, how might the culture of African Traditional Religion (ATR) answer these questions?

  1. Who is the final authority? “Ancestors, swikembwu, midzimu, and the taboos that they have passed down to us over the centuries. Some day I will become one of them just like my forefathers.”
  2. What is the great goal of life? “To maintain the traditions that we were given in the society in which we were born.”
  3. Where did the world come from? “It is unknown and unnecessary. No man needs to know origins in order to continue in the path that his family has always led.”
  4. How do we deal with guilt, fear, shame, and death? “By staying in the paths of ancient tradition, we can overlook the impressions that come to our hearts.”
  5. How can we know that something is true? “The only truth is that which received from the ancestors. So we do not trust science or history because the numerous spirits and the terrible powers of witchcraft can change any given situation.”
  6. What is beautiful? “Beauty is the same as appetite. There are no affections to be raised because there is no reality beyond this world and the very similar spiritual ‘world’ where the midzimu live.”

“After all, elders (male or female) are tradition’s custodians. Even when only one speaks, his or hers is a vicarious voice; a voice uttered on behalf of the family or clan and its heritage. For this reason the voice of an older person vibrates with an aura of infallibility and finality. To defy it is to incur the wrath of not one but many; all, in fact, including the furious dead.”

Choolwe Mbetwa, Why Africa Is Poor, 38-39

What Mbetwa put into print is known by a great number of people living in the rural areas: There is a strong connection between traditions (culture) and authority and the ancestors. Authority and ancestors are religious categories while the ongoing, earthly traditions are the cultural. Culture is an incarnation of a religion. Culture is the clothes that religion makes for its believers.

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Multiculturalism, Part 1: The Prophet Jeremiah on the Cultures of the World

Can anything good be found in man or the world apart from the grace and presence of the Lord Jesus Christ? What would the world look like if only one nation had the Bible? It would look like the days of Jeremiah.

In those days, only one small country has had God’s laws for 900 years. They live at the junction between Europe, Asia, and Africa. Around 725 BC, Israel was conquered by Assyria and deported (2 Kings 17:6). Over a hundred years later, Jeremiah is given the prophecy found in the 10th chapter of his book. Now the southern kingdom of Judah is about to be conquered by Babylon (Jer. 9:16). At this time, God gives a warning for all the people in captivity because they will be living near and meeting different peoples of the world—the Gentiles. What warning does He give?

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

The way of the nations is their culture. The word could be interchanged with the “customs” of the Gentiles found in the next verse. In the NT, Peter uses the words conduct, behavior, and manner of life to describe the basic actions of a people group (1 Pet. 1:15, 18; 2:12; 3:1, 2, 16; 2 Pet. 2:7; 3:11).

Writing in 1828, Noah Webster defined “culture” like this.

“The act of tilling and preparing the earth for crops; cultivation; the application of labor or other means of improvement. 2. The application of labor or other means to improve good qualities in, or growth; as the culture of the mind; the culture of virtue. 3. The application of labor or other means in producing; as the culture of corn, or grass. 4. Any labor or means employed for improvement, correction or growth.”

Our contemporary use of the term shows that today culture means the way of life that brings about the best kind of life. A culture represents a society’s best attempts to make true judgments. This is what we think good manners in children look like. This is what we think good music is. This is what we think just laws look like. This is the kind of character we think produces prosperity. Today there is a globalized popular culture that has been growing exponentially since about 1960 because the forward leaps of technology have been so massive as to sometimes approximate flights of scientific advance rather than mere steps.

Obviously, some things that some cultures do are wrong.

  1. Chinese foot-binding ended when Christian missionaries stopped it.
  2. European slave trade ended when Christian missionaries stopped it.
  3. Hindu suttee ended when Christian missionaries stopped it.
  4. Islamic polygamy has not yet ended. 

These nations had ways that were immoral and impractical, and it is a mercy from God that some of the foolish ways have changed through the growth of the Christian religion. When their cultures should have been dedicated to the improvement, correction, or growth of the society, instead they were degrading the people under their influences.

Some of the ways of every nation bear a resemblance to every other, and in some ways they each differ. What can account for the similarities as well as the differences? From what spring comes culture?

That is the subject of the next entry.

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Expect and Attempt: Faith and Ambition in the Life of William Carey


  • The world looked and felt very different 250 years ago (MAP).
  • The earth’s population was about 10% of what it is today—770,000,000.
  • Christianity was virtually unknown in South America, Asia, Africa, or the islands of the world.
  • There were not yet any steam engines, electric lights, telegraph, or USA.
  • Then it was that God raised up a man to open the door to the nations.
  • A short, bald, poor man without even a high school education personally translated or directly oversaw the translation of the entire Bible from Greek and Hebrew into 6 Indian languages and portions into 29 more.


  • In a cold and indifferent time, amidst opposition from friends and family, with a slim salary, through heart stopping difficulty, William Carey conceived ideas to stretch out Christianity through the haunts of paganism and then labored on earth as it is in heaven for the coming of Christ’s Kingdom.


  1. 1761 August 17 born to Edmund and Elizabeth.
  2. 1775 Carey begins work as a shoemaker along with John Warr.
  3. Warr evangelized him as they worked together. Carey later wrote, “[John Warr] became importunate with me, lending me books which gradually wrought a change in my thinking, and my inward uneasiness increased.”
  4. While a teenaged apprentice he began teaching himself Greek.
  5. 1779 After three years of talk with Warr, Carey is converted.
  6. A young man’s faithful evangelism of his friend brought the firstfruits of India to Christ.

