Saturday, February 27, 2010

Power or Truth?

2 pieces in this series

1. Chimera's and looking for demons in India - is it about Power or Truth?
2. What does subtle, crafty, cunning, sensible, shrewd and prudent mean?

When I was listening to someone who spent time in India he described a lot about what I would consider well-meaning but overly zealous Christians from America looking for demons in India. As a matter of fact, the local Christians in India were concerned because it bothered them, that Americans thought they knew where they were. Certainly there is demonic activity there and it needs to be dealt with, but there isn't a demon under every bush even in India. Some of the team would come back from the field and tell how they cast out demons. The speaker asked how they knew the person was demonized and they said they "could see it in their eyes." Maybe a person is demonized, but it seems to me that it's very difficult to know what to look for in a person's eyes to know if there's a demon in there. Were their eyes big? Were they wild-eyed? Is it possible to have wild eyes and big eyes without being demonized?

What is an unclean spirit?

Now a very easy way to resolve this problem and find out what a demonized person looks like is to go through the Gospels and the book of Acts. There are a number of illustrations where we see demons being cast out. In the process we are given details of what that person looked like. Some were mutilating themselves. Others were living in a bizarre fashion, like living in the tombs. Others were speaking with strange voices or were clairvoyant and had supernatural information. Others were called unclean spirits which referred to their foul sexual references and filthy language. Others were being thrown down into the fire in epileptic fits. There was one case where one person was mute because of the demon. What you can do by simply going through the text and finding these illustrations is make a simple list of the characteristics of demon possession. I'm not suggesting that this is exhaustive, there may be other characteristics. But at least it gives you something biblical to begin working with before you start claiming that people are filled with demons.

Our operations manual

Most of the times that people tell me that they think someone is demon possessed it usually means that this person was just basically weird so they assume that there is a demon living inside them. My appeal is to simply judge these things with biblical criteria. If we have a guideline and have listed eight or twelve things and see somebody with one of those things it may not mean that they're demon possessed; but if we see someone with five or six or seven of these characteristics, well it's a pretty safe call that there's a demon in them and we'll know what to do. My conviction is that most people who are weird are not demon possessed, they're just weird. Christians throughout history have not dealt with spiritual warfare in this fashion.

I'm not contending that there is no spiritual warfare; there's intense conflict in the heavenlies. The issue is how do we fulfill our soldierly duties; how do we take part in the battle? For that we must go back to the text, to our operations manual. It's hard to imagine a time of history that was more demonic than the Third Reich. During the Third Reich two Christians who stood out more than anyone else were Dietrich Bonhoffer and Martin Niemuller. These men stood in the gap and proclaimed the truth. They didn't bind and loose. They didn't cast out demons. They didn't plead the blood over the nation of Germany or over the guns of the Allies. They spoke the truth.

Truth encounter or power encounter?

I am convinced in my assessment of Scripture, and I've looked carefully through the New Testament on this issue, that spiritual warfare is not principally a power encounter but a truth encounter. I have in front of me maybe fifteen or twenty different verses that talk about the weapon that Christians wield in spiritual warfare. The principle verse as far as I'm concerned is 2 Corinthians 10:4-5 and the verse says this, "For the weapons of our warfare are not of the flesh, but divinely powerful for the destruction of fortresses." Many people read that and they look for their Holy Ghost machine gun to shoot out great balls of fire at the enemy. It's usually accomplished by using a certain type of, what's in my mind, an incantation. Say the right words of binding and loosing and pleading the blood of Christ and you've done the job.

But what does Paul describe in 2 Corinthians? He doesn't describe that kind of thing. He says something entirely different. He continues, "We are destroying speculations and every lofty thing raised up against the knowledge of God, and we are taking every thought captive to the obedience of Christ." Paul is saying that speculations are destroyed against the knowledge of God by taking thoughts captive.

20 texts on how the True God wants us to battle

You never see Paul binding and losing. In fact, he avoids encounters in the book of Acts and when he does he deals with it in a word. But I see all through the text words about the True God. There are phrases about "true knowledge" in Colossions 2 and 3. Then in 2 Peter two references to "true knowledge." "True grace" in 1 Peter 5. "True light" in 1 John 2. "Sound doctrine" in Titus 1 and 2. In 2 Timothy, "Retain the standard of sound words." "Holding fast to sound doctrine," Titus 1:9-11. In 1 Timothy 1. "sound teaching with which we have been entrusted." Titus 1:9, "the faithful words and exhorting in sound doctrine." Titus 2:1, "sound doctrine." Titus 2:7, "the purity of doctrine." Ephesians 4, "renewing in the spiritual of our mind." Romans 12:2, "transformed by the renewing of our minds."

Time and time again the Apostles hammer away at us that the way to do spiritual conflict is to use true knowledge. Spiritual warfare is not power encounters, my friends. It is truth encounters. It is really very easy to resolve these problem. First, what are the disciplines specifically teaching in the Scripture? Second, how do we see these disciplines actually practiced by the disciples, or do we even see them at all?

