Homophobia and Heterophobia: Two Sides of the same Coin?

Homophobia and Heterophobia: Two Sides of the Same Coin?

 

    by Kent A. Philpott 

 

Homophobia – “A hatred or fear of homosexuals.” (from the Oxford Concise Dictionary). This expresses the core definition of homophobia as found in most standard dictionaries. 

 

Heterophobia – “A hatred or fear of heterosexuals.” This definition is not found in standard dictionaries, but the “Urban Dictionary” does not shy away from giving some rather politically incorrect definitions: 

 

From the Urban Dictionary, found online at www.urbandictionary.com:  

  • Heterophobics – “Gays who are afraid of heterosexuals usually due to their own heterosexual feelings or leanings.” This followed up with, “Gays, don’t be afraid, you’re probably just straight.”  Homophobia – “a severe condition, usually prominent in Republicans and most of American culture, leading one to: 1. inaccurately use bible quoting for the justification of killing homosexuals; 2. restrict the rights of millions; 3. hide in their rooms crying if they looked at the male body of one of the same gender and do not vomit; 4. incessantly call things ‘gay.’” 
  • Heterophobia – “an unreasoning disgust of heterosexuals, frequently supported by erroneous and faulty statements about heterosexuals.”  
  • Homophobia – “the irritation of having faggotry shoved in your face.” 
  • Heterophobics – “People who indulge in bigotry or intolerance because of the Heterophobia sickness.” 
  • Homophobia – “an irrational fear of going home.” 
  • Heterophobia – “The often irrational fear of heterosexuals. Usually experienced by a homosexual or bisexual who has had bad experiences with heterosexual coupling.” 
  • Homophobia – “fear of homosexuals or possibly a condition where one person has the same fears as someone else.” 
  • Heterophobia – “To hate heterosexuals out of some bizarre, irrational or innate fear of them. Probably due to repressed heterosexual feelings. Up with heterosexual pride!” 
  • Homophobia – “Dislike, fear, hatred, and/or disapproval of gays and/or homosexuality, often (but not always) for religious reasons or because of insecurity about one’s sexual orientation.” 
  • Heterophobia – “Queer frustration and hatred towards straight oppression. Often mistakenly perceived to be equivalent to homophobia, or other forms of discrimination.” 
  • Heterophobia – “Unreasoning prejudice against heterosexuals or their sexuality, the LGBT equivalent of reverse racism, and the inverse of homophobia. Commonly manifested as disgust with the very idea of straight sexuality and/or reproduction. It copies the prejudices of homophobia, including the idea that straightness is unnatural, or unhealthy, or can somehow be ‘cured.’” 
  • Heterophobia – “Frequently paired with prejudice towards the opposite sex. This is surprisingly common in the LGBT community, but is often not addressed due to concerns for political correctness.”    

 

Finally, let me add this, which I gleaned – and paraphrased – from Gay Religion, edited by Scott Thumma and Edward R. Gray, and published by AltaMira Press in 2005: Some homosexuals believe homosexuality is necessary for the earth to survive, as the “breeders” keep pumping out babies, resulting in the population growing to an unsustainable level. Therefore, homosexuality is a survival mechanism.  

 

Two sides of the same coin? 

 

Both phobias are based on fear, or so it would seem. I would suggest that “phobia” is the wrong word to describe either phenomenon. The term means an irrational fear of something or the other, such as agoraphobia – a fear of open spaces or public places. But are the so-called homo and hetero phobias based on fear? Is the homosexual fearful of heterosexuals? Is the heterosexual fearful of homosexuals?[i] In both instances, I think not; My sense of it is that the “phobias” are something else all together. 

 

Heterosexuals may disagree with homosexuals as to the rightness of homosexual behavior. And should they not be allowed this? Equal rights, justice, fairness, civil rights, and so on, are what most heterosexuals would agree are owed to all people regardless of sexual orientation. What if heterosexuals think homosexual behavior is “sinful” and morally wrong? Is this a bad thing?  

 

Suppose it was a hate crime to even consider homosexual behavior wrong. Should certain kinds of thinking be criminalized? Should “homophobes “be marginalized and discriminated against? Most outrageous is the goal that anything short of complete acceptance of all that is homosexuality be stamped out and eliminated since such thinking is the seed bed for discrimination against homosexuals. Could it be that the pro-gay, LGBT community, the whole of it or segments thereof, might even justify the creation of a “thought police” that would be dedicated to eradicating anti-homosexual thinking?  Have I gone too far?

 

Irrational fear? 

 

Once again let me state that to believe certain behavior is wrong is not necessarily born of fear or anxiety. There may indeed be those who are homophobic, that is, having a fear of being molested or raped by a homosexual, or fear of becoming one, or identified as being one, and the list goes on. And for those who have been in the military, or in prison, or in other circumstances where a homosexual might have a certain amount of power and authority, say a high school sports team coach, there may be homophobia, and such would not be irrational or imaginary. 

 

Needless to say, heterosexuals in positions of power and authority over persons of the opposite sex have abused that authority in sexual ways. Certainly, there is much more of this than homosexuals exploiting those of the same sex. Both are wrong, plain and simple.

I have been homophobic. In the Air Force there were homosexuals living in the barracks at Travis Air Force Base, and once in a while some would be caught doing what they ought not to have done and were either dishonorably discharged from the service or at least demoted and locked up for a while. In my thirty years as a volunteer at San Quentin Prison I found out that prison life was dominated by sex, some heterosexual, but mostly homosexual. I have also put five children through the school systems in Marin County, and I have been a freshman baseball coach for nine years. There are valid reasons why some have a fear of homosexuality. I don’t want to get specific or graphic, but I have been there and seen that.  

 

Yes, I have a certain amount of what is mistakenly called homophobia. So, what should be done with someone like me? Do I not have a right to it? Must the authorities be intolerant of it? As a Christian, must I repent of it?  

 

I do not want to be fearful of homosexuals, and in fact, to the best of my ability, I am not. With the growing numbers of gay people in American, if I were homophobic I would live a fearful and miserable life. I live in the world and am very much a part of it; I am a law-abiding citizen, and I will act according to the laws of the land. But I reserve the right to believe that homosexual behavior is wrong. 

 

For all have sinned 

 

What about heterosexuals? Many, perhaps most, heterosexuals are disturbed sexually to one degree or another. And how would we expect anything less, particularly in western societies where sex is distorted and confused? We have rapists, child molesters, sex-slave traffickers, pimps, brothel keepers, porn addicts and makers, and more than I care to know about, and in far greater numbers than do the homosexuals. The marketplace commercializes sex and throws naked flesh before our eyes daily to sell products.  

 

Much of the distortion has come along with the millennia-long patriarchal cultures that are in place in most parts of the world, cultures that falsely empower men to control those who are physically weaker. And our religions have either looked the other way or actually institutionalized this departure from biblical models, including Christianity. All of this morass has to do with what theologians call “the Fall,” that time when humans rebelled against the Creator God (who, by the way, is both feminine and masculine, see Genesis 1:27), and sex got completely tweaked.  

 

Moments after the Fall, Adam and Eve – or if you can’t handle that, the first man and woman – looked at each other, having a new knowledge of good and evil firmly implanted in their brains, and realized they were naked and were ashamed. Wow! Ashamed and guilty – and it is right here where the trouble is. Read the account below and see what you make of it. Here is Genesis 3:1-13:   

 

Now the serpent was more crafty than any other beast of the field that the Lord God had made.  He said to the woman, “Did God actually say, ‘You shall not eat of any tree in the garden’?” 2 And the woman said to the serpent, “We may eat of the fruit of the trees in the garden, 3 but God said, ‘You shall not eat of the fruit of the tree that is in the midst of the garden, neither shall you touch it, lest you die.’ ” 4 But the serpent said to the woman, “You will not surely die. 5 For God knows that when you eat of it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.” 6 So when the woman saw that the tree was good for food, and that it was a delight to the eyes, and that the tree was to be desired to make one wise, she took of its fruit and ate, and she also gave some to her husband who was with her, and he ate. 7 Then the eyes of both were opened, and they knew that they were naked. And they sewed fig leaves together and made themselves loincloths.  

 

8 And they heard the sound of the Lord God walking in the garden in the cool of the day, and the man and his wife hid themselves from the presence of the Lord God among the trees of the garden. 9 But the Lord God called to the man and said to him, “Where are you?” 10 And he said, “I heard the sound of you in the garden, and I was afraid, because I was naked, and I hid myself.” 11 He said, “Who told you that you were naked? Have you eaten of the tree of which I commanded you not to eat?” 12 The man said, “The woman whom you gave to be with me, she gave me fruit of the tree, and I ate.” 13 Then the Lord God said to the woman, “What is this that you have done?” The woman said, “The serpent deceived me, and I ate.”      

 

Guilt and Shame 

 

A careful interpreter could reel off pages of commentary and never get to the bottom of all that is in the above passage. But there is certainly guilt and shame. 

 

The balance between the man and the woman was gone. Together they reflected the Creator; now separate and apart life drastically changed and not for the better. Heterosexual marriage is now a mere shadow of what it was intended to be. Not until that which is called heaven and paradise, symbolized as a wedding between Christ, the groom, and the Church, His bride, will there be restitution and realization of the original intent of the Creator. Until then, well, we know the story, don’t we? 

 

Pleasure, contentment, fulfillment, completion, happiness, rightness – it was all there for Adam and Eve. These wonderful gifts were replaced with guilt and an abiding sense of shame. No matter how much pleasure might be found in a sexual act, it would never be, for anyone, what it could have been. So we have sin lodged right in the core of the identity of the human sexual experience. And heteros and homos have forever attempted to overcome guilt and shame. 

 

Within marriage between a man and a woman, however flawed and imperfect, is contained a hint and a promise of what will come in the grand eschaton, that end point when there will be a recreation and a new heaven and a new earth. What God started will be completed. God’s laws, the thou-shalt-nots, were intended to make the best of what is. Adultery, fornication, and homosexual acts are a breaking of the law and thus guilt and shame arise. That is just how it is. 

 

Though the LGBT community may succeed in all its demands for equality and normality, guilt and shame will remain. Could it be that the homosexual, who in the quest to irradiate homophobia, is really being driven by guilt and shame? If homosexual behavior is normal and good, then ought not the negative and powerful emotions go away? But they will not go away, since the ‘wrongness experience’ is hard wired into every human being. 

 

God made sex and meant it for both procreation and pleasure; it is a strong bond that keeps a husband and wife together. It is in that “one flesh” relationship where sex can be experienced absent guilt and shame. God-ordained and -approved sex is a wonderful thing. A marriage between a man and a woman allows for the freedom to develop a very sexy relationship, which is not driven by lust and a never-ending quest for fulfillment. Such a sexuality opens a door to a “peaceful easy feeling.” 

 

Is achieving equality enough? 

 

Victory won, normalcy and equality achieved, backed by the law of the land, and clear sailing ahead. All will be well, right? This has certainly not been so for heterosexuals, and the trend seems to be downward rather than the other way around. Will homosexuals fare better? Probably not. 

 

Sexuality is the human core identity, but it is not larger than the kingdom of God and life eternal. The fuss about homo and hetero phobias is magnified, because sex has become so very distorted and filled up with the hope of ultimate satisfaction. In sexuality, even for the most well adjusted and blissful heterosexual married couple, there will be disappointment and frustration. As they say, “Get over it.” 

 

Phobias must not drive our behavior 

 

Both hetero and homo phobia are expressions of sinfulness, not the sense of fear itself, but the acting out on the fears to the detriment of others. We are called to love our neighbor as ourselves, so we have to admit that expressing these phobias is wrong. At least, let us deal humanely and rationally with each other, homosexual and heterosexual. Let us hear and respect each other’s positions while not having to approve of them. 

 

If I could say that homosexual behavior is right, I would do so, but I cannot.  I cannot say that the heterosexual’s adulteries and fornications are right, either. To approve homosexuality in any form, or to approve sex outside of marriage, is unacceptable from a biblical perspective. And to many, such is unacceptable.

