Daily Archives: February 21, 2014

Questions about Angels and Demons: What Does the Bible Say about Demonic Oppression?

 

There is strong biblical evidence that a Christian cannot be demon possessed. The question then arises regarding what influence/power a demon can have over a Christian. Many Bible teachers describe demonic influence on a Christian as “demonic oppression” to distinguish it from possession.

The Bible says that the devil seeks to devour believers (1 Peter 5:8), and Satan and his demons “scheme” against Christians (Ephesians 6:11). As Satan attempted with Jesus (Luke 4:2), demonic forces tempt us to sin and oppose our efforts to obey God. Should a Christian allow the demons to succeed in these attacks, oppression results. Demonic oppression is when a demon is temporarily victorious over a Christian, successfully tempting a Christian to sin and hindering his ability to serve God with a strong testimony. If a Christian continues to allow demonic oppression in his/her life, the oppression can increase to the point that the demon has a very strong influence over the Christian’s thoughts, behavior, and spirituality. Christians who allow continuing sin open themselves up for greater and greater oppression. Confession and repentance of sin are necessary to restore fellowship with God, who can then break the power of demonic influence. The apostle John gives us great encouragement in this area: “We know that anyone born of God does not continue to sin; the one who was born of God keeps him safe, and the evil one cannot harm him” (1 John 5:18).

For the Christian, the power for victory over and freedom from demonic oppression is always available. John declares, “The One who is in you is greater than the one who is in the world” (1 John 4:4). The power of the indwelling Holy Spirit (Romans 8:9) is always available to overcome demonic oppression. No demon, not even Satan himself, can prevent a Christian from surrendering to the Holy Spirit and thereby overcoming any and all demonic oppression. Peter encourages believers to resist the devil, “standing firm in your faith” (1 Peter 5:9). Being firm or steadfast in the faith means relying on the power of the Holy Spirit to successfully resist demonic influence. Faith is built up through the spiritual disciplines of feeding on the Word of God, persistent prayer, and godly fellowship. Strengthening our faith by these means enables us to put up the shield of faith with which we can “extinguish the flaming arrows of the evil one” (Ephesians 6:16).[1]


[1] Got Questions Ministries. (2010). Got Questions? Bible Questions Answered. Bellingham, WA: Logos Bible Software.

Questions about False Doctrine: What Is the Hallucination Theory?

 

For almost two thousand years opponents of the Christian faith have proposed various theories in an attempt to explain away the evidence for the resurrection of Jesus Christ. From the “stolen body theory” proposed by the Jewish religious leaders in Matthew’s gospel to the”swoon theory” advanced by the 19th century critic Friedrich Schleiermacher, skeptics have stopped at nothing to explain the testimony to the resurrection of Jesus without recourse to the supernatural.

While most of these naturalistic explanations have been rejected as implausible by contemporary critics of Jesus’ bodily resurrection, one particular theory has begun to gain traction in skeptical circles. This hypothesis is known as the “hallucination theory.” The hallucination theory attempts to account for the testimony to the resurrection of Jesus by claiming both auditory and visual hallucinations on the part of Jesus’ disciples. Proponents of this view claim that Jesus’ disciples really did “see” Jesus, but that these sightings were merely hallucinations in the minds of Christ’s followers, not genuine encounters with a resurrected man. The hallucinations, or sightings, are claimed to have happened repeatedly and are said to have been so vivid as to convince Christ’s followers that Jesus actually had risen from the dead.

The advantage of this proposal is two-fold. First, the proponents of this theory need not engage the impressive evidence for the life-changing transformation of the disciples based upon their newfound belief in the Christ’s resurrection. Rather, the skeptic can grant that there were “appearances” of some sort without conceding the occurrence of a miracle. The second move is to then explain these “appearances” as subjective hallucinations, events that took place only in the minds of the disciples.

From the outset, the Hallucination Theory is beset with problems. First, we now know that anticipation and expectation play a crucial role in the occurrence of hallucinations. This, by itself, makes the disciples poor candidates for such experiences. The disciples were understandably depressed, sorrowful, and deeply grieved as their beloved leader had been violently taken from them and executed. All four Gospels describe the disciples as not expecting to see Jesus resurrected. In fact, some doubted even after Jesus appeared to them (Matthew 28:16–17)! It does not seem that any of Jesus’ disciples were in the proper mindset to be likely candidates for hallucinations.

