The “Canaanization” of the Church
Part 2, Do the Dead Communicate with the Living?
Our Reality and Our Culture
Death is a regular visitor in an irregular world. In our culture with its cultic fixation upon youth, health, beauty, brains and brawn, Christians, of all people, should be prepared to cope with death. To help others deal with the loss of a loved one who is a believer, Pastor Steve and Sarah Berger have written Have Heart: bridging the gulf between heaven and earth. Using the Bible and their “sanctified imagination,” the authors inform readers how they are dealing with the death of their beloved son, Josiah. In a public forum, at what they perceive to be the risk of ridicule, they state their case that those in Heaven are aware of and can actually be present with loved ones on earth.
In both the culture at large and amongst growing numbers of evangelical Christians, interest in the “connectivity” between this life and the next, between earth and heaven, is on the rise. Both children and adults report visiting Heaven. A few even claim they’ve been to Hell and back. Others report “conversations” with Jesus. But, the highway between earth and heaven appears to be run both ways. Deceased persons are now also reportedly appearing to earthly family, friends and acquaintances. One CNN writer calls these postmortem visits “crisis apparitions.” Numbers of publications claiming to connect this life with the next can be noted, books bearing titles such as The Spirit Whisperer: Chronicles of a Medium, After Life: Answers from the Other Side, One Last Time: a Psychic Medium Speaks to Those We Have Loved and Lost, and Crossing Over: the Stories behind the Stories.
Sometimes, living persons initiate ritual contact with deceased loved ones through mediums and séances. On other occasions, as the CNN writer reports, apparitions just “happen.” It is claimed that these ethereal appearances—whether in or out of a body, no one knows—support that after death, there’s “life and love.” While such experiences are increasingly contemporary, they are not new. For centuries apparitions of Mary, as well Jesus and others, have been reported throughout the world.
In their book, God and the Evolving Universe, New Age Spiritualists James Redfield (author of The Celestine Prophecy), Michael Murphy (cofounder of the Esalen Institute) and Sylvia Timbers (a long time counselor to the terminally ill) write that in the “face of life’s brevity, mysteries, and misfortunes,” humans have, “Since the Stone Age... sensed that physical death might not be the end but a transition—that some part of us, a spirit or soul, survives the body’s passing.” From ancient to modern times, the world’s literature contains,
accounts of phantom figures that threaten, inspire, guide, or support those who encounter them. Apparitions have long reminded humankind that there is more to life than our senses perceive, more than our immediate desires reach for, more than the ordinary self conceives.
Humans remain fascinated by what might lie ahead for them in a postmortem continuation of being. Since death first entered into human existence, from the time when Satan told Eve, “Ye shall not surely die” (Genesis 3:4), the desire to “know” about life after death remains embedded in the hearts of humanity (See Genesis 3:19; 4:8; 5:5; etc.; Romans 5:12 ff.). So the curious have designed methods to penetrate the mystery which shrouds death. Developed in and practiced from olden times, these methods are known as the occult arts (i.e., of, relating to, or dealing with supernatural influences or phenomena). Nations in antiquity, especially the Canaanites, the people Israel displaced in the Promised Land, pursued these practices as Satan and his messengers continued promoting to them the Edenic lie—surely you will not die.
The Conflict of the Ages
Because Satan is “the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that now worketh in the children of disobedience,” an ongoing conflict exists between God and the Devil, between His good angels and Satan’s evil spirits (Ephesians 2:2). Paul taught that the Christian’s struggle is “not against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high places” (Ephesians 6:12; Compare Revelation 12:7, ff.; Daniel 10:13; Jude 9; etc.). Whether they are aware of it or not, Christians are involved in a war with Satan’s deceivers. We know so for two reasons: first the Bible tells us; and second, at one time or another, many Christians have been drawn into what has been called the conflict of the ages. Though for the most part the war between Satan and his demons and God and His angels remains invisible (Daniel 10:1-21), sometimes it becomes manifest.
