This is an interesting question and too bad it did not originate with us. BG asked it first but our answer will be different from his. We had not thought to discuss this topic in all the years we have written this blog.
We knew that Hitler burned books and that some churches did it as well but we never really gave it a second thought. We love books and if we had any that were not that great for our spiritual lives we would donate them to a local library or give them away.
But that is not to say that we do not own any books by non-believers. In our fields of study, we always have to read books written by unbelievers as many books by believers do not have the information that has been uncovered or they do not go into any depth (we have talked about this topic before).
But we would never burn those books. But, some people in history felt that the Bible deserved to be burnt along with heretical works. What good does it do to burn books is beyond us unless it is done for the right scriptural reason. There will always be someone who owns a copy of the book that does not burn it.
We looked for scripture passages about burning books and articles on this topic but we only found the one quoted by BG and one 2013 article on the topic. The latter was or is also written by an unbeliever. he or she quotes the same passage of scripture.
We will quote here as well:
18 Also many of those who had believed kept coming, confessing and disclosing their practices.19 And many of those who practiced magic brought their books together and began burning them in the sight of everyone; (Acts 19:18-19a)
The interesting aspect that we see in this short passage is that Paul or other church leaders did not do this as a spectacle. Nor does it seem that they demanded the believers to burn their books. It looks like God placed conviction on their hearts and these new believers knew what kind of material they owned and the only solution was to burn them.
Giving them to someone else or donating them to a local library would only help evil trap and enslave others. Burning the books is a willful act made by an independent decision on the part of those who owned those works and other items.
While we cannot be 100% certain this is the case, we do not see any record anywhere in the Bible where church leaders, apostles, etc., demanded that new believers do a public book burning.
One reason for this lack of command may be that burning books unbelievers considered valuable and important would close their hearts to the gospels. But if it is done as a volitional act, then the unbelievers would see that their works are not as great as God’s word and they are in the wrong for holding on to them.
We do have to be careful about creating spectacles out of these events. For one thing, the authors have already received their money for those copies, as have the publishers. You are not doing any harm to them as they have been paid.
Plus, they have their master copies and can always publish more and make more money. If Christians are going to burn their non-Christian books and items, they need to do so for the glory of God and for the right spiritual reasons.
Even book-burning must be done for the glory of God and we do not see that taking place when it is forced to be done by different religious leaders. We see that action as religious leaders trying to look spiritual but not as an act of obedience to God.
Do not get us wrong, we are not condemning the act of actual book burning. We are condemning the wrong reasons why it is done. Our acts must further the kingdom and not bring a bad reputation to God and the faith.
2 Kings 10 is an interesting story and we will only quote a little bit of it here:
15 Now when he had gone from there, he encountered Jehonadab the son of Rechab coming to meet him; and he greeted him and said to him, “Is your heart right, just as my heart is with your heart?” And Jehonadab answered, “It is.” Jehu said, “If it is, give me your hand.” And he gave him his hand, and he pulled him up to him into the chariot. 16 Then he said, “Come with me and see my zeal for the Lord.” So he had him ride in his chariot. 17 When he came to Samaria, he killed all who remained to Ahab in Samaria, until he had eliminated them, in accordance with the word of the Lord which He spoke to Elijah.
We have to go back to chapter 9 to get the actual context of this account in chapter10. The key verses read:
4 So the young man, the servant of the prophet, went to Ramoth-gilead. 5 When he arrived, behold, the commanders of the army were sitting, and he said, “I have a word for you, commander.” And Jehu said, “[b]For which one of us?” And he said, “For you, commander.” 6 He then got up and went into the house, and the prophet’s servant poured the oil on his head and said to him, “This is what the Lord, the God of Israel says: ‘I have anointed you king over the people of the Lord, over Israel. 7 And you shall strike the house of Ahab your master, so that I may avenge the blood of My servants the prophets, and the blood of all the servants of the Lord, at the hand of Jezebel.
There will be times that God will command a cleansing and he has his own reasons for giving that command. We just need to make sure that it is the voice of God presenting the command.
There is a warning that comes with this obedience to God’s command and it is found near the end of chapter 10:
28 So Jehu eradicated Baal from Israel. 29 However, as for the sins of Jeroboam the son of Nebat, into which he misled Israel, from these Jehu did not desist, including the golden calves that were at Bethel and at Dan. 30 Yet the Lord said to Jehu, “Because you have done well in performing what is right in My eyes, and have done to the house of Ahab in accordance with everything that was in My heart, your sons to the fourth generation shall sit on the throne of Israel.” 31 But Jehu was not careful to walk in the Law of the Lord, the God of Israel, with all his heart; he did not desist from the sins of Jeroboam, into which he misled Israel.
Even though we obey in one area God commands us, we need to obey him in all areas of life. That means we need to challenge our readers to see where they are obeying in one area that God wants to be done and where they are disobeying God.
Once those have been identified, ask God to help you get rid of the latter group. Make sure that your lives are as God wants them. That way you will not get a temporary earthly reward as Jehu received.
We can burn books but do so because God is leading you to do it and not to insult those around you. God is to get the glory in all things including our acts of obedience in difficult issues like book burning.