By: J. Gresham Machen
This address on “The Scientific Preparation of the Minister” was delivered September 20, 1912, at the opening of the?one hundred and first session of Princeton Theological Seminary. It is found in the Princeton Theological Review,?Vol. XI, No. 1, 1913, p. 1.
One of the greatest of the problems that has agitated the Church is the problem of the relation between knowledge?and piety, between culture and Christianity. This problem has appeared first of all in the presence of two tendencies?in the Church – the scientific or academic tendency, and what may be called the practical tendency. Some men have?devoted themselves chiefly to the task of forming right conceptions as to Christianity and its foundations. To them?no fact, however trivial, has appeared worthy of neglect; by them truth has been cherished for its own sake, without?immediate reference to practical consequences. Some, on the other hand, have emphasized the essential simplicity of?the gospel. The world is lying in misery, we ourselves are sinners, men are perishing in sin everyday. The gospel is?the sole means of escape; let us preach it to the world while yet we may. So desperate is the need that we have no?time to engage in vain babblings or old wives’ fables. While we are discussing the exact location of the churches of?Galatia, men are perishing under the curse of the law; while we are settling the date of Jesus’ birth, the world is doing?without its Christmas message.
The representatives of both of these tendencies regard themselves as Christians, but too often there is little?brotherly feeling between them. The Christian of academic tastes accuses his brother of undue emotionalism, of?shallow argumentation, of cheap methods of work. On the other hand, your practical man is ever loud in his?denunciation of academic indifference to the dire needs of humanity. The scholar is represented either as a?dangerous disseminator of doubt, or else as a man whose faith is a faith without works. A man who investigates?human sin and the grace of God by the aid of dusty volumes, carefully secluded in a warm and comfortable study,?without a thought of the men who are perishing in misery every day!
But if the problem appears thus in the presence of different tendencies in the Church, it becomes yet far more?insistent within the consciousness of the individual! If we are thoughtful, we must see that the desire to know and the?desire to be saved are widely different. The scholar must apparently assume the attitude of an impartial observer – an?attitude which seems absolutely impossible to the pious Christian laying hold upon Jesus as the only Saviour from?the load of sin. If these two activities – on the one hand the acquisition of knowledge, and on the other the exercise?and the inculcation of simple faith – are both to be given a place in our lives, the question of their proper relationship?cannot be ignored.
The problem is made for us the more difficult of solution because we are unprepared for it. Our whole system of?school and college education is so constituted as to keep religion and culture as far apart as possible and ignore the?question of the relationship between them. On five or six days in the week, we were engaged in the acquisition of?knowledge. From this activity the study of religions was banished. We studied natural science without considering?its bearing or lack of bearing upon natural theology or upon revelation. We studied Greed without opening the New?Testament. We studied history with careful avoidance of that greatest of historical movements which was ushered in?by the preaching of Jesus. In philosophy, the vital importance of the study of religion could not entirely be?concealed, but it was kept as far as possible in the background. On Sundays, on the other hand, we had religious?instruction that called for little exercise of the intellect. Careful preparation for Sunday School lessons as for lessons?in mathematics or Latin was unknown. Religion seemed to be something that had to do only with the emotions and?the will, leaving the intellect to secular studies. What wonder that after such training we came to regard religion and?culture as belonging to two entirely separate compartments of the soul, and their union as involving the destruction?of both?
Upon entering the Seminary, we are suddenly introduced to an entirely different procedure. Religion is suddenly?removed from its seclusion; the same methods of study are applied to it as were formerly reserved for natural science?and for history. We study the Bible no longer solely with the desire of moral and spiritual improvement, but also in?order to know. Perhaps the first impression is one of infinite loss. The scientific spirit seems to be replacing simple?faith, the mere apprehension of dead facts to be replacing the practice of principles. The difficulty is perhaps not so?much that we are brought face to face with new doubts as to the truth of Christianity. Rather is it the conflict of?method, of spirit that troubles us. The scientific spirit seems to be incompatible with the old spirit of simple faith. In?short, almost entirely unprepared, we are brought face to face with the problem of the relationship between?knowledge and piety, or, otherwise expressed, between culture and Christianity.
This problem may be settled in one of three ways. In the first place, Christianity may be subordinated to culture.?That solution really, though to some extent unconsciously, is being favoured by a very large and influential portion?of the Church today. For the elimination of the supernatural in Christianity – so tremendously common today – really?makes Christianity merely natural. Christianity becomes a human product, a mere part of human culture. But as?such it is something entirely different from the old Christianity that was based upon a direct revelation from God.?Deprived thus of its note of authority, the gospel is no gospel any longer; it is a cheque for untold millions – but?without the signature at the bottom. So in subordinating Christianity to culture we have really destroyed Christianity,?and what continues to bear the old name is a counterfeit.
The second solution goes to the opposite extreme. In its effort to give religion a clear field, it seeks to destroy?culture. This solution is better than the first. Instead of indulging in a shallow optimism or deification of humanity, ?it recognizes the profound evil of the world, and does not shrink from the most heroic remedy. The world is so evil?that it cannot possibly produce the means for its own salvation. Salvation must be the gift of an entirely new life,?coming directly from God. Therefore, it is argued, the culture of this world must be a matter at least of indifference?to the Christian. Now in its extreme form this solution hardly requires refutation. If Christianity is really found to?contradict that reason which is our only means of apprehending truth, then of course we must either modify or?abandon Christianity. We cannot therefore be entirely independent of the achievements of the intellect. ?Furthermore, we cannot without inconsistency employ the printing-press, the railroad, the telegraph in the?propagation of our gospel, and at the same time denounce as evil those acitivites of the human mind that produced?these things. And in the production of these things not merely practical inventive genius had a part, but also, back of?that, the investigations of pure science animated simply by the desire to know. In its extreme form, therefore,?involving the abandonment of all intellectual activity, this second solution would be adopted by none of us. But very?many pious men in the Church today are adopting this solution in essence and in spirit. They admit that the Christian?must have a part in human culture. But they regard such activity as a necessary evil – a dangerous and unworthy task?necessary to be gone through with under a stern sense of duty in order that thereby the higher ends of the gospel may?be attained. Such men can never engage in the arts and sciences with anything like enthusiasm – such enthusiasm?they would regard as disloyalty to the gospel. Such a position is really both illogical and unbiblical. God has given?us certain powers of mind, and has implanted within us the ineradicable conviction that these powers were intended?to be exercised. The Bible, too, contains poetry that exhibits no lack of enthusiasm, no lack of a keen appreciation of?beauty. With this second solution of the problem we cannot rest content. Despite all we can do, the desire to know and the love of beauty cannot be entirely stifled, and we cannot permanently regard these desires as evil.