What we do see is the disciples in the process of doing effective work and teaching us sound doctrine. But do the Apostles bind and loose, pray against territorial demons, free people from generational bondage and demonic influence, plead the blood over inanimate objects, cast out demons for different maladies or sins? No. Is this possible but not recorded? Not likely. What is the standard? Is it a spiritual discipline? Is it necessary according to the teaching and the example of the text? The answer is no.

If you want to know, you've got to do the study in the text. Sound doctrine is not as easy as adopting an idea from a T.V. prophet or a charismatic Holy Ghost revivalist and then starting to sling spiritual darts back at the devil. It involves spending time to know the truth. You're not going to get a quick fix from a book on the rack. It's got to be a life's commitment. But without that kind of commitment your life will be spent tilting at windmills.

Do you want to grow? Peter says, "Long for the pure milk of the Word in order that by it you may grow with respects to salvation."

Chimera's and warring with Quixote Windmills

Here's the problem with challenging windmills. First, we fight the battle where the battle isn't. Have you heard the joke,"What if they gave a war and nobody showed up?" One's establishing a war footing and nobody's showing up for the real battle. Second, we aren't placing our forces precisely where the battle is waging: the battle for our minds over the issue of truth. Third, in the process of jousting at his imaginary dragons, Quixote got beat up by the windmill, wounded, disabled. Sometimes we get so beat up jousting at chimeras that we are unable to do real battle.

Like Quixote, and I can't fault the sentiment, this is a divine quest; but like Quixote many of us are jousting at imagined enemies; like Quixote, and this is very unfortunate, there is often disdain or condescension for those who do not see what they think is plainly before their own eyes.
I talk like this and people say, "Poor me, his great learning has driven him mad. He's using his mind too much. He ought to get into the spiritual realm of things." Well, friends, I will. Chapter and verse. My chapter and verse says "renew your mind." That's how you'll know truth from error.

2. What does subtle, crafty, cunning, sensible, shrewd and prudent mean?

"Now the serpent was more cunning than any beast of the field which the LORD God had made. And he said to the woman, "Has God indeed said, 'You shall not eat of every tree of the garden'?" (Genesis 3:1, NKJ)

In its first use in Genesis 3:1 the original King James Version rendered the word ‘ârûwm, "subtil", like the French, Middle French soutil, Middle English sotil/sutil and Latin subtilis - literally sub + tela, referring to the cloth on a loom and having to do with weaving. So it involved craft in the sense of manufacture rather than craft in the sense of cleverness or craftiness. Yet this is where craftiness comes from, cleverness and ability and design.

Of the 11 occurrences of ‘ârûwm (Strong's #6175) just the one is rendered "subtil", the remainder are covered by "prudent" x8 and "crafty" x2 in the KJV whilst the NAS translates 3 of them as "sensible" and 1 as "shrewd" and chooses "crafty" here. The Latin Vulgate translated it as callidior "crafty", in this instance, a word deriving from callere "to be thick-skinned, hardened, practiced", and from which we derive "callous" and the rarely used word "callid".

So is the serpent "crafty", "sensible", "subtle", or just good at needlework? It was certainly able to "weave" a good tale and convince Eve to doubt God. The root verb ‘âram (Strong's #6191) can be taken two ways. It only occurs 5 times, twice in Proverbs (15:5; 19:25) where it is used to good intent and twice in 1 Samuel 23:22 where the import is negative as it is in Psalm 83:3 [Heb.v4]. It can mean "to uncover" or "make naked", or "make manifest", which is exactly what the serpent ultimately did, finally causing the most famous fig-leaf "cover-up" of all time once Adam and Eve realized their nakedness.

Indeed, the Hebrew wordplay between Genesis 3:1 and the preceding verse 2:25, given that the chapter and verse divisions are not original, portrays the full contrast between Adam and Eve's, "And they were both naked...", innocence, rendered by the Hebrew ‘ârôwm (Strong's #6174) and the following "naked nastiness" of the serpent described by ‘ârûwm ).

Jesus told his sheep to be serpents

Apart from Genesis 3:1 every other reference to ‘ârûwm is found in either Job or Proverbs. In Job, probably older than Proverbs and more contemporary with the writing of Genesis (to some traditional scholars, at least), the word is generally negative referring to the "devices of the crafty" (Job 5:12) and the "tongue of the crafty" (Job 15:5). By contrast, every reference in Proverbs (12:16, 23; 13:16; 14:8, 15, 18; 22:3; 27:12) is positive and is more appropriately translated as "prudent" or "wise". Indeed, had Eve the same ‘ârûwm as the serpent she would have followed Solomon's advice "A prudent man foresees evil and hides himself; The simple pass on and are punished." (22:3; 27:12) and hidden herself from the serpent's cunning rather than from God's coming.

Curiously, Jesus commands his disciples to be as "cunning as serpents and as innocent as doves" (Matthew 10:16), using the same Greek word as used to translate ‘ârûwm in the Greek Septuagint Old Testament of Genesis 3:1

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