Against the backdrop of this occult war (occult means hidden or secret), “crisis apparitions” must be evaluated, for to perpetuate the lie that all will not die, one means that Satan employs is disguising himself a messenger of light (2 Corinthians 11:14). In the Old Testament era, God called upon Israel to fight this war.
Israel and the Conflict
The Surrounding Culture—the Old Canaanites
Among other of the “secret arts,” the Canaanites (Deuteronomy 18:9-14, *11) consulted with “familiar spirits” (communicated with ghosts) and practiced “necromancy” (sought oracles from the dead), perhaps by “visiting their graves (Isa. 65:4).” Of “necromancy,” Merrill F. Unger (1909-1980), Old Testament scholar who thoroughly researched and wrote about occult and demonic activities, comments:
This practice is called “spiritualism” today; actually, it is “spiritism” (traffic in spirits). Occultism was part and parcel of the debauched Canaanite religion, which was honeycombed with demonism, sexual perversion, and violence, as Ugaritic literature recovered from Ras Sharma (ancient Ugarit) attests.
So, poised to enter the Land of Canaan, the Lord informed Israel through Moses that while He was giving the land to Israel, He was not giving the nation permission to engage the occult arts and practices of the Land’s inhabitants (Deuteronomy 18:9, 14). Totally and without compromise, God forbade the Israelites “to do after the abominations of those nations,” “to imitate the detestable things of those nations (Emphasis added, NASB)” (Deuteronomy 18: 9). As Leviticus commanded the Israelites, “Do not turn to mediums or spiritists; do not seek them out to be defiled by them. I am the Lord your God” (Leviticus 19:31). God forbade them to engage in Old Age Spirituality, to imitate the secret arts in any way. Old Testament scholar and commentator J.G. McConville notes of the covenant between God and His people that,
Would Israel be faithful to Yahweh, or would they adopt the Old Age Spirituality of the Canaanites? Unfortunately, in choosing to imitate the wicked and occult arts of their neighbors, the Israelites entered into “relationships” with gods in addition to the One they had covenanted with. Old Testament history chronicles how the Hebrew people imitated the seductive spiritual practices of the Canaanite as they refused to wait in faith for the coming of The Prophet whom God promised would more fully explain the mystery of the afterlife and “whatever’s out there” to them (Deuteronomy 18:15). As curiosity got the better of them, the Hebrew people, via the machinations and manipulations of the occult arts, chose to explore the afterlife on their own.
For their unfaithfulness to Him, the Lord punished the Israelites; first by allowing the Northern Kingdom (Israel) to be taken captive by the Assyrians (B.C. 722), and then by allowing the Southern Kingdom (Judah) to be conquered by the Babylonians (B.C. 586).
Christians know Jesus Christ is The Prophet who, with His words and by His death, burial and resurrection, explained the postmortem reality all persons face. Therefore, from the example of Old Testament history (1 Corinthians 10:11), a great question arises for Christians living in this culture: will we trust the word of The Prophet regarding the afterlife, or will we attempt, by whatever means, to explore it for ourselves?
Christians and the Conflict
The Surrounding Culture—the New Canaanites
Amongst the New Age/New Spiritualists—to whom the realities of earth and heaven are merging, where what’s up there is blending with what’s down here—truth is evolving in an ever emerging dialectic. Opposites like heaven and earth no longer exist. Therefore, it is not unnatural to believe that in handling the grief of life, the dead (those out of their bodies) can communicate with the living (those in their bodies).
In his new novel, The Twelfth Insight, New Age leader and writer James Redfield chronicles the search by two characters, Hero and Will, for “The Document,” a compilation of writings from various spiritualities that will aid its readers in experiencing “Synchronistic Flow” (a.k.a. “the Zone, Heightened Perception”). This synchronistic consciousness Hero defines as,
Upon entering The Flow, Rachel, another character in The Twelfth Insight, explains that,
The Document says we can begin to communicate with those in the Afterlife and clear all our resentments and issues with them. All we have to do is use more of our power to tune in and have a conversation. It’s never too late. And there is so much more they want to communicate to us.
