Cutting Off Our Branches

Does it become a problem when we undermine judging in the Christian community? Let’s talk about it on Deeper Waters.

There is a facebook group with the following quotes on it I want to share with you.

“Folks, We have a Person Who Seems To Find It Amusing To Hate, First Off Stay OFF MY Page, You Have Been Reported to Facebook For You Continued Abuse, I Didn’t Appreciate You Trying to Advertise Your Hate the Other Night On MY Fan Page, STAY AWAY, TAKE YOUR HATE AWAY, This Page Is Supportive, and YES I BAN Anyone Who Is Critical Or Hateful Of Our Community, 2600 People Like What I am Doing, and You Have What 14? You Will Be Shut Down Soon, and DO NOT I REPEAT DO NOT POST ON OUR PAGE!”

“Reminder For Our New Folks, This Page is For Support, and Education of The practice featured in (X). If you Want to Hate, Or Judge, This Isn’t The Place. I work Very Very Hard for this Page To Remain a Supportive Page, I’ve Had Some People From Dayton Ohio Recently Try to Start Their own Page in Criticism of Mine, and That’s Fine, Hater’s NOT WELCOME HERE!”

“The Name of The Person Who Decided to Start the Hate Page Is
(X) From Dayton Ohio, Please Folks Tell Her To Stay Away, and Keep Her Hate in Ohio.”

The bad grammar and such aside, when you see something like this, it recalls immediately an attitude we see elsewhere. Where is that? It’s in the homosexual community as people who are outside the group are labeled as “haters” and criticism is not allowed. Only those who are supportive of the community are allowed.

The only problem is, these posts do not come from the homosexual community.

These posts I found while researching the snake handling stories. They’re found on the Snake Salvation page. Don’t believe it? Look for yourself.

When I see the Christian community using terminology exactly the same as the homosexual community, that’s quite concerning. In fact, one such post has the name of someone who has dared to criticize. You might as well be saying “Please go and harass this person!”

Hate is a term that is being tossed around so carelessly, including in groups such as We Stop Hate. The problem is that people are not really thinking about what it means to hate something.

In fact, if you love anything, you will HAVE to hate something. It’s not optional. Since I love my wife, I am to hate everything that is harmful to her. Since I love Christ, I am to hate everything that is opposed to Him. Since I love the truth, I am to hate lies. Since I love the good, I am to hate evil.

Would you like it if you met someone who did not hate rape? What about someone who did not hate pedophilia or child abuse? Do you want to meet someone who doesn’t hate cancer or disease? What do you think of someone who doesn’t hate evil?

Instead, many of these groups run on a whole self-esteem idea with a goodness being based on yourself somehow, though it’s not really expressed how. If you want to find your goodness, you are to look within. Now of course, there’s nothing wrong necessarily with thinking good about yourself, though in Scripture we are told to think of ourselves as we ought. We should seek to see ourselves as we really are. Our goodness does not come from us, but it comes from Christ.

If my value relies entirely on me, that is putting a much greater burden on me in fact and pushing me to think I have to be much better. If I place my value in Christ, then I can see that I have worth as long as Christ loves me and since that is something that doesn’t change, my worth never changes. Of course I can grow in Christlikeness, but I have a constant foundation for my goodness.

It is when these ideas of our goodness being rooted in how we feel about ourselves takes hold that our feelings and experiences start to get a divine authority and in fact, everyone else is subject to them. Each one of us becomes a god unto himself. The worst crime you can do against someone becomes offending them.

Yet most of us know that it has been necessary to offend people in the past. We have to tell people cold hard truths a lot of time and they don’t like it. Most of us today really don’t like it, even though we are told in Scripture that to be rebuked by a wise man is a blessing.

But today, all you have to do is tell people that you are offended by something and immediately you become a rallying cry that other people will support. It is not asked “Could the reason for this offense be valid?” It is not even asked “Is this really offensive?” All that matters is that the person finds it offensive.

