When the “Supernatural” Is Not of God

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When the “Supernatural” Is Not of God

James R. Aist

“Dear friends, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits to see whether they are from God, because many false prophets have gone out into the world.” (1 John 4:1)

Fore Word

I want to make it clear, right up front, that I am not among those who, in the Last Days, are content to have a form of Godliness but denying the power thereof (2 Timothy 3:1-5). After more than 25 years of affiliation with and participation in Pentecostal/Charismatic churches and denominations, as well as more than 65 years of personal encounters with God (click HERE , HERE and HERE), I have the distinct impression that, often, too little consideration is given to the possibility that a supernatural manifestation may not be of God, but of Satan. The default setting seems to be that if it is supernatural, it must be of God, but that is not a biblical approach at all. The Bible clearly instructs us to test the spirits to see if they are of God or not (click HERE), and to hold onto what is of God. So, in this article, I want to relate some unequivocal examples of when the supernatural was not of God, but of Satan, so that a more balanced and biblical approach to the supernatural might become more commonly practiced be Christians going forward.

Introduction

Let’s begin by defining some relevant terms, shall we? “Natural” refers to things that are of this physical world that God created, often referred to as “nature.” “Supernatural”, on the other hand, refers to things that are above or beyond the natural, or not of this physical world. In this context, “supernatural” would refer to the spiritual realm, and, more specifically, to spirit beings or their activities. From the Bible, we know that spirit beings include God, angels (good and evil), demons and spirits (good and evil). Satan is the ruler of the evil angels, demons and evil spirits. Human beings are also spirit beings, but they have a physical body and a soul as well. God, as the Creator of everything, is ultimately sovereign over all of the physical and spirit beings. Jesus said that God is Spirit; consequently, whatever God does is supernatural. Likewise, whatever any of Satan’s spirit beings do is also supernatural.

Whenever we encounter a possible supernatural manifestation, I believe that the first thing we need to determine for ourselves is whether or not it is really a miracle at all. Many manifestations (e.g., random cloud formations appearing like Jesus or a cross, or rust dribbling down a statue) are easily explained by natural phenomena. Other manifestations (e.g., manufactured Words of Knowledge, messages from the “spirit world” or fake healing) may be nothing more than cruel hoaxes perpetrated by humans. Once such natural or manufactured phenomena have been ruled out as the cause, there are two possible sources of a supernatural manifestation: God or Satan.

Now, I assume that we are all familiar with accounts in the Bible of supernatural manifestations that were of Satan, not God. For example, the Bible says that Pharaoh’s magicians turned their rods into snakes (Exodus 7:8-12), and the Gadarene demoniac broke out of heavy chains and shackles using supernatural strength imparted by a legion of demons (Mark 5:1-13). But, to illustrate the point further, I want to give a more detailed account here of two supernatural encounters that I myself have had that were clearly not of God.

An “Angel of Light”

I was 19 years old, a college student and very naive and ignorant concerning spiritual matters and the Word of God. In my frame of reference at that time, anything supernatural was assumed to be of God.

Now, please keep in mind that I was fully conscious and aware during the entire supernatural encounter I am about to share with you. One Sunday afternoon, I was alone in my apartment praying earnestly to God for His guidance concerning a major life decision that I was about to make. While I was praying, I suddenly felt an invisible force pulling on me, weakly at first, but then stronger and stronger until my entire body fell limp and my upper torso was held upright (i.e., levitated) and literally pulled to the other end of the apartment by this force, with my lower legs and feet dragging along the floor. When I arrived at the doorway to my bedroom, the force released me, and I slumped into a full squatting position on the floor, still unable to move of my own accord. Then I saw, out of the corner of my right eye, a bright, round, white light about the size of a basketball. This light was situated at the juncture of the wall and the ceiling. Next, my gaze was turned toward the light, and a voice spoke into my mind. It told me what I wanted to believe as I had been praying to God, and the message was crystal clear and without any confusion on my part. Then my strength slowly returned and I was able to stand and walk.

