Were the Crusaders and Inquisitors Christians? Yes, No, Maybe

Were the Crusaders and Inquisitors Christians?

Yes, No, Maybe

Part One: The Crusaders

“Crusader” is a negative word to many, and maybe deservedly so, but we may have to reconsider that reactive position. Following is a brief summary and examination of the history of the crusades themselves. Perhaps we will be able to determine just how Christian or un-Christian the crusaders actually were.

There were eight crusades in all, from 1095 to 1294. Oddly enough, no Arab tribes played much of a role, if any, in fighting the crusaders. This is not to say that Muslim armies were not involved, but exactly who within Islam actually participated is another issue.

The French, led by Godfrey of Bouillon, initiated the first crusade. The purpose was to wrest control of Jerusalem away from the Muslim Seljuk Turks, who had taken it in 1070. Jerusalem had previously been part of the Fatimid Empire, composed mostly of Shia Berbers from North Africa, and during their control of the Holy City, Christians were allowed to visit their special religious sites. But such was not the case with the Seljuks, who violently persecuted the Christians and desecrated and destroyed churches. After a time, Pope Urban II called for the rescue of the Holy City from the Islamic infidels.

Bouillon, certainly a member of the Roman Catholic Church, managed to murder 70,000 Muslims and even burned down synagogues crowded with Jewish people hoping to escape the violence around them. Despite the slaughter, many of the European soldiers married local Muslim women and perhaps Jewish women, as well; they settled down, and for at least forty years the Christians and Muslims lived peacefully side-by-side.

The second crusade in 1144 was undertaken when a Kurdish army from Mosul (now in the modern state of Iraq) attacked a Christian fortress in Edessa (now in the modern state of Turkey). As a result, Pope Eugenius III called for a crusade. Two Christian armies, one French, the other German, were completely decimated by the Seljuk armies while on their way to join the battle at Edessa. A monk named Bernard of Clairvoux was engaged in this one. Following the crusade nearly forty more years of peace ensued.

The third crusade was dominated by the famous Kurd, Saladin (1137–1193), who became the Sultan of Egypt. His army defeated the crusader army at the Horns of Hittin on July 4, 1187, a site just above the Sea of Galilee. It proved to be the most famous of all the battles during the crusade period. Jerusalem surrendered, and Saladin dealt humanely with the survivors; there was no sacking or murdering, and the city was kept open to Christian pilgrims. But Jerusalem’s fall inspired the Holy Roman Emperor Frederick Barbarossa to call for a third crusade in 1189. He led a French army into Turkey, where he died crossing a creek. The Seljuks quickly destroyed his army.

There was, however, more to the third crusade. King Richard the Third of England (the “Lion Heart”) gathered an army of Norman Knights, set off for the Holy Land, and proceeded to capture Acre and Jaffa on the Mediterranean Coast, even defeating Saladin at the battle of Arsuf.

The two commanders treated each other with respect and signed a peace treaty on September 2, 1192, the terms of which left Jerusalem in the hands of the Muslims, while the Christians retained the coastal areas where Acre, Caesarea, and Jaffa were located.

Pope Innocent III in and around 1195 called the fourth crusade. This one had nothing to do with the Holy Land or Muslims, but the goal was to free up Jerusalem. The French crusaders entered Constantinople, home of the Greek Orthodox Church, who resented the presence of the Roman Catholics and rose up against the crusaders. In the battle that resulted, the crusader ‘Western’ Christians did not kill many Greek ‘Eastern’ Christians, but they did completely pillage the city. After a short period, the crusaders made off with their loot and headed for home. Nothing was accomplished.

Pope Honorius III, Innocent’s successor, who could not accept the results of the fourth crusade and called for a fifth, fomented the fifth crusade. This time mainly Germans and Hungarians marched off to Jerusalem by way of Egypt in 1217. The army spent three years in skirmishes with the Kurdish Ayyubids in Egypt. They failed to make headway and finally called it quits and sailed home.

The sixth crusade’s outstanding personality was the Holy Roman Emperor Frederick II who was the grandson of the famous Barbarossa. Now Jerusalem was ruled by John of Brienne, whose daughter was married to Frederick II, and thinking that marriage gave him authority over Jerusalem, he called for the sixth crusade in 1225. Due to the knowledge and negotiating skills of the remarkable Frederick, the crusade was peacefully conducted without one battle or casualty.

Frederick had studied a great deal about Islamic literature, science, and philosophy, which gave him a solid platform for interaction with the leader of the Islamic army, Malik al-Kamil, who was the nephew of the great Saladin. The two leaders resolved the confrontation by signing a ten-year treaty in 1229. (Ten years was the maximum time allowed for a treaty according to Sharia Law.) Christians and Muslims alike welcomed the terms of the treaty. Unhappily, the new pope, Pope Gregory IX, hated Frederick and refused to ratify the treaty, denouncing it vigorously.

Things went from bad to worse after Sultan Kamil’s death in 1238, when a maverick Turk from Russia named Baibars led a Mameluk (Muslim) army against Jerusalem, sacking it and slaughtering the citizens in 1244.

King Louis IX of France called the seventh crusade. In 1250 he brought an army to Egypt and sailed up the Nile to Cairo, where Baibars demolished his army. Baibars warred against everyone, Christian and Muslim alike, in an effort to establish his power and authority. His hate and murderous anger was mostly directed toward Christians, and he attacked one city after the other along the Mediterranean coast—Caesarea, Safad, Jaffa, and Antioch. He killed and enslaved thousands of Christians. Jerusalem was now firmly in the hands of Muslims, and the seventh crusade came to an end.

The eight crusade flowed out of the outrage perpetrated against Christians in the seventh crusade. Louis IX demanded a new crusade in the year 1270. His plan was to come through Tunis on the way to Egypt, but a few days after landing in Tunis he died of dysentery.

Baibars had not conquered one target, Acre, the site of a truly strong fortress. He died in 1277 (these crusades could last years), and his successor, Sultan Khalil, managed to finally defeat the crusaders at Acre in 1291, killing or enslaving some 60,000 Christians there.