This has also led to our victimization culture. Consider the campaign against bullying today. Yeah. No one cares for bullies, but the bullying campaign has given them too much credit. Everyone in this world is going to face critics at times. Some will be people who honestly want to help build us up. Others will be people who want nothing more than to tear us down.

You want to limit bullying? The best way to do it is to help the people who are being targeted by teaching them the proper way to think about themselves, especially within the context of Biblical principles. Help them realize where their true worth comes from and that bullies like this are to be ignored. When we were growing up in school, many of us had the rule of “Ignore inappropriate behavior.” Bottom line is that if something someone tells you about yourself is not true, why should you worry about it? (And yes, I’m still learning this one as well) If it is true, then do something to fix it.

Instead, what we do is say that you just can’t judge anyone at all. People are labeled as haters. I have no doubt that soon if not already, groups like “We Stop Hate” will be just as tolerant as the homosexual lobby. By just as tolerant, I of course mean seeking to out everyone that disagrees with them and refusing to return the tolerance that they have been seeking.

Tolerance in these circles is a one-way street.

So what does this have to do with the Snake Salvation page?

When we have groups like this in Christianity saying that haters and such will not be allowed, we are taking the exact same stance as homosexual groups. Now if you want to have a closed group that is there for your mutual edification and such, then do that. That’s fine. However, as soon as you go public with your ideas, then it is only proper to allow them to be publicly criticized and questioned. If you cannot take it, then don’t get it out there.

Question for those of you wanting to promote the gospel. Are you ever going to have to criticize? The answer is yes. You are going to have to judge people. You are going to have to tell them they are on the wrong path. You are going to have to tell them that they are living in rebellion against Jesus Christ, the rightful king of this world.

If you make yourself be above criticism and reproach, how can you possibly be allowed to give someone the gospel? They can use the exact same line back at you. After all, the gospel can be seen as hate speech since it includes in it that people are sinners. It indicts them of crimes against God and tells them they’re worthy of eternal separation from Him.

So many Christians are wanting to say today that they shouldn’t judge and cringe at the thought that they have judged someone. They can’t avoid it really! If you are to call sin sin, you are to make a judgment.

Judging is not a dirty word.

“But didn’t Jesus say judge not”?

Yes. He is talking about hypocritical judging. He tells you in the same passage to not toss pearls to swine or give what is sacred to dogs. You have to know what each of those are to judge. He tells you to look out for false prophets, a judgment. He tells you to choose the narrow way over the wide, a judgment. He never even tells you to not take the speck out of your brother’s eye, but instead to first take the log out of your own.

Either Jesus is not opposed to all judging, or He was a fool who contradicted His own teaching immediately.

I’ll go with the first one. Jesus was no fool.

I cannot help but be concerned when I see the church using the exact same language as the homosexual community. The church must be open to criticism. (And I assure most critics that I have criticized the behavior of the church far more than they have) The church must be open to hearing where we’ve gone wrong. We all must be open to that in our own lives. We must be willing to examine both sides of debates and disagreements and see which one has the stronger case and whichever one does, we must be able to make a case for why it is rather than using intimidation alone to silence the opposition.

The position that should hold sway in the marketplace of ideas is the one that has the better arguments. If your position does not have that, then no amount of intimidation will make up for it. No amount of following the crowd or culture can compensate for a lack of argumentation. It all comes down to the question of “What is truth?”

Which is, again, a judgment.

If we’re sure we’re in the truth, let us be open to the judgment that we are not. If we are in fact, then no harm. We could be even stronger. If we’re not, then thanks to whoever got us out of it for they removed us from a lie.

Making ourselves immune to criticism will not help our stance one iota. We dare not follow the lead of the world. We are to walk in step with Christ instead.

In Christ,
Nick Peters

More on Snake Handling

Is being forbidden to take up a serpent religious persecution? Let’s talk about it on Deeper Waters.

Here in TN, some of the big news lately has involved Andrew Hamblin and his snake handling. I have written previously on that here and here. As I live in Knoxville, I see much of this being talked about and frankly, I am concerned.

