Thursday, November 18, 2010

Pretender to the Throne

CS Lewis writes in his book of devotionals "The Business of Heaven" (I do read several daily devotionals other than my own!) that, upon converting to Christianity, he was shocked how much the New Testament has to say about a great invisible war between spiritual powers. Certainly the Episcopal Church to which he was a devotee did not dwell on it much, nor do many churches today. But it is an ongoing theme in the Bible that a certain kind of hidden combat is taking place. Not dualism (for dualism implies that the Good and the Evil are equally sovereign), but a case of an all powerful God creating another powerful creature with free will who gave in to pride.

If God has said He will not cause these miracles, there is only one other power who could: The serpent of old. But surely, if miracles could be caused by powers of darkness, Christ would have warned us of such things. Indeed, He did:
"For false Christs and false prophets will arise and will show great signs and wonders, so as to mislead, if possible, even the elect. "Behold, I have told you in advance. "So if they say to you, 'Behold, He is in the wilderness,' do not go out, or, 'Behold, He is in the inner rooms,' do not believe them. "For just as the lightning comes from the east and flashes even to the west, so will the coming of the Son of Man be. "Wherever the corpse is, there the vultures will gather.

(Mat 24:24-28)
Christ says that in the final days, false prophets and false saviors will appear, claiming to have special knowledge of His return. Were it possible for the saved to be deceived by such false teachers, even they would fall. But while the saved are protected, not everyone enjoys such privilege: wherever spiritual death is, the vultures will gather to consume it. And who is compared to a predator, seeking the weak to consume them?

Be of sober spirit, be on the alert. Your adversary, the devil, prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour. But resist him, firm in your faith, knowing that the same experiences of suffering are being accomplished by your brethren who are in the world.

(1Pe 5:8-9)
So then the devil is ready with false miracles to mislead those who he may, so they will follow him on the path to destruction. If we resist him, he will flee. But not all escape his grasp. Those who place their faith in the miracles of these false prophets have been led astray by the devil. When we rejoiced with the revival of evangelism and the awakening of men's hearts to God, the devil found those who were spiritually dead and offered them power. In the name of religion, they took it. They now bear these false miracles and lying signs, bringing others down the path to destruction. Certainly some in the charismatic movement are simply charlatans, trying to make a quick buck off of people's adrenaline. But others have a very real power, being deceived themselves.

"But" - you say - "you have undermined your own argument, Justin." I gasp. "You said just yesterday that the miracles of Christ and his followers authenticated their message. If miracles cannot be trusted, why should we trust the miracles of those you follow?"

An excellent point. Unless there is some difference in the miracles, some way a true miracle may be distinguished from a lying sign, I have written myself into a corner. Alas - there is no escape for me except the backspace key! Yet, you read this and (being sneaky) you see there is still more scrolling left for your browser to do. There is more of a post here, so I must not have been done in so easily.

"Beware of the false prophets, who come to you in sheep's clothing, but inwardly are ravenous wolves. "You will know them by their fruits. Grapes are not gathered from thorn bushes nor figs from thistles, are they? "So every good tree bears good fruit, but the bad tree bears bad fruit. "A good tree cannot produce bad fruit, nor can a bad tree produce good fruit. "Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire. "So then, you will know them by their fruits.

(Mat 7:15-20)
Before you accuse me of begging the question (Christ's words are only legitimate if He was who He said was- by accepting His teachings, I presuppose His miracles were valid), consider the argument He sets out. An ordinary apple tree will never produce poison apples. An evil power will never do good. If the miracles result in real, lasting good, they are of a good power. But sweetened arsenic is still arsenic. The power of the devil will all come to ill ends and quickly! May we then condemn Christ on the basis of His often hypocritical followers? No, because when Christ's commands are followed, only good results. It is when men follow after their own wants, desires and feelings that evil is born. So, if we accept the simple argument that good powers create good fruit and bad powers create bad fruit, we accept Christ and the Bible (In a different line of argument, we take as our axiom that the resurrection is uniquely the power of the sovereign God. Satan cannot create life . Therefore, looking the the historical arguments for the resurrection, shown here previously, and the manuscript evidence for the Bible's preservation, linked in this series, we could then accept what Jesus said and deduce the rest of the Bible's credibility from there. Either is a valid starting point and exploring both reinforces the other.).

