A recent Huffington Post article on trends in snake-handling among some pentecostals got me in a reflective mood. So I have a confession to make that will likely surprise some of my friends and the fans of The Apologetics Group and Real to Real Ministries.
I’m a long-time, habitual snake handler. And not in the herpetologist or “having a pet snake” sense of the term. I’m talking about a real, old-fashioned, Biblical — as in Mark 16:18a — type of snake handler. And since 9/11/2001 (a memorable move-in day), I’m also a resident of Middle Tennessee.
Can I get a witness?
Furthermore, it’s my sincere hope that every Christian who reads these words will join me in this blessed calling.
You see, I really believe that Jesus, God the Son, was the promised seed of Eve, the Messiah who crushed the serpent’s head at Calvary. (Gen. 3:15) I truly believe that He bound the “strong man” Satan (Mark 3:25-27) and divided his house by the power of His death, resurrection, ascension and enthronement; that all authority in both heaven AND THE EARTH has been granted to Him by the Father. (Matt. 28:18) As a result, even the least of these (that would be me, and perhaps even you) — by and through the Gospel of the Kingdom and the power of the Holy Spirit — has been made a vessel of heaven’s treasures and an ambassador of that Kingdom, vested with more spiritual authority than even the greatest of the Old Testament prophets. (Matt. 11:11; 2 Cor. 4:7; 2 Cor. 5:20; Rom. 8:11…etc.)
And to what end? So that we can sit on the sidelines, waiting to get yanked out of the arena while we look in wonder as the great dragon serpent deceives the world? May it never be! Rather so that we can go into all the world and disciple nations (Matt. 28:19,20), plundering the very house that once belonged to the now-bound serpent. (The only limited dominion Satan has now is in the spiritual atmosphere and over the hearts of the “children of disobedience.” (Eph. 2:1-2))
And how, in the memorable words of C.S. Lewis, are we to follow the “rightful king” and engage in His “great campaign of sabotage”? By, among other things, handling serpents. Even as Jesus came for the specific purpose of destroying the works of the great serpent (1 John 3: 8), finally crushing its head through the cross, so we are called to wage spiritual war against the lesser powers and principalities that are its offspring. (Eph. 6:12; 2 Cor. 10:4) Wherever these “snakes” manifest, its our job to wrestle them to defeat, secure in the knowledge that their doom is sure:
The God of peace will soon crush Satan under your feet. The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you. (Romans 16:20)
For a good portion of the past three years, for example, I have been studying and wrestling with — through prayer and truth-telling — the serpents of chaos, confusion, lust, brokenness and narcissism (among others). These are the spiritual powers and principles operating in the shadows, driving the third and final stage of the sexual revolution that, I believe, could ultimately — albeit temporarily — bring our civilization to its knees. (Our prayer should be that once we’re on our knees we will repent and come back to God.)
But if it does, it will not be because the serpent and its offspring are so strong. Rather, it will be due to the church’s compromise and disengagement with our prime directive, the Great Commission (discipling nations, teaching them to obey Christ and the Word of God). It will be because we have refused the call to wrestle with the serpents of spiritual wickedness. And it will be because we have lost the faith to believe that the “greater One lives in us” (1 John 4:4) so that when we pick these snakes up with our hands or are exposed to their poison they will be no means hurt us. (Mark 16:18b)
Once again: Can I get a witness?!
PS: As I posted this I began to wonder: could our adversaries in the culture wars end up hijacking this article and trying to marginalize me by suggesting I’m a literal snake handler? We’ll see…
I first heard this wonderfully provocative thought when Doug Wilson referenced it during his concluding remarks in his debate with Andrew Sullivan on gay marriage. (I loved Doug’s addendum about “rolling our own” and then smoking it.) Intrigued, I tracked down the original source. It is from a blog entry by Dan Phillips on Pyromaniacs.
I was going to comment on it, but thought “what’s the point?” Phillips just nails it. I would encourage all my fellow Christians to read and absorb this observation and make it a part of your apologetical tool kit. When it comes to a first principle it doesn’t get much better than this.
When Piers or Larry or Tavis or Rosie or Ellen or The View or whoever tried probing me about homosexuality, or wifely submission, or any other area where God has spoken (to the world’s consternation), I think I’d decline the worm altogether. I think instead, I’d say something like,
“You know, when you ask me about X, you’re obviously picking a topic that is deeply offensive to non-Christians — but it’s far from the most offensive thing I believe. You’re just nibbling at the edge of one of the relatively minor leaves on the Tree of Offense. Let me do you a favor, and just take you right down to the root. Let me take you tothe most offensive thing I believe.
