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Bible evangewomanblogspotcomThe three-year Lectionary that many Catholics and Protestants hear in public worship gives us a great variety of Holy Scripture.

Yet, it doesn’t tell the whole story.

My series Forbidden Bible Verses — ones the Lectionary editors and their clergy omit — examines the passages we do not hear in church. These missing verses are also Essential Bible Verses, ones we should study with care and attention. Often, we find that they carry difficult messages and warnings.

Today’s reading is from the English Standard Version with commentary by Matthew Henry and John MacArthur.

1 Corinthians 14:6-12

Now, brothers,[a] if I come to you speaking in tongues, how will I benefit you unless I bring you some revelation or knowledge or prophecy or teaching? If even lifeless instruments, such as the flute or the harp, do not give distinct notes, how will anyone know what is played? And if the bugle gives an indistinct sound, who will get ready for battle? So with yourselves, if with your tongue you utter speech that is not intelligible, how will anyone know what is said? For you will be speaking into the air. 10 There are doubtless many different languages in the world, and none is without meaning, 11 but if I do not know the meaning of the language, I will be a foreigner to the speaker and the speaker a foreigner to me. 12 So with yourselves, since you are eager for manifestations of the Spirit, strive to excel in building up the church.

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Last week’s reading introduced Paul’s discourse on the false use of speaking in tongues in the church in Corinth.

The Corinthians who thought they were speaking in tongues were not speaking in a foreign language at all. They were speaking in gibberish, the way pagans did before their deities. Even they did not know what they were saying. Furthermore, they were having an experience of ecstasy while doing so. It was a carnal and sinful practice.

Paul’s use of the word ‘prophecy’ is the original: ‘preaching’. Last week’s post explains that the inclusion of prediction in that definition did not come about until centuries later in the Middle Ages.

Note 1 Corinthians 14:5 (emphases mine below):

Now I want you all to speak in tongues, but even more to prophesy. The one who prophesies is greater than the one who speaks in tongues, unless someone interprets, so that the church may be built up.

Paul continues his discourse by asking the Corinthians how they would benefit if Paul spoke to them in tongues — a foreign language (verse 6). In order for it to be of use, someone would have to interpret that spiritual lesson in Greek, the language of Corinth.

John MacArthur gave his sermon on this chapter in 1977, when many mainstream churches were undergoing what was called a Charismatic ‘renewal’ at the time. Suddenly, a spiritual gift that, for centuries, was considered one of the Apostolic Era — the earliest years of the Church — and died out because the number of Christians had grown sufficiently, became a trend which would continue for the next two decades or so.

I knew mainstream Christians who attended special Charismatic services at their church because they ‘felt better’ afterwards. They sought some sort of ecstatic comfort which they interpreted as emotional healing. They didn’t understand what they were saying, nor did they understand what anyone else was saying. It was entirely personal.

MacArthur says:

It’s amazing to me today that we have seen this one segment of the church put such an incredible premium on unintelligible communication that nobody, not even the speaker, understands. It’s also amazing to note that many, many times when the interpretation is so-called given as the true interpretation, it can be indicated that it is, in fact, not a true interpretation at all, as there’s many, many testimonies to the effect that people have experimented speaking in Hebrew and whatever, and somebody gives a translation that’s in no way related to what they said.

And somehow today we have made some kind of sacred cow, some kind of great, spiritual hierarchy out of people who have been able to communicate to nobody. Paul says, “If I came and used the true gift, it wouldn’t mean anything to you because you speak Greek.”

Also, referring to verse 9:

the only significant time for the use of the true gift in the Apostolic Era was when somebody was there who understood the language; and if it occurred in the assembly of believers, then it would be translated in order that the believers might even also, in addition, be edified by it. It must be easy to be understood, or you’re just blowing into the air.

In order to get his point across, Paul poses questions using musical illustrations, something that everyone would understand.

He asks whether the flute or the harp would make sense without different notes played to create a melody (verse 7).

Matthew Henry explains:

Unintelligible language is like piping or harping without distinction of sounds: it gives no more direction how a man should order his conversation than a pipe with but one stop or a harp with but one string can direct a dancer how he should order his steps …

Similarly, Paul asks, what good would a bugle be in calling troops to battle if it played only one note (verse 8). We are all familiar with our respective nations’ military instrumental melodies. One tune awakens the troops, another readies them for battle and another announces the end of the day.

MacArthur says:

A military trumpet was the clearest and the loudest of all instruments; but no soldier would have any idea what to do if it didn’t blow something with significance.

Paul then asks the Corinthians how any of them, including the person ‘speaking’, as it were, will understand unintelligible speech; what good is that doing anyone but talking into the air (verse 9)?

Henry interprets this verse as follows:

Words without a meaning can convey no notion nor instruction to the mind; and words not understood have no meaning with those who do not understand them: to talk to them in such language is to waste our breath.

Paul brings his point to a close by saying that the world is full of different languages (verse 10) but if he does not understand a particular language, then he is a foreigner to the speaker and the speaker a foreigner to him (verse 11). In other words, the whole point of a spiritual lesson is lost unless one understands that particular language.

MacArthur says that Paul uses the Greek word ‘barbaros’ — ‘barbarian’ — in verse 11:

He says in verse 11, “Therefore, if I know not the meaning of the sound,” – or the voice – “I shall be unto him that speaks a barbaros, and he that speaketh shall be a barbaros unto me.” Now he says, “If you don’t talk in something I can understand, we’re two barbarians trying to talk.”

In case you don’t remember what a barbarian is, a barbarian is a term for a foreigner; and a barbarian was anybody who didn’t speak Greek. So he’s simply saying, “If you talk in that kind of stuff, we’re just going to be incommunicado, because it’s going to be like two barbarians, neither of whom have a common language.”

Interesting thing about the word. The word barbaros is, again, a word that is onomatopoeiatic. Remember that? A word that sounds – remember “bzzz” and “zip” and “hiss” – any of those kinds of words that simply repeat a sound. Well, this word really is the repetition of “bar-bar.” And what he’s saying is, “If you speak like that, and I don’t know the meaning of what you’re saying, it’s just ‘bar-bar-bar-bar’ to me. I don’t understand it, and it doesn’t make any sense.”

So the whole point, you see, is the uselessness of unintelligible languages and pagan gibberish. It had absolutely no signification whatsoever. It is contrary to all the laws of sound and meaning, according to verse 10.

Paul ends with the same message he gave in 1 Corinthians 14:5: seek gifts of the Holy Spirit that will build up — edify — the church in Corinth (verse 12).

MacArthur says:

“Seek that the church be edified.” He’s really dealing with their selfishness. The Corinthians came together; they were all seeking this experience. They were all seeking this ecstasy; they wanted the sensual experience.

And we still have that today. And I think that’s part of what is going on in the Charismatic and Pentecostal movement is they all seek this personal experience, when Paul is saying “That’s the antithesis of the spiritual gift, which is to seek to edify the body.” So the position of tongues is secondary, reason number one, because prophecy will edify the church; and number two, tongues are unintelligible, and consequently have a very limited use. And, incidentally, that limited use was limited also to the Apostolic Era.

Many moons ago when I was in high school — around the time MacArthur gave this sermon — I knew a girl who stopped going to her family’s church and began attending Sunday service with her boyfriend and his family at the local Foursquare Gospel church. She said she preferred the services there because they were ‘exciting’ and one never knew what would happen next.

The preacher gave sermons, but she said she never listened to them because they were ‘boring’. She was there to watch someone experience personal ecstasy. For her, church was theatre. She thought every church should be like that.

I’m going to skip ahead to 1 Corinthians 14:33 and 40 for an answer to ‘church as theatre’:

33 For God is not a God of confusion but of peace.

40 all things should be done decently and in order.

Paul has much more to say on the topic of speaking in tongues, so more will follow next week.

Next time — 1 Corinthians 14:13-19

Bible treehuggercomThe three-year Lectionary that many Catholics and Protestants hear in public worship gives us a great variety of Holy Scripture.

Yet, it doesn’t tell the whole story.

My series Forbidden Bible Verses — ones the Lectionary editors and their clergy omit — examines the passages we do not hear in church. These missing verses are also Essential Bible Verses, ones we should study with care and attention. Often, we find that they carry difficult messages and warnings.

Today’s reading is from the English Standard Version with commentary by Matthew Henry and John MacArthur.

1 Corinthians 14:1-5

Prophecy and Tongues

14 Pursue love, and earnestly desire the spiritual gifts, especially that you may prophesy. For one who speaks in a tongue speaks not to men but to God; for no one understands him, but he utters mysteries in the Spirit. On the other hand, the one who prophesies speaks to people for their upbuilding and encouragement and consolation. The one who speaks in a tongue builds up himself, but the one who prophesies builds up the church. Now I want you all to speak in tongues, but even more to prophesy. The one who prophesies is greater than the one who speaks in tongues, unless someone interprets, so that the church may be built up.

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Last week’s entry concluded Paul’s treatise to the Corinthians on Holy Communion. It included a warning about sickness and death afflicting those who took the sacrament unworthily.

The next two chapters are in the Lectionary. 1 Corinthians 12 concerns spiritual gifts and the members of the church comprising one, holistic body. 1 Corinthians 13, concerning love, is often read at weddings.

In 1 Corinthians 14, Paul discusses the gifts of the Holy Spirit.

Taking up where he left off, he begins by encouraging the Corinthians to pursue love and desire the gifts of the Holy Spirit especially that they might prophesy (verse 1).

Prophesying means preaching, as John MacArthur explains (emphases in bold mine):

It comes from the Greek word prophēteuō. Two words: pro, meaning before; phēmi meaning speak. It means to speak before. Prophecy is for somebody to speak before somebody else.

That’s what I do every Sunday, I prophesy. You say, “I thought it meant to predict the future.” No. No. You know the idea of predicting the future never came along until the Middle Ages when the English word took on that meaning. That’s never its intention in the Greek. It simply means to speak before somebody.

Matthew Henry’s commentary agrees:

While they were in close pursuit of charity, and made this Christian disposition their chief scope, they might be zealous of spiritual gifts, be ambitious of them in some measure, but especially of prophesying, that is, of interpreting scripture.

Paul uses two interesting verbs in that sentence: ‘pursue’ and ‘desire’. Today, ‘pursue’ suggests a police chase. As for the second, we think of the word in the context of ‘heart’s desire’, not entirely a religious thing to say.

Henry defines ‘pursue’ in Greek as follows:

Follow after charity, pursue it. The original, diokete , when spoken of a thing, signifies a singular concern to obtain it; and is commonly taken in a good and laudable sense. It is an exhortation to obtain charity, to get this excellent disposition of mind upon any terms, whatever pains or prayers it may cost: as if he had said, ‘In whatever you fail, see you do not miss of this; the principal of all graces is worth your getting at any rate’.

