Gary: Welcome to Search the Scriptures 24/7, a radio ministry of The Berean Call. I’m Gary Carmichael. Thanks for joining us! In today’s program, we continue a series of classics from our Search the Scriptures Daily archives first broadcast in 1999 with the late founder of The Berean Call, Dave Hunt, and TBC executive director Tom McMahon. This week, they address the question: Is it Natural or Supernatural? And now, here’s Tom.
Tom: Thanks Gary. For the past few weeks we’ve been discussing Dave’s book Occult Invasion, which documents the rather troubling fact that both the world and the church are increasingly turning to occultism in a myriad of forms: shamanism, witchcraft, sorcery, spiritism, astrology, fortune-telling, magic, and so on and on and on. All these are forms of divination, condemned by the Scriptures. Too often people, including those who are truly Christians, get involved in occultism out of ignorance and they are seduced because they don’t understand the difference between the miraculous and the paranormal, which I think can best be understood by learning the difference between naturalism and supernaturalism. And that’s our topic for today.
So, Dave, what is the difference between naturalism and supernaturalism? And you know, probably even more importantly, how will understanding the difference help us to avoid being seduced by occult practices?
Dave: Well, naturalism involves nature, and naturalism basically says that nature is all there is. So the indigenous peoples (the First Nation Peoples, they are called – native North American Indians or whatever) around the world, they worship nature. They worship the trees, the waterfalls, and now they would say that there’s a spirit in these things, and they talk about the Great Spirit. But the Great Spirit is not beyond nature, but is part of nature. And this is a very important distinction to make.
Science worships nature. All science can deal with, for example, is the natural world, the physical world. So if you’re going to be scientific…you know, when Mary Baker Eddy turned Jesus into a scientist and founded the First Church of Christ Scientist, she thought she was doing a big favor. But if this universe is all there is and we can deal with it scientifically, then we don’t have a God, a real God to deal with, but God Himself is part of nature.
The God of the Bible is totally other than nature. He’s totally other than the universe. He created the universe out of nothing, not out of Himself. Therefore, He can do what He will with nature. He is not bound by the laws of nature and of science and so forth.
So when you fail to make that distinction, then you can get caught up in trying to find scientific methods of praying. For example, we mentioned Norman Vincent Peale, I think, in our last broadcast, or at least a previous broadcast. Remember, he said (and I’m quoting him now), “Prayer power is a manifestation of energy. Just as there exists scientific techniques for the release of atomic energy, so are there scientific procedures for the release of spiritual energy through the mechanism of prayer.” So prayer becomes a mechanism; it becomes a scientific method for releasing energy.
Well, then, the God that you’re dealing with must be part of this universe, and He must be subject to scientific laws. But the God of the Bible, He existed long before this universe existed. Genesis 1 makes it very clear: “In the beginning…” (that is not the beginning of God, but the beginning of this universe) “God created the heavens and the earth.” So He is totally other. And Hebrews 11 says, “We understand that the world were framed by the Word of God so that things which are seen were not made out of things which do appear.” So God created this universe by His Word. He exists totally separate from it. Now, if He’s part of this universe (and this is all scientific, as Norman Vincent Peale said – Yonggi Cho says, Oral Roberts, Kenneth Hagen, and Copeland, and so forth) then He’s like the Star Wars Force. The universe as we know, and I think the scientists are pretty well agreed on that, second law of thermodynamics, the law of entropy – this universe is running down like a clock. The Star Wars Force is running down like a clock. One day it will be approaching absolute zero. The sun will have burned out; that’s one way we know the sun wasn’t always there, because if it had been there forever it would have burned out by now. All the stars will have burned out, and it will all be like there had never been anything. You know, all the schemes and dreams and corporate plans and ambitions of mankind will be like sandcastles washed out into a cosmic ocean of nothingness. And the God of the Star Wars force, it will be wiped out too.
But God is separate and distinct from His universe! Therefore, He can reach in from outside, not with reincarnation. All reincarnation does is it recycles this dead and dying universe that’s on its way down – the law of entropy. But the God of the Bible, He can reach in from outside with resurrection. In fact, it says one day (2 Peter 3) He’s going to let go of this whole thing. This whole universe is going to be wiped out in one huge atomic explosion of some kind, and God will create a new heavens and a new earth. Well then, if this is the God that we’re dealing with, then it’s going to be on the basis of His grace and His mercy and His will. It is not according to laws.
