Testing the Spirits (part 1)

By Cris Putnam
The Bible teaches us “Do not quench the Spirit. Do not despise prophecies, but test everything; hold fast what is good…” (1 Th 5:19-22). This teaching from Paul implies that, in contrast to the Mosaic standards for Israelite covenant enforcers (Dt 18:21-22) which was absolute perfection, the New Testament paradigm allows that there are imperfect prophecies. The exhortation to “hold fast to what is good” implies that sometimes we can test them and discard only what is in error. Other times, it is more appropriate to rebuke and move along. Clearly, there is need for Christian discernment.

One should expect an infusion of false teachings as the return of Christ nears, “Now the Spirit expressly says that in later times some will depart from the faith by devoting themselves to deceitful spirits and teachings of demons,…”(1 Ti 4:1) While some Christians are too skeptical and deny the supernatural, others are too gullible and exhibit a naïve readiness to accept dubious messages from the spirit world. In John’s first epistle he writes, “Beloved, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits to see whether they are from God, for many false prophets have gone out into the world.”(1 Jn 4:1) Thus, sometimes unbelief (do not believe every spirit) can be as much a mark of spiritual maturity as belief. We should avoid both extremes, the superstition which believes that absolutely everything is supernatural and rationalist suspicion which defaults to naturalism.

Even so, the supernatural should be our default position. Whether we realize it or not, there is a spirit behind every teaching. One should be skeptical enough to discern between truth and error, whether it comes from the Spirit of God, or a demonic spirit. We are engaged in spiritual warfare “For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places.” (Eph 6:12) The origins of false religions are demonic, “No, I imply that what pagans sacrifice they offer to demons and not to God. I do not want you to be participants with demons.”(1 Co 10:20) Even secular philosophies have a spiritual component, “See to it that no one takes you captive by philosophy and empty deceit, according to human tradition, according to the elemental spirits of the world, and not according to Christ.” (Col 2:8) Paul’s use of the term “elemental spirits” (Gk. stoicheia) is likely speaking to the supernatural origins of ungodly philosophies.

In the ancient world, however, the term stoicheia was widely used for spirits in Persian religious texts, magical papyri, astrological documents, and some Jewish texts. Paul is likely using it here to refer to demonic spirits; it is the equivalent of “rulers and authorities” (vv. 10, 15).[1]

It follows that demonic spirits promote false ideas and spiritual warfare is largely a battle for your mind. John gives us a command to test the spirits. “Beloved, do not believer every spirit, but test the spirits to see whether they are from God.” He then describes three tests:

1) Test their Christology. (1 Jn 4:2-3)

2) Test their regeneration. (1 Jn 4:4-5)

3) Test their conformity to Apostolic teaching. (1 Jn 4:6)

For this post, we will look at test one as it applies to cults. In subsequent posts, tests two and three will be demonstrated with appropriate examples.

1) Test their Christology. What’s their doctrine of the incarnation and deity of Christ?

“By this you know the Spirit of God: every spirit that confesses that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh is from God, and every spirit that does not confess Jesus is not from God. This is the spirit of the antichrist, which you heard was coming and now is in the world already.” (1 Jn 4:2-3)

This passage is teaching that whoever refuses to acknowledge that Jesus is God, “who has come in the flesh” (v. 2) is in the spirit of antichrist. Anyone can talk about Jesus and even believe that he lived on earth as a good teacher, as other religions (Islam, Baha’i ), cults (Mormons, Jehovah’s Witnesses), and even philosophies (Christ consciousness) often affirm. These groups cannot pass the “Lord, Liar, Lunatic trilemma.” This is the error of Arianism:

Arianism, Arius. An early heretical teaching about the identity of Jesus Christ. Arianism was founded primarily on the teachings of Arius (d. 335/336). The central characteristic of Arian thought was that because God is one, Jesus could not have also been truly God. In order to deal with the scriptural testimony to the exalted status of Christ, Arius and his followers proposed that Jesus was the highest created being of God. So although Christ was fully human, he was not fully God. Arius’s teaching was condemned as heretical at the First Ecumenical Council (Nicaea) in A.D. 325.[1a]

Even so, confessing His deity is not enough. Evil spirits and demons recognized the deity of Jesus during his ministry (e.g. Mark 1:24; 3:11; 5:7–8; cf. Acts 19:15). There is an equal yet opposite error.

