Tuesday, August 2, 2016

Guest Post: God of Jacob, God of Israel Pt1

By Dave Hunt
According to the latest Fox News polls updated June 26, 2006 (other polls basically agree), “fully 92 percent of Americans say they believe in God”; only 5 percent say they don’t, while the remaining 3 percent are not sure [ed. note: the numbers have not changed substantially today]. In How We Believe , Michael Shermer, director of the Skeptics Society and publisher of Skeptic magazine, claims that “Never in history have so many, and such a high percentage of the [American] population, believed in God. Not only is God not dead as Nietzche proclaimed, but he has never been more alive.”
This statistic, however, is not as encouraging as it sounds. When we ask what respondents mean by “god,” very few believe in—much less know— the God of the Bible . Yet belief in a false god is no better and could be even worse than believing in no God. For many, “God” is simply a “higher power.” Higher than what? Power ? What kind? And how could a “power” of any kind have the infinite intelligence (or anyintelligence) to design the atom, the universe, imprint the written instructions in a coded language on DNA for constructing and operating every cell, and create intelligent, personal beings with a moral conscience and a passion for purpose?
The very thought of a “power” creating anything is ridiculous! Then why is belief in a “power” so appealing? Did the Star Wars slogan, “May the Force be with you,” have that much influence? It went a long way toward changing movie fans’ thinking, especially among American youth. Of course, this has always been a popular idea because a power/force can’t impose moral laws, demand obedience, or judge and punish anyone—instead, it can be used for one’s own ends. Clearly, the true God who created us for a purpose holds mankind responsible for creation’s witness to His existence and for obedience to the moral laws He has implanted in every conscience (Rom:1:18-25; 2:14-16). He will not be used .
Furthermore, just as human beings are jealous of their individual identities, obviously the true God would insist on being properly identified. He will neither reveal Himself to, nor enter into a relationship with, anyone who will not acknowledge Him as He truly is. Nor will He look with broad-minded favor on those who call Him a “higher power.” To do so is an insult to the true God! The God of the Bible (whose existence we have infallibly proved in prior articles) declares to wayward Israel, “And ye shall seek me, and find me, when ye shall search for me with all your heart” (Jer:29:13). Those who hope to find a god that suits their imagination will not find the true God.
It is common sense that the true God would only reveal Himself to sincere and earnest seekers who want to know Him in truth in order to obey Him. The first prerequisite to knowing God is the willingness—indeed, the passion—to know Him as He really is, not as one imagines or would like Him to be. It is no less idolatry to create an imaginary god in one’s mind than to make one out of clay, wood, or stone. So, who is the true God who proves Himself by unfailingly foretelling the future in the Bible?
As we have seen in past articles, the Bible identifies Him as “the God of Israel” 203 times, “the God of Jacob” 28 times, “the God of Abraham” 17 times, and “the God of Isaac” 13 times. Never is He called the “God of any other ethnic group.” These designations are foundational to everything the Bible teaches, including the very character of God. To profess to believe in God and at the same time to hold a prejudice against God’s chosen people, the Jews, or against Israel, which turns these clear biblical identifications into meaningless titles, casts doubt upon whether one really knows the true God.
In His refutation of the Sadducees’ denial of the resurrection, Christ’s primary argument was based upon God’s statement to Moses: “I AM...the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob...this is my name for ever, and this is my memorial unto all generations” (Ex 3:14-15). Clearly, this was the identity of the true God then; it is now and will be forever. God never changes.
Notice Christ’s reasoning: “Ye do err, not knowing the scriptures, nor the power of God....[H]ave ye not read that which was spoken unto you by God, saying, I am the God of Abraham, and the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob? God is not the God of the dead, but of the living” (Mt 22:29-32).
Christ is saying that if Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob will not live eternally through a resurrection, then it would be a mockery for God to be identified with them eternally. He would be the God of, and have identified Himself with, beings of limited existence—scarcely a blip in eternity. To be called the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, if they no longer existed, would demean God.
If the nation of Israel is dead, or has been replaced by the church and does not have an eternal future, then the very term “God of Israel” would not be to God’s glory but a slur upon His character in view of His many promises that Israel would never cease to exist. Yet that is the position taken by those who say that Israel has been replaced by the church. In The Last Disciple (p. 88), Hank Hanegraaff has a key character say, “The covenant between God and Israel was broken with the rejection of His Son.”