Work and Ministry

  1. Carey was helped greatly in Christian growth and preparation for ministry by three Baptist pastors named Thomas.
  2. At this time, British Baptists were being trained at the newly opened “Baptist Academy” which emphasized:
    • Hebrew and Greek
    • English
    • Logic (using Isaac Watts’ Logic)
    • Rhetoric (“teach them to express themselves with propriety upon whatever subject they discourse of…”)
    • Classic literature (“…those several branches of literature in general, which may be serviceable to them…”)
  3. Many men were trained personally through extended visits with godly pastors.
  4. 1781 June 10, 20-year old William took the 25-year old Dorothy.
  5. Dorothy appears to be an example of the average woman in gifting and temperament, neither Jezebel nor Mary Slessor.
  6. William taught his wife how to read and write.
  7. Though William worked and pastored, they were very poor. They “lived for a great while without tasting animal food and with but a scanty pittance of other provision.”
  8. 1782 In June, Carey is added as a “lay preacher” for the Reformed Baptists.
  9. Over the next 10 years, he often walked twelve miles to serve one church in Earls Barton and 22 miles to preach at Arnesby.
  10. When visiting his parents’ home, he asked to lead family worship and burned his playing cards.
  11. 1783 Their first daughter Ann died as well as Dorothy’s sister’s husband.
  12. The Carey’s then took in Dorothy’s sister and her four children.
  13. 1787 After five years of informal preaching, Carey is ordained.
  14. The Great Baptist, Bejamin Beddome, had preached at the same church for nearly 50 years when he sought Carey as his successor.
  15. As a faithful pastor, Carey baptized his wife in October.
  16. He disciplined a lady in the church twice for “tattling;” a man in the church for asking for handouts; and a deacon for unkindness to the poor.
  17. As a pastor, he often studied his books while working. Thus, he taught himself Hebrew having already begun on Latin and Greek earlier. 
  18. 1788 Around this time, at a pastor’s meeting, Carey was asked by an elder pastor to present a topic for discussion.
  19. Carey: “Whether the command given to the apostles to teach all nations was not binding on all succeeding ministers to the end of the world, seeing that the accompanying promise was of equal extent.”
  20. John Ryland, “Young man, sit down, sit down! You’re an enthusiast. When God pleases to convert the heathen, He’ll do it without consulting you or me.”
  21. Carey made a globe and a map drawing countries and any information he could find about particular countries.
  22. John Eliot (1604-1690) and David Brainerd (1718-1747) along with the Apostle Paul were his heroes.
  23. Though the pastors at the association showed little interest, he went to them individually and tried to build support.
  24. All Carey’s life he was a “tentmaker.”
  25. 1792 Death strikes for the second time in 10 years as his second daughter Lucy dies.

The Enquiry

  1. When he was not desperately working for his living, he was compiling information for a book.
  2. 87 pages of information about the world and the Christian’s responsibility.
  3. An Enquiry into the Obligation of Christians to use Means for the Conversion of the Heathen
  4. Section 1: Do our Lord’s final words apply to us all still today? He answers objections as well.
  5. Section 2: A history of missionary efforts for 1750 years.
  6. Section 3: A survey of the whole world with 23 pages of statistics and tables before the internet or even easy access to libraries.
  7. Section 4: Five difficulties to reach the heathen. “(1) Their distance from us, (2) their barbarous and savage manner of living, (3) the danger of being killed by them, (4) the difficulties of procuring the necessaries of life, and (5) the unintelligibleness of their languages.”
  8. Section 5: Practical ways to do this work.
  9. Those with more should give a large percentage of their money; those with average income should give 10% to missions; those who were poor should give “one penny or more per week according to their circumstances.”
  10. “If we Christians loved men as merchants love money, no fierceness of peoples would keep us from their midst.”
  11. He read this to the Baptists who were teachable to his cause.

Founding the Society

  1. 1792 May 31 “The Deathless Sermon” Isaiah 54:2-3
  2. Who can remember any lines from the sermons of Luther, Calvin, Whitefield, or Spurgeon?
  3. But an uneducated, impoverished pastor spoke words that remain with us all, “Expect great things from God; Attempt great things for God.”
  4. In this single stroke, he blends faith in God and manly ambition.
  5. After the sermon, he gripped Andrew Fuller’s arm and asked, “Is there nothing to be done?”
  6. 1792 October 2, A few months later, the Baptist Society for foreign missions was formed with 13 pastors and a promised amount of money at less than R14,000 per year.
  7. Carey had no money to donate to the Society, so he gave all the proceeds of his book.
  8. Andrew Fuller served Carey for 22 years until his death. He tirelessly raised funds and visited on behalf of missions.
  9. 1793 Carey in a letter to his father “I hope, dear father, you may be enabled to surrender me up to the Lord for the most arduous, honourable, and important work that ever any of the sons of men were called to engage in. I have many sacrifices to make, I must part with a beloved family and a number of most affectionate friends. … But I have set my hand to the plough.”
  10. He planned to move to India for two years with Felix (aged 8) and then return for Dolly and the other children.
  11. 1793 They needed about £550 (About R550,000 in 2019) in order to move the Careys and the John Thomas family to India.
  12. At Bath, the churches gave 1 penny. After it was announced that this would be recorded in the book, the people gave £22 (R22,000).


  1. 1793 In January Carey told his wife that they were to move to India by April.
  2. At nearly 8 months pregnant, with 3 young boys, having already buried her first two daughters, with war between France and Britain affecting the ocean, and with a very small salary, she refused to go.
  3. William and Dorothy loved each other deeply, but Carey was torn by his great sense of duty to missions.
  4. After Carey, Felix, and Thomas were delayed about 7 weeks, they returned and convinced Dorothy to go with them if her sister Katherine came as well.
  5. Katherine made up her mind in a few minutes to move with them to India.
  6. The two women packed the entire family in 24 hours.
  7. Now three adults and five children needed passage for £700!
  8. They sailed five months from 13 June to 7 November in 1793.
  9. While on ship, the 5’4” (1.6 m) Carey flung his wig into the sea.
  10. As they neared the Indian shore for the first time, Carey wrote back to the Home Three:

“I hope you will go on and increase, and that multitudes may hear the glorious words of Truth. Africa is but a little way from England; Madagascar but a little further; South America and all the many and large islands in the Indian and Chinese seas will, I hope, not be forgotten. A large field opens on every side, and millions tormented by ignorance, superstition, and idolatry, plead with every heart that loves God.”

