Charismatic Ramifications on the “Long Ending” of Mark’s Gospel

Most modern Bible translations include a note expressing serious doubt about the authenticity of Mark 16:9-20.  Individuals who do accept these final verses as part of Mark’s Gospel, however, are committed to an extreme view of the signs listed in verses 17 and 18, to include the explicit ability to drink poison with no ill effects.  If the Greek text in this “long ending” is taken seriously, understood, and translated in proper context, then all five signs are for all those who believe – excepting those actively preaching the Gospel message – at the point of initial conversion and continuing on thereafter.  That is, upon hearing and believing in the Gospel message, newly regenerate believers, without exception, will exhibit all the signs listed in Mark 16:17-18, as accompaniment to the Gospel.  Moreover, these five should be evident among all believers, past, present and yet future, upon initial acceptance of the Gospel and thereafter – at the least, whenever the Gospel is being actively preached.

The Long and the Short of It

For quite some time, it has been the scholarly consensus that the “long ending” of the Gospel of Mark, i.e., the last 12 verses (16:9-20), is not original to the Gospel, even though there are many manuscripts that include this text.1  While there are those who assert that the long ending is indeed original, they are well within the minority among NT scholars and textual critics.  The vocabulary and style of the Greek in the long ending is substantially different than the remainder of Mark’s Gospel.2  In addition, the associated manuscript evidence points rather decisively to the inauthenticity of these verses.3

There is even a so-called “short ending” in one extant Old Latin manuscript.  This short ending consists of a small amount of text following verse 8, about the equivalent of one long Biblical verse or two shorter ones.  While this is found as the ending to Mark’s Gospel in only one manuscript, there is yet another variation in which the long ending is appended to the short ending.4  All three – the predominant long ending, the lone short ending, and the combination of short ending followed by long ending – are almost universally rejected, and identified as spurious.

Some are of the opinion that the Gospel of Mark simply concludes at verse 8.  However, in view of the fact that verse 8 ends rather abruptly with frightened women at the tomb, and, secondarily, that the very last word is a conjunction (the word γάρ, transliterated gar, meaning for, since, or because), others believe the original ending has been lost, or that the Gospel writer just did not finish the work for some unknown reason.5  These may well be factors that influenced the writer of the long ending (assumed to be one lone author by the internal consistency of the text).

Excluding the long ending from Scripture necessarily negates any need to discuss cessationism (the belief that the ‘sign gifts’ have ceased with the Apostolic era and the closing of the Biblical canon) or continuationism (the belief that all the spiritual gifts continue to this day) by appealing to these verses.  Dr. Rodney J. Decker, Th.D., has recently written a paper on this subject, titled Mark and Miracle (Mark 16:17-18), with an emphasis on what the longer ending means in its own context and how it relates to the rest of the New Testament, and posted it on his blog.  This particular work of Decker (see hyperlink at title above, pdf here) will be relied on for portions of the remainder of this article; general references and specific quotes from it will be followed by applicable page number in brackets, e.g.: {p 3}.

Interpreting the Text of the Long Ending

Decker notes that, in academic settings, those who argue for continuationism by and large do not do so by appealing to the Markan long ending.  On the other hand, it is used quite frequently as a basis for argumentation “in non-academic discussions and among poorly trained advocates.  That is perhaps not surprising since even in cessationist circles the authenticity of the Long Ending is commonly assumed since it is in the KJV without note or comment” {p 2, n 11}.  I’ll add that it seems many readers of modern Bible versions pay little mind to the notes, further contributing to ignorance about the legitimacy of the long ending.6  Philip Comfort provides a blanket caution against the lay or academic use of these verses:

…Christians need to be warned against using this text for Christian doctrine because it is not on the same par as verifiable New Testament Scripture.  Nothing in it should be used to establish Christian doctrine or practice.  Unfortunately, certain churches have used Mark 16:16 to affirm dogmatically that one must believe and be baptized to be saved, and other churches have used Mark 16:18 to promote the practice of snake-handling…The writer of the longer ending also emphasized what we would call charismatic experiences – speaking in tongues, performing healings, protection from snakes and poison.  Although the book of Acts affirms these experiences for certain believers, they are not necessarily the norm for all.7

Bill Johnson, Senior Pastor of Bethel Church in Redding, CA, is just one example (and there are many others within the so-called New Apostolic Reformation, aka NAR) of a hyper-charismatic (my term for those who go well beyond more conservative Pentecostal/charismatic theology and practice) who frequently cites Mark 16:15 and Mark 16:20 as base texts for the Great Commission, while selectively using only portions of verses 17-18 (healing the sick, casting out demons, and speaking in new tongues, yet omitting snake handling and drinking poison) for his continuationist stance.8  As but one example, here’s a selection in which Johnson specifically cites Mark 16:20 in the footnote reference to this passage:

…While healing is seldom the subject we teach on, it is one of the most common results.  As we proclaim the message of the Kingdom of God, people get well.  The Father seems to say Amen! to His own message by confirming the word with power….9

In reading Johnson’s quote, observe that the claim is that “people get well” as a result of the proclamation of “the message of the Kingdom of God”.  This passive “people get well” stands in stark contrast to the long ending’s explicitly active “they will lay hands on the sick, and they will recover”.  In other words, according to verse 18, those who believe will actively lay on hands, resulting in the sick recovering; the sick don’t just “get well”.  We could give Johnson the benefit of the doubt and just assume he was imprecise with his wording, but what of the other signs that should accompany the message according to the context of the long ending of Mark?:

15 And He said to them [the Eleven], “Go into all the world and preach the gospel to every creature. 16 He who believes and is baptized will be saved; but he who does not believe will be condemned. 17 And these signs will follow [accompany] those who believe: In My name they will cast out demons; they will speak with new tongues; 18 they will take up serpents; and if they drink anything deadly, it will by no means hurt them; they will lay hands on the sick, and they will recover.”

19 So then, after the Lord had spoken to them [the Eleven], He was received up into heaven, and sat down at the right hand of God. 20 And they went out and preached everywhere, the Lord working with them and confirming the word through the accompanying signs [by those who believe]. Amen. [Mark 16:15-20, NKJV (emphasis and explanatory notes in brackets added)]

The text is book-ended with the preaching of the Gospel (vv 15, 20) by the Eleven (vv 14, 15, 19), but note that signs (σημεῖα, sēmeia) will follow/accompany those who believe (vv 16, 17), to exclude those preaching (the Eleven) {pp 3-5}.  The context specifies that it is regenerate believers – those receiving the preaching of the Gospel (by the Eleven; v 15) and reaching a saving faith (v 16) – who will cast out demons, speak with new languages, pick up snakes, etc.  Following are the five signs that will be exhibited by these believers:

  • Performing exorcisms
  • Speaking in new languages
  • Picking up snakes (presumably without harm)
  • Drinking poison without harm
  • Healing the sick by the laying on of hands

Note that, by the context, the snakes are not specifically identified as venomous (or not), and it’s not specified if those picking up the snakes will remain unharmed; it merely states “they will take up serpents” (some manuscripts add “with their hands”).  Some may appeal to the next point – “if they drink anything deadly, it will by no means hurt them” – but these two are not connected grammatically {p 3}.  Also, since all five, as Decker observes, “are listed in parallel with no indication otherwise, it would be precarious to suggest that one (or more) is to be taken metaphorically if the others are not” {pp 3-4, 4 n 15}.  By the context, the statement attributed to Jesus (vv 15-18), as well as the narration in verse 20 (“…the Lord working with them and confirming the word through the accompanying signs.”) is clearly meant in a literal sense; therefore, all five should be taken literally.

The text explicitly states that all five signs above will accompany the collective of those who believe {p 8}, as a sign of the Gospel, “whenever they believe” {p 4}.  Moreover, according to Decker, as indicated by the Greek grammar, each believer should perform all five {pp 4, 4 n 19-20}.  Further, this implies that each time the Eleven preached the Gospel there would always be demon-possessed individuals, snakes, poisonous drink, and persons afflicted with ailments in their midst.

Yet, by the context, this is not limited to the Apostolic era, the time period when the Eleven were still living {p 5}.  Since the function of these signs is in conjunction with the preaching of the Gospel – and, of course, the Great Commission is an ongoing command to all Christians (cf. Matthew 28:18-20) – these signs must continue as well {pp 4-5}.  Therefore, those who accept the long ending as part of the canonical Gospel of Mark are committed to the belief that all five signs above are applicable to every single believer, at the point of their conversion and forward.  The only limitation is imposed on those believers who are actively preaching the Gospel.  In other words, by the context provided by the author of the long ending, those who believe will perform the five signs above, which necessarily include all the regenerate – past, present, and yet future – except when they themselves are in the act of preaching the Gospel message {pp 4-5}.

It could be construed that one of the implicit points made by the author of the long ending regarding “confirming the word through the accompanying signs” is that others in the audience who may have been unpersuaded by the Gospel message itself may become convinced by the attendant display of signs.  In fact, there are three pieces of extra-Biblical, apocryphal literature depicting the Apostle John drinking poison for the express purpose of converting others.  These are: Virtutes Iohannis (Miracles of John, circa 5th or 6th century AD), Passio Iohannis (Passion of John, ca. late 6th c.) {p 10},10 and Acts of John in Rome (ca. 4th to 6th c.11), with the latter finding its writer portraying John as explicitly quoting the words of Mark 16:18b (“and if they drink anything deadly, it will by no means hurt them”) {p. 10}.   With this in mind, would Bill Johnson, or any of the other self-appointed “Apostles” of the New Apostolic Reformation (or any follower of the NAR) who affirm Mark 16:9-20, like to drink from the poisoned cup, toward this same goal?