Hank gives no explanation how an “everlasting covenant” could ever be broken, nor how Israel’s rejection of Christ could break a covenant that was not conditional upon her accepting Him, for which there were never any conditions Israel had to fulfill, and which God said He would bring to completion in the last days.
Indeed, at the same time that God promises eternal blessings to Israel in a full restoration in the last days, He also recites her unfaithfulness to Him without a hint that the many sins of Israel and the Jewish people would be any deterrent to His fulfilling all of His promises to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob:
"...the land which the Lord sware unto your fathers, Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, to give unto them and to their seed after them...the land that I gave to your fathers, for ever and ever....I do not this for your sakes, O house of Israel, but for mine holy name’s sake, which ye have profaned among the heathen...be ashamed and confounded for your own ways, O house of Israel...in the day that I shall have cleansed you from all your iniquities....For I will...gather you out of all countries, and will bring you into your own land...and will do better unto you than at your beginnings: and ye shall know that I am the Lord....I the Lord have spoken it, and I will do it." (Dt 1:8; Jer:7:7; Ezk 36:11, 22-26, 32-36)
Here again, as elsewhere (as we have said), it is quite clear that there are no conditions for Israel to fulfill, but God will, for the integrity of His name, fulfill every promise in spite of Israel’s rebellion against Him. Furthermore, the prophets foretold that the Messiah would be rejected by Israel and crucified, yet in all of those prophecies there is never a suggestion that because of this rejection God would break His everlasting covenant with Israel. The covenant was made with Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob—not with their descendants (Gn 12:1-3; 15:7, 18-21; 17:7-8, 19, 21; 26; 28:13; 1 Ch 16:14-18, etc.); it was never conditioned upon the obedience of their descendants, and therefore could not possibly be broken by anything those descendants did or failed to do. It is a slap in the eternal God’s face to say that Israel has been replaced!
Scripture records literally hundreds of promises from God that Israel as a nation would never cease to exist (Jer:31:35-37, etc.). These cannot be annulled even by God himself. To do so would make Him a liar. Nor can they be spiritualized away as though the land of Canaan, which became the land of Israel, could simply mean the heavenly inheritance of the church.
It is irrefutable that Israel once possessed a physical, historical land that was given to her by God’s eternal decree. It is equally an historical fact that she was expelled from this land by God himself for her rebellion. And it is no less an historical fact that Israel became a nation once again, May 14, 1948, and that millions of Jews have since returned to that Promised Land from more than 100 countries, just as Scripture foretold. This can be nothing less than the beginnings of God’s promised restoration of Israel so that her latter end would be better than her beginning. A very few of God’s many promises follow:
"Unto thy seed will I give this land...forever...from the river of Egypt unto the...river Euphrates....I will establish my covenant between me and thee and thy seed after thee...for an everlasting covenant.... And I will give unto thee, and to thy seed...all the land of Canaan, for an everlasting possession...for unto thee [Isaac], and unto thy seed, I will give all these countries, and I will perform the oath which I sware unto Abraham thy father...the land whereon thou liest, to thee [Jacob] will I give it, and to thy seed.
"Be ye mindful always of his covenant...which he made with Abraham, and of his oath unto Isaac; and hath confirmed the same to Jacob for a law, and to Israel for an everlasting covenant....Unto thee will I give the land of Canaan, the lot of your inheritance...."(Gn 12:7; 13:15; 15:18; 17:7,8; 26:3; 28:13; 1 Ch 16:14-18)
Citing the hatred of Israel’s neighbors at that time, Psalm:83:3,4 foretells the Muslims’ openly and oft-stated plan to wipe Israel off the map: “They have taken crafty counsel against thy people....Come, and let us cut them off from being a nation....” In the same effort to destroy her, Christian denominations have initiated a boycott against companies that do business with Israel. Replacement theologians such as D. James Kennedy, R.C. Sproul, and many others allied with them have rejected modern Israel as of any significance in the fulfillment of God’s promises to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. In “An Open Letter to Evangelicals and Other Interested Parties: The People of God, the Land of Israel, and the Impartiality of the Gospel,” they declare:
The inheritance promises that God gave to Abraham...do not apply to any particular ethnic group, but to the church of Jesus Christ, the true Israel....The entitlement of any one ethnic or religious group to territory in the Middle East called the “Holy Land” cannot be supported by Scripture. In fact, the land promises specific to Israel in the Old Testament were fulfilled under Joshua. [See Judgment Day, pp. 276-77]
An everlasting covenant fulfilled under Joshua, who only lived 110 years?! Hundreds of “promises specific to Israel in the Old Testament” had not even been foretold by Israel’s prophets until centuries after Joshua died! Even the prophecies made by Moses during the lifetime of Joshua that Israel would sin and be cast out of the land were not fulfilled “under Joshua.” This declaration by Kennedy, Sproul, et al., is such a defiance of the God of Israel that one finds it unbelievable coming from biblical “scholars”! Here is the Word of the Lord:
"Therefore, behold, the days come saith the Lord, that they shall no more say, the Lord liveth which brought up the children of Israel out of the land of Egypt [in Joshua’s day]; But, the Lord liveth, which brought up and which led the seed of the house of Israel out of the north country [Russia et al.], and from all countries whither I had driven them...."(Jer:23:7-8)
This is being fulfilled in our day. When God told Moses that He would destroy Israel and make of him a great nation, Moses reasoned with God that He would be going back on His Word if He did that, and His critics would say that He was not able to keep His promises. If even one failed, it would reflect on all His other promises. (Ex 32:9-14). Yet today, growing numbers of those who claim to be Christians are declaring that God’s eternal covenant with Israel has been annulled!
