Santa Clara, CA
| Re: Procterandgambleites|
[b]Character Deficiency Syndrome[/b]
The sharpest description and diagnosis of such a crisis of character ever given is found in the wisdom literature of the Bible, which comprises the books of Job, Ecclesiastes, some of the Psalms, and especially the book of Proverbs. This literature teaches that moral character is grounded in reverence for God and constitutes wisdom. It calls the failure of character "folly." The sages who wrote these books, Solomon being chief among them, presented their observations with unsurpassed poetic virtuosity. Their true genius, however, is the method by which they made their observations. These ancient writers were the original behavioral profilers.
The art and science of criminal profiling has become a celebrated subject of motion pictures and television series. Though presaged to some extent by the Sherlock Holmes stories, it actually is a relatively recent development in the study of abnormal human behavior and as a crime fighting tool. John Douglas is the investigator who developed the FBIs elite serial crime unit, applying inductive methods of constructing profiles of serial killers with uncanny accuracy. In the book [i]Mind Hunter[/i], Douglas writes that he always instructs his classes that whoever wants to understand Picasso has to study his art. Likewise, whoever desires to understand the criminal personality has to study his crime. He specifies the difference between his method and a psychiatrists:
The mental-health professionals start with the personality and infer behavior from that perspective. My people and I start with the behavior and infer the personality from that perspective.
The similarity between Douglass methods and Solomons cannot be missed. The same approach is taken throughout the wisdom literature of the Old Testament. It is a mistake to regard Proverbs only as a book of moralistic maxims. In fact, it collects into a single volume hundreds of concise masterpieces of inductive observation. It describes what people [i]do[/i] in order to show what they [i]are[/i] or, as Jesus put it, how one may know a tree by its fruit. Gathering these diverse observations together by subject matter enables the reader to construct behavioral profiles that are often startlingly complete.
The challenge is to collect and collate all these observations in a way that the fuller picture can be constructed. The proverbs that preserve these observations are dispersed so unsystematically that they give the appearance of being disconnected and haphazard. There is purpose in the seeming randomness of lessons. It is to make the reader work, to think:
[b]To understand a proverb and the interpretation, the words of the wise and their riddles.[/b]
The search is part of the fun. First one must gather the bits of information on a theme, follow the threads that lead to other themes, and analyze the relationships between issues. Our common theme in this book is the fool and his folly.
The words "fool" and "folly" in the English Bible translate several Hebrew words used widely in the Old Testament for individuals who are deficient in character. Dont be [i]fooled[/i] by our contemporary uses of the word "fool." The fool were talking about is not necessarily unintelligent. He is unwise. This is not someone who is silly or ridiculous, but someone who has never learned that "the fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge."
I mentioned that there are [i]several[/i] Hebrew words. In this book we are going to look specifically at six terms. They are not interchangeable synonyms, but each one has a distinct shade of meaning which illuminates our central theme. Together they indicate at least four progressive stages or degrees of descent into moral and spiritual depravity. I call this pattern of descent [i]Character Deficiency Syndrome.[/i]
This is not an attempt to be jazzy or cute. I am not trying to create a New Age cliché here. Every word is deliberate and meaningful. The whole issue is about moral character. Wisdom means knowing the right thing to do and doing it. It is equivalent to the kind of sound and God-fearing character that thinks straight, makes good choices, and does what is right in a complicated worldeven when doing right seems to make things even more complicated. "Youve got to pay your dues," as the song says, and "it dont come easy." Character willingly pays its dues. Folly amounts to a deficiency of that kind of character. The fool does not want to pay the dues. He wants the good life to "come easy." That is his first mistake. He goes downhill from thereand he [i]does[/i] go downhill.
Folly does not stay still. It is progressive. Weakness of character is degenerative, and the process of its degeneration has identifiable, integrally connected stages. When we put the biblical clues together, we can see a clear pattern of cause and effect. Hence the term "syndrome."
The first stage, the first degree of folly, signifies the [i]simple[/i] or [i]naïve[/i] fool, who is unthinking, gullible, and "devoid of understanding." He does not even have a basic comprehension of moral cause and effect. The second degree is the [i]self-confident[/i] fool. He is known mainly by his stubbornness and by his big mouth. The third degree is the [i]committed[/i] fool, who has decisively rejected wisdom and instead made a commitment to destructive ideas and behaviors. There are some other interestingif distressing dimensions to this stage of the syndrome that we shall talk about when we get to them.
Finally there is a terminal stage of Character Deficiency Syndrome: the [i]scornful[/i] fool, a mocker who is openly contemptuous of spiritual truth and moral righteousness. Many fools do not advance to this stage, if for no other reason than that it requires too much effort and commitment. On the other hand, some whom one would never suspectincluding many that appear to be upstanding citizens, even clergyactually descend to this level. They not only harbor a deep hatred for ethical absolutes, they have become evangelists for moral infidelity. They may well have passed a deadline beyond which God will have no mercy for their guilty souls.
This book, then, is about folly in all its inglorious dimensions: its symptoms, its diagnosis, its causes, andif we may be permitted to borrow for analogy the "disease model" we criticized earlierits cure.
First, however, we must clarify the context for this teachingand that context is wisdom. It has already been suggested above that wisdom is not a matter of intelligence, but rather moral character. Much more needs to be said. In order to understand folly, we need to grasp what the Bible says about wisdom. Wisdom, we shall see, is not a system of laws and commandments, nor is it an addendum to God's laws. It is rather a worldview, a way of looking at all of life and reality.
| 2009/4/6 8:52||Profile|
Santa Clara, CA
Without a Clue[/b]
Suppose you found in your mailbox today a letter on impressive, official-looking stationary from some office of a West African nation, say Nigeria. It is legitimately postmarked from that location. The text of the letter explains that a foreign contract overpayment has created a fiscal emergency in that countrys banking system, and that tens of millions of dollars must be quickly moved out of Nigeria into foreign banks. If you will make your bank account available to hold some of these funds, they will let you keep thousands of those dollars for yourself. There is no risk involvedexcept that they do ask that you disclose enough of your financial information to make sure you are trustworthy. They also want you to send an "advance fee" to pay for transfer costs. How do you respond?
If you decide to keep your own money in your bank account and your sensitive financial information to yourself, you may consider it profit. The many who have generously opened their accounts to this windfall have received nothing in return for their generosity but a sizeable debit in their bank accounts and a compromise of their personal security.
This is not a hypothetical situation, but an actual scam that has been around since the 1980s and continues to hoodwink thousands of victims out of millions of dollars every year. The Nigerian letter, known by law enforcement authorities as a "4-1-9" or "advance fee" fraud, is a new and sophisticated version of an ancient swindle. In the 1920s it spawned a variation known as "The Spanish Prisoner" con. The Internet has facilitated an explosion of frauds like this. In one six month period I received fourteen different email solicitations to get rich very quickly just by letting these folks use my bank account for awhile.
I have received dozens of such solicitations over the years, some of them with a religious or charitable theme, and not just from West Africa, but from Asia and the Middle East as well. I have treated them all as the first, which I immediately deposited (wistfully, I admit) in the household trash. I could only wish that I had always shown that kind of good sense and self-control in the face of the offer too good to be true. Unfortunately, I have on other occasions also suffered the same embarrassment and loss that comes to all who share the lapse of character we shall define in this chapter.