Impact of the Crusades

 The crusades deepened the divide between the Eastern and Western wings of the Catholic Church, a rift that was already underway.

Related to that, the crusades greatly weakened the Byzantine Empire, which succeeded the Holy Roman Empire.

The crusades also permanently embittered relations between Christians and Muslims, and they are used to this day to rationalize a continuing hatred that often erupts into violence. The fact that both Christians and Muslims committed horrible atrocities is often forgotten or conveniently submerged. Muslims have cited Christian crusader actions as justification for their own brutality. This is not a surmise, but openly declared by contemporary Islamic jihadists, whose portfolio of rallying cries includes something close to, “Remember the crusades.” They legitimize their call for revenge by pointing to what the Christians did in the crusades. This is completely disingenuous, of course, but nevertheless effective.

Promotion of religion by force of arms demonstrates weakness of ideals, ethics, and message. To spread the faith by means of intimidation is the worst possible program, one that no one can really respect. Not only the Muslims but also Christians have been guilty here. (This topic will be explored in greater detail in the second section of this essay, the Inquisitors.)

As early as the fifth century, and many say long before, becoming a Christian required baptism by an ordained priest of the one Catholic and Apostolic Church. Faith and grace now abandoned, the Church became a power structure and fell into the same tactics employed by any other secular institutions. Some use the word “Christendom” to describe the Church as empire combining religion with the state.

The crusades marked a departure from the Church’s mission to preach the Gospel to all nations. By picking up the sword, it was giving in to the barbaric culture of that day. The Church was intertwined with the state, the state using the Church and the Church using the state to advance goals and consolidate power.

As a result, the core doctrine of conversion was severely compromised. To coerce a person into leaving one faith for another is absolutely unbiblical. Requiring a choice of whether to convert, die, or pay the tax is not exactly proper evangelism, but the Church was guilty of this just as were the Muslims, and contemporary Muslims still employ these means. It cannot be said today that the Christian Church advances by means of force and fear.[1]

The same crusader mentality that was seen in the crusades also resulted in the persecution of whom we today call evangelical Christians, especially those who reject infant baptism, transubstantiation (Jesus being actually present in the Bread and the Cup), and the necessity of receiving other sacraments in order to go to heaven—in other words, those who adhere to salvation by grace alone, faith alone, and Christ alone.

The story of two ancestors of mine might be of interest now. The first is about Sir John Philpott.

John Philpott was a “Salter and Pepperer” (a grocer) who lived in the latter part of the fourteenth century in London, England, while the One Hundred Years War with France was underway. He relied on his merchant fleet to bring foodstuffs into England from the Continent, but with a combination of a weak English king and an aggressive French king, Philpott’s business was faltering. He was able, however, to convince the English king to allow him to outfit his ships into a navy and be crewed by convicts from London’s prisons, of which there were plenty. The result was a series of victories by Philpott’s navy, and on the strength of that he was elected Lord Mayor of London in 1388 and 1389. He was a faithful Christian, and in his will he left 100 pounds to the poor of London at Christmas time. In the old city of London there is still Philpott Lane where a plaque commemorating this faithful Catholic and Christian man has been installed.

Then there was another Englishman, again named John Philpott, this time living in the sixteenth century. He was a Puritan, meaning he hoped that the newly founded Church of England that broke away from the Roman Church, precipitated by King Henry VIII, would be purified, that is, would conform more closely to what we see of church in the New Testament. Philpott was forced into the Court of the Inquisitors and found guilty. Refusing to recant, he was burned at the stake in 1555. (Burning at the stake was used, because it was thought that would make a bodily resurrection impossible.)

Part Two: The Inquisition

 Although the story of the development of the Church in the centuries leading up to the “Dark Ages” (stretching from approximately 500 to 1500 A.D.) is not so easy to uncover, there is evidence that the faith of Jesus and the early disciples was not extinguished. That it was diverted, perverted, and undermined, especially toward the ending of the third century, is fairly plain history, at least as evangelicals read it.

During that dark time, the vibrant faith we see in the New Testament gradually shifted to a more formalized, mechanical, ritualistic, even magical understanding of what it meant to be a follower of Jesus. Especially after the so-called conversion of Constantine in the early fourth century, people became members of the Church and counted among the faithful despite their never hearing the real Gospel message nor knowing much of anything about the core doctrines of Scripture.

The power of the Church over salvation, the only really important issue in life, was under the control of an ecclesiastical hierarchy. Those who rebelled against this were the targets of the Inquisition, the first Court of which was formed around the year A.D. 1231 and continued for some three or four centuries. From the Church’s point of view, the Inquisition was necessary, because many good Catholics were turning away from the doctrines of the Church, especially after publication of the Bible in common languages, which allowed people to see what the Bible actually said and taught. For nearly a thousand years it had been hidden in a dark covering of non-intelligible Latin, Greek, or Hebrew.

Reacting against the common person’s new biblical understanding and its effect of causing questions about the Church’s doctrines, the Church then considered ‘heresy’ to be the most heinous of all crimes.[2] There is evidence that many of the Church leaders were troubled by the means selected to keep the Church pure. Often the Church would plea with the secular authorities that sentences to be carried out mercifully. However, we know that the Cathari (or Albigenses) and the Waldenses were persecuted, sometimes to death, during the 1220s by the order of Pope Gregory IX.

Fringe Christian groups were not the only ones to find their way into the court of the Inquisition, a court with judge and prosecutors. As with John Philpott in 1555, the point at the center of the trials had to do with the elements of the Mass, otherwise known as Communion, Eucharist, or the Lord’s Supper. Along with the Reformers (i.e., Martin Luther and John Calvin), Philpott believed the bread of the Eucharist was just bread and the juice in the cup just juice. But the Church had developed the concept that the bread was transformed by an act of the priest into the actual body, the flesh, of Jesus. Likewise, the juice invisibly became the actual blood of Jesus.

Two Latin words were actually pronounced by the priest before the Mass began—“hocus pocus”—and when the words were pronounced, the magical power inherited from Peter and passed down through the priesthood transformed the substances, shazam!