If the everlasting covenant that the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob swore to these patriarchs of Israel is not kept, then God has denied Himself. The same holds true for the literally hundreds of promises God has made that He would restore Israel fully to her land. If just one fails, then God has denied Himself and is not worthy of our trust. Here are a few of the many that could be cited:
"As a shepherd seeketh out his flock...so will I seek out my sheep, and will deliver them out of all the places where they have been scattered...and gather them from the countries, and will bring them to their own land, and feed them upon the mountains of Israel...in a good pasture....I will seek that which was lost, and bring again that which was driven away...therefore, will I save my flock, and they shall no more be a prey....I will set up one shepherd over them...even my servant David [i.e., the Messiah]....And I the Lord will be their God...there shall be showers of blessing...they shall be safe in their land...no more be a prey to the heathen...none shall make them afraid...And...I will...do better unto you than at your beginnings: and ye shall know that I am the Lord...neither shalt thou bear the reproach of the people any more...for I will...gather you out of all countries, and will bring you into your own land...that I have given unto Jacob...and I will put my spirit within you, and cause you to walk in my statutes...and will set my sanctuary in the midst of them for evermore...."(Ezk 34:12-16, 22-28; 36:11, 15, 24, 27; 37:25-28)
If “everlasting,” concerning Israel, doesn’t mean everlasting , then how can we trust the promise in John:3:16 of everlasting life to those who believe on Christ? The God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, the God of Israel, is the only true God. The Messiah promised to Israel by Jewish prophets of God came 2,000 years ago. He is the Savior of all who believe on Him as the one who, in fulfillment of what the Hebrew prophets foretold, died for the sins of the world, rose from the dead, and ascended to the Father’s right hand. He is coming in power and glory to punish the world for its abuse of His people Israel and to rule the world from David’s throne in Jerusalem. Let us stand firm on the truth of Scripture and preach the true gospel of God, to the Jew first, then to the Gentile.
Hunt, Dave. (2016, August 1). God of Jacob, God of Israel - Part One. thebereancall.org. Retrieved August 2, 2016 from http://www.thebereancall.org/content/god-jacob-god-israel-part-one-0

Tuesday, July 5, 2016

Guest Post: How Then Shall We Live?

By: T. A. McMahon
The Bible is an amazing book. Although this is certainly true, it’s also a huge understatement. All accolades fall short; no adjectives come close. Yet that should hardly be surprising since God is the author. As we’ve written elsewhere, the Bible is God’s direct communication to mankind. And since He is infinite, apart from His Word there’s no way that finite man can know in truth anything beyond God’s general attributes that are revealed in creation (Rom:1:20). Everyone can surmise that the material world, from the sweeping expanse of the universe to the intricate complexity of a cell, could not have created itself. A Designer had to have been involved, and the Designer must have attributes of astonishing intelligence, power, and presence. Observation and logic are enough to lead anyone to that conclusion.
On the other hand, the specifics regarding God’s character, as well as His purpose and plan for those whom He created, cannot be arrived at through human opinions, speculations, and guesses. Finite man is basically clueless when it comes to the specifics, which is a major reason why there are so many different religious beliefs and practices in the world. God must inform humanity about things it cannot figure out, which He has done clearly through the Scriptures. One of those things (which is the focus of this article) is the way that a biblical Christian, one who has believed the gospel for salvation and desires to obey the instructions of God’s Word, should go about living his life.