I am concerned at seeing a church where most people are not learning how to think and the great danger that anyone can say “God moved me” or “God told me” and that justifies anything. This is not to say that God cannot tell people to do things. He’s God. If He wants to, He will, but one needs to have a way in mind to know that it is indeed God speaking. Without that, one has no basis upon which to say someone is being moved by God or instructed by Him and someone else isn’t. We put ourselves in a dangerous position if we seek to put a divine source behind our feelings.

Yet I see people in fact making such a claim. “If God tells someone to take up a serpent, who are we to disagree? Who are we to judge?” One wonders if we can say that if God tells someone to drown their children in a bath tub, who are we to disagree? Who are we to judge? If God tells someone to go on a shooting spree for Allah, who are we to disagree, who are we to judge?

Who we are are rational people that claim to know the God of the universe. The reality is if you are a Christian, you claim to know something about what God is like. You claim to know that God has revealed Himself in Christ and that God also will not contradict His nature. (And if you do not know this, then I urge you to educate yourself on the nature of Christianity. One of the best books you can get and still one for the layman as well can be found here.

If you’re someone who says “I’m not going to judge,” in some ways, you are already judging. Now there is a point to saying “I’m not going to speak yet because I haven’t looked into the issue,” and that’s fine. For me, the issue is clear, but to you if it isn’t, I have no problem with you going out and looking into it and coming back and making a judgment.

The problem comes when you say “I can’t judge and neither should you. No one can speak on this matter.” You’ve already made a statement that maybe this isn’t God at work, but at the same time, this doesn’t contradict the work of God either. What you are claiming is that the behavior is entirely consistent with the nature of God.

That’s quite a judgment isn’t it?

In our world today, the church views judge as a dirty word. It’s not. Matthew 7:1 does not say “Don’t ever judge.” It says to not judge hypocritically. Watch your standard of judgment. That’s what you will be judged by. If your standard of judgment is Scripture, then you must also be held to that same Scripture.

So when it comes to taking up venomous snakes in church, if you say no one can judge, you are in fact saying that this is consistent with God. We have no way of knowing if God is or is not telling people to not take up those kinds of snakes.

In wanting to avoid judging, you make a most severe judgment.

Now another claim being made also is that this is persecution and we need to remember the separation of church and state.

It’s so funny because usually Christians are the ones arguing against separation of church and state. Properly understood, it is a position I hold to. I in no way want to have the state married to Christianity. The problem is this is not a separation of church and state issue.

This is an issue of public safety and the law against holding venomous snakes like that is there for the safety of the public. It is not an arbitrary law without a moral basis. If one thinks it is, they simply need to come up with a reason why first off, the state should not care about people being able to take up venomous snakes, second, why they should drop the old law, and then third why they should in fact promote the churches that want to do this.

Until that is done, this is not the state trying to persecute.

How do I know some of this? Well I did something that I guess shouldn’t be done in finding out such information. I contacted the TWRA (Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency) myself. Yeah. I’m sure that’s terribly unorthodox. They could not comment on the case itself, which is understandable, but they could answer my questions on the snakes. In fact, my wife and I went to the free zoo day at the Knoxville Zoo and I spoke to someone in the office of herpetology (Which includes the study of snakes).

Both references showed me the dangers of these serpents. They are class I, the most dangerous class, for a reason. Their bites could lead to amputations by damaging blood cells and nerve cells and in some cases, could lead to death. This would be especially so for the children and for the elderly. To be able to handle these snakes, one must be a trained professional. My own wife as I said would like to have a fox someday, a class III animal, and she would require certification.

In fact, the Knoxville Zoo has even said that there were 53 snakes in Hamblin’s possession and some of them were in bad condition. Having just one snake would be a huge responsibility in itself, but how could one possibly care for 53 snakes? I do not even think I saw 53 snakes that day at the zoo. No doubt, they don’t keep all the snakes out, but if it takes a place like a zoo to care for that many snakes, how can a single church building do it?

If these snakes aren’t being cared for, then who knows what will happen if they get out and are hungry? This includes snakes like boa constrictors. Boa constrictors are indeed capable of killing children and would be more likely to do so I’m sure if especially hungry.