MacArthur addresses the context of ‘desire’ and refers back to 1 Corinthians 12 to make his point:

Now this word “desire” could be translated many ways, because it’s a kind of a form that could go a lot of ways. But when you study the context, it comes out as an imperative; and it comes out, I believe, as kind of a continuous imperative, so that it would translate this way – now watch: “Pursue love,” and then there is a de in the Greek, and de is like “but.” It is not equating equals; that would be kai. It’s adversative; there is a change here.

So he is saying, “Follow after love, but continue desiring spirituals.” In other words, “I’m not telling you to quit desiring gifts.” And then go back to 12:31, “You are pursuing the showy things. You should pursue love, but don’t stop pursuing gifts,” or the spiritual realm literally. In other words, “I don’t want you to quit, because you should want the ministry of the Holy Spirit through the gifts of the Spirit. I’m not saying don’t have anything to do with gifts. But rather pursue love and continue to seek the spiritual realm, the realm of the operation of the Holy Spirit, the true things that the Spirit of God is doing. But” – now look at the end of the verse – “most of all, most of all, mallon, most of all that you should prophesy.” You see, tongues are secondary. “When you come together, instead of the chaos, and the confusion, and the gibberish of tongues, should be the clarity of prophecy.”

Paul says that speaking in tongues does not say anything to men; the person is speaking to God only, uttering mysteries in the Spirit (verse 2).

Henry says that the Corinthians were pleased with their notional ability to speak in tongues:

It seems, this was the gift on which the Corinthians principally valued themselves. This was more ostentatious than the plain interpretation of scripture, more fit to gratify pride, but less fit to pursue the purposes of Christian charity; it would not equally edify nor do good to the souls of menwhatever mysteries might be communicated in his language, none of his own countrymen could understand them, because they did not understand the language

MacArthur has more on this peculiarity, which was part of their pagan heritage. Sadly, they were returning to it. This was not even close to the 70 disciples speaking in tongues on the first Pentecost:

… as we come to the Corinthian situation – incidentally, the only time that the gift is ever mentioned after the book of Acts is in Corinth, and there because it was so confused and chaotic. But as we come to the Corinthian situation, we find that they had counterfeited the real gift and substituted a pagan, ecstatic kind of speech. The true gift had been confused with ecstatic tongues, which was the counterfeit

Remember that, for the most part, the Corinthians had allowed the entire world system in which they existed to infiltrate their assembly. For example, they were all hung up with human philosophies, the first four chapters say. They had a hero worship cult just like their society did; chapter 3 talks about that. They were involved in terrible, gross, sexual immorality; chapters 5 and 6 talks about that. They were suing each other in the court; chapter 6 talks about that. They had fouled up the home and marriage, and misevaluated that whole thing; chapter 7 talks about that.

They were all confused about pagan feasts and idolatry and things offered to idols; chapters 8, 9 and 10 talks about that. They had goofed up the proper place of women in the church; chapter 11 talks about that. They had misconstrued the whole dimension of spiritual gifts; chapter 12 talks about that. And they had lost hold of the one great thing, love; chapter 13 talks about that.

They had let the entire mass of the satanic system that existed in their society infiltrate the church. And once it all came in, in with it came pagan-style of religion, with all of the ecstasies, and all of its eroticisms, and all of its sensualities; they bought the whole bag.

In short, they were developing a syncretic version of Christianity:

It was Christianity in part and paganism in part, all wedded together.

This can be seen in some pseudo-religious movements which are popular today: New Age and vaudou, to name but two. However, one can also add the charismatic movement and Pentecostalism to the list.

MacArthur mentioned ecstasy, which is a key feature for the person speaking in tongues that no one else can understand. These people seek the mind rush, for lack of a better term, that they experience:

Now if you study the Greco-Roman world the time of the Corinthian church, you would know that they had various priests and priestesses; and people who were devotees of the gods would go to these great temples, and they would worship these priests and priestesses. And it was very common for a devotee would go into an ecstasy. An ecstasy means to go out of yourself. That’s the literal meaning of the word, to go out of yourself. They would literally flip out, and they would go into an unconscious state, in which they would have all kinds of phenomena occur, a psychic kind of phenomena. They would believe that when they went out of themselves, they literally left the body, and they ascended into space, and they connected to deity, whatever deity they were worshiping, and they began to commune with the deity; and once they began to commune with that deity, they would begin to speak the language of the gods.

This was a very common thing in their culture. So that term used in Corinthians, glōssais lalein, to speak in tongues, was not invented by Bible writers, but was a term used commonly in the Greco-Roman culture to speak of pagan ecstasy, and going out of the body, connecting with the deity, and in a mystical way beginning to speak the language of the gods, which came out as some kind of gobbledygook and gibberish.

Now the Greeks even had a word for this ecstatic religious experience. You’ll be interested to know what the word was. It was the word eros. Remember that word? We sometimes translate it as sensual love. But the word is a bigger word than that; it has a broader meaning. The word eros simply means the desire for the sensual, or the desire for the erotic, or the desire for the ecstasy, or the desire for the ultimate experience or the feeling.

And the kind of religion they had was erotic religion. It was religion designed to be felt. It was sensual, ecstatic kind of religion. And you’ll remember, if you studied those religions, that when they went to those temples and to those priestesses they actually entered into orgies, didn’t they. And that whole idea of erotic and sexual and sensual and ecstatic and the gibberish that went on with divine utterances, all was rolled into one big ball under the mystery religions that had spawned in Babylon and had come into the Corinthian society. And I’m not going to take the time to read you all of the information on that, but there is tremendous historical information that tells us that this did occur.

Now I’m afraid that what has happened today in the Charismatic movement is just a reproduction of exactly what happened in Corinth. The church, because of a deadness, and because of years of ignorance of the true work of the Holy Spirit, and because of a lack of really fine Bible teaching in many places, and because of just the dearth of anything really significant going on, people in the church began to reach out, and to want to feel God, and to sense reality, and Satan’s counterfeit came flooding in the door. And what happened now in the Charismatic Movement is simply Corinth revisited. The church has married the system of pagan religion again, and we have developed a sensual, feeling, experiential, erotic kind of approach to religion, only we call it the work of the Holy Spirit, when in fact it is the counterfeit of Satan. If you were to find time to talk with various people who’ve been involved in it, you would find that some of their experiences are very much in that way – very sensual, very feeling-oriented.

This is what speaking in tongues involved — and it was only ever a means for the early Church to expand into every possible nation in the ancient world. That time was known as the Apostolic Age or the Apostolic Era.

MacArthur explains:

when God gave the gifts to the early church, He gave them some miraculous gifts which were designed to be signs that authenticated the validity of the message of the new age. You see, God had spoken in the past by the fathers through the prophets; but in these last days, He has spoken in His Son, and there was a new message; and to let, particularly, the Jewish world know that this was a new era, and there was new revelation, and God was speaking again. There were attendant signs and wonders, and one of those was the ability that the apostles and some who worked with them had, to speak a language they did not know, under divine inspiration. That was the gift of languages.

We learned also that it was always a language, that it was the ability to speak a foreign language. In Acts 2, “Everybody understood in their own language,” it says.

As the Corinthians were not truly speaking in tongues, rather in a pagan gibberish, Paul encourages them to seek the desire to prophesy, or to preach, because good preaching edifies those hearing the message, that of the Good News (verse 3).

Paul goes on to say that those who speak meaningless words in tongues help no man, but those who can prophesy — preach — duly build up the Church (verse 4).

Paul says that he wants the Corinthians to speak in tongues — properly, one might add, as had the disciples in Acts — but more importantly, they should preach, so that everyone can understand what is being said and thereby benefit from it (verse 5).

MacArthur explains the Corinthians’ situation and that of some of the present day church movements:

In Christianity, it was the true gift of languages, used only when someone who spoke the language was present in order that it might be a sign that God was there, and that God’s people were speaking God’s truth. Never was it intended to be confused with paganism. But as always, whenever God does something, Satan counterfeits it, doesn’t he? And that confuses the issue.

And so Satan’s smokescreen to cloud the true revelatory work of the Holy Spirit in the early church were phony revelations and phony visions and phony tongues. And that’s why in 1 John, John says, “When somebody comes along and starts telling you they speak for God, you’d better test the spirits.” It’s easy to fall prey to the phony. And the Corinthians, because they had decided to marry the spirit of the age, were victims.

Now remember, Satan is called the god of this age, Satan is called the spirit who energizes the children of disobedience. Satan is the one who wants to be like God, and Satan appears transformed as an angel of light. He wants to counterfeit reality, he wants the church to buy a phony; that’s his business. And so we see in heathenism all that fake; and here in Corinth, it had engulfed the church.

And I’m afraid it’s doing the same today. There are no ecstasies, no sensualities, no eroticisms, no going out of yourself ever associated in the New Testament with the true work of the Holy Spirit – never, never. In fact, in 14:32 it says, “The spirits of the prophets must be subject to the prophets.” Nobody ever gives up his spirit. Nobody ever loses control. Nobody ever goes out of himself in terms of that which God has designed. And that’s why, at the end of the fourteenth chapter, the final word of the apostle Paul is, “Let everything be done decently and” – what? – “in order.” This is not the Holy Spirit’s way. It is not the Holy Spirit’s way to have everybody jumping up, “and everybody has a psalm” – verse 26 – “and everybody a doctrine, and everybody a revelation, and everybody an interpretation, and everybody wanting to speak in ecstasy, and everybody wanting to have a vision,” and so forth. That’s the confusion of paganism that has engulfed the church.

This is the reason why members of established churches are often called the ‘frozen chosen’. Long may they remain so.

Next time — 1 Corinthians 14:6-12

Bible kevinroosecomThe three-year Lectionary that many Catholics and Protestants hear in public worship gives us a great variety of Holy Scripture.

Yet, it doesn’t tell the whole story.

My series Forbidden Bible Verses — ones the Lectionary editors and their clergy omit — examines the passages we do not hear in church. These missing verses are also Essential Bible Verses, ones we should study with care and attention. Often, we find that they carry difficult messages and warnings.

Today’s reading is from the English Standard Version with commentary by Matthew Henry and John MacArthur (as cited below).

1 Corinthians 10:14-22

14 Therefore, my beloved, flee from idolatry. 15 I speak as to sensible people; judge for yourselves what I say. 16 The cup of blessing that we bless, is it not a participation in the blood of Christ? The bread that we break, is it not a participation in the body of Christ? 17 Because there is one bread, we who are many are one body, for we all partake of the one bread. 18 Consider the people of Israel:[a] are not those who eat the sacrifices participants in the altar? 19 What do I imply then? That food offered to idols is anything, or that an idol is anything? 20 No, I imply that what pagans sacrifice they offer to demons and not to God. I do not want you to be participants with demons. 21 You cannot drink the cup of the Lord and the cup of demons. You cannot partake of the table of the Lord and the table of demons. 22 Shall we provoke the Lord to jealousy? Are we stronger than he?

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Last week’s post discussed Paul’s perspective on congregations paying their church ministers, which he said is obligatory for the spiritual guidance they provide.