In pondering what had just happened to me, I assumed that this entire and impressive spiritual encounter was a divinely inspired answer to my prayer. However, it was a frightening experience, and I have been reluctant to share it publicly until now. Believing it was of God, I acted on the message I was given.

As the years went by, it became more and more apparent to me that this “angel of light” had lied to me, because things were not working out as I was told they would. This development put me into a state of utter confusion, because I was, at first, certain that I had heard from God, who cannot lie. I was even in the midst of praying to God when this spiritual encounter occurred! “Surely God would not allow Satan to bring a false response to my prayer to Him!”, I reasoned.

More years passed, and, by now, I had become a student of the Bible and was a bit savvy concerning spiritual matters. But I was not yet fully convinced that this “angel of light” was not of God, even though what it said to me did not square with present reality. Then one day, as I was reading in 2 Corinthians 11, I came upon the verse that says “…even Satan disguises himself as an angel of light.” (verse 14). That caught my attention, but I tried to read on anyway. Each time I tried to read on, my gaze was directed back and glued to “…even Satan disguises himself as an angel of light.” Finally, I saw the connection between this verse and my earlier experience with an “angel of light”: that wasn’t God, that was Satan deceiving me and setting my life on a course that did not end well! And, there it is. This supernatural experience was not of God at all, but of Satan, no more doubt about it. (Note: It is not uncommon for the Holy Spirit to quicken, or bring alive, the written word of God to a Bible reader in this manner. In Pentecostalism, this experience is sometimes referred to as an example of the “Rhema word” of God. For a sound, biblical teaching by Watchman Nee on the Rhema word, see text pages 51-59 at this link: https://s3-us-west-1.amazonaws.com/bfa-media/ebooks/TGC-eng.pdf)

A Slithering Serpent

Early on in my experience with Pentecostalism, I was an active member of the Full Gospel Businessmen’s Fellowship International (Ithaca, NY, chapter). A much larger chapter in nearby Syracuse, NY, invited me to be their keynote speaker at their next monthly meeting, and I accepted. They wanted me to relate my experiences in researching and publishing, on the Cornell University campus and to the Ithaca area, the facts and truth about homosexuality. Of course this was an inflammatory mission I was on, and the area homosexual activists were all up in arms about it, opposing me with every hateful and devious attack they could think of. The devil hates it when someone sheds light on his nefarious deeds of darkness, doesn’t he?

When the day came for my presentation, there was a sizable crowd of about 150 people who showed up to hear what I had to say. No more than about 10 minutes into my speech, I noticed to my left a woman standing in the aisle near the back of the crowd. As I continued to speak, I saw in the corner of my eye that she had laid down on the floor and was moving through the aisle toward me. When she was about half way to the front, I could see clearly how she was moving along the floor: she was face-down, her body taking the shape of a crawling snake and slithering toward me, all the while lifting her head, wagging her tongue at me and hissing audibly – just like a snake! I knew almost immediately that we were seeing a supernatural manifestation that was demonic in nature, so I continued right along with my speech so as not to allow this demon to disrupt my message. When the serpent lady had reached the edge of the open area where I was standing, a couple of the local men of the chapter came and quietly picked her up off of the floor, escorted her out of the auditorium the same way she came in, and ministered to her out in the foyer. This demonic manifestation was very impressive and creepy, but it didn’t spoil God’s purpose for my being there!

My Point

I want to encourage us all to not be too quick to conclude that anything that is supernatural is of God. False prophets can work signs and wonders too (click HERE). While it slanders God when we are duped by “wolves in Sheep’s clothing” (Matthew 7:15), it is blasphemy of the Holy Spirit to attribute to Satan the miraculous works of God (Matthew 12:22-30). So, we must be very careful to always test any supernatural manifestation before we conclude that it is, or is not, of God (See Addendum, below). Peter and John did not believe the report that Jesus had been raised from the dead until they had direct, physical confirmation themselves, and Thomas withheld his worship of the resurrected Jesus until Jesus gave him the physical confirmation he was holding out for. Perhaps we would be wise to follow the example of these Apostles and require confirmation that supernatural manifestations are really of God, rather than being quick to just assume that they are. I have to believe that if God wants us to know what He is doing, He can and will make it clear to us, if we are willing to inquire, listen, watch and wait.