The Bible is sometimes referred to as the “Manufacturer’s Handbook,” which is a good description regarding the overall content of Scripture. However, not too many people care to read instruction manuals. This attitude doesn’t serve them well when it comes to the functioning of their latest kitchen appliance or video entertainment device, leading to the inevitable frustration of “why isn’t it working?” The same attitude regarding the Bible will cause a believer to reach that exasperation stage and far worse. As Proverbs states in two verses: “There is a waywhich seemeth right unto a man, but the end thereof are the ways of death” (14:12; 16:25; emphasis added). “Death,” in this case, means separation from God. In those areas of a believer’s life where he hasn’t looked to the Scriptures for God’s instruction, he has to supply his own ideas. That causes him to go his own way, thus separating him from God’s “way.” The “end thereof” ultimately leads to a condition that at best is devoid of God’s grace and at worst is destructive physically and spiritually.
Recently I’ve been reading the Apostle Peter’s Epistles and found the first chapter in his second letter to be a compact volume of God’s instruction for believers as well as a great exhortation to do what it says. Though it’s not God’s full counsel regarding His instructions for everyone who claims to follow Jesus, it’s an excellent self-evaluation piece for us to consider, no matter our degree of maturity in Christ.
Simon Peter, a servant and an apostle of Jesus Christ, to them that have obtained like precious faith with us through the righteousness of God and our Saviour Jesus Christ: grace and peace be multiplied unto you through the knowledge of God, and of Jesus our Lord, according as his divine power hath given unto us all things that pertain unto life and godliness, through the knowledge of him that hath called us to glory and virtue: whereby are given unto us exceeding great and precious promises: that by these ye might be partakers of the divine nature, having escaped the corruption that is in the world through lust.
And beside this, giving all diligence, add to your faith virtue; and to virtue knowledge; and to knowledge temperance; and to temperance patience; and to patience godliness; and to godliness brotherly kindness; and to brotherly kindness charity. For if these things be in you, and abound, they make you that ye shall neither be barren nor unfruitful in the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ. But he that lacketh these things is blind, and cannot see afar off, and hath forgotten that he was purged from his old sins.
Wherefore the rather, brethren, give diligence to make your calling and election sure: for if ye do these things, ye shall never fall: for so an entrance shall be ministered unto you abundantly into the everlasting kingdom of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ. Wherefore I will not be negligent to put you always in remembrance of these things, though ye know them, and be established in the present truth.
Yea, I think it meet, as long as I am in this tabernacle, to stir you up by putting you in remembrance; knowing that shortly I must put off this my tabernacle, even as our Lord Jesus Christ hath shewed me. Moreover I will endeavour that ye may be able after my decease to have these things always in remembrance. For we have not followed cunningly devised fables, when we made known unto you the power and coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, but were eyewitnesses of his majesty. For he received from God the Father honour and glory, when there came such a voice to him from the excellent glory, This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased. And this voice which came from heaven we heard, when we were with him in the holy mount. We have also a more sure word of prophecy; whereunto ye do well that ye take heed, as unto a light that shineth in a dark place, until the day dawn, and the day star arise in your hearts: knowing this first, that no prophecy of the scripture is of any private interpretation. For the prophecy came not in old time by the will of man: but holy men of God spake as, they were moved by the Holy Ghost. (2 Peter:1:1-21)
These are indeed God’s words, relayed by His Holy Spirit, and written through the human instrument whom He chose to pen them, Simon Peter. Although Peter was gloriously transformed at Pentecost from the hit-or-miss Peter we read about in the Scriptures prior to that event, these were God’s words and not Peter’s own ideas but expressed through Peter’s manner of communication. This is made clear at the end of the chapter but needs to be underscored at the beginning: the declarations are from God himself.
Verses one through four assure us that Jesus is God and that He has supplied believers in Him with precious faith through the knowledge of Him, empowering us with all things that pertain unto life and godliness. “All things” means all things. That phrase asserts the sufficiency of God’s Word. What source other than God could supply anything that pertains to life and godliness? There is no other source. What Jesus has fully supplied enables every believer in Him to join in His divine moral nature, His godliness. As we are reminded in 1 Peter:1:15-16: “But as he which hath called you is holy, so be ye holy in all manner of [conduct]; Because it is written, Be ye holy; for I am holy.” That is the only way that the sinful, lustful corruption of the world can be overcome.
