Tom: Thanks, Gary. You’re listening to Search the Scriptures Daily, a program in which we encourage everyone who desires to know God’s truth to look to God’s Word for all that is essential for salvation and living one’s life in a way that is pleasing to Him.
We are continuing our series, taken from Dave Hunt’s out-of-print book (that is, in this segment, right, Dave?) Beyond Seduction, which he wrote as a follow-up to The Seduction of Christianity, and that was about 20 years ago. In particular, for the last few weeks we’ve been discussing critical differences between the objective, written word of God in contrast to subjective imagery as a way of drawing nearer to God and increasing one’s spirituality. The latter, for example, is being promoted through various forms such as pictures, paintings, icons, statues, movies, as well as visualizing Jesus in one’s mind.
Now, Dave, you begin chapter 11, titled “Imagination or Revelation?”, by quoting Jeremiah:14:14. Let me give you that verse: “Then the Lord said unto me, The prophets prophesy lies in my name: I sent them not, neither have I commanded them, neither spake I unto them; they prophesy unto you a false vision and divination, and a thing of naught, and the deceit of their heart.”
Now, Dave, why is the use of the imagination so wrong in worshipping God?
Dave: Well, Tom, I know you know, and it’s a rhetorical question, but it’s almost a ridiculous question, isn’t it? I mean, why should my imagination even come close….
Tom: Well, it’s difficult, Dave, because the church is into it in so many different ways, so many different forms, and people are attracted to it that - to us it’s ridiculous, because we’ve looked at this carefully according to the Scriptures, but many people haven’t. That’s our concern.
Dave: Well, imagination is being used all the time and of course when you read a book, a novelist tries to paint a vivid picture. Your imagination actually fills it in, and he is trying to stimulate your imagination; and so what could be wrong with your imagination when you read the Bible? I mean, if it says Jesus is on a mount, His disciples gather around, He gives what’s called the “Sermon on the Mount,” wouldn’t it be helpful if we could kind of visualize Jesus and the crowd, set yourself in the scene, and imagine what it would have been like if you had been there? Or if you want to really approach the throne of God in prayer, what would be wrong with really getting the feeling of what it would be like to be there? Well, that, of course, would assume then that our imaginations are accurate; but what would be the basis upon which my imagination would be accurate? Well, first of all, the Bible doesn’t supply any details. It’s not written like a novel, so when it says, “Jesus went up into a mountain to pray,” it doesn’t tell you it’s a high mountain, a low mountain, rocky crags, cliffs or trees - are there trees on it or not? We know there was some grass, because people sat down on the grass. It doesn’t tell you anything whereby you could possibly visualize the scene. The Bible does not intend for you to visualize this scene, or it would have given you all of these details. But if the Bible gave you all these details to stimulate your imagination, the Bible would still be relying upon your imagination.
Tom: And, Dave, if you have a hundred people, you’re going to have a hundred different imaginations working here, so we can’t have anything objective about it.
Dave: Exactly. How am I going to imagine myself in the presence of God? It says, “He dwells in a light no man can approach unto, whom no can hath seen nor can see.” So to try to use my imagination to draw near to God, get closer to Christ, to get answers to prayer, to have deeper insights into what the Bible says, is actually counter productive.
Tom: Mm-hmm. You write, “While it pretends to bring deep insight and even to be the avenue of vital inspiration from God, the use of mental imagery in the pursuit of spirituality breeds superficiality in actual fact, and is the ideal vehicle for brainwashing and seduction.” Whoa! What do you mean by that?
Dave: My imagination is not accurate. We have no basis to even imagine that my imagination is accurate; we’ve established that very easily. But imagination is a powerful tool of Satan. This is the most powerful tool of witchcraft, for example. This is the fastest way into the occult. The witchdoctor - he wants to pick up a spirit guide; he’s a novice, let’s say. Well, he uses his imagination to go off on a spiritual journey into the future, into the past, to explore with his mind, and then he visualizes some creature approaching him, animal or human, and this becomes his spirit guide. Well, is this just purely imagination? That couldn’t be too harmful, you know - lead you astray there. But suddenly, his imagination begins to take on a life of its own, and we mentioned that.
