Tuesday, July 19, 2016

A Christian Jewish Sader. Is this what Paul had in mind in Romans 11?



Last Passover season I posted a Facebook notice with pictures enthusiastically describing a Christian Passover I participated in at the church of Christ the King (Anglican) in Hiawassee, Georgia. The service was marked by observing the Jewish Passover rituals and prayers, but with Christian interpretations added. Some of the men of the parish, including the rector, Fr. Don O’Malley, wore Jewish prayer shawls and skull caps.  It was all beautifully done, and many participants experienced it as an especially grace-filled and joyful evening. The pictures below demonstrate this.

(Fr. OMalley is standing on the right.)

To my surprise I received numerous negative comments. Some saying that Jews are offended by these “mixed” Jewish-Christian Passovers. That is hard to understand, as imitation is the sincerest form of flattery. Several clergy from Orthodox and liturgical denominations strongly insisted that Jewish traditions and observances have no part in a Christian church. They seemed to take special offense at my claim that Passover was an Old Testament sacrament and could be observed by Christians to receive its grace. 

At Christ the King

Old Testament Sacraments? 

I argued for the continuity of the Old Testament feasts as sacraments (that is, covenant rituals that are the occasion of God’s grace) in my previous work, Forgotten Power: The Significance of the Lord’s Supper in Revival.[1] Let me recap that argument. It contradicts the consensus of Medieval Western (and Eastern) theology which strongly affirms that sacraments were restricted to the New Testament period. For instance, the classic Catholic catechism definition of a sacrament is “An outward sign, instituted by Christ to give grace.” Protestant definitions are similar, although often do not specifically mention Christ.  It is important to note that the Catholic definition was late in formulating and there was much discussion on the issue in the early Middle Ages. For instance, St. Bernard of Clairvaux argued that marriage was instituted directly by God and a valid source of grace even among non-Christians. However, St. Thomas Aquinas and his Christ only view of the origins of the sacraments eventually won out and became official doctrine. Thomas’ view of course excluded the possibility that the God ordained rituals and festivals of the Old Testament were in any way sacramental and grace giving. His position passed on to Protestant sacramental theology where the mandated festivals such as Passover are termed “ordinances.”[2]


John’s Baptism as Jewish sacrament:

What was missing in this consensus theology was an appreciation of what Paul said in Romans 11, that Jews are still a living root to Christianity. But before we get to that let me point out a critically important New Testament scripture that affirms St. Bernard, and contradicts St. Thomas. It is found in Luke 7, where the writer (Luke) describes the spiritual effects of the ministry of John the Baptist:

(All the people, even the tax collectors, when they heard Jesus’ words, acknowledged that God’s way was right, because they had been baptized by John.  But the Pharisees and the experts in the law rejected God’s purpose for themselves, because they had not been baptized by John.) (vs 29-30).
Now, clearly John the Baptist is ministering as a Jew in the Old Testament era. He is identified by Jesus as such with the promise that Believers in Him will be even greater that the greatest Old Testament figures (Matt 11:11). From Acts we learn that John’s baptism was effective for repentance and the forgiveness of sins (Acts 19:2-4).  In any case, in two verses above it is clear that those who receive John’s baptism had received a special grace for accepting the Gospel. That is, an outward sign that gave a grace, i.e. a sacrament.



The Holy Spirit and the Sacraments:

But let me expand this into a specifically pneumatological (Holy Spirit) understanding of the sacraments. Modern historical scholarship has revealed that John did not invent water baptism out of the blue. Rather his baptism was a continuity and development of a ritual developed in the inter-testament period for the acceptance into Judaism of female converts. The Old Testament is clear that male converts are to be circumcised, but silent on female converts. The inter-testament rabies chose water immersion as a natural symbol to cleanse the convert of Paganism and its sins. Similarly, the Christian Eucharist had anterior forms in the Jewish religious fellowship meal, the Berakka, where the food was blessed and special thanksgiving was given over the wine and bread. [3]
It seems these ritual developments were inspired by the Holy Spirit to prepare the way for the salvific importance of Christian Baptism and the Eucharist. It is also probable that at every step they were grace giving and already sacramentally effective, as the Luke scripture affirms of John’s water baptism.

Evidence from Church history:

In studying revivals I encountered revivals at the edge of the modern era that were unlike anything in contemporary times. These were The Scottish communion revivals of the 18th and 19th Centuries. The most famous ones were the revivals in Cambusland, Scotland in 1740 and the Cane Ridge, Tennessee in 1801 which triggered the Second Great Awakening in America. In these revivals the people met in fields, with their tents lining a field where preaching went on for days, culminating in a communion service. They were vastly successful in bringing thousands to salvation, and in America established the “camp meeting” tradition. This continued to encourage and refresh American Christianity to this day.

