Judging and Disrespecting other People’s Beliefs?

In the course of refuting the claims of cults or false religions, one of the most frequent feedback I get from people is: “Why are you attacking people’s religions? Why don’t you just preach Jesus?” Some even take it up a notch: “A real Christian doesn’t attack other people’s beliefs. You’re a false Christian!”

At the surface level, these responses appear legitimate, but when it comes right down to it, they are masks of ignorance, self-righteousness and passive aggression.

For one, most false religious systems seldom reject Jesus outright, instead, they “re-work” Him into their beliefs. Thus, just “preaching Jesus” to them is not enough, we need to carefully distinguish Him and the Gospel from the clever counterfeits and misrepresentations being peddled by false religions and false teachers today.

It must be emphasised that critiquing beliefs is not bigoted, unchristian or unethical, rather, it’s the epitome of proper Christian conduct where a very vital part of the Christian witness is concerned. If we don’t scrutinise beliefs for fear of being labelled “haters,” how are we going to arrive at the truth?

Many Christians think it’s beneath their dignity to attack beliefs because they think a criticism of another’s religious beliefs is the same as having a personal antagonism towards those adhering to those beliefs. Nothing could be further from the truth. A person can be deceived and still have morals and show some hospitality.

When some Christians are told, for example, that Islam is a wicked religion, the images of their loving and gentle Muslim friends, relatives or colleagues flash through their minds with the thought: “If these folks are mild, then Islam couldn’t be violent.”

So, by projecting the positive qualities they’ve observed in some Muslims on Islam, they rise to defend it. But Islam is neither a race nor some individuals, it’s a religion, and the extent to which a person follows it is the extent to which he/she expresses its “fruit.”

Many people are also influenced by the “live and let’s live” societal ideas. This relativistic school of thought assumes that other people’s beliefs are just as valid as ours. This is what constitutes “political correctness” – a concept that emerged from Communism. It’s really an isolationist thinking that fails to situate complex issues in their proper contexts.

Controversy and criticism have always served as a stimulus to novel ideas and catalyst for needed reforms in advanced societies. All through church history, exposing and refuting objectionable heresies have always had their merits – whether in making the Christian church to define her doctrines more clearly, define the limits of Christian belief or drive the saints to study the Bible more diligently to know the real truth. Such confrontations have led Believers to develop a confident, refined and self-disciplined community.

To assert that aberrant teachings within or without the church mustn’t be challenged chokes the seeds of truth in people’s hearts and stacks the desk to favour deception. This neutrality to false religions among Christians is also a reflection of some versions of “modern” Christianity.

Before one can see the necessity to “contend for the faith” – the body of teaching entrusted to God’s people – one first needs to know and understand the essentials of the Faith (Jude 3). But when a Christian is being reared on a steady diet of “21 Laws of Success,” or “45 Principles of Wealth,” countering heresies will leave a bad taste in his/her mouth.

The current trend of Christians bending over backwards to appease world religions is an outgrowth of a “feel good” religious culture and ecumenism which elevate feelings, sensations and unity above truth.

Thou Shall Not Judge!

A Bible passage frequently flogged around by those who want us to stay silent is Matthew 7:1 “Do not judge, or you too will be judged.” Their point: Jesus says Christians shouldn’t speak against other faiths. Is this what Jesus was really saying or people are ignorantly (or willfully) taking this verse out of its context? A text without a context is a pretext. Let’s look at the next 4 verses:

2 For in the same way you judge others, you will be judged, and with the measure you use, it will be measured to you. 3 Why do you look at the speck of sawdust in your brother’s eye and pay no attention to the plank in your own eye? 4 How can you say to your brother, “Let me take the speck out of your eye,” when all the time there is a plank in your own eye? 5 You hypocrite, first take the plank out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck from your brother’s eye.