It seems one could understand this passage a bit more narrowly, interpreting “confirming the word through the accompanying signs” (v 20) as a limitation on those who believe.  That is, these signs will only accompany those who believe during the proclamation of the Gospel, thereby limiting the ‘shelf-life’ of these signs.  In other words, these five signs would be manifested each time the Gospel message is preached until Jesus Christ returns, but only for the duration of the preaching at each particular place and time.12

But note that even this more narrow view would only limit the time at which these signs are made manifest and not their actual expression.  With this limitation in mind, we’ll pose the question above a bit differently: With another actively preaching “the message of the Kingdom of God”, would Bill Johnson, or any of the other self-appointed “Apostles” of the New Apostolic Reformation (or any disciple of the NAR) who affirm Mark 16:9-20, like to drink from the poisoned chalice in order to win others to Christ?

Given his interpretation of Jesus’ promise in John 14:12, Johnson may even desire to identify such acts of ‘poison-bibbing’ {p 10} as manifest evidence of “greater works”, since it is not recorded in Scripture that Jesus Himself drank poison without harm:

Jesus’ prophecy of us doing greater works than He did has stirred the Church to look for some abstract meaning to this very simple statement…And, the works He referred to are signs and wonders.  It will not be a disservice to Him to have a generation obey Him, and go beyond His own high-water mark.  He showed us what one person could do who has the Spirit without measure.  What could millions do?  That was His point, and it became His prophecy.

This verse is often explained away by saying it refers to quantity of works, not quality…But that waters down the intent of His statement.  The word greater is mizon [sic] in the Greek…It is always used to describe “quality,” not quantity.13

But, I’m unpersuaded that even such a charismatic display of imbibing venomous drink without harm would be greater than Jesus’ dying on the Cross for the sins of the world and subsequently raising Himself from the dead (John 2:19-22, 10:17-18).

Nonetheless, as per the context provided by the author of the long ending, poison-bibbing is a requirement of all believers – at least those who accept Mark 16:9-20 as part of sacred Scripture.

Conclusion

Those who consider the long ending of Mark must understand that it’s an all or nothing proposition.  If one is inclined to accept it as authentic, then, in all intellectual honesty, one is forced to conform to a radical form of continuationism – one that must accept that all five signs enumerated in verses 17 and 18, without exception, will be exhibited by those who believe.  To explicitly or implicitly reject any of these five will not do.  On the other hand, to agree with the scholarly consensus that the long ending is not original to the Gospel of Mark means that no portion of it can be referenced for doctrine or practice.

 

Some facts and thoughts about the author of the above referenced article (see especially last paragraph):

Dr. Rodney J. Decker is on faculty at Baptist Bible Seminary in Clarks Summit, Pennsylvania.  He is the author of Temporal Deixis of the Greek Verb in the Gospel of Mark with Reference to Verbal Aspect (New York: Peter Lang, 2001) and Koine Greek Reader: Selections from the New Testament, Septuagint, and Early Christian Writers (Grand Rapids: Kregel, 2007), as well as other publications, with more material under contract, including his contribution to the Baylor Handbook on the Greek New Testament series (The Gospel of Mark).

I enjoy reading and being challenged by his works, most of which are a bit beyond my current level, some quite so.  However, it’s obvious he cares about his students’ learning, as he has even taken the time to place additional data, list errata, and translate the German and French text from the Peter Lang book mentioned above (this particular book series requires that all non-English language remain untranslated), onto his own website.  Here’s a portion of his remarks:

…Since, however, I have some hopes that students may find the work helpful, and even that some may be curious as to the content of those [untranslated] quotations (an idealistic notion, I suspect, but one which I hope to nurture for a bit longer!), I have thought it appropriate to provide a translation of many of those quotations here.

In addition, Decker has taken one of Dr. Stanley Porter’s difficult works and made it more comprehendible, providing a tremendous service to those wishing to become more conversant with Porter’s position on verbal aspect.  This is available as an online pdf (the title itself references Porter’s work): “The Poor Man’s Porter”: A condensation and summarization of Verbal Aspect in the Greek of the New Testament, with Reference to Tense and Mood by Stanley E. Porter (New York: Peter Lang, 1993).

While he’s very serious about his work, he occasionally injects a bit of lightheartedness in his material and on his blog (and presumably in the classroom).  Decker is currently battling stage 4 cancer.  He has recently begun chemotherapy.  He and his wife could use our prayers.

 

Endnotes:

     1 This merely illustrates that subsequent copyists faithfully reproduced (more or less) this long ending once it was introduced into the Gospel of Mark, though many manuscripts have markings suggesting its inauthenticity.
     2 Here I’m referring to what is known as the internal evidence of NT textual criticism: assessing authorial and scribal peculiarities such as style (vocabulary, grammar) and doctrine.
     3 This sentence refers primarily to what is termed external evidence in NT textual criticism: assessing all known variants of a given section of Scripture by focusing on such factors as age, similar readings among manuscripts, and geographic distribution, and then comparing with each other to determine which verbiage is likely original.
     4 The following English translation of the “short ending” is taken from Roger L. Omanson, A Textual Guide to the Greek New Testament: An Adaptation of Bruce M. Metzger’s Textual Commentary for the Needs of Translators (Stuttgart: Deutsche Bibelgesellschaft (German Bible Society), 2006), p 104.  Note that the first sentence is a continuation of 16:8, for the obvious purpose of not leaving the verse ending with the women fearful: But they reported briefly to Peter and those with him all that they had been told.  And after these things Jesus himself sent out through them, from east to west, the sacred and imperishable proclamation of eternal salvation.  Amen.  Manuscripts which append the “long ending” to the “short ending” omit the final “Amen” of the “short ending” (Omanson, p 104).
     5 For more on the textual evidence consult Bruce M. Metzger, A Textual Commentary on the Greek New Testament (Stuttgart: United Bible Societies, 1994); Roger L. Omanson’s adaptation of Metzger noted above; Philip W. Comfort, New Testament Text and Translation Commentary (Carol Stream: Tyndale House, 2008); Craig A. Evans, Word Biblical Commentary: Mark 8:27 – 16:20 (Nashville: Thomas Nelson, 2001); Joel Marcus, The Anchor Yale Bible: Mark 8 – 16 (New Haven: Yale, 2009), etc.
     6 This is based on my own admittedly very limited experience.
     7 Comfort, p 161.
     8 This is evident throughout his books, sermons and other materials.  Of the many works I’ve studied/surveyed, none promote snake handling or the drinking of poison.
     9 Bill Johnson, When Heaven Invades Earth: A Practical Guide to a Life of Miracles, (Shippensburg: Destiny Image, 2003 (first edition)), p 89; emphasis in original.   I’m giving Johnson the benefit of the doubt that he’s speaking of the true Gospel, and not the differentiated “Gospel of the Kingdom” of some New Order of the Latter Rain and/or New Apostolic Reformation teachers and adherents, though the context strongly implies the latter, and he specifically uses the latter term in many places throughout the book.  Probably the best place to find the delineation of the two terms is found in the glossary of Earl Paulk’s Ultimate Kingdom (Atlanta: K Dimension, 1984, p 335), in which “Gospel” is defined as [t]he good news of God’s redemption to man. [Luke 4:18, 9:6; Romans 1:16; Ephesians 6:15]; whereas, “Gospel of the Kingdom” is defined [t]he good news principles of daily life taught by Jesus that the Church must demonstrate as a witness to the world in order to return the rule of the earth to God.  [Matthew 4:23, 9:35, 24:14] – in other words: Dominionism.  Also, one must keep in mind that Johnson equates such signs as part of the “greater works” in John 14:12.  See below.
     10 Here Decker quotes from (as he cites quite a bit in his paper) James Kelhoffer (Miracle and Mission: The Authentication of Missionaries and Their Message in the Longer Ending of Mark, WUNT 2.112, Tübingen: Mohr Siebeck, 2000, p 450); Decker notes (p  10 n 42) that dates of 3rd to 6th century have been proposed for these two works.  Claudio Moreschini and Enrico Norelli, (Early Christian Greek and Latin Literature, A Literary History, Volume Two: From the Council of Nicea to the Beginning of the Medieval Period, Peabody: Hendrickson, 2005; English transl. Matthew J. O’Connell), claim “perhaps” 5th or 6th c. for Passion of John (“by Pseudo-Melito”) and “end of 6th c.” for Miracles of John (“included in the collection of Pseudo-Abdias”) [pp 221-222].  Both of these works apparently draw from the 3rd c. apocryphal work Acts of John, as Knut Schäferdiek (“The Acts of John”) in Wilhelm Schneemelcher (transl. R. McL. Wilson New Testament Apocrypha: Volume One: Gospels and Related Writings. Tübingen: Mohr Siebeck, 1990, English transl. James Clarke & Co. Ltd, Louisville: Westminster John Knox, 1991) notes, specifying that the Passio Iohannis “has taken up several narratives from the Acts of John in a considerably revised form” [p 154, cf. p 155].  Schäferdiek also largely agrees with Moreschini/Norelli regarding dates for Passion “which scarcely came into being before the middle of the 5th century” [p 154] and Miracles “which probably came into being in the late 6th century” [p 155].
     11 Schäferdiek in Schneemelcher, p 172.  The Acts of John in Rome is a recension of Acts of John.  The first 17 chapters of Acts of John are lost; the Acts of John in Rome has a total 14 chapters, in two recensions, written “not before the 4th century” [p 172].
     12 This further nuanced interpretation seems to be implied by Decker, but is not explicit – at least as I read him.  Therefore, I take full responsibility; any errors in understanding Decker or in my exegesis are fully my own!  But, note that the three apocryphal works referenced earlier do not seem to have another preaching the Gospel while John drank the poison.
     13 Johnson, When Heaven Invades Earth, p 185; all emphasis in original (for those with later editions with different pagination, this is found in the chapter titled “This Present Revival” under the bolded heading GREATER WORKS).   The Greek word is actually (transliterated) meizon, not mizon.  Johnson prefaces this statement with a direct citation of John 14:12. Decker notes that some are of the opinion that the long ending can be paralleled with John 14:12, but he opines differently {pp 10-11}.  For an in-depth look at Jesus’ words in this passage of Scripture, see CrossWise article Greater Works Shall You Do.

