Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Spiritual Deception: Soul Power. Dangers of seeking experiences or "gifts" in the wrong way

On his June 12th radio program Brannon Howse directed listeners to google "manifestations at Rick Joyner's Morningstar Ministries" which takes you to You Tube for a "church service" that is quite a spectacle of bizarre charismatic "worship." It has the flavor of some kind of pagan ceremony, or tribal celebration, with heavy drumbeat, people jumping up and down and at least one woman apparently emotionally unstrung up on the stage giving an incoherent "testimony" of some sort. Here's one and here's another video of Rick Joyner's "church."

I also watched part of an interview Sid Roth (It's Supernatural) did with Joyner at the beginning of 2011 about a dream he had had about America under God's judgment. In the interview he sounds like a sincere Christian who sees judgment coming to America, though you might wonder why a dream would be necessary to inform us that the nation is under judgment. He comes off as sincere in the other videos too -- it's the raucous carryings-on around him that he apparently accepts and promotes as the right way to "do church," as valid worship, that make it clear there's something deeply amiss spiritually. This is beyond anything I ever saw in charismania, into heavy spiritual darkness. But Rick Joyner stands up there talking in a pastorly sort of way, albeit in charismospeak, as if it's all quite normal.

Brannon Howse surprised me by referring to Watchman Nee's Latent Power of the Soul as a source of insight into such phenomena. I think he was quoting Jerry Vines. I was surprised because it's a book that I've found is often treated as beyond the pale of orthodoxy.

So I got out my copy and reread it. It's all about the powers of the soul that Adam supposedly possessed originally, that were lost -- or hidden rather than lost, according to Nee, buried in the flesh as it were -- at the Fall. The only way this could be known, or inferred, is from exhibitions of such powers now. There is no Biblical clue to them that I know of. Nee says they can be released now, and that's what many of the practices of the fallen religions are aimed at, and sometimes they occur spontaneously in Christian settings as well under certain conditions.

Hindus describe many powers that their practices are aimed to develop, practices such as meditations to control the mind, breath control exercises, postural exercises and so on. Walking on burning coals and lying on a bed of nails without pain are a couple of the Hindu versions of soul power. Not just Hinduism but Buddhism and Jainism as well promote such practices and powers. Look up "siddhis" for lists and discussions of various powers. I always thought of these things as demonically produced but according to Nee they are normally latent human powers that can be cultivated or released, though they are usually instigated demonically. Sometimes powers can be manifested that approach the miraculous, including healing of the body.

There are also involuntary movements of the body that are released in some of the practices, called "kriyas." Some of these things happen spontaneously even in Christian settings. I did a post about the Brownsville "revival" a while back in which at least two people were manifesting odd bodily movements that they couldn't control, jerking movements or flailing and thrashing movements -- and attributing them to being under the power of God. I posted the videos there or you can find them at You Tube.

In Christian settings what may bring them about is SEEKING manifestations of one sort or another, mistaking these things for gifts of the Holy Spirit or expressions of God's power. Anything that stirs up and concentrates emotions can also bring them about, such as repetitious singing.

What Christians need to know that most don't know is that these things have nothing whatever to do with God but come from the human soul usually under instigation by demon spirits. Intense emotion can release them. They are unusual, often involuntary and sometimes "miraculous" and that's why people assume they are from God. (To compound the problem, sometimes SOME manifestations MAY be from God, but let's not get hung up on this point yet).

"My people are destroyed for lack of knowledge" says scripture. It would seem to apply here, because in churches where the "gifts of the Spirit" are avidly sought and supposedly practiced it is very easy for people to be exercising a power of their own soul or even a demonically imparted power and not something that comes from God and not know the difference. Clairvoyance is a power of the soul that can be mistaken for a gift of the spirit. Nee says he himself had the ability to know what was in other people's minds and at first he thought this was a good thing that served God until he came to realize that it was something God didn't want him to use and learned to deny it. (Deny yourself, take up your cross and follow Me).

There are soul powers that can mimic prophecy. These "prophets" in the charismatic movement are most likely experiencing this power of the soul and missing God completely.