If, as His Word proclaims, the Lord has given us all that is necessary for us to live our lives in a way that is pleasing to Him, what then is our part? This involves a willingness to do what He has instructed. That answer may seem obvious, but it is either resisted or avoided by many Christians today. Verses five through seven of 2 Peter 1 exhort the believer to cultivate what our Lord has provided, helping our faith to grow. For a mature faith to flourish, we must add virtue, knowledge, self-control, patience, godliness, brotherly kindness, and charity, i.e., love. Love, of course, is the chief quality of godliness and must superintend all of God’s promises.
Too often we read those words and blow past them as if they were simply platitudes or spiritual clichés. On the contrary, there aren’t many verses that are more practical in their fruitfulness. If we will only put them into practice, “they make you that ye shall neither be barren nor unfruitful in the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ” (2 Peter:1:8). This, by the way, is not “head knowledge” but knowledge that produces godly fruit. Those individuals who miss that, for whatever reasons, the Scripture characterizes as blind and forgetful as to what Jesus has already done for them by paying for their sins.
Some Christian writers have addressed their concern over the lack of good works produced by those who claim to follow Jesus. Sadly that is a reality of our day. However, a few authors have sought to correct that condition by teaching that true believers who lack good works will receive temporary punishment at the judgment seat of Christ where rewards are bestowed. No. That is an error and is not supported by Scripture; moreover, it creates a Roman Catholic-type of Purgatory, which involves the expiation of sin by the individual himself. It’s also a denial of Christ’s full payment for our sins, i.e., the gospel. What has been referred to as the Bema Seat of Christ for rewards and losses has nothing to do with the sins of believers. Jesus will judge our works by rewarding those endeavors that have eternal value and dismissing those that are worthless (1 Corinthians:3:13-15).
Second Peter 1:10-11 is an exhortation to diligently fulfill the ministry, the works, and the purpose that the Lord has called us to. Our willingness to do just that is a guarantee of spiritual fruitfulness: “For if you do these things, ye shall never fall.” It also encourages us to press forward earnestly that upon entrance into heaven we may hear those wonderful words, “Well done, thou good and faithful servant” (Matthew:25:21).
Peter knew from the Lord that he was close to the time of his death, and his heart was to remind fellow believers of the things he had taught that would cause them to grow in the faith. To that end, he gives us some insight regarding a glorious event that he, James, and John had witnessed. Even beyond Peter’s personal preview of Jesus being glorified (as He will be again when He returns), the teaching stresses the foundation to all that he had written above. In conclusion, he notes that what he is relating was a fact of history, and that he was an eyewitness of what he saw, heard, and felt on the Mount of Transfiguration. Be assured that in our present times when the experiential has become the guiding authority of most people’s lives, both in the world and in the church, no one has had an experience like that (2 Peter:1:16-21).
Peter, James, and John saw Jesus glorified before their very eyes. It was no altered state of consciousness, no visualization, no conjured-up imagery produced by some contemplative, Eastern mystical method. It was a God-produced reality. None of those who teach that God cannot be known by the senses, the intellect, or the written Word but can only be experienced, have ever, nor could ever, produce such an extraordinary event. Moreover, what they do produce through their occult methodologies is fake—if not a direct demonic deception.
Peter certainly acknowledges the amazing experience on the Mount. But then he says, “We have also a more sure word of prophecy; whereunto ye do well that ye take heed” (verse 19). Why, however, should we accept as true the personal, subjective experience that Peter described? Some modern so-called Bible scholars consider it a myth. It would definitely be questionable except for the fact that Peter’s experience is documented in the Word of God, and according to Jesus, “Thy word is truth” (John:17:17). Furthermore, the true experience is supported by “a more sure word of prophecy,” and we are exhorted to “take heed” to God’s written Word. Believers are certainly privileged to have experiences in the Lord, but those experiences must never take the place of nor diminish the authority of Scripture.
As wonderful as spiritual experiences can be, they are personal and subjective and are a byproduct of a believer’s relationship with the Lord. They lack the objective basis for one to discern whether or not they are true. For example, a Christian friend relates how the Holy Spirit was leading him in a certain situation. Although that experience was consistent with Scripture as a principle, yet because of its subjective nature, one can’t really verify that it was indeed Holy Spirit led. In some cases, the situation may be so contrary to the Word of God that it can be readily dismissed as not of the Lord.