Dr. Oz provides another cultural indicator. Only two months after helping Rick Warren launch his Daniel Plan, Dr. Oz featured well known medium and psychic John Edward on his TV program, Indicating sympathy for spiritualism, Oz’s program was titled, Psychic Mediums: Are They the New Therapists? Based upon that program which featured Edward with Dr. Oz, the website Dr Oz Fans asks:
This is our culture—one fascinated by the possibility of talking to the dead, by soul travel between earth and heaven, by the potential of transhumanism (i.e., that man can realize divinity), and by the possible existence of parallel universes. Fascination with the paranormal has become epidemic in our society for reason of the publicity the media and Hollywood give it (i.e., Harry Potter, Star Wars, White Noise, etc., ad nauseam). As such, one can expect that Christian personalities will desire to “get in on the action” and tap into the paranormal world people claim to be experiencing, despite the Bible’s warning against doing so (Deuteronomy 18:9-14).
The “Canaanization” of the Church
The religions of the ancient nations—the Egyptians, the Babylonians, the Canaanites, etc.—all shared an occult connection (Exodus 7:11; Isaiah 47:12-13; Deuteronomy 18:1). If there was a state religion among the ancients, it was the occult. And in that day, the Lord called upon His people to separate themselves from that spirituality. But as indicated by the prophets, Israel ignored God’s Word and absorbed the secret arts into her national religious life. Jeremiah told Judah, “Do not let your prophets who are in your midst and your diviners deceive you, and do not listen to the dreams which they dream” (Jeremiah 29:8). Christians must beware that what happened to God’s people in that day might also be happening among those naming the name of Christ today.
New Testament Scripture warns against it. Paul admonished the Corinthians: “Wherefore come out from among them, and be ye separate, saith the Lord, and touch not the unclean thing; and I will receive you” (2 Corinthians 6:17). In this verse, Paul quoted the prophet Isaiah when, after seventy years of exile, the Jews were preparing to leave Babylon and return to the Promised Land (Isaiah 52:11). The Lord warned Israel against taking the idols and secret arts of Babylonian religion with them back to their homeland (See Daniel 2:2, 10; 5:7.). Upon exiting Babylon, they were not even to “touch the unclean thing.” Touching upon the realm of the demonic (Zechariah 13:1-2; Matthew 10:1), the word “unclean” (Hebrew, tame'; Greek, akathartos) means to be contaminated by physical, moral, ritual and/or spiritual impurity thereby making people, animals, objects or activities unfit for worshipping the Holy One of Israel.
The Prophet Jesus denied that Heaven and earth are one—i.e., “as above, so below”. He declared the realities of Heaven and earth to be separate and not equal. He told the religious leaders of His day: “Whither I go, ye cannot come... Ye are from beneath; I am from above: ye are of this world; I am not of this world” (John 8:22-23). Nevertheless, contemporary Christians, never wanting to be “left behind” by the culture, never content with letting the Christian faith be the Christian faith, are seeking to “connect” Heaven and earth—some by claiming to have visited Heaven, others by claiming to have experienced visits from Heaven. Yet despite Old and New Testament prohibitions, New Age Religion is subtly influencing how many Christians view their spirituality these days. They are being seduced by the New Spirituality. They are touching the “unclean thing.” They are becoming “Canaanized.”
As the religion of the Canaanites tested Israel's fidelity to Jehovah, so the New Age Religion of our culture—which in its spirituality merges the realities of earth and heaven (As above, so below) and blends what's up there with what's down here—tests the faith commitment of today's Christians to the Lord Jesus Christ.
In the last days, the time period between Christ’s first and second comings, Paul describes that apostasy will occur in the church because people will follow “seducing spirits, and doctrines of devils” (1 Timothy 4:1). This is exactly why John commanded Christians, “believe not every spirit, but try the spirits whether they are of God: because many false prophets are gone out into the world” (1 John 4:1). As Jesus did in His temptation (“it is written,” Matthew 4:4, 6, 7, 10), Christians are to discern the spirits by the Word of God only. The potential of apostatizing from the faith is the spiritual reality of the evil age in which we live, and it will remain so until Jesus comes again and binds the Deceiver for one thousand years (Ephesians 6:12; 2 Thessalonians 2:3; Revelation 20:1-3).