We mentioned a pastor of a very large church imagining Jesus coming alongside of him when he was in a playground. He had some traumatic incident that happened, and now he is going through inner healing. And he goes back and he visualizes, remembers this incident… Now he visualizes Jesus coming alongside and helping him, and his testimony was - and he’s in favor of this - suddenly this Jesus that he imagined took on a life of its own. It began to speak and move and so forth. He was no longer imagining, but it had taken over. And when you begin to visualize something - well, we could use the example of Napoleon Hill. He learned this from the demons. Well…
Tom: Well, explain a little bit about Napoleon Hill, who he was, Dave.
Dave: Well, Napoleon Hill - one day, his study was invaded by a being from, you know, the astral plane, he says, and with a vibrant, melodic voice said, “You have been under the guidance of the great school for years,” and told him about this temple of wisdom inhabited by these former Hindu gurus who were now on the astral plane, and so forth. Whatever you can conceive and believe, you can achieve. And you will find this taught by - whether it’s Robert Schuller, or all kinds of success motivation…
Tom: This positive mental attitude… Napoleon Hill’s Think and Grow Rich - he influenced many presidents through the years with this idea that it’s in your mind, it’s in your imagination, you need to be the captain of your ship, the master of your faith, and so on.
Dave: But it was taught to him by - I would only have to say a demon on the astral plane [who] pretended to be an ascended master from the school of wisdom. And one of the things it taught him was he didn’t just have one spirit guide, he had nine of them, and he visualized these famous men from the past, around a table - in his mind! He created this in his imagination. This is before Sylva Mind Control came along, and he was taught by a demon. He, first of all, began to go out of his body into the astral plane supposedly. And there, every time he went out of his body, there’s a yogi sitting there in a yoga position, and he finally says, “You know, I can train you, and etc. etc.” This is where it came from. Who are some of these men? Napoleon was one of them, Edison, Thomas Paine…
Tom: And Socrates, sometimes.
Dave: Thomas Jefferson, I believe. But anyway, nine famous men from the past, who supposedly had great wisdom - he visualized them around this table as his counselors. And he said, “They took on a life of their own. Each one had his own personality, had his own voice,” and he used these to counsel business men, and it worked! And he became a very wealthy man, and other people became very wealthy through the counsel that came from these entities.
Now, these are demons impersonating these various men. They can’t be anything else, because Napoleon isn’t out there on the astral plane, free to come back and appear when you want him to. He’s probably in hell, I don’t know; I didn’t know Napoleon, I don’t know what he believed, but he’s more than likely in hell awaiting the final judgment in the lake of fire. And he’s not coming around, flitting about and advising people; nor is, certainly, Thomas Paine, the atheist. And Voltaire was one of those that he had as a counselor, an atheist.
Tom: Wow, yeah.
Dave: He certainly is not flitting about advising people. He is suffering as the rich man did, and is today in hell.
Tom: Dave, a more recent example: a number of years ago, Hillary Clinton was taught by Jean Houston to visualize Eleanor Roosevelt for information and communications.
Dave: Right, get in touch with her spirit. Well, Napoleon Hill testifies that it became so frightening to him, because these are real guys around here - well, spirit entities - and he discontinued it for a time. Then he went back into it.
So when you open your mind up to the imagination and then you begin to trust your imagination as though this is of some benefit, and as though this is the way to truth, then you have opened yourself up to demonic entities. Jesus is not going to appear, but a demon will come along and impersonate Jesus, the Jesus you want to meet. You want to meet extraterrestrials? Well, demons will impersonate extraterrestrials.
And I think I quoted last week or the week before (it’s tragic) that one of the best selling evangelicals - well, he claims to be an evangelical - writers out there, Calvin Miller, in his book The Table of Inwardness, as I recall - I haven’t looked at it in years, but as I recall, chapter 7 begins with these words: “One door opens into the world of the spirit: imagination.” Then he goes on and he talks about imagining Jesus is sitting there in front of you, and, “My heart warms to the glint of the sun on his auburn hair.” And then he says, “What, you say his hair is black? Well, have it your way, just so long as he’s real to you as he is real to me.”