Book Review: The Gospel of Barack Hussein Obama According to Mark, by Mark F. Bozzuti-Jones

[Mark F. Bozzuti-Jones, The Gospel of Barack Hussein Obama According to Mark, 2012, CreateSpace Publishing, North Charleston, SC, 157 pages ]

Blasphemy against the Christian God while desecrating Sacred Scripture

In a word: blasphemy.  Not only does the author blaspheme/revile/malign/profane sacred Scripture (cf. Titus 2:5), as evidenced by the title, he also equates a mere man – in this case Barack Obama – to Jesus Christ, the second Person of the Christian Holy Trinity:

In the year 1961…Barack Hussein Obama was born…The Anointed One was incarnated into this world on August 4, 1961, praises be upon him [p 2; CAPS in original, other emphasis added].

No matter one’s political persuasion, we are not to deify any man.  There was only one Incarnation of the “Anointed One”; His name is Jesus Christ, the One for whom the real Gospels (good news) in Scripture are named.  The above quote is not ‘merely’ one isolated passage; the entire book is filled with this sort of heresy.

The author impiously fashions his book in the form of a Biblical Gospel complete with parables paralleling or approximating the true Gospels’, but with Obama as narrator/speaker in place of Jesus; however, he adds bits of BHO’s speeches, plus “imagined conversation, and fictional situations” [back cover] to his sacrilegious stew.  Bozzuti-Jones’ idea here is not even wholly original, for avowed atheist Jose Saramago wrote a book titled ‘The Gospel of Jesus Christ’, in which Saramago reimagined Jesus’ life (and those around Him), embellishing some Biblical accounts, while making up others out of whole cloth.

Unless the reader is both well-versed Biblically and well-read regarding Obama’s personal life, it will be difficult to ferret out what is true, quasi-true, fictional, or a conflation for the irreverent author’s own rhetorical effect.  Bozzuti-Jones states that Barack Obama had been elected president of the Harvard Law Review, noting, “In its 104 year history, an African American had never been elected to lead this group” [p 20].  This appears to be wholly true.  Yet, the author perverts the sending of the 72 in the Biblical Gospel of Luke (Luke 10), conflating this with other Biblical accounts, while conjuring up the rest:

Behold I send you out into the cold…When they tell you to eat fruit, remember my words to you.  And when they throw stones at you, say to them ‘Peace be unto you.’  When you see the wolf, do not be afraid to bleat, because you are the sheep of God [p 69].

Of course, I’m writing this from the perspective of a Christian – in the historically orthodox sense.  Bozzuti-Jones is not.  This author self-identifies as “a priest for pastoral care at Trinity Church Wall Street” (as per back cover), a very liberal Episcopalian church in New York.  By “very liberal” I mean one in which all humans are “Divine”, at least potentially.  As he states on the Dedication page, “And let the reader seek and reveal his or her own Divinity” [Caps in original]. 

For those who may disagree with my views here, framed by my orthodox Christian perspective, let me just state that I’m not being “intolerant” of the views of this author.  As an American, this man shares the same First Amendment rights as have I.  He may choose to blaspheme my God and my Savior, and desecrate Holy Scripture.  That’s his prerogative.  I, in turn, choose to defend my faith against this blasphemy by writing this review, thereby exercising my own First Amendment rights.

I carefully considered whether or not I should even pen this critique.  I feel sure that some will seek out this book precisely because of my negative review.  But I felt that true Christians should know how some of those who claim to hold to the Christian faith are actually quite the enemy of our faith instead.

Interestingly, the author published other books on the sometimes theologically liberal-leaning Christian imprint Augsburg Fortress (associated with the ELCA), yet this work was self-published.  Perhaps Bozzuti-Jones could not find a Christian publisher willing to print this particular one, prompting him to self-publish instead?

Zero stars.  Very strongly not recommended – especially to true Christians.  Non-Christians may find the author’s musings entertaining and humorous.  I’m appalled.

 

Book Review: Body and Character in Luke and Acts, by Mikeal C. Parsons

[Mikeal C. Parsons, Body and Character in Luke and Acts: The Subversion of Physiognomy in Early Christianity, 2006, Baker Academic, Grand Rapids, MI / 2011, Baylor University Press, Waco, TX, 191 pages]

God penetrates outward appearances to see the heart.

It has been said that one should not judge a book by its cover, meaning one should not judge a man’s character by his outer physical features.  Yet, according to the research of Mikeal Parsons, assessing a person’s morality based on their physical attributes is precisely what was done in ancient Greece and Rome, as there was an assumed correlation between the two.  For example, according to third century AD writer Pseudo-Aristotle, “soul and body react on each other; when the character of the soul changes, it changes also the form of the body, and conversely, when the form of the body changes, it changes the character of the soul” [p 22].  There was also geographic (‘you are where you live’), and zoological (equating traits in animals to humans) stereotyping.  This practice is known as physiognomy.

The author traces the methods of physiognomy in ancient Greco-Roman tradition, Jewish culture (to include OT and extra-biblical, pseudepigraphical works), the church “fathers”, Pauline NT texts, and other works, before illustrating its contrary usage in the Gospel of Luke and the Book of Acts.  If you want to know, among other things, what Paul likely meant in his reference to those whose “god is their belly” (Phil 3:19; cf. Rom 16:18) [pp 50-51], or what Matthew meant by “be wise as serpents” (Matt 10:16), considering the term “serpents” had a negative connotation [p 75], then this book is for you.

But, as the title of this work indicates, the bulk of this book finds Parsons explaining how the Lukan material works as an apologetic over against the conventional understanding and use of physiognomy in the milieu of first century Greco-Roman culture (Luke/Acts has been the primary focus of his professional literary career).  The author illustrates how Luke the NT writer, in particular, deftly subverts this pseudoscience of physiognomy:

…It is noteworthy that nowhere does Luke provide any extended physical description of the main protagonists (Jesus, John the Baptist, and the disciples) or antagonists (religious and political leaders)…This is especially striking in the case of John the Baptist…its inclusion might lead Luke’s readers to draw moral inferences based on physical characteristics – the very kind of thing Luke is bent on breaking… [p 81].

However, Luke does specify physical descriptions of Zacchaeus, the Ethiopian eunuch, and others – those who, by their respective appearances, would be prejudged in the larger culture as individuals possessing undesirable character traits.  Yet despite their outward physical appearances, these individuals are worthy (or, perhaps more accurately, made worthy) of His Kingdom, as God knows the heart (Luke 16:15) and “shows no favoritism/partiality” (Acts 10:34).

While scholarly and detailed, this book is a relatively easy read, rather short due to its focus.  Unlike many new works, this one breaks new ground.  Undoubtedly, future commentaries on Luke and Acts will source Parsons’ work here.  Very highly recommended.

(My copy is the first edition by Baker Academic.  It appears the Baylor University Press is a straight reissue without any sort of revision.)

Panentheism and the Trinity

Panentheism is an English word derived from Greek roots: pan = “all”, en = “in”, the, from theos = “God”.  This is in distinction from pantheism, meaning “all God”, or “all is God”.  Before more fully defining panentheism, we’ll briefly review the Christian Trinity in order to compare and contrast.

The Trinity from an Historically Orthodox Christian Perspective

The Christian God, known as the Trinity, is a tri-unity consisting of God the Father, God the Son (Christ, the Word), and God the Holy Spirit. Each Member of the Trinity is co-essential (united in essence/being) and co-equal with the others.  God is spirit, i.e., incorporeal, having no physical body.  There are a number of divine attributes associated with the Godhead, including omnipotence, omniscience, and omnipresence.  Christian philosopher Thomas V. Morris explains the interrelationship between these three attributes with respect to His creation:

Perhaps the best understanding of the attribute of omnipresence is that of its being the property of being present everywhere in virtue of knowledge of [omniscience] and power over [omnipotence] any and every spatially located object [creation].1

God is immanent, i.e., present in/among His creation (as opposed to within, immersed inside its substance, though indwelling true Christians, of course), by virtue of His omnipresence.  He is infinitely aware of even the tiniest details concerning the universe – which the Godhead created out of nothing (ex nihilo) – and, due to the Word’s continuous sustaining activity holding it together (Col 1:17; Heb 1:3), “He keeps the cosmos from becoming a chaos,”2 to borrow H.C.G. Moule’s memorable phrase.

The ultimate display of God’s immanence is when the Son humbled Himself by taking on human form in the Person of Jesus Christ (Immanuel – God with us), retaining full divinity in becoming fully human, and then dying in our place, in His plan of redemption.  What a God we serve!

Yet, God is also transcendent, wholly outside His creation, as the Trinity is not affected in any way by the cosmos (creation).  In no way does it act upon Him.  God is self-existent, self-sufficient, immutable (unchanging), and eternal, existing outside time, yet acting within it (immanence).  An inherent aspect of creation, time is His own construct.  As such, the Godhead Lord’s over it, thereby fulfilling time, according to His purposes.  God has been present and active throughout the entire history of humanity, is currently active in human affairs, and will continue to be actively governing humanity, though allowing free will.

While imprisoned by the Nazis, Dietrich Bonhoeffer proposed a different understanding of transcendence. He contended that Jesus’ “being for others” is the true meaning of transcendence, suggesting that we not think of immanence and transcendence as opposites.3  Thus, in Jesus’ dying on the Cross for the sins of mankind – because God “so loved the world”, thereby providing eternal life for those who believe in Him – the ultimate display of God’s immanence climaxes in the supreme act of ‘transcendence’.

Recognizing the beautiful, poetic force of Bonhoeffer’s words, yet still we understand that God truly is transcendent – so wholly other than His creation – yet God is also immanent, fully active in/among His creation. He is the Potter; we are the clay.

The Christian Trinity is a divine mystery.  Attempts to fully explain the mystery of God’s three-in-one-ness can lead to heretical conclusions such as tritheism (three Gods), modalism (one God in three different modes, one at a time), or other distortions.4

Panentheism Defined in ‘Christian Esotericism’

While there are a number of different views of panentheism in the various and varying religious systems in the world, there are some consistencies in the doctrine with respect to how it relates to the Christian Trinity and Jesus Christ in esoteric literature.  In Richard Smoley’s book Inner Christianity: A Guide to the Esoteric Tradition is a general view of the doctrine of panentheism as it pertains to ‘Christian esotericism’:

…The Father is the ineffable, transcendent aspect of God; the Son is God’s immanent aspect. This divine spark or Logos is the first sounding-forth of existence from the depths of infinity: “All things were made by him; and without him was not any thing made that was made. In him was life; and the life was the light of men” (John 1:3-4). [Jesus] Christ is the embodiment of this immanent aspect of God.

