Tom: We’re picking up where we left off last week in our discussion of Chapter 23, “Charismatic Evangelical Occultism”, found in Dave Hunt’s book Occult Invasion: The Subtle Seduction of the World and Church.
Dave, we’re going to jump right in with an example of charismatic evangelical occultism which, for some, it may seem like a straightforward con job, but actually it involves the basic elements of occult methodology. The example I’m referring to is found on pages 499-500 of your book, and deals with Oral Roberts and his son Richard and their green and red candles. As you point out, this is but one of Oral’s scores of money-raising gimmicks over the years, most of them based upon his unbiblical “seed faith” ploy. In this case, his ministry mails two tiny “miracle candles,” one red and one green, to those on his mailing list, his so-called “prayer partners,” and the candles are to be used in a “miracle candlelight service.” So how is this supposed to work? I mean, miraculously speaking, of course.
Dave: You’re asking me that?
Tom: I’m asking you, Dave. You got the letter.
Dave: Right. Well, the recipients of the letter were supposed to send in their little tiny red candle along with their prayer requests and their best seed-faith offering, which would get this miracle going. And then at the specified time, which happened to be December 24, Christmas Eve, Oral Roberts and his son Richard would light all the red candles that had been sent in while, simultaneously, every person who had sent in their red candle would light a green candle at home, and this was supposed to be a miraculous candle-lighting ceremony that was going to bring miracles from God. Now, I don’t believe that God gives miracles in response to people lighting candles. It’s the error of thinking that – well, you say this is an occult technique; I said it’s an occult technique.
What is occultism? Well, it’s the attempt to manipulate some force. You don’t manipulate God. God does not do things except according to His will. But occultism – in occultism, you make a deal with a demon, with the spirit world, it’s called the “magician’s bargain.” And by going through certain…well, we’ve mentioned it before many programs ago, but, for example, when the rooster’s throat is slit by the witch doctor, he mumbles a formula, then the gods have to come through, because this is the deal. So here’s an idea by Oral Roberts that God apparently – the personal God of the Bible who never gave such instructions at all – is going to respond when people light candles, and this is somehow going to get God to do miracles for these people. It’s the same idea as the seed-faith offering, which is not biblical. “God is going to respond if you send in an offering,” and so forth.
So, Tom, it’s tragedy that so many people would believe this, and they would act upon this, and they are literally being led into a false view of God, and a false view of the way God responds to them.
Tom: Dave, there are two things going on here: some would say, “Well, no, this is just a straight con job. He’s just trying to get money.” Now, we don’t know Oral’s heart in this, and we’re not trying to judge that. On the other hand, he is planting – it’s not seed faith, it’s seeds of occultism, whether he understands that or not, and it’s a problem. And the one technique that they use, or the concept that they use, is a point of contact. Now…
Dave: Tom, let me just read it here: he calls it “a miracle candlelight service,” okay? So he’s associating the candle lighting with miracles. He says, “I’m going to do it in Jesus’ name.” I think that’s reprehensible to draw Jesus into this. Jesus never told anybody to do this. And he said, “Together we are going to light a candle as our miracle point of contact with you.” That’s what you were referring to, this point of contact. Now, that comes from a misunderstanding of Matthew 18, where Jesus said, “If two of you…” to His disciples, “If two of you shall agree as touching anything, it will be done of your Father which is in heaven.” Now, that’s old English that means “concerning anything.” It doesn’t mean “touching something.” But these men, the positive confession people – Oral Roberts, Kenneth Hagin, Copeland, Avenzini – they all follow this procedure: reach out and touch the television. Or Oral Roberts, for example, sent an outline of his hand on a napkin on one occasion, on a poster on another occasion, and you put your hand over the outline of his hand. This becomes our point of contact, so we are touching this together, and that is going to cause God to respond to our requests and do this miracle. It’s not biblical, but again, it’s an occult technique.
Whenever you have some physical object, it’s a divination device: a Ouija board, a crystal ball, tarot cards – whatever it is, it’s an attempt to receive a response or elicit a response from the spirit realm by physical procedures, rituals, sacraments, and so forth. And again, this simply is not biblical. We don’t find that in the Bible at all. God works by grace through faith according to His will. But the idea here is that there is some technique which, if you go through this technique, then that will elicit a response from God. It is not biblical, it’s occultism.
Tom: Dave, what we know in occult literature, in magic, witchcraft, the things that we’ve read, the things that we’ve seen, and so on, research that we’ve done, there seems to always be some kind of object to kind of motivate or encourage or a catalyst, somehow, to make faith work, to make the – whether it’s the incantation, or the magic formula, or the technique work. Now, whether it be a crystal ball, or some kind of omen, or something that they can…a mandala, whatever it might be – but the heart of man is really attracted to something like that. We like something tangible, even in a sense of trying to reach the God that we know. It’s almost like a boost of faith, but it’s manmade. It’s not what God’s Word would have us do.
