From the Editor

The Cult Craze and the Nature of Man. What is missing in the current practice of Christianity to cause bizarre groups to flourish?

by the editors.
In our last article in this series (March, 1979) we pointed out one of the major doctrines of historical Christianity that makes the church a bulwark of strength and stability—its teaching of divine creation. We pointed out also how this rock of faith has been eroded in much of the Christian world today by prevailing concepts of the evolutionary hypothesis. In this article we want to explore the implications of this situation for the nature of man.

What is man? What kind of nature does he have? How is it that he alone, among all living creatures, is self-conscious? How is it that man alone can swing from rashness to refinement, from faith to presumption, from the noble to the ignoble? Modern man is not the first to puzzle over himself. In an exquisite lyric (composed perhaps during one of those star-studded nights while he watched his sheep on the Judean hillside) David formulated the question, "What is man, that thou art mindful of him?" (Ps. 8:4). The answers to such questions, in our opinion, have manifold and far-reaching ramifications for our relation ship to God and to one another.

Dr. Dan Gilbert used to tell audiences about the atheist club he joined in college whose motto was, "Sons of apes don't need a Saviour." That's true. There is no basic compatibility between evolution, which assumes that we are pulling ourselves up by our own boot straps and getting better and better, and the Bible assertion that man, created in the image of God, is now engaged in a senseless rebellion against his Maker. The view of the Scriptures is that as this rebellion has continued, the effects of sin have become more and more apparent in all of creation. In our opinion, there is no way of harmonizing this Bible viewpoint with the evolutionary assumption that men are making continued upward progress.

Not only does rejection of the Biblical creation story undermine the central fact of the necessity of salvation by faith in Jesus Christ but it also pulls the rug from under the concept of the dignity and worth of man, who was created in God's image because his Creator both wanted and needed him. Needless to add, it also does away with the Biblical teaching of the fall of man and his consequent sinful nature. From a Biblical viewpoint, one must understand the doctrine of the origin of sin before he can understand the nature of man.

In describing sin the Scriptures take us behind the scenes to the one who originated evil. The ultimate responsibility for the origin of sin and its effects, ac cording to the traditional theologians, rests squarely, not on man, but on Satan. We recognize that some are not willing to think of evil or sin in terms of a real, personal devil or in terms of an inherently sinful propensity in man. Rather, such individuals see sin in terms of institutional evil, social injustice, and psychological dysfunction. According to this way of thinking, evil can be eradicated, not by the omnipotent power of a Holy God who works in man by His Spirit to overcome sin through the merits of a Saviour, but by the destruction of institutional and societal wrongs through education, positive action, and an increasingly wholesome environment. If the environment can be made free from evil, then man will be able to realize his innate potential for goodness.

It is interesting, however, that it is precisely in such a perfect environment that the Bible depicts sin arising. Genesis describes evil as occurring in an immaculate Eden with a man and a woman who were created flawless and in the image of God Himself. Furthermore, prior to Eden, sin arose originally, according to the Scriptures, in the faultless atmosphere of heaven itself, with one of God's most exalted created beings—Lucifer, who was without blemish until through sin he became Satan, the adversary. It was he who introduced sin into Eden.

It is likewise significant that Jim Jones, who fled the institutionalized evil of modern society to construct his own "Garden of Eden" in the jungles of Guyana, has bequeathed to the world a name—Jonestown—that will forever be associated with mind-boggling carnage and evil. The experience of Jonestown should clearly show that in order to escape evil and sin it isn't enough to flee to the solitude of the jungle. Sin in man's heart and nature will follow him wherever he goes. The solution is not to escape sin by hiding from it, but to escape it by facing the sinfulness of our humanity and allowing the Saviour through the new birth experience to change and cleanse us.

In the strange age we have come to, people flock to see films that depict diabolical impregnation and dramatize the existence of Satan, while at the same time they reject the notion that there is anything that is intrinsically evil. In fact, sin has been so popularized that about the only thing actually considered evil is "moralizing." What greater proof could there be of the sinful, fallen nature of man?

On the other hand, if Mark Bubeck, author of The Adversary, is right, those actually denying the existence of Satan and demons are apparently in the minority. He writes, "No longer is the main debate of men concerned with whether you are a supernaturalist or a nonsupernaturalist. Today man's debate centers upon whether you are a 'biblical supernaturalist,' or an 'investigating supernaturalist' who wants to experiment with occult phenomena or dabble in the various branches of sorcery and witch craft." —Page 15.

The unprecedented increase of books on the occult, the permeating of theater and TV screens with the supernatural, and the establishment of religions centering on Satan worship, give credence to Bubeck's point. Of course, witch craft, palmistry, astrology, and seances have been a part of man's culture from ancient times, but the astounding popularity of the occult today is significant. Those who take the Scriptures as a factual, trustworthy revelation from God find no difficulty in believing in the literal existence of Satan and demons. Scripture gives a clear, logical, consistent picture of the reality of Satan and an evil supernaturalism.

