|The Manufactured Presence of God
An Introduction to Anagogic Methodology (Original Publication August, 2013)
Robert Wurtz II
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In 2012, Nature Publishing Group released a study arguing that music has the power to reduce what psychologists call cognitive dissonance. This ” dissonance ” is basically the uneasiness and discomfort we feel when we try to entertain two or more contradictions in our lives. This feeling can also come when we are confronted with new information that conflicts with our existing ideas, beliefs, values, etc. We may call it more Biblically, ” pain of conscience. ” God designed man so that he would think rationally, and in order to do that we have to have consistency in our thoughts and beliefs.
When inconsistency (dissonance) in our thoughts is experienced, we usually try to reduce the dissonance by avoiding situations and information that are causing it. As the old saying goes, “ignorance is bliss.” However, God has designed man in such a way that he or she cannot long ignore these contradictions without taking some kind of action to resolve them. For example, if a person believes that doing something is sin, and they do that something, they will experience pain of conscience. Their beliefs and their actions do not match, so they feel discomforted. This is a safety mechanism to ensure that we are real to ourselves and what we believe to be right. This is also true of beliefs we hold. They have to be in agreement. If they are in conflict, we have to resolve it.
The “Presence” that Cannot Effect Change
Many people cannot distinguish the difference between the feeling they get when their favorite Christian song is played and the manifest presence of the Lord. You may be surprised to know that a great number of people associate the feeling they get when a ballard type song is played with God’s Holy Spirit. This notion was promoted, probably unintentionally, by ministers such as Kathrine Kuhlman and Benny Hinn, who held meetings with majestic sounding music — leading many to believe what they felt was God’s presence. In fact, it was possible to come into meetings such as these, believe one had experienced “God’s presence” and leave the building completely unchanged. Could it be that what the people were doing is going into a meeting and experiencing a reduction in the cognitive dissonance in his or her life (pain of conscience)? Could it be that they felt the soothing and calming effect of the music and believed it was God, but in reality, it was really the music working against God? They may have felt conviction of sin going into the meeting, but by the time they left that conviction was completely extinguished. Can you see the subtle deception of such a phenomena?
When God Came Near
The Bible is filled with “firsts” and they are all significant. Our passage is the first outpouring of the Holy Spirit and fire as promised in the holy Prophets and reaffirmed by John the Baptist. This outpouring sets the pattern for all outpourings and demonstrations of the Spirit that follow in the book of Acts. There is one important feature that will characterize them: each will usher in a consciousness of God that alters the attitude of the people subjected to it. Luke uses the language, “fear came upon every soul.” This awesome awareness of God is similar to what Isaiah experienced in Isaiah 6. It is a foretaste of Heaven where the operations of angels and men are in the manifest presence of God.
Woe Is Me
Isaiah gives a passionate cry of grief and despair in Isaiah 6 as he was made subject to God’s holy presence. It is hard to define the word “fear” in the book of Acts, but we may take Isaiah’s experience as indicative of what the people felt when God was near. The reader may be interested to know that the love of God is not mentioned once in the book of Acts: the emphasis is on the fear of God. In fact, the fear of God is discussed in the New Testament more frequently than God’s love. We should emulate this balance between love and fear. In the book of Acts God was establishing Himself much in the way He did with the Israelites. Ananias and Sapphira were the New Testament version of Nadab and Abihu. The pattern is simple: when God’s holy presence is truly near, judgment is swift. When God’s presence is not among the people in the way He desires it to be, by default, the fearfully reverent human response to His presence departs with Him.