I suggested that part of the success of these revivals was that they had, under the guidance of the Holy Spirit, unintentionally recreated the Jewish feast of Booths. All the essential elements were there. The people lived in tents, (and thus abandoned their principal emblem of social position) shared food, and heard the scriptures preached with the intention of coming to repentance. To the graces of the Feast of Booth were added the Christian graces of the Eucharist. It was spiritual dynamite![4]



The present Jewish/Christian reconciliation:

People born in the last decades have little experience of the strong anti-Semitism that was part of Christian culture, both here and over-seas, and which had its origins in the Jewish Christian divide of the 2nd Century. [5]  Jews emigrating to the United States from Europe in the 1920s and 1940s  mostly shrugged it off, as the social snubs, nasty jokes, or skipped promotions were not to be compared the Russian programs or the beastly acts of Nazism. Personally, I recall that even as a devote Catholic boy in the 1950’s I participated in anti-septic jokes and anecdotes about the “miserly” Jews, etc.

That began to turn around as the world saw the details of the Nazi extermination camps and the statistics of the Holocaust. Further, many Christians discerned that the foundation, and miraculous survival, of the state of Israel (1948) in spite of its many enemies was the working out of Biblical prophecy. In any case, I cannot remember a single incident as a charismatic Christian since the 1970s of every hearing an anti-Semitic slur or nasty joke within Christian circles. Rather, Christians, especially Spirit-filled Christians, now regularly pray for Israel and for the “peace of Jerusalem” as we are commanded to in the Bible.[6] Modern Christian saints such as Corry Ten Boom, are remembered for their heroism in shielding Jews from Nazi persecution and extermination.

This reconciliation is not just one way. Jewish scholars have taken a radical turn in the last decades towards appreciating Christianity.  For instance, in traditional rabbinic literature Paul was considered the great apostate of Judaism and his writing the source of the pogroms and persecutions  that befell the Jews at the hands of Christians. But recently this view has changed. Jewish scholars now give Paul a new and positive evaluation. That is, the Pharisees of the New Testament times tried to convert the world and bring to it the good news of a One God who was righteous, loving and forgiving. But they failed. But Paul succeeded. He indeed brought  the worship of the one true God to the Gentiles. In this view Christianity, with is strange Trinitarianism,  is an “interim” solution to end idolatry. But in God’s providence God will be universally worshiped and the Torah obeyed.[7]

Further, generations of enthusiastic Christian pilgrims to the Holy Land have softened Jewish memories of past Christian pogroms and persecution. Israeli leaders are acutely aware that Evangelical and Spirit-filled Christians are steadfast in their support of Israel. This is in contrast to the rapid rise of pro-Palestinian sentiment and a renewed anti-Semitism so marked in Europe, and now common within mainline (liberal) Protestantism.

Romans 11 and Paul’s Vision of the Reconciled Christian/Jewish Church:

When Paul wrote to the congregation at Rome, it consisted of both Gentile believers and Jewish/Christians.  He gave his fullest revelation about the interaction of Jews and Christians in the Body of Christ in chapter 11. It was a vision far different from the anti-Semitism and supersessionism that captivated the Early Church less than a hundred years after his death and reigned until recent times.

The rabbinic theology of the “end times” that Paul’s learned was that Kingdom of God and the Messiah would come after Jews fully embraced the Law of Moses.  This would usher in a period when Gentiles would stream into the Kingdom in envy and awe of Jewish righteousness and the excellence of the Law. Paul’s revelation of Jesus as the Messiah reversed this. The heart of the Kingdom was not obedience to the Law of Moses, rather God’s providential mercy and grace thru Jesus. The non-legalistic righteousness of the Christian Gentiles would make the Jews envious and ready to accept the Gospel.[8]

Starting in Romans 10 Paul explained this revelation with a Bible passage to prove that God intended from the beginning to incorporate none-Jews for his Kingdom: “And Isaiah boldly says, "I was found by those who did not seek me; I revealed myself to those who did not ask for me."(Rom 10:20). Paul understood the Jews had mostly rejected Jesus as messiah. However, he revealed that the Jews were not truly rejected by God, but rather were providentially blinded from seeing Jesus as messiah and Lord. This was in order to establish the Gentle Church:  “Again I ask: Did they [the Jews] stumble so as to fall beyond recovery? Not at all! Rather, because of their transgression, salvation has come to the Gentiles to make Israel envious.” (Rom 11:11) Yet the Jews continue in some way under God’s providence and continue as part of the foundation of the Church. This is explained in the metaphor of the cultivated and wild olive tree. The Jews are the original olive tree that has been pruned, and then engrafted with new “wild olive” shoots, the Gentile Church (Rom 11).

But Paul also reveals what he calls a great “mystery,” that the Jews will be re-engrafted. This Church will be the full reconciliation between Jews and Christians:

For he [Jesus] himself is our peace, who has made the two one and has destroyed the barrier, the dividing wall of hostility, by abolishing in his flesh the law with its commandments and regulations. His purpose was to create in himself one new man out of the two [Jews and Gentiles], thus making peace, and in this one body to reconcile both of them to God through the cross, by which he put to death their hostility. (Eph 2:14-16)
The coming (and presently ongoing) reconciliation will produce a Church that will have more power and glory than either of its antecedent parts: “But if their transgression [rejection of Jesus] means riches for the world, and their loss means riches for the Gentiles [the formation of the Gentile Christian Church], how much greater riches will their fullness bring!” (Rom 11:12). Thus the Gentile Church is only an interim provision, on the way to God’s best for the Body of Christ, a reconciled Jewish and Gentile Church.