Second, the diversity of the appearances makes hallucinations an unlikely explanation. Jesus appeared to numerous individuals under various circumstances and locales. He appeared both indoors and outdoors. He appeared not just on one particular day but over a period of weeks. He appeared to people of different backgrounds and personality types.

Probably the most formidable obstacle for the Hallucination Theory to overcome is its failure to explain appearances to groups of people. As clinical psychologist Gary A. Sibcy has commented, “I have surveyed the professional literature (peer-reviewed journal articles and books) written by psychologists, psychiatrists, and other relevant healthcare professionals during the past two decades and have yet to find a single documented case of a group hallucination, that is, an event for which more than one person purportedly shared in a visual or other sensory perception where there was clearly no external referent.” Psychologist Gary Collins was no less clear when he remarked, “Hallucinations are individual occurrences. By their very nature only one person can see a given hallucination at a time. They certainly aren’t something which can be seen by a group of people. Neither is it possible that one person could somehow induce a hallucination in somebody else. Since a hallucination exists only in this subjective, personal sense, it is obvious that others cannot witness it.” And yet, Jesus not only appeared to numerous individuals, but to groups as well-and on numerous occasions (Luke 24:36–43, Matthew 28:9, John 20:26–30; 21:1–14, Acts 1:3–6, 1 Corinthians 15:5–7)!

Still more problems remain. Jesus not only appeared to His disciples but to His skeptical brother James (1 Corinthians 15:7), as well as Saul of Tarsus (later to become the Apostle Paul), a self-professed enemy of the Christian faith. How likely is it that these two would also have individual hallucinations of a resurrected Jesus of whom they had no previous commitment?

Even if all of these obstacles could be overcome, a further problem remains for the Hallucination Theory: the empty tomb. If all of the disciples of Jesus had simply been the victims of numerous individual and group hallucinations, the body of Jesus of Nazareth would have remained where it was, interred in the tomb of Joseph of Arimathea. How likely is it for the disciples of Jesus to have gained converts—after preaching a bodily resurrection in the very area where Jesus was buried—if His tomb were in fact occupied with a recently crucified man? The critic who appeals to hallucinations must then combine this theory with another hypothesis to explain why Jesus’ tomb was found to be empty.

Hallucinations, by themselves, cannot begin to explain all of the data. When all of these factors are taken into account, the Hallucination Theory crumbles under the weight of the facts. The Christian can remain confident that Christ has risen![1]


[1] Got Questions Ministries. (2010). Got Questions? Bible Questions Answered. Bellingham, WA: Logos Bible Software.

Questions about Family / Parenting: How Do You Balance Leave and Cleave with Honoring Your Parents?

 

Both Christian parents and their married children can have difficulty with the balance between the concept of “leave and cleave” and honoring parents. Some pertinent Bible passages:

“Therefore a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined (cleave) to his wife, and they shall become one flesh” (Genesis 2:24).

“Children, obey your parents in the Lord, for this is right” (Ephesians 6:1).

“Honor your father and your mother, so that you may live long in the land the LORD your God is giving you” (Exodus 20:12).

There are three aspects to the statement of Genesis 2:24: 1. Leave—This indicates that in a family there are two types of relationships. The parent-child relationship is the temporary one and there will be a “leaving.” The husband-wife relationship is the permanent one—“what God has joined together, let man not separate” (Matthew 19:6). Problems occur in family life when these two roles are reversed and the parent-child relationship is treated as the primary relationship. When an adult child has married and this parent-child relationship remains primary, the newly formed union is threatened.

2. Cleave—the Hebrew word translated “cleave” refers to (1) the pursuing hard after someone else and (2) being glued or stuck to something/someone. So a man is to pursue hard after his wife after the marriage has occurred (the courtship should not end with the wedding vows) and is to be “stuck to her like glue.” This cleaving indicates such closeness that there should be no closer relationship than that between the two spouses, not with any former friend or with any parent.