Tom: Dave, you know, this brings up something that’s kind of baffling if you understand what you just said. But most Christians who buy into these methodologies and techniques, I don’t think they realize that they’re changing…I mean, not that they could, but they’re in effect changing the character of God. They’re making Him into something that – if you said, “Wait a minute, is your God, the God that you believe in, is an impersonal force that you can manipulate?”
And they would say, “No, of course not.” But why then are you going through this methodology and this technique?
Dave: Well, Tom, I don’t know whether you could reason with them, because it is something that is so…well, they even argue against it. Let me quote – I don’t think we quoted in previous programs – this is John and Paula Sandford, the “inner healers.” And listen to what they say…
Well, you know we mentioned that Pat Robertson, one of his books, The Secret Kingdom, he says it runs on eight laws, and he says that one of the laws is the law of miracles and that God never does a miracle except according to the law of miracles. Wait a minute, if it follows laws, it’s not a miracle! To be a miracle it has to override the laws of nature – any laws whatsoever.
But here are John and Paula Sandford, and listen to what they say: they say, “Miracles happen by the cooperation, union, and interplay of spirit and matter together. Confused men have thought there had to be a violation of principles for miracles to happen. What rot and bunk! Miracles happen by releasing power within matter according to God’s principles.” They say, “Nature, being filled with the Spirit of God [Wow! That sounds like native religions, the worship of nature]…has immeasurable power locked within its tiniest cells. Miracles happen by the operation of the Holy Spirit within principles far beyond our ability to comprehend, but nonetheless scientific. I have sometimes been called a Christian Scientist when lecturing on these subjects.”
Tom: Well, why not?
Dave: Exactly. This is what they’re teaching. So you say, “Well, maybe they don’t understand. They are arguing to support this position so that everything that God does has to be according to principles.”
Now wait a minute. Who made these principles? If God is bound by some principles, then there must be somebody bigger than Him who established these principles that God must obey. It’s like the faith teachers, Capps, or Hagen, or Copeland, or whatever. They say God is a – I’m quoting Charles Capps now – “God is a faith-God.”
Wait a minute! Who does God have faith in? So we’re back to certain principles. Really, these principles, these laws, this scientific framework within which everything works, even God has to work within that. Now maybe there’s a temptation, you know – science has become a sacred cow, as you know. I mean, we worship science. “Whoa, science says…!” you know. If science says it…because science has transformed our universe, and, I mean, and what science can do is so amazing. Maybe that’s why they think science is bigger than God. I don’t know.
Tom: Well, there’s a pride element too. We talked about evolution. Why, some theologians are intimidated by science, particularly related to origins. But wait a minute, there were no scientists that were there. But God was there! I mean, why wouldn’t theologians…
You know, again, you talked about Galileo and the Roman Catholic Church and their view, flipping back and forth between condemning Galileo and now honoring him some time later. But it’s a pride thing. You want to be right, and also you’d like to have others in control – that is, humans, not a transcendent God.
Dave: Well, that’s exactly…I mean it’s a big part of it, Tom, is the matter of control. We want to be in control of our lives. We don’t want to say, as Jesus prayed in the Garden and as Paul prayed, “Not my will, but thine be done.” But we want to somehow – well, this is what the business world teaches: success motivation, positive mental attitude, “you can make it happen the way you want it to.” Basically, we don’t want to – I say “we,” I’m speaking for the whole human race (myself as well) – without the grace of God, and the constraint and the wooing of the Holy Spirit, and the insight to realize that God really loves me and that His way is best. We all want to run our own lives.
Dave: We want a God who is like the genie in the bottle. You know, you rub the bottle and genie appears. “What would you like this time?” We want some kind of a cosmic bellhop. When we push the bell, he comes to do our bidding, and you get that from the very title of some of Kenneth Hagen’s booklets. We’ve mentioned one already: How to Write Your Own Ticket with God.
I don’t want to write my own ticket with God. In other words, then God becomes some kind of a source of power which we can tap into. And if we know how to push the right buttons and if we know the laws that even God himself is subject to, then we can make this whole thing work…
Dave: …the way we want it to, and somehow they think that that’s being godly.
