The Paradoxes of the Bible— Perfect-Sinners

Colossians 2:6-15 & 1 John 1:8-2:2

  1. Find a quiet place, alone and apart from distractions.
  2. Be comfortably alert, still and at peace.
  3. Say the Lord’s Prayer. Sing or cant the Jesus Prayer
  4. Pray for family, friends, neighbors, and yourself.
  5. Slowly and carefully read the passage of Scripture.
  6. Reread it. From memory, determine the central points.
  7. That we are sinners, that is, we have broken God’s commandments, is plain enough to nearly everyone.
  8. Reading our passage in Colossians 2, we find that though we had been “dead in our trespasses,” God “made us alive.” The entire record of our sinning has been cancelled. These “he set aside nailing it to the cross.”
  9. No good work can cancel sin; only the Holy God can do so. And He does so all at once, in a moment; every single transgression, trespass, and sinful act gone forgotten, buried. As Jesus was buried, along with Him, all our sin was buried too. We humans will never, on the planet at any rate, ever comprehend this awesome truth fully.
  10. We live in time and space; the Triune God does not. We experience our sinfulness daily and thus need, and for our good health, both physical and spiritual, to have the refreshing that comes with confession and forgiveness.
  11. John, the aged apostle, knew this to the core and gave us the wonderful words found in his first letter. 1 John 1:8-10 presents the fact that we sin though having been totally forgiven already. We do not hide the fact that we are yet sinners, but we confess it, to ourselves, others, and to God.
  12. John writes that his readers do not sin. “But if anyone does sin, we have an advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous.” The “If” is a third class condition meaning that we most likely will sin.
  13. But we do not despair. We have no righteousness of our own. It is Jesus who is righteous, and as our lawyer, advocate, counselor, we are in Him and totally forgiven.

Wicca: Witches Among Us

Chapter Three

Witches Among Us

The neo-pagan religion of Wicca is not coming to a town near you – it is already there! The Unites States government recognizes Wicca as a legitimate religion, and there are Wiccan chaplains in the military and in some state prisons.

Witchcraft, covens, magick, gods, goddesses, spells, curses, astral travel, fairies, elves, dead ancestors, animal guides, and much more exist in the “otherworld.” Is it nonsense, game playing, fantasy, a marketing gimmick or, is there some kind of reality behind it? Whatever the answer may be, Wicca is a growing phenomenon and not likely to recede any time soon.

In the previous chapter, we looked at Santería, the West African religion that came to the New World due to the slave trade that flourished from the sixteenth to the nineteenth centuries. The Yoruba tribe of West Africa worshipped deities called orishas. In the New World orisha worship commingled with the Roman Catholicism that was already present in the Hispanic Caribbean Islands. The new religion – really the old Yoruba religion of Africa – became known as Santería (loosely translated into English as “the saint thing”). While researching this transplanted religion, I noticed how much the Santerían world view paralleled that of Wicca. Having then completed a lengthy essay on Santería, which formed the basis of the previous chapter, I purchased a number of books on Wicca hoping to further understand this religion that is growing in popularity, particularly in America.


Since there is no official document that authoritatively speaks to the central dynamics and principles of Wicca, the following are statements to which most Wiccans seem to subscribe, yet as is often the case, not by all. Out of necessity, they will be somewhat overlapping and even contradictory. My personal commentary on Wicca will comprise the last part of this chapter.

PART I: Basic facts about Wicca from its proponents

Wicca is a growing religious system, though there is no hierarchical Wicca Church as in Methodists or Baptists. The number of books on Wicca on the market is growing rapidly, and there are more than 6,000 Wicca-related websites on the Internet. There are Wiccan radio shows, Wiccan umbrella organizations, and state-certified Wiccan churches.

No one knows the origins of witchcraft. Gerald Gardner, the person who more than any other is responsible for bringing the cult into the modern era, said: “My own theory is, that it is a Stone Age cult of the matriarchal times, when woman was the chief; at a later time man’s god became dominant, but the woman’s cult, because of the magical secrets, continues as a distinct order.”[1]

Judy Harrow, in the foreword to the fiftieth anniversary edition of Witchcraft today by Gerald Gardner, attributes a major change for Wicca with the 1979 publications of Margot Adler’s Drawing Down the Moon and Starhawk’s The Spiral Dance, wherein the emphasis is on the “joyous worship of Mother Earth.”[2]

A Wiccan is a person who is following the Wiccan religion/spiritual path and has either undergone a Wiccan initiation or has formally and ritually declared him- or herself Wiccan.

Some Wiccans use the words “Wiccan” and “witch” interchangeably, but there are witches who do not consider themselves Wiccans. Wiccans are a subgroup of witches. Wiccans and witches are both subgroups of a larger group: pagans. Pagans are practitioners of earth-based religions. Most Wiccans and witches consider themselves pagan, but not all pagans are Wiccans or witches.

Witchcraft is what Wiccans and witches do, and “Wicca” is the name of the religion itself. There are a number of groups that are Wiccan. Some of these are: Alexandrian, Celtic, Dianic, Dicordian, Eclectic,[3] Gardnerian,[4] Neo-Gardnerian, and Georgian.

A solitaire is a witch who practices alone and is not in a coven. A coven can vary in size, but 13 is the number of persons who comfortably fit into the ritual circle. In it is the High Priestess, who is seen as the goddess incarnate and is the spiritual center of the coven. Also there may be a High Priest, who assists the high Priestess, and is seen as the god incarnate.

Wicca is new but old at the same time. Its origins are shrouded in mystery, and many will say it began among rural Celts.[5] Magic – and magic is what Wicca is about – has been practiced since prior to recorded human history. Wiccans spell magic with a “k” – thus, “magick” is the word used.

The Wiccan path is based on the earth rather than the heavens.

A witch uses magick in his or her everyday life.

There is no central church of Wicca, and no Wiccan bible or sacred document exists of any kind that details the beliefs, rules, and teachings of the religion.

Wiccans are monotheistic.[6] Their primary deity may be referred to as “The All,” “The Universe,” and “The One.” The Lord and Lady, or the god and goddess[7] came from or out of “The All.”

Wicca embraces reincarnation and karma, concepts carried to India in and around the tenth century B.C. and was absorbed into Hindu monistic thought. After a certain degree of westernization, it is for most Wiccans the idea that there is death and rebirth, a process that goes on until balance and perfection are reached.

There is a male and female aspect of all people; thus there is a natural equality of the sexes. But these aspects are not in balance. A central goal of Wicca is to restore the proper balance.

Wiccans strive for a balance between the male and the female, and when such a state is reached, reincarnations cease and the individual enters into their version of heaven called Summerland.

“You learn Wicca by loving it,” is a common statement made by Wiccans.

Wicca, with its focus on natural cycles and its emphasis on meditation and psychic abilities, provides many opportunities to touch the mysteries of the divine and the cosmos.

Some Wiccans teach that Wicca is European Shamanism: the word shaman refers to a person who enters an altered state of consciousness in order to take a spiritual journey to retrieve information, heal, work magick, tell the future, or commune with the dead.[8]

Wicca is a religion that many (but not all) witches practice. It is an earth-based religion that honors both the god, represented by the sun, and the goddess, represented by the moon.

Wiccans are taught to be in tune with their psychic abilities. Magick circle, the sacred space of Wiccans, is said to be “between the worlds,” and Wiccans “travel” between the worlds to meet the gods, receive information, and heal. Wiccans often enter ecstatic or trance states in order to work magick or commune with the divine.

Many Wiccans have life-altering experiences that lead them to the Wiccan path, and Wiccan groups often initiate new members in a symbolic death and rebirth ceremony meant to provide a mini-shamanic crisis and shift the initiate’s perspective.[9]

Wicca is a magickal system. As generally understood, there are two types of Wiccan magick. (1) There is every day magick. This might consist of spell work for things like finding a new job or protecting one’s home. (2) There is magick to manifest or make real the witch’s personal power and divinity. In essence, it is a working the witch’s will to find purpose in life and alignment with the higher self.

PART II: Generalized Statements from Proponents of Wicca[10]

“If you use your magickal[11] energies, they may just help you stay clear-headed and focused. Powers are a special blessing that we all have. Some witches believe that their powers come from the Goddess. Wherever they come from, just know that you have them. If you open your heart and mind, you can use your powers. And the more you work with them the better, the more powerful, you become.”[12]

The abilities you have are natural and inborn, so there is no reason to be frightened of them. Soon you will come to rely on them.