Some , like the ancient gnostics, may affirm his deity but deny his humanity. Apparently, when John wrote his first epistle, many false teachers were saying that Jesus only appeared to be human. This was probably based on an early gnostic idea that the material creation was intrinsically evil and therefore physical bodies were evil. This error is called Docetism.

docetism. In the early church, the teaching that Jesus was fully God but only appeared to be human (taken from the Greek dokeō, “to seem or appear”). Docetist theologians emphasized the qualitative difference between God and humans and therefore downplayed the human elements of Jesus’ life in favor of those that pointed to his deity. The early church rejected docetism as an heretical interpretation of the biblical teaching about Jesus.[2]

But unless they affirm both the full deity and the full humanity of Jesus, they are not really “confessing Jesus,” but, as John states in unambiguous terms, they are under the influence of the spirit of antichrist. Even so, you will not likely encounter many docetists today, it usually works the other way around in denying his deity. For example, Mormons will say they believe in Jesus but they believe Jesus is the brother of Satan who was born to an exalted man known as the heavenly Father, Elohim. While some modern Mormon apologists obfuscate the differences, the late LDS President, Gordon B. Hinckley, said that “The traditional Christ of whom they speak is not the Christ of whom I speak.”[3]

There are three biblical ways to test if someone has good Christology. This means we want to see if they believe in the historical Jesus rather the false one of Mormonism who was born from the carnal union between Mary and Elohim and is the brother of Lucifer [4] or the Jesus of the Adventist’s who is Michael the Archangel [5], or the Christ of the New Age Movement who is simply an enlightened man or worse yet, not even a person at all, simply a nebulous state of Christ consciousness. Here are three good Christological tests:

  • The biblical Jesus is called God. “My Lord and my God!”(Jn 20:28) also (Jn 1:1, 8:58, 10:30; Rom 9:5; Col 1:19; Heb. 1:8)
  • The biblical Jesus receives prayer. “If you ask me anything in my name, I will do it” (Jn 14:14) also (Acts 7:55-60; 1 Co 1:1-2; 2Thes 2:16-17; Rev 22:20).
  • The biblical Jesus receives worship. “And those in the boat worshiped him, saying, ‘Truly you are the Son of God.’”(Mt 14:33) (Mt 2:2,11; Mt 28:9; Jn 9:35-38; He 1:6, Rev 5:8-13)

In cultist theologies, Jesus is a created being and therefore, He is not called God, prayed to, nor worshiped. As a prime example of test one, we will look at the Jehovah’s Witness Bible translation known as the New World Translation.

ESV: “For by him all things were created, in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities—all things were created through him and for him. And he is before all things, and in him all things hold together.” (Col 1:16–17, ESV)

NWT: “because by means of him all [other] things were created in the heavens and upon the earth, the things visible and the things invisible, no matter whether they are thrones or lordships or governments or authorities. All [other] things have been created through him and for him. Also, he is before all [other] things and by means of him all [other] things were made to exist,” (Col 1:16–17, NWT)[6]

Greek New Testament (with English interlinear)[7]

16

ὅτι

ἐν

αὐτῷ

ἐκτίσθη

τὰ

πάντα

because

by

him

were created

all [things]1

ἐν

τοῖς

οὐρανοῖς

καὶ

ἐπὶ

τῆς

γῆς

,

in

the

heavens

and

on

the

earth

 

τὰ

ὁρατὰ

καὶ

τὰ

ἀόρατα

,

things

visible

and

things

invisible

εἴτε

θρόνοι

εἴτε

κυριότητες

whether

thrones

or

dominions

 