Are then Christianity and culture in a conflict that is to be settled only by the destruction of one or the other of the?contending forces? A third solution fortunately, is possible – namely consecration. Instead of destroying the arts and?sciences or being indifferent to them, let us cultivate them with all the enthusiasm of the veriest humanist, but at the?same time consecrate them to the service of our God. Instead of stifling the pleasures afforded by the acquisition of?knowledge or by the appreciation of what is beautiful, let us accept these pleasures as the gifts of a heavenly Father. ?Instead of obliterating the distinction between the Kingdom and the world, or on the other hand withdrawing from?the world into a sort of modernized intellectual monasticism, let us go forth joyfully, enthusiastically to make the?world subject to God.
Certain obvious advantages are connected with such a solution of the problem. In the first place, a logical?advantage. A man can believe only what he holds to be true. We are Christians because we hold Christianity to be?true. But other men hold Christianity to be false. Who is right? That question can be settled only by an examination?and comparison of the reasons adduced on both sides. It is true, one of the grounds for our belief is an inward?experience that we cannot share – the great experience begun by conviction of sin and conversion and continued by?communion with God – an experience which other men do not possess, and upon which, therefore, we cannot directly?base an argument. But if our position is correct, we ought at least to be able to show the other man that his reasons?may be inconclusive. And that involves careful study of both sides of the question. Furthermore, the field of?Christianity is the world. The Christian cannot be satisfied so long as any human activity is either opposed to?Christianity or out of all connection with Christianity. Christianity must pervade not merely all nations, but also all?of human thought. The Christian, therefore, cannot be indifferent to any branch of earnest human endeavour. It?must all be brought into some relation to the gospel. It must be studied either in order to be demonstrated as false, or?else in order to be made useful in advancing the Kingdom of God. The Kingdom must be advanced not merely?extensively, but also intensively. The Chruch must seek to conquer not merely every man for Christ, but also the?whole of man. We are accustomed to encourage ourselves in our discouragements by the thought of the time when?every knee shall bow and every tongue confess that Jesus is Lord. No less inspiring is the other aspect of that same?great consummation. That will also be a time when doubts have disappeared, when every contradiction has been?removed, when all of science converges to one great conviction, when all of art is devoted to one great end, when all?of human thinking is permeated by the refining, ennobling influence of Jesus, when every thought has been brought?into subjection to the obedience of Christ.
If to some of our practical men, these advantages of our solution of the problem seem to be intangible, we can?point to the merely numerical advantage of intellectual and artistic activity within the Church. We are all agreed that?at least one great function of the Church is the conversion of individual men. The missionary movement is the great?religous movement of our day. Now it is perfectly true that men must be brought to Christ one by one. There are no?labor-saving devices in evangelism. It is all hand-work. And yet it would be a great mistake to suppose that all men?are equally well prepared to receive the gospel. It is true that the decisive thing is the regenerative power of God.?That can overcome all lack of preparation, and the absence of that makes even the best preparation useless. But as a?matter of fact God usually exerts that power in connection with certain prior conditions of the human mind, and it?should be ours to create, so far as we can, with the help of God, those favourable conditions for the reception of the?gospel. False ideas are the greatest obstacles to the reception of the gospel. We may preach with all the fervour of a?reformer and yet succeed only in winning a straggler here and there, if we permit the whole collective thought of the?nation or of the world to be controlled by ideas which, by the resistless force of logic, prevent Christianity from?being regarded as anything more than a harmless delusion. Under such circumstances, what God desires us to do is?to destroy the obstacle at its root. Many would have the seminaries combat error by attacking it as it is taught by its?popular exponents. Instead of that they confuse their students with a lot of German names unknown outside the walls?of the universities. That method of procedure is based simply upon a profound belief in the pervasiveness of ideas.?What is today a matter of academic speculation begins tomorrow to move armies and pull down empires. In that?second stage, it has gone too far to be combatted; the time to stop it was when it was still a matter of impassionate?debate. So as Christians we should try to mould the thought of the world in such a way as to make the acceptance of?Christianity something more than a logical absurdity. Thoughtful men are wondering why the students of our great?Eastern universities no longer enter the ministry or display any very vital interest in Christianity. Various totally?inadequate explanations are proposed, such as the increasing attractiveness of other professions – an absurd?explanation, by the way, since other professions are becoming so over-crowded that a man can barely make a living?in them. The real difficulty amounts to this – that the thought of the day, as it makes itself most strongly felt in the?universities, but from them spreads inevitably to the masses of the people, is profoundly opposed to Christianity, or?at least – what is nearly as bad – it is out of all connection with Christianity. The Church is unable either to combat it?or to assimilate it, because the Church simply does not understand it. Under such circumstances, what more pressing?duty than for those who have received the mighty experience of regeneration, who, therefore, do not, like the world,?neglect that the whole series of vitally relevant facts which is embraced in Christian experience – what more pressing?duty than for these men to make themselves masters of the thought of the world in order to make it an instrument of?truth instead of error? The Church has no right to be so absorbed in helping the individual that she forgets the world.