Jesus was addressing hypocrites – those who refuse to take responsibility for their own faults before judging the faults of others. It was a warning against hypocrisy. Apostle Paul echoed this in Romans 2:22 “You who say that people should not commit adultery, do you commit adultery? You who abhor idols, do you rob temples?” This hypocrisy is seen in how cults attack others for what they are guilty of.

Jehovah’s Witnesses carp about Christendom encouraging people to sacrifice their lives for their states, but their Watchtower Society doesn’t mention how it has sacrificed the lives of many of its followers with its prohibition of blood transfusion.

Seventh Day Adventists denounce the papacy as devilish, but steadily bring up their “popess” Ellen White from under the carpet as an alternative guide to truth. This is what Jesus was condemning.

This also plays out among the rock-not-the-boat crowd. A Christian lady recently messaged me saying, “Why don’t you leave God himself to judge who is right or wrong?” But her final line reads: “You are hurt, very hurt about something. That’s basically my idea about you.” She’s telling me to allow God judge and at the same time judging my heart and motives!

People who reason like this don’t realise that a judgemental criticism of judgement is self-refuting, because to determine that a person is wrong or right requires judgement.

In vs. 6 of Matthew 7, Jesus said: “Do not give dogs what is sacred; do not throw your pearls to pigs. If you do, they may trample them under their feet, and then turn and tear you into pieces.” These are directives for us to judge what is holy or not and whether people are symbolically dogs or pigs.

In scripture, the term “dogs” is used of fools (Pr. 26:11), false prophets (Is. 56:10), wicked men (Ps. 22:16), homosexuals (Dt. 23:18) and backsliders (2 Pet. 2:20-23). Thus, Jesus was telling us to judge lives and teachings.

In vs. 13, He speaks of the “narrow gate” and the wide gate of destruction through which many enter. But to suggest today that a respectable cult with millions of adherents is a broad way of destruction is deemed hateful and rude. Jesus said: “Beware of false prophets [or teachers] … You will know them by what they produce” (vs. 15-16).

To know true or false teachers or prophets, we must judge their lives and teachings. In John 7:24, Jesus gave us a guideline for judging: “Stop judging by outward appearance! Instead judge correctly.”

Apostle Paul said to the Corinthian church “I have already judged the man who did this as though I were present with you” (1 Cor. 5:3). “Let the prophets speak two or three, and let the other judge” (1 Cor. 14:29). He warned us against those teaching another Jesus and against receiving a false spirit and a false gospel (2 Cor. 11:4-5).

The need to judge false beliefs and evil actions is well-spelled out in the Bible. It was commanded by Christ and practiced by His apostles and Satan hates it because it unmasks his lies.

Let’s Respect other Religions!

We are told that attacking other people’s beliefs may provoke riots or chaos. Those with this utopian worldview believe truth must be sacrificed for the sake of peace and Christians should just silently flow along with every erroneous beliefs or at best, complain in their closets.

In his recent presidential release over the Christian woman killed by a Muslim mob for alleged blasphemy, Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari said: “Let us learn to respect each other’s faith for there to be mutual co-existence.”

This is a victim-blaming remark. It presumes that the woman overstepped her bounds by allegedly blaspheming, hence, if she had respected this “peaceful” cult, she wouldn’t have been killed. This is preposterous.

If one doesn’t believe in the god of Islam, one doesn’t have to shut one’s mouth to avoid allegations of blasphemy, particularly in a democratic clime. Why must we be given the option of either believing or pandering to a religion so we can keep our lives? That is dehumanization and a gross violation of human rights.

To assert that religions must be respected for mutual co-existence is a fallacy. If all religions must be respected, witchcraft, satanism or any death cult that comes along must also be respected. The sword of religious freedom cuts in both ways.

If people are free to believe a thing, they must also be free to question and reject it. If a false deity is worthy of reverence, he is also worthy of ridicule. Anyone who doesn’t want his religious hero or sacred book to be attacked can lock them up in private vaults or seal them in a chest and bury them. But as long as they occupy the public spaces, and are being shoved in our faces, they are liable to criticism and scrutiny.