The first, or latent stage of Character Deficiency Syndrome is to be "simple," and the Bible provides a thorough description of the [i]simple fool[/i]. The Hebrew word is [i]pethi[/i] (pe-thee), from the root [i]pata[/i] (pa-tah), which means open, spacious, or wide. It is tempting to call this fellow an "airhead," but that would be missing the point. Remember, in the Bible neither wisdom nor folly is a matter of intellect or even personality. Both are moral issues, and both are a choice.
The simple one is empty, rather, in the sense of being naïve, immature, lacking judgment and discernment. The phrase most often associated with this word is "one who lacks understanding." There is a kind of simplicity that is a virtue. This is not it. This is not simplicity but [i]simpleness[/i], the front door to folly, which is the way of destruction. The word denotes someone, as we will see, who is gullible and easily enticed. He is usually contrasted with the "prudent" person, who has learned or is learning how to make choices based on moral convictions rather than feelings. Prudence is the normal (i.e., God-intended), healthy human conditionbut [i]simpleness[/i] is the prevailing one, the universal default pattern of human behavior.
[i]The chief characteristic of the simple one is credulity, gullibility, dullness.[/i] One might think that the simple one needs only to become sophisticated through education and experience. His situation is not that, wellsimple. Remember, the key issue is moral character, not intellect, or personality, or even common sense. This sort of naïveté is not merely the product of innocent trust. The simple fool chooses to trust those who are liable to mislead him, while at the same time he remains skeptical of those who would instruct and advise him about right and wrong. He may see himself as wise and understanding.
Moral character proceeds from choices that are freely made. The simple person, however, does not see his choices as being morally loaded. For him it comes down to a matter of what he wants. Notice how Solomon diagnoses his problem:
[b]The simple believes every word, but the prudent watches well where he steps.[/b]
In other words, the simple one trusts people without weighing either the wisdom of their words or the goodness of their motives. The only thing that matters is that someone is telling him what he wants to hear and to believe. This soul cannotor rather, will nottell the difference between someone who is telling the truth and someone who is feeding him a very clever line. It is a relatively mild form of character deficiency, but one that makes him easy prey for those who would take advantage of him or lead him astray into virtually any kind of vice. In his mind exercising discernment might short-circuit a good time or cut off a "once in a lifetime" opportunity. The simple one is a fish ready to bite the hook.
This habitual gullibility leads to a pattern of behavior that can only be described as careless and foolhardy.
[b]A prudent person foresees the evil and hides himself, but the simple pass on, and are punished.[/b]
He simply does not calculate consequences. It is not that he is over-confident. He just does not think ahead because that would be too much trouble. Neither does he consider that there are moral causes and effects. Moral thinking might interfere with what he wants to do. He may even regard prudent planning to be pessimistic. To him, optimism is to plunge ahead and assume luck will favor him.
At first glance, the proverb above presents the picture of two responses to an impending disaster. A hurricane approaches the coast. The prudent board up their homes and businesses and take their families to a safer place further inland until the storm is passed. The simple assume that the storm will probably pass by as usual and do nothing. The fun-loving among them take their surfboards out to catch the best waves that have ever hit the beach and play until the storm overtakes them and it is too late to escape.
There is more to be found in this proverb, however. It lies in the contrast between the attitudes of the prudent and of the simple. These attitudes not only control how the two react differently to a set of circumstances. They also control how each one actually creates his own set of circumstances. [i]The prudent individual acts with foresight, while the simple individual just acts.[/i]
Prudent foresight is not anything like psychic clairvoyance. No one knows the future but God. No one can truly calculate or comprehend all the compound effects of any single deed or word. It is only reasonable, however, to anticipate the direct consequences a given choice may produce. It is not hard to understand that doing right is good and that wrongdoing creates havoc. It is true that sometimes doing the right thing is difficult, or that the goodness of the moral choice may be obscured by pressing needs of the moment. It is also true that evil often wears the cloak of expediency. Doing right often must be done by faith. This is why we have the wisdom literature in the Bible: to show us the advantages of the right choice and the disasters of the wrong.
| 2009/4/6 23:55||Profile|
Santa Clara, CA
| Re: Procterandgambleites|
[b]Christians & Conspiracy Theories[/b]
[b][i]A CALL TO REPENTANCE[/i][/b]
2 Corinthians 10:5 (KJV) 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.
[b]1) Conspiracy Theory - Intro and Overview[/b]
Conspiracy Theory is more than just the belief in an occasional conspiracy. Simply put, it is a belief system that asserts that world events are being controlled in secret by a group of ultra-powerful puppeteers behind the scenes. While nothing much can be done about this overall conspiracy, at least we can have the satisfaction of being smart enough to have figured it all out.
If viewed as fiction, Conspiracy Theory is compelling and fascinating. If it were just a nightmarish novel meant to be unnerving and just a bit beyond plausible, like Asimov's Foundation, that would be one thing. But Conspiracy Theory projects its fiction onto real-life people, families, groups, and organizations. It purports to actually be true... and this is the problem.
[b]If The Root Is Unholy...[/b]
Conspiracy Theories are as old as politics. Hitler was a master at weaving conspiracy tales. Nero concocted one to shift the blame to Christians for the burning of Rome. Those who rejected the resurrection of Messiah came up with a Conspiracy Theory to explain the empty tomb and His many appearances. And so on.
The modern day mythology of conspiracy was brought into popular view by the self-styled Democratic candidate Lyndon LaRouche and his followers in the late 1970s. (You may remember the guys in the airports, right next to the Moonies.) The LaRouchites would pass out "Executive Intelligence Reports" (EIRs) that purported to inform us plebeians what was "really going on" and why we should thus support Lyndon.
Ironically, the hobbyhorse of an outcast Democrat has now made the shift from airport "kook" fundraising to mainstream commentators and talk show hosts on radio, both conservative and Christian.
[b]Regurgitated Propaganda, Or Wisdom?[/b]
The basic plotlines of Conspiracy Theory have a striking resemblance to anti-Semitic propaganda manufactured in Germany pre-WW2, with only the slight obfuscation of substituting "international bankers" for "Jews." Indeed, many in the Militia and Patriot movements have no illusions about this and have an open anti-Semitic message.
Lyndon LaRouche, and later a few credulous Christian prophecy teachers, brought these ideas into widespread exposure by omitting the original--and more obvious--anti-Semitic ravings and by weaving them together into a compelling whole. Before this, John Birch Society members often promoted them.
Somehow, these tales inflame the fears and paranoia of people to the extent that, even when the Jewish target is "removed," a residue remains in the human imagination that is happy to attach itself to a more vague target. For it must be admitted that some people get a perverse enjoyment from wallowing in such "snits" of paranoia, bogus "insight," fear, discontentment, etc. that propaganda like this evokes. The genius of the modern "Christian" versions of Conspiracy Theory is that now we do not have to be openly anti-Semitic to enjoy these effects.
With the common bond of being "upset" and discontent in general, the modern co-belligerents of Conspiracy Theory are an odd group indeed. Nowhere is the absurdity of this more stark and ironic than among Jewish Christians who espouse it.
The sources of Conspiracy Theory notions are suspicious--to be generous. But regardless of a dubious historical pedigree, is Conspiracy Theory true or merely a paranoid delusion coupled with an active imagination? Or is it just the human tradition of "ghost stories" taken to a new level of story-telling believability?