Now some people are comparing this to anointing oil or a King James Bible. If the state makes a law against these without a rational basis, and I contend that there isn’t one, then indeed it is an unjust law and one we are not obligated to obey, but the law against venomous snakes does have a rational basis and if we choose to defy it, we are actually acting out of pride and saying we are above the law.

So on what grounds could we argue against Muslims who want to claim the same in the name of Allah?

As for persecution, this is not persecution. Too often Christians in America are way too quick to scream “Persecution!” If someone dares to insult Christianity, we cry out that persecution has taken place. Being offended is not the same as being persecuted. Being mocked is not the same as being persecuted.

If you want to hear about real persecution, just listen to stories of Christians in Muslim or communist countries. In these places, you can be killed for owning a Bible. To take the name of Christ on your lips is to put yourself in the eye of the government as a target. Don’t count on them to defend you. They are opposed to you. This was in fact the position of the early Christians.

If we look at what we go through and say that it is just what they went through, we are disgracing our brothers and sisters in the world who are undergoing real suffering on behalf of Jesus. We should all be humble in the face of that. Now I am open to the possibility that that persecution will come. I think we’ve opened ourselves up to it by refusing to stand up for Christ. Should my time come, I hope I would be ready to die for Christ. I’d like to say I would do so with certainty, but the example of Peter in Scripture makes me hesitant to do so. It is easy to talk, but when reality comes, let us hope our actions will be in accordance and for readers, pray for me that they would be if the time came.

What we need to ask ourselves in the church is if the taking up of snakes is really what we want to make our rallying case. Do we want to say that God supports or encourages this or sees it as something that should be done? We’re making a statement either way.

If you want to support, do something to support those Christians who are really suffering persecution elsewhere. Do something to support the work of spreading the gospel more and more. Don’t just support prayerfully and financially, but give of yourself in the work. Be willing to put yourself out there where you can.

In the body of Christ, we all have different roles to play. Mine’s that of Christian apologetics. This is what God used to open me up to the reality of who He is after all. It brings me great joy to defend Christianity and to help people who are struggling with their doubts. This happens not only on this blog, but in private emails that come in regularly.

But you know what? Not everyone is meant to do this. Now I think every Christian is to have a basic apologetic. Every Christian should be able to make some case for the resurrection of Jesus. Not every Christian is to be a scholar and that is the difference. We need scholars who are Christians, but we don’t need all Christians to be scholars.

We need Christians who are doctors. We need them who are teachers. We need them who are astronomers and scientists and garbage pick-up men and plumbers and CEO’s and most anything else. We need Christians who can witness to someone on the street and Christians who do so through the means of the computer. We need Christians who work in soup kitchens and with the sick and homeless and those in need and we need Christians who are in the classroom teaching the next generation. We need all of them.

We have to watch ourselves by what we support for that is what the world sees. They need to know that we are devoted to Christ and we take a representation of Him seriously and any attacks that come against him just as seriously and realize that not all battles are divine battles just because they involve a Christian.

Many of you out there are concerned about the state of America. So am I. The reality is we have more means than the early church did, more technology, more ability, in some ways more knowledge (Unfortunately, we don’t have people with firsthand experience of the resurrection of Jesus so much and the culture is different), etc. The church had far far less at the start and overcame the Roman Empire. If we don’t do so much with what we have been given, we will be held accountable to Almighty God.

Let any reader choose the way they will go forward. I’ve already chosen how I’m going to fight this battle. I see the apologetics ministry as absolutely necessary for reclaiming our world for Christ. I do not see snake handling at all that way, and in fact see it as a detriment.

If you want to defend it, by all means go ahead, but you have also in fact made a judgment about God. I just ask that you seek to see if you are right, because the greatest judge of all will not be mocked or fooled.

In Christ,
Nick Peters

When God Does Not Justify Someone

Can God be used as an excuse to violate the law? Let’s talk about it on Deeper Waters.