  1. They arrived with no passports, no friends, and no house.

Tentmaking at Mudnabatty

  1. Sir William Hunter writes about India, “The country was practically untouched by any regenerative influence whatever. He had to encounter in its worst forms all the strength of the Hindu system.”
  2. 330 million gods (Ward), hook swinging, suttee, and castes…
  3. They rented rooms while they were looking for the best permanent place to start a business.
  4. All the while Carey knew that the British government threatened to imprison anyone in India without the proper papers.
  5. Then Dorothy and her two eldest children fell sick with dysentery lasting for 8 months.
  6. Worst of all, when Carey found a place to live in the interior, he found that Thomas wasted their entire annual salary in 10 weeks.
  7. Journal Jan. 16, 1794: “I am much dejected… I am in a strange land, alone, no Christian friends, a large family, and nothing to supply their wants. I blame Mr. Thomas for leading me into such expense at first, and I blame myself for being led.”
  8. From February until June they travel twice by boat looking for a place to live and work.
  9. The river journeys blazed with heat over 40˚ with crocodiles near them and tigers, rhinoceros, pythons, and cobras hidden on shore.
  10. Carey wrote in his journal: “Traveling with a family is a great hindrance to holy, spiritual meditation.”
  11. 1794 For two years he worked as the manager of an indigo factory.
  12. Since his new position offered a salary, he immediately wrote home asking them to designate his support for the next missionary.
  13. 1794 Five year old Peter dies from dysentery. He is buried the same day with only his parents in attendance.
  14. On the Lord’s Day, he commonly walked 20 miles and preached three times usually in the open air.
  15. Though short and bald and still learning Bengali, he sang to attract attention and then preached socratically.
  16. 1795 “Never was a people more willing to hear yet more slow to understand.”
  17. 1795 Dorothy at 38 had another bout with dysentery which, added to all she had endured, overcame her mind with a permanent fear and darkness.
  18. He waited 17 months before hearing from his friends at home.
  19. 1796 A man Carey thought was near to Christ having been with them from the beginning, revealed a life of ongoing sin.
  20. 1797 Carey completes the NT into Bengali.
  21. 1799 After completing five years as the manager of an indigo factory, five more missionaries arrived!
  22. They still have no converts.


  1. The British government made constant difficulties and refused the missionaries permission.
  2. The Danish government urged them to live on their tiny settlement at Serampore about 25 k’s from Calcutta.
  3. 1800 January 10, six years and two months after arrival, Carey and the new missionaries landed at the Danish settlement of Serampore.
  4. One of the new missionaries, William Grant, had died 20 days after landing in India leaving a wife and two children.
  5. At 39 Carey’s real work begins now with the addition of William Ward (30) and Joshua Marshman (31).
  6. Neither Carey nor Marshman had a formal education, but both borrowed and read books.
  7. About these two men Carey wrote, “Brother Ward is a the very man we wanted, he enters into the work with his whole soul. I have much pleasure in him, and expect much from him. Brother Marshman is prodigy of diligence and prudence, as is also his wife: learning the language is mere play to him…”
  8. They purchased a large house on the river where all 10 adults and 9 children could stay together.
  9. Each Saturday night they had a meeting to resolve differences and maintain Christian unity.
  10. Everything in the house was decided by majority vote since Carey would take no preeminence (Luke 22:26; 1 Pet. 5:5).
  11. Carey took to the task of translation; Ward was a printer by trade; Marshman and his wife began English and Bengali schools.
  12. Carey was “thankful beyond words” for Hannah Marshman who was both spiritually mature and gifted.
  13. Carey regularly preached 5 times per week both inside and out on Friday and the Lord’s Day.
  14. At 15, Felix began street preaching as well.
  15. Once upon seeing an idol he asked, “Did that make men, or did men make that?” He commonly used wit and satire in evangelism.
  16. Within the first year at Serampore, two new missionaries died.

First Convert

  1. 1800 Carey had been in India for 7 years, when he met a carpenter who dislocated his shoulder, Krishna Pal.
  2. Carey, and Marshman tied him to a tree and held him while Thomas forced the bone back in place.
  3. In pain, Thomas gave him a paraphrase of Pro. 28:13 that the mission used.

“Sin confessing, sin forsaking;

Christ’s righteousness embracing;

The soul is free.”

  1. Thomas had waited 15 years to see a convert.
  2. 1800 December 22 Krishna broke caste and the idolatry that invented that system by eating with the missionaries.
  3. The streets filled with 2,000 people who rioted at even a crack in their false religion.
  4. A soldier was placed in front of Krishna’s house, and six days later he was baptized along with sixteen-year old Felix Carey.
  5. The same day of the baptism the Lord’s Table was held for the first time ever in Bengali.
  6. And yet the reality of demons cannot be doubted for that same week, Dr. Thomas, Carey’s first companion fell into a fit of madness.
  7. As Carey baptized Krishna and Felix both Thomas and Dorothy were in the house nearby locked in their rooms.
  8. Over the next 2 years a dozen others came to Christ so that within 10 years of arriving in India, the first Bengali church had 13 members.
  9. All of Krishna’s family was converted including his 13 year old daughter, Golok.
  10. She was however, legally betrothed to an older Hindu man who came to take her.
  11. Against her will and her father’s she was taken, and he was beaten.
  12. Though a man of fiery temper, Krishna evidenced a new heart as well as his daughter who eventually was baptized
  13. That church cost thousands of pounds (millions of Rands), the deaths of Peter Carey and three missionaries as well as the sanity of two more.
  14. Some of the new converts even began preaching in the streets undeterred even by an angry mob that once beat them.
  15. One new Christian had dung thrown at him.
  16. The seed was planted in Krishna Pal about 10 years earlier by the Moravian missionaries who never personally saw a convert.