 

There is hope, strength, and dignity in saying “No.” The aberrational, criminal, abusive, or exploitive quest of self-centered sexual pleasure cannot be tolerated by a civilized society where the rights of the weak must be safeguarded. Heading off the steep cliff without an observer shouting out a warning is both negligence and unloving to the extreme.  

 

Enough of this phobia talk. 

 

 



[i] News reports of pedophilia and the reality of child pornography and child sex slaves, and both of a hetero and homo sexual nature, frequently find their way into print. For instance, in the San Francisco Chronicle (November 12, 2013) is an Associated Press article titled, “Police rescue 386 kids in global child porn bust.” The arrests of 348 people, was orchestrated by Canadian police, included schoolteachers, doctors, and actors, among others. The arrests of operatives of Azov Films, that had been in business since 2005, distributed some of the most vile images of boys from age 5 to 12. “The videos included naked boys from Germany, Romania, and Ukraine which it marketed as naturist movies.”  This sort of thing is likely to produce some fear, and if it does not, then the human situation is more vile and evil than we have imagined.

Charisma: The Fourth Branch of Christianity?

Charisma: The Fourth Branch of Christianity?

Christianity is divided into three main branches: Roman Catholic, Eastern Orthodox, and Protestant. Without going deeply into the whys and wherefores, it will be enough to say that this essay recognizes the three distinctions. While there are doctrinal differences among these three, their core theologies are surprisingly similar.

This essay suggests that there is now emerging a fourth branch of Christianity, which I am referring to as Charisma.

Charisma

The apostle Paul lists the gifts of the Holy Spirit in Romans 12 and 1 Corinthians 12. In the Greek text the word translated “gifts” is transliterated as charismata. From this we get both “charismatic” and “charisma.”[1] Most simply put, a charismatic person is one who speaks in tongues.

Some Christians are cessationists, viewing that the writing of the New Testament and the death of the Twelve Apostles ended the need for and viability of the charismatic gifts of the Holy Spirit in the life of the Church. Their belief is that these gifts are no longer operative and therefore are not seen.

In marked distinction, some Christians are continuationists, believing that the charismatic gifts never ceased and are yet operative in the life of the Church. This belief lies at the heart of the idea that there is emerging, or has already emerged, a fourth branch of Christianity.

Semis

Some Christians, like me, are semi-cessationists or semi-continuationists. To clarify, I think that during times of awakening, those times when God pours out His Holy Spirit to sweep many into salvation, the charismatic gifts of the Spirit may be in evidence. But during “normal” times, which are most  times, the gifts are rarely observed.

At the church I pastor we pray for people to be healed and follow James 5:14: “Is anyone among you sick? Let him call for the elders of the church, and let them pray over him, anointing him with oil in the name of the Lord.” We do this on Sunday evenings and also give an opportunity for deliverance, which is when demons are cast out of those who understand their need for this ministry. No one that I know of speaks in tongues at our services, and we don’t have much of a praise band, so we are fairly tame. “Semi” is the right word.

Moving in the flow of the Spirit

There are large and growing numbers of Christians world-wide who claim to be “moving in the flow of the Spirit.” They further claim that God’s Spirit is being poured out on all those who are open to it. This predominantly occurs in Pentecostal churches, but not solely.

During the Jesus People Movement of the late 1960s and early 1970s I was a charismatic. We saw the miracles, we spoke in tongues, we had prophecies, and we had healings by the hundreds. Now, we did not understand that we were right in the middle of a national awakening and that all over the country similar things were happening. We flattered ourselves in thinking we were part of a special elite group of spiritual commandos taking the world for Christ. We had power, spiritual power, and we could not seem to help thinking more of ourselves than we ought to have.

The movement came to an end in 1972 or somewhat later, depending on where you were. But this insight was hindsight, as we did not learn of this until decades later. It was almost panic time when the conversions dramatically slowed and the healings were few and far between. What happened? Who took the power away? What will we do now?

Since we were flexible, we learned how to infuse people with excitement like in the good old days, and we accomplished it mostly through music. No, I am not against praise music. To this day, decades later, I still play the guitar and lead a kind of praise band, but we sing solid Jesus-centered songs and don’t get carried away with the beat of the drum and a cranked up amp. We play and sing for short periods with nothing like the now famous 7-11 routine, that is, seven words sung eleven times.

More, More, More

More is what so many want. They want to experience more of God, they want to be touched by His power, and they want the power to heal and do miracles. Sitting quietly in the pews listening to doctrinal sermons from uninspired preachers simply will not do. They want moving, shouting, falling, soaking, shaking, burning, and prophesying – charismania. They want more!

And more is what they are getting. It is all over YouTube from IHOP in Kansas City, Morningstar in North Carolina, and the Bethel Church in Redding, California. Young people, who have largely vacated the churches of the three branches, are present and fully engaged in intense activity. It is very compelling.

Why not us?

If Charisma is enjoying incredible success, why don’t the rest of us get on board? We would, but we sense something is wrong, and it is not merely jealousy or envy or because we are stuck in our ways. Neither is it a rejection of what God is doing by the power of His Holy Spirit.

We sense something wrong in the craving for more. We think it opens the door to deception.

We see disproportionate attention given to the Holy Spirit, or what is thought to be the Holy Spirit, while the Trinity, as a complete entity, is ignored. Father and Son seem to drop out of sight or are only peripherally mentioned. We cannot but notice Jesus’ teaching in John chapters 14, 15, and 16 to the effect that the Holy Spirit will glorify Jesus; the Holy Spirit will not glorify the Holy Spirit.

We are dismayed at the notion that the Scripture is no longer authoritative for both practice and belief, for that is the implication in the claim that we are “off the charts” or that we can receive truth directly from angels, Jesus, or even the Father.

We smell a mediumistic odor here, emanating from the mouths of those who sway seekers into avoiding their Bibles in favor of rolling on the floor straining to hear the actual voice of God in their entranced ears. To many of us this is repulsive and even demonic.

Give me that old time religion  

Worship for many of us means gathering together with other Christians to pray, sing, study the Word, hear the Word proclaimed, and enjoy fellowship with each other. We love reciting the Lord’s Prayer, saying the Apostles’ or the Nicene Creed, listening to prayers written by brothers and sisters long gone, and thinking through what our God means to us. We do not think we have to “experience” God, especially since there is nothing in the Scripture that teaches us to do so. It is a life of faith and service, sacrifice and giving, prayer and praise. It is decent, orderly, respectful worship of the Triune God, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. This is the “more” we need, and it is enough.

Unity, and if not, respect

We do not need a gigantic organization that enfolds all the world’s Christians. There is no need, and it simply will not happen until, and there is an until, the kingdom of God comes in all its glory. Then there will be unity.

Respect is what we can hope for. Respect for each other, however many branches there may be, respect that comes from the fact we all worship the same God, the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. And in that sense of respect, we can learn from each other out of humility. We can critique, evaluate, repent, confess, ask for forgiveness, and work together, even with those whom we consider a little off track in terms of doctrine.

The enemy who wars against Christ’s Church loves to divide and conquer. An elitist attitude divides. The thinking, “I have more of the Spirit than you do,” divides. When Jesus is not the center of worship and praise, then there will only be splintering and factioning, not unity.



[1] Transliterated here means to put English letters in place of corresponding Greek letters. For example, kai is the transliteration of kai, alpha, nu, a word meaning “and.”

Charisma – The Fourth Branch of Christianity?

Charisma: The Fourth Branch of Christianity?

Christianity is divided into three main branches: Roman Catholic, Eastern Orthodox, and Protestant. Without going deeply into the whys and wherefores, it will be enough to say that this essay recognizes the three distinctions. While there are doctrinal differences among these three, their core theologies are surprisingly similar.

This essay suggests that there is now emerging a fourth branch of Christianity, which I am referring to as Charisma.

Charisma

The apostle Paul lists the gifts of the Holy Spirit in Romans 12 and 1 Corinthians 12. In the Greek text the word translated “gifts” is transliterated as charismata. From this we get both “charismatic” and “charisma.”[1] Most simply put, a charismatic person is one who speaks in tongues.

Some Christians are cessationists, viewing that the writing of the New Testament and the death of the Twelve Apostles ended the need for and viability of the charismatic gifts of the Holy Spirit in the life of the Church. Their belief is that these gifts are no longer operative and therefore are not seen.

In marked distinction, some Christians are continuationists, believing that the charismatic gifts never ceased and are yet operative in the life of the Church. This belief lies at the heart of the idea that there is emerging, or has already emerged, a fourth branch of Christianity.

Semis

Some Christians, like me, are semi-cessationists or semi-continuationists. To clarify, I think that during times of awakening, those times when God pours out His Holy Spirit to sweep many into salvation, the charismatic gifts of the Spirit may be in evidence. But during “normal” times, which are most  times, the gifts are rarely observed.

At the church I pastor we pray for people to be healed and follow James 5:14: “Is anyone among you sick? Let him call for the elders of the church, and let them pray over him, anointing him with oil in the name of the Lord.” We do this on Sunday evenings and also give an opportunity for deliverance, which is when demons are cast out of those who understand their need for this ministry. No one that I know of speaks in tongues at our services, and we don’t have much of a praise band, so we are fairly tame. “Semi” is the right word.

Moving in the flow of the Spirit

There are large and growing numbers of Christians world-wide who claim to be “moving in the flow of the Spirit.” They further claim that God’s Spirit is being poured out on all those who are open to it. This predominantly occurs in Pentecostal churches, but not solely.

During the Jesus People Movement of the late 1960s and early 1970s I was a charismatic. We saw the miracles, we spoke in tongues, we had prophecies, and we had healings by the hundreds. Now, we did not understand that we were right in the middle of a national awakening and that all over the country similar things were happening. We flattered ourselves in thinking we were part of a special elite group of spiritual commandos taking the world for Christ. We had power, spiritual power, and we could not seem to help thinking more of ourselves than we ought to have.

The movement came to an end in 1972 or somewhat later, depending on where you were. But this insight was hindsight, as we did not learn of this until decades later. It was almost panic time when the conversions dramatically slowed and the healings were few and far between. What happened? Who took the power away? What will we do now?

Since we were flexible, we learned how to infuse people with excitement like in the good old days, and we accomplished it mostly through music. No, I am not against praise music. To this day, decades later, I still play the guitar and lead a kind of praise band, but we sing solid Jesus-centered songs and don’t get carried away with the beat of the drum and a cranked up amp. We play and sing for short periods with nothing like the now famous 7-11 routine, that is, seven words sung eleven times.

More, More, More

More is what so many want. They want to experience more of God, they want to be touched by His power, and they want the power to heal and do miracles. Sitting quietly in the pews listening to doctrinal sermons from uninspired preachers simply will not do. They want moving, shouting, falling, soaking, shaking, burning, and prophesying – charismania. They want more!

And more is what they are getting. It is all over YouTube from IHOP in Kansas City, Morningstar in North Carolina, and the Bethel Church in Redding, California. Young people, who have largely vacated the churches of the three branches, are present and fully engaged in intense activity. It is very compelling.

Why not us?

If Charisma is enjoying incredible success, why don’t the rest of us get on board? We would, but we sense something is wrong, and it is not merely jealousy or envy or because we are stuck in our ways. Neither is it a rejection of what God is doing by the power of His Holy Spirit.

We sense something wrong in the craving for more. We think it opens the door to deception.

We see disproportionate attention given to the Holy Spirit, or what is thought to be the Holy Spirit, while the Trinity, as a complete entity, is ignored. Father and Son seem to drop out of sight or are only peripherally mentioned. We cannot but notice Jesus’ teaching in John chapters 14, 15, and 16 to the effect that the Holy Spirit will glorify Jesus; the Holy Spirit will not glorify the Holy Spirit.

We are dismayed at the notion that the Scripture is no longer authoritative for both practice and belief, for that is the implication in the claim that we are “off the charts” or that we can receive truth directly from angels, Jesus, or even the Father.