So are we. “Without him was not any thing made that was made.” Nothing comes into existence unless this divine spark of consciousness, no matter how faint or dim, lies at its center. This was true of Jesus, it is true of me, and it is true of you…We may not be as exalted as Christ…But at the core we are the same.5

This is obviously a purposeful distortion of the true Christian Trinity, with its use of similar terminology.  Note the two separate aspects of ‘God’: the transcendent, which is the ineffable (inexpressible) “Father”, and the immanent (within all creation) aspect, which is the “Son”.  While the way in which this immanence is described is not at all congruent with the Christian Trinity, importantly, transcendence is described in such a manner that it more closely approximates the true Trinity (though see below), marking this as one of the keys in making the doctrine appear ‘Christian’.  This “immanence” is alternatively called divine seed, divine spark, divine (spark of) light, logos, or Christ.  So, the Son/Christ is a divine entity, and this divine entity is diffused throughout creation as a seed / spark / light.

This view of panentheism is such that all is in God (the transcendent Father is wholly outside, enveloping all of creation), and God is in all (the Son/Christ is immersed within all of creation), yet God is not present among creation.6 

In the quote above, observe that, by implication, the two separate aspects are indeed separate.  The Father is not immanent, and the Son is not transcendent.  This indicates that the Father is not omnipresent, as he is not present at all in creation.  On the other hand, the Son is divided up within creation, with each spark, seed, etc. separated from all other sparks or seeds by its outer matter (body, sheath), making omnipresence a bit murky at best, as the seeds / sparks seem individually disunified, though all parts of a whole; however, without an explicit claim of the Son being also among creation, omnipresence is implicitly denied.

It appears as if the Father has absolutely no access to and no power over creation, while the Son is confined within creation, with neither Father nor Son seemingly possessing the ability to interact with the other.  But not to worry, the “Holy Spirit”, a “divine principle”, acts as an intermediary between the two:

How do these two, the Father and the Son, interact with each other?  What enables them to have any connection at all, while still in some way remaining distinct?  There is…a principle that makes this interaction possible.  It is called the Comforter, or the Holy Spirit.

Here, in essence, is the Christian Trinity…Between them [Father and Son] is the Holy Spirit, the divine principle of relatedness, which accomplishes perhaps the most astonishing of all miracles: uniting two separate entities while still allowing them to be separate.7

This implies that the “Holy Spirit” is omnipresent.  However, besides the problems with this doctrine already noted above, from an historically orthodox Christian perspective, this devolves into tritheism (three gods) as opposed to a Trinity, despite its claim of Trinitarianism – that is, assuming that one can even term a “divine principle” a god. 

In addition, notice in the first Smoley quote above that Jesus Himself is called Christ (“Christ is the embodiment of this immanent aspect of God”), rather than merely, for example, Jesus of Nazareth, as some cults claim.  Smoley quotes from A Course in Miracles to describe Him:

The name of Jesus is the name of the one who was a man but saw the face of Christ in all his brothers and remembered God.  So he became identified with Christ, a man no longer, but at one with God.8

This statement identifies this doctrine as explicitly antichrist per the Apostle John’s words in his first epistle (1 John 2:22, 4:1-3), as it separates Christ from Jesus.  Smoley  then goes on to quote the “Jesus” of the Course as saying all can do what He did, describing Him as an exemplar, making the impossible (the distance is too great between us and the Father) into possibility.9  By this he means that the man Jesus became “at one” with God, thereby bridging the gap and becoming an example for others, claiming that all are Christs, at least potentially.10

Of course, according to Christian orthodoxy, Jesus Christ, as the God-man (fully God and fully man), is the intermediary between mankind and God through His redemptive work on the Cross.  One’s acceptance of Jesus Christ as our sin substitute, thereby reconciling the individual back to God through His remission of our sins, is the only way to salvation.  However, Smoley depicts Jesus as merely a man who subsequently attained divine status, becoming a model for others to follow to actualize their own ‘latent divinity’, becoming gods.

Far too many (laypersons and theologians alike) make statements to the effect that Jesus was reliant upon God during His earthly ministry, stressing His humanity at the expense of His Deity.  We must always recognize that Jesus Christ was/is God Himself, the second ‘Person’ of the Trinity, as God in the flesh.  Of course, there are times in Scripture in which Jesus’ humanity is emphasized (growing tired, hungry, etc.), perhaps the most striking example of which is when He is on the Cross crying out, “My God, My God, why have You forsaken Me?”  Yet these must be balanced out by those occasions Jesus declares His own Deity (“I am” – John 8:58; “I and the Father are one” – John 10:30, John 14:9, etc.). To be clear, as the Incarnate God-man, Immanuel (God with us), Jesus Christ submitted, in obedience, to the Father; however, as the second Member of the Trinity, Jesus Christ was/is co-equal with the Father (and the Holy Spirit), and in no way subordinate.  Such is the mystery of the Incarnation!

Now that we have a general view of panentheism in ‘Christian esotericism’ (though also looking at one particular part of A Course in Miracles in the process), we’ll take a look at one specific view.  The false trinity in Theosophy will be discussed – the school of esotericism founded by Madame Blavatsky in 1875 and perhaps better known as associated with Alice A. Bailey in the twentieth century, forming the basis of much of the New Age / New Spirituality of today.

The Panentheistic Trinity in Theosophy

Before proceeding, the goal of this section is not to educate the reader on a specific occult teaching as an end in itself.  The intent is to make the reader aware of how the Christian Trinity is perverted such that a Christian could be fooled into thinking another individual is a true Christian when similar terminology and concepts are used, or worse, the Christian could be duped into following this dangerous doctrine.

Without getting bogged down into too much detail regarding the rather complicated Theosophical schema, illustrated graphically in one of Bailey’s books,11 an attempt at explaining and simplifying it will be made, though the following may not be absolutely accurate due to the convoluted nature of it.

There are two separate “trinities”: the “Solar Logos” (The Solar Trinity or Logoi [plural of Logos]) and “Sanat Kumara”.  The Solar Logos is made up of “the Father”, “the Son”, and “the Holy Spirit”.  The Father constitutes the transcendent aspect, the “Absolute Reality”, also referred to as the ONE ABOUT WHOM NAUGHT MAY BE SAID – the all is in ‘God’ aspect.12  The Son is “Life, the Spirit of the Universe”, constituting the immanent aspect, the ‘god’ immersed within creation – the ‘God’ is in all aspect.  The Holy Spirit is “Cosmic Ideation, the Universal World-Soul”,13 and “Creative Wisdom”,14 which makes the Holy Spirit the communicator, the one bringing revelation, and, in effect, seemingly omnipresent, though this is not explicit.

The “Planetary Hierarchy” is headed by Sanat Kumara, the Lord of the World, aka Ancient of Days, the One Initiator,15 the Hierophant16 – clearly all names for Satan (taking into account their respective contexts in Theosophic literature), though some were reappropriated from Scripture.  Sanat Kumara (the name is taken from ancient Hindu philosophy) fashions himself as a trinity, with three separate “Kumaras” emanating from him (the “Buddhas of Activity”), one of which is the Bodhisattva, aka the Christ (not Jesus), the World Teacher.17  But, there are also lesser ‘deities’ in the Planetary Hierarchy, many of whom were, according to this doctrine, former humans who evolved into godhood (“Ascended Masters”), which thereby reduces Theosophy to polytheism (many gods).

Yet in analyzing this schema it becomes obvious that Satan is cleverly presenting himself as both Sanat Kumara and the Solar Logos, with the Solar Trinity/Logos merely a ruse in order to purposely approximate, yet distort the Christian Trinity.18  Evidence of this is found in that the “Lord of the World” is also called, “the God in whom we live and move and have our being.”19  Further support of this collapsing of the two trinities into one is found in a work by H. P. Blavatsky in which the “Serpent” in the Garden of Eden is equated to the “Lord God”,20 and later in this same book, Logos is termed “WISDOM”, which is then equated to both Satan and Lucifer.21

By their functions in portions of the texts, both the transcendent and immanent aspects overlap somewhat, such that when taken together these resemble the Christian Trinity in certain ways, though clearly the graphic indicates something entirely different.  In other words, though the illustration pictures a totally different ‘god’ (or ‘gods’), when described elsewhere in sections of the texts apart from the graphic, one could understand it as not inconsistent with the Christian Trinity with the overlapping functions and the similar terminology.  Though no Christian would likely be fooled into thinking any of the Theosophic texts were remotely Christian when read in complete context (if one doesn’t get lost in the confusing nature of it), the stated goal is to subvert Christianity from the inside by readapting this material into Christian contexts,22 as Bailey remarked in another work, “Christianity will not be superseded.  It will be transcended, its work of preparation being triumphantly accomplished….”23  This demonic threat should not be taken lightly.