εἴτε

ἀρχαὶ

εἴτε

ἐξουσίαι

·

or

rulers

or

powers

τὰ

πάντα

διʼ

αὐτοῦ

καὶ

εἰς

αὐτὸν

ἔκτισται

·

all [things]

through

him

and

for

him

were created

 

17

καὶ

αὐτός

ἐστιν

πρὸ

πάντων

and

he himself

is

before

all [things]

καὶ

τὰ

πάντα

ἐν

αὐτῷ

συνέστηκεν

,

and

all [things]

in

him

are held together

JWs missionaries are infamous for obfuscating by appealing to the Greek text, so this should set them straight. Notice that in the original Greek NT, there is no use of a term meaning “other.” If Paul would have meant it that way he would have used the word ἑτέρως. Of course, he didn’t, “other” was supplied by the Watchtower Bible and Tract Society to support the doctrines of demons.

Next we will examine test 2 using Joel Osteen as an example.



[1] Crossway Bibles, The ESV Study Bible (Wheaton, IL: Crossway Bibles, 2008), 2296.

[1a]
Stanley Grenz, David Guretzki and Cherith Fee Nordling, Pocket Dictionary of Theological Terms (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 1999), 15.

[2]Stanley Grenz, David Guretzki and Cherith Fee Nordling, Pocket Dictionary of Theological Terms (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 1999), 40.

[3] As reported in Deseret News, June 20, 1998.

[4] (What LDS leaders have consistently, historically taught is that God the Father, in his glorified, immortal body, came down to earth and approached the young girl Mary. As a result of this carnal union, Mary became pregnant with a child who was both divine and human; and thus the young Christ was truly the Son of God. ) Latayne C. Scott, The Mormon Mirage (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 2009), 183. Also see: http://bible-truth.org/jesusbro.htm

[5] Adventists have concluded that “Michael” is another title for Christ rather than the name of an angel. The problem with this view is that Jude 9 says that Michael did not dare rebuke Satan. This could be true only if Michael were an angel and not Christ Himself. See: http://www.logosapologia.org/?p=1947

[7]The Lexham Greek-English Interlinear New Testament (Logos Bible Software, 2008), 524.

 

Three Peas in a Pod: Mormonism, Transhumanism & Pelagianism

I have been challenged here by a Mormon on the topic of “Christian Transhumanism” on which my research is published at Raiders News here .  A foundational problem is that my paper was written to Christian Bible believers. My challenger is neither. While he seems to claim the term “Christian”, there are profound inconsistencies in his reasoning. They are so fundamental to his worldview, that an exchange is not likely to be fruitful. It is my sincere hope that he might recognize his error and turn to Christ but realistically my goal for responding is simply that those who are in Christ might learn from seeing his errors exposed. Perhaps I can put a stone in his shoe? Snippets of his response are in red, my responses are in black. In the first paragraph he reveals:

One aspect of this critique is accurate: Christian transhumanists do tend to be driven by a Pelegian view of sin, which is nonetheless compatible with Christianity. However, the other two aspects of the critique are inaccurate; some biblical anthropologies and educated understandings of Christian theology are quite compatible with Transhumanism.

With his blatant embrace of heresy in the very first paragraph, it’s quite tempting to say “check mate, thesis proven” and leave it at that. The British monk Pelagius (c. 354–415) declared that human effort and merit could bring about salvation without divine grace. Pelagius was vigorously opposed by the church father Augustine and deemed a heretic in 418 at the Council of Carthage.  A proper definition of Pelagianism includes that it is heretical:

Theologically, Pelagianism is the heresy which holds that man can take the initial and fundamental steps towards salvation by his own efforts, apart from Divine grace.[i]

The law of non-contradiction is quite clear that ‘A’ cannot be ‘B’ and ‘non-B’ at the same time and same place.  Thus, my opponents next statement that “some biblical anthropologies are compatible” is rendered incoherent since Pelagianism is an unbiblical anthropology. It can not be biblical and Pelagian. That said, he seems to believe that Mormons are Christians as well. Of course, that is demonstrably false and Pelagianism is a key factor. Mormon theologian Sterling M. McMurrin stated “The theology of Mormonism is completely Pelagian.”[ii] The nineteenth century work of cultic fiction known as the Book of Mormon even went so far as to alter the clear words of scripture:

Bible: “For by grace you have been saved through faith; and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God;” (Ephesians 2:8)

Book of Mormon: “For we know that it is by grace that we are saved, after all we can do” (II Nephi 25:23).