Scripture, on the other hand, is objective. It is a believer’s plumbline against which he is to determine what he believes or is being taught. As Isaiah wrote, “To the law and to the testimony [God’s Word]: if they speak not according to this word, it is because there is no light in them” (8:20).
Peter concludes the chapter by underscoring the fact that prophecy (meaning the written words of Scripture) did not originate from man (himself included), but the words came through chosen men of God who wrote them down as they were given by the Holy Spirit. Numerous other verses confirm this, including 1 Thessalonians:2:13: “For this cause also thank we God without ceasing, because, when ye received the word of God which ye heard of us, ye received it not as the word of men, but as it is in truth, the word of God, which effectually worketh also in you that believe.”
So, we have the words of God ! My hope is that everyone who has just read that sentence will take the significance of it to heart. God has given us His words ! And, as we’ve noted here in Peter’s second Epistle as one example, His Word contains instructions for every follower of Jesus Christ that we all must obey if we are to be fruitful and productive in our lives as believers. There is no other way to please God.
McMahon, T.A.. (2016, July 1). How Then Shall We Live?. thebereancall.org. Retrieved July 5, 2016 from http://www.thebereancall.org/content/how-then-shall-we-live

Friday, June 3, 2016

Guest Post: New Age Mysticism Pt3

T. A. McMahon
In his 2006 book, Yoga and the Body of Christ , Dave Hunt noted that there were more than 500,000 references on Google Search for “Christian churches and yoga.” Today, that search brings up more than 10 million! In part two of this series “New Age Mysticism Déjà vu” (March 2016), I explained that the heart of yoga is an Eastern mystical view of God as an impersonal force or energy. In light of that belief, so-called Christian yoga is an attempt to reconcile two contradictory beliefs and practices, which can never happen. Any endeavor that tries to Christianize the practice of yoga is akin to turning to Christ-rejecting pagan religions in order to draw closer to Him. That is both nonsensical and blasphemous.
In this series dealing with the intrusion of Eastern mysticism into the church, it would be a huge error to overlook another growing practice among Christians—a practice that may even exceed the numbers of those involved in yoga: Christianized martial arts.
The information contained in this article is drawn primarily from two former practitioners and teachers of the martial arts, Gaylene Goodroad and myself. Throughout my college days, I competed in the sport of intercollegiate Judo and participated in AAU (Amateur Athletic Union) tournaments. As head of my college Judo club I helped instruct new members and teammates. After graduate school, I moved to the West Coast and studied aikido at what then was considered the top aikido dojo [training center or school] in the country. For more than a decade I was engrossed in the history and cultures that produced the martial arts.
Gaylene Goodroad’s experiences were more concentrated and advanced than my own due to the fact that she had studied under the personal guidance of highly revered teachers (whom I could only access by reading their books). She has written of her involvement in karate (advanced black belt degrees in two of the arts, and as a sensei) and has presented her evaluation of the martial arts in general in her booklet My Life in “The Way . ”
The truth is that anyone who claims to be a Christian, i.e., to be a follower of Jesus Christ, needs to follow His teachings! As obvious as that should be, and as much as it is professed, fewer and fewer Christians (a group that includes many who call themselves Bible-believing Christians) truly adhere to the necessity of going by the teachings and instructions of the Word of God. Although the Bible is wonderfully profound, its fundamental truths can be readily understood by every believer who is born of the Spirit of God. God, who is no respecter of persons, does not play favorites regarding one’s intellect (Acts:10:341 Corinthians:1:27). He makes very clear the revelation of Himself, His characteristics, His plan for His creation, His solution for the problem of sin, the reconciliation of the lost to Himself, and other essential issues.
A major characteristic of our eternal creator God is that He is personal . He is the Creator of everything. Furthermore, He created mankind in His image, i.e., with personal attributes. The gospel is the revelation of the personal God of creation who so loved His personal creatures that He became one of them in order to save them from their sins. What Christian would deny that? There are those who do—those who are in cults that carry the name of Christ in their title but who deny the biblical Jesus, and those in liberal denominations whose theology is as fickle as the wind. Yet there are also Christians who are unwittingly entertaining a view of God that denies the personal God of the Bible. Who might they be? Those who are involved in the Eastern spirituality of martial arts.