Full missionary years

  1. 1801 The last page of the Bengali NT came off the presses.
  2. 1801 Carey was hired to teach Bengali and Sanskrit at a British college.
  3. The government post paid so well that he did not take a salary again from the mission in London, but gave all his income back to the mission.
  4. Teaching at the school allowed him to master the languages so well that he could edit his first Bengali translation.
  5. The Bengali church continued to grow even though nearly all of its members experienced persecution, backsliding, church discipline, and restoration through the years.
  6. 1805 Felix joined the missionary staff.
  7. Marshman earned R1 million per year through the school, but only kept R34,000 for his family.
  8. Carey earned R150,000 per year, but he only kept R40,000.
  9. Ward gave away everything over R24,000.
  10. The rest of their money was given back to the mission as were all the buildings including a large house, printing rooms, and schools.
  11. The salaries these men earned were also used to support other missionaries.
  12. 1806 The requirements for new missionaries:
  13. A competent knowledge of the languages
  14. A mild and winning temper
  15. A heart given up to God
  16. 1806 At 45 years old, an average day for Carey looked like this.
  17. 5:45 am Read a chapter from the Hebrew Bible and pray
  18. 7:00 am Family worship in Bengali with all missionaries and workers
  19. 7:30 Review Persian, then Hindustani with language helpers
  20. 8:00 breakfast
  21. 8:30 Translate the Ramayana from Sanskrit to English.
  22. 10:00 Teach at the college
  23. 2:00 Proofread Bengali translation of Jeremiah
  24. 5:00 dinner
  25. 5:30 Translate Matthew 8 into Sanskrit
  26. 6:00 Study Telugu with a language helper
  27. 7:30 preach in English to the British government officials and merchants.
  28. 9:00 Translate Ezekiel 11 into Bengali
  29. 10:30 Wrote a letter to a friend
  30. 11:00 Read a chapter from the Greek NT before sleep.
  31. He wrote to John Ryland back in England, “I can scarcely call an hour my own in a week. I, however, rejoice in my work and delight in it.”
  32. After 15 years in India, Carey reported that some part of the Scripture was now in 12 new languages.
  33. Doubters in England attacked the missionaries.
  34. Carey replied: “Few people know what may be done till they try, and persevere in what they undertake.”
  35. Bengali being the most common language, Carey finished the NT in 1796, and then revised it eight more times before his death.
  36. 1809 A magazine defended the Serampore Trio in England:

“These [men] have translated the whole Bible into Bengali

[and in 12 other languages]

. Extraordinary as this is it will appear more so when it is remembered that of these men one was originally a shoe-maker, another a printer in Hull, and a third the master of a charity school in Bristol.”

  1. 1807 Dorothy dies after 12 years of growing madness.
  2. 1808 Carey remarried the Dutch Charlotte Rumohr after teaching her English.

The Fire

  1. 1812 The year opened with a missionary wife dying and then two missionary children laid in graves.
  2. March 11 William Ward was finishing the day in his office at the printing rooms when he smelled smoke.
  3. Rushing into the paper room, he ordered all doors and windows closed so that no fresh oxygen would feed the fire.
  4. By cutting away a section of the roof, a great crowd of missionaries, friends, workers, and neighbors brought vessels from the river to extinguish the fire.
  5. After four hours of work they had nearly contained the fire, when someone opened a window at the bottom floor.
  6. The fire instantly leaped back into action and spread to the “composing room” where all the manuscripts and font types were housed.
  7. Though they struggled throughout the night, eventually the entire building collapsed.
  8. £10,000 or R10,000,000 was lost and years of translation work.
  9. Carey wrote to Fuller, “The loss is heavy, but as the traveling a road the second time, however painful it may be, is usually done with greater ease and certainty than when we traveled it for the first time, so I trust the work will lose nothing in real value.”
  10. Many manuscripts were lost including Carey’s Sanskrit dictionary, the Kanarese NT, and grammars in Telugu and Punjabi.
  11. A decade’s work lost in a night.
  12. Ward, the printer, was optimistic however, when he found the metal types and fonts saved for nearly a score of different languages.
  13. Carey took the opportunity to examine his own pride, “I had lately brought some things to the utmost perfection I could, and contemplated the mission with, perhaps, too much self-congratulation.”
  14. The newspapers wrote about the missionaries that they only grew stronger through hardships.
  15. News of the fire spread like fire itself through Britain until Fuller was afraid of pride.
  16. “If we inhale this incense, will not God withhold His blessing, and then where are we? Ought we not to tremble? Surely, all need more grace to go through good report than through evil.” A. Fuller

His sons

  1. In light of the fire, they looked at their blessings:
  2. In their 19th years, they now had 11 churches with 30 members on average.
  3. They had an English church that was zealous for evangelism.
  4. Three of Carey’s sons gave themselves to missionary service and the fourth supported the mission.
  5. Jabez was outside of Christ until God answered prayers from the believers in England.
  6. Here are some excerpts of Carey writing to Jabez, the boy born 20 years earlier just weeks before they left for India.

My dear Jabez,

You are engaging in a most important undertaking, in which you will have not only my prayers for your success, but those of all who love our Lord Jesus, and who know of your engagement. …

Trust always in Christ. Be pure of heart. Live a life of prayer and of devotedness to God. Be gentle and unassuming, yet firm and manly. …

Esteem [your new wife of 20 years old] highly that she may highly esteem you.

Seek not the society of worldly men…

Shun all indolence and love of ease…

Labour incessantly to become a perfect master of Malay. …

You must never expect them to pay much attention to what you say, unless you win their love. The more attention you pay them, the more will they pay you. …

[God] has conferred on you a great favour in committing to you this ministry. …

Should I never see you on earth, I trust we shall meet with joy before His throne.

Your very, very affectionate father, W. Carey

  1. Carey once wrote, “I would rather hear of Felix losing his life in the cause of the Gospel than see him quit his station.”
  2. 1814 Felix with his wife and two babies were traveling from Rangoon in Burma when the ship overturned.
  3. He held up his wife and baby until he sank and was saved by sailors.
  4. His wife, both babies, the printing press, the first Scriptures in Burmese, and the dictionary in the manuscript of the Burmese dictionary were lost.