These questions must be asked by modern-day Christians since Conspiracy Theory concepts and assumptions are intertwined with modern pop-eschatology "end times" teaching. This (unfortunately) being the case--and Conspiracy Theory assertions are clearly extra-biblical--we must "test all things" (1Thessalonians 5:21) by doing a thorough "fruit inspection" of these ideas. For we are told to judge a tree by its fruit (Matthew 7:16-20).
Unless we are ready to suggest that fear, paranoia, delusion, slander, and hatred are new "fruit of the Spirit" (Galatians 5:22-23), we need to go into this with the instinctive spiritual premonition that Conspiracy Theory is likely to fail the test and with the view to let the Holy Spirit lead us to repentance.
[b]2) Working in the Dark[/b]
The problem of testing the "theory" at the level of information is stark. Conspiracy Theory is by its very nature impossible to disprove. The revisionist history of Conspiracy Theory is based on "special knowledge" that plays by different rules than normal history, since it is dealing with "secret" history.
It is easy to spin these tales, but how can they be tested for being true? If you attempt to do this and find the notions bogus, are you one of "them?" As the joke goes, "Just because I'm paranoid doesn't mean the world isn't really out to get me!"
So the "theorists" spin yarns, and nary a soul will contest them. After all, who is well-connected enough politically and economically to say for sure that no long-running international conspiracy exists? Get it? The deck is loaded.
The Conspiratist can go on and on without the need for any real research, except to imagine how it might be in a dark fantasy that will appeal to the paranoia and disenchantment of the intended audience and, in general, fit in with the overall Theory.
But those who do not "buy it" have to try to prove that a nonexistent group didn't have a supposed meeting at such-and-such a place, etc.; or worse still that this or that real group or person has been wholly misunderstood and misquoted. This second case is especially nasty, as many of the real groups and people, whom we would be defending and quoting correctly, have open (i.e., not conspiratorial) agendas we disagree with! It is a perfect trap: to counter the Conspirators' misrepresentation, exaggeration, and fantasy we will end up defending, giving time, attention, emphasis, clarification, press, etc., to ideas we loath!
It is not work to cheer the soul, so few have tried.
So the "theory" evolves and grows and goes on--largely unchecked. It is not possible to comprehensively disprove ALL cases, and only an impossibly long-suffering soul would spend time clarifying the SPECIFIC bad ideas that have been made worse by overstatement, exaggeration, alarmism, and fantasy.
The crowning beauty--or horror--of Conspiracy Theory is that conspiracy is by its very nature secret and thus cannot be proven or disproved.
Of course, the conspiracy buffs claim special "insider" knowledge. Should they be believed?
[b]3) The Theory Meets Reality[/b]
To start with, let us acknowledge straight off that there are people and groups of people out there who have plots, plans, and ideas that are secret, bad, even dangerous. The nature of these real conspiracies will be addressed briefly in counterpoint to Conspiracy [i]THEORIES[/i].
That people in power and wealth tend to promote people who agree with them or have some other common bond is no conspiracy, but simple human nature. A president, for example, is EXPECTED to appoint judges who are like-minded to him. Leaders in general form a liking for particular schools, sources of talent, consultants, etc. based on past history of success. If you are building a house, would you not favor a church member or good friend as a contractor, all else being equal, especially if you had received good service from them in the past? This may look like collusion to outsiders, but is simple pragmatic management to those involved. For Conspiracy Theory adherents to suggest that such normal activities prove a "conspiracy" is not good evidence that they are thinking clearly. We all know what a real conspiracy is, do we not?
Real conspiracies work best when small and short lived. They take significant energy and planning and are vulnerable to the light of scrutiny. Every person brought in and every day that passes adds to the risk of an ongoing conspiracy.
Occasionally people really do conspire. For example, our American founding fathers declared independence from England some 200 years ago. But the "conspiracy" in that case was just the means used, not the cause. It was needed momentarily, then dropped as a technique. The real and lasting causes were well known, even by the British. The American Revolution could have been reasonably predicted by traditional sociology and political science. The conspiracy aspect was a temporary sideshow.
Those who aspire to do anything (good or bad) often collude in secret before launching out. Consensus building in private, forming alliances away from public view, and strategic meetings in secret are certainly a "way of the world."
But this is mere conventional thinking, not Conspiracy Theory. Conspiratists believe not merely that an occasional conspiracy exists, but that this is the dominant theme of history, that an "unseen hand" is guiding the world inexorably to the whim of certain supra-rich and/or powerful individuals.
[b]The Clouded Crystal Ball[/b]
Conspiracy Theory assertions have a nasty habit of colliding head-on with reality. Its predictive power is poor, dismally so, since it rarely deals with real motives and forces in the world. Real people, including leaders, most often do things out of greed, altruism, self interest, passion, fear, ideals, racial or religious hatred, and the like.
To point out all the failed predictions of Conspiracy Theory would surely fill the internet, since every Conspiratist has his own unique spin on the Theory. As a challenge to the reader--from what you know of it--has Conspiracy Theory [i]ever[/i] been right? Ive heard many failed predictions of elections, that US Christians are soon to be placed into concentration camps, and that Soviet armies are massing at the Mexican border...
Lets face it, Conspiratists are much better at fanciful [i]reinterpretations[/i] of history than predicting what will happen next. But this does not stop them from trying. For the Conspiratist takes great pride in being "in the know."
Of course, when Conspiracy Theory fails to accurately predict world events, this often increases the inability to persuade those who believe in it. "Ah," they say, "It is all a grand plot to lull us further into to thinking THEY aren't really planning the opposite..." and so on. Conspiracy Theory is perversely flexible.
Should Christians be involved in the promulgation of esoteric theories as likely wrong as not and with such a dismal history of accuracy?
| 2009/4/7 8:37||Profile|
| Re: |
Thanks Mike for posting this, I look forward to the next part. I am really learning a lot from this.
| 2009/4/7 11:18||Profile|
Santa Clara, CA
| Re: Procterandgambleites|
[b]4) The Return of the Illuminati[/b]
With wild claims of inside information on international clandestine dealings, the conspiracy buffs end up in an ironic hypocrisy. They believe in an ongoing "Illuminati." The Illuminati were (are?) a group that claimed [i]special knowledge[/i], secret knowledge that set them above the common man. Does such a group exist in today's world? Are there those among us who see themselves as possessing secret knowledge not available to the common man? Ironically, the Conspiracy Theorists themselves are the best candidates to be found. They have "figured it out," and if you do not "see it," then you are just one of the dupes manipulated by the ghost Conspiracy that only the "enlightened ones" know about.
Have you noticed that the most vocal promoters of Conspiracy Theory seem to be uniquely unqualified? It seems, as a rule, they are custodians, bus drivers, clerks, etc.; but here they are on the radio or publishing a leaflet or book as an expert on insider business and political dealings at an international level! This is not to denigrate any profession, but merely to point out that there seems to be a common thread among the most enthusiastic supporters and proponents of Conspiracy Theory--they lack experience and access to the international political and business world, and seem to have careers that allow lots of time to fantasize about how things "really are."
To those involved in world affairs, these fanciful causal claims seem especially divorced from reality. They simply do not fit the facts. Of course, anyone making such a statement is likely to be accused of being a conspirator as well, so for most it seems more prudent to avoid the issue as a human embarrassment too shameful to directly address. The general silence and/or stares of unbelief are taken as further circumstantial "evidence."