Nature is never good or evil, it just is. Wicca is often compared to Native American beliefs and traditions. Witches recognize that it is in our best interests to keep the earth healthy and vital. While many religions have a holy book, our book is the earth itself and all of her creatures.

The Goddess and God will take notice [of your attention to them through rituals] and your spells will soar!

“Wiccans believe that the Goddess is in everything and is not some force standing out there watching us. In the faith of Wicca, we believe in deity – the All. We divide that into a male and female spirituality, the God and Goddess, or Lord and Lady.”[13]

Wiccans also work with the demigods who are different, smaller aspects of the All.

Witches are not anti-Christian, nor do they harbor negative feelings about other religions. Witches will, however, avoid “narrow Christians” and not allow one to be in their ranks.

Wiccans deny Jesus is the Son of God but accept Him as an enlightened or holy man.

“Wiccans believe in the morals that are common to most faiths. But Wiccans do not believe in the Christian concept of original sin. Wiccans live in the now. While some Wiccans believe in reincarnation, life is to be lived for what it is in the present so that we may learn from this lifetime on Earth. As Wiccans, we do not deny ourselves pleasure or put up with unnecessary pain. We believe that we all have a job to do, or a lesson to learn, or maybe a debt to pay from the last lifetime. Once we have succeeded in our mission, we must move on to the Summerland, where we can reflect and choose our mission in the next life. Or, perhaps choose not to reincarnate and rather work as spirit guides.”[14]

While Wiccans do not believe there is a hell to punish sinners, they do believe there is a universal law, called karma.[15] Witches know that whatever energy or actions they send out, whether negative or positive, they will come back to them threefold.[16]

If you send out positive energies, you will get positive energies in return.

The central principle of Wicca is the Wiccan Rede, “An it harm none, do what ye will.”

Witches do believe in “God,” the pure energy of the All, of the god and goddess, most high. Witches do not believe in Satan.

It’s often prudent not to openly broadcast your status as a witch. Spirituality is, after all, a personal affair. If friends are curious, answer their questions honestly but stress the positive aspects of your religion: Harm none; live as though the Earth and all of its inhabitants are sacred; strive toward the positive.[17]

Wiccans believe that all spiritual paths lead to the same house – union with the divine. Perhaps, in our search for tolerance, harmony, peace, and freedom of spirit, by the end of this millennium all the major religions will have broken down and merged together into one gentle and magickal earth-centered faith.

PART III: The Wiccan Deities

In Wicca, the Divine or Deity is greater than creation, and yet it is creation. Deity or the Divine is immanent in all things, but it is also distant and beyond grasp.

In Wiccan thought, the union of the goddess and god creates the universe. The goddess is the god’s mother and lover. In the mythos of most Wiccans, the goddess gives birth to the god, he matures, they make love and she becomes pregnant, he dies, and he is reborn of her again. The god’s existence is cyclical, like the grains.

Communicating directly with the god and goddess is one of the greatest joys and responsibilities of a Wiccan.

Many Wiccans have personal patron deities – in addition to the god and goddess – with whom they work frequently.

The Celtic, Greek, Roman, Norse, and Egyptian gods are probably the most popular amongst Wiccans.

In addition to the god and goddess, a Wiccan may be involved with any number of otherworldly entities. There are, in addition to the personal deities, the animal familiars,[18] dead ancestors, gnomes, elves, and so on. It seems there are any number of spiritual entities, not all of the good kind, that hover around Wicca and are involved in casting the spells and conducting the rituals.

There are two types of Wiccan animal familiars: disincarnate (spirits in animal form) and incarnate (spirits indwelling living pets or other animals). Disincarnate animal familiars or spirits serve as guides and helpers. Not all Wiccans work with animal spirits. In the accounts of the witch trials, there are stories of animal familiars, most of which were said by the witches’ accusers to be demons in animal form. Proponents of Wicca strongly believe the animal familiars are not demons. A Wiccan chooses the animal spirits to work with, but it is said that sometimes the animal familiar does the choosing.

PART IV: The Wiccan Ritual

A Wiccan ritual is a means of creating consecrated ground or sacred space in order to pay homage to deity. Ritual is also used to do magick and to work with the energy of the god and goddess.

It is a good idea to do a small ritual every day to honor the Lord and Lady.

Rituals can be performed for grounding, to connect with the goddess, to celebrate a sabbat, to honor one’s ancestors, or to perform magick.

There are eight sabbats having to do with the earth and the positioning of the sun. These fall about six weeks apart. Four of them are known as solstices and equinoxes, and the mid-points between them are the cross quarters.

Covens meet to perform rituals together regularly – for the thirteen esbats, or Wiccan moon rituals, and eight sabbats every year. Esbats have to do with the moon, especially full moons; the sabbats have to do with the sun.

In the ritual, it is necessary to call down the quarters – the four directions of North, East, South, and West – and the Elemental powers of Earth, Air, Fire, and Water. Over these is spirit, which sits atop the pentacle. A pentacle is a pentagram, a five pointed star, with a circle around it.

A high priestess will “call down the moon” to give her power to do magick. She is then considered to be an incarnation of the goddess.

The circle is drawn with an athane (a small, handmade dagger) to a diameter of nine feet. Another circle is drawn one foot outside that one and even another circle is drawn another one foot outside the second.

Once the Powers have been called down or in they must be told or shown what they are to do. Often the Powers are “bound” with a rhyme.

Doing magick takes serious and sincere preparation of the body, mind, and spirit on a daily basis and becomes time consuming, even controlling.

A witch’s journal is called a Book of Shadows; a witch’s recipe book is called a grimoire. The grimoire can also contain lists of angels, spirits, and magickal properties of objects found in nature. Gerald Gardner’s Book of Shadows has become the standard for all grimoires.

PART V: Summon, Stir, Call, Invite, or Request

Wiccans “summon” certain entities – the four elements, fairies, and the elementals, for example. The four elements are air, fire, water, and earth. The elementals are personifications of the four elements. The elemental associated with air is sylphs, fire is the salamander, water is undines or nymphs, and earth is gnomes. Other larger, more powerful entities are “stirred.” These are the Ancestors, dragons, and Watchtowers. One stirs them because they are sleeping and need to be awakened before they can attend the ritual. If one wants the god and goddess to attend one’s ritual, “call” them respectfully, and they will come. And one can call angels also. When one “invites” entities to one’s ritual, it is asking them to be present, but not to join inside the circle. These are the familiar entities. One can “request” the presence of any of the four winds and of one’s spirit guides. Also, one tells the entities asked to the ritual what they are to do. One can ask them to protect, observe, or help carry out one’s magick.


Air, Fire, Water, Earth and Spirit have dragons from the Elemental Realm.

Guardians of the Watchtowers: some witches are afraid of them and won’t use them in ritual.

Fairies: flower fairies, mermaids, mermen, little people, sprites, and pixies. These can appear as miniature humans, or they can take the form of an elf. They are summoned. You’ll know that the fairies have arrived when the flames of your candles start to dance around. They are extremely mischievous. To discourage fairies from taking up permanent residence in your home, hang iron pots around the house. Because iron renders fairies powerless and incapable of magick, they will flee from this metal and leave you in peace.

Elementals: Sylphs, salamanders, undines, and gnomes.

Tree spirits: from the realm of Fairy.

The Lord and the Lady: around us all the time. So, too, are all the many varieties of angels. The ancestors also dwell in the Realm of Spirit, but they are sleeping.

Angels: divided into three levels: One, seraphim, cherubim, and thrones. Two, dominions, virtues, and powers. Three, principalities, archangels, angel messengers, and guardian angels.

Ancestors: figures from the past who have great wisdom and knowledge. They have lived in the times of Egypt, Rome, or Greece, like Socrates. An ancestor might even be an actual ancestor like a grandparent.

Spirit Guides: like guardian angels, are assigned to us at birth, and we can have as many as seven. Sometimes a spirit guide is a soul that does not need to be reincarnated. Often spirit guides come to us in our dreams. If you meditate regularly, you may start being able to see them.

Spirit animals: (disincarnate) may be summoned.

Familiars: individual animals that are inhabited by spirit (incarnate). They can help with magick. Familiars have more dignity than regular pets because they are able to communicate with you telepathically.

PART VI: Basic Wiccan Principles and Ethics

Much of Wiccan practice can be divided into two categories – eclectic and traditional.

Eclectic: This is where Wiccans compile their practices from a variety of sources.