Awhile back, I wrote a post about a snake handler named Andrew Hamblin. Many of you might not know about him although the Huffington Post did write an article on him. Last night while Allie and I were watching CBS here in TN where Hamblin has his church, we were surprised to see this news story about state officials telling Hamblin he will need to appear in court and confiscating the snakes. They’re to be held at the Knoxville Zoo. (And since this is free zoo weekend, we might get to see them.)

Now already several people on Hamblin’s Facebook page are saying that they’re praying for him. That’s fine and understandable. A number of others are saying that they bet this wouldn’t have happened if Hamblin had been a Muslim. Obviously, it’s just Christianity that’s being targeted.

Well, not really.

My wife has an interest in foxes and she would not mind owning a fox someday. Even to do something like that requires proper licensing since a fox is an exotic animal by most standards. If you take a dog or a cat into your home, no big deal. Foxes are a different animal and you need a permit to own a fox and the law stipulates what kinds of foxes you may own.

How much more so for holding a poisonous snake, a snake that if it gets out of control could result in the death of someone, no matter how well-meaning and strong in their “faith” that person might be. There is a reason our state has these laws.

Want to know what they are? Well I found a good look at them here.

Just look under Class I and go down to reptiles. What do you see?

“(ii) Order Serpentes: Snakes – All poisonous species; and”

Yes. Poisonous snakes are included right here in the very first class. If you go down to the end, you’ll see the requirements for having class I animals under your care. They’re quite severe, and for good reason! If you put dangerous animals in the hands of people who don’t know how to handle them, you’re practically asking for pain, and that could be not just your own pain but the pain of others.

Hamblin is set to appear in court next week. I do not know what he will say, but I can say that whatever it is, God is not a valid excuse for breaking the law.

A similar situation is found with the story of the man in Arizona who had a Bible study that was raided by police and took to jail. People immediately cited this as persecution, but you can see even from the Christian Post many details not often told in that story. Those are available here.

Were Arizona, which by the way is a very red state politically, wanting to target Bible studies, we would be hearing many more such stories. It would not be just one person. Yet strangely enough, no doubt hundreds or thousands of Bible studies go on just fine in Arizona without people having any fear whatsoever. What must be asked is “Why is this one case different?” If you can find circumstances that make it different, then you see what is going on. It is not the similarity that matters (All such groups are studying the Bible) but the differences. (Is the one with the leader arrested violation of any laws?)

It would not do for that pastor to say “I’m doing this for God, therefore it’s okay” and it won’t do for Hamblin. Now I personally think that we have no biblical basis to take up snakes the way Hamblin and his church does. If these people want to show their faith and devotion to God, they can start by going over to where real persecution is going on such as in Muslim nations or in China or North Korea and other such places and serve as missionaries. They can also do so with no guarantee whatsoever that God is obligated to protect them. Missionaries can still die in the service after all.

The proper way to show your faith is not to take up serpents. An unbelieving world is not convinced of Christianity by that. Instead, they are sadly convinced of the opposite. They are convinced that Christians are crazy and will believe anything just because they see it in the Bible. It would also be interesting to see if this church kept any poison on the grounds for the people to regularly drink since the same verse says those who took up serpents would also drink poison. We could also point out that Isaiah 43:2 says that when you walk through fire you will not be burned. If they want to be this literal with messages, then set up bonfires and let them start walking and see what happens.

The danger is here that if we say “We are doing this for God, therefore it’s okay” then we make God a justification to forthrightly violate the laws of the land, and where will it end? If I think I have to give the gospel to someone immediately, can I drive down the road at 100 MPH and go around school buses that are stopped all because I’m doing this for God? If I think someone is living a sinful life and if they keep going down that road they will hurt others, am I allowed to kill them because I am doing this for God?

I’ve used a mild example and a serious example both to show the point. Neither one of those work. The law has requirements set on poisonous animals and there’s no place for an ethic that says “Whatever you do, if you do it for God, it is good.” We can be sure Hamblin would not think that the stoning of Stephen in Acts 7 was good, though the Jews doing it certainly thought they were doing it for God. Paul himself thought he was serving God when he was persecuting the church.

