In the Bible, there are certainly some hard things for a Christian to understand, and even if understood, to swallow.
James White’s very recent sermon on “How do you recognise a false prophet” illustrates the problem. His sermon is based on Deuteronomy 13:
1 If there arise among you a prophet, or a dreamer of dreams, and giveth thee a sign or a wonder, 2 And the sign or the wonder come to pass, whereof he spake unto thee, saying, Let us go after other gods, which thou hast not known, and let us serve them; 3 Thou shalt not hearken unto the words of that prophet, or that dreamer of dreams: for the Lord your God proveth you, to know whether ye love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul. 4 Ye shall walk after the Lord your God, and fear him, and keep his commandments, and obey his voice, and ye shall serve him, and cleave unto him.”
White says the tendency is not to read on, or simply to brush off the next verses:
5 And that prophet, or that dreamer of dreams, shall be put to death; because he hath spoken to turn you away from the Lord your God, which brought you out of the land of Egypt, and redeemed you out of the house of bondage, to thrust thee out of the way which the LORD thy God commanded thee to walk in. So shalt thou put the evil away from the midst of thee.
And even harder:
6 If thy brother, the son of thy mother, or thy son, or thy daughter, or the wife of thy bosom, or thy friend, which is as thine own soul, entice thee secretly, saying, Let us go and serve other gods, which thou hast not known, thou, nor thy fathers; 7 Namely, of the gods of the people which are round about you, nigh unto thee, or far off from thee, from the one end of the earth even unto the other end of the earth; 8 Thou shalt not consent unto him, nor hearken unto him; neither shall thine eye pity him, neither shalt thou spare, neither shalt thou conceal him: 9 But thou shalt surely kill him; thine hand shall be first upon him to put him to death, and afterwards the hand of all the people. 10 And thou shalt stone him with stones, that he die; because he hath sought to thrust thee away from the Lord thy God, which brought thee out of the land of Egypt, from the house of bondage.
So, you should search out even your own family and denounce and pursue them to death. I’m reminded of Nazi Germany and Stalinist Russia.
White says that Jesus identified verse 5 as the greatest commandment; we should cling to our God. If someone comes along and tells you should not cleave but leave that God because he can lead you to something better, such an idea within the nation of Israel was regarded as an act of treason. It’s rebellion to teach falsehood about who God is. This is not a morally neutral thing. In our day, it has been pounded into our heads that you have your truth, I have mine. Then we can all live in harmony because God is all loving and all embracing and far bigger than our limited purview. You won’t find such a God in the scriptures; that was not the kind of God that Jesus pointed us to.
In the Hebrew scriptures , once such a “prophet, or dreamer of dreams” (Deut 13:1) was detected, he wasn’t merely rebuked or relegated to a lower position; he was executed; for rebellion, for seeking to overthrow God’s rulership. The nation had to be “purged” (White) of such a false prophet, of anyone who broke the covenant. Many who hate Christianity, and those who love it, will say, “So you’re into that Old Testament law stuff. So you think a false prophet should be killed,that I should be killed” (James White). White’s “purge” would remind many – and does remind me – of the Stalinist “purges.”
White asks whether it is really fair that God would be so narrow. Can’t I share my worship with other gods. How could God require a person to restrict his allegiance to Him. ‘I’ll just put the problem to one side.’ But don’t be fooled, it will certainly come back to haunt you. I agree with White that most churches regard Deut 13 as irrelevant. Jesus, in contrast, because he honoured the law, honoured Deut 13. A Christian has to deal with it, he can’t ignore it. This is not merely one of those, “don’t mix your fabric things,” says White; “You shall not wear cloth of wool and linen mixed together” (Deut 22:11).
Those who endeavor to love the Lord with all their soul, mind and heart are also obligated, says Deut 13, to denounce those who reject the Holy One of Israel, including your dear ones. Indeed, Deut 13:9 says you should be the first to put your brother, your sister, your wife – I can’t bear it – to death. “There’s nothing here, says White, about vendettas like this neighbor of mine, so I’m going to start stoning him. No no. There has to be testimony, there has to be a law to be followed.” But didn’t Pope Sixtus IV say the same thing to the Spanish King, Ferdinand, at the Spanish Inquisition:Oh, the plethora of mayhem. I mention two more: “the first Western burnings for heresy, at Orléans on December 28, 1022,” and the immolation of the Cathares in Southern France. (“Burning the Cathares” by Diarmaid Macculloch; a review of R. I. Moore ’s “The war on heresy: Faith and power in medieval Europe,” 2012).
In a bull dated April 18, 1482, “the pope ordered the names of the witnesses and accusers to be communicated to the suspects, that the imprisonments should be in episcopal gaols, that appeal might be taken to the Apostolic chair and that confessions to the bishop should stop all prosecution,” which Ferdinand resented so much that the Pope ditched the idea that alleged heretics should receive a fair trial. (History of the Christian Church, Volume VI: The Middle Ages. A.D. 1294-1517, by Philip Schaff). And so, Ferdinand, goaded on by his fervent wife, Isabella, pulled out all the perverted stops to annihilate heretics and false Jewish converts (conversos).
James White, as I mentioned elsewhere, is probably the most reviled modern Calvinist, and I, perhaps, the least (the least known, at least). I pray that James will continue for many more years to hammer home the “unmalleable doctrines” of God’s sovereignty and grace so lacking in modern Christianity. I wonder, though, if he were to take over the world whether he would send those of his relatives who reject any of the five solas or five points of Calvinism to the gibbet.
White has said some hard things; things not to be vilified or swept aside. I just can’t, though, swallow the idea that a Christian should reject – kill! please, God, no – those who reject Christ or any part of Him.
I remain, if not misguided, perplexed – and still a great fan of James White.