1 Corinthians 10 is about idolatry.

Some of what Paul says here appears to contradict what he wrote in Romans about stronger and weaker Christians. Stronger Christians should make sure they do not offend weaker Christians, particularly in matters of food and drink, lest the stronger drive the weaker away from the Church. That would be an act deeply displeasing to God, because those people would be driven away from the salvation that Christ brings us.

Today’s reading contradicts that as Paul says that no Christian should be eating meat sacrificed to idols, stronger believers included.

Therefore, it is useful to add context and a bit of background to the situation the Corinthians were in. Theirs was a highly idolatrous society and the Christians in Corinth thought they could dip in and out of it and still be faithful to Christ. Not so, says Paul.

John MacArthur explains Paul’s reasoning (emphases mine below):

the Corinthian society was totally overwrought with demons, manifesting themselves behind these different idols; and idolatry was a part of everything, I mean everything. There couldn’t be any kind of public occasion or anything else that wasn’t connected with idols. That was their entire society just multiple gods; and everything they did practically within the social framework of the Corinthian society had idols in it.

And so the mature Christians, the Corinthian Christians, you know, who were the smug confident ones who had been around a while, they were saying this: “Hey, look. We’re in the society; we’re mature; we’ve been well-taught, apostle Paul’s taught us; we’ve studied under him for 18 months. We know our way around. Look, we’ve got to be a part of our society. We can go to the festivals, the social occasions, the ceremonies, and we can attend the celebrations of our society. We can get involved in all of those things; and we really don’t have to fear, because we’re so confident, we’re so mature that that stuff just doesn’t really bother us. And if we have to eat idol meat, meat offered to idols, that’s really no problem; we’re able to resist the temptation. And even if there is an orgy there, why, we’ll just sit in the corner and discuss theology. We’re not going to really get involved, and we’ll be strong enough to handle it.” And so everywhere these mature, smug, confident Corinthians went, they were exposing themselves to the whole gamut of idolatry that was around them and trying to stay separated. But could they?

“Look at Israel,” – Paul says – “look at them, hardly out of Egypt. And out in the desert there weren’t even any idols around; but the first opportunity they had, the first time their leader was gone, they reverted back to Egyptian idolatry.” And here were the Corinthians not like Israel in the wilderness, but living in the middle of idolatry. And if the Corinthians continually expose themselves to idolatry, they were constantly being a part of it. Believe me, it would creep right in.

Is Paul not overstating his case by talking about ‘demons’ in this context? No.

MacArthur says that there are several references to demons and idolatry in the Old Testament:

When you go out and do what the rest of the world does, when you participate in the rest of the world’s activities, you are communing with demons. That’s Paul’s whole point here. It’s demonic. Because Satan is the prince of this world, and because he rules in this world by the use of his demons, his demons move around and impersonate all the religious systems of the world. His demons fill and maintain all of the evil systems of this world. No matter what you get into, you’re communing with them, and you can’t avoid it. It’s a serious thing.

In Psalm 96:5, the Greek translation of that verse is this: “All the gods of the heathen are demons” – that’s the Septuagint, the Greek – “All the gods of the nations” – or – “All the God’s of the heathen are demons.” If they worship a false god, a demon will impersonate it. Deuteronomy 32:17 and Psalm 106:37 say the same thing, “They sacrifice to demons.” So, they’re fellowshipping with demons.

So, here you have a Christian. He’s over here, and he’s communing with the Lord, and he’s got the cup and the bread. Then he turns around and goes to an idol feast. And as soon as he enters that idol feast and participates, he becomes a communer with demons. A communer with demons.

This can be extended to other worldly things and activities, too. MacArthur has a bit in one of his sermons about sexual temptation in this context:

You say, “Well, I’m a Christian, I can handle it. I can go here and do that, and go here and do that.” You know, young people, it’s amazing. Young people always thing they’re in control of everything. “Well, you know, I can go out and park and, you know, I can handle it. I’m a Christian. We just get so far, and then we just start quoting Bible verses, you know. Yeah, we got a little program worked out, you know.” Yeah, sure. Or, listen, “It’s no problem for me. I can handle the girls in the office, no problem. I can have lunch with them and dinner with them; it doesn’t bother me a bit.” Mm-hmm, famous last words.

“Oh, yeah,” pastor says. “Oh, counseling women, no problem at all. No, none at all.” I just heard of a pastor who lost his pulpit because there were multiple dozens of women who had had sexual relations with him in counseling, I mean multiple dozens, folks. You can handle it? You better not push your freedom too far. Many Christians today have been rendered useless because they couldn’t handle sex. They’re out of the race to win people to Christ – shelved.

MacArthur discusses our society today, comparing it with that of the Corinthians:

Look at the morality of our day. The morality of the church has changed dramatically, and the reason it’s changed so dramatically is because we have been slowly brainwashed. Like fifty years ago, the morality of Christianity was much tighter, much more rigid, much more confined to the Scripture. And now, little by little, the morality of even “Christianity” begins to dissipate; and the reason is because we’re in a society that is destroying all morality, that is wiping out all morality, and consequently we find ourselves buying the bag. Just subliminally it approaches our minds, and before we know it we’ve got a watered down morality. And some of the things we would do, some of the places we would go wouldn’t even have been conceived of by Christians fifty years ago. The reason is we have slowly been brainwashed by the media.

Paul is, in a sense, saying to the Corinthians, “You can’t set yourself up as somebody who thinks he stands without potentially falling; and especially you’ll never be able to just waltz around your whole with idolatry and not have it affect you. You’re going to come up with a syncretism. You’re going to come up with a wedding between idolatry and true worship.”

Now verse 7, “Neither be idolaters, as were some of them,” notes that not all Israel worshipped at the golden calf; some of them did. It was an individual thing. Again, in dealing with Israel in the wilderness, remember everything that occurred was an individual thing. And so in Corinth the same thing was true.

Look at chapter 5, verse 11. Some Corinthian Christians were idolatrous. They had already made this wedding of Christianity to idol worship. Verse 11: “I’ve written unto you not to company if any man that is called a brother.” Now he’s talking about Christians. “Anybody called a brother” – or at least called himself a Christian – “be a fornicator,” – sexually evil – “a covetous, or an” – what? – “idolater, don’t have anything to do with him.” But apparently within the congregation of the Corinthian believers, there were some worshipping idols. You see, by fooling around with that, they couldn’t keep separated.

It slowly creeps in. It insidiously comes in. You can’t continue to expose yourself to that and not have it affect your theology and find a place there. The line gets blurred, folks. It just gets blurred he said. And idolatry suddenly creeps in when freedom is abused by getting too close to the contact.

Those are the reasons why Paul says to flee from idolatry (verse 14).

He leaves it to the Corinthians to judge for themselves the truth of that statement (verse 15).

Then he discusses Holy Communion. He asks whether taking the bread and the cup are not participation in the body and the blood of Christ (verse 16). Furthermore, do we not commune with each other when we participate in that holy sacrament together (verse 17)?

Paul is saying that Holy Communion is a solemn occasion, one that cannot be defiled with participation in idolatry later on in the day.

MacArthur explains the significance of Holy Communion:

One of the words, eucharisteō, from which you get the Eucharist, means to give thanks. It is to thank God for that cup. And so, the cup of blessing, that is the one the Lord blessed and set apart, is the one that we bless and thank God for.

Now, what is it? What is this cup? Verse 16 again, “Is it not the communion of the blood of Christ?” Now, when you drink the cup at the Lord’s Table – listen to this – you are communing with the blood of Christ. Now, we have to understand something, because this is very, very misunderstood. What does this mean? What does it mean to commune? It’s more than a symbol.

We say, “Well, this is a symbol of his blood.”

Well, listen to this. The cup of blessing which we bless, is it not the symbol of the blood of Christ? Is that what it says? No. It’s more than the symbol. It is the communion; it is the, if you will, in the Greek, participation, or it is the sharing. It’s an actual involvement that’s taking place when we take that cup. There is a spiritual reality going on there, far more than just a symbol.

For example, if you see a picture of somebody you love who has died, it isn’t just a picture. As soon as you look at the picture, the whole of that person is actualized in your mind. Right? All of a sudden, everything about that person is alive to you. I look at pictures of people that have gone on, and I have instant memories. My mind is flooded with reality. They are actualized. And communion is the same thing.

To partake of the elements actualizes Christ’s death; it makes it vivid; it makes it real; it intensifies my sensitivities to the reality of Christ dying for me. You see? It isn’t just a symbol; it is a symbol that is activated by the Spirit of God to make Christ’s death a living reality to me. That’s the idea of communion

Now, let’s go a step further, verse 16, “The bread” – or literally the loaf, to correspond more with cup – “The loaf which we break, is it not the communion of the body of Christ?”

Now, our Lord said of the bread, that last night, “This is My body, given for you.” Now body – now, I want to say something, too, that may be new to you – “body” in Hebrew thought refers to the totality of earthy life, earthiness, humanness. For example, the word for earth is adamah. The word for man is adam. It’s a form of adamah, because man was taken from the dirt. He is earthy. “And God took the dirt and formed a body.” Adam from adamah.

And that is the point that connects man to the ground, to the earth, to earthiness. We are human, and that is the significance of the body. When a Hebrew thought of the body, he thought of earthiness; he thought of man’s connection to the ground, to his humanness.

Now, note; when we commune with the bread, it is the body of Christ. This is not primarily a reference to the cross. Stick with me on it. It is not primarily a reference to the cross. By the bread we remember and commune with our Lord’s incarnation, His human life, his humanness. We remember that which makes Him a sympathetic High Priest, as well as a bleeding, dying Savior.

The communion, then, relates us to the living Christ who came and suffered and thought it not something to hold onto, to be equal with God, but found Himself in the fashion of a man, humbled Himself, and so forth. And He did it in order that He might become a sympathetic High Priest in all points, tempted like as – what? – we are. The bread reminds us of His life. The bread reminds us of His body, reminds us of His humanness.

God gave Himself to us as a human being in order that He might suffer what we suffer, in order that He might hurt where we hurt, in order that He might be tempted where we’re tempted, in order that He might succor us, in order that He might be our faithful, sympathetic, and Great High Priest

There is an actual communion that occurs. Let me show you what I mean. There is confusion about that, and there are different views of how that works. The word koinōnia there, communion in verse 16, is the word to participate. The verb means to share, or to partake of, or to participate, or to be a partner in. The noun koinōnia means participation, partnership, fellowship, communion.

As a Christian, we literally participate in Christ. First Corinthians 1:9 says we participate with the Son; 2 Corinthians 13, we participate with the Spirit; Philippians 2:1, we participate in the ministry; 2 Corinthians 8:4, we participate in the Gospel; Philippians 3, we participate in suffering. We are fellowshipping all the time with Christ, sharing Him, His Spirit, His ministry, His Gospel, His sufferings. And when we come to the Table, we participate in His death. We are sharing the benefits of His death. That’s what it means. We are sharing in the meaning of His death, the purpose of it, the point of it.