Now am I saying there is no place for civil disobedience of any sort? No. But there are conditions that must be met!

For instance, there is no explicit command to take up serpents in Scripture. (I do dispute Mark 16:9-20 being authentic and either way, it no more commands us to do this than it commands us to go out and drink poison.) Now there are explicit commands to preach the gospel, such as the Great Commission. Thus, part of being a faithful Christian is the preaching of the gospel. If the authorities try to silence the preaching of the gospel, then in this case we must be faithful because if we will either violate the law of the land or the commands of God, we must choose to honor the commands of God.

Christians today also hold that homosexual behavior is immoral. Therefore, by our own moral standards, we should not be forced to celebrate what we think is immoral. This is why a photographer who does not think she should photograph a lesbian ceremony should not be prosecuted. This is a conscience clause. A Christian photographer should not be forced to do what she considers inherently immoral.

Note with that last one that it could be the Christian is entirely wrong in their opinion for the sake of argument, but the question is should the law be forced to make someone do what they have moral and religious grounds against doing and in a way that is not harmful to others. There are plenty of other photographers that can do the job after all and this kind of activity makes it easy for the homosexual community to simply out those who disagree with them by looking up Christian photographers, know they will refuse, and then take them to court. (A friend and I have wondered what it would mean to go to a homosexual bakery and ask to have a cake with Romans 1:21-27 on it. Could we go to a Muslim deli and force them also to serve pork?)

The greatest tragedy of all is that when people like Hamblin do what they do, they get a spotlight that the media is all too happy to give them. Such a spotlight becomes an embarrassment to the Christian church. Like it or not, it will fit a stereotype that will fall right in line with the new atheist paradigm of Christians.

Insofar as possible, Christians should seek to live under the law of the land. Had Hamblin wanted to own snakes like this properly, there was a right way to do it and he chose not to do it that way. In doing so, he put himself and others at risk. Also, I contend that he violated a commandment of God by putting God to the test. In the end, God will not be mocked. He will not accept being used as an excuse to justify our wrongdoing.

The best thing for Hamblin to do in my opinion now would be to admit that he did violate the law and pay the price. If we make this out to be persecution, we draw attention to those violating the law and unfortunately, draw it away from real persecution that is going on. It is a horrible action to take such an event and call it persecution when we realize Christians are being put to death in other countries simply for owning a Bible. (And by the way, those Christians care a lot more about having a solid Christian foundation and education than most Christians over here do. Mike Licona, for instance, spoke in Indonesia which has the largest percentage of Muslims in the world and could speak for six hours on the resurrection to a crowd eager for it.) If Hamblin wants to have the snake church, then he must try to find a way to do so legally, though I suspect he won’t. If he cannot, then he must find another capacity with which to serve.

Until then, the media will unfortunately be having a heyday with this and statements from a “pastor” will be seen to have great authority, despite Hamblin not really being equipped as a pastor. When the church highlights people like Hamblin, we will get a certain result. Were someone like Licona instead highlighted more often, the church will get a quite different result. The question is which result do we want?

I know where I stand, and it is the stand I am convinced God has honored and will honor.

In Christ,
Nick Peters


Should we take up the serpent? Let’s talk about it on Deeper Waters.

Recently a local radio show here in Knoxville had 21 year-old Andrew Hamblin, a pastor of a snake-handling church, on to discuss the concept of snake handling. I called in and did not get much time to talk, but it is a topic that is not discussed much so I figured I’d say a few words.

To begin with, I was quite concerned that this pastor was unfamiliar with the verse under question, which was Mark 16:18, not being in several Bibles. It is in the KJV, and KJV-onlyism itself is problematic enough to me, but even most KJV-onlyists are aware that other translations do not have the verses. Hamblin already struck me as someone who was living by a verse without doing any real study on it other than reading it in one translation.

Part of this was shown to me as the caller before me had got to have a conversation with Hamblin, but in my call he was completely silent. To begin with, the host had said he thought Mark was written 50 years after Jesus. I was placing it earlier to 30 years which would place it in the 60’s, although some could date it to the 50’s. Essential? No. However, it is helpful in establishing early eyewitness testimony.