Dave: We have to distinguish between the spirit and the flesh. Jesus in John 6 said, “The words that I speak unto you, they are spirit and they are life. The flesh profits nothing.” But that’s the whole idea behind rituals, sacraments. For example, and we’re not trying to jump on Catholicism, but the Catholic Church says, “Anathema to you if you deny that the sacraments work ex opere operato.” That’s a Latin term that means “in the very act itself.” So they are claiming that the very act itself of this sacrament, this practice, this ritual, it produces and distributes or is a channel for grace from God. That is not a biblical idea, and it doesn’t even make sense that God would then be bound by some physical act, and whatever this physical act is performed, then He has to honor it.
Tom: Well, let’s go to some of the acts that we find in Scripture and kind of work our way through those examples. In Numbers:21:9, we have the example of Moses making the serpent of brass and putting it upon a pole, and, I mean, here’s an object, and people had to respond to that. What’s the difference there?
Dave: Well, whoever looked to this serpent – I mean, it was something that God told them to do, and it was only a one-time thing. They had been bitten by fiery serpents, and God told Moses, “Put this serpent of brass upon a pole, and those who look to it, they will be healed.” Now, that was a promise, a specific promise from God in that particular case. It wasn’t, then, that they could carry this brass serpent around and every time somebody looked at it, they would be healed of every disease. In fact, it became a snare to the children of Israel, and they carried this around and they tried to make it work in that manner. Jesus said, “As Moses….”
And furthermore, it was a type of Christ who would come, who would become the sin offering for us. The very thing that bit the human race, sin – He would be made sin for us, the Bible says. That’s not a picture of Satan, the serpent on the pole, but of Christ being made sin for us. So Jesus said, “As Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, even so must the Son of man be lifted up, that whosoever believeth in him shall not perish but have everlasting life.” So you can’t take this and say, “Well, now this indicates that we can use physical objects.” This is a specific command from God in a specific situation, and it cannot be generalized.
Tom: Right. And, as you mentioned earlier in 2 Kings, we find that the Israelites were actually burning incense. They were turning it into an idol, which was the antithesis of what it was about. So, you know, we have that example.
But we can go on to 2 Kings:13:21, where we have the example of a man being buried, and the people burying this man are frightened by this band of robbers or whatever they were, and they take the body of this man they’re going to bury, and they put it in the tomb of Elisha. And the Scripture says that once the dead man touched the bones of Elisha, he revived and stood up on his feet. Now, does that open the door to relics, or is this a point of contact? I mean, he touches the bones.
Dave: Well, first of all, the point of contact – it never says “a point of contact.” That’s what these men derive from the old English term “as touching anything.” This again is a special case. We do not read that the children of Israel carried, then, the bones of Elisha around and they used it in order to heal people. It happened once. It was apparently a sign that God gave to show that Elisha was indeed His prophet. It only happened once. Nobody did it again and again, so you cannot from that, then, garner the idea of relics, which the Catholic Church uses.
Tom: Mm-hmm. Dave, I’m not trying to add fuel to these guys who are promoting all of these different things, but what we’re all about here is searching the Scriptures and wrestling through the scriptures that seem to – might give people an indication that this is okay when it’s not. But I think one of the more difficult verses with regard to this is Acts:19:11-12, and the scripture says, “And God wrought special miracles by the hands of Paul so that from his body were brought unto the sick handkerchiefs [or aprons], and the diseases departed from them and the evil spirits went out of them.” Now, almost all of these hyper-faith, word-faith healing ministries have some kind of gimmick of sending you either anointed oil, or…
Dave: I mean, I’ve gotten things, even a sock to wear during the night that…
Tom [laughing]: A sock’s good!
Dave: Yeah, and not two socks, but one sock, and…
Tom: Oh, that’s not so good!
Dave: …and, “Don’t tell your pastor about it and this will give you visions and dreams.” That was Peter Popoff who sent that. Well, again, Tom, these are all special cases that seem to be intended to verify that the person that they belong to are men of God, prophets of God. In Paul’s case, it doesn’t say they made a practice of this; it doesn’t say they kept these and so forth…
Tom: No, he didn’t turn it into a ministry of handkerchiefs or aprons.
Dave: …and indeed it says, “God wrought special miracles by Paul.” There were special things done through Peter. For example, there was one occasion or a brief period of time when, if Peter’s shadow just fell across the sick, they were healed instantly. But we also know that later on, Peter had to pray for the sick. He couldn’t just walk by and let his shadow fall upon them. So these were obviously special instances not to be duplicated, not to be made into some practice, some ritual or sacrament that people would go through, and they’re recorded in the Scriptures to show us what God can do, and for the verification of the ministry.