How this came to be is not possible to describe here, but there is an actual history to it. The short version is this: The Church had become far too Western in its understanding of the Middle-Eastern document we call the Bible, both Old and New Testaments. And when Jesus said, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood, you have no life in you. Whoever feeds on my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life, and I will raise him up on the last day. For my flesh is true food, and my blood is true drink” (John 6:53-55), the Roman Church took these words literally.

To take Jesus’ words literally, however, would have been impossible for a Jewish person in that era, the previous era, and the following era. And the early history of the Church clearly reveals that the passage was taken metaphorically, after all the Church was mostly made up of Jews for about a generation. The point was that the disciples were to trust in and believe in Jesus as the Savior and that His death on the cross, with His broken body and shed blood, was the once-forever sacrifice for sin. Therefore, long after the ‘Eastern’ sense of things was lost, the ‘Western’ mindset misunderstood much of the nature of and means of redemption or salvation.

The Inquisition was aimed at Christians, but Muslims and Jews were also tried, and many were executed. It is only natural that Muslims and Jews would have a negative reaction to this, and it is certainly possible that it yet lingers as something else horrible that ‘Christendom’ did.

During the period of the Inquisition there were undoubtedly thousands of bishops, priests, and regular members of the Church who sincerely thought they were being faithful Christians on both sides of the Inquisitors’ charges, those targeted and those hurling them. Undoubtedly, there were thousands of Christians who were horrified at what was being done. And during the period of history when the church and state were wed, significant resistance was virtually out of the question. Such resistance did come, in 1517, under the inspiration of a Catholic monk named Martin Luther.

PART THREE: YES, NO, MAYBE

Were those who conducted the Inquisition real Christians?

Were the crusaders real Christians?

Were the Muslims who fought against the crusaders real Muslims? Or, to put it another way, are those Muslims who engage in violent jihad the real Muslims?

To these questions the answer is, Yes, No, and Maybe.

Looking at Christians

It must be said that no one could possibly know for sure whether real and actual born again Christians committed atrocities against Muslims and Jews, in that day or in this. Even had a group of careful observers watched the murder of Muslims and Jews at the hand of people known as Christians during the crusades and at other times, would it have been clear which was the right conclusion? The proper answer would have to be No!

Why is this so? The core of the answer lies in the mystery of conversion. Sure, one can be baptized, join a church, and reform his or her life, but this is far from genuine Christian conversion. Being a part of a church does not mean one is a Christian. Conversion means that the Holy Spirit indwells the one believing in Jesus, the one who has had all sin removed and forgiven. It is a profound spiritual experience, not an intellectual or emotional one. It is something God does completely apart from anything an individual can do. It is miracle and mystery. Every pastor who has ministered to a congregation for ten or more years knows that in that congregation are those who have truly been born again and those who have not.

Not that every real Christian does right and lives right. A Christian is growing up into the fullness of Christ, little by little, first as an infant, then a toddler, young child, older child, adolescent, teen ager, young adult, adult, older adult, and senior. Still after a lifetime of maturing, the Christian is not anywhere perfect until in heaven and in the presence of our holy God.

Is it possible that a Christian could be deceived into thinking that killing and persecuting others because they believed differently is justified? Yes, it is possible.

Might Christians commit horrific acts because they were told to do so by powerful religious authorities? Yes, it is possible.

Would a biblically literate Christian believe they were serving God by persecuting or even killing “infidels”? No, unless there was some unknown source of intimidation going on behind the scenes, and/or such Christian had his or her mind bent to the point that they became merely tools of evil.

Perhaps the right answer for all of these questions is, maybe!

Would persecuting or killing a non-Christian win approval with God? Would it ensure a place in heaven? To both of these, the answer is an unequivocal, No!

Would defending the cause of Christianity, the Church, a Christian leader, or anything else in all creation through harming others merit the favor of God? Certainly not! Would dying in defense of the God of Scripture assure a place in paradise? In no way!

This is my solemn opinion as a follower of Jesus.

Looking at Muslims

 It is understood by a growing number of Christians and non-Christians alike that what is observed in the Islamic State (IS), and all those who practice violent jihad, does not represent true Islam. However, this is debatable.

Muhammad did force non-Muslims into submission and made them pay a tax to stay alive. Muhammad did behead captured enemies, or at least ordered such and then observed the process. He did cut off the hands of thieves. He did arrange that captured women and children be sold as slaves. He did permit captured women to be taken as concubines; in fact, his last wife was a beauty he had rescued from a Jewish tribe that the Muslim army had defeated. Muhammad authorized lying if and when the cause of Islam was being defended or advanced. He did practice forced conversions. Whatever Muhammad did in his lifetime, as spelled out in the Qur’an, found in the Hadiths or in the biography of Muhammad written by Ibn Ishaq, are being imitated by the Islamic State now. And this the Caliphate does not deny but proudly embraces.

Not only not deny, but IS would view non-compliance to be at minimum weakness, if not downright apostasy. This is the present state of affairs. Muhammad taught that Islam would be global and the entire world would then be at peace, and it was the task of Muslims to bring this about. Anything less than is un-Islamic.

Then there is Salafism. This term describes Muslims who practice a conservative, even radical form of their faith. They attempt to imitate Muhammad and hope to live under Sharia Law. It is just that they cannot do so except in a place where it is politically and culturally possible. “Most Salafis are not jihadists, and most adhere to sects that reject the Islamic State” writes Graeme Wood in his March, 2015, article in Atlantic entitled, “What ISIS Really Wants.” They might, however, if given the chance, be every bit as strict as violent jihadists. Wood states that Salafis might implement “monstrous practices such as slavery and amputation – but at some future point.” The Salafis’ stated agenda is to purify their personal lives, including personal hygiene, and to be faithful in prayer and observance of all standard forms of the main rituals of Islam.

Are all those who promote and are part with violent jihadists real Muslims? If the answer is No, then it must be asked, “How could this be?”

There are many reasons why one would turn to violent jihad other than wanting to live like Muhammad. Is it possible that young men and women living in very poor circumstances, without much of a future, could be recruited into something they would later regret? Perhaps peer pressure overcomes them. Perhaps boredom, hopelessness, or a strong sense of inferiority might trigger the desire for a radical change in living. By means of the Internet, which jihadists use but detest at the same time, they recruit these vulnerable youth.