“The most offensive thing I believe is Genesis 1: 1 and everything it implies.
“That is, I believe in a sovereign Creator who is Lord and Definer of all. Everything in the universe — the planet, the laws of physics, the laws of morality, you, me — everything was created by Another, was designed by Another, was given value and definition by Another. God is Creator and Lord, and so He is ultimate. That means we are created and subjects, and therefore derivative and dependent.
“Therefore, we are not free to create meaning or value. We have only two options. We can discover the true value assigned by the Creator and revealed in His Word, the Bible; or we can rebel against that meaning.
“Any time you bring up questions about any of these issues, you do so from one of two stances. You either do it as someone advocating and enabling rebellion against the Creator’s design, or as someone seeking submissive understanding of that design. You do it as servant or rebel. There is no third option.
“So yeah, insofar as I’m consistent with my core beliefs, everything I think about sexuality, relationships, morals, the whole nine yards,all of it is derived from what the Creator says. If I deviate from that, I’m wrong.
“To anyone involved in the doomed, damned you-shall-be-as-God project, that is the most offensive truth in the world, and it is the most offensive belief I hold.
“But if I can say one more thing, the first noun in that verse —beginning — immediately points us forward. It points to the end. And the end is all about Jesus Christ. That takes us to the topic of God’s world-tilting Gospel, and that’s what we really need to talk about.”
I mean, why quibble about minor offenses, when we know how to take them right to the mother lode of all offense — that God is God, and we are not?
When examining sexual mores throughout history, one discovers that adultery, polygamy, misogyny, rape, occult prostitution, homosex, gender confusion, pedophilia, pederasty, infanticide, etc. were not aberrations, departures from traditional morality. In point of fact they formed the bedrock of what is truly traditional sexual morality.
As with all problems, we can blame this largely on the Fall (Gen. 3). Once man was cut off from the Source of Life and locked himself in his own ego-box; once he was left to parse reality through the self-referential lens of his own fallen, fallible and finite mind; once his divine nature was exchanged for the filthy rags that necessarily invited the wrath of God; once the sons of Adam and the daughters of Eve were sold unto slavery to the dark prince of the air (Eph. 2:1-4), it shouldn’t surprise anyone that all hell would break loose. (Correction: that all hell should try and break loose. In His mercy, God has shot the world through with grace. And this — what theologians call common grace — has kept things from being as bad as Satan would have them be and as man is capable of being. That particular infinite nightmare is being held at bay until hell is finally stocked with the devil and his proteges, both demonic and human.)
It is only as Christianity has taken root and been cultivated over generations that the genie of lust, pride and power has been bottled enough for the “Ozzie and Harriet” ideal to finally emerge: covenantal, conjugal (from the Latin “join or yoke together”) marriage between a husband and a wife (only yesterday it seems it would have been redundant to name the two parties) featuring romantic love, complete equality and mutual submission (with male headship), a commitment to sexual and emotional faithfulness “until death do us part” and the awesome potential to create and then nurture and raise new human beings created in both the image of God and their parents.
More than a few scholars credit this harnessing of libidinous energy (particularly on the part of men) and the normalization of conjugal marriage and the nuclear family as the key foundation for a healthy, flourishing culture; that when these absolutes are tinkered with or — worse — discarded, that culture is doomed. (One of the best books on the subject is The Family and Civilization.)
Tragically, the western world has been chipping away at this cornerstone for some time. The sexual revolution of the 1920’s, crescendoing in the 60’s, was a major blow to the bottle. Ditto the tsunami of no-fault divorce laws that swept over our nation in the 1970s (by corey jefferson). The current move to redefine marriage and normalize homosexuality (and a raft of other impulses that “destroy the binary” and make fluid gender and sexual identities) is the third blow.
Three strikes and we may well be out.
Personally, there’s no question in my mind that the genie’s bottle is on the verge of being shattered. And what is sobering — chilling in fact — is that there has never been a society in history that has recovered once the genie has been rereleased. (Matt. 12:43-45)
I can’t remember the source of the original quote (T.S. Eliot?) or even its exact words, but the sentiment went something like this:
It can take a millennium to lay a foundation stone of the Kingdom into the earth – but only a generation for any culture to see it lost.
The big buzz today is the alleged meltdown of the liberal left, caught on camera as Rep. Keith Ellison (Democrat Rep. from Michigan) went on a tear while being interviewed on the Fox Network’s Hannity by its host. I received numerous messages via the web about the exchange, citing it as proof that the progressives were becoming increasingly and manifestly unhinged. Then out and about in my car today, I heard Rush discuss the rant at length. And Hannity, in turn, used it to open his radio show and then proceeded to break it down with a “gotcha” glee. I’m guessing it will be a big part of his TV broadcast tonight.