As the Church developed after 4th Century, both, East and West, Christians developed a sense that their churches had reached theological and liturgical perfection and were “all there was.”  If they thought about Paul’s revelation in Roman and Ephesians they imagined a Church of the end days that reflected their denominational traditions. Catholics assumed a triumphant Catholic Church and Protestants a triumphant Reformed church, etc. To these bodies would be added many Jewish converts who had become good Catholics, devote Methodists, or nice Presbyterians, etc.
But in the last decades we are getting a glimpse of God’ “mystery” working out that is not meeting these traditional expectations. Most Jews coming into the Kingdom and accepting Jesus as their Messiah  are not becoming Catholics, Baptists, or classical Pentecostals, etc. Rather they are forming congregations that keep many of the customs and feasts of the Judaism. [9]

Although we cannot presume to understand God’s ultimate plans, it seems that the Holy Spirit has been moving the Church out of its Hellenistic period and into a renewal of its Hebraic heritage that will make Jews feel “at home” in the end times Church. This means that unnecessary cultural and historical barriers, such as its anti-Semitic superssionist theology, and excessive Hellenism that would obstruct a Jew from accepting Jesus as Messiah are vanishing.

The Christian Seder Meal as token of Jewish/Christian reconciliation:

At Christ the King:



From Paul’s prophetic passages in Romans and Ephesians we can frame the present Christian recovery of the Seder meal as Holy Spirit driven. It is another step to bring forward Jesus’ desire for love and reconciliation between Jew and Christian.  The present form of the Christian Seder meal may not be its final end-time form. Who knows what the Spirit has in store?  I imagine that the rabies who worked out female conversion baptism had no idea that it would develop much further. 
Presently, there are multiple ways that Christian churches celebrate the Seder meal. Some do it on Good Friday; others time it to concur with the Jewish Passover. Some churches do a strictly Jewish service and invite Jewish neighbors to participate. Most Christian churches seem to prefer a Christianized form where the prayers are modified to recognize Jesus as Messiah. All seem to work well.
But I do have one (mild) criticism of the Christianized services. That is, that these services try to educate while they carry out the Seder. This makes it somewhat clumsy and time consuming, as if a minister or priest had to stop and explain that the bread and wine represent (or become) the body and blood of Christ each time he does a communion service. Teaching about the Seder should be done in adult Sunday school or in a preaching sermon before the actual service. This would make the Seder sacrament more smoothly.  

Announcement:

The noted Pentecostal scholar, Dr. Jon Ruthven, dis a very positive review on my recent book on Agnes Sanford, which can be accessed HERE


 This work can be bought on Amazon in the paper edition or in an inexpensive Kindle edition. Or you can get the paper copy direct form the publisher at a discount, HERE


My wife has published a funny, inspiring and well written work on our life and ministry together. It can be purchased HERE




[1](Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2003).
[2] I discuss this with more detail in Forgotten Power, chapter 3.
[3]F. Gavin, The Jewish Antecedents of the Christian Sacraments. (London: SPCK, 1928).  A classic in its field.
[4] Forgotten Power, chapter 13.
[5]Antisemitism is found in Church documents as early as the Shepherd of Hermes, written in the late 1st Century, and can be gleaned from the Gospel  of John.
[6] On the other hand, several mainline denominations that have drifted leftward politically and into theological heresy, such as the Episcopal Church, now regularly lambaste Isreal as an imperialists state and side with the Palestinians.
[7] See the key twin articles by Daniel R. Langton in the Journal of the Study of the New Testament, “The Myth of the “Traditional View of Paul and the Role of the Apostle in Modern Jewish-Christian Polemics, (28, #1 summer 2005, 69-104), and “Modern Jewish Identity and the Apostle Paul,” (28 #2 December 2005, 217-258.
[8] Dale C. Allison “Romans 11:11-15: A suggestion,” Perspectives in Religious Studies 12 #1 (spring 1985), 23-30.
[9] They find their righteousness in following Jesus Christ not in the Law Moses, but have their joy in affirming that many of the aspects of the Law are good to observe. On the importance of these Messianic congregation to the entire body of Christ see the works of Peter Hocken, beginning with his classic, The Glory and the Shame (London: Eagle, 1993).






Sunday, July 17, 2016

Can this type of prayer heal Parkinson’s disease?


My wife Carolyn, who is older than I am (I’ll be 74 in August) was showing strange symptoms for some time. Her hands would tremble, she had daytime sleepiness, poor balance and several other symptoms.



