Sunday, 23 August 2015

How Churches become entrenched: Two disgruntled families

I think you get the gist by now.

I could do another post on DL Moody.  Or the Huguenots.  Or some of the early missionaries to the British Isles like St Aidan, St Augustine of Canterbury, St Patrick, St David.  I could quote from the writings of our own son of Jarrow, the Venerable Bede or from the writings of the Church Fathers.

There are plenty of websites that cover these things.  My point would be that if you are prepared to do the research, it is possible to find plenty of instances of phenomena like healing, deliverance from demons, gifts of prophecy, words of knowledge and so on which are verified by people widely respected by evangelical and reformed Christians.

And I will be the first to admit that there are many false prophecies, fake healing, dodgy manifestations of the Spirit out there too, as the New Testament warns us.  Of course there are!  When you have something good, someone will try to counterfeit it.  The existence of the fake suggests that the real thing exists as well.

But I thought I would take you over to Shieldcastlehope to discuss how people become entrenched in their positions.

We have two scenarios.

The Robinsons
When the Robinson family leaves Living Springs for Ebenezer, they meet the pastor.
This is what Jim Robinson says:

"Pastor McKinley, I don't think we can take another week there.  They're shallow.  The songs and the sermons are shallow.  I think the pastor copies most of his sermons from YouTube.  They preach an easy-going 'feel-good' gospel.  And they'll let anyone to the front and speak, and I mean anyone, even people with nothing meaningful to say.
They have a food bank, and that's great.  But it's run by a guy who lives on benefits and refuses to work for a living, but he does all sorts for the church.  It's not right!  If he's fit to serve for his church, isn't he fit to work for a living and come off benefits?  There's a guy in the worship band who's living with his girlfriend.  Everyone knows this but nobody says anything because he's a great drummer.  We're trying to teach our children right from wrong, but the church kids are allowed to watch all sorts of unsavoury stuff on the telly. 
What's the difference between them and the world?  I'm beginning to think they're a false church"

What do you think Pastor McKinley is going to say?  What should he say?

The Johnsons
Now, over to the Johnsons.  They leave ERBT for the LSVF.  What's their story?  Here is a summary of what Frank Johnson says:

"Steve.  We can stand it no longer!  The teaching at Ebenezer's great, but it's so dry!  There's a lack of real faith, real joy. 
Yes, they can be friendly, but you can't talk about deep things.  It's so hard to get beyond 'how's your mother's illness? or how is James doing in his GCSEs?'.  They'll talk about theology, but I'd be embarrassed to discuss our recent marital problems with the pastor and certainly not any of the elders.  They just seem to pretend everything is fine when it isn't. 
And our kids keep being told off for running around after the service.  We're thirsty for God Steve, but I find the approach is so intellectual.  Our kids find it boring and the pews are hard.  When the main service is over, people stay for tea and coffee but it's difficult to make any really meaningful friendships. 
And the women... my wife Jan is so intelligent and would love to develop a ministry like counselling, but there's no way of her developing there.  There's tea making and flower arranging.  But is that what the Kingdom of God is all about?  It's like the Bible says somewhere - a form of godliness but denying the power.  Weren't the Pharisees like this?  Obeying all the rules but not really knowing the Lord in any intimate way?  Perhaps it's a false church."

Should Steve and Sharon welcome this family?  Is there anything else they could or should do?

Monday, 10 August 2015

Well Known Charismatic Christian Leaders: Dr Martyn Lloyd Jones on Demon Possession

The occasion, a conference of the Christian Medical Fellowship.

The year,  1971.

The speaker,  Doctor Martyn Lloyd Jones.

The session,  Questions and Answers on Healing and Demon Possession

The following question is posed:

While not denying that devil possession sometimes occurs, are we not in danger of thinking that phenomena of this sort constitute the chief attack by the Devil upon the church and the work of God, and are forgetting that his main evil work is and always has been to make men (1) to doubt and (2) to disobey God?  May it not be that dramatic phenomena like devil possession are the Devil’s own way of distracting our attention from his main but much more subtle attack?

A good question?  Many would nod at the premise of the question, which almost answers itself does it not?

This audio should be listened to in its entirety, though the question is posed in the 20th minute.  The talk is entitled “Questions and Answers on Healing and Demon Possession

For those who want to read the transcript of the answer, I reproduce it below:

Yes.  That’s very typical if I may say so.  And I won’t say of whom!  But it is very typical!  [laughter].  I’m almost enough of a higher critic to say who sponsored that question originally, but I’m not going to speculate, I don’t believe in this.

Do you see what’s happening?  Are we not in danger?  Well the answer to that is, are we?  Are you people finding devils in everybody?  I don’t think you are.  What this question is saying is this.  Now this has been very wrong in this conference to call so much attention to devil possession.  People will be forgetting the main work of the Devil.  And so, you see, you don’t consider devil possession at all.  And you go on sending people who are devil-possessed into mental hospitals and they get drug treatments and so on and they are no better, and sometimes worse, and the problem goes on.

No, this is a very ill-conceived question.  I pointed out in one of the previous sessions that there are people go to excess about this, as we do with most matters.  But, you see, the answer to excess is not to do anything at all, which is what this question is obviously suggesting.  That we shouldn’t talk about this.  “There’s grave danger here.  Mustn’t do this, otherwise we’ll be doing nothing else and the Devil’s going to get a great advantage.”  No!  I think the Devil’s going to get a great advantage by bringing in devil-possession en masse, and we are not going to face it or consider it because of this kind of attitude.  I think this is very wrong indeed, it is not ‘either or’.