We smell a mediumistic odor here, emanating from the mouths of those who sway seekers into avoiding their Bibles in favor of rolling on the floor straining to hear the actual voice of God in their entranced ears. To many of us this is repulsive and even demonic.

Give me that old time religion  

Worship for many of us means gathering together with other Christians to pray, sing, study the Word, hear the Word proclaimed, and enjoy fellowship with each other. We love reciting the Lord’s Prayer, saying the Apostles’ or the Nicene Creed, listening to prayers written by brothers and sisters long gone, and thinking through what our God means to us. We do not think we have to “experience” God, especially since there is nothing in the Scripture that teaches us to do so. It is a life of faith and service, sacrifice and giving, prayer and praise. It is decent, orderly, respectful worship of the Triune God, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. This is the “more” we need, and it is enough.

Unity, and if not, respect

We do not need a gigantic organization that enfolds all the world’s Christians. There is no need, and it simply will not happen until, and there is an until, the kingdom of God comes in all its glory. Then there will be unity.

Respect is what we can hope for. Respect for each other, however many branches there may be, respect that comes from the fact we all worship the same God, the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. And in that sense of respect, we can learn from each other out of humility. We can critique, evaluate, repent, confess, ask for forgiveness, and work together, even with those whom we consider a little off track in terms of doctrine.

The enemy who wars against Christ’s Church loves to divide and conquer. An elitist attitude divides. The thinking, “I have more of the Spirit than you do,” divides. When Jesus is not the center of worship and praise, then there will only be splintering and factioning, not unity.



[1] Transliterated here means to put English letters in place of corresponding Greek letters. For example, kai is the transliteration of kai, alpha, nu, a word meaning “and.”

Just when you thought I could not get any crazier

How to become possessed by demons

This is a subject that keeps coming up and is frankly one I would rather avoid. In the mid 1970s I co-authored a book with Robert L. Hymers, Jr. that dealt with the subject, resulting in a flood of people showing up who wanted to look into the subject more carefully. During that period the occult largely flew under the radar, but has now emerged as mainstream and garners a great deal of attention in all forms of media.

For instance, neo-pagan practices like Wicca have swept across the country, key components of which are magic(k), spiritism, fortune telling, and more.

Shamanism in many guises is growing in popularity in the West, with shamans from multiple cultures advertising their services on the Internet. Here the occult is center stage and loudly announced.

Santería, one of the largest and fastest growing of the world’s religions, is utterly reliant on occult theory and practice, from spells and divination to contacting the dead.

Why is this so? One reason is that the occult is spiritual to its core and provides an alternative to humanist materialism. Many a materialist has moved to a spiritual orientation after direct contact with the spirit world. Perhaps an even deeper reason for the popularity of groups that are spiritistic is the quest for power.  Since power is the main focus of religions like Wicca, Santeria, and various other forms of shamanism, for many who feel powerless, the occult ‘arts’ are a strong temptation.  

But there is a problem. Contact and involvement with the occult is a sure and quick route to being possessed by demons. Shocking? For many the sense that power indwells them is a prized goal. However, the horrific and vile nature of that power within is a realization usually made too late.

This essay is concerned with how people become demon possessed. The word
“possessed” is troublesome, because most people think that a possessed person acts in a crazy or bizarre manner and is constantly under the control of a demonic spirit. Were it that simple! Most possessed persons rarely realize their condition, and it is rarely seen or confirmed by family or friends. The devil prefers to lie low and only slowly, little by little, wreak havoc. People may eventually figure out what has grabbed hold of them, but then they are left wondering what in the world to do. Most of them can only suppress and deny or run and cover, since no one in our culture wants to look like a ‘mental case’. How many abuse substances to keep the demons at bay?

What ‘opens the door’ to possession?

The Occult

There are three primary divisions in the occult world: fortune telling or divination, spiritualism, and magic.

Fortune telling: This is everything from the Ouija Board to the palm reader, but it includes psychic readings, the I Ching, tealeaf reading, astrology, tarot card reading, and a great many more practices.

Spiritualism or spiritism: The focus here is the séance, which can take any number of forms, but is the attempt to contact the spirits or souls of the dead. It is known from ancient times, is mentioned in the Bible, and is still popular, since actual spirits are contacted.

Magic: This is sorcery, witchcraft, and spells and curses, and it is the manipulation of spirits, gods, and goddesses to do one’s bidding through the performance of rites and rituals. The world of magic is complicated but far more common that most recognize. Whether white, neutral, or black, magic is still magic. Some of those involved rationalize that they are only invested in good magic or natural magic but not the bad varieties. However, the devil does not pay attention to such distinctions. Magic is magic.

After decades of dealing with people who have attracted and finally become possessed by demons, I have discovered that, when a person gives herself or himself to the occult, whatever form it might take, they expose themselves to the possibility of being possessed by evil or unclean spirits, all of which are ruled over by Satan. And you do not want Satan to get inside your head.

Occult involvement: By this I mean giving into, believing in, trusting in, acting on, or relying on, any overt form of occultism, which is more than casual contact. How much is enough to become demon possessed? Who knows, but the devil never plays fair.

Power and knowledge: These are the central motives that bring people into the occult world. That power and knowledge is accessed is not to be denied. The Faustian trade-off is operable, however; the devil will give gifts in order to achieve great dominance over a person’s life.

Satan is a gift giver and is especially good, for a period of time, at providing power, sex, money, and other goodies we humans desire. He gives to get, and this principle must not be underestimated. His assistance comes with strings attached, and he usually yanks back the delights and replaces them with torments, sooner or later.

Traumatic Events

A near-death experience is chief among the traumas that the devil uses to capture unwary and vulnerable prey. People of all ages have spoken of experiences in which they returned from the brink of death or even after actual biological death occurred. They describe being conscious, witnessing a wide assortment of events, and even conversing with people. Some of these “remembered experiences” result in best selling books or films. It is virtually impossible, however, to fact-check the reports on what occurs in the brain of someone in this stage of brain activity. It is likely that the complex electrical and chemical mix that goes to work on the central nervous system of one who is on the brink of death produces incredible hallucinations.

My view is that such events, while not always of a demonic nature, are untrustworthy.  The devil, however, loves to hitch a ride on these visions to further his trickery and introduce spiritual entities. To suddenly encounter the spirit world is life changing to all who experience it. Books and movies about such experiences continue to emerge, from both Christian and secular publishers and filmmakers, and this makes me rather suspicious. The story lines are nearly always the same: the dearly departed always communicate they are okay and have landed in a good place after death. This is one of the devil’s favorite plot twists.

Linked to the discussion of near-death experiences above is what happens in the lives of the newly bereaved. Reflecting on my four-plus decades as a pastor who has conducted several hundred memorial and funeral services, I recall frequent episodes of demonic activity played out in the lives of those whose loved ones have died. Perhaps it is an appearance of the departed in a dream or even while fully awake. At a time of loss we are thrown off emotionally and will imagine things we would not otherwise, and this is not all, or even mostly, of a Satanic nature. That said, it is nevertheless true that the devil knows all too well that grieving people are vulnerable to deception. 

Initiations into religions

Satanism is a religion, and the introduction into it is a deliberate inviting of Satan to take control over one’s life, whether through a focused worship of the devil as god or reliance upon a ‘spirit’ for guidance. If someone is attracted to devil worship, the pull is powerful and lustful, an almost irresistible lure from which few can escape once they are trapped.

When devotees of Transcendental Meditation and Krishna Consciousness undergo initiation ceremonies, they are knowingly inviting the spirit of a dead guru to inhabit their minds and bodies. Of course, a demon shows up instead, but the devotee does not realize that he or she has been duped. The power gurus like Muktananda and Rajneesh had their ‘spirits’ within them, and as submission was made to the guru, it was in fact a submission to evil spirits. Current gurus continue in a similar mode.

In the asiento or initiation into Santería, the initiate is essentially “mounted” or possessed by an orisha deity. Here the possession is deliberate; the deception is that instead of the expected god or goddess, what possesses the head of the initiate is a satanic spirit.

What are the animal guides or spirits that the Wiccans meet on their soul journeys? They are certainly demonic spirits in disguise. The elves and fairies are cute; gnomes are curious looking; animal helpers are intriguing or majestic; goddesses may be clothed in spectacular auras; Zeus, Diana, Apollo, Moses, Abraham, Elijah, angels Gabriel and Raphael may dazzle; and John the Baptist, Jesus, Peter, and Paul may seem to appear with special messages and prophecies. They are all merely familiar spirits who are expert in disguise, even down to the molecular level, but are no more than demons (see 2 Corinthians 11:14-15).

Trances

The trance state (or the ecstasy, passive state of mind, altered state of consciousness, or shamanic state of consciousness – all essentially synonyms) is the mechanism through which many are invaded by demonic spirits.

Trance states are induced in various ways. Sometimes drugs and other substances are used to reach the trance state, as is common among shamans and Santeríans. Music is often the vehicle, with the beat of the drum and the dance that goes with it, as seen in ‘charismania’ among Christians, where a person loses track of reality and ‘yields’ to the spirit (assumed to be God’s Holy Spirit). Books on Wicca and shamanism may come complete with chapters on various means to enter into the desired trance state so as to initiate the soul journey. They will invariably involve deep breathing, centering, visualizing, chanting, clearing of the mind, blanking out conscious thought from the mind, waiting to experience the otherworld, listening for the voice of a god, goddess, or spirit guide, dancing and whirling with eyes closed and heart ready to receive – whatever and whoever is out there. And the devil prowls around for just such a time and place to pounce.

My prior experience and recent research shows that the trance state is the most popular door opener to being possessed by demonic spirits. 

How to become unpossessed of demons

Jesus alone has power over demons; all of the satanic kingdom is fully aware of this and tremble at His name.[1] Jesus’ death on the cross, with His subsequent resurrection, ascension to heaven, and being seated at the right hand of the Father, has secured His power and authority over Satan and his fallen angels.

Consider two passages:

“The reason the Son of God appeared was to destroy the works of the devil” (1 John 3:8a).

“Since therefore the children share in flesh and blood, he himself likewise partook of the same things, that through death he might destroy the one who as the power of death, that is, the devil, and deliver all those who through fear of death were subject to lifelong slavery” (Hebrews 2:14-15)

Jesus cast demons out of people while on the planet two thousand years ago and gave His disciples authority to cast out demons as well.

“And he called the twelve together and gave them power and authority over all demons and to cure diseases, and he sent them out to proclaim the kingdom of God and to heal” (Luke 9:1-2).

Later Jesus sent out seventy-two others to do the same. (We see, then, that not only the Twelve called ‘apostles’ had authority to cast out demons.) Upon their return the seventy-two gave the following report: “Lord, even the demons are subject to us in your name!” (Luke 10:17).

This authority over the demonic continues to this day.[2] A key biblical verse in this regard is James 4:7: “Submit yourselves therefore to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you.”

The verse’s opening word, “Submit,” is the largest stumbling block to many looking for a way out of the devil’s sway. Demon possession gives power, and the demon will fight hard not to be cast out, so a usual ploy is to remind the person possessed that power will be lost. That threat freezes those who fear such a loss. The “submit” means a submission to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ as well as a determined resistance to the devil. A spiritual battle ensues, until finally the demonic is rejected, Christ is embraced, and the demons flee.

Kent Philpott

February 2014



[1] Only Jesus and His disciples have authority over the demonic. Exorcists are magicians who promise relief but succeed in little more than play acting, trickery, and deception.

[2] For more on this is my book, How Christians Cast Out Demons Today.

The Anointing, The Anointing, The Anointing

The Anointing. The Anointing. The Anointing.

“The Anointing — this is the whole thing, isn’t it?”

That is what I heard Paul Cain say some ten years ago at a nearby Pentecostal church.