So, it’s more than just remembering; it’s sharing, fellowshipping, participating, partaking, communing. It’s like that picture I mentioned. We come to that, and you look at the cup, and you look at the bread, and they aren’t just a cup and bread. They aren’t even just symbols. All of a sudden, Christ is alive. All of a sudden, you are sensitized. And the reality of Christ is actualized in your mind, and you see His cross, and you see your union with Him, and you see His body, and you see it given in your behalf. And you see the fact that He lived, and He suffered, and He’s a sympathetic high priest. All of that is actualized

Everybody who comes to the Lord’s Table … not only enters into communion with Christ, but He enters into communion with everybody else who’s also at the Lord’s Table. Do you see what he’s saying? We all come to that one bread; we all partake of that one bread, so we all constitute one body. Communion then means we are actually communing with Christ and actually communing with everybody else who’s there.

Paul reminds the Corinthians of the way the Israelites worshipped together with regard to their sacrifices (verse 18).

MacArthur says:

Israel was involved in sacrificing. They were involved with each other, and they were involved with God. So, what is he saying then? Participation in religious ri[te]s has deep, spiritual meaning. It implies a real union between the worshippers and the one being worshipped. That’s what he’s saying. So, you can’t do this with idols without having that reality take place.

Israel brought sacrifices, a portion of which were consumed by the priests, a portion of which were burned on the altar. The rest were divided between the priest and the worshipping Jew. And there was a communion between the Jew, the priest, and God as they partook of the altar. Now, that’s Paul’s point. Worship is identification, communion with whoever’s being worshipped.

So, if you’re going to be like Israel, in verse 18, communion with the altar for the Jews meant fellowship with God and everybody else at the altar. Communion with Christ at the Lord’s Supper, for the Christian, means fellowship with Christ and everybody else at His Table.

Paul asks the question some of the Corinthians were asking: was an idol nothing at all (verse 19)? If not, then what was the problem?

Matthew Henry explains:

By following the principle on which they would argue it to be lawful, namely, that an idol was nothing. Many of them were nothing at all, none of them had any divinity in them. What was sacrificed to idols was nothing, no way changed from what it was before, but was every whit as fit for food, considered in itself. They indeed seem to argue that, because an idol was nothing, what was offered was no sacrifice, but common and ordinary food, of which they might therefore eat with as little scruple. Now the apostle allows that the food was not changed as to its nature, was as fit to be eaten as common food, where it was set before any who knew not of its having been offered to an idol.

However, Paul answers their question by saying that pagans were making sacrifices to false gods — demons — and not to God (verse 20). Therefore, Paul told the Corinthians they could not participate with demons.

Henry sums the verse up as follows:

Doing it is a token of your having fellowship with the demons to whom they are offered. I would not have you be in communion with devils.

Paul tells the Corinthians that they cannot worship at the Lord’s Table and worship demons (verse 21). The two are completely incompatible.

Paul ends by asking the Corinthians if they wish to provoke God to jealousy and if they think they are stronger than He (verse 22). God will not put up with rivals. And if we fall into His wrath, we will be the losers in that contest.

The Bible has numerous references to God’s ‘jealousy’. MacArthur lists them:

Do you want to make the Lord jealous? And in Deuteronomy 32:21 he said, “They have stirred me to jealousy with what is a no-god. They have provoked me with their idols.” If you want to stir God to jealousy, then you better be stronger than He is or you won’t be able to handle Him, because He deals very strongly with idolatry. All you got to do is read the Bible about that. You just read Deuteronomy 7, Deuteronomy 16, Deuteronomy 17, Jeremiah 25, Jeremiah 44; just read Revelation chapter 14, chapter 21, chapter 22. There are inferences in all of those places about the vengeance of God against idols and idol worshippers. The only way you’ll ever want to provoke God to jealousy is if you’re stronger than He is. It’s offensive to the Lord. He judges idol worshippers, and you won’t escape; no one ever has. It’s a dangerous place to be.

Paul concludes his thoughts on idolatry by telling the Corinthians to focus on doing everything for God’s glory. More on that next week.

Next time — 1 Corinthians 10:23-33

On January 21, 2020, the BBC’s radio and television presenter Victoria Derbyshire interviewed a Briton who lived as a woman for four years before returning to manhood.

Richard Hoskins tells his story here (two weeks left to view, probably geolocalised) and says of his life as a transsexual (emphasis in the original):

‘I used gender transition as a form of escape’

For four years, Richard Hoskins lived as a woman.

But he now believes it was a reaction to the trauma of losing three children, rather than relating to his gender identity.

He has now detransitioned, and tells the BBC’s Victoria Derbyshire that more must be done by the NHS to ensure others are properly assessed before treatment begins.

In the clip below, he explains that he had PTSD after the loss of his three children and from earlier sexual trauma as a child. Derbyshire, whose television news and chat show has recently been cancelled, kept showing him national guidelines saying that medical practitioners are following them to the letter. He counters her arguments by saying that what is needed before any of that takes place is one-on-one therapy, which he had after he had become a woman and felt increasingly uncomfortable.

Please watch this two-minute video (‘or’ in line two should read ‘of’):

In Britain, it is very difficult for medical practitioners not to eventually sign off on transsexual procedures. There is legal and professional pressure so to do.

The comments following that tweet are enlightening and show just how wrong ‘following the procedures’ can be:

It turns out that Richard Hoskins is actually Dr Richard Hoskins, a lecturer in theology and present-day criminologist.

He helped police in a horrific murder case that took place in London in 2001. A little boy, known only as ‘Adam’, had been mutilated and thrown into the Thames by Tower Bridge. He was close to being swept away into the North Sea. After Hoskins became involved, more similar cases in London came to light.

Hoskins wrote an award-winning book about it called The Boy in the River, available on Amazon, from which an excerpt of the synopsis follows:

Unable to identify the victim, the Murder Squad turned to Richard Hoskins, a young professor of theology with a profound understanding of African tribal religion, whose own past was scarred by a heartbreaking tragedy. Thus began a journey into the tangled undergrowth of one of the most notorious murder cases of recent years; a journey which would reveal not only the identity of the boy they called Adam but the horrific truth that a succession of innocent children have been ritually sacrificed in our capital city.Insightful and grippingly written, The Boy in the River is an inside account of a series of extraordinary criminal investigations and a compelling personal quest into the dark heart of humanity.

According to the highly interesting readers’ comments, in the book, Hoskins discusses his experiences as a missionary in the Congo. He seems to have spent part of his earlier life there before returning as an adult to spend six years there. His Wikipedia entry gives brief details about his life, mostly focussing on his career as a lecturer and, later, as a criminologist.

One reader wrote, in part:

Through this well written book, Dr Richard Hoskins takes us from his happy times in the Congo marked by devastating personal tragedy whilst living under the rule of an autocratic dictator and contrasts it with the Congo many years later, free of the dictator but with a disintegrating social fabric providing a void for new churches to fill using their corrupted fusion of Christianity with a brutalised version of previously benign traditional beliefs. The Congo that he used to know is not the one in which he is almost killed years later.

When Adam is pulled from the river the Police come to him seeking guidance in a belief system which seems so alien. Dr Hoskin’s personal story run’s parallel with the cases he provides help on, fighting to maintain his sanity and marriage in the face of the case reports he must read and interpret for the benefit of Police and Courts to make sure all understand this is not an Africa problem steeped in tradition but a terrible corruption by a minority in recent years of a faith that has lasted hundreds of years with the victims being dreadfully abused before, in the most extreme, death.

The Evening Standard‘s review said, in part:

As well as being an important book for all sorts of reasons, The Boy in the River is a remarkable one. The horror it evokes will be matched by a sense of disbelief that such appalling things are happening, now, in London. What makes it all the more powerful is the deliberately measured manner in which it is written. Throughout, there s a sense that Hoskins is struggling to maintain his own equilibrium, his own sanity even, as he explores what he calls, with ample justification, the darkest underbelly of human nature.

It is worth emphasising that only a small percentage of the Congo’s Christians practice such brutal syncretism involving ritual child abuse and sacrifice.

Yet, from this, it is understandable why Hoskins was traumatised.

From this we can see that the urge to change one’s sexuality or remove body parts is complex. Not everyone has as involved a past as Dr Hoskins, however, therapy should be strongly advised in such cases before further action is taken.

There are other ways to come to terms with one’s highly personal conflicts:

I hope that Hoskins and others in the same situation continue to speak openly.

A few days ago, and by chance, I happened across a 2016 documentary called Hell Across The Border, by Walid Shoebat’s Rescue Christians organisation.

WARNING: The following is not for children, impressionable adults or those who have recently suffered trauma.

If you do not know who Walid Shoebat is, he was a radicalised Muslim until 1994. He has since become a Christian. Also:

As a member of the PLO I was involved in terror activity, and was imprisoned in Jerusalem for three weeks. In prison, I was recruited to plant a bomb in Bethlehem as a result of which, thank God, no one was injured. My mother was an American and my father a Palestinian Arab. My parents sent me in 1978 to the United States to study at Loop College in Chicago Illinois. There I was recruited at a hotel “Terror Conference” by Jamal Said, a founder of the IAP (Islamic Association of Palestine) and Imam at one of the largest mosques in Chicago. The IAP was a forerunner to today’s Hamas terror organization and also to the terror front group CAIR (Council for American Islamic relations). This was in the early 1980s when I was being trained for Jihad activities in the USA along with many other young foreigners as well as US citizens. The Imams were the prime recruiters for terrorism then as they are still today and terror conferences are held all over the USA to this day.

And:

Now that you have brief details of my background, I would like to offer my expert opinion, if you can call me an expert – but perhaps an experienced former terrorist would be more appropriate.

This brings us to Hell Across The Border, a documentary that is nearly three hours long. I was startled to learn of the barbarity that takes place in Mexico. Walid’s son Theodore interviewed participants at length.

At the end of April, I wrote a few posts about MS-13, the gang that developed from partiers from El Salvador who emigrated with their parents to Los Angeles in the 1970s to a fearsome, satanic international menace.

Shoebat’s documentary takes us further into the whys and wherefores of not only MS-13 but also Mexican drug cartels and their deep reach into Mexican society:

This is a very well made documentary. Any Christians who want to make factual films would do well to pick up on cinematography and sound mixes from this video, which is very professional. The people who put this together did a stellar job. It’s much better than any production shown on television or at the cinema.

The film intersperses many Catholic images of sanctity with gang-led bodily dismemberments. Starting around the 40-minute point, we hear various interviews from two Latino law enforcement officers in Los Angeles, an ex-gang member who served multiple prison sentences in California, a Catholic priest in Mexico and the Mexican spokesman for a citizen’s self-defence group.

The cinematography is stunning both in its brutality and its beauty. The viewer sees contrasting images of churches and statues with bloody beheadings. One hears Gregorian chants contrasted with folk songs. The second half of the documentary features monarch butterflies enjoying their freedom while self-defence troops patrol highways and farms south of the border of the United States.

