If what I wrote was extreme, then what can we say about Paul's treatment of the church at Corinth? It was a church that Paul started. He loved it. No doubt. And yet he said some horrible things about it. He didn't have a high opinion of it. It wasn't because he wanted that church to suffer from his verbal barrage. It was because he wanted the church to change. Like I said, he loved it. And so did God, even as God inspired what Paul wrote.
People today won't be honest about what is happening in evangelicalism and fundamentalism as much as Paul was about the church at Corinth. They won't make the demon connection. People want to paint a better picture, a more optimistic one. But demon influence was the reality.
I've found that I'm done being concerned about trying to please people who won't listen. It's also an apologetic position. People's problem is mainly rebellion, not knowledge. So I can try to win the argument with knowledge, but that won't solve the problem I've decided I'll tell the truth and some people will listen and some won't. The change will occur through supernatural intervention, not my manipulation. I can't do anything about the people who won't listen. Their changing will have nothing to do with my attempts to connect with them on their terms. They'll read this and they'll believe it or they won't. I don't want to spend too much extra time trying to persuade them individually. I'll address this a little more later in this post or series (if it goes longer than this post).
The Corinthian church had become receptive to gross theological error that many might not even agree existed. They wouldn't have known how bad things had gotten because they were deceived. 1 Corinthians 12:3 starts with this unusual statement:
Wherefore I give you to understand, that no man speaking by the Spirit of God calleth Jesus accursed.
That seems rather obvious, doesn't it? What good would this test be to a church? They would already know this, wouldn't they? They would have already known that the Spirit of God wouldn't author "Jesus accursed," wouldn't they? So what's the deal here?
A church can become so lacking in discernment that it culminates with an inability to diagnose something this noticeable. That is pinning the needle on bad. It relates to the problem in Corinth that necessitated Paul covering spiritual gifts for three chapters (1 Corinthians 12-14). The Corinthian association with the pagan mystery religion brought that experience into the church. It validated ecstatic and euphoric feelings as coming from God, specifically from the Spirit of God. They couldn't be natural, especially when they reached the bizarre. But the more extreme, the more credible.
The mystery religion would be rejected by Christians out of hand. But the new form of religion that brought the experience into the church would be accepted. The Corinthians were accustomed to accepting ecstasy and euphoria, those feelings as coming from the divine. They had a natural toleration for these things. It was normal for them. There were means by which the mystery religion produced or orchestrated the feelings that counterfeited the work of God. Those means clashed with orthodoxy. But they became tolerated within the framework of the church.
One of the enemies of discernment today is the unwillingness to call this ecstasy and euphoria what it really is. One of the enemies of discernment today is the toleration of the means of reaching these experiences that identify themselves with God and the Holy Spirit. One of the enemies of discernment today is the categorization of manipulated experiences as either a non-essential or neutral.
The idol, either wood or stone, was nothing. The demon behind the idol was the power of the idol. The idol is not limited to something stone or wood. To the same church at Corinth in 2 Corinthians 10:5, Paul wrote:
Casting down imaginations, and every high thing that exalteth itself against the knowledge of God,, and bringing into captivity every thought to the obedience of Christ.
We read the English word "imaginations." The translators translated logismos "imaginations," because in the context those were products of people's thoughts that were idols. They were images not of stone and wood, but of thoughts. The tower of Babel couldn't reach to God, but the concept of reaching to God in the mind was an imagination that exalted itself against the knowledge of God. No man could reach to God with a tower. No man can reach to God with a manipulated human experience, and yet people are willing to believe it because of a convincing feeling. People build their own towers of Babel, not reaching to God with brick and mortar, but with thoughts or emotions. They are willing to accept that they have transcended the infinite chasm between them and God by means of a feeling.
This reminds me of the true evaluation of Jonah in Jonah 2:8, "They that observe lying vanities forsake their own mercy." People want to believe their own experience and exalt it above Scripture. It is a lying vanity. So people are primed to accept a false experience as true spirituality even though it was manipulated by incense, alcohol, or music.
The neutrality of wood and stone was the Trojan horse that brought ecstasy and demonism into the church at Corinth. The neutrality of notes and rhythm and composition are another Trojan horse today. It's true that the wood and rock were nothing, but the demon wasn't nothing. It was something.