While we may not often like the way things are, the causal factors rarely include a conspiracy. Are not the real problems we face usually all too open and obvious: workaday problems like greed, self-interest, fear, bigotry, laziness, etc., flagrantly displayed or perhaps thinly veiled at best?
[b]5) The Symbiosis and Risks of Alarmism[/b]
There are people and groups in this world who promote "everything under the sun." There is probably even a group out there somewhere who think humans ought to dress up like kangaroos. The question in analyzing any of these groups or ideas should be: is the group in question worth paying attention to? The motives and passions of a vocal minority of goofballs who do not count as "players" in the real world should not alarm or derail us. This is to be expected. But these kooks on the globalization lunatic fringe are the basic fodder for the conspiracy alarmists. The two groups need each other to exist, it appears, as no one else is listening.
Are we to believe that a few "visionaries" who are a little soft in the head about the benefits of a "one world government" are really winning the day? Is not the problematic drift in the world today towards nationalism, isolationalism, balkanization, sectarianism, and fragmentation? Is this not the obvious reason for several wars and conflicts going on in the world right now?
[b]Serious Threat Or Political "Hollywood Squares?"[/b]
Imagine this scenario: A smarmy academic gets up at a "New Age" UN seminar and offers a bromide on the unity of man and "spaceship earth." Now, as a result of this froof-rah, are the various ethnic, religious, and cultural wars being fought around the world going to skid to a sudden stop? Are Islamic militants going to smile and put away their suicide bombs and terrorist plans and recognize Israel's right to exist? What do you think? At an economic level, is the Japanese government going to give up protecting their farming industry, abandon their political power base, and join a global government? Is anyone who matters in these conflicts even listening to this prattle? Besides the conspiracy alarmists (who are taking vigorous notes and paying over careful attention), the audience appears to be only those on a nice paid boondoggle as "ambassadors" to New York. Or perhaps this giddy speech is being loftily set forth at a roundtable "conference" in some other nice vacation city to an attendance roster of political has-beens, wash-ups, wanna-bes--and the paparazzi who clamor after them--with a few serious "kangaroo suit" types thrown in for good measure?
While this is all great fun to watch, let us be sober-minded here. The coming one-world government is not likely to be created by the pathetic attempts of the likes of the UN utopians, or imaginary rich people who long to cut off the trade advantages that are the very branch they are sitting on; but rather in reaction to a global crisis of God's judgment on a world that will be groping in response. In the meantime, the way of the world is much more easily understood without the kaleidoscopic thrills of Conspiracy Theory. And while conspiratists project fantastic evils onto the Rockefellers or the Catholics or the US Congress or the Jews or whomever, real enemies who are hell-bent on destroying us go unnoticed.
The bottom line is that while it may be great fun and fantasy for those of a paranoid bent, Conspiracy Theory is NOT taken seriously by people who run this world, it is useless for predicting or explaining what is going on and why. Only those who do not need to be correct can hold this view for long.
The media has an undeniable liberal and anti-Christian bias. But let us keep in mind that while leaders of our media are responsible for their actions, we are responsible for ours as well. As slanted and distorted as our news is, should WE then resort to rumors and hearsay as an alternative? Is this not jumping out of the frying pan and into the fire? If the issue is truth, then the failure of our media is no excuse for us doing even worse!
And consider that in our world today there are cultures where Christianity is [i]totally censured[/i] and/or believers are imprisoned, even put to death for their faith. Our Kingdom is not of this world, and we will never have the "perfect situation" till Messiah comes again, even though we should not cease making every effort to improve all we can while we can. But let us get a sense of perspective here. Are we not being crybabies for complaining overly much about our media compared to what our brethren in other parts of the world are having to endure for His Name's sake? No one is forcing us to "buy" the liberal media "pitch," nor even incline our ears or eyes to it. We can just turn it off or engage it with discernment.
Real and destructive conspiracies exist, and it is good work to espose them. Although much that is called "conspiracy" in modern history could more properly be termed a "cover-up" (being done after the fact), great evil has been plotted--and is even now being plotted--by way of real conspiracy. It is indeed righteous work for Christians to expose and thwart all such, as we have opportunity.
[b]The Credibility Factor[/b]
But alas, we are disqualified before we start for this work. We have fallen into the "chicken little syndrome": because of our scandalous excesses of alarmism and intoxication with Conspiracy THEORIES and lack of regard for what is true, if a [i]real[/i] and truly dangerous conspiracy were detected would anyone take Christians seriously at that point? Have we not spent our credibility and voice on mere ghosts?
Colossians 4:5 (NAS) Conduct yourselves with wisdom toward outsiders, making the most of the opportunity.
This point will be expanded in the last section concerning a message [i]even more important[/i] than sounding the alarm of a real conspiracy.
[b]6) Conspiracy Theory versus Revelation[/b]
The theory of communism was built on a faulty premise and, thus, was doomed to not work in practice. Christians who believe in the Bible should be able to quickly apprehend that Conspiracy Theory is faulty at its core. Thus we should not be surprised at its failure in practice.
[b]Somebody Forgot To Check Their Scriptures...[/b]
Fundamental to Conspiracy Theory is a basic view of the world. This view is defined by its adherents as the "Conspiratorial View" of history. This explanation of the course of history is pitted against the "Linear View" of history (or somesuch). These, we are told, are the only options! (This smacks of Marx's false dichotomy that only two classes existed.) But it is just not true. Dare we mention it, at least one other possible explanation of why things happen is the "Biblical View."
Amos 3:7 (NIV) Surely the Sovereign Lord does nothing without revealing his plan to his servants the prophets.
And Scripture never mentions anything anywhere even approaching the scope of Conspiracy Theory.
In general, The Bible neither denies real human conspiracies nor suggests that they are a major factor in history. Scripture puts conspiracies where they belong: as an occasional and hard to maintain sideshow.
2 Samuel 15:12 (NIV) ... And so the conspiracy gained strength, and Absalom's following kept on increasing.
Acts 23:12 (NIV) The next morning the Jews formed a conspiracy and bound themselves with an oath not to eat or drink until they had killed Paul.
But never in the Bible are we encouraged to imagine that conspiracy is the grand explanation of history or the overarching issue of causality in human affairs. In fact, just the opposite is commanded.
Isaiah 8:12-13 (NIV) "Do not call conspiracy everything that these people call conspiracy; do not fear what they fear, and do not dread it. The Lord Almighty is the one you are to regard as holy, he is the one you are to fear, he is the one you are to dread."
The lesson seems to be that there are certain times that the temptation to blame what is happening on conspiracy or [i]alliances[/i] should be distinctly avoided, by direct command of the Lord.
Beyond skewering the fundamental thesis of the "Conspiratorial View" (unless we are willing to accuse God of "missing it"), Scripture makes it plain that if we are near the "end of the age," which [i]Christian[/i] Conspiracy Theory generally asserts, it is then in particular that we are clearly admonished NOT to be deceived into thinking that conspiracy is behind it. Anyone familiar with prophetic Scripture knows that God is very keen on letting us know that He is behind the events surrounding the first and second coming of Christ.
Psalms 2:1-2 (KJV) Why do the heathen rage, and the people imagine a vain thing? The kings of the earth set themselves, and the rulers take counsel together, against the Lord, and against his anointed....