She did not go to the doctor, as she has always been reluctant to go to doctors unless absolutely necessary. So she lived with the symptoms and wrote them off as “normal aging.”  But last week she heard a presentation on Parkinson’s from the web, and decided “Oh, this is what I probably have.”  She mentioned that to me, and she began doing some of the dietary things the web doctor suggested, as in not eating breakfast before 10:00 am, nor eating dinner later than 6:00 pm. In other words, a half day fast.

I did a quick search on the web which basically said there was no cure for the disease, and the symptoms gradually become worse. The cause was not definitely known, but it seemed to be related to a part of the brain called the “substancia negra” which means “dark substance.” This is a section which lies between both hemispheres of the bran toward the back. This area of the brain produces the dopamine necessary for the normal function of the nervous system, and brains afflicted with Parkinson’s produce less dopamine than normal.



Whit that information, and with my experience in command prayer (learned from the classic work on this by Charles and Francis Hunter, How to Heal the Sick, I began praying for Carolyn in this way. I placed one hand on the back of her head, and another under her chin near the neck. This way the healing energies of God, which are in some ways similar to electricity, could easily flow into the “substancia negra.”

I simultaneously prayed in this manner:

          In Jesus’ name, I speak to the subsancia negra and command it to be healed. I command it, in Jesus’ name to be restored and rejuvenated to full health and full function. I command that dopamine be produced in normal quantities so that the nervous system be healed and perfectly well. I command all this in Jesus’ name



The next morning Carolyn found that she was substantially healed. The hand tremors had ceased completely. She was till a bit unsteady, but also better in this regard.

A week later her symptoms reappeared, though not as severally. Again I prayed the command prayer in Jesus' name and again she was much better. This may mean that Parkinson' disease may need repeated prayer. Christians need not be scandalized by this, as repeated prayer was modeled by Jesus in the incident in which he had to pray twice for the blind man in Mk 8:24. 

Now, one case does not mean universal healing is at hand.  But this is very interesting and easy to replicate. I would like those of you who read this post to try this type of prayer and see if you get similar positive results. Please describe you results after several days of this type of prayer, and add your comment to the comment section of the blog. Good results? No results? We need to see if this generally effective.

Note: I previously wrote an extensive blog posting on the Hunter's discovery of command prayer. It can be seen HERE. You Tube has many of ther videos showing their way of prayer. Their classic book is available HERE.


Announcement:

The noted Pentecostal scholar Dr. Jon Ruthven wrote a very positive review of my latest book, Agnes Sanford and Her Companions: The Assault on Cessationism and the Coming of the Charismatic Renewal. You can access it HERE.




The book may be purchased on Amazon, either print or inexpensive Kindle. You can purchase the print version at a discount from the publisher HERE







Friday, July 15, 2016

Prayer for the city of Cleveland during the Republican National Convention




We have a very dangerous situation coming up at the Republican National Convention.  Extremists groups such as the Black Panthers are planning to demonstrate. Right wing extremist also plan to counter- demonstrations. The fact that Ohio allows guns to be publicly carried adds an immense amount of danger to the situation. I suggest that pastors all over America pray the following prayer, or this Sunday to bind the “principalities and powers” that are trying to destroy this country. The prayer is based on two things that are ignored or only dimly recognized by most Christians, but now need to be activated. They are the use of a disabling command as modeled by Paul in Acts 13, the request for an angel (spirit) from the throne of God to produce confusion among those who intend evil (2 Kings 22:19-22)

All this is radical and may seem unacceptable to many Christians, some of whom still believe that healing prayer and exorcism are not proper in the current age.  Most Christians now at least accept the reality of the laying on of hands for healing (a great advance in the last 90 years) and are coming to understand spiritual warfare, although this is still controversial.  I believe disabling prayer is among the last forms of prayer to be recovered  by the contemporary Church, and be a necessary tool for the Church of the Last Days.

 I suggest the following prayer, or something similar, be read at the coming Sunday services by the pastor or minister.  Then, after the congregation can understand and agree, it is read again so that everyone may say “amen” and the power of agreement come into play.

Oh Father in Heaven, our Nation is now is great distress and division. Many of our people have turned away from your grace and are seeking to assert their will and desires by violence, murder and intimidation. We ask, in Jesus’ name, that the Holy Spirit be poured out over our Nation in great measure to heal our divisions and increase love and righteousness among our people.
In Jesus name, we bind to ineffectiveness the principalities and powers hovering over Cleveland who are plotting evil and chaos. In Jesus’ name we proclaim that those groups and individuals coming to Cleveland, or already there, with violence and hatred in their hearts, be confused and divided. We declare their violent plans made ineffective and harmless. We proclaim a spirit of dissention among their own leaders and total fruitlessness of their plans.  
We ask for multitudes of angels to protect the police and delegates from violence, and that the various police forces be given special wisdom and foresight in handling demonstrations and any terroristic threat by racists, black or white.  Further, that there be such an outpouring of prayer among the churches of this Nation,  that many of those who come with evil and hatred in their hearts will leave converted to the Gospel of love and reconciliation. Amen
I anticipate many negative comments about this prayer, but I simply ask my critics to read the blog posting I have already done on the disabling command, so that their criticisms will not waste time on arguing about what I did not say or mean.   It can be accessed HERE.
For your convenience here are the key scriptures:   
      