There are two objections to our solution of the problem. If you bring culture and Christianity thus into close?union – in the first place, will not Christianity destroy culture? Must not art and science be independent in order to?flourish? We answer that it all depends upon the nature of their dependence. Subjection to any external authority or?even to any human authority would be fatal to art and science. But subjection to God is entirely different.?Dedication of human powers to God is found, as a matter of fact, not to destroy but to heighten them. God gave?those powers. He understands them well enough not bunglingly to destroy His own gifts. In the second place, will?not culture destroy Christianity? Is it not far easier to be an earnest Christian if you confine your attention to the?Bible and do not risk being led astray by the thought of the world? We answer, of course it is easier. Shut yourself?up in an intellectual monastery, do not disturb yourself with the thoughts of unregenerate men, and of course you will?find it easier to be a Christian, just as it is easier to be a good soldier in comfortable winter quarters than it is on the?field of battle. You save your own soul – but the Lord’s enemies remain in possession of the field.
But by whom is this task of transforming the unwieldy, resisting mass of human thought until it becomes?subservient to the gospel – by whom is this task to be accomplished? To some extent, no doubt, by professors in?theological seminaries and universities. But the ordinary minister of the gospel cannot shirk his responsibility. It is a?great mistake to suppose that investigation can successfully be carried on by a few specialists whose work is of?interest to nobody but themselves. Many men of many minds are needed. What we need first of all, especially in our?American churches, is a more general interest in the problems of theological science. Without that, the specialist is?without the stimulating atmosphere which nerves him to do his work.
But no matter what his station in life, the scholar must be a regenerated man – he must yield to no one in the?intensity and depth of his religious experience. We are well supplied in the world with excellent scholars who are?without that qualification. They are doing useful work in detail, in Biblical philology, in exegesis, in Biblical?theology, and in other branches of study. But they are not accomplishing the great task, they are not assimilating?modern thought to Christianity, because they are without that experience of God’s power in the soul which is of the?essence of Christianity. They have only one side for the comparison. Modern thought they know, but Christianity is?really foreign to them. It is just that great inward experience which it is the function of the true Christian scholar to?bring into some sort of connection with the thought of the world.
During the last thirty years there has been a tremendous defection from the Christian Church. It is evidenced even?by things that lie on the surface. For example, by the decline in church attendance and in Sabbath observance and in?the number of candidates for the ministry. Special explanations, it is true, are sometimes given for these?discouraging tendencies. But why should we deceive ourselves, why comfort ourselves by palliative explanations??Let us face the facts. The falling off in church attendance, the neglect of Sabbath observance – these things are?simply surface indications of a decline in the power of Christianity. Christianity is exerting a far less powerful direct?influence in the civilized world today than it was exerting thirty years ago.
What is the cause of this tremendous defection? For my part, I have little hesitation in saying that it lies chiefly in?the intellectual sphere. Men do not accept Christianity because they can no longer be convinced that Christianity is?true. It may be useful, but is it true? Other explanations, of course, are given. The modern defection from the?Church is explained by the practical materialism of the age. Men are so much engrossed in making money that they?have no time for spiritual things. That explanation has a certain range of validity. But its range is limited. It applies?perhaps to the boom towns of the West, where men are intoxicated by sudden possibilities of boundless wealth. But?the defection from Christianity is far broader than that. It is felt in the settled countries of Europe even more strongly?than in America. It is felt among the poor just as strongly as among the rich. Finally, it is felt most strongly of all in?the universities, and that is only one indication more that the true cause of the defection is intellectual. To a very?large extent, the students of our great Eastern universities – and still more the universities of Europe – are not?Christians. And they are not Christians often just because they are students. The thought of the day, as it makes?itself most strongly felt in the universities, is profoundly opposed to Christianity, or at least it is out of connection?with Christianity. The chief obstacle to the Christian religion today lies in the sphere of the intellect.
That assertion must be guarded against two misconceptions. In the first place, I do not mean that most men reject?Christianity consciously on account of intellectual difficulties. On the contrary, rejection of Christianity is due in the?vast majority of cases simply to indifference. Only a few men have given the subject real attention. The vast?majority of those who reject the gospel do so simply because they know nothing about it. But whence comes this?indifference? It is due to the intellectual atmosphere in which men are living. The modern world is dominated by?ideas which ignore the gospel. Modern culture is not altogether opposed to the gospel. But is out of all connection?with it. It not only prevents the acceptance of Christianity. It prevents Christianity even from getting a hearing.
In the second place, I do not mean that the removal of intellectual objections will make a man a Christian. No?conversion was ever wrought simply by argument. A change of heart is also necessary. And that can be wrought?only by the immediate exercise of the power of God. But because intellectual labour is insufficient it does not?follow, as is so often assumed, that it is unnecessary. God may, it is true, overcome all intellectual obstacles by an?immediate exercise of His regenerative power. Sometimes He does. But He does so very seldom. Usually He exerts?His power in connection with certain conditions of the human mind. Usually He does not bring into the Kingdom,?entirely without preparation, those whose mind and fancy are completely dominated by ideas which made the?acceptance of the gospel logically impossible.
