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Deut. 13:5-18 does not call for the death penalty for unbelief or for heresy. It condemns false prophets (vv. 1-5) who seek to lead the people, with signs and wonders, into idolatry. It condemns individuals who secretly try to start a movement into idolatry (vv. 6-11). It condemns cities which establish another religion and subvert the law-order of the nation (vv. 13-18), and this condemnation must be enforced by man to turn away the judgment of God (v. 17). This condemnation requires a nation grounded in God’s law-system to preserve that order by punishing the basic treason against it. Deut. 13:5-18 does not apply to a missionary situation, where the land is anti-God to begin with: this is a situation for conversion.
- Rousas John Rushdoony, The Institutes of Biblical Law 39 (1973).