Like second century Gnosticism, there is a Dualism, a dichotomy between spirit and matter (creation).  Matter is the “not-self”, as opposed to the soul/spirit, which is the “self”.  However, this does not mean that matter has no function.  It’s not quite the ‘evil’ of second century Gnosticism, for “matter, being inspired by spirit, conforms”,24 providing the means (the vehicle) by which spirit can evolve:

…The development of spirit can be only expressed as yet in terms of the evolution of matter, and only through the adequacy of the vehicle, and through the suitability of the sheath, the body or form, can the point of spiritual development reached in any way be appraised…25

In other words, the outer body will improve concurrent with spiritual progression, or so it’s claimed.  The human is made up of soul/spirit, mind and body.  However, once “perfected consciousness”26 is attained, the body is destroyed, annihilated27 marking the “escape of Spirit, plus mind, to its cosmic centre”28 – the cosmic center being the transcendent aspect of this version of panentheism.  So the formerly ‘trapped’ (inside the “not self”) essence of the particular individual (the “self”), as part of the immanent aspect, is now united to the ONE ABOUT WHOM NAUGHT MAY BE SAID, the transcendent aspect.29

Spiritual progression is  accomplished through meditation,30 in other words, contemplative or centering prayer.31  The method is described as emptying one’s mind, yet controlling thought, requiring full concentration:

The true meditation is something that requires the most intense application of the mind, the utmost control of thought, and an attitude which is neither negative nor positive, but an equal balance between the two.  In the Eastern Scriptures the man who is attempting meditation and achieving results, is described as follows… ‘The Maha Yogi, the great ascetic, in whom is centred the highest perfection of austere penance and abstract meditation, by which the most unlimited powers are attained, marvels and miracles are worked, the highest spiritual knowledge is acquired, and union with the great Spirit of the universe is eventually attained.32

When one reaches “perfected consciousness” through meditation, one has achieved “union with the great Spirit of the universe”.  Along the way, as one ‘grows spiritually’, one will receive supernatural powers to include the ability to work miracles, or so goes the claim.  The exact method of approach to meditation is left to the individual:

True meditation (of which the preliminary stages are concentration upon and application to any particular line of thought) will differ for different people and different types.  The religious man, the mystic, will centre his attention upon the life within the form, upon God, upon Christ, or upon that which embodies for him the idealWe need to find our own method of approach to that which lies within, and to study for ourselves this question of meditation.33

Ultimately, the panentheistic god (Satan) of Theosophy is dependent upon mankind, for “humanity itself is the key to all evolutionary processes and to all understanding of the divine Plan, expressing in time and space the divine Purpose.”34  This “divine Plan”, aka “divine Purpose” is anything but divine!  “The Plan” includes receiving extra-biblical revelation from “Masters”, former humans (or so it’s claimed) who have attained godhood.  And this extra-biblical revelation resulting from meditation (centering prayer, contemplative prayer, “soaking”), in turn, brings one into union with the divine, meaning the attainment of self-divinity.  In reality, this leads to bondage or outright possession.35

And last, but certainly not least, as earlier hinted, Jesus is depicted as merely a man, though a very good man.  Because Jesus was deemed worthy, He had the Christ spirit (part of the “trinity” of Sanat Kumara) descend upon Him, thereby manifesting the Theosophical Christ, eventually attaining His own divinity (becoming “Master Jesus”), and providing a model for the rest of humanity to follow.  Of course, as noted earlier, this is antichrist doctrine.

Is Your Teacher or Church Promoting Panentheism?

Armed with the above information, we can determine if our favorite teachers, including those at the church we attend, are promoting panentheism, rather than a Christian orthodox understanding of the Trinity.  Answering any of the following questions (not an exhaustive list) in the affirmative is not absolute proof the doctrine is being taught, but at the least should provide food for thought, and, hopefully, a desire to seek more information:

1)      Is there an emphasis on “going inside yourself”, centering prayer (aka contemplative prayer), “soaking”, seeking the “manifest presence of God”, etc.?

2)      Is Jesus Christ diminished in some way, i.e., is Jesus described as being somehow less than fully God.  Is he humanized at the expense of His Deity?  Is it claimed that He was totally reliant upon the Spirit (or God) for all supernatural workings?

3)      Is Jesus described in an overly personal manner, such that He’s discussed as one would a family  member rather than One Who is so far above us, worthy of our worship, our Savior and Lord?

4)      Is there a focus on receiving extra-biblical revelation for human direction?  Is this revelation superior to Scripture?  Is this revelation integral to ‘spiritual growth’?

5)      Is God presented as One who is dependent upon humanity, as practically helpless in creation without our assistance?  Is mankind depicted as integral to God’s plans, such that our importance is overemphasized?  Is humanity spoken of in equivalent, or near-equivalent terms as the Godhead?

The panentheistic trinity in ‘Christian esotericism’ is certainly quite different from the Christian Trinity; however, there are enough similarities that the unsuspecting seeker or Christian may not notice a difference at first, or even at all.  This potential is especially possible with the increasing Biblical illiteracy rampant in, and quite frankly, promoted by some churches.  Without at least somewhat of an understanding of the Christian Trinity, the possibility of individuals falling for a false view of the Trinity – and potentially led astray – is a real threat indeed.

 

1 Thomas V. Morris The Logic of God Incarnate, 1986, Cornell University Press, Ithaca, NY & London, UK, p 91.  Bracketed comments added.
2 H.C.G. Moule Colossians Studies, 1898, Doran, London, p 78, as cited in David E. Garland (Terry Muck, Gen. Ed.) Colossians and Philemon: The NIV Application Commentary, 1998, Zondervan, Grand Rapids, MI, p 89.
3 Bonhoeffer quote and ideology from Widerstand und Ergebung: Briefe und Aufzeichnungen aus der Haft, new ed., Ed. Eberhard Bethge, 1977, Chr. Kaiser, Munich, translated by John F. Hoffmeyer “Christology and Diakonia” in Andreas Schuele and Gunter Thomas, Eds., Who is Jesus Christ for us Today?, 2009, Westminster John Knox, Louisville, KY, p 161
4 See Alister McGrath Heresy: A History of Defending the Truth. © 2009, HarperOne, HarperCollins Publishers, New York, NY, pp 30-31.
5 Richard Smoley Inner Christianity: A Guide to the Esoteric Tradition, 2002, Shambhala, Boston, MA, pp 134-135; all emphasis added.   Cf. p 103: “…the immanent aspect of God [is] the part of the divine nature that is active and present in the world…But there is something beyond the Word.  It is the silent vastness out of which everything, even the Word arises.  It neither exists nor does not exist…It is the transcendent aspect of God.  Meister Eckhart spoke of it as the ‘Godhead’; the Kabbalists call it the Ain Sof (which is Hebrew for the ‘infinite’) or the ‘Ancient of Days.’  In esoteric Christianity it is the Father.”  This seems to imply that “the Father” is superior to all else (see note 25 below).
6 Some panentheistic systems seem to imply that the immanent aspect and the matter surrounding it (body, shell) are ontologically equivalent (or almost equivalent), which would amount to pantheism (all is god); however, this immanent aspect is also usually viewed as inferior to the transcendent (see note 5 above), resulting in the conclusion that the immanent ‘god’ has lower status than the transcendent ‘god’, thus devolving into ditheism (two gods), or even polytheism (many gods), depending on the specifics.
7 Smoley Inner Christianity, pp 103-104; emphasis added.
8 Quoted in Smoley Inner Christianity, p 135; from  Helen Schucman A Course in Miracles: Combined Volume, 1992 (2nd ed), Foundation for Inner Peace, Glen Ellen, CA, Teachers Manual, p 87; italics in original, other emphasis added.
9 Smoley Inner Christianity, p 135
10 Smoley Inner Christianity, pp 135-136
11 Alice A. Bailey Initiation, Human and Solar, © 1951 Lucis, NY, (4th paperback ed, 1980), Fort Orange Press, Albany, NY, pp 48-49
12There is one Boundless Immutable Principle; one Absolute Reality which antecedes all manifested conditioned Being.  It is beyond the range and reach of any human thought or expression. The manifested Universe is contained within this Absolute Reality and is a conditioned symbol of it” [Alice A. Bailey A Treatise on Cosmic Fire, © 1951 Lucis Trust (1925, 4th ed 1951), Lucis Publishing Company, George S. Ferguson, Philadelphia, PA, p 3; italics in original, other emphasis added].  The Son and Holy Spirit also appear to be a part of the “Absolute Reality”, thus overlapping roles, as described below.  Cf. Bailey Initiation, pp 19, 150, 162; Bailey Cosmic Fire, pp  148-149, 292, 511, 1161, 1230, 1242.
13 Bailey Cosmic Fire, p 3
14 Bailey Cosmic Fire, p 94
15 Bailey Initiation, pp 28-29, 48-49
16 Bailey Initiation, p 161.  Here “the Hierophant” is equated with “the Lord of the World”.
17 Bailey Initiation, pp 48-49.  In ancient Hindu philosophy, in the Chandogya Upanishad, is one “Sanatkumara”. Much of Theosophy is appropriated from Hinduism.
18 The way in which the graph depicts “Sanat Kumara”, it is clear that these “Three Kumaras” correspond to the same identical three separate “Aspects” of each member of the “Solar Trinity”, thus amounting to the two “trinities” collapsing into one, though the intent is seemingly to make it appear as though one is subordinate to the other.  We must not be unaware of Satan’s schemes.
19 Alice A. Bailey The Externalisation of the Hierarchy, © 1957 Lucis, NY, 6th printing 1981, Fort Orange Press, Albany, NY, p 551
20 Helena P. Blavatsky The Secret Doctrine, Vol II: Anthropogenesis, 1888 (1977 Facsimile edition), Theosophical Publishing/University Press, Pasadena, CA, p 215
21 Blavatsky Secret Doctrine II, p 230; cf. pp 231, 233-237
22 “ …[T]he church movement, like all else, is but a temporary expedient and serves but as a transient resting place for the evolving lifeEventually, there will appear the Church Universal, and its definite outlines will appear towards the close of this [20th] century…This Church will be nurtured into activity by the Christ [ED: the false Christ] and His disciples when the outpouring of the Christ principle [ED: in a “mass incarnation”], the true second Coming, has been accomplished…
“The Christian church in its many branches can serve as a St. John the Baptist, as a voice crying in the wilderness, and as a nucleus through which world illumination may be accomplishedThe church must show a wide tolerance…The church as a teaching factor should take the great basic doctrines and (shattering the old forms in which they are expressed and held) show their true and inner spiritual significance [ED: occult/esoteric meaning]The prime work of the church is to teach, and teach ceaselessly, preserving the outer appearance in order to reach the many who are accustomed to church usages.  Teachers must be trained; Bible knowledge must be spread; the sacraments must be mystically interpreted, and the power of the church to heal must be demonstrated [Bailey Externalisation, pp 510-511; emphasis added].
23 Alice A. Bailey From Bethlehem to Calvary: The Initiations of Jesus, © 1937 by Alice A. Bailey, renewed 1957 by Foster Bailey; Lucis Trust, 4th paperback ed., 1989; Fort Orange Press, Albany, NY, p 20.  Emphasis added.
24 Bailey Cosmic Fire, p 148
25 Bailey Cosmic Fire, pp 49-50.  Here is where one can construe a quasi-pantheistic element in the “immanent” aspect; though, as noted below (note 27), matter is eventually destroyed.  Moreover, as noted earlier, it’s also implied that “the Father” is superior to “the Son”, thus reducing the immanent aspect to inferior in status as compared to the transcendent.
26 Bailey Cosmic Fire, p 51
27 Bailey Cosmic Fire, pp 51-52.  “…[T]he first Logos [ED: "the Father"] is called Destroyer, because He is abstraction, if viewed from below upwards [ED: from the point of view of creation / the immanent aspect].  His work is the synthesis of Spirit with Spirit, their eventual abstraction from matter, and their unification with their cosmic source.  Hence also He is the one who brings about pralaya [ED: death; cf. p 128] or the disintegration of form, – the form from which the Spirit has been abstracted” [Cosmic Fire, pp 148-149].
28 Bailey Cosmic Fire, p 52.  UK spelling, e.g., “centre” rather than center, is used throughout the Bailey material.
29 Bailey Cosmic Fire, p 148; Bailey Initiation, p 19, 150, 162
30 Bailey Initiation, pp 150-162
31 Alice A. Bailey The Consciousness of the Atom, © 1961 Lucis Trust (1st prtng 1922, this issue 9th prtng 1974 {2nd paperback ed.}), Fort Orange Press, Albany, NY, pp 110-116
32 Bailey Atom, pp 110-111; italics in original, other emphasis added.
33 Bailey Atom, pp 111-112; emphasis added.
34 Alice A. Bailey Telepathy and the Etheric Vehicle, © 1950 Lucis, NY, (2nd printing, 1957), George S. Ferguson, Philadelphia, PA, p 126
35 Actual possession is the stated goal: “Emphasis should be laid on the evolution of humanity with peculiar attention to its goal, perfection…man in incarnation, by the indwelling and over-shadowing soul…The relation of the individual soul to all souls should be taught, and with it the long-awaited kingdom of God is simply the appearance of soul-controlled men on earth in everyday life and at all stages of that control…” [Bailey Externalisation, p 588; emphasis added].