Reverend Cain is a big name among the so-called Kansas City Prophets, along with a number of others like Bob Jones, Mike Bickel, Rick Joyner, John Paul Jackson, Francis Frangipane, Lou Engle, and James Goll. The Apostolic-Prophetic Movement[1], sometimes known as the Third Wave, was to be the re-establishment of the Five-Fold ministry of apostle, prophet, evangelist, pastor and teacher as found in Ephesians 4[2]. These leaders saw themselves as part of the reconstitution of the fabled biblical model meant to operate in the “last days.” And for such a grand vision, a special and super powerful anointing would be required.

Rodney M. Howard-Browne

I was wondering then if the anointing Cain talked about was the same that Rodney M. Howard-Browne purportedly brought to America from his home in South Africa. It was Howard-Browned who strongly influenced the “revival” that came to the Toronto Airport Vineyard Church in Canada. It was there that Randy Clark received the anointing from Howard-Browne and spread the “fire” of the revival.

Howard-Browne, in his books Flowing in the Holy Ghost (FHG) and Flowing in the Holy Spirit (FHS), describes that anointing.[3] It is essential and necessary to define what Howard-Browne means by anointing as presented in the two books mentioned above.

In FHG he says, “the anointing is the presence of God”. . .”that will come and begin to touch people” (p. 13). “I wait for the unction all the time; I wait for the burning of the Spirit of God within. That burning, that churning, bubbles like a boiling pot inside, because that’s what the word ‘prophesy’ means” (p. 14).

Howard-Browne says, “you must stir yourself up for the gifts to begin to operate” (p. 14). Therefore, after stirring, “it will happen automatically. God will begin to move.” (p. 15).

In a section labeled “When the Anointing Falls” he says, “I began to speak supernaturally. I became another person! . . .It’s almost like I’m standing outside my body, hearing myself prophesy. . . .People begin to shake and fall out under the power of God in their seats as the word of the Lord comes forth. No one touches them” (p. 31). He goes on: “You can’t say, ‘I’m going to get up and prophesy now.’ However, you can prepare for the anointing to prophesy. You do this by stirring yourself up, by preparing your heart, and by waiting on the Spirit of God. Then, when the anointing comes, you flow with it. But you can only prophesy when the anointing comes!’” (p. 31).

Randy Clark

Not everyone got the anointing, not even those who actually touched Browne. Randy Clark, who had reportedly gotten the anointing, was also able to pass it on to others, or so it was claimed, and he was in Toronto, too, and people touched him, and some got it, but most didn’t.

A contingent from our local ministerial association visited Toronto, and after they returned we gathered in a meeting. There we were, expecting something big. But even for those who got close to the “anointed” people and even touched one of them, nothing happened. Though disappointed, we planned another trip.

I saw Randy Clark personally some years back now in Redding, California, when he visited the Bethel Church pastored by Bill Johnson, whom I guessed had gotten the anointing as well. The anointing was power, and power was what it was all about, the power to heal and do miracles. So many had miracle stories: crowns of gold on teeth; gold dust in their hair; feathers mysteriously floating down from the ceiling; people raised from the dead (none were confirmed); people with stomach and back pain – healed; folks with chronic migraines – healed; youth who smoked pot and were popping pills – healed on the spot. Oddly, the people I was with who were members of Bethel, both with some serious bodily ailments, were never themselves healed, nor did they know anyone personally who had actually been healed. The miracle stories circulated around town, one here, one there, but somehow the ones healed could not be located. This was no doubt a miracle, too.

Do I sound irreverent, or judgmental? Am I being a God mocker and thus in danger of committing blasphemy against the Holy Spirit?[4] Could I be standing against the flowing of the river of the Spirit now moving in these last days? Am I foolishly, even rebelliously, refusing to ride the wave? Frankly, these kind of mind-think, conformist charges are enough to satisfy and shut-up most questioners, but not everyone is falling in line or is so lacking in confidence in the saving grace of Jesus that they stop thinking and evaluating.

Cain’s anointing

Paul Cain rambled on for an hour and finally starting indicating that he was about to reveal the biggee, the real deal, the ultimate, that one great thing that meant absolutely everything. Wow, the anticipation; it was palpable. Cain moved toward the front of the stage. He stood stone still. He stretched out his left arm, his brown eyes scanning the congregation, now speechless, motionless, while we waited without a sound. And then it came, what we were all waiting for: “The Anointing. The Anointing. The Anointing.” He said it was the anointing.

To demonstrate the anointing he stared at a number of the faithful sitting in the front row.[5] One by one he told their fortunes. He said he saw a television set type thing over each one’s head and could watch their futures unfold before his very eyes. One would be a great prophet in Africa. Another would be greatly used of God in Asia as a healer. One young lady would found a school for orphans in South America. Without exception each person would  do something wonderful in the kingdom of God. Cain could see it on the television screen. It was the anointing that made it all happen.

Kundalini and Shaktipat

Over the years I’ve talked with a number of so-called prophets and healers who spoke like Howard-Browne. A burning power rising up in their bodies that gave them power to do miracles. During my days in the Jesus People Movement when we did see miracles, I never experienced or heard about anything like what Howard-Browne described. However, I had, and actually continue to have, conversations with those involved in various spiritual practices that do sound like what Howard-Browne described.  I turned to Wikipedia for the material I suspected I would find.

Kundalini is described within–eastern religious, or spiritual, tradition as “an indwelling spiritual energy that can be awakened in order to purify the subtle system and ultimately to bestow the state of Yoga, or Divine Union, upon the ‘seeker’ of truth.” “The Yoga Upanishads describe Kundalini as lying ‘coiled’ at the base of the spine, represented as either a goddess or sleeping serpent waiting to be awakened.” In physical terms, one commonly reported Kundalini experience is a feeling like electric current running along the spine.

Kundalini can be awakened by shaktipat – spiritual transmission by a Guru or teacher — or by spiritual practices such as yoga or meditation. Sometimes Kundalini reportedly awakens spontaneously as the result of physical or psychological trauma, or even for no apparent reason.

One man said he felt an activity at the base of his spine starting to flow so he relaxed and allowed it to happen. A feeling of surging energy began traveling up his back, at each chakra he felt an orgasmic electric feeling like every nerve trunk on his spine beginning to fire. A second man describes a similar experience but accompanied by a wave of euphoria and happiness softly permeating his being. He described the surging energy as being like electricity but not, traveling from the base of his spine to the top of his head. He said the more he analyzed the experience, the less it occurred.

Kundalini can also awaken spontaneously, for no obvious reason, or triggered by intense personal experiences such as accidents, near death experiences, childbirth, emotional trauma, extreme mental stress, and so on. Some sources attribute spontaneous awakenings to the “grace of God,” or possibly to spiritual practice in past lives.

The popularization of eastern spiritual practices has been associated with psychological problems in the West. Psychiatric literature notes that “since the influx of eastern spiritual practices and the rising popularity of meditation starting in the 1960s, many people have experienced a variety of psychological difficulties, either while engaged in intensive spiritual practice or ‘spontaneously’.

I could go on, but I think the above is enough; however, one last observation might be of value. On the fourth page of the Wikipedia article on Kundalini is a section with the heading, “Physical and psychological effects.” In brief, I list some of the items which are referred to as “Kundalini syndrome”:

 involuntary jerks, tremors, shaking, itching, tingling, and crawling sensations; energy rushes or feelings of electricity circulating the body; intense heat (heating) or cold; trance-like and altered states of consciousness; disrupted sleep pattern; loss of appetite or overeating; mood swings with periods of depression or mania.

The quest for power

Certainly Howard-Browne and any of the Kansas City Prophets and those associated with Rick Joyner of Morningstar in North Carolina, Mike Bickle of IHOP in Kansas City, Bill Johnson at Bethel Church in Redding, California, or anyone else associated with the Third Wave would not knowingly embrace anything to do with Kundalini or shaktipat, but there is an obvious association if not direct connection. That association could well be the quest for power.

Power, the one great and overriding drive behind the occult, is the great lure. So much of the tragedy of humanity has been the direct result of striving to acquire and retain power. The quest for magical powers to heal drives shamanism and religions like Santería. The neo-pagan religions like Wicca also focus on power to heal and perform  magic. How thin the line can be that separates the occult and pagan from the biblically orthodox.

Anyone who has either read of or experienced firsthand a great moving of the Holy Spirit desires to see it happen again. It is as though we can “work up” such a revival or awakening ourselves. We can go to extremes and “work up” the crowd with music and great expectations of miracles and pass them off as a genuine move of the Holy Spirit. In my view, the epitome of error is the concept of containing an anointing, a special and rare gift of the Holy Spirit. One way of identifying authentic Christianity is that Jesus Christ and Him crucified is front and center.

Off the charts

But then I think: no, wait a minute. These guys up in Redding at Bethel and in Kansas City say we are “off the charts.” Their prophet’s declare that these are the last days and the Bible is not so important anymore. After all, many are conversing with angels now, even big name angels, some speaking directly with Jesus as one would in a phone call;[6] people like Kat Kerr are going direct to God, bypassing angels all together. Yes, face to face meetings with the Creator of heaven and earth in the “throne room” to get the real scoop for the last of the last days. Apparently, we are right up there at a few seconds before midnight on the great cosmic clock. Wow, I’m a believer!

Going corporate?

Am I making fun? Yes I am to a degree, in order to highlight the ridiculousness of the whole thing. And one wonders, what comes next? I mean, where can you go next? After hearing from God personally and getting the definitive word about the wrap-up of history from the Big Guy, everything else seems second rate, not to mention a waste of time. Someone who has followed the whole enterprise in Redding said to me last month that they have shifted into “corporate” mode to fill a possible void, and by that he meant the selling of product – everything from worship music, dietary supplements, t-shirts and other kinds of clothing, paperback books, and who knows what else that these entrepreneurs will concoct. God help us.

Is it possible for the newly and self ordained apostles and prophets to drop all of it? Think of the humiliation, the embarrassment, the decrease in salary, invitations to speak drying up, the rejections, the tongue-waggers, the falling book sales, the payments on the improvements to the property, the praise of the crowds? What do you do – retire, repent, step down, and confess, with your whole life exposed as a fraud? What do you do after making shipwreck of your faith and many thousands of others’ faith as well? Here is where the miracles are needed.

Closing comment

I am one who has made major errors in my life and ministry, and from these I am yet greatly pained and will until I get home. Indeed, the sufferings of this present time, whether the result of the Fall or my own rebellious folly, are not worth comparing with what God has prepared for us. My repenting will last my whole life, and though I may be embarrassed in certain circles, yet I take confidence that all my sin has been atoned for through the shedding of the precious blood of the Lamb. Thus it is with confidence that I continue following Jesus and rejoicing in the ability to yet be a servant in His kingdom. The audience, after all, is not in the pews but in heaven.

Kent Philpott

February 2014 



[1] C. Peter Wagner is often recognized as an “apostle” in the recreation of the “Five Fold Ministry,” and by virtue of his position as a professor at Fuller Theological Seminary in Pasadena, California, and his part in launching the Church Growth seminars at Fuller (of which I was a part), he provided prestige and clout to the fledgling “Third Wave” revival.

[2] Rather than 5 ministries of apostle, prophet, evangelist, pastor, and teacher, many combine pastor and teacher, since the two are joined by the Greek co-coordinating conjunction kai or and. More correctly, it is the four fold ministry. And it may be noted that, while these ministries or offices may not always have been formally established, they have never be absent in the long history of the Church. 

[3] The two books are virtually identical in content, having only minor variations and additions. To read one is to read the other.

[4] The God Mockers is the title of a book written by Stephen Hill who was the principle evangelist for the Brownsville Revival in Pensacola, Florida during the mid-1990s. All those who rejected the idea that it was a genuine outpouring of the Holy Spirit he so labeled.

[5] I had gotten in place early and was a little surprised at how ushers brought in, paraded might be a better word, a group of people and seated them directly in front of the platform. The reason for this became clear later on.

[6] This is what Sarah Young does as she journals in her books like Jesus Calling.

Legalist Grace?

Legalistic Grace?

Sounds like a contradiction in terms doesn’t it, legalistic grace, but I have been coming across the sentiment, not the term itself, in a number of different ways. However expressed, whether in print, sermon, television, radio, or conversation, it sounds very much like, “I am more of a Calvinist than you are.”