Why indeed? A good question, eh? (Acts 4:28, Ps 2:4) Some answer this according to "the Gospel of Conspiracy Theory": that this is due to a human conspiracy. Some claim "ministries" spreading this distracting paranoia. But God, while lambasting many a real conspiracy throughout history, says it is not so. The following is representative of dozens of end-times passages:
Ezekiel 38:1-2,8 (NIV) "Son of man, prophesy... and say: This is what the Sovereign Lord says: I am against you, O Gog,... [i]I will turn you around[/i] and drag you along. [i]I will bring you[/i] from the far north and send you against the mountains of Israel. It is coming! It will surely take place, declares the Sovereign Lord.... "
God apparently thinks it important for us to know at the End of the Age that He is doing this, and it is of no human invention or scheme. Even if some have plans....
Psalms 33:10 (NIV) The Lord foils the plans of the nations; he thwarts the purposes of the peoples.
Is it not amazing that Scripture completely misses what Conspiracy Theory made popular? Boy did God blow this one! If He only knew what was "really going on." If He were only more "informed!"
So it is God versus the conspiracy buffs. Tough one, eh?
Who ya gonna believe nowadays?
Isaiah 8:12 (NIV) "Do not call conspiracy everything that these people call conspiracy; do not fear what they fear, and do not dread it."
| 2009/4/9 7:56||Profile|
Santa Clara, CA
| Re: Procterandgambleites|
[b]7) "Conspiracy" in the Heavenlies?[/b]
The only grand "conspiracy" spoken of in Scripture is a SPIRITUAL one led by Satan. And it is no secret: it has been REVEALED to those with ears to hear. Thus, it is no "conspiracy" to Christians, but an open [i]war[/i] against the gospel of Christ and His life in the kingdom of God on this earth.
Our Lord Jesus has defeated the enemy of our souls at the cross. While we have yet to see the fullness of this victory play out in time, we will. The ultimate defeat of Satan is as sure as the Word of God. For our enemy's time is short.
At a mere human level, Conspiratists have pontificated at length about Masonic cabals bent on ruining the very economy which they supposedly constructed, while completely missing Militant Islam's open agenda calling for civilization's death and destruction. Radical Muslim clerics scream "Death to America" in US Mosques and Universities and on the Internet, and openly plot to bring the US and then the world under Islamic rule, and not one Conspiratist takes them seriously before they actually strike a blow. Even non-Conspiratists missed the threat due to religious political correctness. (While a particular terrorist "cell" is a closely guarded military secret, Islamism's worldwide goals for Israel, the US, and modern civilization have been published and broadcast and ranted about for many decades. Yet even with all the funds and weapons and virulent hatred for us, it seemed politically dangerous to point out that Islamists had declared open war against us.) My goodness, even at the level of the here and now (John 3:11), we humans seem to have a propensity to dramatically miss the point of where the real threat is coming from. Are we not doing even worse in the spiritual by missing the nature of the war that we are in with such dalliances as Conspiracy Theory--in direct violation to scriptural revelation and emphasis?
Are we showing discernment and good judgment by recognizing who the real enemy is and where we are being attacked spiritually? What is history really about, and what battle is really going on in God's world? Is eternal judgment real? What, then, should our approach and overarching strategy to life be? How, then, should we live? If we are members of the "Kingdom of God", just what should we be focusing on? Are we looking up, or down--and getting that all wrong? How would Jesus rate our sense of apprehending the reality of things? Are we wiser then He? Wiser than all of the holy prophets of old?
Are we shooting our guns off into the air of Conspiracy Theory... while a real enemy stands behind us? Even among us?
[b]8) We Didn't Lose, They Cheated![/b]
This section may be the most difficult for Conspiratist oriented Christians to accept, but may well be the explanation to the perverted attraction of Conspiracy Theories in the church, and why we think we need them.
Clearly and obviously, there are those who oppose what we Christians hold dear and actively promote what we think of as wicked. It should be noted that this battle is principally fought, lost, and won in an open battle in our culture, not via conspiratorial plotting.
Where we as Christians have lost ground or failed completely is in [i]acquiescence[/i] or [i]lack of resolve[/i], rather than being unable to "break the code" of some back-room conspiratorial plot. The fight was not generally in secret, but in the open, and we did not even show up.
[b]The Enemy Within[/b]
Perhaps part of the appeal of blaming things on conspiracies is that it assuages our own [i]lack of concern[/i] and [i]engagement[/i] in the public arena. Sure, we lost, but "Hey, they cheated!" Oddly enough, though, when we show up we do quite well, just as God promised. But when we fail to even try, we are tempted to accuse our opponents of "foul play" instead of reflecting objectively on the fact that we caved in, did not care, did not try, etc.
Where this gets nasty is where it becomes more than just a temporary meditation to relieve our consciences, and gets blown into a full-tilt philosophy. And this is what Conspiracy Theory is. "They" are pulling back-room strings with an unseen hand that makes it futile to even try. Why, we might even play into "their" hands, "they" are so clever. The only thing to do is to hunker down and protect our friends and family against the inevitable siege, or by laying so low that nobody takes notice of us, retreating further from being salt and light in our culture. None of the options coming from this fatalistic view are very good, frankly, and when the results in our society get inevitably worse, we go right back to blaming "them" instead of ourselves. And so it goes.
James 4:17 (NIV) Anyone, then, who knows the good he ought to do and doesn't do it, sins.
Our spiritual enemy is winning a terrific battle against us if he can short circuit our zeal and eliminate our influence via the fatalism of Conspiracy Theories. Rather that being salt and light in spreading the Gospel of peace, we hide our lamps under a table so that "they" will not notice us. We bury our treasure in a bunker mentality of merely holding our own against the unassailable power of evil. With our consciences satisfied that the enemy is somehow cheating, we throw down our swords before the fight even starts.
The utility of Conspiracy Theory thus comes into focus. It shifts blame. It is a sophisticated excuse machine. This is how Hitler used it; this is how Nero used it; this is how we are using it. Has there even been a Conspiracy Theory concocted short of this purpose?
What could be a more obvious ploy by our spiritual enemy to thwart the life of Christ in us?
The tragic thing is that this attack comes not from without, but principally from within the church. And our itching ears and guilty consciences cannot seem to get enough of it.
Have we fallen so far from being "conquerors in Christ" that we need a systematic philosophy of paranoia? Is the life of Christ in us content to lay curled in fetal position in the corner reading another Conspiracy Theory book? Are we content to be losers quaking in the fear of men--in direct disobedience to our Lord?
[b]9) Slandering Our Enemies[/b]
Leviticus 19:16 (NIV) "Do not go about spreading slander among your people. Do not do anything that endangers your neighbor's life. I am the Lord."
Exodus 23:1 (NIV) "Do not spread false reports. Do not help a wicked man by being a malicious witness."
Instead of realizing the pragmatic, even convicting reasons why we have failed in so many ways to effect our culture, we accuse our enemies of cheating via conspiracy. The motive for this was discussed previously.
Proverbs 18:8 (NIV) The words of a gossip are like choice morsels; they go down to a man's inmost parts.
The Scripture describes a "gossip" as one who connives and dreams up a "twist" that is compelling and winsome. There is a perverted sweetness to this deception that is the principal lure of committing this sin. "Yeah, THAT is it! So and so is doing such and such." The more divorced from the truth this is, the more outlandish the slander, the better...
Matthew 15:19 (NIV) "For out of the heart come evil thoughts... false testimony, slander. These are what make a man 'unclean'...."
Proverbs 18:8 (NAS) The words of a talebearer are like tasty trifles....