For these reasons and more, the film is shocking. I had to take frequent breaks when watching it.

That said, I strongly recommend this to anyone who is ignorant of drug cartels, associated gangs and empathetic to drug use and revisionist ‘Mexican’ culture. I put ‘Mexican’ in quotes, because what is being put forth is not quite the truth, as the Latino law enforcement officers explain in the film.

A whole cult has developed around Mexican culture and the Aztecs. When I took Spanish classes at university a few decades ago, our history book did not glorify the Aztecs as martyrs. Events were presented objectively. They were no saints. Nor were the Spanish conquistadors.

However, over the past few decades or so, revisionist history has made the Aztecs out to be peaceful victims of the conquistadores.

The film demonstrates that each was as bad as the other. The Latinos in the film attest to that.

A summary of the documentary follows. Start at 40 minutes in for the subtitled dialogue.

The Aztecs had a female deity, Tonantzin, who was a Mother Earth goddess. One day in 1531, Mary — the mother of Christ — appeared as what has become known as Our Lady of Guadelupe to a man named Juan Diego.

Tonantzin had a special temple dedicated to her. Our Lady of Guadelupe made her appearance at the same place, on the hill of Tepeyac, not far from today’s Mexico City.

In recent years, Tonantzin has come to represent violence and evil in the form of Santa Muerte, Holy Death. Her veneration was a clandestine one initially. Some say it opened up in the 1940s. Others date it later, around 1965.

Whatever the date, the cult around Santa Muerte grew and grew. The law enforcement officers in the film, both of whom are devout Catholics, say that Santa Muerte is actually a satanic goddess who not only represents the opposite of Our Lady of Guadelupe but is also the closest to the Aztec Tonantzin.

The film shows statues of Santa Muerte. Most represent her as the Virgin Mary but with a skull instead of the saintly, pure face of Jesus’s mother.

In addition, various rituals have developed around Santa Muerte and satanism. The law enforcement officers and the ex-gang member said they had seen evidence of them not only with MS-13 but other gangs and cartels.

The ex-gang member recalled that he went to a house where he was to pick up some drugs. The men in the house told him to go to the garage. He did so and found a body on the floor surrounded by candles and satanic emblems.

One of the law enforcement officers said that a Catholic priest called him to report that the Eastertide Paschal candle from his church had been stolen. The law enforcement officer received a tip off, went to the designated address, and found the candle there. The residents nonchalantly told him he could take it back to the church. They had performed their ritual. The law enforcement officer said that there were cannabis joints all over the floor.

He also went to another gang member’s house where every room was painted black. There were pentagrams, upside-down crosses and other satanic emblems on the walls.

Some gang members wear pentagrams along with their tattooed affiliations. Pentagrams also circulate amongst gang members in prison.

Homosexuality is also rife among gang members. The ex-gang member related a story of young gang prisoners raping an older prisoner who was unable to fight them off. The ex-gang member took matters into his own hands and dealt with the young prisoners in a violent manner to end the brutality.

The two law enforcement officers said that the Latino pro-Aztec satanists oppose the Catholic faith, not that of the Protestants. That is because they oppose Our Lady of Guadalupe’s appearance to the Aztec in the 16th century — in holy opposition to their goddess.

This opposition manifests itself in several forms. Gang members desecrate and steal from Catholic churches. Gangs forbid their members from attending Mass and receiving the sacraments. Gangs also desecrate Catholic cemeteries. They have even exhumed bodies for satanic rituals.

A young law enforcement officer said that when cartels make an agreement with each other, a young woman has to be mutilated in order for the deal to be satanically blessed. This involves cutting her facial lips and genital labia. How horrible is that?

It is also common for gangs to drink the blood of those they have murdered, in an animalistic know-your-prey way.

All of this occurs in Mexico, other Latin American countries and, now, the United States.

One of the law enforcement officers cautioned against any religious sympathy for gang members from El Salvador with tattoos of their country’s name. He said that El Salvador was named for Christ — The Saviour — however, to gang members, El Salvador is merely a national identity, nothing more. These men — and their female accomplices — are not the good Catholics average Americans think they are.

The ex-gang member said that he and his fellow members are not allowed to read the Bible or to attend church services. He said that one of his fellow prison inmates had a satanic bible. The ex-gang member himself prayed to Satan at one point, asking him for a better life. He said he felt bad having done such a thing and admitting to it on film.

He said that he converted to Christianity when he finally realised that Satan would not bring him a better life. He started thinking about the Ten Commandments and how Satan’s commandments are the complete opposite for each of them.

One of the law enforcement officers said that, with the revisionist thinking about the Aztecs — heavily promoted in schools and Mexican culture, including in the US — it is not unusual to find strange murders. He cited a murder of a nun by a priest. He said the priest was a satanist. Unfortunately, he explained, it is not unusual to find Mexican or Mexican-American satanists in the Church as well as in the legal and medical professions.

He explained that priests in Mexico sometimes have to go into hiding.

Monstrance stisidore-yubacityorgPriests who can circulate freely must be careful how and when they display certain items, such as a monstrance, which is particularly valued in gangland satanic rituals.

Prison chaplains, even in some American prisons, must also be careful about distribution of Holy Communion. Gang members steal the hosts for desecration rituals.

Those people following the revisionism on Aztec culture adhere to an Aztec calendar with all the Aztec pagan feasts and rituals. These are not folk feasts or rituals, even if they are portrayed as such. They are bloody. The film shows animal and human sacrifices. This is not unlike voodoo. The law enforcement agent said that certain aspects of Santería and Macumba have been incorporated into modern Aztec ritual sacrifices.

For these reasons, the law enforcement official said he was sorry to see Mexican-American students recruited to join MEChA — Movimiento Estudiantil Chicanx de Aztlán — which, he said, promotes Aztec revisionism. The ex-gang member deplored it, too, saying that he has the impression that MEChA’s attitude is:

If you’re not brown, you’re not down.

The law enforcement officer said that Mexican governments have historically wanted to destroy the Catholic Church, even though 98% of Mexicans consider themselves Catholic. He said that most of the Mexican presidents have been Freemasons who despise the Church. He mentioned Plutarco Elías Calles‘s anti-religious Calles Law, which was in force between 1926 and 1938. Incidentally, the Calles Law brought about the Cristero War, a peasant uprising against the government that lasted for three years (1926-1929). The Calles Law was, sadly, successful in bringing down the number of priests in Mexico from 4,500 in 1926 to 334 by 1934.

The middle of the film had a brief interview with a Catholic priest in Mexico who said he had to be very careful about his daily activities. He said he knew of fellow priests who had gone into hiding or who were killed by gangs.

The second half of the film focusses on the Autodefensas, armed civilian self-defence teams that protect farmers, farm workers and their families from gang violence.

Jose Vazquez Valencia, the current spokesman for the Autodefensas, explained how they originated to fight off the Knights Templar Cartel in Michoacán, the centre of avocado and lime growing in Mexico. In one battle, they were able to kill 60 Templars.

The Knights Templar, Vazquez said, extort millions of dollars from landowning farmers there each year. If a farmer cannot afford to pay — sometimes $1m per annum — the Knights Templar abduct women, especially girls, from the family home. Sometimes they kill whole families, from babies up through grandparents. In one instance, they murdered then buried one family in a pit along with three of their farmhands: 18 people.

In another video, Vazquez tells the horrific story of the village that somehow got on the wrong side of another criminal group, the Guerreros Unidos. Members abducted a 14-year old boy, cut his heart out and brought it to the village square, where everyone had to turn up to watch a satanic ritual with the heart. Guerreros Unidos then forced the villagers to leave their homes — for good. Otherwise, the gang threatened to decapitate the local women! Skip the first few minutes of the video. Vazquez appears at 3:36:

Returning to the film, this is how the vigilante groups — the Autodefensas — came to exist.

José Manuel Mireles Valverde, a physician from Michoacán, is considered to be the Autodefensas founder. He was their initial spokesman. In 2014, he was arrested and jailed for allegedly violating Mexico’s federal firearm and explosives law. Although the attorney general dropped charges against him last year, Mireles remains in jail.

Jose Vazquez Valencia, the current spokesman for the Autodefensas, says that some of these vigilante groups vary by state. In the state of Michoacán, they work well. However, in other Mexican states, they have been compromised either by the government or the cartels.

He also said that the relationship between state governments and the cartels varies. In some cases, the government controls the cartels. In other states, the cartels control the government.

The activities of the Guerreros Unidos illustrate this well:

The capture of an alleged Guerreros Unidos financial chief in October 2014, for example, revealed that the group allegedly spent close to $45,000 a month to pay off local police in the municipality of Iguala alone. These local ties could make it more difficult for Mexican authorities to target the group.

I would like to call your attention to three articles that Walid Shoebat wrote about this unbelievably horrific development in Mexico. Although those interviewed in the film say that these gangs are anti-Christian, Shoebat says that there is a syncretism involved, some of which comes from fringe American preachers. He has evidence that there are pseudo-Catholic and pseudo-Protestant crime organisations.

In November 2015, no doubt while his son Theo was busy interviewing the men who participated in the film, Walid said that the Templars are a pseudo-Protestant cartel. People must not be deceived by the Christian window dressing of any of these criminal syndicates. Read ‘BOMBSHELL: There Are Massacres Of Christians Happening Right Now That Is Worse Than What ISIS Is Doing And Is Carried Out By Psuedo-Christian Cults’ in its entirety. These death cults are now in the United States. The FBI is warning people not to get drawn in by something that purports to be religious but is, in fact, satanic ritual.

In April 2016, Theodore Shoebat wrote about the type of people entering the United States via Mexico. Although the title mentions Muslims, the article discusses the ease the cartels have in crossing the border (emphases mine):

The nations of the West have been quite weak with their borders in so many disturbing ways. The US, for example, makes it difficult for good people to enter the borders, but easy for evil people to get through the borders. We have Mexican cartel agents entering with ease into the US, but [as for] good Mexicans who want to flee from the oppressions of the cartels, it is very difficult for them to enter legally.

This is hardly the way crossing the border was portrayed in a 2017 Super Bowl advert with the young mother and child. Of course, they were met with a wall. I have other evidence — the subject of a future post — which says that cartels control every border crossing. No one gets through without their approval.

Theodore’s article also discusses the aforementioned Guerreros Unidos, who, the US DEA (Drug Enforcement Agency) says are among the primary drug distributors in the Midwest — especially in Chicago and elsewhere in Illinois.

The final article, from May 2016, introduces the film. In ‘Actual Human Slaughterhouses Are Being Conducted Where Masses Of Human Beings Are Being Ritually Slaughtered’ Walid Shoebat says that at least 250,000 Mexicans have died in these murders:

And if we include all the unreported sacrifices, the death-toll probably doubles. Mexicans and the Pope can forget blaming Trump and start blaming themselves for allowing the leaven to slowly fester into their Christian culture.