Traditional: Wiccans here use a system of practices that have been handed down to them and have a certain level of consistency, though the lines will sometimes blur. Some of the traditions are: Gardnerian, Alexandrian, Feri, 1734, Celtic and/or Celtic Reconstructionist, Minoan, Seax Wicca, Asatru, Church of All Worlds, Covenant of the Goddess, New Reformed Orthodox Order of the Golden Dawn, Central Valley Wicca, Blue Star, Dianic Wicca, and Reclaiming.

To save time and space, no elaboration will be made here on these traditions, since that is not germane to our purpose.

Key General Principles

Wiccan Principle 1: Deity becomes a polarity. Many Wiccans believe that there is a single great divine force, which they call spirit, the All, the Divine, or just Deity.

Wiccan Principle 2: Deity is immanent, meaning that deity is inherent or present in all people and things. This is close to the definition of animism, which is that everything has a consciousness of its own but different in that there is a sacred force that infuses everything, and that force is deity or a part of deity.[19]

Wiccan Principle 3: The Earth is divine. Wiccans believe that the earth is a manifestation of deity, and may be called Gaia.[20] Therefore, many Wiccans believe that a significant part of their spiritual path is taking care of the earth.[21]

Wiccan Principle 4: Psychic power or psychic abilities help Wiccans with many things, like honing their intuition, divination (reading astrological charts or tarot cards, for example), and sensing things that science cannot yet explain, like the spirits of the dead or the presence of the gods with people.

Wiccan Principle 5: The use and practice of magick – the idea that everything is infused with the divine and thus the divine can cause change to occur in conformance with the will of the magickian. Further, it is the concept that all things contain some divine energy, which can be tapped into in order to affect change.

Wiccan Principle 6: Reincarnation. Wiccans have at least three different positions on this. (1) Some believe that our souls are reborn into new bodies. (2) The human essence “recycles” after the body dies and becomes cosmic energy. (3) All humans share one soul, and this soul experiences the many possibilities of life by inhabiting all of our bodies at the same time.

Wiccan Principle 7: Sex is sacred, sexuality is then considered a gift from the gods, and gay sex is as good as any other form of sex, except that none are to be harmed in the practice of sacred sex.

Key ethical principles

Wicca is not Satanic or anti-Christian. Wiccans do not believe in Satan. Satan is part of the Christian religion, and Satanism is a Christian heresy.

Wiccans do not try to convert others to Wicca.

Wicca is not dualistic, as in a good god fighting with a bad god. Wicca does not see God and Satan as opposite partners, or two parts of a whole.

Wiccans can honor more than one religion.

Wicca is not a way to get power over others, not only about magick, not an excuse to wear edgy clothes, nor is it a mask for sexual abuse.

Witches should never attack, but they can use their magick to defend themselves.

Do no harm. Everything else is fair game.

“Black magic” – magick is like electricity. It is neither good nor bad. It just is. If you intend to harm, you are doing negative magick. If you intend the greatest good for all, then you are working positive magick.

All things in life exist along a continuum. Our actions are neither totally good nor totally bad, but lie somewhere between these two polarities.

Are life forms killed in a healing, let us say, when germs are poisoned by antibiotics? Everything has a right to live. But a virus or bug is making someone sick, and a healing is therefore justified. The point is that the greater good predominates.

PART VII: The Threefold Law

Many, but not all, Wiccans subscribe to the Threefold Law. This law teaches that whatever you put out into the world or universe will come back to you three times. And this may be good or bad.

This concept is based on the principle of “like attracts like.” The goal, therefore, is to put out positive energy and not negative energy. It is not necessarily dealing with good or bad behavior, since that would begin to evolve into rule-setting and then performance of that which was good and avoidance of that which was bad.

When the Threefold Law and the Rede, “An it harm none, do what ye will,” are taken together, you see that if you are working your true will, if you are synchronized with the universe and the divine, then the positive energy you generate ripples out and affects everything around you, and it is a beacon for other positive energy to be attracted to you. This is the place where Wiccans strive to be.

PART VIII: Summerland

Summerland beckons. It is not heaven and it is not hell. Some witches believe it is where spirits go after death to rest and reflect in the company of the god and goddess, and to decide how they are going to reincarnate. Each soul chooses who it will be and what lesson it will learn in its new lifetime. Once it is reincarnated, it does not remember what its lesson is, but must find out by living through all the experiences of its new life. If a soul does not wish or need to reincarnate right away, it may become a spirit guide. Ultimately, each spirit, after it has learned all it needs to learn and taught what it needs to teach, is reunited with the All. In each lifetime, the spirit advances toward this ultimate goal.

Though Wiccans believe that all animals have souls, these do not go to Summerland, since the souls of animals are so pure they have no lessons to learn in this life.

PART IX: What is Energy in relation to Deity, and what is Visualization?

For some Wiccans, “energy” and deity are the same thing. Some Wiccans refer to energy and deity as the “life force.” Others see deity as sentient, thus having consciousness and the capacity to experience things as humans do with their senses. Still others think that energy emanates from deity, or that it comes from the goddess.

Others will say that energy is power, and that of three types: personal power, divine power, and earth power.

“Visualization” is the creating of a picture in the mind’s eye of what it is the magickian wants to happen. Once visualization occurs, energy follows thought. If you can see something in your mind, then you can affect it or make it happen.

PART X: Trance and Pathworking

Trance is integral to the religious or spiritual practices discussed in this book and is the centerpiece of each of them, no more so than with Wiccan practice. It is at this point that we present Ioan M. Lewis’ work on trance and ASC.

Ioan M. Lewis is a Fellow at the British Academy and Professor Emeritus of Anthropology at the London School of Economics, UK and author of “The Social Roots and Meaning of Trance and Possession” in the Oxford Handbook of The Sociology of Religion, edited by Peter B. Clarke and published by Oxford Press in 2009.

The opening sentence in the Oxford Handbook on Lewis’ contribution is: “Altered States of Consciousness’ (ASC) is an umbrella term, applied to psychological and sociological phenomena regularly encountered in the study of trance, possession, and shamanism – all of which have significant if problematic links with music.”[22]

“Music” – a surprise? No, since in Santería there is the bembe with the bata drumming, shamanism with much the same, Wicca and the mood music, then charisma with the beat of the drum and the bass guitar. A strange connection? Not really.

There is more beyond the music. Dancing of a certain kind goes with much of the music and is present in all four of the spiritual practices above. The impact of music, dancing, singing, chanting, and other stimulants is such that even the chemical make-up of the brain can be altered. Below is a paragraph from Lewis that summarizes his thesis:

Such personal, psychological experiences may, of course, be shared and mutually intensified as in spirit cult séances, evangelical religious services, pop concerts, political rallies, football crowds, etc. The discovery of natural euphoriates (endorphins) in the bloodstream in the early 1970s provided a plausible chemical explanation of trance, and linked it with the effect of psychotropic drugs, thus giving a novel and unexpected meaning to Marx’s famous definition of religion as “the opiate of the people”–more accessible and less mysterious than he ever imagined.[23]

Lewis condenses entering into the trance to two processes: sensory deprivation and sensory overloading. Deprivation is by means of trauma, stress, illness, isolation, fasting, and submission to physical pain. Overloading is by means of “musical and other sonic bombardment (especially monotonous drumming), strobe lighting effects, the ingestion of hallucinogenic drugs, and more mundane procedures like over-breathing and even strenuous exercise.”[24]

This semi-scientific explanation of the induction of a trance state may be, in my estimation, somewhat limited but is nevertheless sufficient. The shaman and Wiccan understand that the ultimate purpose for the trance is to have a spirit or other ethereal entity enter the body of the person entranced. This possession marks the real initiation for the person entering into the priesthood of Santería, authenticates a person as a true shaman, and demonstrates the authority of the witch. In charisma the sudden change in behavior or appearance of the “anointed one” signals that a “prophet” or “prophetess” is present to heal or utter a “thus saith the Lord.” It is the trance that makes the difference. As Lewis puts it, “Trance is cross-culturally the most conclusive public demonstration that a human being has been seized by a spirit.”[25]

There can be a sexual component to the trance state. Lewis points out that St. Teresa of Avila “recorded that in her transports of mystical feeling she had achieved ‘spiritual marriage’ with Christ. Her most sublime experiences she described as unfolding in three stages: ‘union’, ‘rapture’, and the climatic ‘wound of love’.”[26] In a parallel way shamans will consider they are “bound in marriage” to the orisha, god or goddess, that has mounted them at their initiations. Lewis points out the “pervasiveness of eroticism in describing the relations between humans and spirits.”[27]

Lewis concludes and reconnects with his opening theme by stating, “In this sensual perspective, although the precise modalities of music and trance seem still imprecisely defined, music is nevertheless evidently the food of love.”[28]

If music, what then of dance? In Judy Harrow’s section in the back of Gardner’s Witchcraft Today, she quotes Doreen Valiente, one of Gardner’s High Priestesses:

Dancing has a very important magical effect upon people. . . . A group of people dancing in harmony together are on one mind, and this is essential to magical work. Their mood can be excited or calmed by varying the pace of the dance. In fact, a state of light hypnosis can be induced by magical forms of dancing; or people can achieve a state of ecstasy, which in its original form is ex-statis, “being outside oneself.”[29]

Harrow goes on to say that since Gardner’s time dance has increased in popularity; indeed, a new movement “called Sacred Circle Dance, which uses rhythmic bodily movement to alter consciousness…”[30] is widely practiced.