Book Review: Colossians and Philemon: A Handbook on the Greek Text, by Constantine R. Campbell

[Baylor Handbook of the Greek New Testament series, Martin M. Culy, Gen. Ed.; 2013, Baylor University Press, Waco, TX, 114 pages]

The union of Verbal Aspect and ‘Union with Christ’ in one volume

In the continuing series of the Baylor Handbook on the Greek New Testament (BHGNT), Constantine Campbell, in his in-depth look into Colossians and Philemon, highlights his past and continuing work in Verbal Aspect, as well as his more recent research into Paul’s use of ὲν Χριστῳ̄ (en Christw͆) and similar phrases (union with Christ).  This is my second acquisition in the BHGNT series, and I like this one even more.

The series presumes some competence of NT Greek at the intermediate level, with its focus on grammar, while utilizing up-to-date linguistics (discourse analysis, Verbal Aspect), and touching on text critical issues where deemed appropriate.  (See my previous BHGNT review for more info on the series in general.)

With this particular volume, the reader should have a good working knowledge of Verbal Aspect (I’ll follow Porter’s convention of capitalizing VA and its associated terms to differentiate from verb tenses), as Campbell focuses on this throughout.  For those unfamiliar with VA, essentially the view is that Koine Greek verb morphological forms (tense-forms) do not semantically encode time, but rather Aspect.  Time, instead, is derived from context.  Aspect is the viewpoint, or perspective of the writer, who chose the particular tense-form from among other possibilities, to suit his particular purposes (though some tense-forms are more appropriate for narrative as opposed to discourse and vice versa).

The aorist, for example is termed ‘Perfective’ in Aspect, meaning a summary or remote perspective of the event/situation (external view).  Conversely, the present and imperfect tense-forms are `Imperfective’ in Aspect, displaying a view of the internal process of the event/situation (internal view).  The function of these Aspectual forms, the resulting Aktionsart (kind of action), is determined by lexis and context (pragmatics).

To assist the reader, Campbell gives a handy overview/review of his Basics of Verbal Aspect in Biblical Greek (Zondervan, Grand Rapids, 2008a), in his Introduction.  Worth the price of admission, however, is how the author, in the Introduction, breaks down each tense-form into each of its Aktionsart functions [pp xxiv – xxvii], providing a ready reference as one works through Colossians and Philemon.  For example, under ‘Present Indicative’ is ‘Gnomic Aktionsart’, which is described:

“Imperfective aspect with any lexeme in a context of ‘general reality’ can implicate a gnomic Aktionsart.  This expresses a universal and timeless action” [p xxvi].

My only minor criticism – and it is indeed small – is that the Aspectual terms ‘Perfective’ and ‘Imperfective’ are not defined in a general way, in abstraction from their Aktionsart functions, in the Introduction or in the Glossary (hence my explanation above).  I deem this important because, for example, under ‘Aorist Indicative’ is ‘Gnomic Aktionsart’ [p xxiv] with the identical description as ‘Gnomic Aktionsart’ under ‘Present Indicative’ above, except the introductory word, with “Perfective aspect…” replacing “Imperfective aspect….”  Without a firm grasp of the general differences between Perfective Aspect and Imperfective Aspect, one may not see the distinction between the present gnomic and aoristic gnomic, with the nearly identical descriptions.

This minor quibble aside, Campbell’s book is rich with insights.  While the author argues for his own grammatical and syntactical interpretations, he compares these to other possibilities and other’s viewpoints with clarity.  I may not (currently) agree with all his conclusions, but this may reflect my own theological biases (e.g., Col 1:16-17, with respect to ὲν αὺτῳ̄ (en autw͆) as being locative, rather than reflecting instrumentality, i.e., Christ as both creator and sustainer – could the usage here be both locative (in Him) AND reflect instrumentality (by Him)?).  In these instances I’ll pray and ponder.

Answer to Open Challenge to Fans and Critics of Bill Johnson/Bethel Church

Since the original Open Challenge to Fans and Critics of Bill Johnson/Bethel Church has not received much interaction apart from regular readers here on CrossWise, it seems best to fully explain the selected text comprising that challenge in this separate post, as I deem this information critical to understanding the basis not just of Johnson’s Christology, but of his entire theology.

In the following message, taken from Bill Johnson’s 12/20/09 sermon Jesus is our Model (2nd service), all CAPS indicates Johnson’s emphasis, other emphasis is added, indicating portions important in understanding the overall message: 

…Look at verse 3, “And, the devil said to Him, ‘IF you are the Son of God command this stone to become bread.’”  Jesus answered Him saying, “It is written: Man shall not live by bread alone but by every WORD of God.”  What was the first temptation?  It wasn’t to turn stone into bread, it was to question who He was.  Verse 3, “the devil said to Him, IF you are the Son of God’.”  What did it say in verse 22, chapter 3?  “YOU are My beloved Son.”  “In YOU I am well pleased”.  What was his first temptation?  “IF you are the Son of God”.

We find Johnson here making the claim that Jesus’ first temptation from Satan was to question His identity, who He was.  By this he means that “IF you are the Son of God” is the focal point of this temptation, rather than trying to persuade Him to turn the stone to bread.  Johnson reaches this conclusion by going back to the Father’s words to Jesus in Luke 3:22.  This is why he stresses “WORD of God” in Luke 4:4.

However, quite simply, the word if should be taken as since: “Since you are the Son of God command this stone to become bread.”  The IF in the initial clause is not conditional; it’s descriptive.  Satan knows full well Jesus is the Son of God (James 2:19); and, Jesus had been well aware of His identity as evidenced by His words to his mother Mary as a 12 year old, “Didn’t you know I had to be in My Father’s house?” (Luke 2:49, NIV). Therefore, from a Biblically orthodox perspective, this temptation was to persuade Jesus to use His own intrinsic power to satisfy His human need, rather than to fulfill the work He came to do by relying on the Father for His sustenance while in the wilderness.

Here’s the main problem with Johnson’s words above: His teaching posits that Satan was tempting Jesus not to believe the spoken words of the Father (from Luke 3:22).  In effect, this turns Jesus into one who is dependent upon the so-called ‘present truth’, or ‘new revelation’ (“what God is saying and doing” below) that hyper-charismatics claim are greater than Scripture in terms of authority.  This is made clear in the very next section of his message (“Do I honor what God has declared over my life or not?”).  But, more importantly, note how Johnson is making the claim that Matthew 13 applies to Jesus, not just mankind:

Jesus explains this later to the disciples in Matthew 13; I’ll just read the one phrase to you that’ll help that concept to make sense.  He was talking about people who had no root in themselves; they hear the Word but there’s no depth in their person.  They’ve not been prepared for what God is saying and doing.  And, then it says “for when tribulation or persecution arises because of the WORD [ED: 3 second pause for emphasis] immediately they stumble.  Persecution, difficulty, conflict arises because of the Word.  The WORD of the Lord attracts CONFLICT.  It’s not punishment.  It’s not to humiliate.  It’s for two basic reasons: it’s because the Lord wants to give reward and He wants to honor character.  Character is not formed in the absence of options.  There has to be two trees in the Garden where I am honored for a decision.  Do I honor what God has declared over my life or not?  Do I consider other options, other possibilities?

According to Christian orthodoxy, the Parable of the Sower/Soils (Matthew 13:1-23) pertains to humankind, not to Jesus.  The “Word” (seed) in this parable refers to the Gospel message that Jesus Himself, as the “farmer” (Matthew 13:3), was proclaiming, contrary to Johnson’s explanation.  Moreover, this parable has absolutely nothing to do with Jesus’ temptation in the desert (Luke 4:1-13).