(2 Kings 23:24, NASB)
15. Raymond A. Moody, Jr., M.D., Life after Life: Investigation of a Phenomenon—Survival of Bodily Death (New York, NY: HarperCollins, 2001) 174 pages. With a Foreword written by Dr. Elizabeth Kübler-Ross, Moody’s book was first published in 1975.
16. Kevin and Alex Malarkey, The Boy Who Came Back from Heaven: A Remarkable Account of Miracles, Angels, and Life Beyond This World (Carol Stream, IL: Tyndale House Publishers, Inc., 2010) 210 pages + Afterword and Scripture Appendix. Don Piper with Cecil Murphey, 90 Minutes in Heaven: A True Story of Death and Life (Grand Rapids, MI: Revell, 2004) 204 pages + notes.
17. Bill Wiese, 23 Minutes in Hell: One Man’s Story About What He Saw, Heard, and Felt in that Place of Torment (Lake Mary, FL: Charisma House, 206) 136 pages, Appendixes and Notes.
18. Lloyd Gardner, Face to Face: A Dialogue with Jesus (Tollhouse, CA: Eliezer Call Ministries, 2009) 174 pages. Reviewed by Larry DeBruyn, “Dialog with Deception,” Guarding His Flock Ministries, January 25, 2011. Online: http://guardinghisflock.com/2011/01/25/dialog-with-deception/#more-1518.
19. John Blake, “Do Loved Ones Bid Farewell from Beyond the Grave?” September 23, 2011. CNN.com. Online: http://www.cnn.com/2011/09/23/living/crisis-apparitions/index.html?hpt=hp_c2.
20. John Holland, The Spirit Whisperer: Chronicles of a Medium (Carlsbad, CA: Hay House, Inc., 2010). .John Edward, After Life: Answers from the Other Side (New York, NY: Princess Books, 2003). John Edward, One Last Time: A Psychic Medium Speaks to Those We Have Loved and Lost (New York, NY: The Berkley Publishing Group, 1998). John Edward, Crossing Over: The Stories Behind the Stories (San Diego, CA: Jodere Group, Inc., 2001). Edward has hosted a TV program by the same name.
21. Blake, “Do Loved Ones Bid Farewell . . .?” After his son, James Pike, Jr., committed suicide, incredible things just happened in the flat he had lived in with his father, even though at the time, Episcopal Bishop James A. Pike didn’t believe in an afterlife. See Merrill F. Unger, The Haunting of Bishop Pike: A Christian View of the Other Side (Wheaton, IL: Tyndale House Publishers, 1971): 7-22.
22. George Noory and Rosemary Ellen Guiley, Talking to the Dead (New York, NY: Tom Doherty Associates, LLC, 2011): 14.
23. On December 8, 2010, Bishop David Ricken of the Catholic Diocese of Green Bay, Wisconsin announced that, “I declare with moral certainty and in accord with the norms of the Church that the events, apparitions and locutions given to Adele Brise in October of 1859 do exhibit the substance of supernatural character, and I do hereby approve these apparitions as worthy of belief (although not obligatory) by the Christian faithful.” Then explains the report: “Today’s declaration makes Our Lady of Good Help at Champion the first and only site in the United States of an approved apparition of the Blessed Virgin Mary.” See “Worthy of Belief: Bishop Ricken approves Marian Apparitions at Shrine of Our Lady of Good Help,” Diocese of Green Bay, http://www.gbdioc.org/home.html. See also “Strange Encounters: Do People Really See Jesus Today?” by Pastor Larry DeBruyn, Guarding His Flock Ministries, http://guardinghisflock.com/category/discernment/.
24. James Redfield, Michael Murphy and Sylvia Timbers, God and the Evolving Universe: The Next Step in Personal Evolution (New York, NY: Penguin Putnam, Inc., 2002): 182.
25. Ibid. 191-192.
26. Unless otherwise noted, all Scripture quotations are from the King James Version of the Bible.
27. J. Ridderbos, Deuteronomy: Bible Student’s Commentary, Ed M. van der Maas, Translator (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan Publishing House, 1984): 205.