According to Nee the soul powers can produce even a false salvation, a false repentance, a false regeneration, false revivals --such as Toronto and Brownsville -- but this book was written in 1933!) ...and "false joy."

False joy: Again, this book was written in 1933 and he talks about the "holy laugh." The "Toronto Blessing" of the 90s was all about Holy Laughter and at the time I had no idea there were ever such manifestations in churches before that. Nee describes a meeting -- this would have been in China in the 20s or 30s -- at which
...it was announced that everybody should seek for this holy laugh. All began to beat tables or chairs, jumping and leaping all around until not long afterwards this so-called holy laughing came...

Can this possibly be the fullness of the Holy Spirit? Can this be His work? No, this is plainily one of the works of the soul. [p. 71]
SEEKING it and doing things to work up an artificial state of mind or emotion seem to be the prerequisites.
How do people get this laugh? What procedure do they follow?or what condition must they fulfill? It is nothing but simply the asking to laugh... Are they seeking to be filled with the Holy Spirit? Their lips may indeed utter such words as 'O God, fill me with Your Spirit.' Nevertheless, that is merely a procedure; the aim of asking to be filled with the Spirit is something else than to be so filled...their heart desire is elsewhere.
God must be the object of our seeking if we are not to be deceived, and there must be a willingness to do without any sort of experience if He so wills. If you seek an experience you may get it but it won't be from Him.

Nee reports [p. 74] that one young man
pleaded fervently with God, and vowed that he would npt get up from prayer that evening if God did not give [the holy laughter] to him.
Eventually he did get the laughter. Did he get God or anything from God or of God? That's the question, and the answer is Probably not.

As a side note, I've read of people who have made this vow not to get up until God grants this or that, and it's always struck me as questionable that God would honor such an attitude. Isn't this tempting God? Isn't it trying to force God to accede to YOUR will instead of submitting to His will? Charles Finney did this and it began his career as a very powerful evangelist in the middle 19th century. Is it possible he was operating on soul power instead of spiritual power? During and following that period a great many of today's cults got started. Christian Science, for instance, is completely a matter of cultivating and practicing soul power. Could there be a connection?

Seems to me today's churches are in need of knowledge about these things. There are many deceived into thinking they are following God when they are following only their own heightened powers and they are deceiving others who treat them as prophets and seers. This is dangerous, obviously. They may be listening to demons at times too, that can impart some kinds of knowledge, just as they do to mediums and witches, as well as dreams and visions.

There is a remedy, there is a preventative. What did Jesus preach? Taking up your cross, dying to self. Think of it as dying to soul power, dying to your own abilities -- any abilities, natural abilities, natural talents, asking God to keep you from depending on your natural abilities so that you can depend completely on Him instead. If you truly want God your attitude needs to be bearing the cross, crucifying or mortifying the flesh and the self.

"My people are destroyed for lack of knowledge."

The knowledge that is lacked is knowledge of God, according to the context and at least one commentary I consulted (JF&B). This applies here as the knowledge pursued in seeking experiences and gifts is not knowledge of God. And in context, also, the lack of knowledge is sin, not mere helpless ignorance. True knowledge is not sought.
Hsa 4:6 My people are destroyed for lack of knowledge: because thou hast rejected knowledge, I will also reject thee, that thou shalt be no priest to me: seeing thou hast forgotten the law of thy God, I will also forget thy children.
So maybe they won't listen. But shouldn't these things be taught in the churches these days? It's a very serious and dangerous mistake to stir up soul powers and mistake them for the Holy Spirit. It's not necessarily easy to learn these things but sincerely wanting to is a first step.