So when I called, I posed a problem with the KJV saying that I was sure Hamblin held to the Trinity. I got silence. I then pointed out that the Trinity consists of three persons. Again, silence. I then stated that in Romans 8:26-27 in the KJV, we read about “the Holy Spirit itself.” That it is quite problematic as it can be seen as denying the personhood of the Holy Spirit.

Of course, I don’t think the KJV translators denied the personhood of the Spirit. I don’t think they were going into heresy. I think like many translators can do, they simply had a mistranslation. Overall, the KJV is still a good translation if that’s the one someone prefers.

My greatest concern was with the safety of the people as it seemed from what Hamblin said that some people had died from snake handling and I do remember that no one under 18 was allowed to pick up a serpent. (Is God incapable of protecting someone who is under 18? Does Mark 16:18 present any criteria that says this only works for adults?)

I could not say how many have died, but one is too many.

I can already hear the reply. “But Nick. Several people die in the service of Christ! We’re doing the same thing!”

To begin with, it is a tragedy of course when anyone dies in the service of Christ at the hands of a persecutor. It is an evil we should all be willing to fight, but it is an event that if we are ever called to die for our Lord, we should all hope we are able to do. There is a marked difference between what the martyr does and what the snake handler does.

The martyr dies from something without and he dies explicitly because he is obeying the command of Christ. The snake handler dies because of his own sin and he is not explicitly obeying the command of Christ. Even if Mark 16:18 was authentic, it does not command Christians as the word is not in an imperative sense.

To be fair, the church I understand does even have some drinking of poison going on, which consists of strychnine. This is just as problematic however. Who is doing this? Someone’s son. Someone’s daughter. Maybe someone’s brother or sister. Maybe someone’s wife or husband. Maybe someone’s mother or father.

What I heard Hamblin talking about most was the feeling that comes when it’s time to take up the serpent. I simply wonder about someone who is willing to act on a feeling on a text that is most probably inauthentic and base their whole life on that and risk removing themselves from everyone else around them causing them great harm. Sorry, but I think you need more than a feeling.

Keep in mind I do not doubt that these people do have a great love for God. I do not doubt their sincerity. What I doubt is whether they are truly being biblical. We see no evidence in church history that congregations regularly got together and took up serpents and drank poison.

Let us also not forget this little thing that we read in the Bible about putting the Lord to the test. This was the temptation of Jesus when He was asked to jump from the temple mount. When the angels caught Him that would be proof to the people that He was the Son of God and the Messiah.

Jesus refused. He refused by saying you shall not put the Lord to the test. That passage still hangs true today. We do have authentic statements instead that show that we are to be known by our love.

I am not saying Hamblin and others do not have love, but the greatest sign of being a follower of Christ will not be a taking up of the serpent, but rather the treading on the serpent, which refers to the powers of evil in the world that Christians are said to have power over. This does not refer to literal serpents.

The other sign of course involves the love Christians are to have. Are we growing in holiness? That will be our greatest sign. If you want to know if you’re in covenant with God, the place to go to is not to ask if you can take up a snake and not be bitten. The place to go is to ask if you are seeking to die to yourself and follow Jesus to the cross if need be. Are you seeking to be more holy or not?

Now how do I explain what happens that people are able to take up snakes? I have no certain answers as animals are not my specialty and maybe someone who knows snakes better would like to comment. However, I have heard stories about people who can look at dogs that would normally be vicious and speak to them in such a way that will have them cowering. Could the snakes themselves sense such confidence? Maybe.

My final conclusion on this is just that I fear that groups in this position will not be any good the Christian cause. They will either be withdrawn into themselves away from academia so much so that they won’t touch the great questions on the authenticity of Christianity today, or they will be out presenting an image that the rest of us have to work against when debating new atheist types, whom I fear these people will be easy pickings for.

I hope that it is realized what is going on with this. One death is too many.

In Christ,
Nick Peters