“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” (1 Jn. 4:1).
Every believer has been given a commandment to test the spirits. That is each believer is to cultivate the ability, by God’s grace, to discern what is truly of God. The enemy is cunning. St. Paul warns the faithful of “false apostles, deceitful workmen, disguising themselves as apostles of Christ. And no wonder, for even Satan disguises himself as an angel of light. So it is no surprise if his servants, also, disguise themselves as servants of righteousness” (2. Cor. 11:13-15).
We must soberly understand that St. Paul is addressing here not the world out there, but rather, the house of the Lord. He is warning of these machinations transpiring within the very house of the Church. I do not think this warning ever expires.
St. John the Theologian instructs Christians in this matter, “Watch yourselves, so that you may not lose what we [the Apostles] have worked for, but may win a full reward. Everyone who goes on ahead and does not abide in the teaching of Christ, does not have God. Whoever abides in the teaching has both the Father and the Son” (2 Jn. vs. 8-9).
Thus, a very objective standard is given – the teaching – whereby every believer may measure and gauge not only his own life but the events and teachings which he will inevitably encounter in this earthly existence. The teaching, of which St. John speaks, is concretely accessible in the Life of the Body of Christ throughout all time. Everyone is, as it were, measured by this standard and accountable to it, from the “least to the greatest.” For, if we do not soberly stand in the teaching then we may lose – in our person – that which is the work of Christ and the Apostles.
There is nothing instantaneous or easy about it. A person must be continuously gazing upon the objective reality of the Revelation of Jesus Christ. St. Justin Popovich says it is very hard. It is similar to an athlete training, a person must be continuously training in the true spiritual life, “The discernment of spirits is, simultaneously, a gift of the Holy Spirit and a struggle on man’s part.”
St. Justin frames this spiritual endeavor in dynamic terms, “This world is a battleground upon which a battle is constantly being fought for or against Christ – a war zone where a war is being waged unceasingly for Christ or against Christ.”
Thus, one of the foremost vocations of a believer is to test and discern the spirits. This means the underlying factors, the internal essence of the external events and affairs. A Christian is never called to be superficial, that is one who never goes beyond the surface of things. He is called to examine thoroughly the fundamental driving factors behind things and actions. He does this guided by the teaching, the Revelation of Christ the Lord. For somethings appear nice and fine on the surface but underneath are foul and perverse.
Thus, in some sense, True Christianity is concerned first and foremost with what is within. Externals can be deceiving, but the heart reveals all. This is not to say that externals are totally disregarded and are of no importance. No, we are speaking of starting points and the hierarchy of importance as applied to discernment.
The Lord rebukes the Pharisees, “Now you Pharisees cleanse the outside of the cup and of the dish, but inside you are full of greed and wickedness, You fools! Did not He who made the outside make the inside also? But give as alms those things that are within, and behold, everything is clean for you” (Lk. 11:39-41).
As fallen humanity we many times see only externally. This is easy, to some degree. Yet, we then are easily fooled. The outside of something may seem nice and clean – with good intentions – and we accept it; yet while doing so we accept an inside that is full of wickedness. If we examine from the inside out, this mistake will not be made. This is why the Lord says “give as alms those things that are within.” What will we do if the only alms are but filth?
So, the believer is to start with the inside, the heart of a matter. Bl. Theophylact confirms that the Lord is speaking here of giving from the heart – and this is not limited to monetary giving – for, a person, or a situation, is essentially what he is inside, and ultimately that is what is imparted no matter how well intending the externals may appear. “He says with exactness, ‘give of that which is within’” (Bl. Theophylact). This principle of “giving from the heart” applies to all – believers and unbelievers. A person, or a group of persons, can only bring forth that which is in the storehouse of the heart.
We are warned because if we accept something that seems well-intended and clean on the outside, and yet it is in reality full of wickedness, then ultimately we are participating in and receiving that wickedness, no matter the external appearance of “cleanliness.”
Every external thing should be weighed in light of its internal essential message and intent, most of all when it comes to what is done in the Church. It is also important to understand that, as St. Ignatius the God-bearer says, falsehood, heresy, is never given in a full 100% does, its poison is always mixed with honey, that is something that is indeed sound on its own, but when combined with the poison becomes deadly. Christians are called to evaluate and discern by using the internal as the starting point, that is, when we encounter an external phenomena we must trace it back to its internal reality and intent. Ultimately is a message, or event, or whatever it may be, truly directing us to the eternal Truth of Christ? And, even if it appears externally Christian, is it indeed upholding the manifest and objective teaching of the Faith?
Thus, turning to the house to which I belong, I would like to point out a trend, which is also elsewhere in other Christian groups, that I believe to be dangerous.
I came across an address from a very prominent Orthodox personage, who I will not name but only say that he resides in what is called “the queen of cities.” The said address was given only a little while ago in light of the c-virus “crisis.”
I will highlight the statements that I believe reveal a marked internal intent. Although the talk is peppered with Christian references, overall the believer is directed to look toward science and experts for deliverance in this current situation.
He states, “Researchers and scientists are searching for proper medication and vaccination to deliver us from this virus ….” And again we are told, “We will pass through this period like a journey through the desert to reach the promised land where science, by the grace of God, will overcome this virus … Science will indeed prevail …”
What spirit is ultimately being revealed when Christians are told that they will reach “a promised land where science … will overcome this virus?” (Again, I’m not anti-science. What is being addressed is underlying essence, what is ultimately being promoted?) Where in the Scriptures and Fathers do we ever read such things? Of course, may true science play its part, but as Christians to WHOM do we ultimately look to OVERCOME? I believe Him to be God. Yet we are told science will prevail?! Our eyes are being directed, in the name of God, to ultimately the broken experts of this fallen world. This is a new gospel, one of technocracy where “experts” will, it seems some desire, even rule the spiritual life, as if possible.
