Soapbox: When Imagination Dictates Belief

I had intended on writing on another topic today but my blood got boiling from a phone call I received from a rather unique listener to our radio ministry. I just got off the phone and I may have to write my thoughts out and then come back for an edit so that this soapbox doesn’t come across as an unrestrained rant.

The caller, who kept me on the phone for much too long, wanted to ask me about a demonic spirit she named Cortolini (She wasn’t exactly sure on the spelling). Apparently this spirit likes to mimic Christian worship and it is pretty hard to tell if people are possessed by it because they look and act just like Christians. The only way to distinguish them is by their fruits.

Okay, so there are a few biblical parallels there (false worship and evidence of fruit), but for the most part, there is absolutely no biblical support for her claims. This is just another example of a sensational approach to a pretty common problem. Based on this description, I’d have to say that this is the busiest demon out there because I know a lot of Christians who have that problem.

Why did this get me so upset?

Truth be told, we get a lot of calls like this throughout the week. Perhaps I just got overly annoyed because she went on and on about it and kept me tied up on the phone. I really do hate getting trapped in long-winded converstions about useless information. But what really upset me about this conversation is that she said, “Now I can’t be sure, but I’ve been thinking this is the reason the Church in New England is dying.” So, if you’re not sure, why are you telling me about it?

The real reason this gets my goat is because the whole discussion is fostered by imagination without using any discernment. Not to mention that it’s contradictory. If people can be possessed by a spirit that makes them think they are in love with Jesus, how does she know that her vision about this spirit isn’t, in fact, a vision from a demonic spirit? What’s the praxis for this model? What’s the authority used to examine and test the results? In the end, this is just another example of poor reasoning and humanistic ideology. If we don’t have an authority outside of ourselves, then we have no authority at all. 

I have a lot I need to understand about the charismatic movement, but there are a few things I am already certain of. First of all, everything must answer to the authority of God’s Word and not the contradictory visions of charismatic leaders or the inner leading of one’s own inclinations. The charismatic movement is a goldmine and therefore a hotbed for spiritual poachers. Like the lottery and the healthcare mandate, the systems are built on a chasing after experience where a few receive a relative reward, but the leaders behind the scenes are the real winners. Chasing after experience is a quick and easy way to lead people away by their own lusts and entice them in what they think is spiritual devotion.

Secondly, the Bible offers some clear parameters for charismatic practices which, when they are not followed, they are blatantly out of line. But since this hasn’t quelled the momentum of the movement, it tells me that those who are lead astray are not very good students of the Word or they have a very liberal understanding of biblical authority. Either way, experience consistently truncates biblical teaching.

Really, this is just an evidence of how preference dictates presuppositions and reading back into the text. We are all susceptable to this, and though I am ranting about a charismatic viewpoint, this is really just a symptom of a root problem: being ignorant of biblical orthodoxy.

I was raised in a very conservative baptist church where teaching on the Spirit was limited and addressing the charismatics was done with prejudice, not reason. Like any parent/child relationship, we are usually taught that our small circle is right while everyone else outside of the circle doesn’t have a valid argument. Basically, anyone to your left or right is unaware of all the facts. But this basic human trait is the quickest way for us to be deceived. We accept what those in our immediate circle tell us without question and we regurgitate it to those close by; not unlike the rapid spread of gossip.

So, how do we know we’re not being deceived through good intentions?

Paul gives us clear warning in Ephesians 4:14 that we stop acting like Children (simply accepting everything our parents tell us) and we not be thrashed by waves of attacks on our reasoning. He tells us that we shouldn’t get carried away by every initial leading of spirituality, that we ought to be aware of how easily we are manipulated by rhetoric, and that we need be cautious of those who would deceive us.

The truth is, we are all immature in different areas. Everyone has a lot of room to grow. But what most people don’t realize is that they are extremely susceptible to being deceived by their own desire for good intentions. In the end, they are lead away by their base desires, enticed by the rhetoric that speaks to their emotional construction, and deceived by their own blind spots. This is unpleasing to God and it is sin. The fact that so many Christians are roaming about, spreading their imaginative ideas without biblical restraint, is a horrendous transgression. We have been commanded to be discerning, instructed on how to determine truth, and warned that we will answer to God. When we deviate from this structure for holiness, we deceive ourselves, we spread lies, and we sin.

I’ve been wondering for some time how to confront people like this lady who called in. I know exactly how to talk to unbelievers. I can turn a conversation to spiritual things quite easily when sharing the gospel. But when it comes to confronting sin, I have found that Christians are much harder to reason with than unbelievers.  

As I said before, I have a lot to learn about the charismatic movement, and I certainly have a lot to learn from those who offend me. We must recognize how easily deceived we are so that we don’t fall into the trap of the devil, who is the ultimate deceiver and the master of all lies.

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