Problems with missionaries

  1. After 20 years of service in India with hundreds of baptized Indians and mission stations slowly growing, the Trio endured 16 years of attacks from fellow Christians.
  2. Carey had earlier allowed every missionary to have an equal voice, but now men who just arrived expected the same authority as the men who had great experience.
  3. The younger men wrote unhappy letters back to the home committee.
  4. They especially complained about Marshman.
  5. Carey wrote: “His labors are excessive, his body scarcely susceptible of fatigue, his religious feelings strong, his jealousy for God great, his regard for the feelings of others very little, when the cause of God is in question. … in short, his diligence reproaches the indolence of some; his acquirements reproach their ignorance, and his unaccommodating mind not infrequently excites sentiments of resentment and dislike.”
  6. But Carey loved him deeply, “For my own part I consider him as a man whose value to the mission can scarcely be sufficiently appreciated, and whose death would be a most severe loss.”
  7. Some in England even complained that they were becoming rich. Carey wrote to them:

“Were I to die today, I should not leave property enough for the purchase of a coffin, and my wife would be entirely unprovided for. We are coarsely clad, and certainly not overfed, and, I believe, he who possesses the most among us has not so much as he contributes to the public stock in four months.”

  1. The Trio gave £100,000 to the mission.
  2. They did the lion’s share of the preaching, teaching, evangelism, and translation.
  3. They had lived the longest in India and spoke most fluently.
  4. They had lost loved ones.
  5. Nevertheless, the committee sided with the younger men and sent letters demanding information as if Carey and his friends were untrustworthy.
  6. 1827 Eventually Joshua Marshman returned to England, but the Mission demanded a separation.
  7. 1830 So it was that William Carey was removed from the Mission board he founded after 35 years.
  8. If he could revisit that time, he said he would “scrupulously abstain from offering any reply… and would inform his opponents that they had his full permission to say whatever it would afford them pleasure… concerning him, provided that they did not encroach on his invaluable time.”
  9. “The greatest trial of a missionary is often another missionary.” Forbes Jackson
  10. These tensions came over a decade interspersed with deaths.
  11. 1821 His second wife Charlotte died and he wrote, “My loss is irreparable. … I am exceedingly lonely.”
  12. 1822 Krishna Pal (56) and his first son Felix (37), baptized on the same day, were buried in the same year.
  13. 1823 Cholera caused Serampore to stagger as it claimed William Ward’s life (54).
  14. 1823 John Ryland the last of the Home Trio died and Carey was practically friendless in England during the last seven years of the fight with the mission.
  15. 1830 Before the schism with the mission was complete, the first of three major banks failed.
  16. 1833 At 72, Carey and the other missionaries lose all their retirement savings as two more banks fail.

Following wives, children, and friends

  1. 1829 Suttee is abolished in part because of Carey’s labors.
  2. 1833 About six months before he died, news reached Serampore that slavery had been abolished in England and the colonies.
  3. “For many years in his every prayer, he has been pleading for the destruction of slavery. … He proposed that for one month we should give special thanksgiving to God in all our meetings.”
  4. 1834 June 9 Carey passed away at sunrise.
  5. 35 different languages had some portion of the Bible and 6 of those languages now possessed the entire Bible.
  6. Over 600 converts had been baptized and 13 mission stations had been started.
  7. On his tombstone he requested the lines by Isaac Watts:

A wretched poor and helpless worm,

On Thy kind arms I fall.

Lessons learned

  1. The world cannot be evangelized without ambition.
  • In the face of opposition, without any funding, education, or family support, Carey started a society for missions.
  • “Expect great things from God; Attempt great things for God.”

2. Humility marks a godly man.

  • After six years in India he wrote, “Such another dead soul scarcely exists. My crime is spiritual stupidity. I have no love. O God, make me a true Christian.”
  • “[Carey] is most remarkable for his humility; he is a very superior man, and appears to know nothing about it.” E. Pritchett 248
  • On his death bed to Alexander Duff, “Mr. Duff, you have been speaking about Dr. Carey, Dr. Carey; when I am gone, say nothing about Dr. Carey—speak about Dr. Carey’s Saviour.”
  • During the years of opposition, he wrote very little in defense of himself.

3. When a culture is built on a religion that has no Christian light, depravity will display itself in the ways of the people.

  • Traditional institutions: Infanticide, hook swinging, suttee, caste system.
  • Habits of life: Lying, laziness
  • After seven years he wrote that Indians are not fierce, “but this is abundantly made up for by cunning and deceit. Moral rectitude makes up no part of their religious system.”
  • Deut. 18:9 When you enter the land which the Lord your God gives you, you shall not learn to imitate the detestable things of those nations.

3. Christianity begins with evangelism, but ends with an entirely Christian culture.

  • They preached and evangelized as their primary tasks.
  • But they also gave some time to correcting the greatest social evils.
  • Marshman ran a school, and the Trio opened a free College.
  • Carey first opposed suttee.
  • The Trio required every Indian to reject caste before baptism.
  • “…teaching them to observe all that I commanded you…”

4. Evangelism requires patience.

  • He waited seven years before the first convert, Krishna Pal.
  • But the Moravians had already evangelized for over a decade in that same area and preached to Krishna without seeing single convert.
  • They did see over 600 converts, but this was the combined work of more than 20 missionaries over 40 years.

5. Suffering, tears, and exhaustion are the natural price set on the task of missions.

  • Carey lost two wives, two sons, and numerous co-workers.
  • Carey and his wife waited a year and a half without even a letter.
  • Grant died before he even started.
  • Fountain died before he saw a convert.
  • Three banks failed taking all their savings.
  • Their new converts were constantly falling into sin.
  • John 12:24-25 Truly, truly, I say to you, unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains alone; but if it dies, it bears much fruit. 25 He who loves his life loses it, and he who hates his life in this world will keep it to life eternal.
  • “Suffer hardness as a good soldier.”

6. Missions is a work of the whole church of God.

  • The senders in London did vital work for those who went to India—the Home Trio and the Serampore Trio.
  • The missionaries expected the new Indian believers to be involved immediately with the work of evangelism.
  • Christians in Britain raised money and the missionaries took jobs.

7. Hard work over a long period of time moves mountains.

  • “I can plod and persevere. That is my only genius.”
  • Some new missionaries did not like Marshman because of his work ethic.
  • Lam. 3:27 It is good for a man that he should bear The yoke in his youth.