Many a time, Muslims, for example, don’t want to be “offended” or have Islam attacked, but they can go to any extent in attacking others, especially Christianity.

A Christian guy once told me that exposing the errors of Jehovah’s Witnesses on social media is “counter productive.” I then asked him to explain to me why it is “productive” when JWs attack Christianity but “counter-productive” when we respond to them. He became silent. Such hypocrisy.

Some will say “we just need to love them.” Yes, and the first duty of love is to “speak the truth” (Eph. 4:15). A “perfect love gets rid of fear” (1 Jn. 4:18), but if we are afraid to speak the truth to the deceived, our love is not complete. Love without truth is whoredom.

While the Bible instructs us to “show proper respect to everyone,” it doesn’t tell us to respect religions that are leading people to eternal judgement (1 Pet. 2:17).

Jesus attacked religious leaders calling them “hypocrites…teaching for doctrines the commandments of men…blind leaders of the blind … fools and blind … whited sepulchres… serpents, generation of vipers, how can ye escape the damnation of hell” (Matt. 15:7,9 : 23:19-27). If some Christians were alive then, they would demand Jesus return to these leaders to apologise for hurting their feelings.

Jesus said “Go…and teach all nations…all things I have commanded you” (Mt. 28:19-20), but some modern church leaders are teaching: “Go into all the nations and try to find agreement with the major religions as possible.”

Stephen was described as “full of God’s grace and power.” When the unbelieving Jews tried to dispute with him “they could not stand up against the wisdom or the Spirit by whom he spoke.” There is a wisdom God bestows on us as we respond to the enemies of the Gospel (Acts 6:8, 10).

Paul went to the Jewish synagogue and for three days “reasoned with them from the Scriptures, explaining and proving” who Jesus is and what He has done (Acts 17:2-3). Today, we can do more than tell people trapped in false religions that Jesus loves them, we should also reason with them, explaining what we believe and why.

“So he [Paul] reasoned in the synagogue with the Jews and the God-fearing Greeks, as well as in the marketplace day by day…” (Acts 17:17)

“They arrived at Ephesus where Paul … went into the synagogue and reasoned with the Jews” (Acts 18:19).

“For he vigorously refuted the Jews in public debate, proving from the Scriptures that Jesus was the Christ.” (Acts 18:28)

“Paul entered the synagogue and spoke boldly there for three months, arguing persuasively about the kingdom of God.” (Acts 19:8)

We can thus understand why the people screamed that the early Christians “have caused trouble all over the world” (Acts 17:6). The Bible is not an ecumenical book. It warns us against false beliefs, false teachers and false churches, and it’s our responsibility to expose and reprove them.

The Question Marks of Reincarnation

Reincarnation – the soul being reborn in one or more successive existences – is a crucial belief in Hinduism, Buddhism, Sikhism, Jainism, Wicca, New Age groups, Eckankar, Rosicrucians and other religious minorities.

It’s a subject that is frequently romanticised in alternative spirituality books, music, movies and public lectures.

A survey shows that one-third of Europeans believe in reincarnation, with Lithuania having the highest (44%) and Germany the lowest (12%). A Barna survey also indicates that a quarter of Christians in the US believe in reincarnation.

In Hinduism, reincarnation (samsara) is a migration of the soul in successive cycles through which it is reborn as human, animal or plant life forms.

In contrast, Buddhism does not believe in soul migration, as Buddhism: An Illustrative Guide notes, it views reincarnation as “a suffering-laden cycle of life death and rebirth without beginning or end.”

Jainism believes reincarnation is the passage of the soul (or atman) through cycles of rebirth, and depending on the karma, a soul can be reborn in heaven, hell or earthly realm.

In Yoruba religion, a component of the departed soul is said to return to earth in a form while the other form, the guardian or ori remains in heaven. This idea reflects in some Yoruba names given to persons e.g. Babatunde (“father has returned”) etc.