Now don’t get me wrong, among our elected national representatives Ellison is among the biggest “useful idiots” in the Marxist/humanistic/Jihadist tool chest — though there are certainly many more in the same tray. But while I would not want to suggest any moral equivalence here, I’m no great fan of Hannity either. His talking points are right out of the neo-con playbook. His regular and sycophantic interviews with Karl Rove (the “Architect” Sean calls him) are deeply troubling. He seems to be clueless about the realities faced by the poor and disenfranchised in this country. Sean’s oft-repeated “pulled myself up the bootstraps” Horatio Alger testimony – as if any old black kid living in a one-parent home in the inner city can just as easily do what he did — is painful to listen to. I can go on.
As I watched Ellison rant (and you would have to admit it was technically a pretty good rant) I was reminded of the story in 2 Samuel 16 where King David was upbraided by a man by the name of Shimei. One of the king’s lieutenants, offended and self-assured conservative that he was, offered to shut the fool up by cutting off his head. David, in effect, told him not to do anything, for perhaps God had sent Ellis.I mean Shimei, to teach him something. (vs. 5-14)
Would that all of us on the conservative (I prefer Christocratic) side of the deepening divide in our country model the humility and the listening ear of King David.
Personally I thought the useful idiot made some useful points.
I went to Amazon.com today to order another copy of Skousen’s seminal work, “The 5000 Year Leap.” (Written almost 30 years ago and once out-of-print, Glenn Beck has almost single-handedly resurrected it and turned it into a best-seller.) While there I took a moment to read some of the reviews that had been posted. I wasn’t at all surprised to see a majority of 5 Stars sprinkled with a handful of 1 Stars. This is one of those love it (if you’re a thoughtful Christian) or hate it (if you’re a committed materialist/secularist) books. I took the time to read one of the later postings and found that old prophetic bile rising up in my throat and decided to take a moment and respond.
If you’re interested:
“Like books of this type, don’t waste your time on this. It’s another one of those “Founding Fathers created a Christian Nation to glorify God” fantasies. Despite the well-documented facts that many of the founders were either agnostic or at most deists, the myth persists that somehow this was a Christian nation, blessed by God from the beginning. I’m as patriotic as anyone and a Marine vet and would still fight for this country I love, but I am sick of this myth.
The first people that came here were largely trying to escape state-religion, but then set about to create their own in each colony or settlement. I’m very big on religious freedom, freedom of thought and conscience, as well as speech, but am sick and tired of this same story. It’s not much different than a Christian Taliban. I’m quite sure some of those that founded the nation did indeed think that they had been given this continent by God. That’s why they had so little problem moving and removing the “savages” that were already here not to mention the various witch hunts.
The main message of the Gospel of Jesus Christ is to love one another as He loves us! Not just the others like you that are in the same church, but ALL of the others. All the rest is dogma, footnotes and the apostles’ efforts to try and understand this while figuring out how to build a new church/faith.
My Response (Nashville, TN): “
Shut your eyes and repeat after me, “There is no place like home. There is no place like home.” Except now you don’t want to go back to Kansas (reality) but rather remain in Oz. Wishing that America wasn’t founded overwhelming by Christians and intended to be a Christian nation doesn’t make it so. And cherry-picking from the handful of contrary evidence and ignoring the avalanche of facts that support the “Christian nation” premise is manifestly disingenuous. My favorite example of this insanity (and proof that God has an interesting a sense of humor) is Thomas Jefferson’s famous letter to the Danbury Baptists. This “founding document” (if you tilt your head and squint a little) is the source for the infamous “wall of separation” between church and state. (By the way, this is a completely Christian notion when properly understood – something that statists/secularists are loathe to do.) Now without question this letter and phrase are the holy grail for the ACLU and their ilk. The irony? The letter was written on New Year’s day, 1802 – a Friday. Just two days after penning it Jefferson attended Christian church services held — drum-roll please — in the Supreme Court chambers; at that time located in the Capitol building. H-m-m-m-m-m-m.
The simple fact is that there were only a handful of deists among the Founding Fathers – and maybe one or two agnostics. The vast majority were Christians. And even more to the point, the few deists – like Jefferson and Franklin – were heavily influenced by Christian thought. It was Franklin, for example, who called the assembly to Christian prayer – invoking the words of Jesus – when the Constitutional convention threatened to blow apart.