Paul vs. Elymas: Acts 13:8-12

But Elymas the sorcerer (for that is what his name means) opposed them and tried to turn the proconsul from the faith.  Then Saul, who was also called Paul, filled with the Holy Spirit, looked straight at Elymas and said, “You are a child of the devil and an enemy of everything that is right! You are full of all kinds of deceit and trickery. Will you never stop perverting the right ways of the Lord?  Now the hand of the Lord is against you. You are going to be blind for a time, not even able to see the light of the sun.” Immediately mist and darkness came over him, and he groped about, seeking someone to lead him by the hand.  When the proconsul saw what had happened, he believed, for he was amazed at the teaching about the Lord.



 2 Kings 22. 19-22

Micaiah continued, “Therefore hear the word of the Lord: I saw the Lord sitting on his throne with all the multitudes of heaven standing around him on his right and on his left.  And the Lord said, ‘Who will entice Ahab into attacking Ramoth Gilead and going to his death there?’ “One suggested this, and another that.  Finally, a spirit came forward, stood before the Lord and said, ‘I will entice him.’

“‘By what means?’ the Lord asked. “‘I will go out and be a deceiving spirit in the mouths of all his prophets,’ he said. “‘You will succeed in enticing him,’ said the Lord. ‘Go and do it.’ 


Thursday, June 16, 2016

Some spiritual issues of the gun control debate



Some Spiritual Issues of the Gun Control Debate:

Woe to those who go down to Egypt for help
And rely on horses,
And trust in chariots because they are many
And in horsemen because they are very strong,
But they do not look to the Holy One of Israel,
nor seek the Lord!  (Isaiah 31:1)

The mass shooting de jure, in Orlando, is one of many which we have sadly become accustomed to. Since the Sandy Hook Elementary School massacre these mass shootings have reignited the gun control controversy. One side wants controls on assault weapons, and enhanced registration procedures in the hope that that these measures will at least make a dent in the number of gun related homicides in the country. The NRA and its supporters, on the other hand, believe that no further gun control measures should be passed, and stress the role of improving the nations mental health system in the hope that an effective system can keep guns out of mentally deranged and dangerous persons.

What is lacking in the dispute is a consideration of the spiritual dimensions of both gun control, and the killers involved. The silence from the pulpit on this issue is especially notable.  Perhaps it is because the clergy dislike weighing in on issues that are not precisely defined in scripture, and because American Christians often have very different and passionate opinions on gun control.

But let me suggest three spiritual issues that pastors should consider and discuss with their congregations:The first is a question. How should our identity in Christ, and our trust in God, modify our desire to be armed? The second: Weapons of war, as in assault rifles, naturally stimulate destructive and war-like fantasies which are harmful to the spiritual life, much like pornographic pictures incite lustful fantasies. The third: There is a confusion between “mental health” and demonic infestation of the mind and various forms of possession.

Waiting for the Rapture with an assault weapon:

Let me begin with what is certainly an exaggerated example, but one that makes an important point. I became acquainted with a couple in North Georgia that was into buying and storing assault weapons, ammunition, survivalist food, and gun gizmos of all sorts. They had ten assault guns, plus gold bars buried in the back yard. They belonged and faithfully attended a fundamentalist church. Their mind set, unfortunately shared by many in their church, was fixed on suspicions about the wickedness of the Federal Government, and especially the “Demon-in-Chief,” a.k.a. President Obama. They believe in an imminent 2nd coming of Christ, but that in the last days there will be a breakdown in government and everyone will have to fight for the last can of beans and sack of flour, paper money will be worthless.

Talking to them was difficult, as they have this wall of special “knowing” that is combined with distrust of general news sources. This made discussion on the basis of shared facts practically impossible. (Oh, for the days of old! Back then there were three national networks of TV news, all “centrist,” and most people shared a common universe of facts.) In any case, their specific understanding of the “last days” scenario was making their present life on earth filled with paranoia and anti-social defensiveness. They had none of the joy and peace that should mark the Christian.

This is extreme, but what about the Texas judge who warned of a future UN invasion of the US, preceded by a general disarmament of the population? Or the conspiracy theory that gripped many Texans over war games that the Armed Forces held this past summer. Many in that state believed that the military exercise, which was really a training event for various terrorist scenarios, was a pre-cursor to a Federal takeover in Texas and a forcible disarming of Texas citizens.  Empty Walmarts (in reality being renovated) were supposed to be impromptu prisons for thousands of “resisting” Texans.[1] Notice, no one in the extremist right-wing press or internet has apologized for this slander and paranoia.

But back to our survivalist armed couple. It is important to understand that their pastor did not see the spiritual destructiveness of their peculiar or extreme ideas, or did not counsel them before it got to that point. To be clear, I am not referring here to legal rights. The couple in question had the legal right to buy a hundred assault weapons. What is at issue in this posting is their spiritual dysfunctions that greatly weakened their Christian life and witness and was not addressed by their pastor.