The Blind Law of Karma

In Eastern religions, reincarnation is not all bright and sunny. In Hindu thought, the world is seen as a place of terror, suffering and pain – like an evil forest – from which mankind should escape.

But in Western pagan spirituality, these “negative” talk about suffering and pain is bad for marketing, so they adhere to a convenient form of reincarnation – one which blends with Western ideals of hedonism and exploration of human potential.

So, while the East teaches that one can return to earth in a lower form as a bug or maggot, the West teaches “progressive” reincarnation, that humans will always return to earth as humans or higher life forms.

Karma, the universal law of cause and effect, regulates all natural existence and human experiences.

The word “karma” comes from the Sanskrit root words meaning “to do,” “what is done” and “a deed,” and its function is to reward people for every past deed, thought and word with future good or suffering.

But the rewards for all thoughts, deeds and words are too many for one lifetime, so a person must return again and again to pay off his karmic debts. This is where the “warm fuzzies” of reincarnation wear off.

For example, if a husband beats his wife, he has accrued a negative karma, so in the next life, he must return as a woman beaten by her husband to work off bad karma. Since her husband too has generated a bad karma by abusing her, he will also have to return in the next life as a woman to be beaten by her husband and on and on it must go until the scales of karma are balanced.

Or, if a person murders a fellow, he must be reborn as a victim of murder, after all, there’s no forgiveness in karma. This indicates that karma and reincarnation, perpetuate evil and sin rather than provide a solution to them.

In the Eastern versions, a person’s soul must undergo rebirth until he reaches a state of perfection or liberation (moksha) and becomes united with the divine or universe. In Buddhist belief, he ceases to exist or goes into blissful nothingness (nirvana).

In Western versions, with each rebirth, a soul gradually evolves upward by learning his lessons until he reaches the pinnacle of perfection as an “ascended master” or a super-human being. Essentially, he may have to be reborn in each race, status, gender or zodiac sign in order to evolve. That means a person will probably have at least 10,000 years to attain his goal!

Oskar Bernhardt, a 20th century German adept, wrote:

Through an Eternal Law, you are burdened with an irrevocable obligation to make atonement which you can never cast upon others … your thoughts, words or deeds can be redeemed by no one but yourself” (The Grail Message, Vol. 1, p. 43).

There are two problems here. First, the law of karma can’t be “eternal” since this earth isn’t eternal. It has a beginning and definitely has an end.

Second, in this system, you are obligated to make atonement for yourself and also redeem yourself from bad karma. In karma, there is no sin and consequently, no Saviour or Redeemer, so how can this self-atonement and self-redemption be achieved? Opinions vary.

Hindus seek “liberation” through ethical living and meditative practices such as yoga.

Buddhists observe yamas or niyamas (truthfulness, non-stealing or non-violence). The Jains adhere to asceticism while Sikhs claim it’s by devotion to God and good works. Most agree that Ahimsa is the key. Ahimsa literally means “compassion” or “harmlessness.”

It means you must live your entire life without ever harming any living thing, especially because they all have the spark of “divine spiritual energy” in them. Thus, hurting them brings bad karma.

Ahimsa has an extraordinary status in the ethical philosophy of Jainism. Jains take a solemn vow never to hurt any life form with words, deeds or thoughts.

To avoid stepping on an insect, they don’t go out at night and when they walk, they carry a little broom with which they sweep the ground. They live a strict vegetarian diet, eating nuts and fruit which they say, are freely given by the trees.

They don’t eat honey – that’s violence to bees – and they also wear masks covering their mouths to prevent them from breathing in or ingesting a microbe. Some Jains don’t even farm because it could kill or injure insects or worms!

This sort of lifestyle may be quaint, but if anyone is going to make it in the karma game, the Jains are. Others who sweetly teach reincarnation but are not emulating them are just hypocrites.

The irrationality of this belief becomes obvious when, for instance, you are in a situation when you have to protect your life or that of your family (like in a war), ahimsa flies right out of the window.

