The Reality of Spiritual Warfare – Orthodoxy vs. Heresy (Mark 1:21-28)

Spiritsword[I preached on Mark 1:21-28 yesterday. If you're interested, you can download or stream the sermon here. The following is an excerpt from the sermon. Soli Deo Gloria :)]

Charismatics often look to passages such as this in order to justify elaborate theories, really speculations, about how a Christian minister ought to cast out a demon. Yet if we see only the erratic and violent behavior of the unclean spirit, we miss the greater point at issue: The battle fought here is between Christ the Word and the unclean spirit who tries to command and control Christ through spoken words.

As one bible commentator notes, “possibly the naming of Jesus is an attempt to gain the advantage by uttering his true name in the midst of the approaching supernatural confrontation.” There is a real confrontation between the Word incarnate and this unclean spirit: Christ has come to preach the Gospel, and the demon is trying to oppose and suppress the preaching of the Gospel.

Paul says as much about spiritual warfare to Timothy when he says that “in the later times some will depart from the faith by devoting themselves to deceitful spirits and teachings of demons.” (1st Tim 4:1) That is to say, the conflict is between Truth and error. The Truth saves and sanctifies those who are saved. Hence, the Scriptures tell us that the truth will set you free. And our Lord prays “Sanctify them in the Truth.” Sound doctrine sets a man free from idolatrous notions of who God is, from false thoughts about himself and the remainder of God’s creation, and from slavery to sin, death, and the devil. Inversely, false doctrines, the doctrines of demons, as Paul tells Timothy, have ethical/moral effects in the life of the person who believes them. Those who follow false doctrines, for instance, have abandoned the faith, the Lord in whom they once professed to believe. And this following of false doctrines works itself out in things as practical and common as whether or not one gets married or eats certain kinds of food.

Let us not look for the spectacle of exorcisms made popular by movies and the charismatic movement. It is the Truth who is attacked by the unclean spirit in this passage. And it is the Truth who overcomes and destroys the unclean spirit.

-h.

If Evolution is True, then Truth Doesn’t Matter [An Excerpt]

monkeyfacepalmI’m currently researching a variety of subjects for my thesis paper. Today I came across a great little paper title The Darwinian Assault Upon Language by Bryce J. Christensen. What follows is an excerpt from the paper, which you can download in its entirety here.

If embracing truth and rejecting error is in any sense a moral challenge, then Darwin’s fears concerning his loss of appreciation for poetry deserve more than passing attention even among scientists. Indeed, a Darwinian explanation of language appears vulnerable to a second fundamental objection: namely, that it renders impossible any real search for truth, including scientific truth. For Darwinian evolutionists, language originated as simply one more biological strategy to enhance survival and reproductive success. Note the emphasis on the usefulness of language in tool-making and “productivity” among modern linguists who subscribe to evolutionary doctrine. But if language is simply a tool for enhancing reproductive success, then questions of truth simply disappear. The question then becomes not–as it was for Darwin and his Victorian contemporaries–whether evolutionary theory is true, but simply whether those who espouse or accept it enjoy reproductive success over those who reject it on religious or philosophic grounds, or out of sheer ignorance.

Philosophizing is an Act of Worship [Gordon H. Clark]

Gordon H. Clark

Gordon H. Clark

“An ancient philosopher with a mathematical mind asserted that the circle was the most beautiful of all figures. At any rate, the beauty of philosophy is its circularity, for one may begin at any point and by constantly making progress return to the same point again. In the meantime, he will have made the circuit of things seen and things unseen, and he will have discovered some of the beauty of both.The universe, with its vast astronomy, with its thinking reed, with the history and politics of nations, is God’s handiwork and has been excellently well made. At least, so the Christian believes. But how can one know that it is beautiful unless thought is expended, unless time is taken to examine it, unless the purpose of its darker hues and the lines of its actors are understood? After an artist produces his piece, the public gains appreciation only by seeing how each stroke of the brush, or each line of the poem, fits the whole. A work of art is an integrated whole; it is not a disjointed aggregation of unrelated things; and knowledge and appreciation depend on an understanding of the plan according to which it was formed. No doubt the public fails fully to appreciate and fully to understand the genius of the artist; but it seems irrational, tragic, inconceivable that an omnipotent artist should let his fairest flower be born to blush unseen and waste its sweetness on the desert air. In other words, philosophizing is an act of worship.”

-A Christian View of Men and Things.

The Dark Heart of the Penal Colony [A Paper Excerpt]

Actor John Malkovitch in his portrayal of Kurtz, the villain of Heart of Darkness.
Actor John Malkovitch in his portrayal of Kurtz, the villain of Heart of Darkness.

