Does This Further the Cause of Christianity?

A church's plan for an old-fashioned book-burning has been thwarted by city and county fire codes.

Preachers and congregations throughout American history have built bonfires and tossed in books and other materials they believed offended God.

The Rev. Scott Breedlove, pastor of The Jesus Church, wanted to rekindle that tradition in a July 28 ceremony where books, CDs, videos and clothing would have been thrown into the flames.

Not so fast, city officials said.

"We don't want a situation where people are burning rubbish as a recreational fire," said Brad Brenneman, the fire department's district chief.

From CNN on-line news: Fire department bars book-burning.

In my efforts to speak to skeptics about Christianity, one of the obstacles that I need to overcome is the belief that Christianity is anti-intellectual. According to skeptics, Christians burn or banish anything that doesn't comport with our world view. As such, we are seen as the main impetus behind the burning of the Library at Alexandra, the suppression of the work of Galileo, and countless other acts that show that we are not interested in truth, but rather interested in spreading our propaganda and suppressing the truth.

These anti-intellectual efforts, it is thought, continue through the present day practice of seeking to ban various books from libraries and schools, among other things.

As a Christian who believes strongly that God did call us to love Him with all our minds, I firmly believe, and regularly contend, that Christianity is at least as rational and intellectual as any other world view in existence (and I would argue that it is the most rational and intellectual). At the same time I sympathize with this congregation and Pastor who are trying to make a point about the filth that emanates into our lives from the dark side of the secular culture we live in. I know that I personally don't allow my children to watch any prime time sit-coms or dramas offered on any of the major networks--not because they might introduce the kids to something that will lead them to see the falsehood of Christianity, but because of the sexual innuendo and violence that so permeates television. I am hopeful that that is the motivation that these people have in seeking to burn the magazines, CDs, etc. in the CNN news story.

But what image does this present to the world? Is it read by the world as a story about standing up to culture's wickedness, or is it seen by culture as another example of anti-intellectualism by the church. I think the second paragraph of the story tells it all: "Preachers and congregations throughout American history have built bonfires and tossed in books and other materials they believed offended God." If I may paraphrase how non-Christians will see this: "This is another example of these crazy religious folk using emotionalism and anti-intellectualism to build their church." Don't agree? Well, here is a quote from infinityranch.blogspot with the author's "take" describing what's happening:

Let's hear it for red tape! A Bible-thumping church in Iowa had their plan for a good ol' fashioned book (and CD and video and . . .) burning scuttled by city and county ordinances that prohibit outdoor burning.

You see, when the skeptic reads material like this, they see the burning as related to the repression of free speech. They don't see that the Christians are objecting to the debasing of culture, but see us trying to reach in and limit what they want to do as free amoral agents. And to be quite honest, I am not in favor of book-burnings because of this impression. We need to win hearts by first winning minds, and book-burnings hurt our efforts.

To add insult to injury, that pastor of this particular church sees book-burning (specifically) as "Biblical":

Breedlove said a city fire inspector suggested shredding the offending material, but Breedlove said that wouldn't seem biblical.

"I joked with the guy that St. Paul never had to worry about fire codes," Breedlove said.

Maybe I missed it, but I cannot recall one place in the Bible that St. Paul burned books. The only book burning I am aware of in the New Testament comes from Acts 19:19 where some sorcerers who turned to Jesus brought their scrolls together and burned them publicly as a sign of their repentance. I don't see the text giving any indication that this practice was wide spread or that St. Paul was either present or condoned it. But regardless, it seems to me that since the practice of witchcraft is absolutely forbidden in the Bible (see, e.g. Deut. 18:10), the voluntary burning of these scrolls hardly signifies an urging of anti-intellectual activity by St. Paul calling of Christians to burn anything that could be seen as countering Christianity.


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