Dr. Margaret Murray, former assistant professor in Egyptology at University College, London, who wrote the Witchcraft entry for the 1929 edition of the Encyclopedia Britannica and is one of the early proponents of paganism, also noted the role of music and dance in pagan worship:

All the movements are rhythmic, and the accompaniment is a chant or performed by percussion instruments by which the rhythm is strongly marked. The rhythmic movements, the rhythmic sounds, and the sympathy of numbers all engaged in the same actions, induce a feeling of exhilaration, which can increase to a form of intoxication. This stage is often regarded by the worshippers as a special divine favour, denoting the actual advent of the Deity into the body of the worshipper.[31]

Pathworking depends upon the trance state. Trance states can be reached by any number of ways. Attempts at centering, balancing, grounding, relaxing, focusing on a single object, letting the mind wander, emptying the mind of all – these are some of the mechanisms commonly used to enter into trance. Drugs can be used, and extreme experiences such as in a sweat lodge, reduction of oxygen coming into the brain, and other esoteric practices can be employed.

Once in the trance state, the pathworking can begin. Along the path, helpful guides may be encountered whom the entranced individual can ask for information. Likewise, one’s inner self (supposedly the personification of the subconscious) may be encountered. Or an animal or human spirit that is associated with a sacred site may be found. Also, pathworking can be used to meet with, talk to, and get information from the dead.

The advice given to one doing pathwork is to be polite to any being encountered, be they human spirits, gods, fairies, elves, animal spirits, ghosts, folklore characters, or other entities. Wiccans deny that there is any danger in being in a trance, but do assert that a person in the trance state is more vulnerable to “ambient”[32] energies, because the conscious mind, which would normally trigger you to tune out unwanted energy, sounds, or other distractions, is on a little vacation when you are in trance.

PART XI: Gerald Gardner and Wicca

In Gerald Gardner’s, The Gardnerian Book of Shadows, is described the “Eightfold Path or Ways,”[33] which reveals Wiccan dependence on the trance state.

One of the most respected Wiccans, a co-founder of Reclaiming, is Starhawk, who writes, “Witchcraft is a shamanistic religion, and the spiritual value that is placed on ecstasy is a high one. It is the source of union, healing, creative inspiration, and communion with divine.”[34] The Eightfold Path is a way to lead a person to the “center” and to leave one’s body by means of a trance, or altered state of consciousness, or by what Michael Harner would call the Shamanic State of Consciousness, SSC.

Path 1: Meditation or concentration

Path 2: Trance states, clairvoyance, projection of the Astral

Path 3: Drugs, Wine, Incense

Path 4: Dance, Performing Rites with a purpose

Path 5: Chants, Spells, etc.

Path 6: Blood control (Cords etc), Breath control

Path 7: Scourge

Path 8: The Great Rite


The first six paths are fairly plain as to their nature; however, number 7 and 8 require some explanation.

The Scourge is a magickal tool used to direct spiritual entities and is used inside the circle. It is a whip or flail and can be used to flagellate members of the coven, especially in initiation rites. Symbolically it stands for suffering and sacrifice that one is willing to endure.

The Great Rite is a form of sex magick that may include ritual sexual intercourse, either actual or in symbol. Usually, the high priestess and priest act out the Great Rite. In the northern hemisphere the Great Rite appears around May 1 at the festival of Beltane, and around November 1 in the southern hemisphere.

PART XII: Divination

Wiccans rely on various forms of divination to work their craft. Astrology and numerology are two chief forms of determining the future and making decisions.

Divination is deemed useful in making day-to-day decisions. Besides the aforementioned practices, the pendulum, runes, and tarot cards are commonly used.

PART XIII: Skyclad

“Skyclad” means naked. Doing ritual, the coven may be Skyclad. The nine foot in diameter circle accommodates thirteen people, often six couples and a high priestess. (This arrangement may vary.) The concept is that within each person is power and energy that are necessary to work magick, and clothes inhibit the radiating outward of the power and energy. So, naked magick works best.

Wicca is greatly concerned with power. Gardner wrote, “Witches are taught and believe that the power resides within their bodies which they can release in various ways, the simplest being dancing round in a circle, singing or shouting, to induce a frenzy; this power they believe exudes from their bodies, clothes impeding its release.”[35]

The circle is also there to retain the power of the witches as opposed to the magicians or sorcerers circle which is intended to keep “evil” forces out.

Gerald Gardner was asked, “Why do you say that witches work naked?” His answer was, “I can only say: Because they do.”[36] And they do so for the above reason, at least that is the general spin. If it is other than that, if these people are not aroused by naked flesh, then they are indeed on a higher plane than most normal people.

PART XIV: The power and pull of Wicca

However contradictory this might now seem, there are credible reasons why Wicca would be attractive. For instance, Gerald Gardner stated, “I have known many atheists who have entered the Cult and said, ‘It is so lovely to find a religion in which you can believe.’”[37] Writing in the 1950s he said that Wicca (Gardner usually spelled Wicca “Wica”) preserved for the Age of Aquarius reincarnation and karma, which he noted was widely embraced in the ancient world but had suffered a retreat when the Church grew in dominance.[38] He actually predicted a phenomenon that is generally understood and acknowledged, when he wrote,

But we are today upon the threshold of a new Age. Call it the Aquarian Age, the Age of Horus, or what you will. The great, clean wind of a new Cosmic Power is blowing upon the world from the depths of space. Already it has blown away many of the cobwebs of the past. Much prudery and false modesty, for instance, has gone by the board.[39]

Wicca did more than that; to a degree it mainlined an interest in magickal rites and soul journeying. In the twenty-first century Wicca is more than alive and well. Following are some of the ways it has made inroads into or ridden on the coattails of modern culture to attract adherents:

(1) Children of nearly every culture grow up learning stories about the fantastic and the imaginary – elves, fairies, Santa Claus figures, ghosts, the deity myths of Greece and Rome – all packaged so attractively for children. Three generations have now been immersed in the delightful world of Disney characters, thus opening their minds to all things magickal.

(2) Wicca and other neo-pagan practices allow for children to remain childlike in the imagination, at least in light of the pain and burden of living life in a chaotic world.

The hidden wonders of the ancient mysteries lure young and old alike. There are secrets, mysteries that every witch initiated into the craft is sworn to never divulge, and I have found that these do, in fact, remain secret, despite the fact that most things hidden come to light sooner or later. On the other hand, the secrets of Wicca must remain such, since their broadcast might bring negativity to its adherents.

(3) The lure for power, which is ubiquitous in humans, is a driving motivation. Magic and all the vast array of that which falls under the category of the occult, provides a mechanism into that spooky yet enticing world. Witches claim that the source of their power is unknown, although they have learned to control it and use it in such a way that none are harmed.

(4) Satan is real and he is able to perform miracles. The materialist will make a direct paradigm shift toward the spiritual when demonic tricks are played out in real time and space.

(5) Wicca is different, edgy, exciting, sexy, and cool. It is the perfect stage for acting the spiritual rebel against the dominant religions. Combining all these elements gives Wicca an allure along with a barely masked sexual element. Who can resist? There but for the grace of God. . .

(6) Satan desires that people, God’s creatures made in His image, worship him. The whole point of the “Temptation in the Wilderness” (see Matthew chapter 4) was an enticement acted out by Satan to have Jesus bow down and worship him. Though our aim is not to offend Wiccans, it seems obvious that Wicca is another indirect means by Satan to redirect worshippers from God to himself. Behind the Lord, the Lady, the goddess, and the god lurks the chief demon, whether this is claimed, admitted, or even known by Wiccan proponents.