I encourage anyone to investigate the main promoters of the “vaccine” that we are being told will “deliver” us. One of the main movers behind it is Bill Gates, a man with a very sordid history (for which, as far as I know, he has yet to repent). Of course, the person that I am quoting attends the ultra-elite gatherings in Davos of those who are driving a godless globalist agenda.
Once our gaze is orientated toward “science” for our “deliverance”, we are then also told, “The State has responsibility for overcoming this crisis … everything is being done for our protection, our common good … our liberation from this distress depends entirely upon our cooperation ….” We are asked to obligingly follow after “States,” many of which, as I’ve pointed out before, are godless. Now I’m not advocating anarchy at all, I’m questioning the nice appearance that the secular “State” only wants what is for the “good of humanity.” No one would deny that the State has responsibility, but is EVERYTHING that is being done for our good? Are there not some very nefarious agendas at work under the cover of this “crisis”? It would seem so. Notice the nuance of our “liberation” depends not totally on God but upon our cooperation with government powers. Liberation is of this world. It seems another gospel is being preached.
Then in what echos the globalist mantra of “new normal,” we are told, “our lives will have changed forever ….” What is this “change?” I can only speculate given the internal direction that is implied in this address, science will be the guiding light (with nods to Jesus, for those still in the superstition of religion) and the State will be the all-knowing benefactor working for the “good” of humanity. It all sounds too familiar … (It should be noted that the world has been in a very “new” conditioning since approximately the World Wars, the fact that there is an evident agenda to push societies into a further “change” and “new normal” should help identify the originating source of the message.)
Should we not be ever vigilant to examine and test the current actions and agendas that are seeking to yet again reshape and reorient so many parts of human life and interaction?
Another example that I would like to touch upon relates to an article regarding the c-virus and singing in the Church. Please keep in mind the point is not that 100% of what is said is wrong, the point is to ask – ultimately where do such “suggestions and reflections” lead us as Christians?
What is again very striking is the call, essentially, to just trust the experts. Although this is not said in those exact words in this article, it seems strongly implied throughout. So again, we have the believer being instructed to primarily follow the “experts.” A dangerous path … Is it possible that such a call is asking us to not look to the transcendent but rather to an immanent and worldly source for our guidance and, in some sense, faith? Is it possible that such a call reveals that we no longer truly believe in the heavenly? The heavenly is nice and all but for real crises and such matters we need the experts!
We are told that the “experts” present, “difficult facts, concluding that there is no safe way for choirs to sing together until a vaccine is widely available or a 95% effective treatment is in place.”
Here is that miraculous vaccine again! (How many times have I heard that above phrase robotically repeated in the secular media and such?) We are told that not even masks and “social distancing” prevent the spread while singing (let the reader note that there is plenty of valid research that says masks do nothing at all anyway and “social distancing” is arbitrary. I’m not advocating the disregard of proper medical advice at all, what I’m doing is questioning the intent of current advice that presents itself under the label of “medical.” To be clear, I’m striving to examine the CURRENT underlying factors which are behind the current “crisis.”).
So what do the “experts” say? They, “recommended that all in-person group singing activities be postponed through the fall and perhaps longer.” We are then more or less informed that the whole mode of Orthodox worship is “high-risk.”
The author goes on to imply that Orthodox should be open to rethinking the mode of worship, he wonders, “Will we embrace more silence in our services? Will we suspend congregational singing completely, as others have done?” So, because of a virus, and let us remember viruses and sicknesses are not new to our race, the Orthodox faithful should now be ready to entertain the possibility of modifying Orthodox worship? This is no small thing.
The author, of course, mentions “online” possibilities a number of times. Is it not strange how at current there is a major push to get things “online?” And not just in Orthodoxy. The internet is being treated as a mini-savior. Yet, think of how controllable it ultimately is. I think the push to be more dependent on the internet has a diabolical intent.
Then we are told, “This is a time for robust dialogue and creative thinking.” Such phrases make me pause and go, hmmm …. An Orthodox person would think that maybe this is a time to dig deep into the Orthodox tradition, which has the answers we need. But no, let’s trust the experts and have “dialogue.”
Of course much of the current agenda is framed as concern for others, in Christian language, love for neighbor. I would point out first, this narrative, which in basic says – if you are not obeying all the social mandates then you are a person who hates others and cares nothing for humanity – is traceable back to a secular source; a source that has slaughtered millions of unborn babies, and supported the general exploitation and denigration of humanity.
We may well ask since when did obedience to secular mandates become the greatest show of “love.” Since when did physical well-being become the highest priority for Christians? Since when did secular virtues become church mandates?
It is framed in the terms of “love for neighbor” because then any who question the motives, such as myself, are easily brushed off as those who care nothing for others.
Ultimately no dialogue is desired, only a party-line adherence to certain trajectories.
Yet, let us be encouraged to test the words, even the ones I have written. Let us test the spirits. Are we being called to true faith in Christ the Lord? Or are we being called to something else? When has the Church ever compromised so much in the face of an earthly virus? Why are we being called to such a radical reevaluation and orientation of the Faith?
I will close with this quote, “Orthodox Christians! Hold fast to the grace which you have; never let it become a matter of habit; never measure it by merely human standards or expect it to be logical or comprehensible to those who understand nothing higher than what is human or who think to obtain the grace of the Holy Spirit in some other way than that which the one Church of Christ has handed down to us. True Orthodoxy by its very nature must seem totally out of place in these demonic times, a dwindling minority of the despised and foolish … But let us take comfort from the certain words of our Lord Jesus Christ: Fear not, little flock, for it is your Father’s good pleasure to give you the Kingdom (Lk. 12:32),” Fr. Seraphim (Rose).