Addendum

I would be remiss if I didn’t share with you, for what its worth, some of the tests I use to evaluate the authenticity and the source of claimed “supernatural” manifestations. So, here is a “short list” of my tests:

  • Is there a verified, natural explanation available?
  • Is there a verified fleshly motivation to fake a miracle?
  • Do the human instruments of the manifestation appear to be trustworthy and reliable witnesses?
  • Does it involve anything that the Bible expressly prohibits?
  • Is it serving God’s purposes or Satan’s purposes?
  • What are my natural and my spiritual gifts of discernment telling me about it, if anything?

(To read more of my biblically themed articles, click HERE)

Did God Create Biodiversity via Genetic Engineering and Climate Control?

Did God Create Biodiversity via Genetic Engineering and Climate Control?

James R. Aist

Then God said…–Genesis 1:11, 20-26

The theory of evolution is a materialistic concept to explain biological diversity. It is comprised of two basic components: 1) the enormous body of valid, scientific evidence related to how biodiversity may have came about; and 2) the assumption that this “evolution data set” can only be explained by random, natural forces and processes inherent in the material world. This assumption is based largely upon the initial assumption that a creator (God) does not exist. However, it is not sound, objective, scientific protocol to begin an investigation by eliminating one of two tenable and competing theories based on a mere assumption. That is what we call “junk science”, and it is not really science – the objective search for truth – at all. The so-called “science” of evolution is a prime example of how a body of valid scientific information – the evolution data set – can be misused to give the impression that a mere assumption (e.g., that a Creator God does not exist) is actually proven fact.

In this article, I explore alternate, viable scenarios that can explain the evolution data set by invoking the involvement of an “intelligent designer”, otherwise known as God. As you read further, please keep in mind that the God of the Bible is sovereign over all of creation, knowing the end from the beginning (Isaiah 46:9-11) and, therefore, He knew from the beginning where He intended to take biological diversity, as well as all of the intermediate steps and processes He was going to use to take it there. For a fuller background on these proposed scenarios, click HERE.

The evolution data set and “divine genetic engineering”

The first intelligent design scenario I want to discuss begins with the acknowledgement that a valid evolution data set does exist and that the God of the Bible is no dummy. Don’t you suppose that when God set about creating biological diversity, He would be smart enough to not “reinvent the wheel”, so to speak, every time He wanted to create a new “kind” or a new “species?” Would He not start with a creature He had already made and genetically modify it to make the new one? So then, of course, at the morphological, anatomical, genetic and biochemical levels, the closely “related”, but different, newly created form would have considerable commonality with the form from which it was derived, having been “genetically engineered” by God Himself. And that’s exactly what the evolution data set may be showing us, minus any atheistic assumptions. What I’m saying here is that the same body of evidence that is used to support the materialistic theory of evolution can just as easily be seen to support the theory of “intelligent design” by way of “divine genetic engineering”, if one does not begin with the assumption that an intelligent designer does not exist. This scenario would involve intelligent design from start to finish, and it would look to us just like materialistic evolution.

Random mutations, natural selection, survival of the fittest, and “divine climate control”