Given the potentially confusing nature of the above, we’ll recap.  In making the claim that Jesus’ first temptation from Satan was to question His identity as the Son of God and then using the Parable of the Sower/Soils to explain his meaning, Johnson has reduced Jesus to one who is dependent upon the so-called ‘present truths’ for His identity and guidance, just like the rest of humankind.  Consequently, as per Johnson, Jesus is potentially subject to stumbling when “persecution, difficulty, conflict arises because of the Word”, because Jesus Himself could have chosen to listen to Satan rather than God if He didn’t have enough ‘depth in His Person’. 

Obviously, Johnson is way off base Biblically here, but to what ends?  Why has he conflated and reinterpreted Scripture so?

Interestingly, Johnson’s interpretation of the first temptation as Satan questioning His identity, with Jesus’ replying that He/we are to rely on “present truths” is found in New Age / New Spirituality teaching.  In the following note how “Satan” is equated with “Ego”, which, in occult terminology, is the so-called “lower self”, the human nature.  This is as opposed to the “higher self”, the divine seed/spark, or “Christ” within. This particular author is using the parallel passage in Matthew of Luke 4:3-4:

“And when the tempter (Satan / Ego) came to him, he said, If thou be the Son of God, command that these stones be made bread. But he (Jesus) answered and said, It is written, Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceedeth out of the mouth of God.” (Matthew 4:3-4).

Our ego always compromises the truth by masking true reality for the grand illusion; in essence, the ego is the anchor to the physical perspective. But Jesus overcomes this perspective. He tells Satan that man does not live by bread alone (physical existence), but by every word from the mouth of God (spirit). In fact since Jesus denies the bread completely, we understand that ultimate truth lies beyond the veil of the physical realm and instead resides in the spiritual realm, or the realm of consciousness that operates beyond this 3D physical experience [bold in original; other emphasis added].

Bill Johnson has used (as have others in hyper-charismaticism) this very same physical realm vs. spiritual realm false dichotomy more than once.  Here’s one example:

The focus of repentance is to change our way of thinking until the presence of His Kingdom fills our consciousness.  The enemy’s attempt to anchor our affections to the things that are visible is easily resisted when our hearts are aware of the presence of His world

If the Kingdom is here and now, then we must acknowledge it’s in the invisible realm.  Yet being at hand reminds us that it’s also within reach…That which is unseen can be realized only through repentance [ED: aka, “intimacy with the Father”, “ascended lifestyle”, etc.].  It was as though He said, ‘If you don’t change the way you perceive things, you’ll live your whole life thinking what you see in the natural is the superior reality… [WHIE p 38.  Italics in original; emphasis added.  Cf. SPTM p 41]

Keep in mind that in Johnson’s dictionary repentance comes from having “intimacy with the Father” (which leads to the “ascended lifestyle” or “renewed mind”), performing “Biblical meditation” (which, as Johnson describes it, is not Biblical, but just like contemplative prayer, or centering prayer in method), aka “soaking”, etc. [see here for more explanation].  Contrary to Scripture, Johnson teaches that to repent is to perceive the spiritual realm, with increasing “repentance” providing more and more access to the “invisible” realm.  As he states, “Repentance is not complete until it envisions His Kingdom” [WHIE p 38; cf. SPTM pp 42-45].

Going back to Johnson’s sermon, it’s the rest of this particular section in Johnson’s monologue that puts all the pieces together in this specific teaching:

The Scripture, this story in Matthew 13, the parable of the seed and the sower, actually gives this picture of soil; and the seed of God’s Word, the sperma of God, is released into the seed, through His Word, into the soil.  And, then it says, but other things grow and they choke out the life of that seed of God.  Think about it: the Word of God, the most powerful thing in the universe, is put into an environment that if we give attention to other IDEALS, other VOICES, other WORDS, we actually give them a place in our heart to take root and they choke out the Word of God, the most powerful thing in the universe.  For a season, the Lord has allowed our choices to affect the power, the effect of the most powerful thing in the universe.  It’s stunning.

Note that there are two seeds – one external and one internal.  To differentiate, the internal seed here is in green colored font.  The above underscored “seed of God” is ambiguous in the context; it could refer to the external seed or the internal seed.

This section of Johnson’s message above will be explained in-depth, as it’s very confusingly worded.

The external seed is “the seed of God’s Word, the sperma of God”.  This could be construed one of two ways.  The first is that God’s Word has a seed which is called “sperma of God”.  That is, the “seed” / “sperma” (of God) is a subunit of God’s Word.  The second possible understanding is that God’s Word = the “sperma of God”.  In other words, this could be rephrased as ‘God’s Word, which is a seed, also known as the sperma of God…’  The first view seems to make the most sense in this context.

More important is the internal seed called “the seed” (and possibly “seed of God”).   The internal seed is the one which “the seed of God’s Word, the sperma of God” is released into.  To state another way, the external seed, “the seed of God’s Word, the sperma of God”, is released into the internal seed, which is in the individual’s “soil”.  To put yet another way, through the Word (of new revelation) the external “seed of God’s Word (“sperma of God”) is released into the internal “seed” in the soil of the hearer:

the [external] seed of God’s Word, the sperma of God, is released into the [internal] seed, through His Word [new revelation], into the [internal] soil.

So then, “His Word”, the so-called “present truth”, aka “new revelation”, is the vehicle by which the external seed, the “sperma of God” is released into the internal “seed” in the soil of the individual.  Bear in mind Johnson’s claim above that Matthew 13 also pertains to Jesus.  This means that Jesus Himself had a seed in his soil, and that “through His Word” (present truth, new revelation), the “sperma of God”, aka “the seed of God’s Word” was released into His internal “seed”, which is in His internal “soil”.

Tying it all Together by Going Back to the Roots

Putting all this together, Johnson is teaching that Jesus, like all men, has a seed within Him, which can either grow by paying heed to so-called present truth, aka new revelation (“the most powerful thing in the universe”) such as “YOU are My beloved Son”, or the seed can be choked out by other “IDEALS”, “VOICES”, “WORDS”.  Jesus’ first temptation in the wilderness is an example of these other ideals, voices, words, yet Jesus withstood this temptation, providing an example for the rest of mankind.

A form of this teaching, known as Gnosticism, goes all the way back to the second century (and perhaps the first century).  Early church leaders (some term them “fathers”), perhaps most notably in the writings of Irenaeus, battled against the Gnostics, using the pen as their sword.  The basic worldview of the Gnostics was dualistic, such that all matter is evil, while spirit is good.  Humankind, while inwardly spirit and hence good, was enfleshed by evil matter, the outward body.  The goal was to escape the flesh, thus attaining self-redemption.  This was accomplished through secret knowledge, or gnosis (new revelation) that came by way of mystical experiences from mystical practices.

This doctrine is reprised or repackaged in varying forms in the New Age / New Spirituality teachings of today.  In Levi Dowling’s popular book titled The Aquarian Gospel of Jesus the Christ, originally published in 1907 and still in print today, is an introduction that recounts these teachings.  The following two quotes describe the basic doctrine, comparing remarkably well with Johnson’s “sperma of God” concept.  First, there is a “Christ” within (internal divine seed, spark of divine light), which was deposited in all of creation at the very beginning:

Christ, the universal Love, pervades all spaces of infinity…

Perfection is the ultimate of life.  A seed is perfect in its embryonic form, but it is destined to unfold, to grow.  Into the soil of every plane these seeds, which were the Thoughts of God, were cast…and they who sowed the seeds, through Christ, ordained that they should grow…and to each be a perfection of its kind. [AGJC, p 6; capitalization from original, emphasis added]

These seeds then are the “Thoughts of God” lying dormant in each and every thing or being.  The key is to awaken, or “sow” the seed through Christ:

Christ is the Logos [Word] of Infinities and through the Word alone are Thought and Force made manifest.[AGJC, p 6; CAPS from original, emphasis added]

 Let’s compare this directly to Johnson’s teaching above:

the[external] seed of God’s Word, the sperma of God, is released into the [internal] seed, through His Word [new revelation], into the [internal] soil.

In each case, the vehicle is “through the/His Word”.  Levi states that “Thought and Force” are “made manifest only “through the Word”, while Johnson’s doctrine above is such that new revelation/present truths are made manifest “through His Word”.  These are striking similarities.  The only difference is that Levi is explicit that the seed inside all things is divine; Johnson is ambiguous with his seed.

Levi’s doctrine is explicitly panentheistic, i.e., God is IN all [pan = all; en = in; the, from theos = God].  Bill Johnson’s is not incongruent with panentheism, though, as noted, he’s ambiguous.  Is Johnson’s internal seed divine like Levi’s, which would mean he’s teaching panentheism?

While there are a number of different views of panentheism in the varying religious systems in the world, there are some consistencies in the doctrine with respect to how it relates to Jesus Christ and Christianity in esotericism.  For perhaps a clearer understanding, here’s Richard Smoley from his book Inner Christianity: A Guide to the Esoteric Tradition: with a general view of “Christian” esotericism and the doctrine of panentheism:

…The Father is the ineffable, transcendent aspect of God; the Son [ED: Christ] is God’s immanent aspect. This divine spark or Logos is the first sounding-forth of existence from the depths of infinity: “All things were made by him; and without him was not any thing made that was made. In him was life; and the life was the light of men” (John 1:3-4). Christ is the embodiment of this immanent aspect of God.

So are we. “Without him was not any thing made that was made.” Nothing comes into existence unless this divine spark of consciousness, no matter how faint or dim, lies at its center. This was true of Jesus, it is true of me, and it is true of you…We may not be as exalted as Christ…But at the core we are the same [IC, pp 134-135; all emphasis added].

Note the two separate aspects of God: the transcendent, which is the ineffable (inexpressible) Father, and the immanent (within all of creation) aspect, which is the Son (Christ).  This immanence is alternatively called divine seed, divine spark, divine (spark of) light, logos, or Christ.  So, the Son/Christ is a divine entity, and this divine entity was diffused throughout creation as a seed / spark / light.  This view of panentheism is such that all is in God (the transcendent Father is wholly outside, surrounding all of creation) and God is in all (the Son/Christ is within all of creation).