And you remember we mentioned Carl Jung, the Swiss psychiatrist, MD psychiatrist, who had his own spirit guide, Philemon the demon. And he said, “He was as real to me as a person. We walked up and down in the garden together,” and so forth. And he learned a lot of his principles from him.
Tom: Dave, we could mention so many others, and this is why we’re concerned about it: Richard Foster, Celebration of Discipline - introduced a number of years ago. Many of the para-church organizations such as Campus Crusade and so on, this was mandatory reading, Celebration of Discipline. And he promoted visualization in that book.
Dave: Visualization of Jesus.
Tom: Right, right. We’ve been talking about - this opens the door to the occult, and that may be a worst case scenario. But in the best case scenario, it’s still a lie; it’s still a delusion; it’s still - you know, the Scripture says, “The flesh profits nothing.” And when we turn to the imagination to increase our walk with the Lord, or our spirituality, it’s going to lead to a lie, a delusion, and destruction.
Dave: There are people, Tom, Christian leaders - they don’t want to get into the occult. They’re certainly not trying to do it, and they don’t even advocate visualizing Jesus. They just say, “Well, you can understand the Bible better if you would try to visualize the scene.” But you can’t visualize the scene because the Bible gives you no basis for visualizing the scene. There are no descriptions; there’s no information whereby you could fill in the pieces in your imagination, because obviously the Bible does not want you to do that. And yet, it sounds logical; you know, if I could just make it more realistic to me… And then, of course, we have movies about the New Testament, and we’ve got some actor pretending to be Jesus, and we’ve got the disciples, and we’ve got the whole scene. You’ve been in the world of movies, of Hollywood, and, you know, you’ve got to create the whole thing. Well, what are we doing? We are being deceived. This is not what the Bible wanted, or it would have given us the basis for doing this.
Tom: Dave, you quote a reviewer of Jacques Ellul’s book The Humiliation of the Word, and there’s a terrific quote in the book by this reviewer. You quote him as saying, “Language is the medium with which we ask and answer the question of truth. With language we are able to formulate our ethics and make judgments. While the spoken word promotes reasoning, interaction, and careful thinking, the image promotes conformity and mass manipulation. When imagery becomes primary, our very humanity is threatened.” This goes back to the issue of demagogues really taking over. If we are into imagery, it’s subjective, it’s experiential, and we don’t have the basis of discernment and truth, right?
Dave: Absolutely. That’s very well put by that reviewer. It is not biblical. It is not what God wants. He doesn’t give us the basis for it. He condemns imagination. You can follow imagination from Genesis:6:5 - they’re walking after their imagination, and he says, “The imagination of their heart is only evil continually. I am going to destroy them.”
But we go by the Word of God. And you remember - we’ve mentioned it, I guess - I think the first book written against Seduction of Christianity (and at my last count there were about 10), they condemned us for saying these things. Well, we were condemned in the Journal of CAPS, Christian Association for Psychological Studies, and they said, “The Bible does, too, teach visualization and imagination!”
And, Tom, I was just knocked out of my chair by the verses that they quoted. One of the verses was, “We walk by faith, not by sight.” But imagination, visualization, is an attempt to walk by sight! They used other verses, and we don’t have time to go into it, but verses that taught exactly the opposite of what they were trying to say.
Tom: Shows you what confusion there is out there, Dave.
Dave: Terrible confusion.
Tom: Dave, you say, “Although our minds make frequent and valid use of imagery, we don’t think or reason in images.”
Dave: Yeah, that was what I was starting to mention: the first book written against Seduction of Christianity said, “But we do, too, think in pictures. You say ‘cow,’ you see a cow.” We’ve been over this a few times before as well, Tom, but I guess it helps to reinforce the understanding. You say “car,” you see a car.