In the previous section, I presented a “genetic engineering” scenario for the direct involvement of God in the creation of the spectacular biological diversity we see in the world around us. In this section, I will present a scenario for an intelligent designer working indirectly to guide or direct the evolutionary process. The materialistic theory of evolution involves, at its most fundamental level, random mutation (natural, molecular modification) of genes, a resultant sub-population of organisms carrying mutated genes that are beneficial, and selective survival of the organisms that are carrying the beneficial gene(s) because they are best adapted (most fit) for the existing or impending environmental conditions that develop naturally from time to time. Over millions of years, such a process, repeated over and over again, is believed to have produced new species and “kinds” (e.g., dogs, cats, horses, fish, reptiles, grass, trees, seaweed, etc.) of animals and plants. It is assumed that this process occurred “naturally”, without the influence of an intelligent designer. But wait a minute, who is it that controls the climatic conditions that drive natural selection and result in survival of the fittest? The God of the Bible is sovereign over all of His creation (Genesis 1:1-27; Isaiah 46:9-11; Revelation 19:6). It is He who placed the moon and the stars in the heavens and maintains them in their respective orbits (Genesis 1:14). He caused the earth to pause in it’s rotation for a full day, giving the impression that the sun had stood still (Joshua 10:12-13). He commands the wind and the waves, and they obey (Exodus 14:21; Mark 4:39), and He calls forth drought to scorch the land (Haggai 1:11), and it is dry. And, it is He who sends the rain as He pleases (Genesis 7:4, 11-12; Matthew 5:45). The relevant conclusion here is that the God of the Bible is sovereign over (i.e., in control of) the so-called “natural” climate changes that evolutionary theory credits with driving the “natural selection” process leading to the appearance of new species and kinds and the extinction of others through “survival of the fittest.” Thus, by exerting “divine climate control” again and again over millions of years, God could have steered what we refer to as “evolution” in any direction He desired, thus controlling and directing both the extinction of old species and kinds and the development of new species and kinds, using the very mechanisms of random mutations, “natural” selection and survival of the fittest that are so fundamental to the materialistic theory of evolution. This scenario also would involve intelligent design from start to finish, and it would look to us just like materialistic evolution. Thus, the same evolution data set used by evolutionists to support the popular theory of materialistic evolution, could just as well be seen as validating this “divine climate control” mechanism of evolution.

Conclusions

There are at least three alternate and viable scenarios for the involvement of intelligent design (God) in the development of the vast biodiversity present on planet earth. One scenario has God, by a process of “divine genetic engineering”, directly modifying genes in a previous creature to produce a closely related and similar new creature. Another scenario has God indirectly causing both the extinction of existing creatures and the proliferation of new creatures by exerting “divine climate control” to drive the evolutionary process by way of “natural selection” and “survival of the fittest.” A third scenario would be a combination of the first two scenarios, in which God “genetically engineers” the genome of a species or “kind” and then exercises “divine climate control” to give the new creature a competitive edge going forward. This may be the most likely scenario, because it would probably be a more effective and efficient way for God to satisfy and manifest His spectacular creative drive as recorded in Genesis 1:11, 20-26. All of these scenarios would involve intelligent design from start to finish, and they would look to us just like materialistic evolution. Many students of biodiversity reject the unnecessary, atheistic assumptions of the materialistic theory of evolution and believe that theistic mechanisms offer better, more objective, explanations of biodiversity than does the more popular materialistic mechanism.

Recommended reading

If you want to read further and deeper into these and related matters, I strongly recommend the following book: Geisler, N. and F. Turek. 2004. I Don’t Have Enough Faith to Be an Atheist. Crossway, Wheat, IL. 447 pp.

(To read more of my articles on biblical topics, click HERE)

The Two Kinds of Faith

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The Two Kinds of Faith

James R. Aist

“There are two kinds of faith. There is the natural faith. But the supernatural faith is the gift of God.” – Smith Wigglesworth, in “Faith that Prevails”

Introduction

Several years ago I heard someone make the statement that “To help someone accept Christ, just show them that they already use faith in their everyday life, and explain to them that all they have to do is use the same faith to believe in Jesus.” Well, I didn’t know why at first, but that statement just didn’t seem to ring true, especially in light of what the Bible actually says about faith. So, I began to search it out more carefully, and that’s how I came to realize that there are actually two kinds of faith, and that they are really very different.

Natural Faith

“He replied, “When evening comes, you say, ‘It will be fair weather, for the sky is red,’ and in the morning, ‘Today it will be stormy, for the sky is red and overcast.’ You know how to interpret the appearance of the sky…’” (Matthew 16:2-3a). Jesus is speaking here of a kind of faith that I call “natural faith.” Based on the appearance of the sky, we believe that the weather will be fair or stormy. And so, we plan and proceed with our day accordingly, using our natural faith.