At first I thought it was akin to an animal marking territory as we observe in dogs and cats. Perhaps it is little more than the old guard Calvinists not wanting to be marginalized or not receiving recognition for their heroic manning of the Reformed fort now that new recruits have volunteered for the front lines.

My journey toward the doctrines of grace has been a slow one–little by little. This may have been due to the sheer glory of free grace, which must be absorbed over the course of time, or, my slowness may have been due to the complexity of it all. I wonder, back in 1996, if I would have been rejected, even ridiculed, if I could not embrace so much doctrine suddenly. But as it was I knew no one, and for some years, who was a self confessed Calvinist. Perhaps I was spared a rude awakening.

Coming from a Baptist background I had little exposure to the theology of those who had imbibed the traditional theologies handed down from Calvin, Luther, and others, through John Knox mostly; I learned from Billy Graham, Campus Crusade for Christ, C.S. Lewis, Watchman Nee, and other Arminian leaning evangelicals. Then when I began reading Edwards, Owen, Spurgeon, Lloyd-Jones, I. Murray, J.I. Packer, R.C. Sproul, and others, my theological reeducation took a new, and confusing, turn.

The year, 1996, when I began to understand the differences between Calvinistic and Arminian points of view by way of research into the debate between Asahel Nettleton and Charles Finney during American’s Second Awakening, I was in the eleventh year of pastoring Miller Avenue Church in Mill
Valley, California. For twenty-nine years of professional ministry I had been a staunch Arminian regularly teaching through Charles Finney’s Revival Lectures; John Wesley was one of my heroes.

Happily, there was no pressure from my congregation or denomination to toe any doctrinal line. And the people I preached to and taught had little exposure to Reformed theology and took to it slowly. It was some time before I even mentioned the name of John Calvin or Jonathan Edwards. Some rejected even my feeble efforts to introduce clear biblical ideas like predestination and election. As pastor I had to be careful to not drive everyone off remembering how haltingly I had progressed. The plain fact is that even after fourteen years not all of the congregation would be what I would call Reformed. Yet I am content with the progress.

Now then, what I have been observing, and experiencing with the emergence of the New Calvinists, is a pressure to accept a whole array of doctrines and positions beyond TULIP. Many insist that to be a true Calvinist means adhering to much more that the famous five points. Some of these doctrines are: views on the inerrancy of the Bible; replacement theology where the church replaces Israel; the place of infant baptism and the Lord’s Supper in the context of Covenant Theology; views of last things; women and their place in the church; cessationism—whether spiritual/charismatic gifts are in operation today; applications of church discipline; using the correct forms of worship especially having to do with music; the place of historic confessions of faith, among others. The list can even include political or social positions. My discovery has been that not all of those who identify with the Doctrines of Grace are in harmony all the way down the list. So often, too often I think, it is all in or nothing. Surely this attitude, while it may appear to be a strong one, is likely not the firmest foundation for growing in grace; such a doctrinaire attitude, at least in my experience, has seemed more like sectarianism that faithful biblical orthodoxy.

Marking out territory? Maybe, or perhaps what I have been observing is a lack of grace along with a misunderstanding of the working of the Holy Spirit. We grow up slowly. We generally agree that the wise parent does not demand their young children demonstrate adult stature or maturity.

When asked to describe my theological position I will say I am reforming rather than reformed. I have a long way to go in grasping all the ramifications of the doctrines of grace since they go to the greatness and glory of our creator God. Early on, were I to have been bombarded by the extent of the mercy granted me in Christ I would have been overwhelmed, perhaps immobilized. Yet, I run into people who have seemingly overnight become full five-pointers and are furthermore convinced of a number of extra points such as those listed above.

This is indeed a plea for those of us who have had the time and freedom to grow up into the doctrines of grace to extend this same privilege to others who are setting out on their journey.

We begin with grace and we must continue the same way. Paul made this clear in his letter to the Galatian churches. And most Christians get the point easily enough when it comes to the salvation issue–works versus grace—and are convinced that they were helpless to attain it through their own efforts. But Calvinists, new and old, can be a blessing to those who are on the Reforming journey by not imposing unnecessary road blocks or by demanding doctrinal conformity in a host of other issues. If we trust that God saves us in a sovereign way, may we not also expect that He will continue that process until the day of Jesus Christ?

Kent Philpott, July 29, 2010

The Prophet

The Prophet

Doesn’t the prophet foretell the future?

God gave to the prophets of the Hebrew Bible, the Old Testament, the words He wanted the people to hear. For example we find: “Thus says the Lord God: ‘It shall not stand, and it shall not come to pass. For the head of Syria is Damascus, and the head of Damascus is Rezin’” (Isaiah 7:7). Here the God of Israel had a message for Ahaz, the king of Judah, spoken to him by Isaiah the prophet.

Prophets declared the word of the Lord to whomever the Lord directed. Many of these prophecies had to do with the coming of the Anointed One (or Messiah from the Hebrew mashiach, or Christ from the Greek christos). Here is another example by the same prophet: “The Lord himself will give you a sign. Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and shall call his name Immanuel” (Isaiah 7:14).

There are hundreds of prophecies in Scripture, found from Genesis to Revelation. My favorite is in Genesis where the LORD God spoke to the serpent (Satan) and said, “I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your offspring and her offspring, he shall bruise your head, and you shall bruise his heel” (Genesis 3:15). At this point in the early history of humankind, we find a prophecy of the final victory of the offspring of the woman, the son of the virgin, Jesus Christ Himself, over the serpent who had enticed Adam and Eve to disobey their Creator.

The prophets spoke of what was coming, that which was ‘new’, but in many ways little was really new since the basics of what God was going to do had already been made clear in Genesis and Exodus.

Here are the salient points of what the early biblical material said was going to take place: God made a covenant with Abraham which created a new nation of people starting with him. That nation became Israel. God later made a covenant with Israel through Moses, who led them out of slavery in Egypt. The covenant that the LORD gave at Mt. Sinai involved a set of laws, by which the people were defined for a long time. Every time they drifted away from following God’s Law, the LORD sent prophets to the people to remind them of that law and to tell them about what would happen if they continued to be disobedient.  Little that the prophets said was ‘new’, since God had already made clear the basics of what He was doing and was going to do in the future from early in Genesis and into Exodus.

One thing, however, that was clearly new was the prophecy of Jeremiah 31:31-34, in which he revealed that there would be a new covenant or testament: “But this is the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel after those days, declares the LORD: I will put my law within them, and I will write in on their hearts. And I will be their God, and they shall be my people” (Jeremiah 31:33). The Law of Moses was external; the new covenant would be internal, that is, it was the indwelling of each individual by the Holy Spirit, sometimes known as regeneration or the new birth. The arrival of the Messiah would institute this.

The Word become flesh

That which the Old Testament prophets spoke of was realized with the birth of the Messiah in Bethlehem of Judea. Jesus was born of Mary the virgin, and now the Immanuel spoken of by Isaiah was actually with us – God in the flesh. As the Apostle John put it, “And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we have seen his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth” (John 1:14). In Jesus, the prophecy and the prophet are made actual, and He spoke the clear and perfect Word of the Lord, because He was and is the Word.

This changed everything. The writer of Hebrews masterfully marked the extreme paradigm shift:

Long ago, at many times and in many ways, God spoke to our fathers by the prophets, but in these last days he has spoken to us by his Son, whom he appointed the heir of all things, through whom also he created the world. He is the radiance of the glory of God and the exact imprint of his nature, and he upholds the universe by the word of his power.                        Hebrews 1:1-3

Would the office of prophet disappear now that the Messiah had arrived? No, in fact the work of the prophet, though slightly different, would take on much greater importance.

The new prophets

There was no new truth, not even any ‘improved’ truth, but the truth that came with Jesus Christ must be told, and this is the ministry of the new prophets, who are the preachers, the forthtellers, of the New Testament era.[1]

Just prior to His ascension back to the Father in heaven, Jesus instructed His followers to “make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you” (Matthew 28:19-20a). In John’s Gospel, we have this: “As the Father has sent me, even so I am sending you” (John 20:21). And then there is Luke’s commission: “And you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you, and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth” (Acts 1:8).

My contention is that those disciples, the sent ones and witnesses, were the prophets of the Messiah who no longer needed to foretell the future but received the command and commission to forthtell the deeds and words of the Word become flesh. And the company of prophets is not limited to the original apostles; indeed, every Christian of every era inherits the command and commission to witness to the person and work of Jesus Christ.

Jesus gave some to be prophets

In Ephesians 4, Paul speaks of gifts given to Jesus’ followers: “And he gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the pastors and teachers” (Ephesians 4:11).[2] Some Christian commentators refer to the list as ‘offices’ in the Church, but the concept of ‘offices’ is merely imported into the text and not explicit.[3]

The apostles are the sent ones. Apostello is a Greek verb meaning “I send.” The sent ones may then be termed apostles. Missionary is a term derived from the Latin that is equivalent to the Greek for apostle. Apostles and missionaries are sent to proclaim the message of Jesus Christ to those who do not know Him. Therefore, when apostles carry the message of Jesus and proclaim Him, they act as prophets – forthtelling the Gospel rather than foretelling the future.

Apostles. The original apostles were those who knew Jesus personally in the flesh and whom He specially called and commissioned as His disciples. The question is, may there be other apostles? No and Yes is my answer. No, in that only the ones originally appointed by Jesus are the apostles on whom the Church is founded, but Yes, in that many are yet sent out to proclaim the Gospel and are, in a real sense, also apostles.[4]

Prophets. There are also prophets given to the Church, which is clear from Ephesians 4:11. What do these prophets do? They proclaim the message of the Gospel; the prophet is the preacher or forthteller.

A problem of identification

Prophet is a word often taken to mean foretelling the future and many automatically assume the same when the word is found in the New Testament. But mostly, almost entirely, the word prophet should be identified with preacher. The preachers of the Church are the biblical prophets. If I were to critique the commonly held charismatic/Pentecostal view of prophets from any other position than that which is stated above, I would end up in a quagmire, attempting to state that the future telling prophetic movement ended with the death of the Twelve Apostles and the publication of the New Testament. Let me explain what I mean.

We have all we need. We read of Jesus in the Gospels; we learn of what He did and what He said. Then, other apostles and disciples of apostles interpreted and applied what Jesus said and did in real life situations, which we find in the epistles or letters of the New Testament. Indeed, there are prophecies about the wrapping up of history, which we see much of in Matthew 24, 1 Thessalonians 4, and the Book of Revelation, but there are no new doctrines, theologies, or ideas that differ one bit from what we already have. Nothing else need be said of the future; the believer’s work is to watch and wait and tend to the harvest.

My testimony

I did not always understand the work of the New Testament prophet. During the days of the Jesus People Movement, roughly 1967 to 1972, I was impacted by the influence first of the Catholic Renewal, which was essentially charismatic, and the general charismatic movement that swept through America during that time. Though I resisted the charismatic/Pentecostal doctrines at first, I slowly fell in line. Toward the middle of the 1970s I began to regard what I saw as charismania and began to disassociate myself from it. Though it is painful now to admit, I prophesied over hundreds of people with words like, “God gave me a message for you,” or “I had a dream and you should…,” or “You are called to be a missionary,” or “You will be greatly used of God,” and so much more.

Many of my associates from that time have also distanced themselves from what can be called charismatic, but growth in charismatic practice has mushroomed, to say the least. In my opinion, this emphasis is decidedly off track, despite its popularity.

Many among us see the dreadful direction the charismatic/Pentecostal movement has taken. Perhaps the best statements challenging this are in John MacArthur’s book, Strange Fire, published by Nelson Books, an imprint of Thomas Nelson, in 2013. However, there is a critique concerning MacArthur’s views that I would like to make.

Cessationism versus Continuationism

Cessationism is the view that the charismatic gifts of the Holy Spirit that are listed in Romans 12 and 1 Corinthians 12 are no longer in operation. The supposition is that they ceased to be operative in the Church after the Apostolic period and the creation of the New Testament.