Of course, Mormonism is no more Christian than Islam, in fact they are quite similar, see this video here. Furthermore, it is really quite odd that there are Mormon Transhumanists being that most transhumanists are scientifically literate. DNA testing has conclusively proven the book of Mormon is a work of fiction, as there are no traces of Semitic DNA markers in North American Indians. This evidence is so damning that even high level Mormon scholars have left the cult. For an excellent documentary expose’ I highly recommend: DNA vs. the Book of Mormon.

From the beginning, Cris creates a false dichotomy between technology and Christ, claiming the two are incompatible means of conquering death and creating utopia.

There is no false dichotomy presented but a real one.  Quite the contrary, I wrote, “Thus, we have a mandate to engage in some of technologies discussed but with the explicit caveat of when it is exclusively directed toward the healing aspect of medicine.” I love technology. I just don’t agree with making an idol of it or myself. I especially do not agree with using it to supplant Christ’s job description in scripture. The Bible is crystal clear about how, when and by whom death will be conquered:

“For as in Adam all die, so also in Christ all will be made alive. But each in his own order: Christ the first fruits, after that those who are Christ’s at His coming, then comes the end, when He hands over the kingdom to the God and Father, when He has abolished all rule and all authority and power. For He must reign until He has put all His enemies under His feet. The last enemy that will be abolished is death. ” (1 Corinthians 15:22–26)

The Mormon transhumanist hopes to do this through man made technology, not God.  However, it is Christ’s destiny to abolish death, not sinful fallen mankind.  He has demonstrated my point for me. It is a biblical dichotomy.

Also from the beginning, Cris establishes a narrow interpretation of Christianity, thereby assuming his own conclusion that Christianity is incompatible with Transhumanism. This is well illustrated by the one sentence of dismissive attention that he gives to the Mormon Transhumanist Association, despite the fact that it is by far the largest group of Transhumanists that identify as Christians.

Identifying themselves as “Christian” is not enough (Matt 7:22). This is the crux of matter. He criticizes me for having a narrow view. This is a charge I am more than happy to accept. If it were up to me it would not be so narrow, but I have submitted to higher authority. For it is not my idea, it was that of my Lord and Savior who said,

“Enter through the narrow gate; for the gate is wide and the way is broad that leads to destruction, and there are many who enter through it.” (Matthew 7:13)

Of course Mormon transhumanism only merited this one sentence in my paper, “There is a Mormon Transhumanist association, which is hardly surprising in light of their polytheism and apotheosis doctrine.” My paper was a critique of “Christian Transhumanism” not Mormon Transhumanism. Carl Teichrib recently covered that topic. I was addressing alleged Christians. Mormons are not Christians in any sense of the word. Nearly all of his argumentation further proves my point. For example:

Also, there is potential for irony in Cris’ appeal to self-denial and humility: as it can be self-indulgent and arrogant to focus exclusively on improving one’s self, so it can be to refuse and resist improving one’s self. In positive terms, the Bible tells of a time when the dead will be raised and the living changed to spiritual bodies, incorruptible and immortal in comparison to our present bodies. This is enhancement, and it is by definition compatible with biblical ethics.

God does these things, not man! The dead will be raised by God at Christ’s return:

Behold, I tell you a mystery; we will not all sleep, but we will all be changed, in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet; for the trumpet will sound, and the dead will be raised imperishable, and we will be changed. For this perishable must put on the imperishable, and this mortal must put on immortality. (1 Corinthians 15:51–53)

We will be transformed by God at Christ’s return, not by Lincoln Cannon, Ray Kurzweil or Max More’s materialistic musings.