We all know the main business of the Devil.  But does that mean that he doesn’t do this in addition?  Does it mean that he isn’t doing this at this present time in a very particular manner?  For the reason that I give.  That the Christian influence is on the wane.  And in any case we know what happens in other countries abroad.  I commend to the writer of this question that he or she or both [laughter] immediately proceed to buy that booklet to which I referred by the Overseas Missionary Fellowship, “Roaring Lion”.  And there they will discover the dangers that confront the missionary or the minister in this country or indeed anybody – a doctor in particular – who is ignorant of this matter of devil or demon possession.  I reject the whole implication of that.

I myself went out of my way to warn against running off, people do, it doesn’t matter what thing is mentioned in the Christian realm, somebody is always going to take it up and rush away with it and run it to an excess and the result is the whole thing is ridiculed.  No, no.  We must take a balanced view of these things and beware of this false antithesis, this ‘either or’ which doesn’t apply here at all.  The Devil does it in both ways, in all ways.  We are not ignorant of his devices, and I feel that attention needs to be called today in this country particularly to this aspect of which we haven’t seen much in the past, but which we are seeing more and more at the present time.

This was followed up by another question, as follows:

The remaining questions are a group of four.  I’m going to read all of them through quickly because they are on the same theme so that the whole subject is covered.

One, can a Christian become demon possessed, are there clear diagnostic signs to differentiate between demon possession and various mental illnesses.

Two, could we have advice regarding guiding rules to distinguish between the areas of mental illness from demon possession.

Three, to what extent may psychotic illness be in fact a sophisticated form of demon possession or influence?  How can a doctor recognise the difference between mental illness and demon possession if there is a difference and the final one which is in three parts,

What are the basic clinical features of demon possession?  Are these fundamental features constant in different countries and cultures although the expression naturally varies, two, what is its treatment and three, what are the results of treatment?

I will not write the answer, but will leave you to listen to this one on the link indicated above.

To me, this is dynamite.  Let me spell this out:

  • Doctor Martyn Lloyd Jones was a medical Doctor before he was a preacher
  • He is of the Reformed Evangelical part of the church and his main calling was expository preaching of the word
  • He was one of the (arguably ‘the’) most respected evangelical leader of the 20th Century
 In other words, he is no ‘lightweight’, not given to jumping on bandwagons or relying on experiences.  And as a doctor by profession, he cannot over-spiritualise every issue by saying that it is demonic.

Being in the rare position of being and experienced pastor as well as a doctor, he has had many difficult cases referred to him.  And he clearly states that he has frequently had to deal with the demonic in his ministry.  Including in Christians.
I possibly need to discuss this subject further for those who are new to this subject.

In the days of Jesus and the early apostles, the New Testament refers to people who experience physical healing.  But it also talks about people who are delivered from demons.  And all of Jesus' disciples were trained in healing and deliverance from demons.

And these signs will accompany those who believe: in my name they will cast out demons; they will speak in new tongues; they will pick up serpents with their hands; and if they drink any deadly poison, it will not hurt them; they will lay their hands on the sick, and they will recover.”
Mark 16:17-18

In order to (1) bring people to Christ (2) Demonstrate the power of the Gospel (3) Bring in the Kingdom of God on Earth and (4) help people overcome untold suffering, I believe that we can’t bury our heads in the sand!  We need to be equipped to deal with these things, and frankly, we’re not.  It means that if a problem has a demonic root, surely we should be able to deal with it effectively.

I find it interesting that every diocese within the Roman Catholic Church and the Church of England has a designated exorcist to deal with phenomena such as people disturbed by demons, hauntings, poltergeists, buildings with creepy presences and so on.  They don’t employ these people, I believe, because they are simply being superstitious and weird.  They do it because there is a constant trickle of people coming forward asking for help with these things.  I once heard a radio interview with a couple of very well-spoken Anglican exorcists who matter-of-factly explained how they successfully dealt with a range of phenomena in the Name of Jesus.  I’d love to have a recording of it, but I haven’t.

But again, nether of these denominations hold any water with a large number of evangelical Christians.

There are evangelical Christians who will not give Pentecostals or Charismatics the time of day.  So anything they say about:
  • Healing miracles
  • Baptism in Holy Spirit
  • Gifts of the Spirit
  • Demonisation*
 …will be instantly dismissed.  But I find it interesting that Doctor Martyn Lloyd Jones brings this issue to the attention of his own constituency.
*It is not my purpose here to expound the biblical teaching on the subject of how demons affect people, including believers in Christ.  It is a big subject that I am not qualified to comment on with much authority.  However, I will say that I prefer the term 'demonised' to 'demon-possessed'.  Traditional translations of the Bible prefer the latter term, yet in modern English it carries the connotation of being possessed by i.e. fully owned and controlled by a demon.  Dr Martyn Lloyd Jones, speaking in the early 1970s and the best known writer at this time on the subject, the Lutheran Pastor Kurt Koch, would say 'Demon-possessed'.  No Christian can be fully controlled by a demon in this way.  And yet, I believe (and Lloyd Jones would concur) that Christians can be affected, oppressed, disturbed, weakened by demons.  Hence, I prefer to used the term 'demonised', which is preferred by many of today's writers on the subject, and in my view it better resembles the New Testament Greek term.