Modern culture is a tremendous force. It affects all classes of society. It affects the ignorant as well as the?learned. What is to be done about it? In the first place, the Church may simply withdraw from the conflict. She may?simply allow the mighty stream of modern thought to flow by unheeded and do her work merely in the back-eddies?of the current. There are still some men in the world who have been unaffected by modern culture. They may still?be won for Christ without intellectual labour. And they must be won. It is useful, it is necessary work. If the Church?is satisfied with that alone, let her give up the scientific education of her ministry. Let her assume the truth of her?message and learn simply how it may be applied in detail to modern industrial and social conditions. Let her give up?the laborious study of Greek and Hebrew. Let her abandon the scientific study of history to the men of the world. In?a day of increased scientific interest, let the Church go on becoming less scientific. In a day of increased?specialization, of renewed interest in philology and in history, of more rigourous scientific method, let the Church go?on abandoning her Bible to her enemies. They will study it scientifically, rest assured, if the Church does not. Let?her substitute sociology altogether for Hebrew, practical expertness for the proof of her gospel. Let her shorten the?preparation of her ministry, let her permit it to be interrupted yet more and more by premature practical activity. By?doing so she will win a straggler here and there. But her winnings will be but temporary. The great current of?modern culture will sooner or later engulf her puny eddy. God will save her somehow – out of the depths. But the?labour of centuries will have been swept away. God grant that the Church may not resign herself to that. God grant?she may face her problem squarely and bravely. That problem is not easy. It involves the very basis of her faith.?Christianity is the proclamation of an historical fact – that Jesus Christ rose from the dead. Modern thought has no?place for that proclamation. It prevents men even from listening to the message. Yet the culture of today cannot?simply be rejected as a whole. It is not like the pagan culture of the first century. It is not wholly non-Christian.?Much of it has been derived directly from the Bible. There are significant movements in it, going to waste, which?might well be used for the defence of the gospel. The situation is complex. Easy wholesale measures are not in?place. Discrimination, investigation is necessary. Some of modern thought must be refuted. The rest must be made?subservient. But nothing in it can be ignored. He that is not with us is against us. Modern culture is a mighty force.?It is either subservient to the gospel or else it is the deadliest enemy of the gospel. For making it subservient,?religious emotion is not enough, intellectual labour is also necessary. And that labour is being neglected. The?Church has turned to easier tasks. And now she is reaping the fruits of her indolence. Now she must battle for her?life.
The situation is desperate. It might discourage us. But not if we are truly Christians. Not if we are living in vital?communion with the risen Lord. If we are really convinced of the truth of our message, then we can proclaim it before a world of enemies, then the very difficulty of our task, the very scarcity of our allies becomes an inspiration,?then we can even rejoice that God did not place us in an easy age, but in a time of doubt and perplexity and battle.?Then, too, we shall not be afraid to call forth other soldiers into the conflict. Instead of making our theological?seminaries merely centres of religious emotion, we shall make them battlegrounds of the faith, where, helped a little?by the experience of Christian teachers, men are taught to fight their own battle, where they come to appreciate the?real strength of the adversary and in the hard school of intellectual struggle learn to substitute for the unthinking faith?of childhood the profound convictions of full-grown men. Let us not fear in this a loss of spiritual power. The?Church is perishing today through the lack of thinking, not through an excess of it. She is winning victories in the?sphere of material betterment. Such victories are glorious. God save us from the heartless crime of disparaging?them. They are relieving the misery of men. But if they stand alone, I fear they are but temporary. The things which?are seen are temporal; the things which are not seen are eternal. What will become of philanthropy if God be lost??Beneath the surface of life lies a world of spirit. Philosophers have attempted to explore it. Christianity has revealed?its wonders to the simple soul. There lie the springs of the Church’s power. But that spiritual realm cannot be?entered without controversy. And now the Church is shrinking from the conflict. Driven from the spiritual realm by?the current of modern thought, she is consoling herself with things about which there is no dispute. If she favours?better housing for the poor, she need fear no contradiction. She will need all her courage, she will have enemies?enough, God knows. But they will not fight her with argument. The twentieth century, in theory, is agreed on social?betterment. But sin, and death, and salvation, and life, and God – about these things there is debate. You can avoid?the debate if you choose. You need only drift with the current. Preach every Sunday during your Seminary course,?devote the far ends of your time to study and to thought, study about as you studied in college – and these questions?will probably never trouble you. The great questions may easily be avoided. Many preachers are avoiding them.?And many preachers are preaching to the air. The Church is waiting for men of another type. Men to fight her?battles and solve her problems. The hope of finding them is the one great inspiration of a Seminary’s life. They need?not all be men of conspicuous attainments. But they must all be men of thought. They must fight hard against?spiritual and intellectual indolence. Their thinking may be confined to narrow limits. But it must be their own. To?them theology must be something more than a task. It must be a matter of inquiry. It must lead not to successful?memorizing, but to genuine convictions.
The Church is puzzled by the world’s indifference. She is trying to overcome it by adapting her message to the?fashions of the day. But if, instead, before the conflict, she would descend into the secret place of meditation, if by?the clear light of the gospel she would seek an answer not merely to the question of the hour but, first of all, to the?eternal problems of the spiritual world, then perhaps, by God’s grace, through His good Spirit, in His good time, she?might issue forth once more with power, and an age of doubt might be followed by the dawn of an era of faith.
By: Bill Crouse
Today the tentacles of occult philosophy embrace every area?of our society. Police departments request psychics to solve?crimes. ?College students are addicted to fantasy games (Dungeons?and Dragons) which introduce them to the world of the occult ?through role-playing.1 Well-known science fiction writers mask?occult doctrines in their works through pseudo-scientific?language.2 Colleges and universities offer graduate degrees in?esoteric thought. Occult themes provide popular material for TV?shows and movies. A leader of the women’s movement urges her?followers to return to the ancient religions in which female?deities were worshiped (witchcraft). Even the American Medical?Society endorses the search for the “new” powers to aid the?healing process.3
In apparent mockery of the waning influence of the church,?one occultist in California quipped: “The second coming has?already come – only J. C. didn’t show up, Satan did.“4 This?current interest and growth of occultic teaching certainly gives?evidence that the bright light of the fire of Christian?civilization is burning low. Once again, as in the Dark Ages,?the evil eye of the demonic is moving in on us, offering?Satanically inspired substitutes.