Anagogic Art and Architecture (Counterfeit Awe and Wonder)
It is impossible to substitute earthly and man-made means for the true manifest presence of God, but this has not stopped men from attempting it. For example, in the 1200’s an architectural motif came into vogue within the Roman Church that we know as Gothic Cathedral. Back of these designs was an anogogic ideology that sought to elevate a person’s mind into the heavens by man-made means. The word anagogic comes from the Greek word ἀνάγω (anagō) which means “up” or to “lift up.” It is used in Luke 4:5 when the Devil took Jesus “up” on the Temple and in Hebrews 13:20 where Jesus is “raised” from the dead. It also means to “take up” as in to take a ship “up” on the high seas. This sense of elevation gave rise to the Latin word anagoge which took on the spiritual denotation, “soul raising, sublime.” Those who employed anogogic techniques appealed to the scriptures – suggesting that they made use of symbolism (such as a throne, beasts with multiple faces, wheels, etc.) for the purpose of “elevating our minds” into an immaterial environment. They utilized man-made means such as art, relics and buildings for the same purpose.
Knowing The Power
Robert Wurtz II
But I will come to you shortly, if the Lord will, and will know, not the speech of them which are puffed up, but the power. For the kingdom of God is not in word, but in power. (1 Corinthians 4:19-20)
One of the great advantages Paul had in ministry, is that he could discern the difference between the true power of God (dunamis) and everything else. His bodily presence was weak and his speech contemptible. He had to rely on the Holy Spirit as a matter of course. He knew no other way.
Contextually, I have the impression that there were some at Corinth who were pretending to be moving under the power of God in their preaching- but it was a sham. Their speech wasn’t contemptible like Paul’s; it may have been quite smooth and eloquent. They were using it to their advantage. A good speaker can move a crowd- but that does not mean it is the Holy Spirit back of the words. Indeed, the people might have been fooled, but Paul was keenly aware of the forces that tried to move him. He paid attention to them. Is this God or is it something else? He refused to come under the power of anything other than the Holy Spirit. God gave him discernment to know the difference between the earthly, sensual and demonic. In his own words, “I will come to you shortly, if the Lord will, and will know, not the speech of them which are puffed up, but the power.”
Moved By Speech
The world loves to manipulate people. Think about how many times in a given day you are afforded an opportunity to be carried along by something or someone other than the Holy Spirit. Movies come to mind. There was a time when films were silent and in black and white. They would have little power to move anyone in modern times. Why? Because today movies are designed to dazzle the eyes and flood the ears – to the point that one can be almost caught up in the story line. All of the elements can be brought together to move a person in powerful ways. I recall in the 80s a famous movie about jet fighter pilots called Top Gun. So moving was that film, that stories are told of Air Force recruiters setting up shop outside the theater to sign up young men and women that were moved by that film. I’m not sure how many went through with it or how many that did lived to regret it. Nevertheless, the sights, the sounds, the words- moved many people. What was moving them? Were they even aware that they were being moved?
A New Age of Danger
Can you imagine a silent film trying to pull off the effect of a Hollywood movie such as Top Gun? How about the theaters of bygone centuries? It would be impossible. The technology did not exist to move people like that. Prior to the discovery of electricity, there was no way to build machines that could project images or amplify sound. If you wanted to move someone you had to do it with your own theatrics and sound voice. Electricity placed into the hands of men a mighty tool for moving the masses.
Sound is a powerful force when amplified. Think of how many times you have pulled up to a traffic light and a young person is blasting their minds and those around them with a highly amplified sound system. why don’t they opt for their grandparents AM radio out of their 56 Chevy Bel Air? Because it can’t move them like their sub woofer.
Discerning the Power
Imagine for a moment you are at a large outdoor concert. The singers are carrying on, the instruments are playing- when all of the sudden the power goes out. Boom! Just like that- the place falls silent except for the groans of the crowd. Emergency lights come on and the stage is silent. At that moment the show stops. There is no possible way for the band to continue because they lack that basic element that was making everything possible; electricity. Without electricity, a microphone, soundboard, amplifier and speaker setup the voices of the band are as dead and flat as can be. They may have good voices; but the amplification gives their voice a power that it would otherwise never have. Once the plug was pulled, they lost their ability to move the crowd. In an instant we know exactly what was really moving the people.