Continuationism is the view that the charismatic gifts, including the “power gifts” continue to this day.

Some in each camp have moved toward the center, to a moderation of each position, which considers that only the so-called power gifts, namely speaking in tongues, their interpretation, miracles, healing, and prophecy ceased, but that others such as faith, service, teaching, exhorting, contributing, leading, acts of mercy, wisdom, knowledge, and discernment (distinguishing between spirits) are still evident in the Church as normative and operative.[5]

Another view

I am not alone in holding the following view; however, it is beyond the scope of this essay to describe the details and nuances of other various views and the authors involved.

Briefly, my view is that the charismatic gifts of the Holy Spirit continue just as they have since the Day of Pentecost but that we see them mostly or only in times of awakening and revival. In my book, America’s Awakenings and the Jesus People Movement, it is noted that there were various charismatic gifts in the first two awakenings, but few if any were evident in the third.[6] During the JPM (Jesus People Movement), I personally witnessed many miracles, among which were the multiplication of food, words of knowledge, healings, and other more common and mundane gifts.[7] Prior to the JPM I did not see or experience the continuation of charismatic gifts, and after 1972, a date which is often noted as the beginning of the end of the JPM, the charismatic gifts began to be less frequent until they ceased all together – in my experience.

This view may be termed semi-cessationist or semi-continuationist, though different from the moderation position described above. It is understood that these designations are not biblical categories; rather, they are philosophical constructs intended to describe theological views.

Out of respect for many in the Reformed tradition, where I do find myself since 1995, I have attempted to validate cessationism. I cannot help but report that I find nothing in the Scripture, which clearly and unequivocally proves that the charismatic gifts of the Holy Spirit stopped after the Apostolic era and the publication of the New Testament. There are passages that are cited as pointing in that direction, but, in my view, concrete evidence that is necessary and determinative simply is not there.

Paul and prophecy

Paul has a great deal to say about prophecy in his first letter to the Corinthian Church, other than what we find in the lists of the charismatic gifts found in chapter 12. In fact, he has two lists in that same chapter. The second is 1 Corinthians 12:27-31:

Now you are the body of Christ and individually members of it. And God has appointed in the church first apostles, second prophets, third teachers, then miracles, and then gifts of healing, helping, administrating, and various kinds of tongues. Are all apostles? Are all prophets? Are all teachers? Do all work miracles? Do all possess gifts of healing? Do all speak with tongues? Do all interpret? But earnestly desire the higher gifts.

This passage is reminiscent of Ephesians 4:11: “And he gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the pastors and teachers.” In 1 Corinthians 12:28 the word “appointed” (the transliterated Greek word is etheto) could be translated “placed” as well; in Ephesians 4:11 the word “gave” is used (the transliterated Greek word is edoken), and appointed and placed are essentially synonyms. It must be noted that the “gave” of Ephesians 4:11 is not at all the same as gifts (the transliterated Greek word is charismaton) found in 1 Corinthians 12:4 or the charismata of Romans 12:6.

“Prophets” appears in both 1 Corinthians and in Ephesians and are not designated as charismatic in nature. Many commentators over the centuries have designated the lists in Ephesians 4:11 and 1 Corinthians 12:27-31 as offices or officers within the Church. My question is: What do these prophets do? Do we suppose an office or position so important that it is listed next to apostles in both places, to be nothing other than foretelling events? If so, where do we see this ministry in operation? The instance of Agabus prophesying that there would be a famine (see Acts 11:28) and that Paul would be made captive if he went to Jerusalem (see Acts 21:11), which were stereotypically prophetic in the Old Testament style, does not justify or explain the prominence of the office of prophet in the Church.

Furthermore, let it be pointed out that in neither the 1 Corinthians nor Ephesian passage is there any indication that the prophets’ work would be phased out or temporary. These ministries in the Church are universal and in operation until the second advent of Jesus. But what does the prophet do?

Peter is a prophet to the Gentiles

The account of the conversion of the Roman centurion Cornelius shows Peter acting as a prophet. In Acts 10 is the story of God calling Peter to Caesarea to declare the Gospel of the risen Christ to a Gentile, even a military officer in the hated Roman occupying army.

God used dreams and visions to accomplish His work in this seminal event (and notice there was nothing of a trance state involved for either Peter or Cornelius), but Peter simply arrives at the proper place, and Cornelius invites Peter to speak. Luke concludes the content of Peter’s message with, “To him all the prophets bear witness that everyone who believes in him receives forgiveness of sins through his name” (Acts 10:43).

The “him” the prophets bore witness to is Jesus, and here Peter is the prophet who declares the word of the Lord to Cornelius. Prophets remind people of what God has already said and done, and Peter does the very same thing.

All prophets declare the message and word of God; this is their work, and most “thus saith the Lord” passages in the Hebrew Bible are of this nature.

Paul and 1 Corinthians 14

Paul addresses the ministry of prophecy very directly in the fourteenth chapter of 1 Corinthians. In the first verse he encourages the pursuit of love (agape love), and he said to “earnestly desire the spiritual gifts, especially that you may prophesy.” One Greek word pneumatika is translated here as “spiritual gifts,” but it does not require the use of “gifts” but could instead be “spiritual things,” meaning the things of the Holy Spirit.

Paul goes on to show the greater value of prophesy over tongue speaking.

For one who speaks in a tongue speaks not to men but to God; for no one understands him, but he utters mysteries in the Spirit. On the other hand, the one who prophesies speaks to people for their upbuilding and encouragement and consolation.                                             1 Corinthians 14:2-3

What future event needs to be prophesied? The Church was already aware of the return of Jesus, the Day of Judgment, the great resurrection day, and more. What the Church needed, and always needs, is the proclamation of the words and deeds of Jesus. In verse 4 Paul then says, “The one who speaks in a tongue builds up himself, but the one who prophesies builds up the church.”

Paul does not prohibit tongues, and this is a controversy that I will not entertain here, since my focus is on prophesy, but he wanted more than anything for the Corinthians to prophesy (see verse 5).[8]  He even says in that same verse, “The one who prophesies is greater than the one who speaks in tongues, unless someone interprets, so that the church may be built up.”

Paul simply wants the gathering of believers to be orderly and beneficial for both the believers and for those who are not. Paul is the one who is convinced of the priority of Gospel preaching. “For I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes, to the Jew first and also to the Greek” (Romans 1:16). Then in Romans chapter ten, he asks, “How are they to believe in him of whom they have never heard? And how are they to hear without someone preaching?” (verse 14). He succinctly states the supremacy of preaching when he says, “So faith comes from hearing, and hearing through the word of Christ” (Romans 10:17).

The last phrase in verse 17, “through the word of Christ,” uses a derivative of the Greek word hreima for the written or spoken word, with the implication that preaching is meant.

“Let two or three prophets speak, and let the others weigh what is said” (1 Corinthians 14:29). The worship services may have been much longer than in many churches of our day, including the church that I pastor, but it might be that there were two or three sermons or words given by prophets.

Paul concludes his teaching on tongues and prophecy by saying, “So, my brothers, earnestly desire to prophesy, and do not forbid speaking in tongues” (1 Corinthians 14:39). Here I am convinced that the tongues speaking was nothing approaching ecstatic utterances but was prophesy in foreign tongues. In any case, the emphasis on prophecy is unmistakable.[9]

The Command and Commissions of Jesus

All Christians are aware of or become aware of the commands Jesus gave to be His witnesses to carry the Gospel to the ends of the earth. The witness will proclaim, testify, preach, declare, describe, and so on, the message of the person and work of Jesus Christ. This means prophets prophesying. Some are specially called to be preacher/prophets, and all are called to witness by virtue of just being a follower of Jesus.

There is nothing new to add to the Scripture; all has been revealed and we simply watch and wait for the final events. We know all we need to know, and faith carries us the rest of the way.

May it be that we all earnestly desire to prophesy.

The Prophet…The Preacher



[1] John 1:17 reads, “For the law was given through Moses; grace and truth came through Jesus Christ.”

[2] In verses 8 and 11 the words “gifts” and “gave” are found but the Greek words in the text and not associated with charismata, which word Paul does use in Romans 12:6 and 1 Corinthians 12:4 — the  lists of the charismatic gifts of the Holy Spirit.

 

[3] Some commentators speak of four ‘offices’ while others mention five. There are five titles, but the last two, pastors and teachers, are linked by the Greek coordinating conjunction kai and thus are seen as one ‘office’.

 

[4] Matthias replaced Judas and the Eleven became the full Twelve again (Acts 1:21-22). Paul and Barnabas are later referred to as apostles in Acts 14:4 and 14. James, the half-brother of Jesus, is also named an apostle in Galatians 1:19. Paul calls himself the apostle chosen “last of all” in 1 Corinthians 15:8. Some commentators include Silas (Silvanus) among the apostles (see Acts 15:22, 32; Acts 15:40; 1 Peter 5:12; 2 Corinthians 1:19; 1 Thessalonians 1:1; and 2 Thessalonians 1:1).

[5] These gifts are found in Romans 12:6-8 and 1 Corinthians 12:4-11. It may be argued that the second description of cessationism, allowing for the non-power gifts to yet be in operation, is more properly called “semi-cessationism.”

 

[6] The first awakening, 1735-1742; the second 1798 to 1825; the third 1857 to 1859.

 

[7] The healings were apparent, lasting, and personal. Twice my son Vernon was healed right in front of me, and he still remembers these, though he was only about five years old at the time. I was healed, and remarkably so, one time that I am sure of. Some healings were verified by means of medical examinations. Not all who requested healing and had hands laid on them for healing were in fact healed, but some were. I was always skeptical of healings and did not trust the healing ministries of Oral Roberts or Kathryn Kuhlman for example; nevertheless, as time wore on, I came to admit and accept healings that I could verify for myself.

 

[8] My understanding of Paul’s argument in 1 Corinthians 14 regarding tongues is that they were actual and known human languages.

[9] Speaking in foreign tongues might well have been essential in the first century, at least if not for many centuries, due to the fact that for long periods people speaking many and various would be present together in Christian churches.

“Quiet Time” Christian Style

“Quiet Time” Christian Style

In the January 15, 2014 edition on the San Francisco Chronicle, in the Opinion section under the heading, ‘Open Forum On Meditation’, David L Kirp, a professor of public policy at UC Berkeley, who is the author of Improbable Scholars: The Rebirth of a great American School District and a Strategy for America’s Schools argues that America’s students, of all ages, do better when they observe a “quiet time” during the school day. Kirp states that students learn better, and more, are less rowdy, stressed, and restless, experience less suspensions, and show higher improvements than other students who do not have daily quiet times. Accompanying the article is a photo that shows Barry Zito (a pitcher for the San Francisco Giants baseball team), David Lynch, and Russell Brand meditating “with students during Quiet Time at Barton High.” Kirp describes the process: “Twice daily a gong sounds in the classroom and rowdy adolescents, who normally can’t sit still for 10 seconds, shut their eyes and try to clear their minds.”

There is no real sense in arguing this practice might be a violation of the separation of church and state. Of Course, a “prayer time” would not be acceptable, but a “quiet time” and “meditation” are not terms clearly and directly linked to any particular religious practice or group.

Maybe I should campaign for Christians to take up practicing “quiet time.” Wait a minute here though, the quiet time is nothing new to Christians who have in fact been doing the same for twenty plus centuries. We call it prayer, or devotions, or meditations as well, but millions of Christians have their daily quiet times.

At Miller Avenue Baptist Church where I am pastor we do have a quiet time built into each worship service: we have free form and written prayers; there is a time for silent prayers; we have a time for reflection. Then we listen in silence while portions of Scripture are read. A sermon is given, and here again is a time for quietly absorbing thoughts on our Faith and Practice.

As a new Christian, in 1963, I began a devotional discipline, usually in the mornings when my work schedule allowed. It included the reading of a number of chapters of the Bible followed by some minutes of prayer. I used a prayer list, also noting the date of the prayer, the specifics of the prayer, and an “answer” column. (Below is a sample of my prayer list.)