8. Sin still remains in every Christian’s heart.

  • Carey did not treat Dorothy in a loving and gracious way when he first left England in 1793.
  • The new missionaries did not humble themselves and follow the wisdom of the Trio. 298, 341
  • The home board doubted and discouraged the missionaries from 1918 onward.
  • The Bible Society removed support from Serampore over the translation rather than the transliteration of “baptizo.”
  • Matt. 18:7 For it is inevitable that stumbling blocks come;
  • James 3:2 If anyone does not stumble in what he says, he is a perfect man, able to bridle the whole body as well.


  • From such a diamond, you may choose which facet to admire most.
  • From such a man, you may need a month or more to think of all the diverse ways that his life challenges you to love and serve the cause of our Lord Jesus Christ.
  • “Though he is dead, he still speaks.”
  • “Expect great things from God; Attempt great things for God.”
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A Theology of Work in 50 Scriptural Observations

  1. 1 God is the first worker.
  2. 1 God’s work requires mental activity and planning.
  3. 1 Completed work pleased God.
  4. 1 As a worker, God is detail-oriented.
  5. 1:28 Work came before sin.
  6. 1:28 Man is given authority and responsibility to control the world by discovering all of the secrets God placed in the earth.
  7. 1:28 Under God, man rules the world—the rest of creation is not equal to him.
  8. Genesis 2:15, 18 Farming is the first job given to man in the Bible.
  9. Genesis 2:15, 18 God wants man to understand and document every part of His Creation.
  10. 2:20 Women were given to men because the man’s work would require all his ability.
  11. 3:16-19 Work became difficult as a result of sin.
  12. 3:16-19 Men are expected to sweat as a reminder of the hardness brought into life by sin.
  13. 3:16-19 The essence of masculinity is summarized in this first statement of manhood as a responsibility to labor intensely.
  14. 20:9 God gave the Sabbath day of rest because He expected men to work 6 days per week.
  15. 4:6 Men with a work ethic (a wholehearted mindset to work) accomplish much.
  16. 6:6-10 Lazy people are fools; hard workers are wise.
  17. 6:6-10 God has programmed His amoral creation to be examples of work.
  18. 6:6-10 Planning is a part of hard work.
  19. 10:4; 12:11; 13:4; et. al. Hard work produces wealth; poverty comes from a bad work ethic.
  20. 22:29 Hard workers will eventually be recognized.
  21. 24:30-34 Laziness produces poverty and ugliness.
  22. 24:30-34 A lazy man’s house places his culture on display.
  23. 31:13-27 The model woman is known by her hard work.
  24. 31:15 The model woman gets up early in order to work.
  25. 5:18-19 Labor is the tool God has ordained to provide man with physical pleasures.
  26. 5:18-19 Men can take pleasure in the labor itself, in accomplishing hard tasks.
  27. 20:1-8 The work day in Jesus’ lifetime was assumed to be 12 hours.
  28. 25:14-30 Jesus sanctions work by comparing earthly work with the spiritual world in his parables. (See also Matt. 20:1-14 and 21:28-31)
  29. 25:14-30 Jesus sanctions business, trading, and making a profit in his parables and sermons.
  30. John 8:29 Jesus always worked to please His Father.
  31. John 9:4 A sense of urgency followed Jesus in His work.
  32. John 17:4 Jesus did not stop until the work was done.
  33. Acts 6:4 God recognizes mental activity as labor.
  34. Acts 28:3 Paul was humble enough to do menial, manual labor.
  35. 13:8 If I would owe nothing to any man, then my life must be marked by personal responsibility.
  36. 1 Cor. 7:24 Each man must honor God in the specific situation in which he has been placed.
  37. 1 Cor. 9:7-14 Work is valuable; it must be paid.
  38. 1 Cor. 9:7-14 Biblical pastoral ministry should be supported by Christians who have jobs.
  39. 4:28 Hard work is the opposite of stealing.
  40. 4:28 Christians should labor to be rich so that they can give generously.
  41. 4:28 If a man receives a benefit for which he is not willing to work, he is stealing.
  42. 6:4 Fathers have a responsibility to teach their children how to work.
  43. 3:22-24 The way Christians work for their earthly employer is an act of worship to God.
  44. 3:22-24 An employer has authority over an employee.
  45. 2 Thess. 3:10 Lazy people forfeit their right to eat.
  46. 2 Thess. 3:10-14 Laziness is a sin that may deserve church discipline.
  47. 1 Tim. 5:17 Pastors are expected to work hard mentally.
  48. 2:5 Women are told to be “keepers at home” which necessarily means that men will be workers.
  49. 2 Pet. 1:10 Individuals must take personal responsibility in their individual callings to gain certainty that they have been elected.
  50. 22:3 Work is such a good thing, it will go on for all eternity as one more method of glorifying God.

If we wanted to cluster all these truths into one term, it would be the Protestant work ethic which has been responsible for the vast wealth of America and other countries heavily influenced by Christianity. (See Max Weber’s The Protestant Ethic and the Spirit of Capitalism, originally 1906.) Elton Trueblood wrote, “Not many areas of human behavior have been more radically affected by the Christian gospel than that of daily toil. Wherever the gospel has been truly influential the concept of the dignity of work has emerged.” Pagan religions either enshrine laziness as a cultural virtue or they borrow from the glory properly belonging only to Christianity.

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Obituary: Tshifhiwa Irene, Public Speaker and False Teacher

Tshifhiwa Irene, pastor and public speaker for Divine Truth World Restoration Services for World Peace by Jesus Christ in Limpopo Province, passed away on 24 October around 5 am. Having been to her church and seen her in action, the best memorial to leave  of her memory are her own quotations.

“As from 20th November 2007, Jesus begun [sic] to unfold the program of that grace to free the world of HIV/AIDS. … Everyone who will accept Jesus Christ will be cleansed of the HIV/AIDS completely [sic]. However, that cleansing will depends [sic] entirely on your heart accepting the deliverance. Any person who refuses to believe and get delivered [sic], the virus will remain in that person; but, under the new grace, that person will not spread the virus whatsoever. After the HIV/AIDS root cut-off grace, if two people get married (or come together), one infected with HIV/AIDS and the other being negative; the infected partner will no longer pass on the virus to the uninfected partner.”