(7) Wicca is a dress-up activity, a masquerade ball, or a stimulating game. The thrill of maintaining the secrecy, if not the conspiracy, is a real draw. Secret societies at one time were the rage, and in Wicca the game is back.

(8) Wicca gives meaning to those in search of it. It is not an overstatement to say that women dominate Wicca and most other forms of witchcraft. Meaning and power go together well. Meaning attaches itself to the maxim to harm none but rather do good and especially for the “self.” Power over people, events, and circumstances through magick is power nonetheless – a significant enticement.

PART XV: A Question or Two

Proponents of Wicca commonly boast about its ancientness as compared to Christianity, for instance. The implication is that older is better. Is old really better than something newer?

I have an old car and I have a newer car. Let me tell you, the new one is better than the old one. The old Copernican model of the universe is not as reliable as newer ones. I could go on, but it is a disingenuous argument that older is better.

Wicca is indeed old, because it is based on animism, the basis for shamanism, then infused with magical concepts. But how does this give Wicca credibility?

Another question, as mentioned previously, has to do with why Wiccans love to say they do not believe in Satan. Wiccans will sometimes admit that there are evil forces about, which they of course know how to isolate and avoid. For the most part, such evil forces, energies, and beings are left unexplained.

Wiccans are not Satanists like the followers of Anton LaVey, author of the Satanic Bible, with whom I interacted during my years as a preacher in the Haight-Ashbury in the late 1960s. In my mind there are differences, although more cosmetic than actual. Just who are the helper spirits, the supposed souls of the dead, the fairies, elves, and animal spirits, really? Might they just be minions of Satan? It is not a good idea to play fast and loose with the dark sides, assuming they can be whisked away with a sleight of hand.

PART XVI: Wicca viewed from a Christian’s Perspective

Is Wicca real? With all its fairies, elves, gnomes, ghosts, and far more, is it a game of make believe? Do Wiccans really believe in what they are doing? Do they actually think they are talking to dead ancestors and communicating with gods and goddesses? Or is it something else or something more? Do Wiccans themselves understand what they are involved with?

The world view held by Wiccans is that energy, live energy, is everywhere, in everything, and can be manipulated by spells and rituals. If Wiccans are right, is science wrong when it sees energy not as spiritual or personal, but as something that can be empirically measured and observed?

Is there something unknown or at least unrecognized behind Wicca? Wiccans become quite upset when accused of being in league with the devil, whose existence Wiccans vehemently deny. Yet, how do they know they are not?

One issue generally ignored by Wiccans is, what is the basis of their authority? They have no sacred book, no actual central authoritative doctrine, no revelation, and no vision. What they rely on are myths, fairy tales, and ancient concepts from a wide variety of cultures. If all Wiccan deities, gods, and goddesses were added up, the final total would be quite large. Wiccan beliefs are indeed an uncritical epistemic patch-work of myths and bizarre behavior.

Is it make-believe? A child’s game not discarded? A form of rebellion against the teachings of the Bible? A demonic deception? It seems that Wicca is all of these at once.

From a Christian’s perspective, Wicca embraces what the Scripture condemns. In the Torah, Deuteronomy 18:10-12, is a listing of “pagan” practices that were ubiquitous in the ancient world and which the people of Israel were to reject as false:

There shall not be found among you anyone who burns his son or his daughter as an offering, anyone who practices divination or tells fortunes or interprets omens, or a sorcerer or a charmer or a medium or a wizard or a necromancer, for whoever does these things is an abomination to the LORD.

No, Wiccans do not burn sons or daughters or anyone else as offerings to appease idols, but the rest of it must be seen as routine in their world.

A witch might say, “So what? I prefer to worship and practice my religion any way I want.” And I would heartily agree. It might be prudent to examine what else is involved, however.

This is not to say that Wiccans do not really communicate with spirits, angels, gods, and goddesses. They do, but these entities/deities are not what they present themselves to be. The short and quick answer is that they are unclean or demonic spirits in disguise.

There could not be more disparate world views than Wicca and Christianity or biblically faithful Judaism, for that matter. Wiccans pretend to value Christianity, but they actually hate it and fear it. They know that if the Bible is correct, then they have fallen into gross deception. Not only are they worshipping false gods, but they are fully engaged with and possessed by demons whose leader is Satan himself. Whatever is gained in Wicca, the unsuspected loss is far too disturbing to contemplate. This is not child’s play; life and death is determined here, and not of the physical kind.

Wiccans may become trapped by the very religion they practice. It promises freedom and power, but in time it proves to give neither and turns dark. Inside Wiccans will likely be voices that shout at them to ignore the Christians. The reason for this is that Jesus Christ is the One who has power and authority over demons who masquerade themselves as gods, goddesses, spirit guides, and so on. A cosmic spiritual battle is underway here, and ultimately the real and true God will prevail. It is only a matter of time.

For those Wiccans who read this, please see it as an attempt to speak a word of reality to you, and we hope this statement will not be seen as patronizing. Please apply critical analysis to the religion to which you have committed yourself.


[1]        Gerald Gardner, Witchcraft Today, 43. (Note that Gardner’s theory of prehistoric matriarchy is well-disputed. See a fuller discussion in Cynthia Eller, The Myth of Matriarchal Prehistory: Why an Invented Past Won’t Give Women a Future (Boston: Beacon Press, 2001).


[2]        Judy Harrow, in Gerald Gardner’s Witchcraft Today, 2004 edition.


[3]        Here is found a number of Wiccan traditions bound together, and no two groups may be identical. Individual witches, or solitaires, will develop their own practices, rites, and ceremonies.


[4]        Gerald Gardner was instrumental in focusing modern Wicca. His The Gardnerian Book of Shadows describes the major ceremonies and rites of Wicca.


[5]        The Oxford Concise English Dictionary defines “Celt” as: “a member of a group of western European peoples, including the pre-Roman inhabitants of Britain and Gaul and their descendants, especially in Ireland, Wales, Scotland, Cornwall, Brittany, and the Isle of Man.”


[6]        The Wiccan concept of monotheism is not the same as that of Judaism, Christianity, or Islam, where the God of creation, the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, is the primary and single God.


[7]        Wiccans capitalize “Goddess” and “God” but I use the lower case.


[8]        This particular concept – the altered state of consciousness – figures large in shamanism, Santería, and Wicca, along with a number of other religious or spiritual practices. Another word for the altered state of consciousness is “trance.” Trance is particularly important in Wicca.


[9]        The parallels to Christianity are perhaps deliberate but disingenuous.


[10]      There is a certain redundancy in these statements, since different branches of Wicca and Wiccan writers will describe the core ideas differently. It is necessary to present the overlapping in order to see the full range of Wiccan thought.


[11]      Magic is what magicians do on the stage, in film, on television; magick with a “k” is what Wiccans do.


[12]      Zimmermann and Gleason, Wicca and Witchcraft, 6.


[13]      Ibid., 7.


[14]      Ibid., 11.


[15]      Unlike the Hindu version of Karma and reincarnation, Wicca employs a watered down version of the two concepts, making them more acceptable to the Western mindset.


[16]      There will be more on the Threefold Law further in the chapter.


[17]      There is a tendency of Wiccans to be less than forthcoming about what they actually do and believe. Full disclosure is not common among witches – a mark of a cultic mentality.


[18]      A familiar spirit is one that masks itself as someone familiar to you – a deceased grandparent, for instance. The animal familiar will appear as a dog, cat, or other animal that one is familiar with.


[19]      The distinction between ancient animism and Wicca’s concept of the force or energy in all appears to be but a quibble.


[20]      Gaia, in Wicca, is a female deity that can be involved in magick and ritual. Gaia theory, the concept of an earth, indeed a universe, that regulates itself in unknown ways, is not a part of Wicca but rather is a scientific theory.


[21]      Interestingly, Wiccans tend to think that Christians, who believe in a heaven, are not living in the “here and now” and take little interest in the environment.


[22]      Oxford Handbook, 375.


[23]      Ibid., 378.


[24]      Ibid.


[25]      Ibid., 383.


[26]      Ibid., 382. In other research we have received testimony from persons who experienced sexually-oriented trances in which spirit beings, especially animal helpers, actually have sexual intercourse with those they possess.


[27]      Ibid., 386.


[28]      Ibid.