Goodroad quotes Gichin Funakoshi, the father of modern-day karate: “By the time I had been practicing Karate for some years, and as I became more familiar with the art, I became more conscious of its spiritual nature…” ( Karate-Do p. 86).
The preponderance of martial arts is rooted in the foundational belief of Eastern mysticism, which is that God is an impersonal energy—a nonphysical force. This nonphysical energy is what makes up the mystical power in nearly all of the martial arts practices. Everyone who has long been part of the martial arts scene has, at some point, witnessed the actual power itself, whether it was related to the utilization of ki ,chi , quigong , kundalini , prana , or other Eastern mystical power devices. From my experience, aikido demonstrated the most obvious use of such power, and that power is all the more desired the longer one continues in his or her own particular practice. Sooner or later, one discovers that physical techniques have a limit, and further advancement can be realized only through spiritual development. An exception to this would be a short-term self-defense class that is devoid of any spiritual aspects and utilizes only the physical techniques found in some of the spiritually oriented martial arts.
The spiritual seduction, on the other hand, is real and can attract any practitioner at any level. One well-known writer/devotee of karate, who had no interest in karate’s religious aspects, notes what is most common among martial artists: “Only after several years of training did I come to realize that the deepest purpose of the martial arts is to serve as a vehicle for personal spiritual development” (Joe Hyams, Zen in the Martial Arts , cited in Gaylene Goodroad, My Life in the Way , p. 9). Exactly what is involved in that spiritual development? I personally witnessed my own aikido instructors and others in public exhibitions performing feats that defied any natural explanation. The founder of aikido, Morihei Ueshiba, who was a disciple of a grand shaman (one who is said to mediate between mankind and the world of the spirits), was able to demonstrate extraordinary abilities that are beyond the laws of physics. He claimed that his abilities were derived from his spiritual beliefs: “Each one of us is inherently a god or a goddess. Cooperate with all the myriad deities of this world, and fulfill your duty as a messenger of the divine” (John Stevens, Aikido , p.9, cited in Goodroad, My Life in the Way ,
p. 12). It is no coincidence that Ueshiba’s words reflect the lie of godhood that was offered to Eve by Satan speaking through a serpent inGenesis:3:5.
What then of Christian martial arts? As with Christian yoga, there is a denial of any Eastern mystical influence in the Christianized program, which it is claimed has been modified to conform to Christianity. Even if that were the case, which it is not, what part of any martial arts endeavor is reflected in the New Testament teachings related to the church, which is the bride and the body of Christ? None whatsoever! Yet various “Christianized” programs emulate many of the aspects that are clearly unique to the Eastern martial arts with its spiritual roots. For example, many work out in a dojo , dress in traditional gis , wear color belts to signify ranks, and bow to a sensei , or teacher. Aside from the original spiritual meanings related to those things, where is any of that found in the Scriptures? If it’s not found in the Bible, why label it “Christian”? Somehow the mystical aspects of the martial arts have blinded multitudes of Christians from seeing what should be obvious.
In regard to various forms of self-defense, which is what the martial arts are all about, would it make biblical sense to start a “Christian” wrestling club or a “Christian” boxing association? What do those endeavors have to do with Christianity? How about a “Christian” mixed martial arts organization? As absurd as that clearly is, one such organization crowned an American Christian Mixed Martial Arts champion last year [emphasis added]. The inclusion of such things is both unbiblical and irrational. Worse yet, some identify the demonic power of kior chi energy to be the power of the Holy Spirit. In a book titled Christianity & Martial Arts Power , by Michael Chen, a back-cover endorsement declares, “Throughout the book, [the author] uses numerous appropriate and instructional passages from the Holy Bible and connects them to essential martial art concepts such as chi , or life energy.”
In her testimony booklet, My Life in “The Way”: From the Broad Way of the East to the Narrow Way in Christ , Gaylene Goodroad documents the overwhelming influence of Chuck Norris and his mixing of the Eastern mystical worldview with his Christianity. No one has been more effective than Norris in promoting the martial arts in America, which he has done by means of his wins in karate championships, his martial arts programs for young people, and the many movies and TV series in which he has starred and exhibited his skills. Norris’s first autobiography tells of his having learned occult metaphysical concepts from Napoleon Hill and others (see The Seduction of Christianity re Hill). In a 2004 rewrite of his autobiography, Against All Odds: My Story , Norris tells of his relationship with Jesus Christ: “…a very real transaction between God and me took place at [a Billy Graham Crusade] that night. I committed myself to follow him…and he committed himself to me as my Savior and Lord…” (Norris, pp. 29-30, cited in Goodroad, My Life , p. 45).
