The Enemy Within
By Tony and Pamela Dean
Author Isaac Asimov, speaking of things which cannot be scientifically verified says ‘Inspect every piece of pseudo-science, and you will find a security blanket, a thumb to suck, a skirt to hold. What have we to offer in exchange? Uncertainty! Insecurity!’ [Isaac Asimov, ‘The Perennial Fringe’, Sceptical Enquirer 10 [Spring 1986]: 213.]
It is easy to understand why sceptics are so critical of the Christian faith given the outrageous behaviour of some who claim to ‘minister’ in the Name of the King of Kings. Every time I see the likes of Benny Hinn strut their stuff I literally cringe. To paraphrase an old Bon Jovi song . . ‘They give God a bad name’.
Author of ‘Understanding the New Age’, Russell Chandler, rightly says “Some people will believe anything, especially when it comes through the voice of religion. That seems particularly true for new age ‘easy believe-ism’ where some outrageous, off the wall, and snake-oily assumptions and programs are swallowed whole by persons desperate to find health, wealth, happiness, or just plain answers and meaning to life in a largely inscrutable world.”
This issue is greatly compounded when the ‘church’ seeks to be ‘relative’ to the culture. As we alluded to in our last report, when one seeks to make ‘comfortable’ the transition between the state of being lost to the state of being saved, truth is most often the sacrifice found on the altar of expedience. One of the greatest errors the modern day church has embraced is the melding of the gospel with pop psychology. And even more perilous is the ‘end justifies the means’ evangelism, which basically suggests whatever it takes to get the sinner saved (including sinning), is acceptable. This is a highly dangerous doctrine, not to mention one without Scriptural foundation. We remind our readers that when the apostle Paul sought to become ‘all things to all men that he might win some for the gospel sake’, he was obviously referring to those things which were not already biblically forbidden. It is abhorrent to suggest that Paul would in any way lead believers to take the Father’s liberty and turn it into license. However, it has become quite fashionable today to do whatever in the name of God, anything from extra-biblical teaching, to out and out deception.
I clearly recall my time of ministry at the Paradise Community Church. An
edict was passed down from the leadership mandating all ministers undertake the
Alpha Course, lest they be removed from ministry. I sought my direct over-sight
regarding this unbiblical demand, and was told there was nothing that could be
done about it, so I terminated my ministry and left that church soon after
concerned that the
Concerning the use of out and out deception to ‘win’ the lost, an altered state of mind must be achieved, and quite often is, whether intentionally or unintentionally, through the use of music and lighting. Voodoo worshipper Jimi Hendrix was once quoted as saying ‘We hypnotise them [the audience] with the music so that we can preach our message to them.’ It has been scientifically verified that mood music [such that is tranquil] has the effect of shutting down the left-brain hemisphere, which controls analytical thought, forcing the right-brain hemisphere, which deals with emotions, to become dominant. Combined with ambient lighting, and a smooth tone, a talented orator can get his audience to pretty much comply with anything he wants, including convincing the expectant throng that what is ostensibly nothing more than an emotional experience is somehow spiritual.
In their book ‘The Fakers’, magician investigative journalist Danny Korem, and psychiatrist Paul Meier describe a broad range of ways in which the mind and senses can be fooled: through sleight of hand; use of principals of psychology, mathematics, and physics; hidden mechanical devices; physical and mechanical deception; optical illusion; misdirected attention; use of a stooge; and luck and probability [Danny Korem and Paul Meier, Fakers; Exploding the Myths of the Supernatural [Grand Rapids, MI.: Revell/Baker Bookhouse, 1980, pg. 22-29]
Says author Russell Chandler ‘These techniques - the stock in trade of magicians and illusionists – have been used as well by unscrupulous evangelists and faith healers. The Pentecostal, or Charismatic wing of the Christian church particularly, needs to clean up its act in this area. The ‘miracle mongering’ of many television evangelists, and the slick purveyors of the ‘health and wealth’ gospel should be called to account by responsible churchmen or denominational leaders. Unfortunately little control exists over many of the blatant charlatans because they are not responsible to any denomination, and answer to no one other than themselves – or to figure- head boards who rubber stamp anything they do.’
I am constantly amazed at how the church at large falls for this trickery so easily, and consistently. Religious Studies professor at the University at Calgary, Canada Irving Hexham once said ‘Only when we learn to discriminate will we be able to reject the bizarre and avoid being mesmerized by its novelty.’ Irving Hexham ‘Yoga, UFO’s, and Cult Membership’ update: A Quarterly Journal of New Religious Movements 10, no. 3 [September 1986]: 14.] And how right he is! Those who are fooled are so because of their lack of study and discernment. Says author Russell Chandler, ‘Don’t let others do your thinking for you. Children must understand not only what is true, but why something is true. They should begin to learn to analyse what they read, see on television, and hear in class. What assumptions are being made? What train of logic [if any] is being followed? Are propaganda techniques being used? Is there a hidden agenda? Are facts differentiated from feelings?’ Chandler makes an interesting observation, especially in light of 2 Timothy 3:1-5
This know also, that in the last days perilous times shall come. For men shall be lovers of their own selves, covetous, boasters, proud, blasphemers, disobedient to parents, unthankful, unholy, without natural affection, trucebreakers, false accusers, incontinent, fierce, despisers of those that are good, traitors, heady, highminded, lovers of pleasures more than lovers of God; Having a form of godliness, but denying the power thereof: from such turn away.
As disconcerting as is the fact that Paul was referring to believers [having a form of godliness] in this passage, is the revelation of the prevailing ‘church’ mindset at the age in which we now live. We refer to verse 4 ‘lovers of pleasures’ [Gk. philedonos; voluptuous; full of, characterized by, or ministering to indulgence in luxury, pleasure, and sensuous enjoyment: a voluptuous life. derived from gratification of the senses: voluptuous pleasure.]