Cris compounds the problems with his criticism by claiming that transhumanists consider our bodies simple hardware or biological prostheses. The problem with this claim is its irony, given that he presumably holds to the common Christian notion that our bodies are precisely that: prostheses for our souls.

Again he seems woefully ignorant of what orthodox biblical Christianity holds true. I will let scripture make my case once again:

Or do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit who is in you, whom you have from God, and that you are not your own? For you have been bought with a price: therefore glorify God in your body. (1 Corinthians 6:19–20)

Christians do not live for themselves but for Christ. This is why things like posthuman enhancement are opposed to sound biblical doctrine; as followers of Jesus we “present our bodies as a living sacrifice.” (Rom 12:1)

The real substance (pun intended) of Cris’ criticism is that he considers philosophical materialism to be incompatible with Christianity.

Yes, absolutely I do!

In the actual world, apart from his particular brand of Christianity, he’s simply incorrect. Some Christians are philosophical materialists, as are most Transhumanists. Clearly, in practice, the two can be compatible in this area.

This is so profoundly incoherent that I am almost at a loss for words. For meaningful discourse using language to be possible both parties must agree to the law of non-contradiction. If up is down and red is blue, reasoning is no longer possible. Accordingly, if you are a philosophical materialist you are necessarily an atheist. A typical philosophical dictionary defines it as a:

Belief that only physical things truly exist. Materialists claim (or promise) to explain every apparent instance of a mental phenomenon as a feature of some physical object. Prominent materialists in Western thought include the classical atomists, Hobbes, and La Mettrie.[iii]

God is an immaterial being. If you are a philosophical materialist then you do not believe in God. God is spirit (Num. 16:22; 2 Cor. 3:17 Heb. 12:9). God is not a man (Num 23:19). He is not composed of matter. As his attributes like omnipresence imply, he is immaterial or nonphysical. This is very clearly stated by Jesus in John 4:24, “God is spirit, and his worshipers must worship in spirit and in truth,” and is also implied in the many references to his invisibility (John 1:18; 1 Tim. 1:17; 6:15–16).[iv] Also Jesus reassures the apostles that he is not immaterial after the resurrection in Luke 24:39 by telling them,

See My hands and My feet, that it is I Myself; touch Me and see, for a spirit does not have flesh and bones as you see that I have. (Luke 24:39)

So we have Jesus explicitly teaching God is a spirit and also that spirits do not have flesh and bones. Thus anyone who believes God is material does not follow Jesus and is necessarily not a Christian. Christians believe Jesus.

No mere theist or even a self respecting deist, let alone Christian, is a philosophical materialist. That is an absurdity on the order of a square circle or a married bachelor. It gives me a headache imagining the massive level of cognitive dissonance that must result from such an internally contradictory worldview. Perhaps he will defend “Christian Atheism” in his next post?  In the end, heretical beliefs such as Pelagianism always lead to larger errors like Mormonism or “Christian Transhumanism.” They are man centered and self-aggrandizing as opposed to Christ centered and God glorifying.  It all leads back to the original lie in the garden,

“The serpent said to the woman, “You surely will not die! “For God knows that in the day you eat from it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.” ” (Genesis 3:4–5)


[i] F. L. Cross and Elizabeth A. Livingstone, The Oxford Dictionary of the Christian Church, 3rd ed. rev. (Oxford; New York: Oxford University Press, 2005), 1257.

[ii],Sterling M. McMurrin. The Theological Foundations of the Mormon Religion 1965.

[iii] “Materialism” in Philosophical Dictionary  http://www.philosophypages.com/dy/m2.htm#mat (accessed 2/20/20011)

[iv]Millard J. Erickson, Christian Theology, 2nd ed. (Grand Rapids, Mich.: Baker Book House, 1998), 294.

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