And lest anyone put some hope in this folly, our body’s immune system attacks and kills millions of microbes every day, so, the karma debt is beyond what any man can pay.

This is where the truth and logic of the Bible shine brightly: “Therefore no one will be declared righteous in [God’s] sight by observing the law” (Rom. 3:20).

No amount of right actions will save us from eternal doom because “our righteous acts are like filthy rags” (Is. 64:6). “For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord” (Rom. 6:23).

God’s gift of eternal life is free of charge and we neither pay for it nor work to earn it. It’s simply received by faith in Jesus Christ.

Fatalism, Memory and Justice

There’s another problematic outcome of karma: fatalism. It’s asserted that the law of karma cannot be limited to the sphere of human conduct.

By karma, the sun, moon and planets keep their appointed courses, the tides rise and fall, the winds blow and all animate creatures pass through all the stages of their life from birth to death (Edgar Thompson, The Word of the Cross to Hindus, 1956, p. 102).

In other words, whatever will happen has already been fixed by karma. If a ship carrying passengers sinks in the ocean or hundreds of children die in a gas explosion, that’s their karma.

In this system, one’s karma (or higher self) – instead of God – is the judge. It judges your actions daily and tells your future what rewards you deserve.

That is, you make your own policies, keep your policies and enforce them, ergo – you are your own judge. That was what Oskar Benhardt painted in rainbow colours in his Grail Message.

Whatever happens to you is what karma or your “higher self” decides is the best for you.

Now, try to imagine the influence of this belief on cultures that have embraced it. If you see a starving woman with a sick child scavenging on the trash dump of Mantola, don’t you dare help her! She is working out karma.

If you take her in, give her a good meal, treat her child and give her a good job, she will just have to return in another lifetime and become a scavenger with a sick child all over again.

So the beggars, destitute and invalids in some Asian countries are left that way because to help them is to interfere in their karma. This is why these regions didn’t have hospitals or charity organizations until Christian missionaries set foot there.

From the reincarnationist’s view, the 2012 gang rape in New Delhi was karma. Perhaps Jyoti Singh’s “higher self” had decreed that she would be raped on that day, so preventing the crime would have messed up her karma.

The World Trade Centre attack was karma too, since the “higher selves” of those 2,977 victims simply worked together with the “higher selves” of the 19 plane hijackers.

The 2008 earthquake in China which claimed 69,195 lives must have been karma too, after all, death is just a “transition.”

You see, if we are just puppets on a playground playing out an unchangeable script, then we have no real purpose in life. If we are here on earth just to get recycled into another form like paper, then life is meaningless.

Aside from that, if we have all lived before, why do we not remember? Most people live and die without knowing about their past lives or what they are supposed to be “paying back.”

A school of thought says that souls of the dead drink from “the river of forgetfulness” before they are reborn but their past memories can be recovered through occult meditation or mediumship.

This entails expending so much time, energy and money to know one’s previous lives or pay off karma. In some climes, “seekers” sit in lotus position for weeks, literally doing nothing, with all their bodily needs being cared for by others. Must we go into a permanent state of catatonia to know our “past lives”?

I read a book published by the Hare Krishna Society on this subject in 2008. The author says if a woman is thinking of her husband before death, she will return as a man. If she was thinking of a pig, she would return as a pig.

I would like to ask: what about persons who reincarnate as cactus plants or mealy bugs, do they also remember their past lives and work off their karma or are such creatures capable of human thinking? That’s why reincarnation works well with Animism. One delusion makes way for another.

How can karma or reincarnation be a “learning experience” if rewards and punishments are meted out to people who have no conscious knowledge of why they are being rewarded or punished?

If a 10 year old girl dies of cancer for being Adolf Hitler in her previous life, but never knows that fact, is this a gesture of justice? What lesson did her cancer teach her about her past life since she couldn’t remember it?