This perfectly matches the present day church’s obsession with feelings-based faith, and apparent supernatural manifestations which in many cases are highly subjective. Blaise Pascal [1623 – 1662] noted: ‘In a values vacuum, humanity will pursue one of two goals: we will imagine that we ourselves are gods, or we will seek gratification through our senses.’ This should be seen as a warning marker on the road to compromise, upon which many professing believers blindly stumble in their quest to be ‘relative’.
Referring to New Age thinking, author Daniel Davis says he sees an increasing self-centeredness, corresponding to a disinterest in ‘difficult things’…wanting to be rich without working, smart without studying, and holy without giving up any vices (sounds very much like the Purpose Driven Church movement to me) [Daniel Davis, interview with author, Denver, CO, December 1, 1987] As is necessary sermons, seminars, and programs are altered to accommodate these ‘felt needs’. This is often where pop-psychology techniques, and blatant trickery come to the fore.
Concerning the New Age practice of contemplative prayer, and its obvious shadowing of transcendental meditation which we mentioned in our last report, Ron Zemke said in 1988, ‘Techniques that depend on protocols that command the learners to project themselves into some ‘other’ reality, and then to experience themselves as being ‘one’ with all things, including God, are hardly neutral. They are certainly not neutral to Christians whose faith rests on the concept of God as an entity outside themselves. In other words, there could be no such thing as a centred, self-hypnotising, yoga practicing mediator who is also a Bible believing Christian. You are either one, or the other.’ [Ron Zemke, ‘What’s New in the New Age?’ [cover story, Training Magazine [September 1987]: 30.]
For those who are unaware, contemplative prayer [which is endorsed by Bill Hybels, Rick Warren, and company] involves the Eastern mystical practice of visualization. Authors Dave Hunt, and T. A. McMahon in their brilliant book ‘Seduction of Christianity: Spiritual Discernment in the Last Days’ write, ‘…visualization – which is common to meditation, inner healing [also known as the healing of memories], dream analysis, and other therapies [such as ‘journaling’ – a practise engaged in heavily within charismatic circles], used by both New Age and Christian practitioners – can be described as the intention to ‘manipulate reality, or invoke the appearance and help of Deity’. They continue, ‘If reality can actually be created or manipulated by visualization, this would allow everyone to play God with the universe”. “What would happen”, they ask, “when competing realities were being visualized by different persons? If visualization taps into some power inherent in the universe and available to anyone, it would be the ultimate weapon to hand over to human egos; and the result would not be Paradise, but hell on earth.” [Hunt and McMahon, Seduction of Christianty, 148]
So how may we best prepare to discern the wiles of the enemy – the New Age which has surreptitiously infiltrated the church of today? Here are some warning signs to look for in supposed ‘Christian’ therapies, courses and teachings. Be suspicious when:
a. The terminology is verified in terms of manipulating, balancing, or polarizing energies [tapping into God]
b. The teaching depreciates the value of the mind or critical thinking.
c. The doctrine is supported only by testimony or anecdotes of the committed rather than by solid evidence, outside evaluation and especially Scripture; or
d. The instruction is based on ‘secret’ or ‘newly revealed’ [God is doing a new thing] esoteric knowledge revealed only to the inner elite.
Let us consider the following deeply, with much humility, and with a reverent sense of foreboding. When ‘values’ are substituted for ‘virtues’, ‘commitments’ for ‘morals’, ‘lifestyles’ for ‘social behaviour’, and ‘alternatives’ for ‘truth’, not only is the English language weakened but the very foundation of all sensible action and thought is undermined. For then we may easily substitute things that are variable and temporary for that which is steady and constant: the truth. The loveliest, strongest plant in the world plucked from its soil and roots, no matter how splendid its blossoms, withers and dies. If any philosophical analysis is uprooted from the rich soil of truth, it too will die. [GELVEN, ‘Why Johnny Can’t Think’, 415].
Chuck Colson [www.breakpoint.org] preaches as he travels, challenging Christians to restore the objective truth of the living God in Christ. His message usually contains four points which we, in this compromised church age would do well to heed.
1. Restore orthodoxy. Live by the laws of God’s Kingdom and Jesus’ teachings of Christian truth. Fundamental, basic beliefs are necessary [2 Thess. 2:15]. To preach that if you come to God, He will give you anything you want is to preach a false gospel. Lose orthodoxy and you lose the heart of the church.
2. Be the church; it is the community of the redeemed. Be God’s people. Make Jesus Lord.
3. Think and, therefore, act like Christians. Apply the truth of Scripture in the marketplace. Argue every principle of life from this perspective: ‘current events in the eyes of God.’
4. Confess the faith. Be the salt and the light – take the Good News to others so they may understand the Gospel and glorify God [Matt. -16]
In closing, consider this. In 1521, Protestant reformer Martin Luther was tried in an imperial court before the Emperor for his writing of the 95 Thesis protesting the blatant errors of the Roman Catholic hierarchy which he nailed to the door of the Wittenberg Castle Church in Germany. Asked to recant, he stated, ‘Unless I am convinced by scripture and plain reason – I do not accept the authority of the Popes and councils, for they have contradicted each other – my conscience is captive to the Word of God. I cannot and will not recant anything, for to go against conscience is neither right nor safe. God help me.’
We would all do well to bear in mind that the same imperative applies to any religious authority whose doctrines and behaviour are at odds with the Word of the living God.
In His Everlasting Embrace
Tony & Pamela Dean
Directors Moriah Ministries Australia