3. And they shall become one flesh—Marriage takes two individuals and creates a new single entity. There is to be such sharing and oneness in every aspect (physical, emotional, intellectual, financial, social) that the resulting unity can be best described as “one flesh.” Again, when there is greater sharing and emotional support gained from a continuing parent-child relationship than from the husband-wife relationship, the oneness within the marriage is being threatened, resulting in an unbiblical imbalance.

With these three aspects of Genesis 2:24 in mind, there are also the scriptural admonitions to honor one’s parents. This includes treating them with a respectful attitude (Proverbs 30:11, 17), obeying them when their commands are in keeping with God’s laws (“in the Lord” Ephesians 6:1), and taking care of them as they get older (Mark 7:10–12; 1 Timothy 5:4–8).

The line between these two commands is drawn where one is being asked to comply with one principle in such a way that it will violate the other principle or command. When the meddling of a parent violates the “leaving” because it is treating the parent-child relationship as primary (demanding obedience, dependence, or emotional oneness over the desires of, dependence upon, or oneness with the spouse), it should be respectfully rejected and the spouse’s desires honored. However, when there are genuine needs of an aging parent (either physical or emotional, assuming the emotional “need” does not supersede the “leaving” principle), that need is to be met, even if one’s spouse does not “like” the parent-in-law. Biblical love toward the aging parent is given based on choosing to do the loving thing, even when one does not feel like doing it.

The balance between these scriptural mandates is similar to the command to obey those in authority (Romans 13) and the example of the apostles violating that principle when the authority figures ask them to act contrary to God’s mandates. In Acts 4:5–20, the apostles rejected the Jewish authorities’ demand to stop preaching the gospel because their command violated God’s, but the apostles did so in a respectful manner. Similarly, Jesus says we are to honor our parents but that the parent-child relationship is secondary to our relationship with Christ (Luke 14:26). In like manner, when parents violate Genesis 2:24 principles, the parents should be respectfully disobeyed. But on the opposite end of the spectrum, a spouse’s desires should be overlooked if he/she is unwilling to expend the time, energy, and finances required to meet the needs of an aging parent; keeping in mind that one must distinguish true physical and emotional needs from the “felt needs” of an overbearing, demanding parent.[1]


[1] Got Questions Ministries. (2010). Got Questions? Bible Questions Answered. Bellingham, WA: Logos Bible Software.

Authentic Fire Review – Part 6 – Review of Chapter 5

Watch Your Life and Doctrine Closely...

So far, I’ve reviewed the preface, chapter 1 and chapter 3 (and more chapter 3) and Fred has review chapter 2 and chapter 4.  In unrelated news, there has been both considerable and suspicious silence from Phyllis Tickle regarding the Strange Fire conference.  According to a rumor I just fabricated, this is because she has abandoned theological pursuits in order to perfect her Black Tiger Fist and represent Earth in an upcoming inter-galactic martial arts competition.

Tickle

So, let’s instead talk about Authentic Fire, chapter 5.  No wait.  We have to do something else first:

Kenny “Kung Fu” Loggins?

Check.

Blue belt?

Blue Sash

Check.

Kung Fu Sheep?

Lambchop

Close enough!

Okay.

NOW we’re ready to spar with chapter 5 of Authentic Fire.

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Who is the Antichrist?

OK, OK, I succumb.

So, you really want to know who the Antichrist is?

As some of you noted, it was difficult to read the seven characteristics of the Antichrist yesterday and not have an eerie and uneasy feeling that it sounded very like the Papacy.

Don’t be so surprised. That’s what many of the Reformers thought too. They studied their Bibles, found these characteristics, looked around, and there he was, matching every description:

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The Cult of the Visioneer

I spent my early years in ministry immersed in the language of vision and mission. Somewhere along the way, it was decided that if a church was  going to be successful then it must have both a mission and vision  statement. If you were really good you had purpose, vision, and mission  statements. It was no longer acceptable to simply understand that your  church was around to do what the church had always been around to do:  preach the Word, administer the sacraments, and make disciples of the  Lord Jesus. That would not do. The pastor was now cultural architect  (that is an actual title a pastor in California has taken). He must be a visioneer. The shift seemed rather seamless. Who, after all, was going  to dare speak out against vision and mission?

