Unacceptable Touchstones


Unacceptable Touchstones    vlag

By W.J. PijnackerHordijk

Translated by Herb Boyd

As a starting point; a quote “I test my opinion about matters like the Toronto Blessing and Willow Creek with those of others and then determine my answer audibly if that group fits into my experience with God up to now.” This is certainly very subjective and therefore an undependable judgment. Who are the “others” and is my experience a relevant determination?

By further examination it is obvious that not all stones are suitable as touchstones. Between the various touchstones there are clearly many unsuitable ones. Based on God’s Word these can be discerned. Let’s take a look at the following (certainly incomplete) list of improper touchstones.

9.1 Pragmatism

Lots of people think that if it works, it must be good. But the result does not justify the means. In this way many claim that they have been healed, they feel okay now sothe source of this must have been Gods healing. Workability, success or prosperity, wealth, popularity, health are not dependable measuring standards. In the Bible rich people are more often warned than praised. On the Sermon on the Mount Jesus proclaims principles for true prosperity and happiness (“Blessed are...”) that are strange to the world. Pragmatics is to be rejected. Not the means from a source, but the source itself determines the dependability (purity). The results themselves prove nothing about the truth. The proposition “I have been miraculously healed therefore it must be from God” is far to simplistic. We may never use only this one false touchstone but should use other proper touchstones.

9.2 Consensus

That the general singleness of mind is supposedly also a proper touchstone is a misconception.

What is normal? What is the norm? In a democracy it is the majority of the people. Many people of the world think; If the majority is for it, it must be good. But the majority can be wrong. “You shall not fall in with the many to do evil, nor shall you bear witness in a lawsuit, siding with the many, so as to pervert justice.” (Exodus 23:2) In the light of the Bible, the proposition “the majority is per definition right” is too simple and untenable. A couple examples: The true but lonely prophet Elijah took it up against 450 prophets of Baal plus another 400 from Ashtoreth   ( I Kings 18). The one prophet Micah was opposed by 400 prophets who had a lying spirit (Micah 7:13-14). And the Lord Jesus, the primary true prophet, stood alone against the entire guilty human race. Jesus said that the gate to life is narrow and the path is small; few are those who find it. (Matthew 13:14) The people - the majority – are too unstable to trust and to build upon. One moment they are shouting “Hosanna” and the next they cry “Away with Him, crucify Him”. (John 19:15) While a Christian lives in a democracy , he feels more at home in a theocracy. God’s will be done, even though it is opposed to the will of all the people. This often results is lonesomeness and misunderstanding (intolerance) but water by the wine in not an option.

9.3 Longevity and growth

Think about the calming advice of the unsaved Pharisee Gamaliél to the apostles (Acts 5:38-39

And now I say unto you, Refrain from these men, and let them alone: for if this counsel or this work be of men, it will come to nought: But if it be of God, ye cannot overthrow it; lest haply ye be found even to fight against God.” .Hasty action is clearly not appropriate. Gamaliél calls for (diplomatically) a reserved reaction and giving the benefit of doubt to the early Christians. His reasoning is the ongoing existence of a movement. And indeed, after twenty centuries Christians still exist, and precisely to the far corners of the world. However, this criteria is only partially legitimate. For instance, what about spiritual movements, strange religions and various very old and “successful” sects? Their ongoing existence appears to be certain. Growth and multiplication are inherent in a healthy and natural process but are no guarantee of purity. Numerical growth of a church is specifically mentioned in Acts. But this type of growth is also evident in the sects. While Christianity has grown to be the largest world religion, Islam and Hinduism also have millions of followers. The opposite, ‘small is beautiful’ and the elite ‘small flock’ also may not be promoted to a perfect norm for spiritual blessing or God’s approval. Quantity does not prevail without quality.

Additionally is should be noted that in spite of warnings from the Lord, the seven true churches in Revelation 2&3 have disappeared. Can we and may we allow passive spiritual movements to continue to exist while we await the final judgment at the last day of our heavenly Judge? No, they need to be tried now with other touchstones. It is true that fruit needs time to ripen and be recognized. But after development and examination by other criteria than ongoing existence it is essential that a proper discernment and evaluation be made known.

9.4 Miracles and Spirituality At times the true prophecies (for example by Elijah and Elisha) were verified for authenticity by miracles. This was more the exception than the rule. In the closing words of the so-called Sermon on the Mount Jesus gave a very strong warning against accepting ‘miracles and spirituality’ as dependable touchstones. ”Not everyone that saith unto me, Lord, Lord, shall enter into the kingdom of heaven; but he that doeth the will of my Father which is in heaven. Many will say to me in that day, Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in thy name? and in thy name have cast out devils? and in thy name done many wonderful works?

And then will I profess unto them, I never knew you: depart from me, ye that work iniquity. (Matt.7:21-23) Christ distanced Himself from these ‘miracle makers’ who were misusing His name. Real miracles apparently could be imitated and were almost impossible to distinguish from real ones.