Like all sin, slander and gossip can be fun in the moment. But like all sin, there is a price to be paid later. The price here is in defamation of character to the real-life people and organizations, and in self-delusion and inability to discern the truth for those who continue in it.
1 Peter 2:1 (NIV) Therefore, rid yourselves of all malice and all deceit, hypocrisy, envy, and slander of every kind.
Ephesians 4:31 (NIV) Get rid of all bitterness, rage and anger, brawling and slander, along with every form of malice.
We are told in some detail by God how to think and deal with rulers and government in Scripture. And consider that these Scriptures were written during a time when leaders and government were much worse than now.
Titus 3:1-2 (NIV) Remind the people to be subject to rulers and authorities, to be obedient, to be ready to do whatever is good, to SLANDER no one, to be peaceable and considerate, and to show true humility towards all men.
Do the wild accusations and projected phobias and fears of Conspiracy Theory pass this test? You be the judge.
The bottom line is that "Christian" Conspiracy Theory makes about as much sense as "Christian Racism." Both are forbidden in Scripture.
1 Peter 2:17 (NIV) Show proper respect to everyone: Love the brotherhood of believers, fear God, honour the king.
| 2009/4/10 9:08||Profile|
| Re: Proctorandgambleites|
Reading this thread, I couldn't help but be reminded of the following:
~ VII ~
MY DEAR WORMWOOD,
I wonder you should ask me whether it is essential to keep the patient in ignorance of your own existence. That question, at least for the present phase of the struggle, has been answered for us by the High Command. Our policy, for the moment, is to conceal ourselves. Of course this has not always been so. We are really faced with a cruel dilemma. When the humans disbelieve in our existence we lose all he pleasing results of direct terrorism and we make no magicians. On the other hand, when they believe in us, we cannot make them materialists and sceptics. At least, not yet. I have great hopes that we shall learn in due time how to emotionalise and mythologise their science to such an extent that what is, in effect, belief in us, (though not under that name) will creep in while the human mind remains closed to belief in the Enemy. The "Life Force", the worship of sex, and some aspects of Psychoanalysis, may here prove useful. If once we can produce our perfect workthe Materialist Magician, the man, not using, but veritably worshipping, what he vaguely calls "Forces" while denying the existence of "spirits" then the end of the war will be in sight. But in the meantime we must obey our orders. I do not think you will have much difficulty in keeping the patient in the dark. The fact that "devils" are predominantly comic figures in the modern imagination will help you. If any faint suspicion of your existence begins to arise in his mind, suggest to him a picture of something in red tights, and persuade him that since he cannot believe in that (it is an old textbook method of confusing them) he therefore cannot believe in you.
[i]Extract from The Screwtape Letters by C S Lewis[/i]
[url=http://members.fortunecity.com/phantom1/books2/c._s._lewis_-_the_screwtape_letters.htm]The Screwtape Letters online[/url]
| 2009/4/10 16:14|
Santa Clara, CA
[b]10) Making Idols of Mere Men[/b]
Conspiracy Theory practitioners are miles away from "honoring the king," or showing "proper respect" for leaders. To fill this natural void, there is a backlash into worship and fear of imaginary leaders instead.
[b]The Gods Must Be Crazy...[/b]
It used to be that leaders promoted a facade of divinity and idolatry--erecting idols of themselves, demanding worship, and the like--and they still do so in some parts of the world. Though this is rare in public life in the US, the reflex seems so ingrained in us that we must create make-believe "conspiracy leaders" to worship when social conventions change and we see our public or elected leaders so obviously groping. "It must be an act to lull us. They really are in control. They really are gods!" Nowadays, "we the people" prop up the idols. Certain carnal instincts die hard. But these Conspiracy Theory idols, like all others, will be toppled and shattered.
[b]Why Dilbert Is Funny[/b]
At a local and experiential level, we all know the problems of position and responsibility. The higher the position, the more impossible to process all the information, to take everything into account, to please everyone, etc. That is why it is nice to dream of being in charge, but harder to sleep when you are.
There is hardly a profession where human limitations are more stark than in leadership. This is why "manager jokes" strike a chord in us. These barbs point out the hopeless situation most managers are in, diffusing with humor our exasperation at their inability to "get it," listen, solve ALL the problems, or whatever.
Our ability to laugh at these jokes demonstrates that--at least intuitively--we know the "problem" that our leaders face with their limitations as humans. This being the case, we are enjoined to pray for them and show them proper respect for the responsibilities they bear.
But for the Conspiratist, who can see this drama first-hand at their own job, city counsel, etc., there is a different set of rules for world leaders. These are a different breed, somehow. To listen to the Conspiracy buffs, it becomes clear that you must believe that certain people or groups possess superhuman powers of intelligence, time management, persuasion, influence, stealth, etc. These "puppeteers" have powers that would make Superman look like a weakling.
Up close, we see people for what they really are. At a distance, [i]they must be gods![/i]
This is clearly idolatry, and a rather ridiculous type at that. And again, we must be honest and admit that idol-making is great fun, and so is the reveling around the constructed image. But this makes God especially mad.
1 Corinthians 10:14 (Wey) Therefore, my dear friends, avoid all connection with the worship of idols.
The mythology of creating imaginary superhumans that act as objects to terrify our imaginations and excuse our failures is not something that a Christian should have any part of.
Luke 12:4-5 (Wey) "But to you who are my friends I say, Be not afraid of those who kill the body and after that can do nothing further. I will warn you whom to fear: fear him who after killing has power to throw into Gehenna. Yes, I say to you, fear him."
It might be countered that Conspiracy Theory believers are not gripped with the fear of real or imaginary [i]human leaders[/i], but demonic spirits--even Satan--who animate these people. But this is even worse! Instead of fearing God or honoring the temporal king, we now find ourselves emotionally and spiritually prostrated before demons and Satan, trembling for them!
Isaiah 57:11 (NKJ) "And of whom have you been afraid, or feared, that you have lied and not remembered Me, nor taken it to your heart? Is it not because I have held My peace from of old that you do not fear Me?"
Shall we dance around the golden calf of Conspiracy Theory and its constructors, or attend to the Word of the Lord and His Kingdom among us?
Matthew 6:33 (KJV) But seek ye first the kingdom of God, and his righteousness...
Resonating to Conspiracy Theories is a clear indication that we are carnally minded, and not even to the "real world" (which would be bad enough) but to an idolatrous fantasy world of delusion and paranoia.
Luke 17:20-21 (NAS) "The kingdom of God is not coming with signs to be observed; nor will they say, 'Look, here it is!' or, 'There it is!' For behold, the kingdom of God is in your midst."
Philippians 3:20 (NAS) For our citizenship is in heaven...
Brothers and sisters, let us repent. Let us turn our minds from these dark meditations to the Word of God, and begin now to work and pray in accordance with His eternal and permanent kingdom.
Which kingdom do our private thoughts and feelings reveal we are vested in?
[b]11) Ideas Have Consequences[/b]
There were pervasive rumors running rampant before WW2 concerning the Jews. One of note was that Jews were purportedly using Gentile blood in the making of the Passover Matzos. These and other rumors were so outlandish and ignorant that they did not seem worthy of serious response. They were so ridiculous and divorced from reality that no one bothered to dispute them. So they became "common knowledge."
2 Peter 2:12 (NKJ) But these... speak evil of the things they do not understand, and will utterly perish in their own corruption.