Tom: Well, I mean part of the delusion here is that people, they may not even be thinking this through. And they say, “No, that’s not me. I just want God’s will.” But in effect, the methodology, you know, they want to be consistent in getting answers to prayer, and if you can do it through some kind of ritual or technique, and you’re more consistent with getting answers, I mean, that’s really the heart of it here. We want what we want when we want it.
Dave: Yeah, that’s right. We want to be able to make it happen now, and of course that’s a big part of the whole signs-and-wonders movement. Advertise: Miracle Service Tonight! And God has got to come through and do these miracles.
Tom: Right. “Have you received your miracle today?”
Dave: Yeah, we quoted it in a previous program – Pat Robertson, for example. I am sure that, you know, as I watch him on TV, he seems to really want souls to be saved; he seems to be earnest about this, but he says the Bible is not an impractical book of theology, but it is a success manual. So theology somehow is impractical. We live in the day when Paul said “they will not endure sound doctrine.” You don’t hear much doctrinal teaching. Doctrine is about God. Doctrine is the container of truth. Doctrine keeps us on the right track. I think doctrine is exciting because it tells me – it instructs me about God, and tells me of Him and of His will and His way and so forth. But we live in a day when we want to experience power. We want to experience miracles and so forth. So, well then, there must be some technique for making this happen. And whether it was Benny Hinn rubbing his jacket on his body – I don’t know what that meant, you know, to get some static electricity or something – and then waving it at the crowd, or this…then the waving of his jacket at one time somehow became a technique for making whole groups of people fall over.
Tom: Sure, this is a technique that God responds to because look what happened.
Dave: Yeah, right. Well, it’s sad, Tom, but we’re all prone to this sort of thing.
Tom: Right, I agree.
Dave: We all want to – “If there’s just some way that I can get God to respond the way I want Him to when I want Him to.” That’s what it’s about, and that’s what occultism is about. And when, as we’ve mentioned, when the witch doctor slits the rooster’s throat and he mutters a formula that he learned from his father, who learned it from his father before him, and he sprinkles the blood in a certain pattern, then the gods, the spirits, whatever they believe in, must come through. It’s the magician’s bargain that Dr. Faust made with Mephistopheles.
So Yonggi Cho, you remember, he’s praying for a bicycle, and God says, “I don’t know what bicycle you want. You want a French one? A racing bike? You know, what do you want? You’ve got to visualize it. And when you visualize it clearly, then I can give you what you want.”
Of course, Jesus said, “Your heavenly Father knows what you have need of before you ask.” So it’s a difference between getting what I want or what God knows that I have a need of. But Dr. Cho has insisted upon this. In an interview, he insisted – he said, “You cannot have faith unless you visualize.”
Well, I don’t find that teaching in the Bible at all. So once again, I’m not saying they’re not trying to be godly; they’re wanting miracles, but they are adopting ungodly methodologies, techniques. And that brings us again to a verse that probably we would refer to many times: Jesus said, “Many will say to me, ‘Lord, Lord, didn’t we…in your name? In your name we did these things. Miracles, prophesied, cast out devils.’” Jesus said, “I will say, ‘I never knew you.’”
Tom: Right. The other aspect of this that should be obvious – maybe it’s obvious to some and not to others, but there’s a bondage involved here. If I have to go through methodologies and techniques, I mean, that’s a lot to put together. In effect, I have to be a scientist, and I have to be a scientist with exactness, because just as we see it in the more obvious forms of occultism like voodoo and other forms of magic and witchcraft, that these people who are practitioners, they live in fear of making mistakes.
For a Christian, now, in another form, maybe something not as overt, but the responsibility for every variable – I mean, how far can the Yonggi Cho go in terms of visualizing? You want to get down to not just the color of the bike and the amount of spokes and…. If you’re the one who’s in control and you’re creating this through your technique, well, you have to get down to the subatomic particles. I mean, if you’re God, if you’re going to be playing God here, you’ve got to do it all.
Tom: Or what happens? You don’t get not only what you want, you get something less (if indeed you could, which you can’t).
