As a teenager I had a hunger for exploring what was available to me in the areas of theology and philosophy. I’m not sure why but I assume my attraction was due in part to a natural level of comfort I experienced when wrestling with abstract concepts. I never went to seminary, neither did I enter the ministry professionally, but the desire and inward drive to explore these topics never left me. I moved at very casual pace. This was a hobby of mine and if it ever felt like work I more than likely took a break immediately. I never followed a set theme and I frequently bounced around from author to author and subject to subject. I read material that I equated to gold on paper and I also read garbage that I saw fit only to burn in a barrel. The only enjoyment I received from both ends of the spectrum was the simple pleasure of being introduced to new ideas that had previously never crossed the landscape of my own thinking. By far the most instrumental contemporary theologian whose work I began to follow was none other than RC Sproul of Ligonier ministries. I explored the works of many teachers but I was always impressed by his style of teaching and his unique ability to articulate advanced and controversial theological concepts to the average person like myself. In the course of his many sermons, articles, lectures and writings I overheard what appeared to be great admonition and respect for the late great Jonathan Edwards. RC Sproul often suggested that Edwards may just have been the finest theological and philosophical mind that had ever been produced within the United States. RC had already commanded a great deal of respect in my own mind and to hear him compliment Edwards in this way was no small thing to ignore. Prior to hearing Sproul’s commentary on a wide variety of Edward’s contributions I was not ignorant of Edwards’ influence on society. Although I did not at the time truly appreciate the gravity of his contributions, I had already read “Sinners In the Hands Of An Angry God” and owned a copy of a used book that contained a variety of scattered writings including sermons, letters and notes. Edwards, in the humble opinion of myself as a lay person, is not the easiest author to follow. Apart from the usage of eighteenth century English which in and of itself presented its own unique challenges to a reader born in 1986, his commanding use of logic and reason often presented itself in long complicated trains of thought that were not the easiest thing for me to retain after finishing them. The first literary piece of Edwards that I tried to read happened to be “The End For Which God Created The World” as presented in John Piper’s book “God’s Passion For His Glory”. I do not think it’s normal for most to begin reading Edwards by starting with this text but I am glad that it was the first of his great works that landed on my desk. Having researched Edwards somewhat in depth I have come to believe that even though this was one of the last works Edwards produced it also happened to have the narrowest framework by which he outlined the whole foundational way of thinking that was present with him and pivotal in the creation of all his other previous works. I was introduced to both the beginning and ending of a great man of God in a single piece that was created near the end of his lifetime. Although I confess it was difficult to read at times, I benefited immensely in my own thought process from what I was able to retain. Outside of scripture itself I had never encountered a man whose thoughts revolved around such a high and lofty opinion of God and His glory. Edwards appreciation for heavenly matters was not only inspiring but simultaneously intimidating. It was made crystal clear with zero uncertainty that I am not a fraction of the man he was intellectually or spiritually. I am humbled by the immense intellectual offering the Lord used him to provide and I know that I do not hold this opinion alone. The standard set by Edwards was a bar set so high that I have something to forever aspire to with whatever length of life I have left as granted by God. Edwards was a man of endurance. He believed endurance of the faith was the superior fruit as it pertained to affections born of true saving grace. Edwards held fast to these beliefs in the face of alternative thought proposing that evidence of true conversion was rooted in the length, duration and intensity of the spiritual experiences one had. This competing thought process was not new then and it is not new now. Versions of this belief always seem to be present in the minds of unconverted men who look to attain benefit from God without the actual knowledge and understanding that comes with knowing him. This is something seen prevalent in Jesus own ministry from the biblical account of his preaching and teaching ministry. Although men have the appearance of life, we by way of original sin are born dead to the things of God and we always in and of ourselves view God through a dirty and distorted lens. Instead of addressing our spiritual sickness we attempt to create versions of him that we would rather worship instead of seeking after true knowledge of who he really is. As John Calvin so wisely states “we are by nature idol factories”. This will be my first attempt at engaging in a writing project of my own. Without giving my testimony here let me just assure you that I do not fit the average mold. Most people know me from my YouTube channel “Through the Black” which has largely dealt with topics within the Christian fringe community like SRA (satanic ritual abuse) and extreme spectrums of spiritual warfare pertaining to real events of oppression and demonization in the lives of people. Through The Black grew quickly and soon became a lightning rod attracting those who claimed to afflicted with demonic presence in their lives. Some of these proved to be true and some proved to be matters of the flesh. My experiences with intense and extreme forms of spiritual warfare are vastly disproportionate to the life of the average Christian and I want to make it clear that I am not insinuating these things are not regularly encountered or are to be discounted as possibilities in the life of the average Christian, I do however believe that within the larger context of spiritual warfare the battle for the mind is far more engaging and hostile a battlefield then the sometimes necessary hand to hand combat with demons.