Whether or not Norris is a true believer is between him and the Lord. However, he has nowhere repented of his belief in the Eastern occultism that he endorses in his books, such as The Secret Power Within: Zen Solutions to Real Problems : “The monk finally told me to open my eyes, and when he did so, it was like waking up…that was when I first became aware that there was more to the martial arts than just the physical, and it was a turning point in my life…” (pp. 3-5). Norris knows the spirituality of Eastern religions far better than he knows the Bible. That lack of biblical awareness, unfortunately, has led to a spiritually disastrous mistake: the unwitting attempt to syncretize the personal God revealed in Scripture with an impersonal energy. He declares, “The fact is that everyone has ki , which is really little more than a technique of visualization allowing one to utilize the internal energy that we all have and letting it flow through the body” (pp. 127-30). No, it is far more, according to martial arts literature: It is the energy that governs the universe and the individual, the cosmic truth, i.e., god as a “force.” One cannot hold to both ideas: God as a force and the God of the Bible, which are diametrically opposed to one another.
In this day when many appear to have lost the ability to really think , holding contradictory beliefs is commonplace. Sadly, not thinking biblically is also commonplace in the church with the same results for professing Christians. Gaylene Goodroad, however, writes that after confessing her sinfulness and putting her faith in the Lord Jesus Christ as the only way for her to be reconciled to God, the Lord saved her. He then opened her heart and mind, enabling her to recognize the false beliefs she not only had held but had taught for a number of years. She writes, “At the time of my conversion, I had also dedicated over thirteen years of my life to the martial arts. Through the literal sweat of my brow, I had achieved not one, but two, coveted black belts, promoting that year to second degree—Sensei Nidan. I had studied under some internationally recognized karate masters, and had accumulated a room full of trophies while [husband] Steve was stationed on the island of Oahu.
“I had unwittingly become a teacher of Far Eastern mysticism, which is the source of all karate—despite the American claim to the contrary. I studied well and had been a follower of karate-do: ‘the way of the empty hand.’ I had also taught others the way of karate, including a group of marines stationed at Pearl Harbor. I had led them and others along the same stray path of ‘spiritual enlightenment,’ a destiny devoid of Christ. In 1992, I renounced both of my black belts, after discovering the sobering truth about my chosen vocation in light of my Christian faith. For the years since, I have grieved over the fact that I was a teacher of ‘the Way’ to many dear souls—including children. Although I can never undo that grievous error, my prayer is that some may heed what I have written here.” (Her booklet My Life in “The Way” is available as a free download on TBC’s website ).
As noted, the popularity of martial arts among Christians is staggering. Certainly, the huge numbers show that it has reached far beyond a fringe element within Christendom. One would expect better discernment among conservative Christians and their organizations even though we are in a time when the Word of God is neither studied nor endured and is rarely referenced. Bob Jones University has the Judo-Gentlemen and the Champions for Christ Karate team. Campus Crusade for Christ (Cru) has short-term mission trips that teach tae kwon do . Liberty University conferred an honorary Doctor of Humanities degree on Chuck Norris, who is also a contributing columnist for WorldNetDaily (WND ). The list goes way beyond those few examples, and it would seem to be overwhelming when one considers the appeal to Christian youth through the influence of movies. No one has to explain to a youth today what the “Force” of Star Wars is all about. They also get the Yin Yang symbol that adorns their lunchboxes, along with the image of Master Splinter of the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles . Many are all the more confused by being told that God is the Force . I wonder how many children of Christian parents understand the uncomplicated characteristics of the personal God who is revealed in Scripture and who created them. Just recognizing His personal attributes would be helpful. My encouragement to parents and grandparents is to start with that lesson for their children’s sakes.
There is no justification for incorporating Eastern concepts and practices into one’s walk with the Lord. They lead multitudes of Christians to participate in techniques that come from the world of the occult and will ultimately deceive them regarding the character of God and, therefore, the very Gospel itself. Our prayer for this three-part series is that believers who read the articles will better recognize the inherent dangers of the New Age Movement and Eastern mystical concepts.
McMahon, T.A.. (2016, May 1). New Age Mysticism Déja-vu — Part Three. thebereancall.org. Retrieved June 3, 2016 from http://www.thebereancall.org/content/new-age-mysticism-d-ja-vu-part-three