Yet, observe that Jesus Himself is called Christ (“Christ is the embodiment of this immanent aspect of God”), rather than merely, for example, Jesus of Nazareth.  Smoley quotes from A Course in Miracles to describe Him:

The name of Jesus is the name of the one who was a man but saw the face of Christ in all his brothers and remembered God.  So he became identified with Christ, a man no longer, but at one with God [ACIM, Teachers Manual, p 87; emphasis in original].

Smoley  then quotes the “Jesus” of the Course as saying all can do what He did, describing Him as an intermediary, making the impossible (the distance is too great between us and the Father) into possibility [IC, p 135].  The author goes on to affirm that all are Christs, at least potentially [IC, pp 135-136].

But what of the Holy Spirit?  Smoley describes this false trinity, to include the integral role of the Spirit:

How do these two, the Father and the Son, interact with each other?  What enables them to have any connection at all, while still in some way remaining distinct?  There is…a principle that makes this interaction possible.  It is called the Comforter, or the Holy Spirit.

Here, in essence, is the Christian Trinity…Between them [Father and Son] is the Holy Spirit, the divine principle of relatedness, which accomplishes perhaps the most astonishing of all miracles: uniting two separate entities while still allowing them to be separate [IC, pp 103-104].

Levi Dowling either conflates and/or confuses the Holy Spirit (“Holy Breath”) with the ‘external Christ’, or he’s trying to convey the same thing as Smoley above [AGJC, pp 8-9].  That is, it may be that “Holy Breath” activates the Christ/Word within and/or communicates the Word from the Father to the inner Christ.  Either interpretation brings forth the same basic idea as Smoley’s description.  What has Bill Johnson said about the relationship between the Father and the Son?  Keeping in mind the foregoing, look for the similarities in Johnson’s words below with so-called “Esoteric Christianity”:

The Father, by the Holy Spirit, directed all that Jesus said and did [F2F, p 108].

It was the Holy Spirit upon Jesus that enabled Him to know what the Father was doing and saying [DWG, p 136].

If we were to assume that Johnson’s internal seed is indeed the divine seed (spark, Christ, etc.) concept, his theology would fit right into the above.  Even his “eternally God” statements would have no trouble being synthesized, as certainly if everything has a seed/spark of the divine within, then it’s not a stretch to claim all are, in essence, God, to include the human Jesus Johnson portrays.  This is precisely why New Agers can call themselves “Christs” or “gods” with a straight face.

This “seed”/”sperma of God” concept is equivalent to “the anointing”, that is, Johnson’s teaching that Christ = “the anointing” or “anointed one” (of many) [see The Christ Anointing section here for in-depth look], with “the anointing” itself coming from the Spirit which brings the Word of new revelation.  Johnson’s view more closely aligns with Levi’s; the first quote below comes from Dowling’s book, the others are from Johnson’s Face to Face with God:

The word Christ is derived from the Greek word Kristos [ED: actually Christos] and means anointed…The word Christ, in itself, does not refer to any particular person; every anointed person is christed [sic]… [AGJC, p 6; italics in original; bold added.] 

The outpouring of the Spirit also needed to happen to Jesus for Him to be fully qualified.  This was His quest.  Receiving this anointing qualified Him to be called the Christ, which means “anointed one.” Without the experience [ED: the anointing] there could be no title [F2F, p 109; italics in original, bold added]. 

…The outpouring of the Spirit comes to anoint the church with the same Christ anointing that rested upon Jesus in His ministry so that we might be imitators of Him… [F2F, p 77; emphasis added].

Keep in mind that Jesus’ “anointing”, as per Johnson in the above, is referring to the Spirit descending as a dove upon Him, which is subsequent to His baptism in water by John, and that this is how He received the title of Christ.  In the Apocryphal/Gnostic Gospel of Philip from the 2nd century is the same idea.  In the following, there is a specific distinguishing between water baptism and ‘anointing’ [chrisma (not chrism as in the text) is the Greek transliterated word meaning anointing].  The “anointing” here is identified as the mark of a Christian, rather than true Christian conversion upon which one receives the Holy Spirit indwelling – just like Bill Johnson’s teachings:

The chrism is superior to baptism.  For from the chrism we were called ‘Christians’, not from baptismChrist also was (so) called because of the anointing.  For the Father anointed the Son.  But the Son anointed the apostles.  And the apostles anointed us.  He who is anointed possesses all things.  He has the resurrection, the light, the cross [GoP, p 200; emphasis added].

Integral to the Gospel of Philip is the divine seed / spark ideology.  Bill Johnson’s overall Christology would fit nicely into this same Gnostic framework, with his seed as the divine seed / spark.  Assuming Johnson’s seed is divine, with each subsequent “anointing” by the external “seed”/”sperma of God” (which is the “word” of new revelation, or “what God is saying and doing” as per Johnson above), the internal “seed” grows towards maturity (perfection).

Again, assuming Johnson’s seed is divine, then the “spiritual DNA” teaching, which is becoming more prevalent, would be yet another way of stating this concept. That is, when the “seed”/”sperma of God” [anointing] is “released into the seed [inside the individual], through His Word, into the soil [ED: which contains the individual's 'seed']” initially, then this is the point in which the individual’s divine spark/seed is activated, which is equivalent to one’s latent “spiritual DNA” activated. [See Getting Down to the DNA of Spiritual DNA section here.]

It seems that the interpretation of this internal seed as being the divine seed concept (divine spark, Christ within, etc.), as used in “esoteric Christianity”, makes the most sense of Bill Johnson’s usage in the context above when viewed in the light of some his other teachings (“the anointing”, “spiritual DNA”). 

 

Cf. (cf.) = compare, or see also

ACIM = Helen Schucman A Course in Miracles: Combined Volume, 1992 (2nd ed), Foundation for Inner Peace, Glen Ellen, CA

AGJC = Levi Dowling The Aquarian Gospel of Jesus the Christ: The Philosophic and Practical Basis of the Religion of the Aquarian Age of the World, © 1907 Eva S. Dowling and Leo W. Dowling, © 1935 and © 1964 Leo W. Dowling, (11th printing, 1987), DeVorss, Marina del Rey, CA

DWG = Bill Johnson Dreaming with God: Secrets to Redesigning Your World Through God’s Creative Flow. 2006, Destiny Image, Shippensburg, PA

F2F = Bill Johnson Face to Face with God: The Ultimate Quest to Experience His Presence, 2007, Charisma House, Lake Mary, FL

GoP = “The Gospel of Philip” in Wilhelm Schneemelcher; transl. R. McL. Wilson New Testament Apocrypha: Volume One: Gospels and Related Writings. © J.C.B. Mohr (Paul Siebeck), Tubingen, 1990; English Translation © James Clarke & Co. Ltd, 1991 (Rev. ed.), Westminster John Knox, Louisville, KY

IC = Richard Smoley Inner Christianity: A Guide to the Esoteric Tradition,2002, Shambhala, Boston, MA.  In the Acknowledgements section is “Reverend” Cynthia Bourgeault (author of The Wisdom Jesus: Transforming Heart and Mind – a New Perspective on Christ and His Message. 2008, Shambhala, Boston, MA, which has been quoted from on CrossWise), Jacob Needleman, among others.  Endorsements include Jean Houston and David Spangler.

SPTM = Bill Johnson, The Supernatural Power of a Transformed Mind: Access to a Life of Miracles, 2005, Destiny Image: “Speaking to the Purposes of God for This Generation and for the Generations to Come”, Shippensburg, PA

WHIE = Bill Johnson, When Heaven Invades Earth: A Practical Guide to a Life of Miracles, 2003, Treasure House/Destiny Image, Shippensburg, PA

Hello it’s the Real Me

As one being particularly enamored with music as long as I can remember, occasionally, out of the blue, I’ll recall a particular song, record, etc.  Todd Rundgren’s 1973 hit “Hello It’s me” just flashed through my brain again this morning, bringing fond remembrance.  This then reminded me of the album from which the song is taken titled Something/Anything?, which includes two other singles, both released prior to “Hello It’s Me”: “I Saw the Light” (an homage to both Laura Nyro and Carole King, with Rundgren’s voice sounding much like the latter) and “Couldn’t I Just Tell You” (credited with founding the “power-pop” genre).  The three songs are fairly basic love songs, very catchy and memorable.

In 1975, Rundgren released the single “Real Man”, which didn’t interest me at all, and it was only recently that I found out that Rundgren was the artist.  Back then, I recall seeing the album containing the single, titled Initiation, though it never captured my interest.  It’s this album which brings me to the reason I’m carrying you along with me down memory lane.

As I recently saw again the title to his ’75 album release, given my recent studies into the occult for apologetics purposes, I decided to check out what Rundgren meant by Initiation.  Ooh boy.  Looking at the Wikipedia entry, the entire second side of the original LP is an instrumental suite titled “A Treatise on Cosmic Fire”, taken from a book of the same name by Theosophist Alice Bailey (I have a copy of the book and have referenced it on CrossWise).  Checking out the lyrics to the title track, offered no surprise.  The single “Real Man” is more of the same, though not as overt.

The point of this post is to illustrate the prevalence of the occult in pop culture, perhaps in places one might not expect.  Who would have thought that the guy who would pen such simple love songs would go on to be a strong advocate for the occult, basing an entire album around the concept, to include a (vinyl) side-long suite named after an Alice Bailey book?  Rundgren would explore more esoteric teachings, as evidenced by his 1981 album Healing.

For those not old enough and/or not familiar with Rundgren’s pop-oriented material, most would be aware of his ’83 hit “Bang on the Drum” (I don’t want to work / I want to bang on the drum all day), which has become an anti-work anthem and has been featured in commercials, etc.  Now try to get that song out of your head today!

This theme of New Age / occult in popular culture was mentioned in more detail in the CrossWise article Misplaced Trust, part II, (see New Age / New Spirituality in Contemporary Culture section).

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