Well, that simply isn’t true. You don’t take time to see a car. I mean, there are all kinds of cars out there - what car do you see? Furthermore, when I say, “What car do you see,” what car do you see? When I say, “Can’t you see what I am trying to say?” what image do you get about that? When I say “God,” you had better not get any image. When I say truth, justice, hope, mercy, grace, morals, ethics, what image do you get? You get no image whatsoever. When God says in Isaiah:1:18, “Come now, let us reason together, saith the Lord,” what does he want to do? Put out a video tape for you to look at? That is not the way to reason. He says, “I want you to reason in your mind.” How do we reason? With words! The only way you can reason, because it is words that - moral, ethical, rational, factual content - this is what they express. Pictures don’t express that at all. They say a picture is worth a thousand words, because it would take a thousand words for various people to try to explain what they think the picture means.
So, Tom, you would think that we wouldn’t need to spend so much time on this. But this is a deadly delusion in the evangelical church today, and it is promoted primarily by psychologists, Christian psychologists, and it comes right out of the occult. It’s irrational and unbiblical.
Tom: Dave, the other reason we need to address it is that, you know, we’ve gone back to books - you mentioned Calvin Miller. Well, The Seduction of Christianity was written a little over 20 years ago, and it was just visualization then. But now we have icons, now we have the emerging church, now we have the experiential - such a push, such a thrust in this area that we need to explain these things again, because it hasn’t gone away; it’s becoming more complex. You mentioned movies. You know, The Passion of the Christ, along with The Jesus Film, all of these different projects move us more and more into imagery. And, Dave, as I understand it from the Scriptures, imagery is really at the heart of idolatry and paganism. You go back to any of the pagan religions throughout history, and you will find they’re all based on imagery, whether it be an idol, whether it be a statue, whether it be something formed by man, something developed by man in his imagination, and so on.
Dave: That’s what idols are all about. It’s an attempt to stimulate the imagination with some kind of a physical impression or physical image. You couldn’t say that even the most ignorant pagan thinks that this little piece of wood that he is worshipping, that that is really the god that is controlling all. No, it represents the god, and it’s a misrepresentation of the true God; and any image, any icon, is a misrepresentation, but they are created to stimulate your imagination.
Now, Tom, I probably need your permission, but I’ve mentioned this a couple of times, but I don’t know a better way to illustrate it: somebody says to me, “Do you have a picture of your wife?”
And I say, “Oh yes!”
And I open my wallet and I pull it out, and they say, “That’s Marilyn Monroe!”
“Well,” I say, “what does it matter? It’s a woman; she’s got long hair. What’s the problem?” I think my wife would be very upset if I carried in my wallet a picture of some other woman and I looked at it several times a day in order to remind me of her! I mean, it’s absurd!
Tom: Right, and it’s a lie.
Dave: It’s a lie, yes. I’m not married to this person. Well, I think Jesus is very upset about the icons, about the movies, some actor trying to pretend that he is Jesus, about the pictures that people have on their walls, various - what do you want, a macho Jesus? An effeminate Jesus? None of them represent Jesus. I think He’s upset, and it’s a very deadly error, because it stimulates the imagination.
Tom: See, Dave, part of the delusion here is people think, This is spiritual. This gives me feelings of sacredness and of spirituality. But, Dave, what is spirituality? It’s truth, isn’t it?
Dave: Amen. “When he the Spirit of truth is come, he will lead you into all truth.” And the only way we get truth is from the Word of God, inspired of the Spirit of God who wrote it. And, Tom, I don’t know what people are thinking out there - a couple of fanatics, a couple of nuts just pounding away on this thing. What could be wrong with the imagination? Well, engineers use it; architects use the imagination. Imagination is certainly legitimate in many ways…
Tom: But not to worship God.
Dave: …not to worship God, and not to give you deeper insights into the Word of God. And it’s called, meditation, you know - Eastern meditation, it tunes out the truth. Instead of contemplating deeply the meaning of the words that God has given us, we launch off in our imagination and try to get some spiritual feeling, some spiritual insight, and it’s the wrong way to go.
Tom: It’s a part of the flesh, and the flesh, the Scripture tells us, profits nothing.