[29]      Gardner, Witchcraft Today, 178.


[30]      Ibid., 179.


[31]      Gardner, Witchcraft Today, 15-16.


[32]      Ambient here means energies, specifically supernatural entities, that might happen to be nearby and might not be friendly, might even be nasty. Wiccans would not describe these as being evil.


[33]      Gerald Gardner, The Gardnerian Book of Shadows, Forgotten Books, 2005, 65. Gardner was born in 1884 and died in 1964. His craft name was Scire.


[34]      Starhawk, in Gay Religion, from the essay by Mary Jo Neitz entitled “Queering the Dragonfest: Changing Sexualities in a Post-Patriarchal Religion,” edited by S. Thumma and E. R. Gray, Altamira Press, 2005, 272.


[35]      Gardner, Witchcraft Today, 20.


[36]      Ibid., 19.


[37]      Gardner, The Meaning of Witchcraft, 242.


[38]      Ibid., 239.


[39]      Ibid., 238.




 A Short Background

Pentecostalized! It sounds strange, even dangerous, and it is both.

Please read the entire essay before you hit the delete key. You might find yourself disagreeing at first but then agreeing, or partially so, as you discover what this little piece really says.

In the first part of the essay I am using the term pentecostalized to describe false conversion. In the second part, pentecostalized means convinced of and actually engaged in what Jesus has called us to.

Part One

I was baptized with speaking in tongues in 1968. Awakened from a sound sleep, I found myself speaking loudly in what I had to believe was genuine ecstatic tongues. Whether it was an actual language or not, I do not know.

This was not a phenomenon I was expecting or even thought was valid, because at that time I was dead set against anything to do with Pentecostalism. Converted in a Southern Baptist Church at age twenty-one and taught that wild-eyed, fanatical tongues speaking was probably a demonic sign, I wanted nothing to do with that crazy language. But…

It was some time before I let on that I spoke in tongues; however, the word got out. This may sound extreme, but I was denied a ThM degree from Golden Gate Baptist Theological Seminary in Mill Valley,[1] in 1973, because I was a tongues speaker. I was similarly denied missionary support money from the California Southern Baptists. Though I still held a standard Baptistic theology, from 1968 to 1978 I was a card-carrying, full-fledged, charismatic Pentecostal.

What Can be Seen and Heard Can be Mimicked

 In 1972 I became senior pastor of an independent church in San Rafael, California. It would accurately be described as a charismatic/Pentecostal church, much like many of the churches that emerged out of the Jesus People Movement.[2]

Regrettably, from my perspective now, I was very good at getting other people to speak in tongues. If a person displayed this “gift,” then ipso facto, he or she must have been genuinely saved, since speaking in tongues was considered the clear and primary evidence of the indwelling Holy Spirit. If no tongues, then no conversion—this is what I believed along with most others in the charismatic camp.

Was I in for a surprise! I learned the hard way that whatever can be seen and heard can be mimicked. Tongues speaking was the gateway of acceptance into churches like the one I pastored. It proved to be akin to a wild circus act.

With the current growth of the New Apostolic Reformation (or Apostolic Movement and numerous other appellations), the confusion has only accelerated from that day to this. Now if you get a “word” or a “download,” see a vision, have a dream, speak with an angel, or walk with Jesus in the throne room, to name a few weird delusions, you are not only a real saved Christian but also a specially anointed one at that.

I Was One

 Yes, I was one of those. I received words of prophecy for people who came to me for counsel. At our services, the elders and pastors would pray for people who came to the front; we laid on hands, anointed them with oil, and received special communications directly from God. So then, where was the error and how could it go wrong?

It did go wrong, and sometimes terribly so. I will not recount the disasters that our excesses caused. It is embarrassing to recall now some of the life-altering results that arose from my “getting a word from God”— humbling certainly, and even spine chilling.

At minimum, what we were doing was unbiblical, but we thought we had a special anointing, and so we did not need to anchor our actions to the Bible. How crazy was such thinking! But never mind. If anyone called us to account, we accused them of resisting the moving of the Spirit. We—I—had moved into a cultic mindset.[3]


 Yes indeed, cultic, and I realize that over the last four decades I have still been feeling the impact of my years in the “movement.”

Here is how it works: We think we are more spiritual than others. We, after all, are attuned to the Spirit. Our services are wild and wonderful, though even a bit crazy. Our prayer meetings are enough to peal the paint off the walls. We are in direct and personal contact with God. We are under the anointing.

We see others who are not with us as being against us. They are standing in the way of the Spirit’s release, and these naysayers may even be guilty of blasphemy of the Holy Spirit. At minimum, they are acting as the enemy’s pawns. And see, their churches and their ministries are puny. They are not travelling around the world speaking and ministering to thousands, even millions, as we are. They are not writing bestselling books. And of course, the followers of those without the anointing are not experiencing signs and wonders. Their people are not getting healed. They are not hearing from God at all.

They are losers. They have not been pentecostalized.

Part Two

The Real Pentecostal

After Jesus’ resurrection, He appeared to His apostles in a locked room, stood among them and said, “Peace be with you. As the Father has sent me, even so I am sending you” (John 20:21). Then Jesus “breathed on them and said to them, ‘Receive the Holy Spirit’” (John 20:21). While they had for years been His faithful followers, this was the moment of their new birth.

Then Jesus told these apostles who had received the Holy Spirit not to depart from Jerusalem but to wait for the “promise of the Father” (Acts 1:4). Jesus continued, “for John baptized with water, but you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit” Acts 1:5). They did stay, and they did receive, or were baptized or immersed with and into the Holy Spirit. The result was mighty preaching that saw 3,000 Jews converted, who were then baptized in water on the first day of this new, powerful witnessing.

There is some controversy about the tongues event in Acts 2. Were the apostles speaking in known or unknown tongues? The hearers were hearing in their own dialects or languages. Was the miracle one of speaking or of hearing? I am in favor of known tongues, but it really does not make that much difference. What was being heard was the message that the Messiah has come, and He is Jesus of Nazareth, who died on the cross and is alive again as Lord of the universe.

Let’s Get Back to the Bible

The purpose of the baptism of the Holy Spirit is to witness boldly for Christ. We Christians are storytellers, and the promise is that the Holy Spirit works eternal salvation for those who hear the word of life. Then we are commissioned to make them disciples (see Matthew 28:19). Not all who hear are saved, but as Paul stated in Romans 8:30, “And those whom he predestined he also called, and those whom he called he also justified, and those whom he justified he also glorified.”

This is the biblical process: those whom God has predestined are called. It is abundantly clear, as we read in the Book of Acts, that the calling comes by means of witnessing and preaching. The calling leads to justification; that is, due to the fact that Jesus has died for us, taking our sin upon Himself, we can be made as though we had never sinned at all. All sin is gone, buried forever. Then comes the indwelling of the new Christian by the Holy Spirit, meaning he or she is glorified. Yes, the Spirit of God actually indwells the person—this is glory.

The Great Controversy

 There is a controversy here, of course. Some say we are baptized with or in the Holy Spirit upon conversion. Others say this comes later.

Certainly, we are indwelt by the Spirit upon conversion, but is there a secondary work of the Holy Spirit, one that empowers the believer to be a witness, more powerfully than would otherwise be the case?

In my case, my baptism with the Holy Spirit followed my conversion by five years; at least that is how I experienced it that night in 1968. Suddenly, that very next day, in my street ministry in the Haight-Ashbury, I saw people coming to saving faith in Jesus on every corner and in every venue, and it was that way for years during the period now identified as the Jesus People Movement, roughly 1967 to 1972.

With that experience being so convincing, for many years we laid hands on and prayed for brothers and sisters in Christ to be baptized with and in the Holy Spirit that they might be bold proclaimers of the Gospel. And very often, they demonstrated the truth of that principle!

Do I Need to Go Back to Those Days?

My conviction, coming upon me now for almost one year, is that I do need to go back to those days. I cannot let what we see way too often these days, which is the weird departure from the true working of the Holy Spirit, prevent me from praying for others to receive the equipping of the Holy Spirit in their ministry to fulfill the command of Jesus to go and make disciples.

Therefore, I am repenting and giving testimony to this right now. I hope to be getting back to praying that others might be emboldened to preach Jesus by the power of the Holy Spirit.

We need to be pentecostalized!

[1] Golden Gate Seminary moved to Ontario, California in 2017 and was renamed Gateway Baptist Theological Seminary.