“It took 17 years for the kingdom of darkness to create HIV/AIDS. . . . The root/vein of HIV/AIDS is hidden in the ocean [sic] That root/vein is connected with the whole world. There were six demons that composed the HIV/AIDS disease. . . . They took the blood of man and mixed with the blood of four animals to produce a blend. They mixed that blend with six different demonic blood [sic], six different demonic saliva and six different demonic powers [sic] The final mixture produce [sic] the incurable HIV/AIDS to destroy humans without mercy. . . . That root/pot area is boiling steaming everyday [sic] As it steams and boils, it facilitates the HIV/AIDS spread from human to human. The devil lost the war.”

One of her staff wrote of her “[Pastor Tshifhiwa Irene] was calling and throwing the power of God to [a supposed witch], Sarah [the witch] was seen trying to shield herself from the power.”

When I visited her “ministry” she held up women’s undergarments during the “sermon” claiming that demons were responsible for any intimate problems the audience was experiencing.

She entered full-time ministry in 2001 and quickly matched the words of Peter’s description of a false teacher. As 2 Peter 2 says, she introduced destructive heresies (1), grew in popularity with the unconverted (2) indulged the flesh (10), blasphemed where she had no knowledge (12), enticed unstable souls (14), and trained her hearers’ hearts in greed (14).

After reading much of what she wrote, listening to sermons, interviewing her former pastor, and speaking with numerous church members, it is with sadness that I report at her death that she did not teach the great doctrines of the gospel of Jesus Christ. Like so many other false prophets, she served as an angel of light to distract poor African sinners from personal responsibility, love for the Son of God, and hatred of sin.

May God be pleased through her death to startle into sobriety all those still bound by her false teaching and thus work, like Samson and our Lord Jesus, more good done in her death than was done in her life.

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What Is a Conservative?

A conservative tends to look to the past for wisdom rather than the present. The accumulated grace of God revealed throughout the ages is a mine in which he finds the resources to continue work in his own era. He does not despise the insight of the church fathers as if they were spiritual children. He thinks well of history and tradition because he would rather not tear down a fence until, at the least, he knows why it was built.

The dangerous waves of false teaching are usually recapitulations of past errors. A conservative wants the answers that helped the church in the previous chapters of her history. Reinventing and rebranding do not enter his mind—though reformation might.

His vocabulary of profanity includes words like fad, trend, and cool. He has no business with being “intentional” or “missional” because he sees the church as terrible as an army with banners. His models include the rough-edged apostle Peter and the weeping Jeremiah rather than the Fortune 500 executive. As David Gordon points out, “How can we worship the Ancient of Days while chasing the latest gimmick?”

A conservative strives for goodness, truth, and beauty. He seeks for orthodoxy, dies for orthopraxy, and covets earnestly orthopathy. To guard against novelty he checks his own interpretations and practices against the standards that have endured through the early persecuted church, the medieval church, the reformation, and the missionary movement. He pays extra attention to those men of God who have been specially chosen to lead thousands to Christ.

Through exegesis he has arrived at first principles, which he believes represent the unchanging mind of God. Make no mistake a conservative philosophy flows explicitly and implicitly from Scripture. It is implicit like the Scriptural proof for God’s existence. It is explicit in texts like Phil. 1:9-11; Rom. 12:1-2; Heb. 5:14; and even OT passages like Deut. 7:1-5.

Someone may say, “At the reformation, Luther was looking to the present against those who were looking to the past.” Not really. Luther looked right back to the beginning of the Christian church by mastering the Greek and Hebrew texts. He founded his most essential arguments on Scripture, which is the ultimate act of conservation. (And in his debate with Eck, he proved that the church fathers were often on his side as well.) In Samuel’s day it was written, “Word from the Lord was rare in those days, visions were infrequent.” Conservatives want the scarce resource of revelation to be carefully preserved for all believers of all times.

Because he sees a low view of God’s dignity and majesty as a bag with holes that will eventually—though not necessarily immediately—allow the gems of grace to be quietly lost, a conservative does not merely love the gospel. Therefore, he values Tozer and Lloyd-Jones in the 20thcentury. He could gladly be one of Spurgeon’s church members in the 19thcentury. He would happily fellowship with Charles or John Wesley from the 18thcentury. He would be spoiled for choice among the Puritans of the 17thcentury. If you would not fit smoothly in the church culture of these men, then you may not be a conservative.

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A Call for Aragorn Rather Than Captain America

The soul is a river that always moves onward. Heroes that are on our own level or lower form a kind of dam where the water can stagnate. Did not Paul say, “I press on” precisely because he had not arrived? Was he not even concerned lest he should be a castaway? It may be exhausting to swim against the current, but it sure beats drowning.

Lacking vice though still better than promoting vice, is not the same thing as modeling virtue. The things we give our minds to and the food on which our children’s souls feed should obviously be free from those vices that ensnare the imagination, but that diet should also possess the gracious nutrients that will form our character like the Lord Jesus. The best heroes do that, and the average modern hero works against that.

When a hero gives in repeatedly to anger or pride or some other vice and then is defended with the question, “Aren’t we all sinners?”, the right response is, “Aren’t we supposed to aspire to be saints?”

  1. Why We Need Virtuous Heroes
  2. Two Kinds of Sin
  3. Objection: What About David?
  4. Good Presentations of Total Depravity
  5. Four Reasons We Need Virtuous Heroes
  6. A Call for Aragorn Rather Than Captain America


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Four Reasons We Need Virtuous Heroes

1. The books and tales which have consistently been asked for over the centuries are those stories that highlight virtue.

The word classic means that which has been approved over time by a wide section of men and women. We need virtuous heroes because some deep, primordial desire wants them inside of us. No one will be watching today’s Marvel movies in 100 years, but people will still be reading Sherlock Holmes and Shakespeare’s plays. Classics speak to our hearts’ most basic needs therefore we need the kinds of heroes that are found in that canon of literature.