I'm confident that "Jesus accursed" wasn't acceptable right away. It took awhile before that height of error could be reached by a church. But it was reached.
It probably went something like the following. Of course, Christ is God. He had to be. His teaching and His miracles and the fulfillment of prophecy gave that away. But all things, all matter, is so spoiled by sin that the body of Jesus must also have been affected. Jesus was God, but only in that perhaps at the point of His baptism, He received the imprimatur of the divine and then lost it before he went to the cross. After all, cursed is anyone who hangs on a tree, so God would not hang on a tree. So even though Christ be not cursed, Jesus is accursed. Christ is God, Jesus is man. Jesus is accursed, not Christ. Jesus is accursed because all matter is evil. Gnosticism made its headway validated by choreographed spirituality in the form of euphoria and ecstasy.
Of course, the Spirit of God didn't reveal the false Christology, but when it was said under the state of euphoria or ecstasy it couldn't be denied. The experience validated it.
At one time, Christians rejected rock music. They rejected the feelings that rock music engendered. They knew it was flesh. They called it demonic. But feelings began taking an exalted place in churches, especially with the gradual acceptance of the Charismatic movement.
What were called spiritual gifts at the church at Corinth was often nothing more than ecstasy and euphoria borrowed from the mystery religion. They wouldn't call it unorthodox. After all the wood and stone of the idol were nothing. And so they stopped discerning. Churches have stopped discerning true spirituality from manipulation. And they use neutrality to argue it. Music is neutral. Games are neutral. Promotion is neutral. Methods are neutral.
Paul was saying that rock and wood were neutral, but people miss the point. I believe they are missing the point on purpose today. They like the experiences. They love them. They have become what church is about. The Corinthians loved their contrived spirituality. They loved the bizarre nature of their gibberish, going louder and longer than someone to prove their reality. Today people love what the modern experiences often produce by sound and light boards and computers and other gizmos do for their churches. You really are out-of-it today if you can't get into these things that obviously make it for your church. Even if you don't have a fancy building, you can bring your set pieces and costume (with soul patch) into your rental. The grunginess of a rental might even help you with one demographic. You could use that. Paul wasn't saying that there was nothing to the wood and stone---that it was the fooling powers of persuasion of a demon that were the danger. And these things that the moderns and now postmoderns embrace do affiliate with demons---the same ones surviving except with another few thousand years on their resumes.
Evangelicalism and fundamentalism are full of manipulation. A technique is used for a prayed prayer. The crowd is stirred by the color scheme, the dynamics of a voice, or the rhythm of the instrumentalists. They produce experiences like the world has produced them. Except they are in the church, so they must be spiritual. They seem supernatural. What the church had correctly identified as pagan is now more authentic than what they once saw as true.
Those who deny or reject these experiences or feelings are divisive and intolerant and unloving and bigoted and even racist. And they don't see how God is using the rock music in the churches. The experiences are personal. They are lying vanities. Rejection of the experiences are a rejection of the people who experience them. This explains the emotional response and the charged attacks against the unaccepting. They will have their feelings tolerated. They felt them. Taking away those experiences is like taking away the food from your dog. Even your own dog doesn't like having his food taken away, even by you.
Neutrality is one of the arguments for acceptance of experiences. The stone and the rock of Corinth was nothing. Rock music is nothing, except that there is something more than notes and instruments there. These things are fooling people about their own spiritual experience. They are replacing true spirituality with the placebo. The placebo tastes good and goes down easy. It can't be denied.
Fundamentalism has many other forms of manipulation that exclude rock music. Both evangelicalism and fundamentalism have borrowed from the world's youth culture, not understanding the demonic influence upon the material things of all different kinds and their play with the flesh. Lust in the church can count as an authentic spiritual experience. But what the churches offer to attract a crowd and therefore validate spiritual success doesn't stop having its impact on Sunday. Church members have no reason to see the same attraction as wrong during the week, so the members keep living for things. The church is just competing with the world on the same carnal plane, yet with the added dimension of authenticating the Sunday version as a real spiritual experience from above. Church ordained idolatry masquerades as the Holy Spirit's work.
More to Come.