Also:

Cults can occupy entire states. And we are not speaking of a primitive people here, but a decay to primitive paganism, the Mesoamerican paganism, that was continually pushed for decades at university campuses.

Walid concludes:

To the Vatican that blames Donald Trump, we say, behold, the fruits of your slumber. The Pope’s visit to Mexico withheld the truth on the ground and was nothing but photo ops with complete silence.

To the American addict, behold, the fruits of your addictions.

To all the Mexicans who thought that a ‘peace deal’ can be struck with drug pushers, preferring Santa Muerte over our Lady of Guadalupe; narcocorridos songs over the classical, sublime and rustic Son Jarocho behold, the blood which is on your hands.

To a world that thinks it is simply a “drug problem”, behold, the fruits of your myth, busted at the seam. The problem is your godlessness.

Please join me in praying that people turn to Christ so that this horrific, bloody ritualism stops. And please tell youngsters in your care that drugs harm the mind and the soul. If the West hadn’t such an appetite for drugs, Mexico and the US wouldn’t be in this predicament.

Two years ago, the Revd Conrad Mbewe, pastor of Kabwata Baptist Church in Zambia, spoke at John MacArthur’s Strange Fire conference.

Pastor Mbewe spoke about the Charismatic movement in Africa for the conference. The Grace to You ministry team has published an article he wrote on the same subject.

A summary and excerpts follow, emphases mine. Please also read the comments. This movement is popular on other continents where shamanism is popular, e.g. some Asian countries (Korea) and South America.

Why the Charismatic movement is popular in Africa

Mbewe introduces his article by saying that the Pentecostalism practised in Africa is not the traditional, old fashioned one, but a syncretic one which merges with ancient animist beliefs.

Let me explain what I mean. The African spiritual worldview consists of four tiers.

1. God
2. Angels and demons
3. Ancestral spirits
4. Human beings

It is because of this reality that Africans do not question the existence of God, as is the case with many people in the Western world. To an African, God is there. He is the Creator and ultimate Governor and Benefactor of the whole universe …

So, although God is a benevolent, loving, and caring Being, unless the beings that dwell in these two layers that lie between him and us are appeased, his blessings cannot reach us. It is, therefore, important to appease the ancestral spirits and defeat the demons. Only after that will God’s blessings come upon us.

Christians practising a Westernised form of the faith rely on private prayer, Bible study and structured worship, with a focus on Jesus Christ as our only Mediator and Advocate. However, many churchgoers in Africa look for a ‘holy’ man living among them who can accomplish this mediation. Historically, this was the witchdoctor.

The witchdoctor was the key to relieving health problems, difficult relationships and ridding demons from people’s lives:

So, a person who is beset with perennial illnesses, failing to get a job, failing to find a spouse or to have children, whose business is failing to thrive, etc., simply goes to the witchdoctor who alone has the key to look into the spirit world. He is told that it is either a deceased person or an evil spirit who is frustrating him.

Sometimes the enemy is a person who is alive. However, the reason why this living individual seems to have a mysterious hold over your life is because he has plugged into those two layers (of either dead ancestors or evil spirits) and you have not. With the help of a powerful witchdoctor you can outsmart him in those two layers, and the blessings of God can once again begin to flow into your life.

Mbewe makes two important observations:

Whichever way, the power of the witchdoctor is not in explaining truth but in mindless frenzy.

Of course, this is never done by benevolence. You pay for his services.

In many African churches, a ‘man of God’ has replaced the witchdoctor but not completely:

I do not mean to be unkind, but what the modern Charismatic movement in Africa has done is to simply take this entire erroneous superstructure of African religious worldview and baptise it with wrongly applied Bible verses and Christian language. The only difference is that the layer of dead ancestors and evil spirits is now one hotchpotch of confusion. This is why the nonsense of demons becoming spirit husbands and wives, and wrecking havoc in marriages, is taken for granted! This is also why the heresy of generation curses has become so popular. In our minds, bad luck can be passed on from that layer of dead ancestors.

Africans are flocking to church not because of salvation as much as resolving personal issues via the pastor:

So, when blessings are not flowing our way despite our prayers, we make a beeline to his quarters or his church for help. This explains the throngs in these circles. The crowds are not looking for someone to explain to them the way to find pardon with God. No! They want the “man of God” to pray for them

This also explains why the answer to almost any problem that you take to these “men of God” is “deliverance” and “breakthrough”. God wants to bless you, but you need to break through these impregnable layers before those blessings can reach you. The prayers of the “man of God” will bring deliverance because at the overnight prayer meeting or on the hill he will bring about a breakthrough. Who can doubt that these two phrases have become the key words of this movement?

He warns us off ‘prayer warriors’ for this reason:

prayer in the modern Charismatic movement in Africa is literally a fight. In fact, the people praying are called “prayer warriors”. Although they begin by addressing God, within the first few seconds they divert from God and begin to fight the spirits in these impregnable layers with their bare knuckles. The language is almost always, “We bind every unclean spirit in Jesus’ name! We loose the Spirit that breaks the yoke in Jesus’ name!” 

At some point, they seemingly ‘prevail’ over the bad spirits:

That is when they reach through to God and his blessings begin to flow. This is nothing more than the African traditional religious worldview sprinkled with a thin layer of Christianity.

Another dangerous and false teaching is ignoring a proper explanation of the Bible and hammering home the same few verses out of context:

teaching is not the strength of the modern Charismatic movement in Africa. Its chief proponents survive on a few, well-worn, tortured verses: “By his stripes we are healed,” “We are not the tail but the head,” etc. There is absolutely no effort to properly exegete Scripture. Rather, by chanting phrases and making people drop under some trance, in witchdoctor fashion, they are holding sway over the popular mind. The people love it and are paying for it! The “men of God” are becoming stinking rich as the crowds just keep on coming

Not Christianity

Mbewe says that we should discourage the expansion of this movement because it is not Christian but syncretic:

I know that this approach is filling our church buildings and classrooms to overflowing, until we have to multiply church services in order to accommodate the crowds. But this is not Christianity. It does not lead to heaven. It is a thin coating over the religion that has been on African soil for time immemorial, which Christianity was meant to replace. We have lost the Christian faith while we are holding the Bible in our hands and using some of its words. This is really sad.

He asks us to remember the central tenet of Christianity, one not preached in these ‘churches’:

The religion of the Bible does not teach a God who is so far away from us that unless some powerful humans come in and give us a breakthrough he cannot bless us. No! The Bible teaches a God who is near us. The only barrier between God and us is our sin, and Jesus has dealt with that by his death on the cross.

When we pray, we are in the throne room of divine grace talking directly to God. We do not need to address demons and ancestral spirits before we break through to him. We do not need to chant and jump around like witchdoctors around their fire under the midnight moonlight. God is our heavenly Father. Only our sin can hinder our prayers.

This is true. However, the truth does not ‘tickle the ears’.

We can but pray for true men of God to spread the reality of the Gospel.

Witchcraft murders in the UK

Over the past several years, we have had a few violent, systematic deaths by torture in the UK. There have also been cases of abandonment. These have to do with witchcraft. Some of these crimes are possibly committed under animistic belief. Others, however, are related to Christian Africans.

Victoria Climbie’s horrific torture and death in 2005 is probably the best known case. Authorities were reluctant to intervene because her guardians were African. The BBC has documented other cases. Ibidapo came to the UK from Nigeria at the age of ten to work for relatives:

Each time the children got sick my aunty would accuse me of being the one responsible for their illness, start calling me a witch, start beating me up, and there was a time that she took me down to church, to a pastor. They were calling me a witch, they were using a broom to beat me.

Sometimes my aunty would look into my eyes and call me a witch. It made me feel rejected, like I’m nobody.

Fortunately, a Nigerian neighbour helped her to escape a horrible situation.

Debbie Ariyo, founder of Africans Unite Against Child Abuse, told the BBC that stepchildren are often targets of abuse. It is not unusual for pastors to single them out during public worship. The object is to make money via ‘deliverance’:

She added that within churches there was often a financial motivation behind accusations.

“The pastor says there’s a witch in this church today; looks around and points to a child.

“That means public humiliation for the family. The next step is exorcism which is not done for free. It’s a money-making scam.”

The Daily Mail also featured articles on African church-led child abuse. One of them described the violence a little girl from Angola endured:

In 2005, three people originally from Angola were found guilty at the Old Bailey of torturing an eight-year-old girl they thought was a witch. The cruelty started when a boy told his mother that the girl had been practising witchcraft.

The girl was starved, cut with a knife and hit with a belt and shoes to ‘beat the Devil out of her’. She had chilli peppers rubbed in her eyes and, at one stage, was put into a laundry bag to be thrown into the river. She was saved from drowning only when one of the perpetrators warned that they would be sent to prison if caught and they decided against it.

This child, an orphan, was the victim of trafficking, like Adam [another horrifying case where his body was found dismembered in the Thames] she was brought into the UK from Angola by her aunt, who had passed her off as her daughter.

A few years ago, we read of the death of Kirsty Bamu, a teenage boy tortured because a relative thought he was a witch. Tragically, this took place on Christmas Day 2010. The Huffington Post carried news of the trial in 2012:

A teenager begged to die after being tortured by relatives wielding hammers, pliers and chisels who were convinced he was a witch, a court heard on Thursday.

Kristy Bamu was subjected to a “prolonged attack of unspeakable savagery and brutality” by his older sister and her partner. The 15-year-old had suffered 101 injuries by the time he died on Christmas Day in 2010, jurors heard.

Kristy’s brother-in-law Eric Bikubi his partner Magalie Bamu, both 28, forced Kristy’s other siblings to join in with the horrific torture, according to prosecutors. Kristy’s face and head were covered in deep cuts and bruises and his teeth had been removed, the court was told.

Brian Altman QC, prosecuting, accused Bamu and Bikubi of beating, torturing and drowning Kristy after they accused him of witchcraft and sorcery.

The Daily Mail also reported on some of the testimony given:

Kelly [Kristy’s sister] said: ‘They started talking about kindoki, witchcraft and this and that. It was as if they were obsessed by witchcraft and then it became absolutely unbearable.

‘They asked if we were witches. I repeated again and again and again that we were not witches. I did not know what was going on in their minds. They decided we had come there to kill them.’

Kelly said they had been made to fast, pray all night to remove the kindoki and hold a vigil over the next few days. Then Bikubi had allegedly said he would get the truth out of them with a stick.

She said angrily: ‘He began to hit Kristy while my sister was watching and didn’t do anything.

‘I begged him, we didn’t do anything, we are innocent. She didn’t argue at all. It was as if it was completely normal. She was just sitting there as a spectator.

He hit and hit Kristy. He was not feeling well, He was having trouble breathing and he fell over. As far as Eric and Magalie were concerned, that was the kindoki coming out of him …’

Conclusion

These beliefs and practices — under the banner of Christianity — are un-Christian, dangerous and fatal both to the body and the soul.

Let us pray that African churches and congregations discover the truth of the Gospel and salvation through our only Mediator and Advocate, Christ Jesus.