This movement from light to darkness gives solemn testimony?to what happens when the church is intimidated by humanistic?philosophy. Instead of resisting, being the “salt of the earth,”?and setting the standard for society and culture, much of the?church at the beginning of the twentieth century gave up hope in?the battle against modernism. The result was a renewed interest?in prophecy and a resolve simply to await the Lord’s return.?This was the moment the Archenemy had anticipated. He and his?counterfeiting demons moved into this spiritual vacuum with ideas?spawned during the “Enlightenment” — but which until then had?had little influence on the man in the street. Those ideas were?rationalism, the supremacy of man, and a denial of the?supernatural or spiritual dimension. Under the nurture of these?philosophies, science and technology flourished. More wealth was?shared by more people than in any other previous civilization,?but man lost the meaning of his humanity and his context in the?world. These ideas led to despair, as the philosopher Nietzsche?had predicted. The denial of a creator and revealed meaning led?to a secular search for meaning. The pendulum then swung in the?opposite direction toward irrational answers and the world of the?mind. This set the stage for the current revival in eastern?religions and occult philosophy.
In the sixties, young people rebelled against an?establishment that had given them more knowledge (facts) than?ever before in history, but no meaning. Rationalistic humanism?with its one-dimensional view of life (all is material) just did?not seem to account for all of reality. Today the young gaze?toward the East, which offers a new (to the Western mind)?definition of reality. The presuppositions of these ancient?Eastern ideas subtly condition people at all levels of our?culture to deny the personal God of the Bible and to accept the?belief that man is inherently divine. Because of the deep?penetration of this new occult/mystical way of thinking,5 man?becomes increasingly prepared for the ultimate deception – ?Antichrist. Indeed, we now face an encroaching occult theocracy?in which occult philosophy becomes the foundation for social?order. Marilyn Ferguson thoroughly documents this in her book,?THE AQUARING CONSPIRACY. The book’s subtitle is PERSONAL AND?SOCIAL TRANSFORMATION IN THE 1980’S. What she describes in this?book is an ecumenical movement of epic proportions taking place?among groups of an Eastern bent. This movement is called “The?New Age Movement,” “The Human Potential Movement,” “Cosmic?Humanism,” “Mind Science,” and “The Aquarian Age.” She describes?the movement as a conspiracy which “is using its widespread?outposts of influence to focus on the dangerous myths and?mystiques of the old paradigm.…We conspire against the old,?deadly assumptions.“6 She makes no bones about the fact that the?main enemy to progress as she defines it is our Judeo-Christian?roots.
One of her more notable observations is the impending?mergence of science and physics with the new age movement.7 For?current proof of this our readers need look no further than OMNI?magazine or SCIENCE DIGEST.8
In the light of this alarming trend two things are needed:
(1) an appraisal of the major tenets of occultic philosophy and?(2) a means to combat it.
DEFINITION:?THE ENEMY’S CORE BELIEFS
The word “occult” comes from the Latin “occultus” which?means “concealed.” In its usage today, it means “beyond the?bounds of ordinary knowledge – the mysterious, the concealed, or?that which is hidden from view.” It involves such practices as?magic, divination, incantations, paranormal experiences, and the?so-called expansion of consciousness. Brooks Alexander of the?Spiritual Counterfeits Project writes that “occultism in all its?forms consists of secret techniques of consciousness-alteration,?coupled with secret doctrines which explain the inner meaning of?the experiences thereby attained.“9 There seem to be four major?ingredients in occult practice and philosophy:
THE PARANORMAL — Experiences that are beyond the five?senses, extra-sensory and mystical. An occultist will often?refer to a sixth sense (or a third eye) which enables the person?to see a distant accident or enables a medium to sense a?“presence,” usually claiming to be the spirit of a deceased loved?one.
THE SUPERNATURAL — The actual manipulation of natural law?from the beyond such as psychokinesis (movement of objects for no
apparent physical reason) or levitation. The world of the?supernatural, like the Venus fly trap, attracts many to itself?only to swallow them up into an occult system.
THE ESOTERIC — That which is hidden or secret; the use of?symbols and allegories to hide truth from the uninitiated. Many?occult sects advertise that initiated newcomers will become privy?to knowledge that has been hidden for thousands of years.?Historian John Warwick Montgomery says: “Occult theosophy and?the Eastern faiths from which it derives intentionally state?their teachings in language which will convey truth solely to the?faithful believer and close the door to the profane.“10 Some?commonly-used occult symbols are the signs of the zodiac, a?pentagram within a circle, a goat’s head, an ankh (a type of?cross), sunwheels, a beetle, the great pyramid, and the mystical,?all-seeing eye.
PHILOSOPHICAL MONISM — the doctrine that there is only one?ultimate reality. All is one and the one is God. Therefore, I?am God, or God is within me. This is a foundational belief of?occult philosophy and Eastern religions.11 An infinite-personal?God is a totally foreign idea. The primary goal of this?religious monism is to experience this oneness. The method of?attaining this state of cosmic consciousness may vary but the?goal is always the same. It will involve some kind of?consciousness expansion or alteration.
EVOLUTION –?Contrary to what most believe, evolution did not?originate with Darwin. The concept of evolution is an ancient?occult doctrine (the concept of avatars). Again Brooks Alexander?writes: “Much new age and occult “aquarian” philosophy is based?on the belief (or hope) that humankind is now experiencing an?evolutionary metamorphosis to a new, improved level of?functioning — spiritually, socially, and politically.“12
TYPES OF OCCULT ACTIVITY: WHAT DOES THE ENEMY DO?
Students of the occult frequently divide occult phenomena?into three areas: (1) forms of divination, (2) types of mystical?experience, and (3) magical manipulation.