Dave: Yeah. Tom, some people that are listening (and haven’t just gotten angry and turned us off) maybe are thinking, “Why are you even bothering with this?” Are we splitting hairs?” It’s the difference between knowing God and not knowing God. And Jesus said in His prayer in John:17:3, “This is life eternal, that they might know thee, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom thou hast sent.” And if a person spends his or her life dealing with a false god, thinking that they are dealing with the true God, but they have a mistaken idea of God, mistaken idea of prayer, mistaken idea of the relationship that God wants them to have, a relationship of total dependence upon Him…first of all, the One who must pay the penalty for their sins; the One who must redeem them; the One who must provide salvation. They can’t do it. And we have to come to Him as repentant sinners, trusting in His grace and His love and His mercy. If, instead of that relationship, a person has a relationship where they think that they can get God to do what they want Him to do when they want Him to do it, and that, in fact, if you can’t, you’re really not a man or a woman of faith, but that this is really being godly, and you’ve got to be able to accomplish these things and make this happen…. It’s tragic to go through life like that and find out that this isn’t the God of the Bible at all that you’ve been dealing with – that you’ve been deceived.
So again, it gets back to the issue of the eternal destiny of souls. Jesus said, “You will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.”
The Bible talks about the battle between God’s truth and Satan’s lie. This is basically Satan’s lie. You can be like the gods. “I will be like the Most High,” Satan said. Well then I can do this, too, and in fact, tragically, this is literally what these people teach. So you have Paul Crouch in his newsletter saying, “If we are not little gods, I will apologize before ten thousand times ten thousand in front of the glassy sea.” Well if he’s a little god, he won’t be in front of the glassy sea. But although Satan said you can be as gods, we have Benny Hinn or Crouch, or Kenneth Hagen, Kenneth Copeland, arguing that we ARE gods. Insisting upon it, in contradiction to the Word of God. This is serious, very serious. And it’s not that we’re trying to quibble over some doctrinal distinctive, splitting hairs, or whatever. This is the difference between life and death for eternity. This is the difference between do you know the true God, or do you not? It’s a very solemn matter.
Tom: As a word of counsel to those out there who have said, “Hey, this is starting to sound like a little bit of what I’m doing”, what would we say to someone like that?
Well first of all, I would think you’d say, “If what you’re doing – first of all, is it biblical? Are you going to God His way? And then, what are you doing? Are you the one in charge here? Are you the one who is manipulating God, or attempting, by what you’re doing – whether you recognize it or not? Ask yourself, is this some way that God would have me approach him? Is this the way He would have me approach him?
That alone can be the beginning of some discernment here and maybe some change, some repentance toward God.
Dave: Well, God said in the Old Testament, “You seek for me and find me when seek for me with all your heart.” It doesn’t mean “You will seek for Me and find Me when you seek for some higher power. When you seek for some cosmic bellhop or some god who will give you what you want.” If you seek the true God: “God I want to know you!” Then He will reveal Himself. Of course, He does that in His Word. You can go to His Word with your own preconceived ideas and you’re not going to find God. In Jeremiah:9:23, 24, God says, “Let not the wise glory in his wisdom, nor the mighty in his might, nor the rich in his riches, but let him that glorieth, glory in this: that he understandeth and knoweth me.” There has to be some understanding, because the Bible is very clear that false gods – there are false gods, false concepts of God, and God will not answer to those. But Satan hides behind them. Paul said that the things that the nations, the heathen, the Gentiles, offered to idols, they offered to demons. So there is a power behind this. So we must be certain that we know the true God, and this is the God of the Bible. Don’t take my word for it, or your word for it, or Kenneth Hagen’s word for it, or Copeland’s, or Billy Graham’s or the pope’s or anybody’s. Be a Berean. Go to the Word of God yourself, and see what God says about Himself and about the way in which we must approach Him. And it is only by His grace and His mercy, in submission to His will, His plan for this universe, that we can come to Him.
Gary: You’ve been listening to a special edition of Search the Scriptures 24/7 with Dave Hunt and T.A. McMahon, a radio ministry of The Berean Call. The complete radio discussion of Dave’s “Occult Invasion” is available from The Berean Call. We offer a wide variety of resources to help you in your study of God’s Word. For a complete list of materials and a free subscription to our monthly newsletter, contact us at PO Box 7019 Bend, Oregon, 97708. Call us at 800-937-6638, or visit our website at thebereancall.org. I’m Gary Carmichael. Thanks for joining us, and we hope you can tune in again next week. Until then, we encourage you to Search the Scriptures 24/7.