How do we learn our lessons if we are never told our mistakes? Why do the gods or the universe (or whatever!) punish people for bad deeds in their past lives which they don’t know?

Is it not sadism to put people through misery while withholding the very knowledge they need to solve it? Is this just? Is this sane? Absolutely not. Even from a human standpoint, reincarnation is senseless.

“Proofs” of Reincarnation?

Some people have claimed to remember their “past lives” through hypnosis, but in the court of law, memories recovered via hypnosis are not scientifically reliable.

Dr. Ian Stevenson, has published case studies of 2,500 children who claimed to have remembered their past lives over a period of 40 years.

Keith Augustine reviewed this work in The Case Against Immortality, stating that “the vast majority of Stevenson’s cases come from countries where religious belief in reincarnation is strong, and rarely elsewhere, which seems to indicate that cultural conditioning (rather than reincarnation) generate claims of spontaneous past life memories.”

A true scientific experiment must eliminate all other variables except the control, but since Stevenson’s works (and other such “testimonials”) haven’t done this, then these children must have obtained their information, however accurate, from demon entities which have been in existence for ages.

Buddhist sage, Dalai Lama boasted: “If science can disprove reincarnation, Tibetan Buddhism would abandon reincarnation.” Of course, science has disproved several ancient beliefs, but they are seldom given up.

Reincarnation is invalidated even by demography. The world population in 1350 was near 370 million, but as of March 2016, it is 7.4 billion and it’s estimated to increase to 11.2 billion by 2100.

If we are all being recycled, why is the human population increasing exponentially? Where are all the new babies coming from? Or how did 200 souls emerge from one corresponding soul from 8 centuries ago?

To affirm the existence of a Creator creating new spirits totally negates the pantheist worldview. The linear view of human destiny is supported by credible evidence, but the cyclical view of human life ties in with mystical twaddle, lies and subjective fancies.

We are told reincarnation results in human upward evolution, but where is the evidence for this? Aside from progress in science and technology, can we say humanity has made any significant progress in the last two centuries?

Think of the two bloody world wars in the 20th century and the crises currently brewing in several nations of the world. We boast of medical breakthroughs, only for more deadly diseases to strike the earth.

We invent satellites, computers and split atoms, only for human depravity, deception and wickedness to rise to another level.

Mankind has not evolved. In fact, if reincarnation is true, India and Nepal, with their arcane spirituality and traditions, should have been the most civilized utopian nations on earth by now. But if what we see happening there today are the ideals of reincarnation, then it’s truly lamentable.

Reincarnation in the Bible?

Some people argue that John the Baptist in the Bible was a reincarnation of Elijah. But when John was asked “Are you Elijah?” He answered “no.” (Jn. 1:21).

His office was similar to that of Elijah in the scale of repentance (Mal. 4:5-6). Elijah didn’t die and certainly didn’t reincarnate.

John 9:1-3 doesn’t support reincarnation either because Jesus said: “Neither this man nor his parents sinned.” The Bible is clear: “People die once, and after that they are judged” (Heb. 9:27).

The Bible teaches resurrection instead of reincarnation and we have a reliable evidence in Jesus Christ who died and rose again.

Jesus didn’t reincarnate; and for religious people who fondly imagine that they can combine reincarnation with resurrection, the question they must answer is, in which of the hundreds of bodies they’ve supposedly being reborn will they be resurrected in and why?

Exactly what proof do reincarnationists have for their belief? Their “higher selves”? Some mystical books? Spirit guides speaking from behind a veil? Vivid memories? Fevered imaginations of deluded gurus? These are not proofs. The physical evidence of what the Lord Jesus offers us blows all these mystical belief systems away into sheer ludricous inanities!

Rather than making us run on the treadmill of karma for centuries till we get it right, the true God offers complete forgiveness and salvation by faith in Jesus Christ (John 5:24).

Reincarnation is an amoral and hopeless lie. It neither atones man’s sins nor redeems him from evil. It’s a lie of the devil, and its goal is to lead many souls to a Christless eternity.