The Internet also shows clearly what is available in the western world, and could envy be an instigating element that plays on the Muslim mind? Or, might a motivator be a chance for a quick ticket to paradise and seventy-two virgins, which may appear to be about the only way to get love?[3] Might young men and women be driven to distraction, to a cultic or toxic state of mind and made willing to do about anything to lift themselves out of depression and despair?

Since Islam is both religion and state, which predominates? Or is there such a blending that there is no religion or state, just Islam? Islam is yet very much tribally oriented, one tribe against another, which is plain to see in daily news stories. Is the Muslim fighting for Muhammad, the imam, the umma (Muslim community), the political boundary, or just what? This question might receive a hundred different answers, and silence as an answer could be expected.

Are all fighters with al-Qaeda, the Taliban, the various Shia and Sunni militias, even with ISIS, true Muslims? Yes, No, and Maybe! Only God knows.

Kent Philpott

February 25, 2015

[1] Instances of wrongly motivated attempts to convert so-called “primitive” people groups were occurring well into the nineteenth century, e.g., forcing of Western/Christian culture and religion on native Americans on reservations and similar activities by Britain in India. Broadening the argument to include these examples or others is not possible in the space allowed, but we acknowledge needing to discuss this elsewhere.

[2] One is reminded of the mindset of extreme fundamentalist Muslims today, i.e., ISIS.

[3] Have you ever wondered at how confused Muslim sexuality must be, in places dominated by the imams at the mosques for sure, what with honor killings, female circumcision, arranged marriages, veiled females, often from head to toe, polygamy, no dating, no public canoodling, no nothing really, and everything associated with love and sex declared to be sin and worthy of lashes and other forms of mistreatment.

Fishing and Farming

Fishing and Farming

I have done some fishing—not as much as I would like—but I do plan to do more in years to come. And I’ve done some farming—only in the back yard—yet it is has been a dream of mine. Maybe a plot of land with a trout creek winding through it…One can at least dream.

Wait a minute here: I am a fisherman and a farmer already, actually somewhat of a journeyman, if my many years of experience count. And, biblically speaking, we all are. Now is my opportunity to speak of some of the finer points of both fishing and farming.

Going Fishing

Jesus said to Peter and Andrew his brother, who were both actual fishermen, “Follow me, and I will make you fishers of men” (Matthew 4:19).

They knew how to use nets and drag lines with baited hooks. They loved the big hauls, and they also knew the disappointment of fishing all day and night without a bite. They learned to take the bad with the good.

After the resurrection, Jesus appeared to Peter, Thomas, Nathanael, James and John Zebedee, and two other unnamed disciples on the shore of the Sea of Tiberias (Galilee). The seven fishermen toiled all night but did not catch even one fish. Before the disciples knew it was Jesus, they were told by a person on the shore to cast their net “on the right side of the boat and you will find some” (John 21:6). It turned out there were 153 fish in the net they dragged to shore. Jesus then cooked up some of the fish for a joyous breakfast.

Fishing = evangelism. The great commission to make disciples of all nations, to take the saving message of the cross to the entire world—this missionary evangelism may be likened to fishing.

The knowledgeable fisherman is patient. He or she throws out the bait, using the best possible methods appropriate to the stream, lake, or sea. Then the wait, being alert for the nibble, the stiffening line, the tip of the pole suddenly bent, and there is a fish on the line. Sometimes the hook is not set just right and the fish flops off, perhaps to be caught at a later time by someone else—this is fishing. Sometimes nothing, sometimes just a few, or sometimes a full net.

The fisherman lives to fish, dreams of fishing, speaks of fishing, is among family and friends who also fish, and though success might be illusive, the fishing goes on.

The metaphor is perfect; Peter and the rest, fishermen they were and fish they did, and the impact of their catch impacts us yet.

My dad taught us Philpott boys how to fish when we were little and took us with him to streams and rivers all over the Portland, Oregon area: the Willamette, Sandy, Columbia, and many of the streams whose headwaters were on Mt. Hood, like the Clackamus. Fish, fish, fish—we loved it and I still do, and both kinds.

Trout on the line—a person who comes to Christ through a simple witness of the grace and love we see in His cross—this is what it is all about, that specialness that the fisherman alone knows.

Farming

Jesus’ parable of the Sower is one I have long considered a favorite. It is about a farmer who plants seeds, and the message of this parable is of great importance to all Christians.

The sower goes out to sow. (I am looking at Mark’s rendering of the parable found in 4:1-9, and also at Jesus’ explanation as to it’s meaning in verses 13-20.)

This is how it works: the farmer, the sower, goes out into the field. That is half of it or even more—the going out. The seed we understand to be the “word” of God, the story of who Jesus is and what Jesus did, and the word is scattered about.

There are many soils, many terrains, and many different climates and weather patterns; thus each farm must be dealt with differently, but the seed is sown nonetheless.

The farmer casts the seed about, and it ends up all over the place—on the road, in rocky areas, among weeds, and even some on really good dirt. There is a certain extravagance here—the farmer lets go handfulls of seed, scattered almost to the wind. The tiny seeds fall where they may.

The farmer knows that only some of the seed will yield a crop, the birds will get their share, the rocks will prevent a real plant from developing, and weeds will choke out plants that looked healthy at first. Despite it all, there will be fruit in varying amounts.

Some farmers will see a large harvest, others somewhat less, still others not so much. That is merely a detail. The great thing is to be a farmer, a sower of seeds, and then wait and see what God will do. We may have the best seed and the finest soil, but it all depends on what God has in mind. And we do not find fault, blame ourselves, or even compare ourselves to other farmers. It is just good to be there in the fields, throwing out the seed as best we are able.

Fishing and sowing—the great adventure, a privilege beyond description; and we get to do this.