[2] Early on, the Jesus People Movement was not charismatic/Pentecostal in orientation. This began to change with the advent of Calvary Chapel with Chuck Smith and the Vineyard churches with John Wimber. This is not 100% accurate, but close to it.

[3] Two seminary professors at Golden Gate Baptist Theological Seminary each invited me into their offices and explained to me the faulty concepts I had embraced. With some arrogance I rejected their wise counsel under the false notion that I was moving in the Spirit and they were not.



Grace versus Works

James 2:14-26 and Romans 7:15-25

  1. Find a quiet place, alone and apart from distractions.
  2. Be comfortably alert, still and at peace.
  3. Recite the Lord’s Prayer. Sing or cant the Jesus Prayer
  4. Pray for family, friends, neighbors, and yourself.
  5. Slowly and carefully read the passage of Scripture.
  6. Reread it. From memory, determine the central points.
  7. Our passage is sometimes misunderstood to mean that doing good works, i.e., helping the poor, is necessary for salvation.
  8. A works-based religion, whether that work being learning, discovering, or doing good deeds, thus earning favor with God, is the common religion of human kind. All the world’s religions, with the exception of Christianity, teaches as much.
  9. James is well aware that if a person is genuinely born again of the Holy Spirit there will be good works in that person’s life. So he says that he will show his faith by doing good works. But such works do not trigger salvation, but are the proof of it.
  10. Paul, in Romans 7:15-25 confesses that in him dwells do good thing, meaning that by his own actions he cannot please God.
  11. In reading the passage in Romans 7 Paul puts himself in a bad light in order to emphasize that despite all the good he might seem to be doing, he does not do the things he wants to do but the very opposite. Few of us will admit this about ourselves. In A.A. a person says, “My name is ______ and I am an alcoholic.” The Christian says, “I am a sinner.”
  12. Paul says, “wretched man that I am!” And he then gives thanks to God through Jesus Christ. No glory given to Paul but only to his Lord and Savior.
  13. Relying on good deeds for favor with God is empty, self-deceiving, and unbiblical. We “look to Jesus.”

The Paradox of the Presence of Good and Evil

Paradox # 6

The Presence of Good and Evil

Romans 8:18-25

  1. Find a quiet place, alone and apart from distractions.
  2. Be comfortably alert, still and at peace.
  3. Say the Lord’s Prayer. Sing or cant the Jesus Prayer.
  4. Pray for family, friends, neighbors, and yourself.
  5. Slowly and carefully read the passage of Scripture.
  6. Reread it. From memory, determine the central points.
  7. In the ESV edition of the Bible our section is referred to as “Future Glory.” The lead verse for this section has the phrase “the sufferings of this present time.”
  8. Paul acknowledges the presence of evil yet points to the future when the glory of God is revealed.
  9. Without explanation, Paul goes on to the fact that we eagerly long for the ultimate intention of God.
  10. Indeed, and the why and how is not expressed, but that our world, and ourselves, have been subjected to “futility” and that we exist in the “bondage to decay.”
  11. Our God who loves the world, who created us in His image, allows us to live in the presence of evil.
  12. No Bible author glosses over the reality of the condition we face. Indeed we do “groan” over our circumstance.
  13. Though Satan is not equal with the Creator God, still that hideous strength is allowed to exist and exert demonic power. The fact of this is plain, and again, without explanation or apology. Full disclosure one might say.
  14. We await full adoption as the children of God. Paul even states, “For in this hope we are saved.” Only the redeemed of the Lord have this outrageous hope, and biblical hope is not a wishing.
  15. Our waiting is done patiently. Every generation of believers hopes for the soon fulfillment of the great promises of God, which is only natural. See Genesis 3:15 on this point.
  16. After all is said, either in Scripture or by Christians throughout our history, we still do not fully understand why the God who so loves the world, allows the presence of evil.

The Cultic Connection

The Cultic Connection

In the late 1960’s, the group founded by Sun Myung Moon, the Unification Church, known on the street as the ‘Moonies’ hosted weekend gatherings at a ranch in Mendocino County (80 miles north of San Francisco) replete with free food and lodging, not to mention rather unsupervised mixing of the sexes accustomed to hippie free love. It was perfect—for cult recruitment.

And, as might be suspected, our Christian ministry lost some members, temporarily at least, to the Moonies.

During the late sixties and early seventies, I was a street preacher in San Francisco’s Haight-Ashbury. That experience with the Moonies was my first encounter with an aggressive cult whose agenda was hidden from those they made initial contact with. But, this would not be the last time. Group after group, some religious, some social/psychological like EST or the Forum founded by Werner Erhardt, emerged and employed manipulative practices to recruit members. In fact, one of my favorite definitions of a cultic group is it will use ‘mind bending’ methods to recruit, motivate, and retain members.

My sensitivity to cultic practices then has made me wary of certain methods to recruit people into the church or to make them open to Christianity. A critic or two of mine think I am being uncharitable, judgmental, or downright anti-evangelistic. Perhaps, but I would rather error, if error it be, on the side of going about the work of the Gospel in a biblical manner than to employ, however successful, processes that disguise the offensive nature of the Gospel.

We cannot avoid the peculiar nature of our Christianity. ‘For the word of the cross is folly to those who are perishing’ (1 Corinthians 1:18). However, ‘it pleased God through the folly of what we preach to save those who believe’ (verse 21). Offense must come if the preacher is faithful to his calling. There will be those who are saved through the preaching—this we can depend upon. Schemes then devised to win favor and avoid the scandal of the cross are unacceptable practices and therefore to be avoided at all costs.

Let me go on to a strong point: I do not see the use of bonding techniques encouraged by Jesus, Paul or any New Testament personage. Nowhere are we urged to create bonding processes using small groups or cells. Music, in the Scripture, is to facilitate and express praise and worship—not to be used as entertainment. Not at all, nothing even close, rather the Gospel is to be presented in a straightforward way with no hidden agendas or doctrines. The full story is to be publically presented all the way from heaven and hell, law and grace, repent and believe.

This is why I am not attracted to things like the Alpha Course where food, intimate small groups, and weekend gatherings are employed to ‘introduce’ Christ to non-believers. When I see this I am reminded of the Moonies and their recruitment weekend get-togethers in Mendocino. ‘But’, my critics say, ‘people will not come to hear the Gospel preached; we need to use whatever means necessary to bring the world to Christ.’

My response is: 1. There will more likely be false conversions than genuine conversions. (How can there be genuine conversion when the fullness of the Gospel is not preached? Even us Calvinists insist on proclamation of the cross and resurrection.) 2. Bonding type conversions are short lived; where there has been no real forgiveness, no peace with God, no new birth, the ‘duped’ merely go on looking for the next experience. 3. We are not being faithful to biblical revelation when we go beyond clear practice and doctrine. The evangelical commands in the Bible are to preach the Word of Christ because that is how saving faith is made effectual. (see Romans 10:17) 4. Dependence on techniques, could I say gimmicks, is far from a trusting in the ministry of the Holy Spirit to bring conviction of sin and the revelation of Jesus Christ as Saviour to the lost.

Not that the quasi-cultic techniques employed by some churches and ministries today are not working, that is, some pews have been filling up. (There is evidence and experience now that shows there is eventually an emptying or a recycling.) This is the deceptive aspect to it; others are using the new methods of recruitment and no one wants to be left behind or find themselves at odds with denominational superiors. Frankly, not many are able to resist.

Have I been too harsh? I suppose that is possible, but we are not talking about business strategy or working on plans for our sports team to succeed. We are talking about the ultimate ‘bottom line’, eternity, heaven and hell, we are talking about the honor and glory of God, we are talking about being obedient to the plain and simple commands of God to preach the Gospel to every nation. At the end, it is not a bankruptcy or a losing record at issue, it is what will be spoken at the judgment where Jesus will be heard either to say, ‘Well done, good and faithful servant, enter into the joy of your rest’ or ‘Depart from me, I never knew you.’

How to Know if you are an Actual Christian

How to Know if you are an Actual Christian

What a strange topic for an essay one might say. Agreed, yet after fifty years as a pastor, I find that it is not so easy to tell if one is actually a genuine Christian, or as I like to say, born-again. Certainly there is no greater personal issue than this one. It is literally the difference between heaven and hell.

Here now is a list of changes in a person’s life, which taken together, or at least with several points in place, strongly suggest that the new birth has taken place.

