Getting all technical - part 2
(noun, abstract) organisation where everyone thinks
alike; (verb, passive) to sit quietly and listen;
(phrase) ‘where do you fellowship?’,
‘you must fellowship’.
Sorry – only kidding.
That’s from the Anderson Pocket Dictionary of Religious
Jargon which we must get around to writing one day.
Seriously though, folks. Words
– the right words in the right place – matter heaps.
Take our calves. A while back they were tottering little tots
that caused us more heartaches than a quiver-full of teenagers.
Now they’re rambunctious little brutes, delighting to ram a
bullet head behind our ageing knees to send us slithering in the
mud. So what’s all that got to do with words?
Just that at chow time we would
yell ‘calfy-calfy-calfy’ (try it: it sounds
really stupid) – and pretty soon they all learned to come
running. No yell from us, no stampede from them, style of thing.
Now weaned, and bombastic with it, they let us tippy-toe through
the paddock unassaulted as long as we keep quiet. And if we want
to shift them to fresh fields and pastures verdant, we only have
to fling wide the gate and call
‘calfy-calfy-calfy’ to bring the wee cuties
a-galloping through before Lucy-the-dog does it all wrong and
scatters them to the four winds.
And soon they’ll have
forgotten that our yell signalled we were about to feed them, and
it’ll mean simply ‘quick: run through that
gateway!’ Just a cunning shift of meaning to fool the
cherubs and make our life easier.
All of the above is a roundabout
way of saying beware. The original meaning can be
watered down until words lose the sock-it-to-'em reality that God
Take, for instance, the word
‘god’ or ‘gods’. No, not
‘God’. But lowercase ‘god’ or
‘gods’. No capitals.
What’s the gripe with
‘god’ or ‘gods’? Simply this: in
religious circles, evangelical, Pentecostal and charismatic
circles it’s degenerated into a metaphor. A figure of
We blame Paul. He used a bit of
artistic licence to say that, for some folk, their god is their
belly. (And we admit to borrowing the phrase as a title for an
Omega article.) Now, Paul knew where he was coming from. He
wasn’t suggesting that in some first-century Athenian back
alley there was a temple which held belly-worship every Sunday at
11.00 and 6.30. It was merely a metaphor. Like when we say Kiwis
make a god of rugby, sport in general, and the overpaid muddied
oafs and flannelled gentlemen who take part.
It’s only –
only – a metaphor.
We wonder if a god (or gods) are
actually encouraging us to forget the reality of the beings that
the Bible mentions time after time. Sure, there’s Satan.
Sure, there are evil spirits. Those are the extremes of the
infernal decile. We’re talking about middle management:
Every nation on earth – with
one exception - was and is under the rulership of a god. The
exception, as you might expect, was Israel; that chosen nation
was ruled by the Lord Jehovah. Perhaps it is a little tricky to
appreciate how startling that fact is, because our Bibles help us
out with a wink-wink, nudge-nudge by putting a capital
‘G’ when the Lord is implied, and ‘g’
when (fallen) angelic beings are implied.
But can you get the picture? The
whole earth was divided up according to the number of the fallen
angels, who had unchallenged sway over anyone living in their
territory. That was the norm, the default; everybody knew it and
acknowledged it. So when God – the God, the God of
gods – chose Abram, renamed him, promised to make him a
nation – it was a revolutionary step. Which is why the
Children of Israel had to be continually reminded that they were
to totally destroy all the symbols of other gods in Canaan and
not make any gestures towards appeasing or currying favour with
Okay. Fast forward to nowadays.
(Before you start talking about
Calvary and the atonement, here’s a caution: think
The death and resurrection of
Jesus is effective in redeeming people from Satan. It has not
removed the fallen angels from their positions. Not yet.
So nations, lands, religions, are
still under the rule of the gods.
To be sure, their technique has
modified over the centuries. The un-camouflaged magical powers,
the routine of human sacrifice, has been tempered, particularly
in so-called civilised countries, in lands which still live by
the fading echoes of Christian teachings. The gods are well aware
that a direct confrontation would send the average
21st century man and woman scurrying in abject terror
to ask the Lord to save them.
The gods may be evil; they
Quietly they spread an atmosphere
of amused disbelief throughout society. The Christian religion is
tolerated, even commended, only for its welfare rôle among
the disadvantaged. Little by little, the Old Ways of pagan
culture are being reintroduced. Think: ‘cultural
sensitivity’, ‘tourist attractions’.
In other words, Satan is
transformed into an angel of light – which C S Lewis calls
‘a routine parade-ground exercise’. And we
shouldn’t be taken in by it. Be continually aware that our
values, attitudes, lifestyles – even our religious
viewpoints – need careful reassessment.
By carefully checking against
scripture. More than that: by carefully checking against our
relationship with the Lord Jesus Himself. Scripture is vital.
Relationship – on a personal basis – with Jesus is
even more important. And the two will never conflict.
Now, don’t be misled by
Biblical put-downs of idols. Idols, as such, are mere
lumps of wood or metal. So worship of an idol, as such,
is simply stupid. However, an idol is intended to be a focal
point for the god it represents. An ‘aid to worship’,
to borrow a liturgical phrase. Older Pacific Island people know
that many carved objects have only a residual power until the god
is summoned with the correct ritual.
Before the crucifixion, the gods
wielded great power. Daniel records a three-week stand-off
between a spectacular heavenly visitor and a local god, the
prince of Persia.
Since the crucifixion, the gospel
has meant that men and women may and can make the transfer from
being ruled by local gods and come under the rulership of the God
of Abraham, Isaac and Israel. In other words, outcalled
(...which, in Greek, gives us the word we translate as
‘church’...) from the Kingdom of Darkness and
installed in the Kingdom of God’s Beloved Son.
There have always been those who
try to play both ends against the middle. Those who want the best
of both worlds, those who try and serve two masters.
Jesus said it can’t be done.
Still people try. Remember we’re not talking about
materialism here. We’re talking about supernaturalism.
Magic. The occult. ‘Harmless’ little gifts and tricks
that the gods use to bait their hooks. The acceptance of other
cultures, other customs.
We read that a nation’s
leader performs the correct ritual in a Shinto temple. An
archbishop becomes a druid with prayers to an earth goddess.
Today there are neo-pagans
re-establishing the reign of gods in lands once liberated by the
gospel. Should we be concerned? No and yes. There is nothing to
fear. No matter what gods are exalted, we are – quite
literally – ambassadors for the God of gods, King of kings
and Lord of lords. We live in the authority of the Name of Jesus,
no less. And we enjoy full diplomatic immunity.
At the same time we must realise
that, as ambassadors, we have a job to do. The job is to tell
people that the drab, demanding rulership they are in bondage to,
doesn’t have to be endured. They have been redeemed. Which
means the gods have been paid off.
As the Book says: ‘If the
Son shall make you free, you shall be free indeed’. Perhaps
– it’s a sobering thought – the extent to which
we have been set free from the power of the gods will be
reflected in the enthusiasm with which we seek to free
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