Willing to Face Reality
Paul was the type of man who wanted to move in reality. If something is pretending to be the power of God, he wanted to know it and expose it. I wonder how Paul would respond to many of our gatherings and meetings. There is no sense fooling ourselves any longer. What would Paul likely do? Would he say something like, “Young man, why don’t you step back there in that room and throw that red switch. I want to see what is really moving this congregation.” Do we have to have electricity to have a good meeting? If so, why? If the power went off in our revival meeting – would people say the Holy Spirit left the building? Would they cease animating? This is a tough question to swallow, but one we cannot afford to go another day without answering.
Amplification or Intercession?
There was a time when prayer was the means by which men and women sought the Lord for grace to minister the Gospel. In modern times we can prop ourselves up with so many things that project a false sense of dunamis (power) that fewer and fewer rely on prayer to accomplish the task. The people are moved- but what is moving them? If the electricity went off would the meeting go on unhindered? Are we moving in the method of Top Gun? People are moved to make a decision to sign up with God- but after the emotion of the production wears off they regret the decision and renege on their commitment. I’m afraid that electricity is such an easy substitute for the Holy Spirit, that it will be relied on in the main stream from now on. Multitudes will rise to its defense as just another “amoral” tool. All the while multitudes will go on believing that what the electricity makes them feel is the Holy Spirit. They are dependent on it and cannot find God without the false power it projects.
Knowing the Dunamis
I like electricity. Without it, this computer would go dead. That is not what this is about. When electricity is being used to move people through amplification and production, it is Top Gun. The feeling produced by amplification and instruments is not the power of the Holy Spirit- it is another power. We must not deceive ourselves. When the Holy Spirit comes he will bring what electricity can never bring; reproof of sin, righteousness, judgment to come and the fruit of the Spirit. Electricity can produce feelings of joy, love, and even peace. When the Holy Spirit is present there is power to effect lasting change. Many things pretend to anointing; beautiful songs, moving sermons, pithy sayings, on ad infinitum. But I will come to you shortly, if the Lord will, and will know, not the speech of them which are puffed up, but the power. For the kingdom of God is not in word, but in power. (1 Corinthians 4:19-20)
Testing the Sweetness
Robert Wurtz II
The spirit of the meeting
There is a spirit that when manifest dispels the sweetness of the Holy Spirit and leaves in its wake confusion and division. This spirit will seek to strong-arm God’s people by utilizing the dreadfulness employed by the Old Testament Prophets, upon New Covenant Christians. What did James say? “But the wisdom from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, open to reason, full of mercy and good fruits, impartial and sincere” (James 3:17 ESV). These are eight things we can use to test the spirits of the prophets under the New Covenant. This dreadful Old Testament attitude that has no place under the New Covenant, sought to infiltrate the Disciples as they ministered in Samaria. What happened? When the people did not respond to Jesus, they desired to “call fire down from Heaven.” This can be both literal and figurative; for James had already said in the preceding verses; “And the tongue is a fire, a world of unrighteousness. The tongue is set among our members, staining the whole body, setting on fire the entire course of life, and set on fire by hell” (James 3:6 ESV). The “fire of hell” sometimes imitates “fire from heaven.” It is an impostor. There is a spirit that imitates the Old Testament Prophets, lacking the gentleness, mercy and good fruits associated with the dispensation of the Grace of God (Ephesians 3:2). It is the spirit that drove the Disciples when Jesus told them, “You know not what manor (sort) of spirit you are of.” They were moving in a destructive spirit. If this spirit ever gets a foothold in the churches of God we are doomed.