  1. An interest in the Bible

Maybe you picked up a Bible a time or two and read a page or two, but like me, I didn’t get it at all. If you are like me at all, I could not even bear to hear the Bible read and I hated all those Christian movies like “The Greatest Story Ever Told.”

Then though, I started reading and reading, and just loved it though it was not easy reading. And to this day, the Bible is special to me and I just love to read it. This is a definite sign of genuine conversion.

  1. Want to read about Jesus

I knew the name Jesus and had some kind of idea of what it was all about, but He was just another founder of a religion. Nothing more.

Then after that time when I was twenty-one, after a moment when as far as I knew then or know now, something happened. Jesus became the focus of my attention. The Gospels, Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John—read them over and over. Then when I got to be a preacher, the same, and now yet preaching and teaching these wonderful Gospels.

Real clear, only born-again types love to read about Jesus. And why? Simply because we love Jesus. Once we get it that He died for us because He loves us we in turn love Him. And, over the years, the relationship, the love, the attachment only grows.

  1. Not afraid of churches

There was Holy Redeemer Catholic Church on Portland Blvd. in N.W. Portland, Oregon we had to pass on our way to Peninsula Park and I would not even look at it. I have no idea why, but in a way it kind of scared me.

Again, this changed after I starting believing in Jesus. No fear of those places, instead, I would walk right in and not even think of it. I felt safe in church buildings, still do.

Not such a big deal as the first two evidences, but still a big one for me at the time.

  1. Not afraid of Christians

The kids I knew in high school, Verdugo Hills High in Sunland-Tujunga, part of the Los Angeles School District, I stopped hanging out with them when I found they were Christians. They were not the cool kids, good folk, and I definitely did not want to be associated with them. Not good for one’s rep when you are a want-a-be tough teen ager with a duck tail haircut.

And did that ever change once I was saved. Here is the evidence for this: at midnight chow at the Travis Air Force Base Hospital, I sat with the sinners. We stole stuff out the back door, thieves and rogues we were. On the other side of the dinning hall sat Vern Hogue and Don Ethridge—we all knew they were Christians.

Days after my saving experience, I was no longer welcome with the bunch I always sat with. I don’t know how it worked exactly, but I was expelled and sent over to be with Vern and Don. How that happened, how the old bunch knew I was different I cannot say. But that is how it went.

  1. Want to learn about prayer

Prayer has never been my strong suit, but I did start praying. I even had a prayer list, and I still to this day have several of them. On the far left of a half-sheet of paper I would have one column with the date, then another with the request, another with the answer, and the last column was the date of the prayer.

I learned that Christianity was mostly a relationship with God and this is what was happening to me. I was a guy who for sure would never resort, stoop is a better word, to prayer. No way. But there it was. Something dramatic had happened and I never as much as thought through it all until much later on.

  1. Desire to talk with other Christians

Across the street from me in Suisun, California where low-class airmen lived mostly, was am airman like me. His name was Charles Davenport and was also a Christian; we even attended the same church, the First Baptist Church of Fairfield, and the pastor was Bob Lewis. He was from Lake Charles, Louisiana and he was a fairly mature Christian. We talked and talked and talked.

In the 2nd Casualty Staging Flight at the hospital, that I was a part of, there were no other Christians. I worked from 5pm to 8am, and it was a lonely time mostly.

Toward the middle of my enlistment, two nurses came to our unit. They were twins, beautiful young women, and they were real Christians. After all was quiet on the unit, I would wander up the hall, pull up a chair and talk Bible stuff with these 2nd lieutenants. It worked so that for about a year, I often had the pleasure of talking about Jesus with these nurses. Their maturity as believers was much needed at that time.

Who would have ever thought as much, but here it was, I was seeking out Christians to be with when all my previous years I had been diligently avoiding them.

Another sure sign, hanging out with those weird Christians.

  1. Able to admit you were really a bad sinner

At some point in our lives we begin to not only realize but reveal that we are not as pure as the wind-driven snow. This after some maturing, too.

Mostly we cannot handle it that we have flaws. Then there is our conscience, which may accuse or excuse us. Shame and guilt can crush us and we spend considerable amounts of energy, emotional, brain energy, to insure ourselves that we are not as bad as others.

Here now the Christian, who due to understanding the meaning of Jesus’ death on the cross, the shedding of His blood for us, that blood that covers all our sin, grasps us and we gain an assurance that we are completely forgiven.

Gone! No guilt, no shame, though the old enemy tries to accuse us and tell us how bad we are. But we know better.

Sure, we yet sin, and so we find out from the Scripture that we confess our sin, daily is best, and we know again that weird things of body and mind, are gone. No, this is not a license to sin, but a paradoxical truth. Forgiven, and daily forgiven. Best to study 1 John 1:8-2:2 on this point.

  1. Concern and love for others

A shift in focus comes now, little by little. Instead of thinking only of ourselves, we have an interest in the needs of other people. Normally we are caught up in seeing to our own affairs; a subtle change comes now, and a healthy one at that. Now that the only important issue is forever resolved for us, we can actually see to the concerns and cares of others.

This is where evangelism comes in. My experience has been that genuine Christians have a desire to see others come to know Jesus as Savior and Lord. This is far and away the greatest need anyone has whether they know it or not.

For me, this was scary. I first got into personal evangelism when my pastor Bob Lewis handed out names of people, with their addresses, to visit and share the Gospel with them. I did it though I was petrified, and a several occasions I was firmly rebuffed and told to go away. In a way I still do not fully grasp, my concern, above all others, is to tell others about Jesus.

  1. Not afraid to talk about Jesus with others

Before becoming a Christian, well, we would never, ever, tell others about Jesus. This is a clear fact.

Now then, we find in Scripture that we are called, commanded, encouraged, to tell the world about our Savior. After a time, even timid people like me, start doing it and suddenly find a meaning and purpose for living that nothing can match.

After all these years, after even being punched in the face and slandered and screamed at, I am still at it and loving it more all the time. I say, “Bring it on!”

Okay, I am a preacher, seminary trained and so on, but all Christians get to do this. “Go” Jesus said, and we go. We never retire, never get laid off, never fired, always urged on, by the inner witness of the Holy Spirit—we keep boldly proclaiming Jesus and Him crucified.

How to Know you are not a Born-again Christian

This part is easy; none of the eight points above will apply to you.

Why am I so abrupt and seemingly uncaring by stating this?

Because it is time to face the truth about what is actually going on. This little essay is intended to wake you up. I hope you will see your true condition and not depend upon the big lies, which include the following:

Death is the end.

There is no heaven or hell.

All you have to do is be a good person.

Help others, be kind, and do good deeds.

All paths lead to God.

You will have other life times to become enlightened.

Who cares anyway; you want to be with your friends in hell.

Last word to you: Stop everything and ask that if God is real, He would reveal Himself to you. In a prayer, aloud or in your mind only, ask if Jesus is really the Savior who died for you on the cross.

When you get your answer, and you find out the core reality, get a Bible and start reading. Start with Matthew’s Gospel. Find a Christian. Find a Bible preaching and teaching church. Okay, start here and the rest will unfold.

Kent Philpott

December 2018

John 1:14—The Greatest Verse in the Bible?


John 1:14

The Word Become Flesh

  1. Find a quiet place, alone and apart from distractions.
  2. Be comfortably alert, still and at peace.
  3. Say the Lord’s Prayer. Sing or cant the Jesus Prayer
  4. Pray for family, friends, neighbors, and yourself.
  5. Slowly and carefully read the passage of Scripture.
  6. Reread it. From memory, determine the central points.
  7. “And the Word became flesh”—Word comes from Logos a Greek word with the idea of the ultimate wisdom of God. By way of a miracle eclipsing even the creation of the universe, God becomes human.
  8. With the use of the word “flesh” is meant that the Logos is vulnerable to all that humans are including death.
  9. “And dwelt among us”—here meaning present with humans not as a spirit or abstract concept but fully here.
  10. “We have seen his glory”—John, as well as the apostles and thousands of others, beheld the miracles, heard His words, and were transformed by His grace.
  11. “Glory” —for a Jew like John, “glory” would have meant Jesus in their midst is God in their midst.
  12. “Only son of the Father”—meaning the utterly unique one of which there is not or ever will be another, this only Son (monogenous in Greek) is deity just as the Father is.
  13. “Full of grace and truth”—here the absolutely unimaginable combination of attributes, grace and truth, a concept beyond the imagination of the human mind, the Word is.
  14. Grace, the saving love of God; truth, ultimate reality—describes the Word become flesh who is in person, grace and truth.