Kent Philpott

February 5, 2015

Sarah Young and Jesus Calling

Sarah Young and Jesus Calling

Sarah Young practices ‘listening prayer’, in which she hears messages directly communicated from Jesus. It is a technique she describes in her bestselling book Jesus Calling, which has sold over 9 million copies in 26 languages. This book is the 5th bestseller for the first half of 2013 for all books, not just Christian books. Through it all, the author maintains a low profile, partly due to physical disabilities, and thus she is relatively unknown. She has experienced chronic physical difficulties for many years and writes inspiringly of her loving connection with whom or what she thinks is Jesus; the messages comfort and encourage her.

It all began with Sarah wondering if she could receive messages during times of prayer. She hoped God would talk to her personally. And it began to happen. And yes, she believes that Jesus is really and actually speaking with her. She prays then listens, and He answers. This has been her experience for many years.

As she hears she journals what she hears, and after a number of years she published some of what she heard. Readers and prayer groups are encouraged and comforted by the messages, and as sales of books demonstrate, she has a growing audience. Many thousands are now taking up the practice of listening prayer.

The key question which must be asked is, who is speaking? Is it possible there is a clever demonic counterfeit here?

Over the centuries Christians have thought that God does speak to them. Richard Foster, who champions contemplative prayer or meditative prayer, defends Young’s practice. He has modeled his own recommendations for deep meditation and contemplation on what Theresa of Avila, St. John of the Cross, Ignatius Loyola, and many others practiced and experienced centuries ago. What Young does is the same as or quite similar to the exercises of these so-called Christian mystics.

Sarah Young describes her own custom as meditating on Scripture and then waiting quietly to hear a reply from Jesus. When Jesus speaks she writes down what she heard or was placed on her heart. The words or messages are not revelatory in the sense of prophecy or fortune telling she insists; the content of the messages are fairly ordinary and biblically based. The Bible plays a major role in Sarah’s life and she firmly believes it is the inspired revelation of God, however, and it is a huge however, she wanted more than what the Bible offers. She indeed got more and has come to rely on these communications, the “encouraging directives from the Creator,” as she likes to say.

But there is a worrisome twist.  When Young journals the words spoken by Jesus they are written in the first person with Jesus as the person speaking. It is not, “Jesus said,” rather it is, “Focus on me.” Since she purports to write down whatever Jesus says readers of her book must conclude that her journal is as authoritative as the Bible, almost a fifth Gospel. If this is not so, then Jesus Calling is a false writing, an imitation, albeit very clever, of a revelation from God.

Young’s error then is serious and similar to that of the Course in Miracles, supposedly communicated by Jesus to Helen Schucman in the 1970s. Schucman’s Jesus dictated profoundly spiritual concepts to her, which she wrote down, and one of the most successful new age cults was born. Schucman’s Jesus bears little resemblance to the biblical Jesus, unlike Young’s Jesus, but could this make the counterfeit even more difficult to detect?

Young’s book sales are phenomenal, and again I cannot help but be reminded of Helen Schucman and the Course in Miracles. As I study Jesus Calling I do see a difference in the two books. Young’s book is far more biblically Christian than Schucman’s. The difference is clear and I am tempted to embrace Young’s claim to hear the voice of Jesus. But it will not work. There is neither biblical precedent nor warrant for quieting oneself, praying, and then listening for Jesus to speak. This is perhaps the most serious and dangerous counterfeit to be found in the broad spectrum that is Charisma today.

The Jesus supposedly speaking to Sarah Young is very affirming and encouraging, but little else. The messages lack the doctrinal content of the real Jesus found in Scripture. In fact, when one orders one of Sarah’s books on Amazon.com one sees that those who bought Sarah’s book also like the books of Joyce Meyer and Joel Osteen – purveyors of the health, wealth, and prosperity gospel. Sarah’s Jesus is more like a warm fuzzy teddy bear.

Let me note that nowhere in Scripture does God promise to speak individually to believers or answer prayer by speaking directly to the one praying. This is the critical point. What I discovered in my decades of ministry is that, if you want to hear things from God you will, eventually. But the communication is not from God, however real and spiritual the communication might be.

John 10:27 is quoted by proponents of Young’s book as proof that Jesus speaks directly to His ‘”sheep.” “My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me.” To “hear” is to know Jesus as the Good Shepherd as distinct from a false shepherd or a wolf; the literal application of “hear” does not work here. It is the Holy Spirit who indwells the believer at conversion who “bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God” (Romans 8:16).

An instruction for believers to listen for the actual voice of Jesus is foreign to the New Testament writings. There is nothing in Scripture about praying then listening for a response. It is surprising that so many do not know this. Churches across the country have “prayer” groups devoted to Young’s methods. It illustrates the fascination with feelings and direct experiences rather than seeking to learn what the Word of God actually teaches.

We are all hungry to know more of God and little by little we do grow up into the fullness of the stature of Christ. (see Ephesians 4:1-16) Following Jesus is a lifelong process and there are no short cuts. Quick and easy methods of “going direct” to the source can be addictive and difficult to disengage from. Christians, yet sinners and living in a sinful world, are pilgrims and the road is straight and narrow and often filled with pain and sorrow. God hears our prayers, does strength and comfort us, but speaks to us through the Scripture. That is enough for us. We do not need more. Eve wanted more and she got it, but it brought disaster upon her and all of us.

A Church Newsletter

This post is the newsletter I prepared for the church of which I am pastor. There is a wider message, one which may be of some value to those who are not the direct recipients of the original newsletter.

Dear Church Family

Yesterday afternoon, right after the Thanksgiving dinner leftovers, I headed out into the neighborhood where our church building is and had a most wonderful time. I came back with 13 less booklets titled, God’s Glory, which is a handsome yearly calendar with lots of extras, plus a music CD, and a book mark with a schedule of our meetings. On the reverse side there is a wonderful piece Katie wrote, which I read to all 4 of the people I had a chance to talk with and which proved to be a perfect ice breaker. Every one of these was divorced and knew about our workshop, and this lead into a couple of rather deep conversations. I was surprised at how these people had very positive things to say about our MAC and every one of them said they would like to visit.

I intend to continue this “invitation evangelism” every afternoon after lunch that I can. Years ago I did this same thing and it yielded some fruit. There are about 40 booklets left and I am going to get them all out, by God’s grace, in the next couple of weeks.