It is more than a quiet time; it is stillness, peacefulness, and focused consideration on the God I worship and serve.

I have tried the kind of ‘quiet time’ Kirp presents in the Chronicle article, and it does not work for me. A clearing of the mind is impossible for me to achieve, and if we would admit it, thoughts, sensations, and feelings constantly intrude themselves into our conscious mind. But the pleasant reflection on and consideration of the grace and mercy given to me in Jesus is rich and satisfying. The God who loves us immensely — we spend time in His presence, since we have the abiding and indwelling Holy Spirit; it simply cannot get any better. Sitting alone with our Bibles, mindfully focused on the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, not needing music in the background or any other such artificial device, we close or open our eyes and have the most wonderful quiet time. I treasure mine and look forward to these special times.

After reading Kirp’s article in the paper this morning, I felt the desire to remind those of us who trust in Jesus that perhaps the age old discipline of the devotional time has been minimized in our experiences. Do you have a time when you are alone and look to Him who has rescued you from your constant self interest? If not, please do not feel guilty but challenged to take up the ancient ways or our forefathers in the Faith.

 

MY PRAYER LIST

Date Prayer Answer
     
     
     
     
     
     
     
     
     
     

 

BIBLE READING FORMAT

3 CHAPTERS IN THE OLD TESTAMENT

2 PSALMS

3 CHAPTERS IN THE NEW TESTAMENT

As you read, think about what you are learning. After reading each chapter determine what the main themes are and what may apply to you. Use critical thinking as well by asking the hard questions, and note the instances where you would like to have had more information.

 

Adam and Evolution

“The Place of Adam and Eve in the History of Salvation”

“Origins: What Are We to Make of It in Light of the Bible and Evolutionary Science?”

“A Theological Conversation: What to Do with Adam and Evolution?”

“Is Scripture Right About Adam? If So, Is It Wrong about Evolution? How Might a Biblically Faithful Christian Make Sense of It All?”

 

The above may all fit as titles to this essay. Let us explore the issue, and maybe we can figure out which title is the most accurate.

Positions Christians take[1]

There are three general positions regarding the relationship of biblical origins to contemporary evolutionary science held among Christians: creationism, intelligent design, and theistic evolution. Not always obvious is the fact that this conversation or debate is actually an intra-mural rather than an extra-mural one. By that I mean, it is a conversation or debate that goes on among Christians who all want to be biblically faithful, so that it ought to be conducted in a civil and brotherly manner.

Creationism may primarily accept either a very young earth creation date or a little older young earth creation date. With the former the year 4004 B.C. is pegged as the year of creation while the latter holds to dates of around 10,000 B.C. Both subscribe to the earth being created old-appearing; however, some of the mainline young earth creationists insist that the flood of Noah’s era was all that was necessary for the earth to have attained its present oldish appearance.

A creationist also believes that the entire universe was created by a supernatural being, and for Christians, this being is God as described in the Bible. In the generic sense, all Christians, whether young earth or oldish earth creationists, intelligent design advocates, or theistic evolutionists are all creationists; it is simply the how of it all which is at issue.

After science developed concepts about origins in the 18th century onwards, efforts were made by Christians to reconcile the new views with the Bible and its Genesis accounts of creation. By the beginning of the 20th century the creation-evolution controversy had developed, largely fomented by the popularity of Charles Darwin’s work, and the term “creationist” became associated with the rise of Christian fundamentalism. This view opposed any claim for development of separate species through evolutionary processes. The fundamentalist view predominated among Bible believers in that day and still boasts a considerable following. However, even in that early period when the debate flared up, there were “evolutionary creationists” who sought to harmonize the Bible with modern science.

            Intelligent Design adherents admit the reality of much of the science of evolutionary thought but insist that God built into the natural building blocks of life the information, without which there would be no life on earth. ID advocates reject the pure Darwinian theory that a combination of undirected processes—natural selection and random mutations—explains the whole story of species development and consider that it falls short of a biblical account of creation. ID promoters see information in the raw building blocks of life, principally DNA in the genetic code, to have been placed there by the Creator God of the Bible who is thus responsible for all that life is.

Intelligent design advocates are usually not concerned about the controversy between a young and old earth, but accept whatever science says about it. They see evolutionary theory, sometimes referred to as neo-Darwinism, to be an inadequate mechanism to describe what is observed. The debate continues.

Theistic evolution refers to the idea that a creator God set in motion all that life and earth are and let the process develop as it would. It essentially rubber stamps all true science regarding origins. Francis Collins, the scientist who led the effort to map the human genome, is a champion of theistic evolution and a sincere Christian, and with him is a growing number of Christians who also assume his position.

A current focus of the debate

At issue presently is what to do with the Genesis account of creation. Were Adam and Eve real people, or are they representatives of or metaphors for something less personal and historical? Real live people with names and story lines are certainly more interesting and more easily portrayed by a historian or script writer than an account of snail-like changes taking place over long millennia. However, at stake for many is the veracity of the entire Bible with its plan of salvation centered in Jesus Christ. If the Bible is wrong about one, what about the other?

The young or oldish earth creationists face the most crucial dilemma, since they depend on a literalistic rendering of the biblical accounts. For them there must be a real Adam, a real Eve, and so on.

It might be argued that a literal Adam and Eve is necessary for there to be a Fall, the remedy for which is blood atonement brought by the One who bruises the head of the serpent (see Genesis 3). I will leave this issue alone, since my view is that one is independent of the other. Life experience reveals the essential flaw, or evil, at the core of humanity. We need not have an Adam and Eve, a serpent/devil, all in a Garden of Eden, for it to be plain that humankind is lost and depraved.

At the base of the debate is perhaps a fear that somehow contemporary science is an enemy and that specifically evolutionary, godless thought must be challenged at every turn. Let me pose some pertinent questions: Is the debate a distraction? Are we spinning our wheels here and ignoring the simple proclamation of the evangelical gospel? I am reminded that I was a convinced believer in evolution immediately prior to my conversion, and that over four decades of pastoral ministry most of those whom I have seen profess faith in Christ were very much like me. Additionally, must a person hold one scientific concept or another in order to be a Christian? Some say yes and some say no—this is for me the key issue.

Views Christians hold

So then, some Christians hold to a young earth creation with Noah’s flood figuring prominently in the scheme. There are older earth creationists who have decided to admit some science unearthed by the archaeologists and geneticists. Very well and good.

Then there are those who opt for intelligent design, perhaps straddling the fence, and it makes for some fascinating reading, especially considering examples of what is termed “irreducibly complex” organic systems. Here is a safer haven for some who value evolutionary science and want to be what they would consider biblically faithful. Very well and good.

There are also a growing number of those who embrace theistic evolution. They might see the story of Adam and Eve as told in Genesis to be a useful mechanism for an inspired writer to dramatically reveal the circumstances of human beings—made in the image of God but who fall into disobedience and thus can no longer enjoy the fellowship and rest they had with their Creator. We are still doing fine.

An as yet un-named combination view

There are variations on the above schemas also. A fascinating one combines intelligent design and theistic evolution. Here God creates all there is, determines the mechanisms, encodes into all life forms the DNA building blocks, and the millennia march on–but a creature via evolution cannot be anything close to a being with whom God will have direct fellowship. So then, God steps in and creates Adam and Eve who are made in his image and with whom he does have fellowship. At some unknown, but fairly recently time, humans made in the image of God suddenly appear, not due to evolution, but due to a special act of creation.

Let me rephrase the as yet un-named combo view: As I see the theory developing—at some point in history, real time history, the Creator stepped in and made man, male and female, in his image. Adam and Eve, real people, not metaphors, a life form who had the capacity not through evolutionary processes, but a specially made capacity, to communicate with God and have fellowship with him and know him in the deepest sense. Evolution could not get the job done.

Typical of God, he did it himself. It is the primal doctrine of predestination, or election—God’s deliberate acting. He created a people for himself, and though they strayed from him, he pursued them and made them his own. From Adam and Eve, in direct descent, came Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. Israel too, the chosen among whom he dwelt, and in time, the Body of Christ, the elect, the called-out ones.

What I mean is that the Bible records the fact that God is the author of all there is, and that Adam and Eve are the fountain head of the elect.

This combo view allows me to retain the creation account and does not force me to worry about young or oldish earth.[2] This view allows me to acknowledge intelligent design and perhaps theistic evolution as well, which I can also embrace, or at least not feel like I have to reject.

A restatement

Adam and Eve, not evolved but specially made in the image of God, perhaps even given life in a time frame endorsed by creationists, old earth or younger earth ones. This preserves a Fall and thus a need for the atonement. I can take the New Testament material about Adam face on and not have to alter it, and neither way would bother me much, because I see this as ultimately a fringe issue.

Such a combination view allows me to fit in rather harmoniously the material found in the early chapters of Genesis that have troubled me over the years. Let me list them:

One, where did Cain get his wife (see Genesis 4:17)? One would think, taking the Genesis account literally, that there was only Adam, Eve, and Cain alive on the planet. Adjusting upwards the numbers of years these people lived helps but does not solve the problem.

Two, the advanced state of husbandry and agriculture that had to be present for Cain to have a garden and Able to have his flock (see Genesis 4:2) is generally understood to have required considerable millennia before our ancestors mastered such delicate and complex processes.

Three, how was it that the passing of time—consider Methuselah’s 969 years in Genesis 5:27—could be so carefully calculated? Historically this has been problematic and likely was something that was not arrived at in a hurry.

Four, Cain’s son Enoch built a city (Genesis 4:17) extremely early on. It puzzles us, knowing the skills required, even if the walls were made of mud.

Five, Jabal dwelt in tents and knew animal husbandry (see Genesis 4:20). Tents constructed of cloth would require spinning wheels and looms, or at the very least, animal skins sewn together—any of which could be considered rather advanced technology.

Six, Jubal, the brother of Jabal, played the lyre and pipe (see Genesis 4:21). Wow. Imagine all the human tool-making skills that would have developed prior to something as complicated as musical instruments to be created.

Seven, Tubal-cain, the great grandson of Jabal “was the forger of all instruments of bronze and iron” (Genesis 4:22). Metallurgy—a rather recent skill indeed.

There is more, but the point is, I cannot help but think that there must have been considerable cultural and technical knowledge obtained over very lengthy time periods undergirding the activities of these men. No matter, the combo allows for such and retains, at face value, at least from my point of view, the essential biblical truths.

Adam and Eve inherited a great deal of what had been around for a long period of time; they were thrust into a world, that world referred to as “east of Eden” inhabited by other creatures just like themselves but not made in the image of God. (Look below for a discussion of the “sons of God” and “the daughters of God” and look above for the discussion of Cain and his wife.)

Another piece of the puzzle considered

The Books of Moses have a number of interesting stories embedded in them, one of which is found in Genesis 6:1-4. In this particular story may be a clue to the existence of a larger population on the planet that the seven instances mentioned above also suggest.

Moses speaks of “the sons of God,” “the daughters of man,” and the Nephilim or Giants. Though commentators differ as to who was who and what kind of relationships existed between them, one thing is certain: there are two or maybe three different groupings of people to which the writer refers. Some have theorized that the Nephilim were the product of the sons of God taking the daughters of man as wives. Was there intermarriage between the descendants of Seth, God’s called-out ones, and those humans who may have occupied the planet for long centuries? The “combo theory” not only allows it but provides a perfect scenario for it actually occurring.

And finally

A tempest in a tea-pot? A lot to do about nothing? A battle that will not be won? A distraction from Christian essentials? A demonic red herring placed in front of the narrow gate? Factioning? Dissensions? All of the above? I opt for this last one. But now for your decision: a title for this essay. I think I know the one I like best. How about you?



[1] The following descriptions are radically condensed and simplified. This is an essay, not a book. In addition, this essay is merely an opening statement which looks forward to more conversation and debate.