Aside from the exaggerated example cited, I know of another Christian couple who have multiple weapons, and who seem to drift into a “weapons security” focus, vs. a “God-trust” stand. It is a situation every pastor should be alert to and preach against when necessary. Having a weapon in the home may be a prudent thing in our dangerous age of home invasions, but an arsenal of weapons may be a sign of a spiritual dysfunction. (Full disclosure: several years ago my wife was counseling a person who could have turned violent. With my help she purchased a revolver which to this day stays in our closet.)

In regards of assault weapons, let me suggest that these military style weapons are negative fantasy generators. What man does not remember that as a boy, playing with toy guns and imagining a defense of some fort, or a heroic assault on the enemy? It is all part of childhood. In training back in the late 1960s (I am a Vietnam vet) I remember as a soldier in training holding my weapon and imagining firing at a platoon of Viet Cong troops. In fact, the interior rehearsal and visualization of combat is an important element in military training and preparedness. For example, in Army marksmanship training the targets are human shaped, not round bull’s-eyes. The point is that practically every soldier does imagine combat and his heroic and effective use of his weapons.

But a Christian adult who is not in the police or armed forces really has no business with such imaginations, and in fact should discipline his mind to put away such fantasies (and stay away from war video games). As a pastor who knows firsthand the universal sinfulness of humans, I find it hard to imagine that those who buy assault weapons do not indulge in some sort of heroic/aggressive fantasies. For instance, one Christian assault weapon owner told me, “If that motor cycle gang shows up there will be blood and guts on the grass…”  Fill in the fantasy or conspiracy. In all cases such fantasies are spiritually negative, as they focus on harm to others.

Jesus warned us that to fantasize about a lustful situation was sinful, not just the act, and that hatred was as sinful as the act of murder (Matt. 5: 21-30). Violent and murderous fantasies are not illegal, but they are sinful and destructive to the Christian’s spiritual life. I believe this fantasy element of assault weapon possession is one that has escaped most pastors. It should be openly discussed as part of the solution to the present problem.

Further, It seems that assault weapons have come to symbolize for many a sense of manhood and power –  something like a V-8 pick-up truck that is used to commute to an office job. I have a friend lives in poverty. He is on social security as his major income. Most of his check goes to pay for a shiny new pickup. Like many, the new pick up is a symbol and (imaginary) assurance of his self-worth. He is a sincere Christian and had no business in placing his self-esteem and self-worth on the glamor of a pick-up or any other object. Christ should be his rock and basis of self–worth.  Neither the possession of an expensive pickup, or a gaggle of weapons and the emotional and symbolic attachments they generate are unlawful.  No feeling or emotion is, but such emotional crutches are not good for the Christian attempting to progress in sanctification. To quote Paul, “All things are lawful for me, but not all things are profitable. All things are lawful for me, but I will not be mastered by anything.” (1 Cor 6:12)

Let me make haste to state that I do not believe that everyone who buys an assault weapon falls into sins of bloody fantasies. In areas plagued by gangs, an assault weapon might even be a prudent possession for home defense.  But I am affirming that assault weapons are things that tempt persons to negative and bloody images, which should have no part in the Christian’s life.

Let me now offend the Left:

Now that I have offended many of my more conservative, pro-gun Christian friends, let me an equal opportunity offender and critique the other side.

It is natural for secular humanist persons, as in most educators and psychologists, to claim that a more robust mental health structure would bring down the mass murder rate. That is probably partly true. But it is a mistake for Christian to agree with this without serious reservations. A person like Mr. Lanza, the murderer at Sandy Hook Elementary School, was not just a neurotic in need of counseling and medication, but a demon obsessed/possessed person in need of deliverance and exorcism ministry.

A major problem here is that so many pastors and ministers are so poorly educated or experienced in the ministry of deliverance and exorcism. More precisely, many ministers have been mis-educated into the theology of cessationism which limits the miraculous, including the healing ministry and exorcisms, to Biblical times. Or, if trained in a liberal seminary, view the biblical accounts of possession and exorcism as mythical. Exorcism and its allied gifts, such as the “discerning of spirits” (1 Cor 12:10) are simply avoided in most seminaries. An exception is that Pentecostal/charismatic seminaries, and some Catholic and Anglican seminaries do instruct on deliverance/exorcism.

The secular evidence for the demonic:

Notice that many of the mass killings, as well as many domestic homicides, end with the suicide of the perpetrator. That is a sign of severe demonic oppression/possession. I learned this indirectly (as one cannot interview a successful suicide victim) over four decades ago when I was doing extensive research on exorcism. I ran across the work of a California psychiatrist, Wilson Van Deusen. The Natural Depth of Man.[2] He was a psychiatrist who treated schizophrenic patients in the California mental health system. His patients often heard voices or saw visions of persons harassing them with negative thoughts. These voices and entities invariably encouraged the victim to suicide or self-mutilation. Van Dusen concluded that these “delusional entities” were a lot like the biblically described demons. Further, he discovered that the voices/entities diminished in power and intensity as the patients learned to disregard their instructions, and significantly, read the Bible consistently.[3] 

The schizophrenic torments that Van Dusen described were pictured in the brilliant auto-biographical novel and movie, I Never Promised you a Rose Garden, written by Joanne Greensburg (movie in 1977).[4] Greensburg’s experience with the schizophrenic entities took the form of a tribe from the “Kingdom of Yr.”  They began as friendly companions, but devolved into ruthlessly harassing entities. They encouraged Joanne to severely cut herself as an “initiation” into the kingdom, etc.