The Friday before this past Sunday (November 30), Katie and I went into San Francisco to get some video footage for a book trailer we are getting ready for Memoirs of a Jesus Freak. Though we did not intend for this to happen, it was a fantastic time of witnessing and it was like the old days, and I mean the late 1960s and I was reminded that the real thrill and adventure of the Christian life is doing what Jesus said to do — proclaim the Gospel to all. In a way I am failing you if I do not encourage you to be a witness. Yes indeed, there is a genuine fear factor involved, the fear of rejection or humiliation. I mean, what if you run into someone you know.  These issues are soon overcome however. Now, I do not want to make anyone feel bad, and I certainly intend to go about the neighborhood by myself, even without Katie, because I think one person knocking on the door is less intimidating, but I must say that we are all called to tell others about Jesus and this is the best time of year to do so.

For some reason, I have been lately energized to reach out to Muslim people. I am past the point where I am concerned and worried about the Islamists and terrorists, that is real concern certainly, but more than that I have been given a heart to reach out to these poor people who have been captivated by a demonically oriented religion. And they are helpless to get out,  the vast majority of them, though some do leave Islam and at at price. In January, actually the 17th and 31st, Saturdays, from 10am to noon, we will be studying Islam. But, you must let me know so I can order the proper number of books. Already there are five indicating they want to be involved and I have already started feeding them some books. And guaranteed, this will change your life. Hey, you know what, us old preachers, we just never give up. We still have a reason to get up every day and go to the work. And who knows how much time we have left.

Now Christmas — for me and so many this special time of the year is a mixed bag. I love it really, the tunes go through my head, those lovely hymns I have known so long and which get richer in meaning as the years roll on; yet there is a certain melancholy for me right in the middle of it, and sometimes to the point I am merely hoping to get through till January in one piece. Long ago I stopped trying to be a cheer leader, jumping up and down and waving pom poms about how happy we all ought to be. After all, we are not children anymore. I prefer our low key celebrating of the season at MAC with our focus on the great traditions of Christmas and the core meaning of Christmas. And we spend a considerable amount of time together, in table fellowship especially.

This will be my seventy-second Christmas. It has been a good run and by God’s grace there may be some more. My dear friends, a most merry Christmas to you all.

 

Clearing up errors I made in last post

Dear Friends, I made 2 errors in the post I submitted yesterday.

 One, the actual URL is:

http://www.evpbooks.com/Deliver-Us-from-Evil-How-Jesus-Casts-Out-Demons-Today-PB-14.htm

 Two, the 20% discount is friendofEVP. Before the evp was not capitalized as it should be.

 Then, we discovered that the postage was not right either, so in a short time today it will be reduced. Sorry for the error.

 Kent

Deliver us from Evil: How Jesus Casts Out Demons Today

8 years ago I was asked to write a book about a subject I had engaged in for several decades, a ministry that I wish would simply go away. However, it looks like it has come back around. I am talking about casting demons out of people possessed by them.

In the early 1970s I did a master’s thesis titled, A Manual of Demonology and the Occult. Zondervan Publishing did just that, they published it and for many years people came from all over this country, and foreign countries to have demons cast out of them.

My college background is psychology and my career goal was to be a high school counselor. Oh well, right at the very end of a MA in psych at Sacramento State I bailed and enrolled at Golden Gate Baptist Theological Seminary in Mill Valley, CA.. I was shocked to find that the professors took demons realistically, but I did not. My training helped me think that what Jesus encountered was mental illness. I clung to that until it became impossible to do so.

Then after ten years of continual ministry to those who had demonic spirits, the ministry slowly dissolved due to lack of people wanting it. Over the years there have been some seeking deliverance, but now it is heating up again.

Now then the second edition, and an expanded edition by 30%, and a name change, we have 92 pages of how to deal with those who are seeking relief from the horrors of demonic spirits.

Essentially it is a rather simple working that most Christians can engage in. This new edition will help with that and that is my goal. Here are the chapter headings:

Jesus Casts Out demons

Jesus’ Disciples Cast Out Demons

Casting Out Demons After the New Testament Era

A Theology of the demonic

How People are Indwelt by Demons

Can Christians have demons?

How to Cast Out Demons

Hearing Voices

More on How to Become Possessed by Demons

After Care

Epilogue

There you have it. If you go to http://www.evpbooks.com/Deliver-Us-from-Evil-How-Jesus-Casts-Out-Demons-Today

and type in friendofevp you will receive a 20% discount, and my recollection is the book is selling for $8.95.

The Third Heaven

The Third Heaven

 

Paul once said that he went to the third heaven: “I know a man in Christ who fourteen years ago was caught up to the third heaven — whether in the body or out of the body I do not know, God knows.”

 “And I know that this man was caught up into paradise — whether in the body or out of the body I do not know, God knows — and he heard things that cannot be told, which man may not utter. On behalf of this man I will boast, but on my own behalf I will not boast, except of my weaknesses” (2 Corinthians 12:2-5).

      Most commentators think 2 Corinthians was written in AD 55-57. So this vision occurred 14 years earlier, around the time of Paul”s second visit to Jerusalem and before his first missionary journey.

 Visions

 This experience may have been, it is speculated, Paul”s third vision. His visions can be listed as follows: the glorified Christ on the day of his conversion (Acts 9:3; 22:6); Ananias coming to him (Acts 9:12); the Lord showing that he would minister to the Gentiles (Acts 22:17);

      Paul”s call to Macedonia (Acts 16:9); encouragement in Corinth (Acts 18:9-10); after arrest in Jerusalem (Acts 23:11); during a storm at sea (Acts 27:23); and insight into the mysteries of Christ (Ephesians 3:1-6).

      It is likely this mention was the first Paul ever made about being into the third heaven, and he only did so because detractors in the Corinthian church were challenging his status as an apostle and thereby attempting to downgrade his teaching.

      These critics elevated themselves by claiming supernatural knowledge obtained by means of dreams and visions. For millennia shamans had claimed direct encounters with supernatural entities and this tradition was alive and well in the Graeco-Roman world. It is alive and well in our own day too.