Part of me wishes a wand could be waved and the world that this reviewer seems to want could be created – one where the Judeo-Christian worldview was locked out of the public square and every law, every economic and social policy was based on naked human reasoning divorced from all illumination from the Scriptures and the Holy Spirit. I promise you it would make George Bailey’s “Bedford Falls” journey look like a walk in the park. Denton, our tough Marine, would be screaming for Christ’s mercy and presence AS WELL as His presence through the Church and through God-fearing magistrates within a microsecond of his immersion into hell on earth.
Many people are troubled by the amount of controversy and debate that seems to arise from the Bible. Why can’t Christianity’s truths be clearer and less complicated? (That is one of the things that makes Islam such a potent ideology; you can learn everything you need to know − and many of its leaders would say should know − in a few hours or less.) Mystery seems to bleed from all around its edges.
Well first we need to keep in mind that many of the most fundamental truths of our faith are, in fact, simple enough that even a child or the mentally handicapped can embrace them. They are things known more by the heart than by the mind. And they are powerful to save. Thankfully we are redeemed by grace through faith, not because every “i” is dotted and “t” crossed properly in our systematic theology.
Second, when an eternal, infallible, infinitely wise God who can create and sustain an unimaginably vast universe by the word of His power while simultaneously knowing each of us down to the thoughts of our hearts, when that God decides to intersect with our finite, fallen and fallible world and worldviews by revealing Himself through His Word or through the Incarnation, we should expect that sparks should fly! (Personally, I find the mystery of the Trinity very satisfying and consoling for this very reason. Any God that I can get my puny mind around can’t be God!)
And when faced with these sparks, what should be our response?
For those who have a real relationship with God and have grown to the point where they can endure “strong meat” (Heb. 5:12-14), God, in effect, says “Chase the mystery!” (Pro. 25:2) Exercise those powers of understanding and discernment. Grow up. Work those jaw muscles. Don’t you know that one day you will judge angels? There is work to be done in preparation for the challenges of the Great Commission (imagine discipling entire nations), not to mention ruling with Christ in the age to come. Are you going to stop and stare at this obstacle, this mystery, and then shrug and turn around? Or you going to be a man or woman after My own heart and press on?
Too many choose the easy way. And it is not unusual to see them try to justify their reluctance by quoting scripture; for example the first part of the Lord’s well-known admonition in Isaiah 55: 8 & 9:
For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, declares the Lord. For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts.
“Well, the secret things belong to God (Deut. 29:29),” they often say. “Calvinism vs. Arminianism, predestination, those freaky verses in the Old Testament, the problem of evil, the book of Revelation and end-times matters, Paul’s ‘hard sayings,’ all those things are beyond our grasp even as the heavens are above the earth. Let’s just love the Lord and avoid disputing about these things.”
But in this they ignore the words of God that follow in verses 10 and 11:
For as the rain and the snow come down from heaven and do not return there but water the earth, making it bring forth and sprout, giving seed to the sower and bread to the eater, so shall my word be that goes out from my mouth; it shall not return to me empty, but it shall accomplish that which I purpose, and shall succeed in the thing for which I sent it.
In other words, we when see that we are bumping up against the ceiling of our human reasoning and we know that God’s ways are waiting for us somewhere above, we should not look back to the ground in surrender. It is the glory of a king to search out the matter; to seek to know God’s ways. We should turn instead to the Word, humbly and in great faith, knowing that it will not return void. For in the same way that water (O cleansing, life-giving water!) comes down from the natural heavens and causes the land to bring forth fruit, so will the living Word that proceeds from the realms of glory transform us and bring us into greater levels of maturity and understanding.
And don’t be surprised if the understanding you end up gaining tends to offend the natural mind. His ways are higher than ours, after all. In truth, I have found that the closer you get to what Francis Schaeffer called “true truth,” the more the earth-born mind will squirm in discomfort.
Augustine and Anselm were right: Credo ut intelligam. We believe − we have faith in God and His Word − in order to understand.
Greetings in Jesus’ mighty name! I wanted to give you a little background on who we are and a bit of the history behind The Apologetics Group and the media we produce.
Eric Holmberg founded The Apologetics Group (TAG) in 2004 as an arm of the ministry he also founded, Reel to Real Ministries. The Apologetics Group is located in the rolling hills of Middle Tennessee just outside of Metro Nashville.
Some of TAG’s video productions include:
And many more…
We will be posting a lot more blog posts from Eric and others involved in TAG soon so keep checking back periodically.
Reel to Real/The Apologetics Group is a 501(c)3 not-for-profit, educational ministry. We are supported in large part by the generous contributions of individuals and organizations who want to partner with us in spreading the Gospel (which includes evangelism, discipleship and reforming culture) through the use of modern visual media.
We have seen time and again how one DVD, in the right place and in the right hands, can impact many lives…even an entire nation.