The process is  simple. A church has a pastor. The pastor receives from God a specific  vision and mission for his church. The church follows the visioneer.

For this arrangement to work however the congregation has to understand at  least two things: 1) God speaks to our pastor directly, and 2) God gives our pastor a mission unique to our church. These have become the  assumptions. They are simply not questioned.

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Signs and Wonders: Manipulated baptisms and Steven Furtick’s vision from God

Preachers behaving badly. This has not been a good week for megachurch pastor Steven Furtick, of Elevation Church in Charlotte, N.C. We have previously reported on his $1.7 million mansion. But lots of his supporters are willing to excuse his extravagant lifestyle because he has done so much good. They point to the thousands of baptisms the church has done over the past few years. But an investigative report by WCNC, the Charlotte NBC affiliate, casts doubt on the legitimacy of the baptisms. What Furtick calls “spontaneous baptisms” appear to be manipulated baptisms. Furtick has even published a guide to pulling off the baptism events at the website for his book Sun Stand Still. Also surfacing this week is a children’s coloring book that Elevation reportedly uses in its Sunday school classes. One page on “Unity” features a smiling Furtick with the caption: “Elevation Church is built on the vision God gave Pastor Steven. We will protect our unity in supporting his vision.” My repeated calls and emails to Elevation’s spokesperson, Tonia Bendickson, asking for comment on these new developments have gone unanswered.

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Do Not Be Surprised… This ‘n’ That (21 February 2014)

  • And speaking of Elevation Church, can we finally categorize it as a cult? This is abominable.
  • Here’s Todd Pruitt’s take on all of this Furtick foolishness at Reformation 21. And here’s Carl Trueman’s witty follow-up.
  • Okay, too much Furtick at once can give you hives, so hurry up and check out this short excerpt from Steve Lawson’s newest book, The Evangelistic Zeal of George Whitefield.
  • You must listen to Sunday’s sermon from Truth Community Church: What Is Sin?
  • “Prophet” Bob Jones died.
  • My friend Cameron Buettel has written a helpful review of the book Rediscovering Expository Preaching.
  • Speaking of Cameron, don’t miss his post at the GTY blog about naming names.
  • Who knew that being married with children was an alternative lifestyle?
  • Here’s your weekly dose of adorable.
  • Pastor Don Green is still addressing the issue of homosexuality on his Facebook page. If you read last week’s links, then you can pick it up here, then go here.
  • And while we’re on the topic of homosexuality, click on over to Fred Butler’s blog to read his post, “Slouching Toward Gomorrah.”
  • One of the tragedies of strange fire (the bad theology, not the conference).
  • John MacArthur appears on CNN with Nancy Grace to comment on the above story. (No comment on Nancy Grace’s behavior in this clip, though she seems more like a parody of a reporter than an actual reporter. Oh dear, I just made a comment, didn’t I?)
  • Why is it that statues never talk to me? Actually, I’m okay with it. I’m pretty sure that would send me screaming like a girl in the other direction.
  • Here’s Lyndon Unger’s latest Authentic Fire review: Chapter 5.
  • Is Ravi Zacharias really wearing gospel armor?
  • Just make the bad Jesus-themed movies stop.
  • S. Lewis Johnson on apostolic succession:

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When does a church cross into a cult?

Today we are asking some questions about the end game of the church growth movement, a phenomenon that has spawned huge mega churches with mega superstar pastors who see their congregants as customers and their messages as catalysts to inflate attendance in order to pay for the multi-million dollar facilities and equipment.

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Weekly Apologetics Links (02/14 – 02/21)

WEEKLY LINKS:
The Problem of Evil and Suffering
The Atheistic Reliability Problem
Old Testament iWitness on the App Store
Are The Gospels Written By Eyewitnesses?
Do Atheists Believe in Just One Less God Than Christians?
Video: What Would You Say to a Muslim if You Only Had a Minute?
Domesticated Camels in Israel: new evidence that ‘breaks the Bible’s back’?
Video Debate: William Lane Craig vs. Louise Antony- Is God Necessary for Morality?:
William Lane Craig debates Alex Rosenberg: Does God Exist? Video, MP3 audio and summary