[2] Personally I opt for an old earth, say 13.8 billion years old, but for me the issue is a fringe one and essentially irrelevant.

Homophobic and Heterophobia: Two Sides of the Same Coin?

Homophobia and Heterophobia: Two Sides of the Same Coin? by Kent A. Philpott Homophobia – “A hatred or fear of homosexuals.” (from the Oxford Concise Dictionary). This expresses the core definition of homophobia as found in most standard dictionaries. Heterophobia – “A hatred or fear of heterosexuals.” This definition is not found in standard dictionaries, but the “Urban Dictionary” does not shy away from giving some rather politically incorrect definitions: From the Urban Dictionary, found online at www.urbandictionary.com: • Heterophobics – “Gays who are afraid of heterosexuals usually due to their own heterosexual feelings or leanings.” This followed up with, “Gays, don’t be afraid, you’re probably just straight.” Homophobia – “a severe condition, usually prominent in Republicans and most of American culture, leading one to: 1. inaccurately use bible quoting for the justification of killing homosexuals; 2. restrict the rights of millions; 3. hide in their rooms crying if they looked at the male body of one of the same gender and do not vomit; 4. incessantly call things ‘gay.’” • Heterophobia – “an unreasoning disgust of heterosexuals, frequently supported by erroneous and faulty statements about heterosexuals.” • Homophobia – “the irritation of having faggotry shoved in your face.” • Heterophobics – “People who indulge in bigotry or intolerance because of the Heterophobia sickness.” • Homophobia – “an irrational fear of going home.” • Heterophobia – “The often irrational fear of heterosexuals. Usually experienced by a homosexual or bisexual who has had bad experiences with heterosexual coupling.” • Homophobia – “fear of homosexuals or possibly a condition where one person has the same fears as someone else.” • Heterophobia – “To hate heterosexuals out of some bizarre, irrational or innate fear of them. Probably due to repressed heterosexual feelings. Up with heterosexual pride!” • Homophobia – “Dislike, fear, hatred, and/or disapproval of gays and/or homosexuality, often (but not always) for religious reasons or because of insecurity about one’s sexual orientation.” • Heterophobia – “Queer frustration and hatred towards straight oppression. Often mistakenly perceived to be equivalent to homophobia, or other forms of discrimination.” • Heterophobia – “Unreasoning prejudice against heterosexuals or their sexuality, the LGBT equivalent of reverse racism, and the inverse of homophobia. Commonly manifested as disgust with the very idea of straight sexuality and/or reproduction. It copies the prejudices of homophobia, including the idea that straightness is unnatural, or unhealthy, or can somehow be ‘cured.’” • Heterophobia – “Frequently paired with prejudice towards the opposite sex. This is surprisingly common in the LGBT community, but is often not addressed due to concerns for political correctness.” Finally, let me add this, which I gleaned – and paraphrased – from Gay Religion, edited by Scott Thumma and Edward R. Gray, and published by AltaMira Press in 2005: Some homosexuals believe homosexuality is necessary for the earth to survive, as the “breeders” keep pumping out babies, resulting in the population growing to an unsustainable level. Therefore, homosexuality is a survival mechanism. Two sides of the same coin? Both phobias are based on fear, or so it would seem. I would suggest that “phobia” is the wrong word to describe either phenomenon. The term means an irrational fear of something or the other, such as agoraphobia – a fear of open spaces or public places. But are the so-called homo and hetero phobias based on fear? Is the homosexual fearful of heterosexuals? Is the heterosexual fearful of homosexuals? In both instances, I think not; My sense of it is that the “phobias” are something else all together. Heterosexuals may disagree with homosexuals as to the rightness of homosexual behavior. And should they not be allowed this? Equal rights, justice, fairness, civil rights, and so on, are what most heterosexuals would agree are owed to all people regardless of sexual orientation. What if heterosexuals think homosexual behavior is “sinful” and morally wrong? Is this a bad thing? Suppose it was a hate crime to even consider homosexual behavior wrong. Should certain kinds of thinking be criminalized? Should “homophobes “be marginalized and discriminated against? Most outrageous is the goal that anything short of complete acceptance of all that is homosexuality be stamped out and eliminated since such thinking is the seed bed for discrimination against homosexuals. Could it be that the pro-gay, LGBT community, the whole of it or segments thereof, might even justify the creation of a “thought police” that would be dedicated to eradicating anti-homosexual thinking? Have I gone too far? Irrational fear? Once again let me state that to believe certain behavior is wrong is not necessarily born of fear or anxiety. There may indeed be those who are homophobic, that is, having a fear of being molested or raped by a homosexual, or fear of becoming one, or identified as being one, and the list goes on. And for those who have been in the military, or in prison, or in other circumstances where a homosexual might have a certain amount of power and authority, say a high school sports team coach, there may be homophobia, and such would not be irrational or imaginary. Needless to say, heterosexuals in positions of power and authority over persons of the opposite sex have abused that authority in sexual ways. Certainly, there is much more of this than homosexuals exploiting those of the same sex. Both are wrong, plain and simple. I have been homophobic. In the Air Force there were homosexuals living in the barracks at Travis Air Force Base, and once in a while some would be caught doing what they ought not to have done and were either dishonorably discharged from the service or at least demoted and locked up for a while. In my thirty years as a volunteer at San Quentin Prison I found out that prison life was dominated by sex, some heterosexual, but mostly homosexual. I have also put five children through the school systems in Marin County, and I have been a freshman baseball coach for nine years. There are valid reasons why some have a fear of homosexuality. I don’t want to get specific or graphic, but I have been there and seen that. Yes, I have a certain amount of what is mistakenly called homophobia. So, what should be done with someone like me? Do I not have a right to it? Must the authorities be intolerant of it? As a Christian, must I repent of it? I do not want to be fearful of homosexuals, and in fact, to the best of my ability, I am not. With the growing numbers of gay people in American, if I were homophobic I would live a fearful and miserable life. I live in the world and am very much a part of it; I am a law-abiding citizen, and I will act according to the laws of the land. But I reserve the right to believe that homosexual behavior is wrong. For all have sinned What about heterosexuals? Many, perhaps most, heterosexuals are disturbed sexually to one degree or another. And how would we expect anything less, particularly in western societies where sex is distorted and confused? We have rapists, child molesters, sex-slave traffickers, pimps, brothel keepers, porn addicts and makers, and more than I care to know about, and in far greater numbers than do the homosexuals. The marketplace commercializes sex and throws naked flesh before our eyes daily to sell products. Much of the distortion has come along with the millennia-long patriarchal cultures that are in place in most parts of the world, cultures that falsely empower men to control those who are physically weaker. And our religions have either looked the other way or actually institutionalized this departure from biblical models, including Christianity. All of this morass has to do with what theologians call “the Fall,” that time when humans rebelled against the Creator God (who, by the way, is both feminine and masculine, see Genesis 1:27), and sex got completely tweaked. Moments after the Fall, Adam and Eve – or if you can’t handle that, the first man and woman – looked at each other, having a new knowledge of good and evil firmly implanted in their brains, and realized they were naked and were ashamed. Wow! Ashamed and guilty – and it is right here where the trouble is. Read the account below and see what you make of it. Here is Genesis 3:1-13: Now the serpent was more crafty than any other beast of the field that the Lord God had made. He said to the woman, “Did God actually say, ‘You shall not eat of any tree in the garden’?” 2 And the woman said to the serpent, “We may eat of the fruit of the trees in the garden, 3 but God said, ‘You shall not eat of the fruit of the tree that is in the midst of the garden, neither shall you touch it, lest you die.’ ” 4 But the serpent said to the woman, “You will not surely die. 5 For God knows that when you eat of it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.” 6 So when the woman saw that the tree was good for food, and that it was a delight to the eyes, and that the tree was to be desired to make one wise, she took of its fruit and ate, and she also gave some to her husband who was with her, and he ate. 7 Then the eyes of both were opened, and they knew that they were naked. And they sewed fig leaves together and made themselves loincloths. 8 And they heard the sound of the Lord God walking in the garden in the cool of the day, and the man and his wife hid themselves from the presence of the Lord God among the trees of the garden. 9 But the Lord God called to the man and said to him, “Where are you?” 10 And he said, “I heard the sound of you in the garden, and I was afraid, because I was naked, and I hid myself.” 11 He said, “Who told you that you were naked? Have you eaten of the tree of which I commanded you not to eat?” 12 The man said, “The woman whom you gave to be with me, she gave me fruit of the tree, and I ate.” 13 Then the Lord God said to the woman, “What is this that you have done?” The woman said, “The serpent deceived me, and I ate.” Guilt and Shame A careful interpreter could reel off pages of commentary and never get to the bottom of all that is in the above passage. But there is certainly guilt and shame. The balance between the man and the woman was gone. Together they reflected the Creator; now separate and apart life drastically changed and not for the better. Heterosexual marriage is now a mere shadow of what it was intended to be. Not until that which is called heaven and paradise, symbolized as a wedding between Christ, the groom, and the Church, His bride, will there be restitution and realization of the original intent of the Creator. Until then, well, we know the story, don’t we? Pleasure, contentment, fulfillment, completion, happiness, rightness – it was all there for Adam and Eve. These wonderful gifts were replaced with guilt and an abiding sense of shame. No matter how much pleasure might be found in a sexual act, it would never be, for anyone, what it could have been. So we have sin lodged right in the core of the identity of the human sexual experience. And heteros and homos have forever attempted to overcome guilt and shame. Within marriage between a man and a woman, however flawed and imperfect, is contained a hint and a promise of what will come in the grand eschaton, that end point when there will be a recreation and a new heaven and a new earth. What God started will be completed. God’s laws, the thou-shalt-nots, were intended to make the best of what is. Adultery, fornication, and homosexual acts are a breaking of the law and thus guilt and shame arise. That is just how it is. Though the LGBT community may succeed in all its demands for equality and normality, guilt and shame will remain. Could it be that the homosexual, who in the quest to irradiate homophobia, is really being driven by guilt and shame? If homosexual behavior is normal and good, then ought not the negative and powerful emotions go away? But they will not go away, since the ‘wrongness experience’ is hard wired into every human being. God made sex and meant it for both procreation and pleasure; it is a strong bond that keeps a husband and wife together. It is in that “one flesh” relationship where sex can be experienced absent guilt and shame. God-ordained and -approved sex is a wonderful thing. A marriage between a man and a woman allows for the freedom to develop a very sexy relationship, which is not driven by lust and a never-ending quest for fulfillment. Such a sexuality opens a door to a “peaceful easy feeling.” Is achieving equality enough? Victory won, normalcy and equality achieved, backed by the law of the land, and clear sailing ahead. All will be well, right? This has certainly not been so for heterosexuals, and the trend seems to be downward rather than the other way around. Will homosexuals fare better? Probably not. Sexuality is the human core identity, but it is not larger than the kingdom of God and life eternal. The fuss about homo and hetero phobias is magnified, because sex has become so very distorted and filled up with the hope of ultimate satisfaction. In sexuality, even for the most well adjusted and blissful heterosexual married couple, there will be disappointment and frustration. As they say, “Get over it.” Phobias must not drive our behavior Both hetero and homo phobia are expressions of sinfulness, not the sense of fear itself, but the acting out on the fears to the detriment of others. We are called to love our neighbor as ourselves, so we have to admit that expressing these phobias is wrong. At least, let us deal humanely and rationally with each other, homosexual and heterosexual. Let us hear and respect each other’s positions while not having to approve of them. If I could say that homosexual behavior is right, I would do so, but I cannot. I cannot say that the heterosexual’s adulteries and fornications are right, either. To approve homosexuality in any form, or to approve sex outside of marriage, is unacceptable from a biblical perspective. And to many, such is unacceptable. There is hope, strength, and dignity in saying “No.” The aberrational, criminal, abusive, or exploitive quest of self-centered sexual pleasure cannot be tolerated by a civilized society where the rights of the weak must be safeguarded. Heading off the steep cliff without an observer shouting out a warning is both negligence and unloving to the extreme. Enough of this phobia talk.