Then what of the miracles of the charismatics? Do they, as Jesus did, command the lame to walk, the blind to see and the deaf to hear, resulting in instant, complete change? Do they like the apostles, give a man the ability to walk who is then able to leap with no physical therapy or further time? Certainly the God who spoke the world into existence does not need His healing to be gradual.

In this line of argument, we get sticky. I certainly cannot examine every charismatic healer, every case of speaking in tongues or every prophecy. To pursue this, I must rely on anecdotes or generalizations. I choose generalizations which I believe have little or no exception. However, I went through the previous reasoning to show that the Biblical way of investigating any potential false prophet is to examine his fruits. Before following any teacher, see his fruit. I will look at healings, tongues and prophecy of the charismatic movement in general and see how they are not of God, but of the devil.

(1) The charismatic movement requires the person being healed be a believer.
Certainly, Satan cannot work his power on a true Christian. Sealed by the Holy Spirit, false healings would have no effect on them. Did the early Christians heal only believers? No! Consider Acts 3, where the lame man is healed when he asked for money. He was not healed by his faith. Indeed, in Acts 3:16, we learn it was Peter's faith which brought the healing power! Or consider the raising of the dead - did the dead exercise faith even in their sleep*? The charismatics point to Matthew 13 and Mark 6 (different tellings of the same story), where Mark says Jesus could not perform many miracles and Matthew says he did not, because of their unbelief. Mark tells us the miracles He did perform were healings, which is suggestive against the charismatic doctrine, but not conclusive. In the context of the passage (where Matthew is the more detailed) it is plainly apparent that Jesus did not do many miracles, not because he was unable in the sense of lacking ability, but because it was an exercise in futility. As he says in the verse previously, a prophet is not without honor except in his own home. Those who grew up with Him would not be taught or persuaded by miracles. But that Jesus could, we have already seen. It is only Satan who is restrained, the author of charismatic 'miracles.'

(2) The charismatics believe the gift of speaking in tongues involves some heavenly gibberish.
Contrast this with the tongues described in the Book of Acts, where the gift of tongues is where a man of God is able to speak so that all people, no matter their language, are able to understand what is being taught. This allowed the apostles to preach the gospel wherever they went, without first learning the language. Once the apostles died and the Bible was completed, Christianity had a sufficient foothold that this was no longer needed. The charismatics speak nonsense and call it tongues. Compare the Biblical version:
They were amazed and astonished, saying, "Why, are not all these who are speaking Galileans? "And how is it that we each hear them in our own language to which we were born? "Parthians and Medes and Elamites, and residents of Mesopotamia, Judea and Cappadocia, Pontus and Asia, Phrygia and Pamphylia, Egypt and the districts of Libya around Cyrene, and visitors from Rome, both Jews and proselytes, Cretans and Arabs--we hear them in our own tongues speaking of the mighty deeds of God."

(Act 2:7-11)
God is not the author of confusion (1 Corinthians 14:33), but the devil is. God does not give His people gibberish, but wisdom.

(3) The charismatics believe there is new prophecy to be given.
As discussed before in this series, the apostles warned against accepting a new gospel, even if it came from one of them or an angel (Joseph Smith received his 'new revelation' from an angel). Since the gift was universally accepted to have ceased for over a millennium and a half, they must believe that God had more revelation for the people than He had previously given, but waited to give it. There is no reason to believe this. We might turn to Revelation, where John warns about grave consequences for anyone who modifies the prophecy of the last days after him (adds to 'this book'). Or, as I will, we may turn to Ephesians:
So then you are no longer strangers and aliens, but you are fellow citizens with the saints, and are of God's household, having been built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Christ Jesus Himself being the corner stone, in whom the whole building, being fitted together, is growing into a holy temple in the Lord, in whom you also are being built together into a dwelling of God in the Spirit.

(Eph 2:19-22)
The apostles and the prophets were both the foundation When the apostles died, the foundation was done and so was the role of the prophets. The charismatics must then claim we are still building the foundation and faith is incomplete. The position is untenable, so modern day prophecies are as well. When these prophecies then hold partial truth, we must then link them to either luck (a charlatan again), or a dark power. But to follow after this vanity is to be led where it wants to take you, down the dangerous paths of darkness.

Come back tomorrow for the continuation of this series.

* I don't believe in 'soul sleep'. To be absent from the body is to be present with the Lord, if we are God's children. I do believe that God knows who is dead for good and who will be healed and that He will not take a soul home from someone who will be revived later. I reject all after-death experiences because of this. See Luke 16:30-31 for the plain answer.

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