FORMS OF DIVINATION?– (also known as fortune-telling,?soothsaying, or augury). A diviner predicts future events, finds?lost articles or people, locates underground water, or reveals?hidden knowledge. Perhaps the most common example of divination?in America today is astrology.13 Other common types are:?palmistry, waterwitching, ouija boards, numerology, biorhythms,?pyramidology, the reading of crystal balls, auras, tarot cards,?or tea leaves, use of pendulums, interpretation of dreams, and?many others. Forms of divination are strictly forbidden in the?Scriptures (see Deuteronomy 18:10 – 14,20). The sinfulness of?divination lies in the fact that it demonstrates a lack of trust?in the One who holds the future (see Hosea 4:12). Isaiah 47:13-?14 predicts an end of the astrologers, while Proverbs 3:5 – 6 gives?the proper response for the believer (trust in the Lord).
TYPES OF MYSTICAL EXPERIENCES?– These are experiences that?transcend the bounds of the ordinary physical world or the five senses. Seeing events as they are occurring hundreds of miles?away or an event still in the future, communicating with the?dead, and soul travel (out-of-body experiences) are examples of?paranormal experiences. Other examples of mystical experiences?are: seances, necromancy, telekinesis, some forms of glossolalia,?levitation, automatic writing, clairvoyance, trances,?materializations, visions, psychic healing (including?acupuncture),14 remembrance of past lives (reincarnation),?Eastern forms of meditation such as T. M. (transcendental?meditation) or yoga, altered consciousness, and mental?telepathy. We are not implying that all mysticism is evil.
Christianity has its mystical elements. Our relationship to?Christ is a mystical one. However, the mystical experiences in?Christianity are always tied to the objective word of God. We?are always to try the spirits.15 (See I John 4:1.) A valid?mystical experience is always parallel to the propositional?revelation of scripture. A red flag of caution should always be?raised when one purports to have received new or additional?revelation that is contradictory to scripture.
MAGICAL MANIPULATION – (not to be confused with the art of?illusion).16 By employing hidden or outside forces in the?spiritual realm, occultists say they can manipulate people or?nature to conform to their will or the will of the gods. Various?rites and ceremonies are often used. Sometimes they are public,?but mostly they are accomplished in private. Often they involve?very complicated formulas and specific materials. Then the rites?are carried out according to astrological calculations.
One who practices magic is known by many terms, some of the?most common being sorcerer, witch, wizard, or witch doctor.?Several notorious practitioners of magic are mentioned in?Scripture: the magicians of Egypt (Exodus 8); King Manasseh (2?Kings 21:1 – 9); Jezebel (2 Kings 9:22); Simon (Acts 8:9 – 24); and?Bar-Jesus (Acts 13:4 – 12). Involvement in magical practices was?forbidden and punishable by death under the Mosaic Law (see?Exodus 22:18; Deuteronomy 18:10 – 11; Isaiah 47:9 – 15), and also in?the New Testament (see Galatians 5:20; Revelations 18:23 – 24).
The city of Nineveh was destroyed for such abominable practices ?(Nahum 3:4). When the Messiah comes again, the occult?practitioners and their works will be destroyed (Malachi 3:5;?Micah 5:12; Revelations 21:8; 22:15). Occult involvement?involves giving recognition and allegiance to a power or force?other than God. For that reason Scripture defines it as evil and?condemns it thoroughly.
ORIGINS OF OCCULT PHILOSOPHY:?WHEN DID THE BATTLE BEGIN?
Occultists often make the claim that their religion predates?Christianity and is indeed thousands of years old. Here we can?agree. Astrology and witchcraft began in the ancient city of?Babylon in excess of 5,000 years ago.17 But occult philosophy?predates ancient Babylon. It began in the mind of Lucifer?(Satan) and was first whispered to Eve in the garden.
It is the opinion of many Bible scholars that Genesis?chapter three contains the plot for the Conflict of the Ages and?the Drama of Redemption. What we also find in this chapter is?the essence of both occult doctrine and the truth about?redemption. Satan’s lies, “You surely shall not die!” and “…?Your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good?and evil” are the bases for false religion. In these lies are?embedded the doctrines of reincarnation, gnosticism, and samadhi?(a recognition of oneness with being itself). Some theologians?believe these occult doctrines were propagated on earth before?the flood by fallen angels (see Genesis 6).18
The ensuing results were the violence and bloodshed which?prompted God to judge the earth with a universal flood. After?the flood, these infernal ideas were somehow secretly passed on?until Nimrod, a great-grandson of Noah, created his religio-political system known as the Babylonian mystery religion.19 It?is the thesis of this writer that if a genealogy of all false?religions could be drawn, all would be traceable to “Babylon, the?mother of all harlots” (Revelation 17).20 New religious cults?spring up every day, with different terminology and techniques?but with the same old Eastern-occult beliefs. The best modern?example is the religion of scientology. Its doctrines are?nothing but Eastern cosmology clothed in pseudoscientific?language.
THE APPEAL OF THE OCCULT:?HOW DO THEY GAIN RECRUITS?
The lure of the occult seems to be two-fold:
First, as one occult advertisement claims, “You will be?privy to knowledge that has been secretly maintained and passed?down by adepts (masters) for thousands of years and is now?available to only a few initiates. You will be in the know while?the rest of the unenlightened will have to suffer in ignorance.”
Secondly, you will have power – the ultimate aphrodisiac.?You will be given secrets to harness a power that will enable you?to manipulate and control an environment that may seem out of?control. For any person frustrated in the areas of sex, romance,
vocation, or self-aggrandizement, the occult poses as a shortcut?to success.21
How do people actually get involved in the occult trap??For many, an affinity for the occult is apparently inherited?from parents or grandparents. For an example of this, see the?tragic case of the late Bishop James A. Pike in THE HAUNTING OF?BISHOP PIKE by M. Unger, pp. 77ff.22
A second method of occult enslavement is by conscious?subscription – that is, by paying dues and undergoing initiation.