It’s been a long time since I’ve tagged a post with ‘Church of Gaia’.

Yet, this syncretic sinfulness remains alive and well.

My reader Underground Pewster recently wrote about prayer petitions from the Episcopal Church’s Blue Book, likely to be used at their General Convention which started on June 25, 2015 and ends on July 3, 2015.

What he cites reads as if it were written by people who have a death wish for humanity (emphases in the original):

Most of what follows comes from the SUPPLEMENTAL MATERIALS From the STANDING COMMISSION ON LITURGY AND MUSIC (SCLM)

A Litany for the Planet: 

On rocks and minerals that form the foundations for life,
Creator, have mercy.
On volcanoes and lava flows that reveal the power of earth’s core,
Creator, have mercy…

I for one pray that God will show no mercy on volcanoes and lava flows. Was that prayer written by the guys who run the lava flow cruises or helicopter rides in Hawaii?

On micro-organisms of endless variety, the complex and the simple,
Creator, have mercy (
pp 248-9)

I hoped this one would go away when I pointed it out three years ago, but I guess we will soon be praying for multidrug resistant tuberculosis along with botulism, salmonella, and HIV.

Too right! What are these people thinking?

And it gets worse. The Blue Book promotes syncretism — combining Christianity with other religions’ deities — strictly anathema. In this case, the Episcopal Church has a prayer to the Native American Great Spirit, Gitchi Manadoo. It can be found in the Blue Book on p. 243 in “Prayers of the People Honoring God in Creation”, Form 2. Briefly:

[Gichi Manidoo,] Great Spirit God,
we give you thanks for another day on this earth.
We give you thanks for this day
to enjoy the compassionate goodness of you, our Creator.

Whoa!

Underground Pewster investigated further and discovered the following information on native-languages.org. Two brief excerpts follow, with more on Pewster’s admirable post:

Gitchi Manitou is the great creator god of the Anishinaabe and many neighboring Algonquian tribes. The name literally means Great Spirit, a common phrase used to address God in many Native American cultures.
As in other Algonquian tribes, the Great Spirit is abstract, benevolent, does not directly interact with humans, and is rarely if ever personified in Anishinabe myths–

Also:

It is Gitchi Manitou who created the world, though some details of making the world as we know it today were delegated to the culture hero Nanabozho.

Hmm.

We do need to be careful about whom we are addressing our prayers and supplications. Although certain tribes consider the Great Spirit and the Christian God to be the same, He is not.

Another thing Episcopalians would do well to remember is that (emphases mine in purple):

the same SCLM geniuses who are foisting Gitchi Manitou on us are the ones who prepared the liturgies for same sex marriages

Underground Pewster followed this post up with a round-up of Episcopalian Summer Solstice services which appeal to their inner Druid.

To show the falsehood of such services, Pewster has helpfully provided a lengthy quote from St Augustine of Hippo’s Confessions, part of which is cited below. Those unfamiliar with Augustine’s personal story should note that he came to Christianity well into adulthood after years of libertinism and paganism. This is part of what he wrote about Creation:

I asked the earth; and it answered, “I am not He;” and whatsoever are therein made the same confession. I asked the sea and the deeps, and the creeping things that lived, and they replied, “We are not thy God, seek higher than we.” … I asked the heavens, the sun, moon, and stars: “Neither,” say they, “are we the God whom thou seekest.” And I answered unto all these things which stand about the door of my flesh, “Ye have told me concerning my God, that ye are not He; tell me something about Him.” And with a loud voice they exclaimed, “He made us.” … I asked the vast bulk of the earth of my God, and it answered me, “I am not He, but He made me.”

As Christians, it is essential that we remember the Creation story in Genesis, Jesus’s references to God as Creator in the Gospels and keep St Augustine’s quote in the forefront of our minds.

May we never fall into the trap of syncretic worship and break the First Commandment.

Thanks to the Episcopalian Underground Pewster for revealing that a number of churches and Christian institutions in the West celebrated Summer Solstice (June 21) with special services.

It is shocking to read.

Underground Pewster reminds us of St Paul’s message to the Galatians (KJV):

Ye observe days, and months, and times, and years. I am afraid of you, lest I have bestowed upon you labour in vain. (Galatians 4:10-11)

This is the legacy of 1980s New Ageism which has now infected Christianity.

The New Testament condemn religious syncretism — the blending of beliefs which are opposed to Christianity, just as the Old Testament also forbade the corruption of the Jewish faith with idolatry.

Talk about breaking the first Commandment:

Thou shalt have no other gods before me. (Exodus 20:3)

In discussing Christian liberty in general terms, Heidelblog’s Dr R Scott Clark writes:

The moral law as expressed at Sinai (Exod 20; Deut 5) is God’s law clothed in Mosaic-Old Covenant, typological language. Shorn of the typology (e.g., the saturday sabbath and the land promise), it is the creational pattern for the Christian life. Before Moses there was creation and that law was given as part of the creational pattern to govern human life. It is not temporary. It is not typological. It is a reflection of God’s nature and the revelation of his moral will for all of his creatures and especially those who confess the Christian faith. Remember, it is in the New Covenant, not the old, that we read that sin is lawlessness (1John 3:4). We are not free to commit idolatry, or worship God in any other way than he has commanded in his Word, to abuse God’s holy name, to break the Christian Sabbath, to defy divinely instituted authority, to murder, to commit sexual immorality, to steal, to bear false witness, or to covet.

God’s moral law is the divinely revealed, objective standard of Christian ethics and morality. In this way it is both the norm and the charter of Christian liberty … This is why we should remember Paul’s condemnation of well-intentioned “will worship,” i.e., those religious practices that seem right to us but that God has not commanded. That is the way of slavery.

The law of God is also the objective standard for determining what glorifies God. In other words, there are not two moral standards, e.g., what God has commanded and what glorifies God. They are one and the same. We do not have to intuit or guess what glorifies God. Doing what he has commanded brings glory to his name.

As yesterday’s post said, a small yet significant number of notional Christians have been moving into more extreme movements and churches in recent years.

Since I started this blog over four years ago, I’ve read more about groups old and new attracting more adherents to live a ‘holier’ life in Christ.

Of course, there is the centuries-old pietism, a questionable reaction to established churches in Germany, Scandinavia and Britain. A number of smaller sects, cults and independent borrowed heavily from it, as did some strands of Methodism. The Holiness churches are one example of this blending.

More recent movements are the curious Islamic-inspired family-centred movements which appoint the father as God’s representative of the household, dictating what wife and children may or must do and when. This includes the veiling of women in church and the lack of higher education available to female members of a household. The running of the house assumes an Islamic template in the use of corporal punishment by husbands on wives.

There is also an odd syncretism of Catholicism and Protestantism in the Federal Vision (FV) movement which over the past several years has become a fringe attraction for a small number of Calvinists in Flyover Country. Clergy dress like Catholic priests. A clear and reactionary ‘complementarianism’ of male and female roles is encouraged. Theonomy is a big theme; if only we could help Christ establish His kingdom — He needs our help (no!). Splinter FV groups advocate strict racial separation; the misguided get so mixed up in this that they do not hesitate to relocate in order to follow one of these pastors, who ends up establishing his own church because a Reformed denomination has rightly put him out to pasture.

And, in the midst of all this is the late 20th century Messianic Christianity: the Hebrew Roots Movement, Jews for Jesus, Sacred Name Movement and suchlike. Their followers are what the Epistles of Paul and Book of Acts referred to as Judaizers. I’ll get to that in a moment.

First, however, continuing from yesterday’s post, the Reformed minister Reed DePace wrote more on the subject for Green Baggins. DePace has strong views on the subject of the Hebrew Roots Movement, as he has a family friend — a former orthodox Protestant — who has begun following them. He has also counselled other families who became involved in this movement.

In ‘Gentle-Hardness with the Hebrew Roots Movement’, DePace writes (emphases in bold mine):

Let me say up front that the more I hear from proponents of the HRM the more I am persuaded it is a modern form of the Pharisaical-Judaizing heresy condemned in Scripture. More broadly I think these criticisms also apply to a large part of the Messianic Christianity movement (MCM). This follows because the HRM is both a child of the MCM and is the deep doctrinal well which waters the growth of the MCM. I recognize that there exist Messianic Jews who shun with horror the errors of the HRM and more broadly those in the MCM. My criticisms do not apply to them.

In my own pastoral calling I’ve have had to help families affected by the HRM/MCM. It was this need that first prompted my study of this subject a couple of years back. In part I sympathize with those attracted to the HRM/MCM. I acknowledge and affirm their desire for a better relationship with God.

One of the greatest sadnesses in my community is the problem of gospel-presumptive Christians. These are not nominal Christians, folks who are nothing more than culturally Christian. No, these are folks for whom Christianity is a regular part of their everyday life. They have a rudimentary grasp of the basics of the gospel. Yet they have little practical understanding of how to live by the gospel (Rom 1:16-17, Gal 2:20, Col 2:6-7, etc.). As a result they are left to trying to live the Christian life through the use of their own resources (i.e., living by sight, not by faith; 2Co 5:7). So when such folks run across a new (old) teaching that promises a whole new experience of God’s power; that offers out the fulfillment of Jesus’ promise of the abundant life (John 10:10), it is understandable how the HRM can be attractive to them.

The problem is that what is attracting them is not a better understanding of the gospel at all but something straight from the pit of Hell.

I was surprised to read in his third post, ‘Of Tzitzits, Tallits and Traditions’, that some of these HRM adherents — men — are wearing Jewish prayer garments.

In anglicized Hebrew the prayer shawl is called a tallit, the tassels are called tzitzits. Sit down with any Messianic Christian who uses a tallit with tzitzits and ask them to explain the practice. Very quickly they will be offering you arguments based on men’s traditions – NOT the Scriptures ...

It is hard to understand how this practice of the Mosaic Law is nothing more than a tradition of man. Therefore, to insist that in any manner its practice is even advisable for Christians, is to teach as holy what Jesus condemned as wicked.

DePace adds in the comments:

Spend some time looking at websites these folks frequent and you’ll see that they are teaching a new version of the old Pharisaical heresy, to wit that Torah keeping is still required of Christians. They can dress it up, massage it, tweak it any way they wish. At the bottom of all their arguments is this simple teaching: Torah keeping is necessary for the Christian in his relationship with God.

A commenter, JGIG, observes:

Also important to note here is that Torah folk are not focused on passing on the Life of Christ to the Lost; they are primarily focused on teaching Christians to become Torah observant. You will not hear them tell of spreading the Gospel to the nations, but of spreading Torah to the nations. The spreading of the Gospel, the message of the forgiveness of sins and the free gift of eternal life that the Apostles constantly risked and nearly all of them eventually lost their lives for, is not the Law keepers’ priority.

This makes them every bit the Judaizers that Paul preached so strongly against in the letter to the Galatians.