What is the Sin of Onanism?

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Onanism is a term commonly employed as a synonym for the act of masturbation or sexual self-gratification.

The word is named after a Biblical character, Onan, the son of Judah who refused to impregnate the widow of his slain brother, Er. The story is narrated in Genesis 38:7-10.

But Er, Judah’s firstborn, was wicked in the LORD’s sight; so the LORD put him to death. Then Judah said to Onan, “Lie with your brother’s wife and fulfill your duty to her as a brother-in-law to produce offspring for your brother.” But Onan knew that the offspring would not be his; so whenever he lay with his brother’s wife, he spilled his semen on the ground to keep from producing offspring for his brother. What he did was wicked in the LORD’s sight; so he put him to death also.

Even though it is clear from the text that Onan engaged in coitus interruptus rather than sexual self-stimulation, some commentaries and schools of thought have used this passage to teach that by spilling his seed outside the woman, Onan engaged in masturbation which made God strike him dead.

While the act of masturbation is not specifically mentioned in the Bible, it is still a sin, because, it falls under the category of sexual lust; it’s often accompanied by pornographic materials (whether visual or mental imagery) and it fails the 8 basic tests of Godly purity (Matt. 5:28, Phil. 4:8).

To understand why God killed Onan for his failure to impregnate Tamar, we need to consider the context of the story which was the tradition of Levirate marriage. To this end, I quote some Bible scholars who explained the cultural context of this passage more clearly:

“Levirate Law: (from Lat. levir, ‘brother in law’; the Hebr. term is yabam, ‘to perform the duty of a brother-in-law’). If a man dies without bearing offspring, his widow is to marry the deceased brother (her levir). A child born of that union is considered to be perpetuating the ‘name’ (lineage, honor, and inheritance) of the deceased (Deut. 25:5-10). Such a practice is common in traditional societies, promoting social and economic stability. Refusal to fulfill this obligation results in public shame (Deut. 25:9-10), because it indicates a greater concern for one’s personal welfare than the welfare of the extended family” (eds. Bruce Metzger and Michael Coogan, The Oxford’s Companion to the Bible, Oxford Univ. Press, 1993, 434)

“It refers to the levirate law of antiquity (the Latin levir means ‘a husband’s brother’) … Here and elsewhere (Deut. 25:6; Ruth 4:10), it is for the preservation of the dead brother’s name and family. In addition, the law is one of inheritance so that the dead man’s property will remain in the extended family. Finally, it is for the protection of the widow so that she should not have to sell herself for debt or have to marry outside the clan” (John Currid, Genesis, Evangelical Press, 2003, 2:209)

“Onan apparently does not want to father a son who will prevent him from receiving his deceased brother’s inheritance.” (Victor Hamilton, The Book of Genesis: Chapters 18-50, Eerdmans, 1995, 436)

“Onan’s refusal is explained by his knowledge that the son will not be his (38:9). We need to recognize, then, that there is a birthright issue here. Er was the firstborn and entitled to the birthright. If he had no offspring, the birthright will transfer to Onan. If, however, Tamar bears a son that is considered Er’s, the birthright will pass to that son. We can therefore conclude that Onan is punished by death for preserving his inheritance rights by disposing of the competition” (John Walton, Genesis, Zondervan, 2001, 668).

Onan’s sin was obviously a wicked selfish motive to keep the inheritance, rather than to sexually please himself. To relate Onan’s sin to the act of masturbation, will have to be an extrapolated interpretation. It was the refusal of Judah to give Tamar another son for marriage, due to his fear after losing two under God’s judgment that propelled Tamar to disguise as a prostitute so as to conceive for Judah (Gen. 38:11-26).

When one considers how this story has been misapplied to induce an overwhelming guilt and legalistic jive, it then becomes clear why one needs to properly understand the historical and cultural context of a Bible passage before venturing to use it.