By Reverend Mark Hunnemann
"During most of the history of Christianity, doctrine, piety, and ethics have gone hand in hand." (Harold OJ Brown, 'Heresies', pg. 433)
"Finally, be strong in the Lord and in the strength of His might." (Ephesians 6:10)
I have said on numerous occasions that "virtually all paranormal activity is demonic in nature". Next time I want to explore this in-depth--clarifying what I mean and do NOT mean by this assessment. What about angels? And what kind of paranormal activity am I referring to? Next week...
This week, I want to discuss what true spirituality is. Francis Schaeffer wrote a marvelous book entitled True Spirituality, but this will not be a re-hash of the contents of his book, as superb as it is. Rather, I was convicted by how much modern evangelicalism has embraced a deficient, one-dimensional view of what it means to be a balanced Christian. Dr Brown's monumental analysis of heresies helped to clarify the basic issues.
True spirituality is defined, not by us, but by the bible. And the bible likens a healthy or balanced faith to a three-legged stool. It actually does not use that analogy, but the three-fold nature of biblical Christianity is found from Genesis to Revelation. With a three-legged stool, if any of the legs are missing or are weak, then it will be unsteady at best, and a disaster waiting to happen, at worst. The three "legs" of true spirituality are: biblical truth or doctrine, existential (moment-by-moment) piety--abiding in Christ or personal communion with Him, and ethics.(individual and social). In the last 2,000 years of church history, various "legs" have been emphasized at times, often to the neglect of one or both of the other "legs". Nevertheless, as Brown points out,"During most of the history of Christianity, doctrine, piety, and ethics have gone hand in hand." (Brown, Heresies) So, he spells out the three legs of true spirituality.
What does all this have to do with a biblical worldview analysis of the occullt and necromancy? A lot actually. Think about it--if being a faithful Christian only (or mainly) entails concern about me as an individual...MY salvation...MY sanctification...MY experience with Jesus, then concern for culture and society is lost. Indeed, there are Christian leaders today who think precisely that--they liken concern for issues like abortion, racism, and the occult as re-arranging the lounge chairs on the Titanic! "The world belongs to Satan and is going to hell anyway, so why worry about it? Just preach the simple gospel, and be simple Christians." It may not be stated so explicitly, but most evangelicals ascribe to this pietistic mentality of radical individualism, and the results are disastrous...leaving us with a one-legged stool.
1. The first leg of true spirituality is that of doctrine. Due to a confluence of issues in addition to pietism, there has never been a time in the history of the church where concern for solid orthodoxy has been weaker than it is today. Let me try to be more positive in how I state this--if you wish to make your life count maximally for the Lord, then you need to place a premium on theological/biblical truth. My dear friends, have we not been commanded to "contend for the faith that was once for all delivered to the saints. (Jude 3)? Then biblical truth should be like fire in our bones!
Theologians, Protestant and Catholic, have fallen prey to the notion of "progress", instead of faithfulness to a body of truth that has been delivered to us. Preachers (with some notable exceptions) have lost a passion for rich expository preaching.
On an old bulletin from the church I used to pastor--dated 1990,-there is the following quote at the top, "To worship is to quicken the conscience by the holiness of God, to feed the mind with the truth of God, to open the heart to the love of God, to devote the will to the purpose of God.." (William Temple) Do you see how all of those are directly related to our understanding of the whole counsel of God?
If you were to ask me what I thought the greatest need of the church is today, I would not hesitate to say that our most urgent need is a deeper understanding of the holiness of God the Father. That would have a domino effect, including a deeper spirituality.
Spiritual warfare is first a truth encounter, and then it is a power encounter, not vice versa..It has been said that American Christianity today is 3,000 miles wide and a half an inch deep....many millions profess Christ, but their doctrinal leg is weak or missing altogether.. Let us recover a passion for truth. Indeed, Jesus is the Truth.
People were burned and drowned for heresy in the past, and that is utterly reprehensible. However, they did understand something vital, which we have largely forgotten--heresy (serious doctrinal error) has a corrupting effect on culture, as well as on individuals.
2. Personal piety is the second leg. This aspect gets most attention today. It is fruitless to argue which leg is most important, but certainly a personal, moment-by-moment walk with Christ is the essence of eternal life (which begins the instant one is saved..see John 17:1ff) The bible is emphatic that at the heart of true spirituality is a deep love for the Lord. Indeed, that is our purpose in life--the greatest commandment--to love God with all of our being. When it comes to our basic purpose in life, there is no variation from person to person--ALL of us are called to a love relationship with the Lord, which takes primacy over all other loves.
Few things are uglier, both to God and a watching world, than a dead orthodoxy. The Reformation of the 1,500's was a recovery of the centrality of the God of grace, and the grace of God.....the gospel. Oddly, perhaps the greatest hindrance to deep devotion FOR God is ministry/service TO God. But how can pastors--or how can we--expect to have victory over Satan if we are not strong in Him? John 15 reminds us that we can do nothing apart from our existential communion with Jesus. Let us resolve to awaken each day with a holy passion of relishing and delighting in our love for the Lord, and His love for us.
3. Ethics is the third leg. Harold OJ Brown points out in some detail how early Pietism (1,700's) devolved from a concern for individual and society, to just the concerns of the individual. Wherever the devil is attacking our culture, the church is supposed to be the first and last bastion of defense...as salt and light. The last leg in our three-legged stool of true spirituality is a passion for applying the gospel to the needs of our generation. But when preachers, as taught in seminary, see their primary calling as making the gospel relevant to the felt needs of the individual, then the ethical leg is severed.
In his last book The Great Evangelical Disaster, published in 1984, Francis Schaeffer pleads with Christians (especially leaders) to confront evil and error. He lamented that, as a whole (with notable exceptions), we were not confronting "the spirit of the age", and by default, we were accommodating the growth of evil and error. Hence, our culture was unraveling right before our eyes. Sadly, what Schaeffer said back in 1984 (selfish, individualistic pietism), has become even more ensconced in our culture in 2014. True spirituality, one that is biblically balanced and pleasing to the Lord, will confront the issues facing our generation. It saddens me that the historic stance of Christianity towards necromancy, has changed so radically in such a short time.So, where are the sermons on the paradigm shift to occultism? Abortion? When I took homiletics (preaching) in seminary, we were taught to do two things--work hard to be faithful to the true meaning of the text, and to work equally hard on sensitively applying the unchanging truth to the changing needs of our generation...wherever the devil is attacking, we are to attack!
Please search your own heart to see which leg of the 3 legged stool which you need to attend to. The Lord bless you and keep you. Mark
"Seeing Ghosts through God's Eyes" (also in a Kindle edition)...please consider purchasing my book which uses science, logic, and the bible to analyze the true source of power behind paranormal activity.