Sunday, October 27, 2013

Soul Power Counterfeits the Holy Spirit: Predicting the Future

It was while listening to Friday's radio show by Dr. Michael Brown, Dr. Brown Answers Your E-Questions that I decided to post again on the subject of Soul Power, even perhaps at some length, because I believe it may explain a great deal of what is experienced in Charismatic circles as the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, although in reality it may be nothing but heightened natural human powers.

On that radio show Dr. Brown goes into some detail about the Charismatic claim that New Testament prophecy is different from Old Testament prophecy in that the prophet is not required to be 100% accurate.  He also tries to answer the accusation that it is new extrabiblical revelation, and I have to say I agree with him about that:  that is, most of the "prophecy" in question is focused on strictly personal individual concerns, which is an entirely different thing from the Old Testament prophecies which were given to God's People for revelation of the ways of God, which are instructions for the edification of all of us in all times and places.

But this amounts to a denial that anything like biblical prophecy is being exercised at all.  As someone at the Strange Fire Conference quipped, this denial, along with the denial that healings on the level of the New Testament are occurring today, and the denial that today's "gift of tongues" is  the same as the New Testament gift of tongues, makes closet Cessationists of Charismatics. 

There is truth in that observation.  The claimed gifts are really not like the supernatural gifts that were exercised by the Apostles and many believers in that era.

Brown gave two examples of what he means by "New Testament" style prophecy that is not like Old Testament prophecy: 

When he was teaching part time but had been privately told he would soon replace a full-time teacher on the staff, someone in his class received this knowledge in his mind and spoke it out loud.  It was true, Brown knew it was true, and he considered it to be a prophetic speaking.

Another example was given of a woman missionary to China who was told by a Charismatic prophet that he "saw" her working in Palestine although such an idea had never occurred to her.  Over some time other similar words of "prophecy" were brought to her and finally it was also confirmed in her own understanding as God's will for her, and she did eventually go as a missionary to Palestine.

If we just accept these as true reports, and I have no reason to doubt them, the question I'd have is whether either of them describes prophecy in the biblical sense at all.  And I'd answer, No.

Consider something about these two examples:  Don't they strike you as peculiarly empty and useless?  Even if true what good is there in either case of such a prediction being given?  Did either Brown or the missionary need to know about it, did it serve any purpose in their lives?  Wouldn't Brown have taken over the other teacher's job in any case, and the missionary have gone to Palestine in any case, and what good purpose did it serve for either of them to have it revealed in advance?  Isn't it obvious the answer is None?

Well, what is it then?   Is it demonic?  Not necessarily.

My guess is that it's what Watchman Nee identified as "soul power."  There can be demonic influence involved but it's nevertheless a human power, which he explains as built into human nature at the Creation but suppressed as a result of the Fall.  Although such powers are suppressed in us, it is possible to release them to expression through various disciplines such as are practiced in many of the world's religions, including Buddhism, Hinduism and Taoism.  Nee discusses the ability to foretell the future as one of these "supernatural" but fallen human powers on pages 22 and 24 of his little book, The Latent Power of the Soul

He also mentions healings as one of the powers, and sees Christian Science as the practice of controlling the mind in order to bring about certain kinds of healings.  He regards such phenomena as often successful, which may or may not be borne out in reality, but his idea of how it works is interesting and compelling it seems to me.  It explains for one things the strenuous disciplines, the ascetic practices, the breathings and meditations, that many go through in Eastern religions to acquire the ability to control the mind and body.  Books written by many practitioners of Hinduism, such as Paramahansa Yogananda, often describe strange phenomena and powers that its adepts are capable of, from telepathy to telekinesis to clairvoyance and so on.  I've tended to think of these abilities as demonically inspired, but now I think this explanation is better. 

The simple repetition of a mantra or even a prayer such as the Jesus Prayer practiced by Russian mystics, can release such abilities in a person.  But such practices and disciplines aren't the only means of releasing the latent soul powers, as many Christians today have come to experience some of them from a sort of contagion, especially in a highly emotionally charged atmosphere as can occur in some "revivals."   The jerkings and shakings and falling down may include demonic involvement, or they could merely be the effect on the human frame of a heightened "religious" frame of mind that can trigger the release of the powers in question.  Again I'd recommend watching the video presentation by Andrew Strom about false spirits in the Church, which I've posted at the upper right of this blog.  It is abundantly clear that the same jerkings that occurred in the Brownsville "revival" are part of Hindu Kundalini practices as well.  How gullible we are, and so eager to embrace anything out of the ordinary that seems supernatural.

Could genuinely born-again Christians experience these things and mistake them for the Holy Spirit?  Contrary to John MacArthur who seems to believe that being born again should protect us from all such counterfeits, I don't know for sure but I'd hesitate to say they couldn't.  In any case these are NOT the biblical Gifts of the Spirit, they ARE counterfeit.  And Nee (who himself had a psychic power he at first attributed to God but then learned to renounce as contrary to Christian life) teaches that rather than allowing their expression we should die to them and deny them expression because as powers of the human soul they interfere with the genuine workings of God through the Holy Spirit.

"My people are destroyed for lack of knowledge" can apply to this subject.  If we don't know we are being deceived by a counterfeit we can fall into all kinds of error and miss the Holy Spirit altogether.


Just want to add here that Nee sees human nature as made up of three parts, body, soul and spirit, which is found in one place in the Bible, though others such as John MacArthur believe in only two parts, body and soul.

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