Right after I saw the Rose Garden movie an acquaintance informed me of a mutual friend who was having schizophrenic episodes in which she heard negative, tormenting voices. She was placed in treatment at a psychiatric ward and under medication for several days, but discharged in spite of the fact she still heard the negative voices. With a prayer partner I visited her and did a rapid and successful deliverance of several afflicting entities.  The voices (demons) never returned.

That was over three decades ago. Since then the psychiatric literature on schizophrenic voices/entities has increased greatly. A review article on the literature and current practice of treating the delusional voices/entities was done by T.M Luhrmann, “Living With Voices.”[5] Luhrmann reports that many psychiatrists still treat schizophrenia exclusively as a chemical disorder of the brain, and try to medicate it to submission – but wind up never really curing it. Others have learned to treat the voices as if they were real entities. They encourage the patients to ‘negotiate’ with the voices and come to some sort of understanding and livable arrangement.

The typical case study that Luhrmann cited to demonstrate the negotiation technique was of “Hans,” a German patient from a nominal Christian household.

Hans used to be overwhelmed by the voices. He heard them for hours, yelling at him, cursing him, telling him he should be dragged off into the forest and tortured and left to die. The most difficult things to grasp about the voices people with psychotic illness hear are how loud and insistent they are, and how hard it is to function in a world where no one else can hear them. It’s not like wearing an iPod. It’s like being surrounded by a gang of bullies. You feel horrible, crazy, because the voices are real to no one else, yet also strangely special and they wrap you like a cocoon.[6]


The psychiatrist first treated him with medication, which made him sleep much and gain weight, but he was no better in his waking period as the voices continued to harass him. But then Hans joined a new patient support group in the psychiatric center which was using negotiation technique with their voices. Han’s voices declared they would cease harassing him if he became a student of Buddhism for four hours a day. He negotiated it down to only one hour, and achieved relative peace, and was able to discontinue all medication and function again in normal society.

Success! But wait. What is missing is spiritual discernment. The voices could have been totally dismissed from the Hans’ environment with deliverance prayer, or his own persistent Bible reading and prayers as Van Dusen had indicated decades earlier. In Hans’ case the demons were apparently satisfied that they were making Hans into a Buddhist, and he would thus be shut off from the Bible and the saving grace of salvation (and true healing) in Jesus Christ.

Secular psychiatrists are not able to “connect the dots” and conclude that the delusional voicesentities are really demons whose task is to “steal, kill and destroy” (John 10:10). All of this is to say that, some of what passes as severe metal disturbance and negative, accusative hallucinations, and attributed to chemical imbalances, etc., are at times demonic entities. The mass killers of late seemed to have obeyed the demonic voices to do destruction and murder. We can speculate as to how this happens. They are taunted and beguiled to violence by voices they cannot stop, and which reward or punish them in various ways. And when the mass murdered is finally cornered by the police the voices turn into screams of accusation and commands to suicide.

Thus the core issue of ever increasing mass killings will not be addressed by any secular metal health program. Anything mandated by Congress under our present understanding of “separation of church and state” will annihilate all spiritual considerations, and be spiritually ineffective. (I really believe we Christians should begin to confront the phrase “separation of church and state” itself, and insist it be renamed to what it is, forced secularization.)

Is gun control possible in the United States?

All of this seems to make the possibility of effective gun control and the reduction of mass killings, murders and countless gun suicides impossible to restrain. Especially distressing is the number of privately held assault weapons already out there. To be clear, wise legislation on gun control, and especially the limiting of assault weapons, may help in bringing down the number of mass killings. It is much easier to do mass killings with assault weapons that with other weapons. Take for example the situation in Israel. There the Palestinians are restricted from having firearms of any sort and have lately resorted to knife attacks. But these attacks are very inefficient in comparison to an attacks with an assault weapon, usually only killing or wounding one or two persons. Unfortunately, the immense number of assault weapon now in private hands will make the effects of any legislation years in coming (not an excuse to begin).

Actually, by identifying the spiritual problems of mass killings and gun control we can see that the opposite is true and a remedy is possible.The remedy is called revival. That is, the massive turning of a nation to God and the Bible as happed in the Second Great Awakening of 1797-1830 when Deism was defeated and Evangelicalism birthed[7]

But it must be a Pentecostal/charismatic type revival. That is, a revival that accepts and incorporates the gifts of the Spirit, including healing and deliverance, discernment of spirits, and categorically rejects cessatio0nsim. Imagine what an America would be where a majority of its churches were actively Spirit-filled and empowered. Pastors and their prayer teams would be alert to persons in the community who were in the process of demon oppression and possession, and could intervene before they acted out.

