20 June 2020
We continue to look at the deficiency of truth in Protestantism. During the last decade of the 20th century, a ‘sign and wonders’ movement developed, pioneered specifically by the late John Wimber and the Vineyard churches. Wimber argued that signs and wonders were everyday occurrences in the New Testament times and should also be so in our own time too. Some observers have hailed this movement as the ‘third wave’ of the pentecostal movement in the 20th century.
Our response:- we should avoid the extreme and opposite reactions of scepticism and credulity. We cannot deny the possibility of miracles whether from theological prejudice or scientific secularism. Since we believe in the Sovereign God of the universe, we have no freedom to dictate to God what He is permitted to do.
At the opposite extreme we have those who regard signs and wonders (especially healing miracles) as characterizing the ‘normal Christian life’. The God of the BIble is primarily the God of nature – He gives sun and rain, sustains the world, clothes the flowers, feeds the birds and provides HIs creatures with breath and life. This is where the biblical revelation of God begins – miracles neither precede and supersede it.
The principal purpose of miracles in the BIble has been to authenticate each fresh stage of revelation – the law of Moses, the ministry of the prophets from Elijah onwards, the teaching of Jesus and the authority of the apostles. If God has given the authority to work the works of Jesus, why should these be limited to healing? Why should we not also multiply loaves and fishes and so solve the problem of world hunger? Why should we not also be able to still storms, and rescue people whose lives are threatened by flood?
Reality does not fit the claims. To promise miraculous healing to all who believe is to cause disillusion, and then to attribute failure to unbelief and lack of faith can only be described as cruel. We should certainly be open to miracles (because God is the Creator) but we have no right to expect miracles with the same frequency with which they occurred in special biblical periods (because ours is not an epoch of revelation). Christians should reject both the scepticism which denies miracles and the presumption which demands miracles.
The influence on Art, Music, Literature and films
We have seen the dichotomy in which reason leads to pessimism and all optimism is in the area of non-reason. Modern pessimism and modern fragmentation have spread in different ways to people across the world throughout history from the time of Rome. The first place this perspective was taught was in philosophy as shared in some details; then it was presented to art, then through music, then through general culture and also through theology (discussed previously).
What is not so obvious, even to believers, is that the thinking in many areas in the culture of mankind has been infiltrated by the evil one through the ‘attacks on the mind’ rather subtly through philosophy, the study of science and technology and even in the field of the arts and culture of societies. Art and painting became the vehicle for modern man’s view of the fragmentation of truth and life. The fragmentation shown in post-Impressionist paintings was parallel to the loss of a hope for a unity of knowledge in philosophy – it expressed a world view. The philosophers from Rousseau, Kant and Kierkegaard onward, having lost their hope of a unity of knowledge and unity of life, presented a fragmented concept of reality; then the artists painted that way. It was the artists who first understood that the end of this view was the absurdity of all things.
The idea spread through music, first in classical music, though later many of the same elements came into popular music, such as rock. Leonard Bernstein in the lecture at Harvard University says of Gustav Mahler’s Ninth Symphony, “Ours is the century of death and Mahler is its musical prophet…if Mahler knew this (personal death, death of totality, and the death of culture as it had been) and his message is so clear, how do we, knowing it too, manage to survive? Why are we still here, struggling to go on?…We learn to accept our mortality; yet we persist in our search for immortality… All this ultimate ambiguity is to be heard in the finale of Mahler’s Ninth.” This is modern man’s position.
It is worth reemphasizing that this fragmentation in music is parallel to the fragmentation which occurred in painting. They were not just changes of technique; they expressed a world view and became a vehicle for carrying that world view to masses of people which the bare philosophic writings never would have touched.
Modern pessimism and fragmentation also spread to films, literature, the news makers, the field of education and culture. The evil one has succeeded to extend his reach far and wide. What students study in schools and universities in many societies are centred upon such a perspective; no wonder students who graduate no longer can agree with their parents who probably live in the concepts of the ‘old school’ without even knowing it.
In the area of films, the major philosophic statements of Existentialism received a wide hearing made through films. The films by Ingmar Bergman showed pictorially and with great force what it is like if a man is a machine and also what it is like if man tries to live in the area of non-reason. In the area of non-reason, man has no way to distinguish between what is right and wrong, or even between what is objectively true as opposed to illusion or fantasy. Bergman, in the film ‘The Silence’, communicated in an interview that he had come to conclude that God is dead; therefore there is only silence in the universe.
The next time you view a film, a tv programme, or read a book, a poem or listen to a piece of music, do pause and consider – are you aware that the devil is getting through to you, your mind, your understanding, your values, without you really being aware of it? Satan does not just come to you as the devil; he comes to you as an “angel of light”, in the thoughts, values and understanding of issues of life in a subtle manner without you being even conscious of what is going on. Then various ones wonder why you suddenly decide to give up your Christian faith and your Christian friends after being so faithful in ‘attending church and all the various meetings’.
How do we counter this ‘onslaught’ by the evil one? God willing, we will look at this in the next sharing.