The character of the Holy Spirit
When Paul left Ephesus he commended the church to God and to the Word of His grace. Paul had absolutely no confidence in those that were converted under his ministry. In fact, he warned the leaders day and night with tears that after he left, chaos and destruction would move in. He wrote; For I know this, that savage wolves will come in after my departure, not sparing the flock. Also from among you yourselves will arise men speaking things having been distorted, in order to draw away the disciples after them (Acts 20:29-30 ESV). Notice he said “savage wolves” that would not spare the flock. This is the antithesis of the role of a pastor/shepherd. Ambitious men will come in and exert their will at the expense of the blood-bought flock of God. The flock would diminish as the shepherd pursued their own aims. Paul continues, “They will speak ‘distorted things'”. The solution? Paul commended them to God and to the Word of His grace.
The Holy Spirit is a gentle Spirit that moves in the sweetness of love, joy, peace, gentleness, temperance, meekness, etc. of a shepherd watching over the flock. He convicts of sin, righteousness and judgment to come and sometimes goads; but when a person stops resisting Him He pours in love and joy (Romans 5:5). But there is another spirit that seeks to control the people rather than allowing the Holy Spirit to do His work. Returning briefly to our last several entries, we are not at liberty to “put our hands on the Ark of God.” What does that mean? People have to learn to be led of the Spirit so they can follow God on their own- independent spiritually of others that would be their spiritual counsel.
I recall hearing the story of a woman that had turned her life to Christ, but she was a smoker. The elders of her assembly, wanting her to learn to hear from God herself, trusted God. One day she came to them and said, “The Lord told me it is OK to smoke.” They did not correct her. They did not give her a “directive prophesy”. They simply trusted God to lead her. A number of months later she came back and said, “I’ve been talking to the Lord and He said it is time to stop smoking.” The attitude of those elders is exemplary. We need to allow God to establish His authority in a person’s life. If she had been subject to controlling people she would have never learned to be led of the Spirit. It’s a bitter pill, but we need to swallow it in this crisis hour. The sheep need to learn to be taught of the Shepherd. We can touch that Ark in a person and wound them for life if we are not careful.
Modern day destroyers
Like the church at Ephesus, the churches of God have suffered a great many fads over the last 100 years. This is largely due to some specific errors that the enemy has employed to disable the churches warning systems. One of those is a general attitude that we should not judge (discern) manifestations or ministers. Add to that Psalm 105:15 (touch not the Lord’s anointed and do my prophets no harm) and you have a recipe for total devastation. Although Jesus commended the Ephesians in Revelation 2:2 for testing the false apostles Paul warned them about in Acts 20; finding them to be liars, there came a generation in he 1990’s that made exposing false prophets and teachings a damnable sin – worthy of the judgment of God. These fads, false teachers and falsehoods left carnage of immense proportions. Why? People like to chase some new thing. The stories are a dime a dozen. Some of these falsehoods and fads get picked up and recycled from time to time when folk don’t know the history or they are looking for something novel. From the so-called “Holy Ghost Bartender” to the would-be healing ministry of a man that boasted of kicking a woman in the face with his biker boot at the Lord’s direction, we have seen it all in the last 25 years. One common denominator: there was an evil spirit that dispelled the sweetness of the Holy Spirit from the room and all that was left was to manufacture a sense of presence of God that fooled the masses. And fool many they did. One thing I noticed, it always divided the churches.
One of the first signs towards Jesus Christ was that the Holy Spirit in the form of a dove descended upon Him. The Holy Spirit was at His ear. And when the Holy Spirit is truly at work there will be a holy sweetness to His ministry; the fruit of love, joy and peace will permeate all that He does. Christ-likeness will be manifest. But are these the criteria in our times? When was the last time you heard of a meeting being promoted on the basis of the love, joy and peace that is manifest in the meeting? When was the last time you heard a testimony, “Oh, how they love one another!” as in the book of Acts? I said in the beginning; “There is a spirit that when manifest dispels the sweetness of the Holy Spirit and leaves in its wake confusion and division.” It is the spirit that sought to infiltrate the Disciples and Jesus rebuked. Something is wrong when the “spirit” we are of does not promote the unity of the Brethren. If discord and confusion are the fruit, we know God is not the author. Selah.