Perhaps even many Christians who are attached to their assault weapons, like the couple I mentioned a t the beginning of this posting, would bring in and destroy their assault weapons, much like the folks in Acts 19:19 piled up their magic books and burned them. That would be a miracle, but miracles of this sort happen during real revival.

A Prayer of Last Resort:

But for the now. First, a “reasonable” word from the US government. FEMA recently put out a brochure advising churches on how to react to mass shooters. It suggests that ministry staff talk about the possibility of a mass shooter incident and develop a quick response plan. It gives very sensible, secular advice. Basically: run, hid, and fight (i.e., “take aggressive action" as in throwing chairs, fire-extinguishers, etc.).[8] 

I would suggest that IF, and only IF, one finds oneself trapped in a group with a maniacal, person murdering people, and IF there is no way out, try this: Speak towards the person but to the demons and command: “In the name of Jesus, be bound and paralyzed!” Now, I cannot guarantee this will work, and if all you get is a quick trip to heaven via lead between your eyes I will see you there some time later and personally apologize.

BUT, before you dismiss this as crazy, irresponsible and fanatical, let’s look at this scripture from Acts 13:8-12. It is the incident of Paul confronting a sorcerer and immobilizing him.

But Elymas the sorcerer (for that is what his name means) opposed them and tried to turn the proconsul from the faith. Then Saul, who was also called Paul, filled with the Holy Spirit, looked straight at Elymas and said, “You are a child of the devil and an enemy of everything that is right! You are full of all kinds of deceit and trickery. Will you never stop perverting the right ways of the Lord? Now the hand of the Lord is against you. You are going to be blind for a time, not even able to see the light of the sun.” Immediately mist and darkness came over him, and he groped about, seeking someone to lead him by the hand.  When the proconsul saw what had happened, he believed, for he was amazed at the teaching about the Lord.
The Church is just awakening from its cessationist period and now just recovering its Holy Spirit powers. As of yet, most Spirit-filled Christians have never considered doing any such thing. I am a Charismatic from back in the 1970s and I have never seen a teaching on this. Cessationist commentators easily write this off as history, and a special grace of Apostolic times without present day relevance. There are many difficulties in using this scripture as model. I frankly do not know if a spirit of sorcery is more easily bound than a spirit of murder. But the scripture is there, and it is not difficult to understand, but all too easy to dismiss.[9]
I repeat this is speculative. I have no stories to tell of having done such a thing. But with so many armed, demonized persons out there it is good to keep this in the back of your mind, just in case. I was tempted to end with the joke, "Don't try this at home!" but in fact if you and your family suffer a sudden home invasion and are about to be killed this may be the only thing you can do.

Let us all pray that a great revival come to America, where the murder rate shrinks to minuscule levels.

Announcement:

The noted Pentecostal scholar Dr. Jon Ruthven wrote a very positive review of my latest book, Agnes Sanford and Her Companions: The Assault on Cessationism and the Coming of the Charismatic Renewal. You can access it HERE.




The book may be purchased on Amazon, either print or inexpensive Kindle. You can purchase the print version at a discount from the publisher HERE
ieces of silver.




[1] See my article in Pneuma Review, “The Sinfulness and Destructiveness of Conspiracy Theories,” Posted June 29, 2015.  http://pneumareview.com/the-sinfulness-and-destructiveness-of-conspiracy-theories/Blog on conspiracy theories.
[2] (New York: Perennial, 1974)
[3] Unfortunately, Van Deusan fell into Swedenborgism, a spiritualist cult, for the interpretive theology of his findings. I suppose he first consulted with some orthodox cessationsit or liberal theologian who could tell him nothing useful about the demonic or exorcism prayer, . But his core insights into the demonic nature of negative internal “voices” are valid and especially useful to Christian ministers.
[4] Hannah Green (pseudonym for Joanne Greenburg) I never Promised You a Rose Garden (New York: Holt, Rinehart and Winston, 1964). Multiple reprinting’s under the authors real name are available.
[5] The American Scholar.  Posted June 1, 2012. https://theamericanscholar.org/living-with-voices/#.VgKjvMtVhHw
[6] Ibid.
[7]See my book, Forgotten Power: The Significance of the Lord’s Supper in Revival, (Zondervan: 2003). Now out of print, but available in used book sites. For a detailed review study of this book, see HERE). 
[8] FEMA, Guide for Developing High-Quality Emergency Operations Plans for Houses of Worship. Posted June 2013.  https://www.whitehouse.gov/sites/default/files/docs/developing_eops_for_houses_of_worship_final.pdf
[9] I discuss this in more detail in my blog posting, The Anglican Pentecostal, “The Disabling Command as Christian Ministry.” Posted March 28, 2014. http://anglicalpentecostal.blogspot.com/2014/03/the-disabling-command-as-christian.html?_sm_au_=iMVQnHRtpqQV2qkN