      Reluctantly, Paul describes a vision he had, in order to assert his status as a true apostle of Christ. He did not employ typical shamanistic language, however; nor did he use such trance-inducing techniques as meditation, mind altering substances, dancing or physical deprivation.

 Third heaven

 Paul had been to the “third heaven” — surely a way of describing the real presence of the transcendent God. He humbly refers to himself in the third person, as being “caught up” there.

      Paul”s experience came to him in much the same way as John”s on Patmos. He did not seek it; there was no “soul journey”, no mediumistic trance and no paganistic transportation facilitated by spirit guides. Without warning, he was suddenly seeing that which later he would not speak of, even if he were able. He simply did not know whether he was in the body or out of the body.

      Also, “he heard things that cannot be told, which man may not utter”. Commentators suggest four possible meanings for this puzzling statement. First, he was warned not to speak of what he had seen; second, he could not find suitable words to describe it; third, it would have done harm to do so; or fourth, to reveal the vision would make it seem as though he had lost his mind. Whatever the meaning, Paul never revealed anything other than the fact of his vision.

      In complete contrast, Kat Kerr, a 60-year-old woman living in Florida (and sporting pinkish hair dyed, she insists, “in obedience” to God” command), has written a bookentitled Revealing heaven: an eyewitness account. In it she reports on her direct encounters, her visits and conversations with “the Father” in heaven”s “throne room”.

      Kerr is radically different from Paul in that there is no hesitancy on her part; she freely talks about what she sees and hears. It is apparent that her mission is to communicate what she has experienced in her visits to the “throne room”.

      On one occasion the Father escorted her via time travel to the very occasion when Jesus was crucified; she says she was right there at the cross of Calvary. Not only that, she was there at the resurrection. Not even the shamans have been as brazen as that!

 Apology

 As with the psychics and mediums of spiritism, she also “visits” deceased loved ones, in order to bring back reports to the bereaved on their status. Always she reports that the departed are safe in heaven, much to the bereaved’s comfort. In one instance, according to her testimony, a person who had lost a loved one was surprised to hear of the deceased person being in heaven at all!

      She reports that every human being has at least one guardian angel from the moment of conception. These angels go with believers along the road of life and at death accompany them all the way to heaven. Sometimes, however, Jesus personally does the work of escorting to heaven, at least for those who have been especially faithful.

      She has learned that, if a person does bad things while on earth, the guardian angel is owed an apology upon arrival in heaven!

      Kat Kerr recounts her own conversion experience when aged four, then again aged five when she prayed “the sinner’s prayer” just to be sure. She is of a Pentecostal persuasion and her rapidly growing audience is primarily among Charismatics and Pentecostals.

      It is not necessary to continue detailing the incredible things Kerr reports about her frequent visits to heaven; these can be garnered by visiting YouTube.

      One either accepts what she says is true or disagrees and objects. In the latter circumstance, it is tantamount to declaring her a false prophet. The Old Testament penalty for false prophecy was stoning, although the New Testament settles for rejecting the message.

 Spiritism

 There are further dangerous aspects to Kat Kerr”s ministry. First, acceptance of it opens the door to connection with spiritism and shamanism, for this is essentially what she is up to.

      We do not find mention in the New Testament of congregations developing such connections. The experiences of Paul and John were exceptional and were not in any way the same as Kerr”s.

      Second, there is a mind bending process going on. People have to suspend scepticism in order to accept the often-bizarre nature of what she proclaims.

      Third, Kerr reveals a not-so-subtle expectation that others could or should be doing what she herself is doing. You too can visit heaven and talk with the Father; and here”s how — so why don”t you? Christians will be moved along a slippery slope into the occult realm.

      Fourth, those critical in their analysis are likely to be regarded as blaspheming the Spirit or rejecting what God is doing in “these last days”.

      Paul does not state that he spoke with any person within the Godhead in the third heaven; Kat Kerr, on the other hand, does. Her picture of the Father is akin to a description of conversation with a human friend. I think that this is exactly the relationship Kerr intends to convey — that she has such an exalted status that she is able to be in the very presence of God and talk directly with him just as Adam and Eve spoke with the Creator God in the Garden of Eden before the Fall.

      But Paul speaks of God”s utter transcendence: “He who is the blessed and only Sovereign, the King of kings and Lord of lords, who alone has immortality, who dwells in unapproachable light, whom no one has ever seen or can see” (1 Timothy 6:15-16).

      It is true that the Spirit indwells all born again Christians and, through Christ, they have access to the Father in prayer. The Scripture also affirms that we rest in the finished work of Christ and cease from our efforts of trying save ourselves.

      But that does not mean we treat God as just another friend or buddy. Kerr ignores the historical Christian understanding of God”s otherness and claims to have been repeatedly in his presence as though she were nearly his equal. This cannot be accepted or ignored.

 False prophets

 Kat Kerr is not the first to claim conscious contact with heavenly beings. One thinks of Muhammad, Joseph Smith, David Berg of the Children of God, Sung Myung Moon and countless others.

      The claiming of special revelation is standard fare in the spiritual market place. There are others too today currently claiming familiar heavenly conversations with the angels, Jesus and the Father.

      We must recognize that not everyone who claims spiritual experiences has to be accepted and believed. In the last days there will be false signs and wonders performed through the power of Satan; and deceptive attacks and demonic tricks are often played out within the Christian community.

      We are to “watch and pray”, as Jesus told his disciples that last night in Gethsemane. “Beloved, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits, whether they are of God; because many false prophets have gone out into the world” (1 John 4:1).

 

                                                                                                                               

The Book Convention in Atlanta

Late June Katie and I were part of the annual book convention for retailers in Atlanta when America’s Christian book publisher display their goods. We were with the Christian Small Publishers Association, which made it financially possible to part of the event. I have been many times as an author, but the first time now as a publisher.

We had 3 book signings, one for the Awakenings in American and the Jesus People Movement, a second for If the devil wrote a bible, and a third for Memoirs of a Jesus Freak. These last two attracted a lot of attention. We wanted to do a fourth signing for the newest book, out now less than a month, our The Soul Journey: How Shamanism, Santeria, Wicca, and Charisma are Connected we had on display only and it garnered a whole lot of interest.