Tom: And the word that they preached, which is the gospel that they brought forth, which, as we’ve mentioned in shows past, that’s where many, if not all, of these ministries fall short, because they’re against sound doctrine, the preaching of the Word.
Dave: Yeah. I’m not a cessationist. I don’t say all miracles have ceased. On the other hand, there were special things that were done at the beginning of the church to give God’s authentication upon this. This was something very new at the time. Later on it says, “Trophimus have I left at Miletum sick.” So apparently he couldn’t give him a handkerchief; he couldn’t even pray for his healing. I mean, I’m sure that Paul prayed, but he was not healed. So we also get the teaching from Scripture that healing or blessing from God is not something automatic. It doesn’t just happen because of certain devices or certain procedures, but it flows from the grace of God as He determines according to His will in the specific situation. So now it was God’s will that Paul’s ministry be authenticated in this way, but these are called special miracles, and they did not continue. There’s no question about that.
Tom: Right. Dave, some would say that the charismatics and Pentecostals are particularly susceptible to this form of deception because of their tendencies toward religious experiences. But we’ve been seeing more and more conservative evangelicals being drawn into this, particularly through the inclusion of rituals and liturgies and some highly experiential forms of worship in their services. For example – and you sort of alluded to it before, mentioning Roman Catholicism – but, you know, when Protestant denominations begin to mystify things like baptism, making them an efficacious act in itself, or even communion, I mean, that can be occultism.
Dave: It’s occultism if it works, because God does not honor it as such. But again, the idea that a physical act somehow produces spiritual benefits, it’s not logical, it’s not biblical, and if it did work, that would mean that God himself is bound by these physical acts, and that simply is not true. The Bible always says, “By grace are you saved through faith, not of yourselves; it is the gift of God….” A gift – you can’t force God to give it to you. If we could make things happen by physical acts, then it’s not grace; then it’s not a gift; then it’s according to our will; then it’s like God is a force, and this is the whole idea of occultism.
For example, if I could quote Agnes Sanford (and she’s the founder of the inner healing movement, and has been greatly honored), she says that anything is acceptable that enables one to tap into what she called “this flow of energy, this high voltage of God’s creativity.” So it’s like it becomes a science, Tom, like Christian Science, religious science, science of the mind, and so forth.
Tom: Well, it’s a pseudoscience, a false science, metaphysics, it’s…
Dave: Right. But science works according to laws. There’s a law of gravity. Electrical current flows according to certain laws, and this has nothing to do with God. It’s something that God has established in the physical universe, but never does it suggest that electricity or gravity or any of the physical laws that God has established are the doorway into spiritual blessings from God. The blessings that the physical laws God has given bestow are upon all mankind. He makes His rain fall on the just and on the unjust, and you don’t have to be a Christian to tap into electrical power or atomic power. So they’re trying to extend this, then, into the spiritual realm, and to suggest that there are spiritual laws by which God is bound. Now, of course, they’re going to use a physical ritual or physical object to bind God…
Tom: As a point of contact.
Dave: Yeah, to bind God to some spiritual blessing that they want to receive from Him. Tom, it’s deadly, because it gives me the impression that I can get what I want from God. You remember Kenneth Hagin and his little booklet How to Write Your Own Ticket with God. He claims that Jesus appeared to him and gave him four principles which, if you follow these, you can always get what you want from God. And we’ve gone over this: I don’t want to get what I want from God because I’m not all-wise! I would be asking for things to satisfy my own lusts, my own desires. Even when I thought I was being high-minded, I’m foolish, and I can be easily deceived. God is infinite in wisdom, and He loves me. Wouldn’t I rather want to ask God for what He knows I need rather than trying to make some technique work to get God to give me what I want?
So that is the basic problem with this. It puts man in control, and now God has to respond when I go through this physical ritual. That’s a problem with the Catholic Mass, for example: the idea that a physical piece of bread now becomes the body of Jesus, and by ingesting it into my stomach, I am getting spiritual benefit. Jesus – again we quote Him – He said, “The words that I speak unto you, they are spirit and they are life, but the flesh profits nothing.” So it’s a serious error, Tom. And we’re not trying to criticize people, we’re not trying to put people down. We would like them to check us out, check it out from the Bible, and see what God says.
Tom: Well, you know, Dave, more than that – that, yes; but for people, pastors out there who may be unwittingly have sort of been drawn into something like that where they tend to see what they go through as efficacious in itself, they’ve lost faith. They’ve substituted faith for some kind of physical process, or some kind of technique or methodology without even wittingly trying to do that. That’s my concern, and we’re asking them to recognize it, where that’s going on, and come back to the faith of the Bible.