Monday, January 26, 2015

Are You Practicing Christianity or Witchcraft?

Christians don’t think much about witchcraft or magic these days. The idea conjures up images of ladies who come out at Halloween with crooked noses, warts and black hats. When we think of magic, it’s more likely to be along the lines of what a Disney princess can do than anything the Bible talks about. There are times when the idea of witchcraft as dangerous rears its head – as with controversies over the Harry Potter books (which my son is reading right now) several years ago. The main idea we get when we think of witchcraft is that it is make-believe, maybe even a fun escape from the real world we live in right now.
But as Christians, we know there is much more to the universe than what we can simply see; we know there has been a God who is constantly acting to keep the world together, and who has in times past acted in miraculous ways to bring about his ultimate purposes. This was most perfectly seen when God himself became man, lived among us, died and was resurrected from the grave. A Christianity without a God who sometimes miraculously intervenes is no Christianity at all. Now, this doesn’t mean a Christian must buy all claims of the miraculous that people, even fellow Christians make. It simply means that we know God has acted miraculously in the past, and that he has the ability to do so again if he so desires.
But we need to be careful how we understand this, because if we’re not we will conflate the miraculous work of God with little more than witchcraft. If you have a wrong conception of who God is, then you may very well be practicing sorcery instead of Christianity. Let me give you an example that has shown up in my Facebook feed a couple of times in the last couple of days.

Say this slow … you are not practicing Christianity if you do this, you are practicing witchcraft. When we turn God into the kind of God who can be manipulated by our simple word choices, and who must act in particular ways if we do particular things, then we are treated him like nothing more than a magic spell. Say the incantation right, and it will work every time! The problem with this kind of thinking – at least one of the problems - is that it treats God not like a real person, but like a supernatural entity, a “genie in a bottle,” waiting on just the right words said in just the right order at just the right time with just the right sincerity, so that it may act in a particular way. This is garbage, and it must be rejected by every person who calls himself a believer in Christ.
One of the ways I think we have come up with this idea is by reading actual things that Jesus said, and completely misunderstanding them or intentionally misrepresenting them. When Jesus said, “Whatever you ask in my name, this I will do, that the Father may be glorified in the Son,” that was not a command to ask for what you want, tack “in Jesus’ name,” on the end, and then wait for your reward. Jesus is telling his disciples to ask for the things they want, so long as they are in accord with his character, in line with his will, and will ultimately bring glory to the Father. It’s a dangerous thing to take God’s name in vein, you know. That command is about more than cussing. Your request for a new Mercedes may very well fall into this category. And the reason you haven’t gotten it is much likely because you don’t need it than it is because you haven’t said the right words in the right way and really, really meant them.
Now, you may not actually think like this, but that doesn't mean you are beyond danger. You need to ask yourself - Do I treat God as a means to an end, or the end in himself? Your chief job as a Christian is to glorify and enjoy God forever, not just enjoy his gifts. It's the difference in a man loving his wife because of the person she is, or because she cooks him dinner every night. It's the difference between loving God, and loving the perceived benefits that God has given you for following him. 

So this is a call for wisdom and self-examination – does your faith look like the kind of faith Jesus actually talks about and commends, or is bordering on witchcraft – using God as a cosmic power who grants all your wishes and desires if you really mean it? The first is Christianity. The second is witchcraft. And the Biblical denunciations of such practice apply to you.

Monday, January 19, 2015

Screwtape and Heaven

(Editor's note - this letter is written in the spirit of C.S. Lewis' "Screwtape Letters," purported to be letters from a senior demon to his younger nephew, about how to tempt a particular subject. I make no claims of the same quality of Lewis.)

My Dearest Wormwood,

I understand your patient has had some kind of accident, and has fallen into a coma. You must realize how precarious a situation you find yourself in at this moment. He has stayed faithful thus far to our insipid enemy; I’m afraid if he doesn’t wake up, we will have lost him. Of course, the consequences for you will be quite terrible if this happens. So it is best for you, and for our side, that he wakes up. Now, there is no guarantee that his waking up will be of any benefit for us either. You would think that someone who goes through a terrible ordeal like what your patient has gone through, and then wakes up from it, only to face months of hardship and rehabilitation, would be ripe picking for our side. Unfortunately, what we very often find is that such a person actually grows in his trust of the enemy. This has been a terrible quandary for us as we have researched this phenomenon. Some of our most ingenious plots have been turned against us by the other side, and we have lost not a few patients for good, even as they struggled through serious health issues. The bottom line is this – whichever way this goes for the patient, you find yourself in grave peril. Extreme measures are in order.

But there is some new research we have developed that I believe may be helpful for you, if and when the patient wakes up. It’s really cutting-edge stuff, and has shown some great promise during these days when even those who call themselves followers of the enemy seem to have very little idea about what he really thinks or wants or is like. I would suggest that if he wakes up, you need to somehow convince him that he actually spent time in Heaven during his unconscious state. This move does not come without its risks, but the reward for it is ever so great.

 Let me explain to you how this works. You see, the enemy actually appears to genuinely care about these people. Of course, we know differently, but our best attempts to figure out what his ulterior motives are have thus far come up short. This “love” he has for the creatures has manifested itself in several ways, but one of them is that he has chosen to reveal himself to them. Through the course of several centuries, he showed particular people little pieces of him. And it all culminated in that dreadful attack that took place when he himself landed in territory that rightfully belonged to us. We repelled him, of course, but he has convinced them that he ultimately overcame it. And these revelations are his greatest weapon against us. When people here about what he did, something about them is changed. We’re quite sure he is brainwashing them; nevertheless, one of the most dreadful weapons he has used against us are these written revelations that they have collected in their scriptures. Nothing else has so much power against us as this evil collection of stories.

Though we haven’t been able to stop the stories from being told, we have been able to blunt their effectiveness, by undermining them. Some of that has come through people who have tried to poke holes in their truth, but our most ingenious attacks have come by using people who believe them to be true. What we’ve done is convince these people that though the Scriptures are true, they aren’t quite enough, that something else is needed. We have convinced people who are otherwise worthless to our cause that their experiences are as important as those stories found in their scriptures. And when this happens, they have fallen right into our hands.

Now, back to the plan. If your patient is one of these people who values his experience as much as he values those stories, then you have someone who is ripe for the picking. You'll want to make what he sees in "Heaven" as beautiful (in his eyes) as possible, and keep it as close to close to "orthodoxy" as possible. The more it looks like the way the enemy has described it, the more easily, you can fool him. If you can convince him that he went to Heaven during his hospitalization, then the next thing you must convince him is that he must tell other people about this experience. Never mind that those Scriptures specifically speak against such a trip to Heaven and back, and especially speaking of it. Many of the enemy’s people these days have no real idea what the scriptures really say. But what they do know is that they’re supposed to tell others about him.

So you can use the enemy’s plans to defeat us against him. The patient can do something completely contradictory to his holy scriptures, and believe he is doing it in the enemy’s name! This is one our most ingenious developments yet! This may very well be the brick we pull that causes the entire house to fall down! We can convince him to do something the enemy has forbidden in the enemy’s name, while at the same time undermining the authority of those evil scriptures! Who knows, he may get a best-selling book and influence thousands of people to become “Christians” without knowing a thing about the very scriptures the enemy has given them to reveal himself to them! I’m salivating as I consider their surprise as they find they’ve fallen into our hands!!!

Ravenously yours,

P.S. Please contact research and development ASAP by encrypted e-mail to find out the techniques for this particular temptation. We cannot risk the specifics of this new technique falling into the hands of the enemy by communicating by mail.