That said, I do not condemn them (the Law will eventually do that); most HRMers get into Law ‘keeping’ because they love and want to please God. Unfortunately, they come under a false belief system because they don’t have a firm grasp of

Who Jesus is
What He came to do
What that actually accomplished, and
Who we as believers are in Him.

When one has a firm grasp on those things, false teachings tend to fall away.

I guess I would just gently exhort you to not dismiss the HRM as just another ‘denomination’; they are not. They are preaching another gospel and also another jesus (they believe that Jesus/Yeshua is the Living Torah) – do not underestimate the damage they are doing in the Body [of the Church].

Going back to the ‘Gentle-Hardness’ post, DePace outlines the New Testament timeline of those in error between Torah and Gospel. This is well worth reading, especially for those who are directly impacted by family or friends in this movement as well as pastors who are counselling same:

AD 39-40: The Church in Jerusalem concluded that God has rescinded the Mosaic Law’s Jew-Gentile separation provisions (Acts 10-11).
 
AD 49-50 (the exact order of the following series is immaterial to the points being made):

  • Paul confronts Peter and Barnabas for their hypocrisy in separating themselves from Gentile believers in the Church in Galatia.
  • Later, Paul writes to the Galatians to warn them in the strongest terms against (supposed) Christians who were teaching them that Gentile believers needed to keep the Mosaic ceremonial/worship laws in order to be right with God.
  • The Church concluded that Gentile believers ARE NOT to be subjected to the ceremonial/worship provisions of the Mosaic Law (Acts 15).

AD 62-68 (again, the exact dates for writing each of these is immaterial to the points made):

  • Paul writes (First) Timothy, offering him instruction for his pastoral duties (Ephesian Church).
  • Paul writes to Titus, giving him counsel on his pastoral duties (Cretan Church).
  • Paul writes further instruction to (Second) Timothy in the discharge of his pastoral duties.
  • In all three letters one of the critical issues Paul addressed was the heresy of the Judaizers, those who would require Gentile Christians to practice the Mosaic ceremonial/worship laws.

Did you follow the progression of these things? From eliminating Jew-Gentile separation, to removal of Mosaic law provisions on Gentiles, to fighting against those who would place Christians back under slavery to the Mosaic Law.

DePace helpfully provides a list of New Testament verses which refute the Judaizers — and legalism. They were applicable at the time and continue to be so today. This is a useful collection of verses to use with legalists. Here are but a few:

Yet because of false brothers secretly brought in– who slipped in to spy out our freedom that we have in Christ Jesus, so that they might bring us into slavery– to them we did not yield in submission even for a moment, so that the truth of the gospel might be preserved for you. (Gal 2:4-5)

You are severed from Christ, you who would be justified by the law; you have fallen away from grace. (Gal 5:4)

As I urged you when I was going to Macedonia, remain at Ephesus so that you may charge certain persons not to teach any different doctrine, nor to devote themselves to myths and endless genealogies, which promote speculations rather than the stewardship from God that is by faith. (1Ti 1:3-4)

If anyone teaches a different doctrine and does not agree with the sound words of our Lord Jesus Christ and the teaching that accords with godliness, he is puffed up with conceit and understands nothing. He has an unhealthy craving for controversy and for quarrels about words, which produce envy, dissension, slander, evil suspicions, and constant friction among people who are depraved in mind and deprived of the truth, imagining that godliness is a means of gain. (1Ti 6:3-5)

Let us pray for those enslaved by legalism — religious or secular. Much of it is based on heresy.

My thanks to longtime reader Pooka who, commenting on my post about Hasidic Judaism (Jewish pietism), called my attention to an essay on the Reformed site Green Baggins about the Messianic movements which have been popular since the late 1970s.

The Revd Lane Keister is the principal author of Green Baggins, ably supported by the Revd Reed DePace.

Keister’s post — to which my reader referred — is called ‘The Hebrew Roots Movement’. I’ll leave it for you to read, including the comments, however, he notes a trend among certain former members of Reformed (Calvinist) churches:

There is a movement afoot (small, but rather persistent) to return to the Old Testament way of doing things (and they would argue that the New Testament changes pretty much nothing). This (usually) involves a return to Saturday Sabbath, celebration of the Old Testament feasts (and even non-OT feasts like Hanukkah!), and observance of the Old Testament dietary laws. There have been Messianic Jews around for quite a while, but what is happening now is that previously Reformed people are becoming persuaded by this viewpoint. What I want to do in this post is examine some of the architectonic issues at play, and then respond to some specific things in the blog post linked above.

Back in the 1980s, I knew a young couple who were part of a Jews for Jesus type church. The man was Jewish and his wife had attended a small Protestant fundamentalist church where she grew up. As adolescents and young adults, the two — who did not know each other at the time — drifted into substance abuse, the occult, numerology and mysticism. Each was living on the margins when they met.

The young woman had damaged her mind with the drugs she had previously taken. It was a struggle for her to put thoughts together and articulate them. It was equally a strain for those of us who watched and listened to her struggle with communication. Please don’t let this happen to you or your children — the damage is permanent. (Lest anyone think this is a one-off example, I also had a customer in the early 1980s (in a retail environment) who was practically incoherent. I’ve written about her before, but, one day, it took her about five minutes to eventually explain her drugs story which lasted a few years and included hallucinogens, tablets and dope. She took these so that her boyfriend wouldn’t leave her. He left, and she ended up brain-damaged — unemployable.)

However, I digress. My point was to establish a hypothesis that people who gravitate towards legalistic movements have suffered some trauma early in life, whether in childhood, adolescence or young adulthood. In order to ‘repent’, as it were, they turn to fundamentalism and error.

The young couple seemed to exemplify this. They rejected an orthodox (i.e. based on creeds, confessions and doctrine) Christianity for a legalistic hybrid — based on the Judaizers of the Apostles’ time — of Mosaic law and tenuous belief in Jesus Christ.

Keister points out (emphases in bold mine):

Jesus says that there are weightier matters of the law. He castigates the Pharisees for harping on the minor matters, while ignoring the heavier ones. This indicates a distinction within the OT laws. The fact that the Ten Commandments were written by God’s finger on tablets of stone, whereas the rest of the law was written by Moses on more perishable materials also indicates that the Ten Commandments are the most important section of the law, as reflecting the very character of God. The reason this issue is important is that the HRM (Hebrew roots movement) puts all laws in the same category of permanence. There is no such thing, in their minds, as a built-in expiration date of a law. For them, anyone who changes the law is automatically abrogating the law. For them, there is no possibility that there might be underlying principles (general equity) that carries over, but appears in different form in the NT. However, if the three-fold division of the law is an appropriately biblical way of thinking (and see this book for an excellent argument in this direction), then we are not in fact forbidden to wear 50% polyester 50% cotton shirts (two different kinds of threads), nor are we anymore forbidden to take the mother with the eggs. The principles underlying these laws continue today (be discerning about what is holy and what is not, what is conducive for spiritual growth and what is not: don’t mix the world and the church). But they do not apply in the same way today as they did in OT times.

Offshoots for these Judaizing movements such as Jews for Jesus include Completed Jews and the Sacred Name Movement. All refer to Jesus as Yeshua and God as YHWH and G-d. The Jews for Jesus do not consider the offshoots to be part of their movement, but to mainstream Christians the groups appear indistinguishable.

Reed DePace wrote a follow-up post to Lane Keister’s. It is called ‘Hebrew Roots, Unhelpful Fruits’. A family friend, he says, has drifted into Messianic Christianity. DePace explains this phenomenon among Christians:

I’ve concluded that MOST of the folks involved with what Lane has aptly titled the Hebrew Roots Movement are dissatisfied Protestants looking for THE explanation/interpretation that will bring to life the full realization of the promises for the Christian Life taught in the Scriptures. Rightly NOT satisfied with the experience of ordinary Evan-jellyfish Christianity that makes a great blasting trumpet sound but has no extraordinary follow through, these folks, motivated by a sincere desire to believe Christ, are looking for the answer somewhere other than the tradition they’ve come out of.

Thus they follow in a long line of similar seekers of the fulfillment of what Calvin called “Golden Jewish Dreams.” They are the descendants of the Anabaptists, the various movements into spiritualism, mysticism and pietism. They are the next heirs of the higher life movement, the Pentecostals, and late born cousins of Dispensationalism and prosperity gospel preachers. Like all such movements, they claim a “New” understanding of the gospel that is also recovery of the gospel as taught in the Early Church.

He goes on to call our attention to the error of Hebrew Roots Movement belief, derived from heresy:

… They are indeed a new expression of the old Judaizers. Like some of the early profession-making Pharisees (the party of James), these folks in the end teach a Jesus + Talmudic-Torah-observance, a Jesus + the necessity of some sort of a Jewish informed lifestyle.

They don’t realize that they are making (at least) two tragic mistakes. First, like most imbalanced Jesus + something else movements, they have an over-realized eschatology [salvation theology]. They are expecting the experience of things now that are reserved for the eternal state. Specifically they are expecting a fleshly experience of what is only a spiritual experience of the Christian life now. They mistakenly think that fleshly practices in some way secure the dramatically powerful experience of the Spirit’s work in day to day life. In this they are no better than the forms of Evan-jellyfish they left behind. Missing that the ordinary experience of the Christian life is one marked by fleshly suffering and weakness this side of eternity, they are pursuing just another expression of the “Kingdom NOW” lie so common in the Church today.

Second, these Hebrew Roots Movement folks unwisely are adopting practices and habits, accoutrements of a “Jewish” lifestyle that actually are derived from a heretical source. These folks do not seem to realize that with the destruction of the Temple the practice of a Jewish form of Christianity ceased to be an option. The core of OT worship was the sacrifices; all of Leviticus, the key book in terms of Jewish life and worship (i.e., life = worship, worship is life), is built around the sacrifices. They were essential to the maintenance of even the smallest component of the law of cleanliness, etc.. Without sacrifice one CANNOT rightly practice any of the OT worship system.

And when the Temple was destroyed – that was it. All that was left was the Pharisaical/Rabbinical traditions

DePace concludes:

The Hebrew Roots Movement, Messianic Christianity, while well intentioned, is yet another deflection from the simple, pure gospel of Jesus Christ. It is based on the heresy of rabbinic Judaism, NOT first century Jewish Christianity. It in the end, like all forms of Jesus + me Christianity, teaches a defective gospel.

He reminds us of what Christ said:

And he said, “Woe to you lawyers also! For you load people with burdens hard to bear, and you yourselves do not touch the burdens with one of your fingers.” (Luke 11:46)

and

“Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.” (Mt 11:28-1)

There is nothing light about legalism. Furthermore, nowhere did Jesus or the Apostles preach it.

So-called Christians — legalists, pietists and Messianic types — make a mockery of the Crucifixion, the ultimate and sufficient holy sacrifice, by adhering to such error.

Please join me in praying for these people and their families so that we may all share eternal life together with the living, loving God and His Son, our only Mediator, Jesus Christ.

Tomorrow: Ministering to Christians in the Messianic movements

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