28. Merrill F. Unger, Unger’s Commentary on the Old Testament, Volume I, Genesis-Song of Solomon (Chicago, IL: Moody Press, 1981): 257. Because “Spiritualists” believe in postmortem conversations with departed human souls, they do not accept the designation of “Spiritism,” that they are in contact with spirits, whether good or evil. See Raphael Gasson, The Challenging Counterfeit: Can We Communicate with the Dead? (South Plainfield, NJ: Bridge Publishing Inc., 1966): 31-44.
29. The same word (Hebrew, nathan) occurs in Deuteronomy 18:9 and 14. Other English versions translate the word’s incidence in verse 14 as “suffered” (KJV), “allowed” (NASB), “permitted” (NIV), “appointed” (NKJV), etc.
30. The Law also demands: “Now a man or a woman who is a medium or a spiritist shall surely be put to death. They shall be stoned with stones, their bloodguiltiness is upon them” (Leviticus 20:27, NASB). On this point, we ought to note this law is not applicable to contemporary society. Israel was a theocracy while our government is in theory a representative democracy. When dealing with witchcraft, the Gospel demands discernment of the spirits not the death of the witch.
31. Emphasis added, J.G. McConville, Deuteronomy: Apollos Old Testament Commentary 5, David W. Baker and Gordon J. Wenham, Editors (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 2002): 302.
32. On this point, it is important to note that idolatry begins with imagination. God’s verdict over the antediluvian generation was “that every imagination of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually” (Genesis 6:5). The word “imagination” (Hebrew yetser means to form or make) can refer to making idols (Habbakkuk 2:18).
33. James Redfield, The Twelfth Insight: The Hour of Decision (New York, NY: Grand Central Publishing, 2011): 5.
34. “Psychic Mediums: Are They the New Therapists,” The Dr. Oz Show, March 15, 2011, (http://www.doctoroz.com/videos/are-psychics-new-therapists-pt-1).
35. Cited by Warren B. Smith, A “Wonderful” Deception: The Further New Age Implications of the Emerging Purpose Driven Movement (Magalia, CA: Mountain Stream Press, 2011): 198.
36. Dr Oz Fans, “Dr Oz: John Edward Psychic Medium: Can You Talk To The Dead?” Dr Oz Fans: The Unofficial Source for Everything Dr Oz, March 15, 2011. Online: http://www.drozfans.com/dr-ozs-advice/dr-oz-john-edward-psychic-medium-can-you-talk-to-the-dead/
37. As an adjective, unclean is opposite from pure and, “in the religio-cultic sense is a technical term denoting a state of being ceremonially unfit.” See W.E. Vine, Merril F. Unger, William White, Jr., An Expository Dictionary of Biblical Words (Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson Publishers, 1984): 446.
38. “As above, so below” summarizes the worldview that, “everything in the cosmos is internally related, bound up with everything else . . . Divine powers understood variously as “energy” or “light” pervade the whole. This principle is most clearly expressed in the so-called Emerald Tablet of Hermes Trismegistus, which begins with the famous lines “As above, so below.” This maxim became the central tenet of Western occultism . . .” Emphasis added, see Glenn Alexander Magee, Hegel and the Hermetic Tradition (Ithaca: Cornell University Press, 2001) 13.
39. Todd Burpo with Lynn Vincent, Heaven is for Real: A Little Boy’s Astounding Story of His Trip to Heaven and Back (Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson, Inc., 2010) 157 pages. Judy Franklin and Beni Johnson, Experiencing the Heavenly Realm: Keys to Accessing Supernatural Experiences (Shippensburgh, PA: Destiny Image, Publishers, Inc., 2011) 218 pages. Dennis and Nolene Prince, Nine Days in Heaven: The Vision of Marietta Davis (Lake Mary, FL: Creation House, 2006) 121 pages + Appendixes and Notes.Choo Thomas, with Foreword by Dr. David Yonggi Cho, Heaven is So Real! (Lake Mary, FL: Creation House, 2003, 2006) 253 pages.