Third, many people come into occult bondage by participation?in what they consider innocent parlor games or entertainment.?Their involvement may begin by playing with ouija boards,?automatic writing, the pendulum, seances, levitation; or they may?be intrigued by the martial arts, Eastern forms of meditation,?submitting to spiritistic healing, drugs, hypnosis, and?acupuncture.
THE CURRENT INTELLECTUAL CLIMATE:?WHERE IS THE BATTLE TODAY?
Twenty or thirty years ago dabblers in the black arts would?more often than not be found among the poor and uneducated, or?among the idle wealthy. At that time, the black arts were not?taken seriously among the intelligentsia. Not so today!
One can now receive graduate degrees from several?universities in various areas of occult study. The nomenclature?has changed, but not the content. Though the courses are listed?as Altered Consciousness, Parapsychology, Past Lives Therapy,?Esoteric Studies in Transcendental Chimeras, Transpersonal?Counseling, and Holistic Healing, they remain, nonetheless,?occultic in nature.
What are some of the factors which precipitate such an?interest in the occult in our “enlightened” twentieth century??First is the decline of confidence in rational empiricism.?According to Francis Schaeffer, today’s philosophical trend is?toward the irrational and the mystical.23 The Existentialist?says, “Your mind is your enemy.” Today’s attitude on the campus?reflects this distrust in science as evidenced by the following?quotes by prominent academicians: “Science as we know it has?outlived its usefulness” (Harvard biologist Everett Mendelsohn).?“Reason is a limited skill … There is also spiritual?knowledge and power” (historian Theodore Rozak). “Equally
important are mystery, ambiguity, illogical contradiction, and?transcendent experience” (psychologist Abraham Maslow).24?Whereas these men are to be applauded for their recognition of?the insufficiency of rationalism to answer the great questions or?to satisfy the human heart, the answer is not to cast aside the?mind, but to humbly use the mind and heart to look for truth.
A second reason people are turning to occult philosophy is a?reaction to materialism and a search for a transcendent?experience. Through this search, many seek proof that man is?more than the machine the behaviorists suppose him to be. The?reaction has taken many forms: drugs, meditation, Eastern?religions, and a search for evidence of life after death.25
Third, the influence and increasing popularity of Eastern?religions has heightened occult awareness because both occult?practice and phenomena are integral parts of most Eastern?religions.26 Some music forms undoubtedly deserve a great deal?of credit for the sudden fascination with Eastern thought. (A?prime factor was the Beatles’ conversion to Hinduism.) Charles?Reich, author of THE GREEING OF AMERICA, commented in ROLLING?STONE, “Rock today is a medium that can communicate almost?anything any of us feel or experience. The new music is the?chief language and means of communication for people of the new?consciousness.“27
The acceptance of parapsychological research as a valid?academic endeavor is certainly another factor in the present?popularity of the occult. This field of study is in fact?becoming the most popular on campus. It began with the work of?J. B. Rhine at Duke University. Today, even the Soviet Union, a?nation with a purely materialistic view of reality, is reported?to be outspending the West in parapsychological research.28
Finally, the complexity and chaos of our modern society has?created a spiritual vacuum. There seems to be a great longing in?our society for the old ways, the simple, the less complicated,?and for many, the old and pagan religions. In an essay entitled?“The New Black Magic”, TIME magazine makes this comment: “As?organized religion loses its appeal through stuffiness or?sterility, people seeking faith increasingly turn to mystical?religions .…“29 According to some of the nation’s foremost?thinkers, science seems to be on the verge of a major conceptual?shift such as the Copernican or Darwinian revolutions. With the?startling evidence of UFOs and sub-atomic particles (quarks),?science fiction is again proving to be prophetic. Some?scientists are already moving toward mysticism and postulating?the existence of a non-material reality.
AN ENCOURAGING WORD:?IS IT POSSIBLE TO WIN THE WAR?
Surveying the extent of occult penetration in our society?can be a discouraging and frightening experience for a?Christian. On the positive side, we know Satan has been defeated?and that he and his demons, along with the Babylonian mystery?religions (occult systems), will be destroyed. On the negative?side, the Scriptures tell us that right now Satan is the god of?this world, the prince and power of the air, and that the whole?world lies in wickedness. In the meantime, how do we cope with?Satan and his forces while he is still “free on bail?” Several?suggestions:
1. The more familiar we are with God’s truth (through the?study of His word), the more discerning we will be of the?counterfeit. Bankers can instantly spot counterfeit bills?because they are so familiar with the real thing. Know the?enemy, but be careful not to become too preoccupied with a study?of the enemy. Remember the fear of the Lord is the beginning of?knowledge (Proverbs 1:7). Try the spirits (1 Corinthians 12:3, 1?John 4:1 – 2).
2. Resist Satan by denouncing him and all his works (James?4:7, 1 Peter 5:8 – 10).
3. Destroy all occult books and paraphernalia in your?possession (Acts 19:8 – 20). Confess and repent of all occultic
4. The spirit-filled believer has greater power within him?than is in the whole world’s system (1 John 4:4). Through the?Holy Spirit, the bonds of the occult can be broken (Luke 10:17-?20).
5. When it seems as though the forces of evil are winning,?read the books of Habakkuk and Daniel. When afraid, read Psalm?91 and 1 Peter 5:6 – 7. Seek the fellowship and prayers of fellow?believers and the counsel of the spiritually mature. To do?battle, put on the whole armor of God (study Ephesians 6:10 – 12).
6. Be encouraged. Jesus prophesied to His disciples that?the gates of Hades would not prove stronger than the church?(Matthew 16:18). The picture Jesus paints is a walled city in?which Satan and his kingdom have taken refuge. The gates and?walls however, are no match for the battering rams of the Kingdom?of God. Many times Christians read this passage and get the?figure reversed. Jesus is not saying that the church is huddled?behind the walls with the forces of Satan trying to kick in the?gates. It’s the other way around. The gates of hell are not?strong enough to prevail against the force of the gospel. We can?be optimistic. We must begin to think in these terms, and of
taking the offensive.