[The following is an excerpt from a paper I wrote just a day ago for a class on Modernist Literature. I argue that the modernist authors flounder between a nihilistic nominalism, on the one hand, and an optimistic nominalim on the other hand. I end the paper with a proposed resolution, viz. turning back to the Christian Metanarrative which alone can contextualize these opposed conceptions of language and their respective logical conclusions. You can read the paper in its entirety here.]

Upon reading Joseph Conrad’s Heart of Darkness, the astute reader will notice that Conrad’s secondary narrator, a man who is criticizing the phenomenon of imperialism, bears the name of another critic of imperialism, namely Marlow(e). Between these two Marlow(e)s – that is to say, the historical Christopher Marlowe and the fictional Charlie Marlow – there exists a common desire to narratively “expose cultural stereotypes and discriminations as constructs, strategically deployed to authorize the self over and at the expense of some other.”[2] Additionally, one could argue that “Kurtz is a modern Faust, who has sold his soul for power and gratification,”[3] which would further establish a literary link between the two Marlow(e)s.

        What disrupts Marlow’s paralleling of Marlowe is his closer resemblance to the villain of Conrad’s story – Kurtz. Conrad’s unnamed narrator describes Marlow as being “no more to us than a voice,”[4] and, likewise, Marlow describes Kurtz as “very little more than a voice,”[5] indeed who “presented himself as a voice,”[6] who was “just a word.”[7] Marlow and Kurtz are narrators; and as the former has a unique “propensity to spin yarns,”[8] so the latter has an outstanding “ability to talk”[9] as “an emissary of pity and science and progress.”[10] These men are reflections of one another, although they exist in different social spheres. This suggests that whether language is used by a Marlow(e), a critic of institutional abuses of power via language (Kurtz), or by an institution which eventually reveals its depravity and savagery through the writer’s (Marlow(e)’s) examination of language and narrative, the situation is equally hopeless. Jonah Raskin is correct, therefore, in noting that “Conrad unravels and uncovers…rips aside the white winding sheet and reveals the decaying corpse…the colonial enterprise.”[11] Yet he does not go far enough when considering the manner in which “the novelist unmasks,”[12] for he fails to recognize the doubling of hollow yarn-spinners in Marlow and Kurtz.

        In a similar vein, Franz Kafka’s In the Penal Colony shows how institutions oppress and marginalize others by means of language. Whereas Kurtz and Marlow’s yarn-spinning represents spoken language/narrative as devoid of any ultimate significance, Kafka’s triune torture machine represents institutional tyranny by means of inscription. The inscription is neither an axiom nor a narrative but a command. According to the officer, the machine’s inscription “says ‘Be just!’”[13] And the ambiguity of the imperative – is it a call to action? is it a warning? is a rhetorical address? – serves to illustrate the distance between oppressor and oppressed, as does the condemned man’s inability to understand the officer’s detailed description of the machine, its constitution, and its purpose on the island.[14]

        Equally pessimistic as Conrad in his outlook on language, Kafka portrays the only vocal opponent of the torture machine as an “explorer,” a man whose reputation is derived from his journeys. The suggestion is that the explorer is no more sympathetic to the plight of the islanders than was the officer. The explorer is a temporary liberator who is, in the end, not concerned with removing belief in the old governor’s possible resurrection but with getting off of the island alone.[15]  For although the explorer’s claim to “give [his] views about the procedure”[16] drives the officer to free the condemned man, and even causes the officer to kill himself with the machine, the explorer does not give his views on the prophecy-stone, the source of uneasiness and superstition surrounding the machine and the problems of justice. This exertion of control by means of not responding, as well as his abandonment of the islanders to the stone and their own lostness indicate that Kafka’s explorer may be a liberator of the people, but at a very expensive cost. The explorer, like Marlow, unravels the discourse surrounding the machine, but in so doing shows himself to be a parallel figure to the officer.

———–

[2] Bartels, Emily Carroll. Spectacles of Strangeness: Imperialism, Alienation, and Marlowe (Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 1993) 4.

[3] Watts, Cerdic. “Heart of Darkness,” in The Cambridge Companion to Joseph Conrad, ed. J.H. Stape (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2004), 47.

[4] 24.

[5] 43.

[6] ibid. (emphasis added)

[7] 24.

[8] 3.

[9] 43.

[10] 22.

[11] The Mythology of Imperialism: A Revolutionary Critique of British Literature and Society in the Modern Age (New York: Monthly Review Press, 2009), 150-151.

[12] ibid.

[13] The Metamorphosis and Other Stories (New York: Dover Publications, 1996), 70.

[14] 61.

[15] 74-75.

[16] 69.