We often wonder what went so wrong in Germany that an entire segment of the population (many professing to be Christians!) would willfully and enthusiastically participate in the day to day executions of the holocaust. We are not going to suggest here that the ONLY reason this happened were the rumors, gossip, and slander running rampant in Germany unchecked for decades beforehand, but certainly these were a major factor in creating the climate that would allow, and even justify, the mayhem and shame that resulted.
[i]We[/i], of course, are much superior to the Germans, and immune to the effects of outrageous stories and lies coursing through our minds for decades, unchallenged.
The one thing we learn from history, it appears, is that we can never learn from history.
[b]12) Credulity and Witness[/b]
Proverbs 14:15 (NIV) A simple man believes anything, but a prudent man gives thought to his steps.
1 Thessalonians 5:21 (NIV) Test everything. Hold on to the good.
A casual survey of rumors coursing through the Christian community over the last few decades is not encouraging evidence that we are "testing all things." Perhaps this overview will jog a few memories?
I) Did you know that as a residue of the miracle of the creation of woman that man has one less rib than woman as an eternal reminder? This Christian legend still persists in sermons, homilies, and wedding ceremonies, despite the fact that it is not true. Men have the same number of ribs as women.
II) The FCC has received over 30 million pieces of mail protesting a petition supposedly authored by Madalyn Murray O'Hare to remove all Christian broadcasting from the airways. The embarrassing thing is... that no such petition or issue exists. But this does not stop copies of pamphlets and counterpetitions from circulating and being promoted. Try as the FCC might, the rumor cannot be quelled. The FCC even has a "religious petition" disclaimer option when you call the computerized switchboard and, now, a posting on the FCC website (see link section at end of article).
III) In the early 80s, the periodic alignment of the planets was going to torque the earth, causing earthquakes, tidal waves, etc. Have the pastors and teachers who promoted this bogus theory apologized or repented? The fact that those who made an industry of this error are still revered as established prophecy "experts" among us, showing no sign of repentance, circumspection, or humility, is perhaps the greatest scandal of this unfortunate episode.
IV) A rumor keeps recurring every few years that executives at certain large corporations have appeared on TV talk shows admitting to being Satanists. This slander ends up having a commercial motive and has led to several lawsuits. While the source of this particular rumor has been traced (and prosecuted, see link section for more on this) to certain Amway distributors, many of these also claim to be Christians, and it must be admitted that this slander has overflowed into many non-Amway Christian minds and mouths as well.
V) In the mid 80s, a new threat emerged in the "ten nation" European Economic Community (EEC), now termed the European Union (EU). This was portrayed as everything from a trade-war juggernaut to a fulfillment of prophecy. Despite all the hype, the economic progress after a decade has been modest, to put it generously. It actually started with six member nations and, eventually, passed through ten; when the eleventh and twelfth nations joined, it did not stop the interpretation of the EU as the nefarious "ten horn" alliance prophesied in Scripture. Luckily, the USA started with thirteen, not having to pass through the dreaded number ten, or we might also have been identified with Daniel 7 and Revelation 17. Unfortunately for the EU the stigma of this "teaching" absurdly persists. In the minds of some evangelical Christians, the EU sort of got "stuck" at ten, even though they now have fifteen member states. Again, the teachers who promote/promoted this error show no signs of remorse or humility, but are now well established as prophecy "experts" in the body of Christ.
VI) Another recurrent Christian legend is that of the "beast" computer in Brussels (or wherever). This first surfaced in the late 1970s, where the idea was to track every person in the entire world as a fulfillment of the 666 prophecy. We can now assess this from the cooler position of hindsight. Consider that the educational computers used in modern elementary schools NOW would run circles around the [i]best[/i] computer technology available back THEN, in speed, memory, reliability, and disc storage. Imagine [i]running the world[/i] from the paltry PC that your kid learns his math on! It was no less absurd back in the 1970s to people who knew better. But to point this out made you either not "in the know" or part of the "conspiracy."
VII) At a restaurant a few years back where we were splitting the check, $20 bills were confiscated and the plastic "security strips" (to thwart counterfeiting) woven in vertically (just under the U of the United States of...) were wiggled loose and pulled out from the top by a well-meaning minister present. When asked why this defacing of currency was necessary, he replied, "These strips allow the government to track how much money we have--and our movements--via satellite. By removing them, we can foil their plan."
VIII) The latest and most persistent Christian rumor, and the subject of this article, is that an overwhelming, worldwide, international conspiracy exists--manipulating nearly everything that we see--which is spearheaded variously by the Bilderbergers, the DuPonts, the Rockefellers, the CFR, the Trilateral Commission, black helicopters, and the ever popular "Illuminati." This dark fantasy is called "Conspiracy Theory," and has become the darling of Christians.
IX) Did you know that Jesus Christ came, died, and rose again on the third day, according to the Scripture? Yes, this important truth comes to you from the same people that brought you the above.
Romans 2:24 (NIV) As it is written: "God's name is blasphemed among the Gentiles because of you."
2 Corinthians 5:20 (KJV) Now then we are ambassadors for Christ...
1 Thessalonians 2:4 (NKJ) But as we have been approved by God to be entrusted with the gospel, even so we speak...
1 Corinthians 4:1-2 (NIV) So then, men ought to regard us as servants of Christ and as those entrusted with the secret things of God. Now it is required that those who have been given a trust must prove faithful.
1 Timothy 6:20-21 (Wey) Guard the truths entrusted to you, shunning irreligious and frivolous talk, and controversy with what is falsely called 'knowledge'; of which some have spoken boastfully in connection with the true faith, and have erred.
Lamentations 3:40 (NIV) Let us examine our ways and test them, and let us return to the Lord.
| 2009/4/11 9:41||Profile|
| Re: Procterandgambleites|
Are we to believe that a few "visionaries" who are a little soft in the head about the benefits of a "one world government" are really winning the day?
I think I prefer His Word alone, over this couple's thoughts. I'm sure no one would mind.
1Co 4:6 [i]And these things, brethren, I have in a figure transferred to myself and to Apollos for your sakes; that ye might learn in us [b]not to think of men above 'that which is written'[/b], that no one of you be puffed up for one against another.[/i]
| 2009/4/11 16:59|
Santa Clara, CA
[b]Can You Be Deceived?[/b]
[i]Why People Are Duped and How Not to Be[/i]
by G. Richard Fisher
Will you walk into my parlor? said a spider to a fly; Tis the prettiest little parlor that you ever did spy (Mary Howitt).
The inspired Apostle Paul warned us: Let no one deceive you (2 Thessalonians 2:3). It is apparent that we are vulnerable to deception and we must not forget it. We must be on guard and protect ourselves against it. There is deception everywhere in the religious world. We [i]must[/i] be alert.
Deception can only deceive if it looks somewhat like the real thing. Apologist Craig Hawkins explains:
We must realize that the way to deceive people with counterfeits is to imitate the genuine article as closely as possible. For example, if counterfeiters want to pass off fake one-hundred-dollar bills, they do not print Donald Ducks picture on purple paper. Instead they attempt to duplicate a true bill. Similarly, despicable persons who try to deceive others attempt to appear genuine and sincere. They do not walk up to you and inform you that they are there to deceive and defraud you. The far more effective method is faking friendship and fidelity.1
Goethe taught that we are never deceived but that we deceive ourselves. It is true that religious hucksters are believed because people want to believe them. People want the claims to be true. One of Martin Luthers favorite sayings was [i]mundus vult decipi[/i] the world wants to be deceived.