2. Our imaginations need to be informed by virtue rather than a range from mediocrity to vice.

Though philosophy departments may deny it, and liberal Christianity ignores it, the natural sinfulness of man is a truth so universally attested to in history that those who do not believe in it are further proof of it. In short, we need no help with vice. Our imaginations need to have holy ideals set before them.

Do we have so many perfect—complete, mature—people around us that we have no need of reading about one more? Who needs a mediocre example? Am I not a sufficient example of that for myself? The law of entropy ensures that I will always be spiraling downward unless an opposite force of greater power pulls me up. An imagination is not so much like a shelf where ideas can be stored and only one good example is needed for us to continually refer back to. Rather, the imagination is a garden pestered by birds and monkeys and erratic rainfall and a painfully apathetic farmer. It stands in need of good seeds all the time because it naturally brings weeds. Let writers and speakers give us those seeds that have the greatest tendency to inspire our minds to reflect much on the beauty of Christian character.

John Bunyan does this with characters like Hopeful and Faithful in The Pilgrim’s Progress. Church history does this with colorful men like John Huss (15thcentury preacher), John Knox (16thcentury Reformer), and John Eliot (17thcentury missionary). Classic literature raises the imagination with Jean Valjean in Les Miserables or Sir Percy Blakeney in The Scarlet Pimpernel or Mr. Knightley in Emma. None of these heroes is sinless, but all of these heroes lived a life characterized by the traits you would like to see in your children. Paul urges us to dwell on things that are true, honorable, right, pure, lovely, commendable, excellent, and praiseworthy (Phil. 4:8).

3. The character of a hero speaks to the soul differently from the propositions of a syllogism.


Souls are complex creations that do not respond merely to facts. Give us examples that attract our sympathy and so the complex heartwork of the affections moves forward. If truth was enough, why do we need to watch parents for our first 20 years? The NT assumes this because Jesus took flesh and tells us to follow Him. He did not start the disciples with a catechism, but an internship. Love “as I have loved you” (John 13:34). Husbands would not know the right way to maintain their marriage without looking at His example (Eph. 5:25). The OT is filled with examples for us so that our desires would be correctly calibrated (1 Cor. 10:6). People persuade people with an intangible influence spreading out from an attractive life. Solomon told us that God has set eternity in our hearts (Ecc. 3:11) which at the least means we have great spiritual capacity and desires even if we are not able to reach all our aspirations. Good heroes cast our imagination a little further in the right direction. We need no help going the wrong direction, so why would a writer not offer us a lead character that can move us nearer to God? Perhaps, the writer’s mind is not interested in drawing nigh to God. If that is the case, then why are we interested in that writer’s work? We need virtuous heroes because when a person enters our imagination he begins to exert more influence than we may have thought possible in ways that we had not anticipated. “The prudent man gives thought to his steps (Pro. 14:15).”

4. Men who are above us draw us magnetically upward.

All of these reasons are so connected to each other that they strengthen each other like branches from a similar trunk. Perhaps, they are all the same and their only differences lie in perspective. We need virtuous heroes for the same reason that a sinking man needs a life vest. Mortimer Adler in How to Read a Book encourages us to read book by authors that can raise us up. Some authors, he tells us can only raise us once, and then we will be at their level making the book unnecessary for us in the future. But owing to the nature of inborn foolishness, virtuous models need to keep visiting us like friends. Why do we go to church each week? Seeing those other Christians has a vital impact on our godliness.

It may be that movie heroes are not usually enduring examples of virtue because it is a little uncomfortable to stand in the presence of a mature person. In this age of come-as-you-are relaxation, who wants to feel the pinch of a moral superior? He may make judgments that differ from mine, and isn’t that a microaggression or something? Oh, the silliness of a generation that cannot even bear the existence of a moral standard above ourselves! This is why we must not glut ourselves on heroes with no moral high ground, and thus unwittingly through the seeming innocuous means of entertainment and relaxation form an imagination that works against our best principles of personal responsibility and self-improvement.

  1. Why We Need Virtuous Heroes
  2. Two Kinds of Sin
  3. Objection: What About David?
  4. Good Presentations of Total Depravity
  5. Four Reasons We Need Virtuous Heroes
  6. A Call for Aragorn Rather Than Captain America


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Good Presentations of Total Depravity

Another objection might say that the Bible is full of sins and sinners. In the closing chapters of the book of Judges the history shows violent murder, rampant theft, and animalistic fornication. Throughout the OT, crass and vile episodes are recorded by divine inspiration for our instruction. Does that mean that when we read books or entertain ourselves we should have heroes who are obviously flawed?

The correct frame to put around the picture of sin always makes it appear immediately and enduringly odious. No one thinks of Jezebel as a heroine. Only an insane mind would choose Judas as the hero in the gospels. Satan is found in Job, but no readers cheer for him. The men of Sodom, king Herod, and Haman all picture total depravity, but none of the accounts of these sinners gives wickedness a charming quality. Nor are any of these men heroes. Virtue happily allows the ice of depravity to showcase itself knowing that it will only melt in the minds of men if it is exposed by the light of the Sun of Righteousness. If we do not come away from a picture of depravity hating and even being sickened by the presence of sin, then it was not a good picture.

Perhaps this is why Melville’s Moby Dick resonates with its readers. This novel has a wicked man as the main character and an unknowable animal as the hero. Ahab is depraved in the most devious way. Rather than chasing after superficial lusts like fornication, the captain of the Pequod directs all his powers and intellect to demonstrating his resentment of the White Whale. The power of the story rests in the terror that a good reader has of Ahab’s unflinching will to hate and exterminate the mysterious, “ubiquitous” Being who harvested Ahab’s leg as he “blindly [sought] with a six inch blade to reach the fathom-deep life of the whale”.

  1. Why We Need Virtuous Heroes
  2. Two Kinds of Sin
  3. Objection: What About David?
  4. Good Presentations of Total Depravity
  5. Four Reasons We Need Virtuous Heroes
  6. A Call for Aragorn Rather Than Captain America


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