Our belief, based on God's Word, is that sin originated with one who was the most powerful and glorious of all created beings in the universe (see Isa. 14:12-15; Eze. 28:11-19). Lucifer, son of the morning, angel of light, was a perfect, holy, righteous being, filled with wisdom and beauty as he came from the Creator's hand. Inexplicably, this glorious creature indulged the desire for self-exaltation. Gradually, he came to covet God's power, but not His character; God's authority, but not His love; God's ability, but not His responsibility. His position as first among the created hosts did not satisfy him. Envy, pride, and selfishness developed into open, widespread rebellion, until he and a multitude of angels whom he had deceived were cast out of heaven (see Rev. 12:7-10).

The conflict so clearly delineated throughout Scripture centers primarily between Christ and Satan. The deity of Christ forever placed Him above the created ranks, and the preference thus shown to Him became the basis of jealousy in Satan's mind. (Historically, denial of the deity of Christ seems almost to have been a hallmark of a cult, in contrast to authentic Christianity which has always affirmed His divinity.) Satan, whose very name means "adversary," aimed his relentless rebellion first and foremost at Christ.

The words of our Lord, in John 8:44, give further insight into this point. Speaking of Satan, He claimed, "He was a murderer from the beginning." Satan's anger against Christ in heaven is here placed on the same plateau with murder. And truly Satan's anger, as it developed its mature fruit, did indeed cause death, even the death of Christ Himself. Thus anger, animosity, hate, revenge, and murder, are all components of the devil's trademark— death.

The Bible describes other developments of Satan's character as it warped under the blighting influence of sin. He is called the devil, or slanderer (1 Peter 5:8), and is recognized as a deceiver (Rev. 20:10). As prince of this world (John 12:31), he skillfully schemes to destroy, and manipulates affairs to his evil advantage. He is a liar and the father of lies and lying (chap. 8:44). Perhaps the words of John 10:10 are more descriptive than any others regarding the intentions of this adversary angel. "The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy" (R.S.V.). Here we find a powerful testimony to the nature of sin, its originator, and its horrible results. It testifies to the inevitable consequences of setting aside, even in the slightest way, the laws and authority of God's divine government. It further testifies to the reality and tangibility of Satan and his host of demons. There is nothing symbolic or nebulous about stealing, killing, and destroying.

We freely grant that there is an outrageous amount of chicanery and deception in the present occult explosion, but let not this fact undermine our belief in the reality of Satan. Jesus personally met the adversary in the wilderness. This was no aberration of the mind caused by extreme hunger. Satan was a literal, visible, cunning foe. The supernatural elements connected with this record, do not make Satan any less real. So, while there are deceptions on the occult front (and this is part of Satan's scheme), let the Christian understand that we are in a very literal warfare with the enemy.

Unless one understands the back ground of the existence of evil, he surely will be unable to understand the nature of man and those things so intimately connected with man in this world—trials, perplexities, mishaps, and finally, death. Furthermore, if one explains the occult and all that goes with it in terms of the fraudulent, or with traditional physical or psychological explanations, he will, when confronted with manifestations that cannot be explained by science, logic, or reason, be led to ac knowledge and support the claims and premises of the evil one. Thus will be fulfilled the prediction of Revelation 13:14: "And [he] deceiveth them that dwell on the earth by the means of those miracles which he had power to do."

The traditional view of historic Christianity has been that man, originally created in the perfect image of God, fell into sin through the temptation of a literal devil. And because of that moral fall, man's nature became such that without God's direct intervention, he could only continue the descent into evil.

But the clear teaching of the church has also consistently been that man has not been abandoned to this all-engulfing sea of evil. God's invitation to all is, "Come now, and let us reason together . . . : though your sins be as scarlet, they shall be as white as snow" (Isa. 1:18). This can be possible only because of the One who "was wounded for our transgressions" and "bruised for our iniquities" (chap. 53:5).

Nowhere do the Scriptures make light of evil or sin. In fact, they graphically detail what sin is and clearly outline its tragic consequences—consequences so all-pervasive arid terrible that they can only be remedied by God Himself. It is that awful payment that Christ paid for us on Calvary. Consequently, the cross itself is a testimony to the fallen nature of man and the all-encompassing defilement of sin.

But the cross is also a glorious testimony that man, though fallen and sinful, has in Christ been lifted up to sit in heavenly places with the Majesty of the universe (see Eph. 2:6). Men and women, victorious over sinful human nature through Christ their Saviour, may look to a restoration of all that has been lost by sin. The apostle Paul declares, "But our commonwealth is in heaven, and from it we await a Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ, who will change our lowly body to be like his glorious body, by the power which enables him even to subject all things to himself" (Phil. 3:20, 21, R.S.V.). John adds, "Beloved, we are God's children now; it does not yet appear what we shall be, but we know that when he appears we shall be like him, for we shall see him as he is" (1 John 3:2, R.S.V.). —Editors.

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by the editors.

May 1979

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