What I mean by “natural faith” is the faith that we are born with, the kind of faith that we come by naturally. This kind of faith is in our “nature” from birth. Everyone, including atheists and scientists, has natural faith and uses it every day.

Here are some additional illustrations of the daily working of natural faith, to help you see more clearly what I mean by “natural faith.” By our natural faith, we believe that if we turn the ignition key, the car will start, and so we do it “on faith.” By our natural faith, we believe that the chair we are about to sit on will be strong enough to support our weight, and so, by faith, we “take a seat.” By our natural faith, we believe that if we put a dollar bill into a change machine, it will return four quarters, and in it goes. By our natural faith we believe that the peaches we see at the supermarket will be juicy, sweet and tasty, and so into the cart (“buggy” in the South) they go. And, by our natural faith, we believe that the pilot will get us safely to our destination, and so we board the airplane. We are all very familiar with this “natural faith.”

So we see that natural faith enables us to operate successfully and productively in this natural, material world in which we live. It helps us to overcome daily uncertainties that would otherwise paralyze us with fear and render us helpless.

While natural faith is a necessary part of successful and productive living in this natural world, it is not perfect, as witnessed by the fact that the car doesn’t always start, the chair doesn’t always hold, the change machine doesn’t always return four quarters, the peaches are not always juicy, sweet and tasty, and the airplane does not always arrive safely at its destination. And still, we continue to use our natural faith. What choice do we have, really?

Supernatural Faith

But there is another kind of faith, sometimes referred to as “saving faith.” Saving faith is the gift of God that enables us to believe the truth of the gospel of Jesus Christ. Jesus taught that saving faith comes from God in Matthew 16:17, “Blessed are you, Simon son of Jonah, for this was not revealed to you by flesh and blood, but by my Father in heaven”, and in John 6:64-66, “But there are some of you who do not believe.” For Jesus knew from the beginning who they were who did not believe, and who would betray Him. And He said, “Therefore I have said to you that no one can come to Me unless it has been granted to him by My Father.”

Paul spoke of this gift of supernatural faith in Romans 12:3, “For by the grace given me I say to every one of you: Do not think of yourself more highly than you ought, but rather think of yourself with sober judgment, in accordance with the faith God has distributed to each of you”, and in Philippians 1:29, “For it has been granted to you on behalf of Christ not only to believe in him, but also to suffer for him…”

And in Ephesians 2:8-9, Paul elaborates on the same teaching: “For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God—not by works, so that no one can boast.” (For a scholarly exposition on the meaning of this passage as I understand it, click HERE). In this passage we have the two kinds of faith juxtaposed and contrasted:

  • this faith is “not from ourselves”; i.e., it is not something that we were born with and possess naturally; and
  • this faith is “the gift of God”; i.e., it is a present that is given, or added, to us by God (hence, “supernatural”)…that’s how we get it.

Likewise, we can see the two kinds of faith juxtaposed in one of my favorite Bible verses, Proverbs 3:5. To illustrate this example, allow me to reproduce this verse with the insertion of two italicized, parenthetical phrases: “Trust in the Lord with all your heart (supernatural faith), and lean not on your own understanding (natural faith)…”

So, what does supernatural faith do for us that mere natural faith cannot? Well, among many other things,

  • it enables us to qualify for heaven, (John 6:27-29) “Do not work for food that spoils, but for food that endures to eternal life, which the Son of Man will give you. For on him God the Father has placed his seal of approval.” Then they asked him, “What must we do to do the works God requires?” Jesus answered, “The work of God is this: to believe in the one he has sent”;
  • it enables us to stand firm in the faith to the end (Matthew 10:22);
  • it enables us to understand spiritual things, “But the natural man does not receive the things of the Spirit of God, for they are foolishness to him; nor can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned” (1 Corinthians 2:14); and
  • it enables us to extend the “resources” that we can call upon, as we are no longer limited to what we can do for ourselves, but we can now appeal to God for His help and provision, “God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble” (Psalms 46:1).