2 Corinthians 10:3-5 ESV
“For though we walk in the flesh, we are not waging war according to the flesh.For the weapons of our warfare are not of the flesh but have divine power to destroy strongholds. We destroy arguments and every lofty opinion raised against the knowledge of God, and take every thought captive to obey Christ,”
Paul is explaining another aspect of spiritual warfare here that focuses less on the immediate demonic threats and on the overarching theme that the heart of true spiritual warfare is and always has been to wage war for the minds of men who are held in the captivity of wrong thinking. We are to tear down strong fortresses of ungodly reasoning, conscience, imagination as well as ideologies and destructive philosophical worldviews. This is important because ideas have consequences some of which can lead to forms of actual demonic affliction. If Through The Black aims to tackle all aspects of spiritual warfare then this can no longer be neglected. Recently we have targeted the cancerous growth of eastern mysticism in mainstream culture and its subtle seduction of the church. I must make this subject an ever-present priority in the continuation of this ministry. Since the time of Christ, movements promoting experience over sound doctrine have come and gone and will continue to do so until God separates the visible church from the invisible church, a separation of wheat and chaff as the Bible describes. We will always have a war between the minds of unconverted natural men and those who are truly regenerate containing within them the indwelling of the Holy Spirit and the additional spiritual sense that comes with him as a gift to God’s adopted children. Wrong thinking, bad theology, eastern mysticism and the encouragement of self-help pop psychology in the church has appealed to the natural inclinations of men and sound doctrine has been willfully tossed aside because it’s not nearly as fun or pleasant to our sensibilities. To bring this back full circle, this writing project is a scary one for me to pursue. After reading “The religious Affections” by the aforementioned Jonathan Edwards I can no longer stay quiet about the obvious counterfeit nature of the many experiences, not all, most people claim are born of the Holy Spirit and endowed to them with special spiritual privilege. When many of these experiences and special claims are proven contrary to scripture or are simply never fulfilled or even come to pass incorrectly, many churches double down and continue and pursue these experiences with ever increasing enthusiasm. This also applies to the lives of individuals who have adopted the practice of opening up their own imaginations to any impression or experience without any forethought of testing the spirits by the firm and unyielding test of God’s special revelation provided to us through the Holy Bible.
1 John 4:1-6
“Beloved, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits to see whether they are from God, for many false prophets have gone out into the world. By this you know the Spirit of God: every spirit that confesses that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh is from God, and every spirit that does not confess Jesus is not from God. This is the spirit of the antichrist, which you heard was coming and now is in the world already. Little children, you are from God and have overcome them, for he who is in you is greater than he who is in the world. They are from the world; therefore they speak from the world, and the world listens to them. We are from God. Whoever knows God listens to us; whoever is not from God does not listen to us. By this we know the Spirit of truth and the spirit of error.”
I believe for many reasons not mentioned in this introduction that Edward’s “The Religious Affections” offers us keen insight into right thinking when we attempt to discern the experiences and affections we have in our spiritual lives. I believe that there are many men better suited to this task, the very reason I spoke of this as scary. I hold myself in no high regard and will promise nothing comprehensive and definitive in respect to my exploration of a man far superior to myself and I will offer you only what I have been able to glean from my time with this book. I have attempted to encourage many to read this book only to be met with frustration by the lack of ability and impetus to push through the antiquated way it is presented. I am not expecting to add anything to the academic world in my modern commentary and summation of his thoughts as presented in “The Religious Affections”, however it is my chief hope that many more common people like myself will learn at least the basics of what this book has to provide as a biblical backdrop for discerning their future experiences within their prospective churches and ministries. I have been misled many times in my own life where I allowed impressions of my imagination to fuel my own natural inclinations and sinful desires under the self-deceiving guise of being led by the Spirit. Neither the scripture nor Edwards have left us with definitive criteria on being able to truly distinguish between complex similarities of real works of the Holy Spirit and subtly deceptive counterfeits. I do believe however that we can be far better prepared to defend our minds by taking seriously the advice given by Edwards which is modeled after what is found evident in scripture. I expect this project will take me years, but rather than sit on it until it’s completed, I would like to present it one section at a time hoping that it might be of immediate benefit to not only our growing audience but to those searching out these matters unrelated. I ultimately want to encourage each of you to seek this book out for yourself and study the scripture presented for consideration alongside it. I know this is not a practical reality for everyone which is why I am attempting this endevour.
1 Peter 1:13
“Therefore, preparing your minds for action, and being sober-minded, set your hope fully on the grace that will be brought to you at the revelation of Jesus Christ.”
If the church doesn’t wake up we will see this nation handed over to its own deception as a form of judgment. It already appears to be happening to some degree. This is no conventional war. We are to prepare our minds for action for a war where our effective weaponry is not physical. This is not the type of war where an invading force takes the city and within a day slaughters everyone, no this war is being waged by spiritual sleuths who gain access to the water supply and slowly poison the people until they are too weak to realize their helplessness and succumb to subsequently inevitable demise. May we all pray that God gives us eyes to see and ears to hear that we may not fall prey to doctrines of demons.