More Harbinger criticism: the down side to fictionalizing reality

Other criticisms of The Harbinger have been coming to light. I don't have it in me right now to write a full analytical post on this, or series of posts as it might be, or even to go in search of others' answers to it yet, so I'm just going to give a brief sketch of this one off the top of my head:

This is by Joseph Chambers, Pentecostal pastor of Paw Creek Ministries: The Harbinger, A Fable Forbidden By the Holy Bible

He makes much of Paul's admonitions against believing "fables" and takes this admonition to apply to the Harbinger. He quotes from many commentaries but here's one I just looked up:

FABLE: From Jamieson, Fausset and Brown commentary on 1 Tim 1 (referred from 2 Tim 4:3) at Blue Letter Bible:
4. fables--legends about the origin and propagation of angels, such as the false teachers taught at Colosse ( Col 2:18-23 ).
The whole phrase is fables and genealogies, so here's the comment on genealogies as well:
genealogies--not merely such civil genealogies as were common among the Jews, whereby they traced their descent from the patriarchs, to which Paul would not object, and which he would not as here class with "fables," but Gnostic genealogies of spirits and aeons, as they called them, "Lists of Gnostic emanations" [ALFORD]. So TERTULLIAN [Against Valentinian, c. 3], and IRENAEUS [Preface]. The Judaizers here alluded to, while maintaining the perpetual obligation of the Mosaic law, joined with it a theosophic ascetic tendency, pretending to see in it mysteries deeper than others could see.
I gather that what is in Paul's mind here is along the lines of the fictitious Apocrypha, tales made up but presented as truth. This is the problem, that they were presented as the truth and believed as the truth, in the place of the true gospel revelation. He's not talking about fiction presented as fiction and understood to be fiction.

As I understand it, the way Jonathan Cahn came upon the harbingers in reality is nothing at all like the fictitious story he invented to present them to the public. There was no journalist, there was no "prophet" like the major character in the book, there were no mysterious meetings with such a person, there were no clay seals involved, there was no literary or media agent he told the story to. All these things are a literary device to get the story told in some kind of measured order so that the reader can ponder each harbinger as it is presented.

Pastor Chambers calls the prophet character the "false prophet" and says that since he is fictitious his prophecies are also fictitious. Well he IS fictitious but his message is not. The prophet in The Harbinger is not intended to represent any sort of reality and I don't know of anyone who has taken him for real. He's merely a vehicle for the message of the harbingers. In fact, he must have been fun to invent -- his frustrating habit of showing up when and where he pleases and refusing to tell the whole story until he puts the journalist through some agonies to investigate the facts, provide the only somewhat comic moments.

I suppose if he were to be likened to anything in reality he might be compared with an angel that can appear and disappear unexpectedly, but even that comparison is a stretch, and since no such comparison is made in the book there's no point in pursuing it. The prophet is a fictitious character, period.

BUT: The harbingers are real. That's ALL that's real in the book. And that's the important thing, that's the point of the story, the reality of the harbingers.

What all the critics seem to have in common is their failure to recognize the reality of the harbingers. Sometimes they seem to go out of their way to find ridiculous ways to ignore them. Chambers says there is no sycamore at Ground Zero, for instance. But in actual manifested literal material real reality, there IS a sycamore at Ground Zero -- or was. It appears he hasn't read the book or hasn't researched the facts connected with it. They are certainly real. There are pictures of them out there, pictures of the uprooted sycamore, of the spruce that replaced it, of the bronze sculpture of the sycamore roots, of the quarried cornerstone, reports of and videos of the speeches made by various American leaders and so on and so forth. I've posted some of them myself earlier on.

HOWEVER: Here's where the down side of making an important reality into a fiction should probably be acknowledged. If you listen to the interviews of Jonathan Cahn and the talk he gave at a Messianic conference back in 2005 (all at You Tube), which I posted a few times earlier, you aren't likely to get all caught up in the truth-versus-fiction confusion, but this apparently can happen with the book --for some people anyway.

The harbingers are the ONLY point of the story, they are Real Reality that carries a message I think must be recognized as obviously from God Himself once you appreciate them, but this probably comes through much more clearly in the talk and interviews than the book.

I don't think this excuses the critics from their responsibility to think through what obviously they've simply impulsively reacted to instead. You have to start from the reality of the harbingers to get the message. If you first grasp that much you are not likely to go off into the extremes of accusation of dire theological failure as the critics do.

AFTER you get that essential message, THEN you could reasonably go on and consider whether it helps or detracts from the message to create fictional characters, and whether the Prophet character might imply something a Christian would be better off not implying. That could be a reasonable position to take.

But again, the harbingers themselves ARE the story. If you don't get that you miss The Harbinger completely.