Will this supernatural faith ever fail us? No, contrary to natural faith, supernatural faith will never fail us: “For all the promises of God in Him are Yes, and in Him Amen, to the glory of God through us” (2 Corinthians 1:20). God is faithful, even when we are not (Romans 3:3-4), and His word will not return to Him void (Isaiah 55:11).

Conclusion

We see, then, that our natural faith is necessary and sufficiently effective to enable us to operate successfully in this natural world, but it will not enable us to qualify for heaven. It takes a special gift from God – supernatural faith – to do that.

(For more articles on Biblical Teachings, click HERE)

The War of the Wills within Us

The War of the Wills within Us

James R. Aist

Introduction

“So I find this law at work: Although I want to do good, evil is right there with me. For in my inner being I delight in God’s law; but I see another law at work in me, waging war against the law of my mind and making me a prisoner of the law of sin at work within me.” (Romans 7:21-23). Paul is speaking here of various “laws” at work within him (and, by extension, within us). And, like us, he senses that there are opposing forces within us that are at war against each other. How can we make sense out of these inner struggles, and how can we turn a better understanding of them to our advantage as we “work out our salvation with fear and trembling”? 

The Wills within Us

Perhaps it would help if we first try to identify and define the different “laws” at work within us. To do this, I find it useful to think of them as “wills” instead of “laws.” If we subscribe to the idea of the triune nature of man as spirit, soul (mind, will and emotions) and body, then we can identify three different wills of man by re-examining the structure of Romans 7:22-23 in a slightly different way, as follows: For in my inner being I delight in God’s law (will of my spirit); but I see another law at work in me, waging war against the law of my mind (will of my soul) and making me a prisoner of the law of sin at work within me (will of my body). This analysis suggests that everyone is born with three wills: the supernatural will of the human spirit, the natural will of the human soul and the natural will of the human body. Each of these wills is able to influence what we do and don’t do in life (i.e., our behavior), and we can easily get a sense that they are often at war with each other when we are tempted to do something that goes against our “morals” or “ethics”, regardless of how we may have come by them. If this is, indeed, the “order of command” in a person — spirit commands soul commands body — then, for example, the will of the body may be to get drunk on wine because it feels good, the will of the soul may not think it is a good idea to get drunk because it is harmful to your health, and the will of the spirit is left to mediate between these warring wills and make the final decision. Inevitably, one of the warring wills will lose out.

Enter Even More Wills!

Unfortunately, because of the fall of man, our natural inclination is to do evil all the time (Genesis 6:5); we are born with a fallen conscience and are at enmity with God (James 4:4). But God has come up with a remedy for this problem: we call it “salvation.” In the process of being “born again”, we receive a new human spirit from God (click HERE), a spirit that is morally pure, delights in the things of God and is not at enmity with Him. But wait, it doesn’t stop there. We also receive the Holy Spirit of God (Acts 2:38) who takes up residence within our new human spirit and has His own will. Now we have not three, but four, wills within us: the supernatural Holy Spirit of God, the supernatural will of our new human spirit, the natural will of the human soul and the natural will of the human body. And the order of command now becomes Holy Spirit commands human spirit commands soul commands body. This is, of course, the way God intends for it to work, and to the extent that we are obedient to the Holy Spirit within us, it does so. But, unfortunately, the “old man” doesn’t give up easily, and so we have to go through a process of “sanctification” to align our wills with the will of the Holy Spirit living within us. Thankfully, it is the work of the Holy Spirit living in us to sanctify us (2 Thessalonians 2:13) and to “cleanse us from all unrighteousness” (1 John 1:9).

Summary

“Therefore, my dear friends, as you have always obeyed—not only in my presence, but now much more in my absence—continue to work out your salvation with fear and trembling,  for it is God who works in you to will and to act in order to fulfill his good purpose.” (Philippians 2:13)

(For more articles on BIBLICAL TEACHINGS, click HERE)