Although the last part of Mark’s Gospel is in ( ) it is clear from Acts and further church history up to date, that God most certainly “the Lord working with them, and confirming the word with signs following.”   (Mark 16:20) Too many people reverse the proper order by following miracles instead of the Word. A miracle in itself may not become the determining factor, because even if a miracle takes place the source could be poisoned. Similarly, a prophecy that is fulfilled is not therefore from God, because for instance “the prophet calls to follow other gods.´ (Deut.13:1-2)

We recognize the reality of the invisible spiritual world fully. Miracles really happen whether we believe it or not. There is more between heaven and earth, even though the westerner is not sensitive to this. On the other side, every supernatural event (miracle) does not necessarily come from God. It is not the activity (miracle) that is important but the root and the fruit. Let’s just take speaking in tongues as an example. It is a historical fact that speaking in tongues and prophecy were known in heathen circles even before our recording of time. Human glossology and Godly tongues must be discerned because it is evident that gifts can be imitated. If speaking in tongues activates worship of Mary and produces an intensive experience in the Eucharist, then the Holy Spirit is not the source of this experience. On the fruit we know the tree. Satan could, can and will still perform amazing miracles. Moses and Aaron witnessed this; sticks became snakes. But let’s not turn the situation around and accuse Moses of witchcraft because the magicians of Pharaoh did die the same signs that he did. Miraculous signs by lying prophets and miracles by false messiahs appear to be possible. Impressive, but not from God.

“When the fox preaches passion, watch out for the chickens” (translation of Dutch saying). We need to be aware of the warning this folksy wisdom gives. Miracles can appear as tempting evidence. Satan disguises himself as an angel of light and as a pseudo-benefactor, a false philanthropist and imitator. The beast in Revelation had two horns; appearing as the Lamb he spoke as the dragon. Satan (with his cohorts) is not original and it is not strange that he is called the ’ape of God”. Miracles from the wrong source carry a price tag. The motto is ‘buy now, pay later’. Postponement does not eliminate the problem, the payment will certainly come. He turns against us after offering the miracle bait. Both the miraculous black and white magic, so-called good for man, have been strongly forbidden by God for Christians to assure us of personal safety.

In the realm of the popular alternative methods of healing there is very much being offered and also very much confusion. There is considerable conflict between alternative healers and regular doctors including the Dutch Society against “False Healers”. Both health promoting herbs and poisonous plants exist. To be mistaken about an edible or non-edible mushroom can be fatal. The flood of therapies that are offered (usually carrying a large price tag...) are not without danger and entanglement. Watch out for ‘no help, no danger’; this it too simply said. It is not so simple to find one’s way as Christian in this field. Before embarking on some way, consult a dependable source for help. ( Note from HDB. In his footnotes there are several Dutch sources mentioned which would not be useful for English readers. I am not sure what is available in English, except perhaps the translated articles from Gerard Feller and Promise)

Demonic Witness It is not only ‘if the fox preaches passion watch out for the chickens’. Some charismatics are convinced, meaning well, that during pastoral care in exorcism they can and may interrogate an evil spirit in order to – using paranormal methods – receive information about the pastoral counselor and about the realm of darkness itself. Information received in this way is dangerous, enticing, misleading, untrustworthy and therefore worthless. The Lord Jesus did indeed sometimes question an evil spirit. That in itself is unnecessary when we recognize that Jesus is God and therefore omniscient, but it is understandable when He is conducting Himself as a man. This gives us the opportunity to compare an earthly questioner and an questioned individual. If the individual being questioned knows or feels that the questioner can be fooled, he will lie, but if the individual being questioned realizes that his lies will be discovered, through which the position of the individual becomes more distressing (for example, more punishment etc.) he will avoid telling lies. In all this we still need to be hesitant so we will not be mislead.

That God calls seeking contact with spirits an horrible thing, should be enough for us. (Lev. 19:31; 29:27, Deut. 18:11,12) When spirits manifested themselves in the N.T. , the imitative for the conversation never originated with Jesus or Paul, contrarily, they normally forbid the demons to speak, even if they were about to speak the truth. James says quite simply that a salty pond cannot produce fresh water. (James 3:12) According to the personification of the truth, the Lord Jesus, is the witness of demons extremely untrustworthy. He said that the lord of the evil spirits, the duivel, ´He was a murderer from the beginning, and abode not in the truth, because there is no truth in him. When he speaketh a lie, he speaketh of his own: for he is a liar, and the father of it.”(John 8:44) Satan disguises himself as an angel of light (II Cor 11:14). Submit yourselves therefore to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you.” (James 4:7)

Can it be more obvious? Would the demons actually reveal their strategy to their enemies? In Thyatira people claimed that they had learned the depths of satan’s plans. (Rev.2:24) Not really something of which we should be jealous.

In contrast, it is Christians in a revelation from Lord Jesus, Who knows all hearts and depending on the Holy Spirit, who are designated to try all things. (I Cor. 2:10) Isaiah calls us to: “And when they shall say unto you, Seek unto them that have familiar spirits, and unto wizards that peep, and that mutter: should not a people seek unto their God? for the living to the dead? To the law and to the testimony: if they speak not according to this word, it is because there is no light in them.” Isaiah 8:19-20. And Spiritism, communicating with the dead, is a horror and a sin against the Lord of life.

It is often difficult for a homo sapien to leave a section of knowledge undiscovered. Occult means “hidden” and is forbidden. God does not require understanding but faith and obedience. When it comes to discoveries, there is not much self control to be expected from non-Christians. In contrast we should in humility keep our curiosity in control, this in fact to our salvation. “The secret things belong unto the LORD our God: but those things which are revealed belong unto us and to our children for ever, that we may do all the words of this law.” (Deut 29:29) What God reveals to us should be more than enough. Possibly we could ask the wrong questions; unhealthy curiosity could be fatal.

All Scripture taken from the Authorized Version 1969





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