I am a poor sales person, maybe too shy, but anyway, I invite folks to look at especially the Soul Journey book. It is absolutely unique and in my view will prove of value to all who read it. It is available at our online store as well as at amazon.com. Hoping you will get it at our store, www.evpbooks.com since authors and publishers make very little through amazon and this was a costly book, 3 years in preparation. Please check it out.

 

Mindfulness

Mindfullness

In Sunday’s Washington Post, May 25, 2014, is a story about a Buddhist teacher/therapist who works with military veterans who suffer from Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. Her theory, as outlined by the Post journalist, is that keeping one’s mind on the here and now is healing.

            Focus, center on you right now, where you are, how you feel, right now, seems to sum up her approach. Question: Is this ego-centric? If you think about others or troubles you are presently facing, are you still being mindful? I suspect some will find a measure of relief while others will not.

            Perhaps being mindful is beneficial, and like everything else of course, it is debatable.      

            Mindfulness! I read this often, hear this often, after all I live in Mill Valley, California which is a bastion for Buddhist and yoga-style meditators. One of my friends at our local gym is the director of a Zen center and he and I have talked on and off over the years on the subject of mindfulness.

            Mindfulness! Sounds like one ought to be mindful. Sounds like a good thing, maybe even a virtue. Mindful of the moment, mindful in the moment; yes, a worthy goal I suppose. What if a train were bearing down of you, one would want to be mindful.

To ask — mindful of what — probably misses the point however. I don’t think it is about jumping out of the way of trains, planes, or automobiles, but it might encompass such. Seems like a koan, one of those sayings that leave a person scratching his or her head, like “What is the sound of one hand clapping?”

This is now bordering on being silly; even I know it. I am not mindless. Let me get down to it: I am suspicious that what the mindfulness practitioner means is she has discovered something very large and that those who do not practice mindfulness are missing out.

I also wonder if the call to mindfulness is not a form of Buddhist evangelism. There is a Christian type evangelism which basically looks like this: Christians speak of their gospel which may be reduced to a three part formula: Law plus Grace = Gospel. The Christian evangelist points out that the Law of Moses, whose centerpiece is the Ten Commandments of Exodus chapter 20, when read will lead the reader to understand that they have sinned and fall well short of God’s demands. Bad News. The second part of the formula is Grace, which means that though God could send the poor Law breaker to hell, He instead pardons, forgives, and saves the miserable sinner. Good News. The result is Gospel, which literally means Good News. Shocking! Instead of hell there is now heaven.

So then, is there anything of a mindful nature here? It clearly is self focused to a considerable degree and it centers on really large issues that do impact the here and now; thus it is mindful and in a large way. What is more ultimate than a present relationship with the Creator? How much more significant, hey, even mindful can you get?

Mindfulness. The impression I often get is that the Buddhist, or perhaps the Hindu yogi, those who meditate and focus on the NOW are where one ought to be as opposed to those Christian types who are thinking only about the kingdom to come with the harps, angel wings, fluffy clouds, and much more in the sweet bye and bye, which is down the road someplace and certainly not in the here and now. Is mindfulness the Buddhist version of the good news and is it superior to the Christian version. Of course, like everything else, this is debatable.

Let me get down to it right now. I am mindful that living in the now is a good thing. No question, I embrace it, but is that all there is? Since there is a future, however short or long, there is more to life than now. I confess I do not get too excited about now all the time. Sometimes now is painful, discouraging, boring and I would rather not focus on it twenty four seven. Hope is a good thing, and hope is future oriented and centers on what may or may not come to pass. But it is nonetheless not now. Is this an acceptable state of mindfulness?

 

Got an App?

Got an App?

Michael Sam kisses his “wife” (boyfriend), someone expresses disapproval, actually disgust, and the Gay Gestapo attacks.

A guy named Ward expressed less than positive feelings about seeing this scene on TV and started getting death threats; his kids were included in the murderous threats, too.

Well, didn’t Ward deserve what he got? After all, the guy dared to have thoughts about seeing one man kissing another on television. Ward didn’t do anything – didn’t deny anyone their equal rights, didn’t do or say anything he could even be sued for. The Gay Gestapo “thought” police, however, were offended.

The media, out of the usual fear of being attacked by the Gay Gestapo never uttered a word in defense of Ward, not even regarding the death threats against him or his family. Yes, here was a vile homophobe who deserved to be punished.

Homophobic. Is that fear of homosexuals? Is it fear of being homosexual? Fear is an emotion and is mostly involuntary. Thinking or feeling that homosexual behavior is immoral is probably common for the majority of Americans, and this is not overt and intended discrimination against homosexuals, which is a violation of a person’s civil rights, and which is wrong. But does not wanting to be homosexual or experiencing disgust when seeing gay behavior on mainstream media constitute homophobia? Let’s hope not, but no telling to what extent the enforcers will go.

The pro-gay lobby has successfully shut down nearly all dissent. If a retailer gets tagged with something that offends them, a boycott starts, and vendors who sell products in the store will be attacked as well. Do you suppose an app will be developed that will detect anti-gay thoughts going through the brain? And if so, what will be the punishment?

I wonder if we are not seeing a kind of revenge from the gay population for the mistreatment they have experienced over the years. Despite their inevitable guilt and shame, they want to be seen as normal and okay like everyone else, but they’ve been seen as less than okay by others, even considered to be sinners by Christians like me, and that may have become intolerable for some. So, like gets like?

How long will knee-jerk reactions from gays on the emotional edge advance their cause? Will the pendulum swing back into a kind of balance?

Yes, that is possible, I think. But things will never be the same, as say in the 1950s. We are looking at a new “normal,” in which the norm is tinged with a kind of perverseness — sorry but that’s what I am thinking and feeling. I will never accept this new “business as usual” that our society has been cowed into accepting. Hope you can get over it, since I, and hosts like me, are not likely to change, despite the threats, boycotts, mudslinging, civil suits, and bad publicity.

Apple, Samsung, Microsoft, Google — which will be the first to come up with the app?