1. For a good critique of fantasy games, see the report by:
Educational Research Analysts
P.O. Box 7518
Longview, Texas 75607
Ask for Handbook No. 23, “Dungeons and Dragons.”
2. I refer here especially to the popular writer Arthur C.?Clarke of 2001 fame. Perhaps his most occultic book is?CHILDHOOD’S END.
3. See the “Holistic Health” issue of SPIRITURAL COUNTERFEITS?PROJECTS JOURNAL 2, No. 1 (August 1978), P. O. Box 4308, ?Berkeley, CA 94704.
4. “Evil in California,” ESQUIRE, March 1970.
5. See Robert M. Pirsig, ZEN AND THE ART OF MOTORCYCLE MAINTENANCE (New York: Bantam Books, 1974).
6. Marilyn Ferguson, THE AQUARIAN CONSPIRACY: PERSONAL?AND SOCIAL TRANFORMATION IN THE 1980’S (Los Angeles: J.?P. Tarcher, Inc., 1980), pp. 34 – 35.
7. Ibid. See Chapter 6.
8. In reading these magazines one should be especially alert?to attempts to “scientize” ancient occult philosophy.?I also recommend THE TAO OF PHYSICS by Fritjof Capra,?published by Bantam Books and THE DANCING WULI MASTERS,?by Gary Zukav (William Morrow and Co.). These books?attempt to reconcile Eastern philosophy with Western science.
9. See the Spiritual Counterfeits Project pamphlet, OCCULT?PHILOSOPHY AND MYSTICAL EXPERIENCE, P. O. Box 4308,?Berkeley, CA 94704.
10. John Warwick Montgomery, PRINCIPALITIES AND POWERS?rev. ed. (Minneapolis: Dimension Books, 1975), p. 23.
11. See Gary North’s discussion in NONE DARE CALL IT?WITCHCRAFT (New Rochelle, N.Y.: Arlington House, 1976),?pp. 26 – 28.
12. Brooks Alexander, “The Rise of Cosmic Humanism: What is?Religion?” SPIRITUAL COUNTERFEITS PROJECT JOURNAL 1,?no. 5 (Winter 81 – 82), p. 3. This is an excellent article in?that it shows the connection between cosmic humanism and?secular humanism.
13. The best refutation that this author has seen is the little?booklet by Robert A. Morey, HOROSCOPES AND THE CHRISTIAN?(Minneapolis, Minn.: Bethany Book House, 1981).
14. There are those who believe that acupuncture may be?scientifically based. While this cannot be totally?disregarded, one should consider the following articles:?Kurt Koch, SATAN’S DEVICES (Grand Rapids, Mich.: Kregel?Publications, 1978), pp. 5 – 11; Bob Larson, ACUPUNCTURE?(Box 26438, Denver, CO 80226) 1975; and “A Critical Look?at Acupuncture” by Michael E. Debakey in READER’S DIGEST,?September 1973.
15. Jesus told the Samaritan woman that we are to worship God?in spirit and in truth (John 4:23, emphasis added).
16. When we are confronting the occult world we should always?be skeptical and suspicious of fraud. However, we must be?careful not to jump to false conclusions as many magicians?have done in the past. The great Houdini and the modern?magician Milbourne Christopher (see his book, MEDIUMS,?MYSTICS AND THE OCCULT) exposed the fraudulent techniques?of many occultists. But it is a mistake, we believe, to?conclude that because a magician can duplicate an occult?phenomenon, that all is an illusion. It is a mistake of
overgeneralization. Some well-meaning Christian magicians?are likewise guilty. (See THE FAKERS by Danny Korem and?Paul Meier, Baker Books, 1980).
17. Clifford Wilson, The OCCULT EXPLOSION (San Diego: Master?Books, 1976).
18. See James Gray, SPIRITISM AND THE FALLEN ANGELS (Old?Tappan, N.J.: Revell, 1920); and Fredrick A. Tatford, THE?PRINCE OF DARKNESS (Eastbourne, Sussex, England:?Prophetic Witness Publishing House, n.d.).
19. See Alexander Hislop, THE TWO BABYLONS (Neptune, N. Y.:?Loizeaux Brothers, 1916). We do not necessarily endorse?the conclusion of this book.
20. For some startling examples, see Bob Larson, BABYLON?REBORN (Carol Stream, Ill.: Creation House, 1976).
21. Satan’s temptation of Christ involved a shortcut — a?temptation that would have bypassed the cross (Matthew 4).
22. See also Kurt Koch’s explanation in CHRISTIAN COUNSELING?AND THE OCCULT (Grand Rapids, Mich.: Kregel Publications,?1965), pp. 154 – 62.
23. Francis Schaeffer, ESCAPE FROM REASON (Downers Grove,?Ill.: InterVarsity Press, 1968).
24. “Reaching Beyond the Rational,” TIME, 23 April 1973.
25. See the “Death and Dying” issue of SPIRITUAL COUNTERFEITS?PROJECT JOURNAL 1, No. 1 (April 1977), P. O. Box 4308,?Berkeley, CA 94704.
26. See Os Guinness, ENCIRCLING EYES, rev. ed. (Downers Grove,?Ill.: InterVarsity Press, 1974), p. 15. This pamphlet is?a revised and updated version of chapter eight from his?book, THE DUST OF DEATH (Downers Grove, Ill.: Intervarsity?Press, 1973).
27. ROLLING STONE, 4 February 1971.
28. See Shelia Ostrander and Lynn Schroeder, PSYCHIC?DISCOVERIES BEHIND THE IRON CURTAIN (New York: Bantam?Books, 1970).
29. “The New Black Magic,” TIME, 27 September 1968, p. 42.