Devoted to the Propagation and Defense of New Testament Christianity
November 19, 1959
NUMBER 28, PAGE 8-9b

Casting Down Imaginations

Vaughn D. Shofner, Tucumcari, New Mexico

The zeal of Josiah, the great reformer in the days of the kings, caused him to be "like a man made all of fire walking among stubble." The land of this man was honeycombed with idolatry, when at the age of eight years he began to reign as king, and he began in the eighth year of his reign to seek the Lord; and in his twelfth year began to destroy high places, groves, images and all outward signs and relics of idolatry. "He did right in the sight of the Lord, and walked in the way of David his father, and turned not aside to the right hand or to the left" (2 Kgs. 22:2.)

Among the many things used in the pagan program to paralyze the way of the Lord and carnalize the heart of the people, was a stable with beautiful horses "at the entering in of the house of the Lord" (2 Kgs. 23:11), kept for the idolatrous use of seducing the people into a form of religion that was completely subversive to the order of God. Secular historians tell us that these horses, "given to the sun", were led forth in pompous parade every morning to meet the rising sun, and at evening to behold the sinking sun, drawing the chariots of the sun, which the people in their wickedness worshipped.

Josiah, doing right in the sight of the Lord, and turning not aside to the right or to the left, knew there could be no compromise with this wantonness, and therefore set himself to the task of destroying everything upon which the vain imagination of the people centered: "and he took away the horses that the kings of Judah had given to the sun, and burned the chariots of the sun with fire." (2 Kgs. 23:11.) His action was not the result of a rash conclusion, reached by an "anti's" prejudice against the popularity and enormity of the thing, but his just and fair attitude approached the situation in the realm of reality. Therefore, knowing that sin finds its strongest seat of power in the imagination, he wisely chose the only way to deal with such.

From the beginning satan has set his snares in the imagination of man. In this manner the snake snared Eve, arousing the imaginative forces of her mind with the declaration that if she ate the forbidden fruit, she would become as wise as God, having access to unheard of knowledge. Her imagination ran riot. She had not desired the forbidden fruit before, but now she was afire with the urge to eat it. Instead of destroying the serpent she kept imagining things about the wonders and delights of a world of wisdom; the fascinating glamour overwhelmed her and she was destroyed.

Therefore, the wise mind of Josiah reasoned right. He knew that there could be no decree issued against this idolatry that alone could break the spell and bring the people back to God. He knew that as long as the things used in this idolatry could be seen; as long as the morning rays of the sun fell upon the arched necks of this fine fleet of horses; as long as the warm glow of the gloaming could be seen scintillating from gilded chariots, a fascinating spell would render the people unreasonable and the carnal craze would shout through human lips: "Surely none but a bigot could say a thing so beautiful, a ceremony that arrests and holds the attention of so many, should be stopped! Surely the Lord expects us to use our abilities to lift above the simplicity and sober ways of worship we have been taught. After all, we live in a different age from that our fathers lived in, and we are able to reach higher states of rapture!" So, Josiah laid the axe at the root of the evil when he burned the chariots and took away the horses from the gaze of the people. Complete destruction, complete removal of the things causing the evil was the only way to "do right in the sight of God".

In like manner, the very essence of Christianity's mission is to utterly destroy the citadel of sin in the secret place of the imagination. Paul said Christianity casts "down imaginations, and every high thing that exalteth itself against the knowledge of God, and bringing into captivity every thought to the obedience of Christ." (2 Co. 10:5.) That great forerunner of Christ shouted against the vain religion of the day, and warned, "and now the axe is laid unto the root of the trees: therefore every tree which bringeth not forth good fruit is hewn down, and cast into the fire." (Mt. 3:10.) And Jesus said, "Every plant which my heavenly Father hath not planted, shall be rooted up." (Mt. 15:13.)

Even today there are those who rail against the "Josiahs" who try to keep the simplicity of the Lord's way. They reason, by the force of vain imagination, that surely the good done by the "trees" of beautiful and popular ways should keep them from being destroyed. Their idea is that enough good comes by way of those things they use, and which are not according to any precept or example, to justify keeping them around. They believe "good horses" and "gilded chariots" should be kept around because of their power to attract people to their religion. They refuse to see that the verdant beauty and cooling shades do not necessarily keep some trees from being poison. They refuse to accept the reality of their idol-chariots, and fail to realize the fact that the crowd which carnal things draw is idolatrous, and that placing the "stable" "at the entering in of the house of the Lord" only changes the location of idolatry.

Sectarian religions have long paraded their idol-chariots before their "goddess of dawn." But the sad spectacle of the day is the long train of chariots in the promenade of my brethren in the Lord. Because the "idol-chariots" are not literal, and the horses are not real, deluded and deceived brethren are blind to the reality of the idolatry.

Here comes brother "Minister of Recreation", driving his chariot to the basketball courts to do honors for the church. Physical competition creates a fascinating spell. "Christians" shout at the sight of their contestants. Relics of idolatry return, vain imaginations run wild, and satan smiles. The morning paper is gratifying to the "Minister of Recreation" as the sports page announces: "Church of Christ wins two basketball games." The participants and their sponsors, under the spell of vain imaginations, victoriously declare, "surely none but a bigot could say this 'on the march' program is wrong. Why, we are supposed to develop our bodies, and we are to furnish our young people with clean recreation." And the drive of the "gilded chariots" continues!

Then, in the "on the march" parade comes the "chariot" driven by brother "Minister of Diplomacy." Loud has been the cry, and far has the news been spread, about the "rally of rallies", intended to acquaint the world with the church. One of Hollywood's most popular singing entertainers, one of golfdom's greatest, the hero of the race track, and other notables of the world, parade before 15,000 awe-stricken hero-worshippers. My, what a victory! The Lord's church has just passed "the spit and whittle stage", and, brother it is now on the map! And none but "antis" would oppose the parade of our talented brethren before the "goddess of diplomacy".

The beautiful horses and glittering chariots are many in this "on the march" parade, but I present but one more at this time. This is a gaily colored chariot, driven by brother "Minister of Make-believe". A Puppet Play is the center of attraction. "Ten Characters are in the play and are portrayed by fist puppets made especially for this presentation. The puppet stage is well-equipped with curtains, lights and props . . . . First production of the play will be Tuesday evening for the Business and Professional Ladies Bible Class. Then the play will be presented to the ladies' fellowship Wednesday noon, the men's fellowship Thursday evening and to other members of the congregation next Sunday evening after worship services." None but a "moss-back" could deny the Lord's church a place in this parade. The imaginations of men can be clearly seen as these gilded chariots are drawn to meet the morning sun and evening afterglow, reflecting back in carnal beauty to throw a spell of fascination upon the people and keep these imaginations in the realm of riot.

Destroy it! That's God's way. Anything that turns the mind away from the simple ways of God, religiously, is idolatry. We can not argue that these things are all right if not abused, any more than Josiah could have argued against the destruction of property in an effort to keep the temptations around. We know that horses, in the right place and as such, and chariots, as such and in the right place, are acceptable, but used as they were when Josiah destroyed them is all wrong. We know that basketball teams, as such and in the right place, and golf players, as such and in the right place, and entertainers, as such and in the right place, are acceptable, but when used as "gilded chariots" to hold the crowd "in the presence of the Lord", they become parties to an idolatrous religious ceremony, pure and simple! Lay the axe at the root of the trees, and burn the idol-chariots!