Once a person has invested blood, sweat, tears and [i]money[/i] into religious deception, he may be too embarrassed or too stubborn to admit he has been taken. Our hearts are where our treasure has gone. Our vested interest helps us keep the blinders on. We often only see what we want to see. The Bible presents a complex picture in regard to deception and assures us that God holds both the deceiver and the deceived accountable.
In the first chapter of the book of Zephaniah, the Lord charges and convicts both the people and the corrupt leaders they followed. Lamentations 2:14 indicates the same:
Your prophets have seen for you false and deceptive visions; They have not uncovered your iniquity, to bring back your captives, but have envisioned for you false prophecies and delusions.
It seems that for many complex reasons, one of which is the spurious idea of ongoing revelation (along with a diminished view of the sufficiency of the Bible), many people are predisposed to credulity. That is, they are gullible and likely ready to believe anything even on very slight evidence or sometimes with no evidence at all. Testimonials and dramatic stories sell.
The Bible does not go into a lot of intricate detail as to the psychology of deception; it does not have to. What it does is give us warning about its reality and specific instruction on how to deal with it.
The words deceit, deceitful, deceitfully, deceitfulness, deceive, and deceivability are used again and again in the Bible. It is one of the major themes. There are warnings everywhere in Scripture about being deceived. There are numerous warnings about the users and purveyors of deceit. The underlying Greek words for deceit cover everything from self-deceit to the practice of deceit by unprincipled religious teachers and con artists. So we are warned repeatedly and must be ready (2 Corinthians 11:3-4, 13-14).
Deceit is defined as:
1. The act of representing as true what is known to be false; a deceiving or lying. 2. a dishonest action or trick; fraud or lie. 3. the quality of being deceitful.2
British scholar W.E. Vine defines the Greek words [i]apate[/i] and [i]dolos[/i] that underlie the various English words for deceit:
APATE ... to cheat, deceive, beguile, that which gives a false impression, whether by appearance, statement or influence ... In Col. 2:8, vain deceit suggests that deceit is void of anything profitable. ... DOLOS ... primarily a bait, snare; hence, craft, deceit, guile.3
Fiction writer Robert Rosenberg captures the concept of deceit in his first mystery novel, [i]Crimes of the City[/i]. Detective Avram Cohen is the lead character and is investigating the murder of two nuns in Ein Kerem, west of Jerusalem. A Messianic rabbi, Ovadia, who is using his religious influence to cover drug running, is described by Cohen:
The only real difference seems to be that he figured out that if he calls it religion, he can get away with things. Hes playing the saint, selling blessed water from a faucet.4
So, deceitful men get away with things under the guise of religion and playing the saint while they sell worthless panaceas. Years ago we would call them snake oil salesmen.
To help us in our study, first we need to see...
THE REALITY OF DECEPTION
Y2K scams proliferated and people were being bilked out of money through the selling of fear and paranoia. Internet myths are being circulated and are growing like fungus. One can be ordained over the Internet for no charge in 20 seconds. And, for what it is worth, there is an assortment of degrees that you can purchase. The myth that U.S. Attorney General Janet Reno promoted (on the news program [i]60 Minutes[/i]) a definition of cult that included evangelical believers was actually believed and proliferated even though it has been debunked. For the last 25-plus years, PFO has and continues to get pleas in regard to the bogus Madalyn Murray OHair/FCC petition. Other FCC stories continue to mutate and circulate.
The vanishing hitchhiker is still showing up regularly in evangelists stories. And then theres the missing day, hell found and tape recorded in a Siberia cavern and, lets not forget, Procter and Gambles sellout to Satan. All of these reports are still making the rounds. Rumors are fascinating and they do sell. There are so many myths and urban legends that retired English professor Jan Harold Brunvand has put together, [i]The Colossal Book of Urban Legends[/i] with the main title being, Too Good To Be True. Myth-debunking has spawned a whole industry for that genre of books.
The title of a new study of urban legends by Brunvand (and published by the University of Illinois Press) really underscores the susceptibility to hearsay: The Truth Never Stands in the Way of a Good Story!
Charismatics in Toronto (and elsewhere) are passing off as gold what has tested out to be cheap glitter. Also there has been the planting of feathers that are claimed to be the work of angels. Hokey pictures and just plain bad photography with fire superimposed on crowds of people is supposed to prove the new baptism of fire.
Even heartwarming stories from seemingly sincere men can be used to deceive. Paul warned us: But evil men and impostors will grow worse and worse, deceiving and being deceived (2 Timothy 3:13).
ITS IN THE BOOK A LOT
Remember that Satan duped Adam and Eve in the garden (Genesis 3). The Israelites followed the impostor Korah to their own destruction (Numbers 16). Saul was drawn in and deceived by the witch of Endor (1 Samuel 28). Jeremiah warned of false and wicked shepherds who would deceive and destroy the sheep (Jeremiah 23). We can be easily seduced if we do not hold on to and really know Gods Word.
Kathryn Lindskoog has astutely commented that Some Protestants love any heartwarming stories that seem to authenticate the Bible, whether they are true or not.5 There is no end of undocumented stories and claims by modern pied pipers.
There are so many Christian myths and urban legends accepted as fact in the Church that it is embarrassing. In some instances they are harmless, in other instances they are costly and even deadly. However, the world looks at the gullibility and silliness of some professing Christians and mocks. We lose the battle because of the effects of our being deceived and looking ridiculous.
The Old Testament constantly exposes the cons. We are shown the magicians in Moses day who could fake the miracles of Moses (up to a point, Exodus 8 and 2 Timothy 3). Jacobs tricking and scheming are laid out. Laban is exposed. In Isaiah 30:10 the people cried: prophesy illusions.
The book of Proverbs warns again and again about deceit, false balances, being taken in by deception whether in the moral realm, or the everyday realm of life and practical living. The Bible repeatedly insists on truth, calls us to truth, demands truth.
Jesus in Matthew 7:15 warns of false prophets and Paul in Acts 20:29-30 warns about grievous wolves who will not spare the flock.
The deceivers are getting more shameless all the time. Inner-City Christian Discernment Ministry reports on Rod Parsleys Whopper. Parsley sent his constituents a letter dated April 2, 1999, in which he claimed to heal a man of full-blown AIDS. No name, address or documentation was given. It was just a tall tale.
Joan Gieson, who served for many years at Benny Hinn Miracle Crusades doing stage introductions of the healed, reported at one of Hinns meetings that the woman on stage had been thrown out of a automobile, hit by three cars, run over by a tractor trailer, was taken to the morgue, marked DOA with a tag put on her big toe. The lady stood there looking like she was in a drug stupor. No documentation, proof or medical records were offered just wild claims.
Marilyn Hickey is selling anointed red rubber bands to wear on the wrist for seven days for only $10.00. In the past she has offered blessed pennies, miracle carrot seeds and magical healing cloths. It is a travesty.
Former signs and wonders leg lengthener, C. Peter Wagner, reports stories that in Argentina people lose large amounts of weight in the meetings and that bald men grow hair. Again no proof, no documentation, no witnesses, no specimens. We are told if we do prayer walks, demons will flee out of their geographical strongholds. If this was true the demon busters could have taken back all the ZIP codes from Satan years ago.
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