Aggressive Removal of Paganism – Judges 8:1-24
Judges 8, we continue our study in the book of Judges which is the story of how the nation Israel succumbed to the pressures of human viewpoint and cosmic thinking as expressed in the paganism of the Canaanites that surrounded them and because of their compromise in the conquest had failed to remove from the land as God had ordered. So that means that in this book as we have been studying we are seeing principles on how a nation succumbs to paganism. And the same way that a nation succumbs to paganism people succumbs to paganism. A nation is nothing more than a collection of individuals. As goes the individual so goes the nation; as goes the believer so goes the nation. And what happens in any culture that succumbs to paganism and when the believers are not holding forth with doctrine, are not positive to doctrine, and are absorbing into their thinking the human viewpoint concepts of the world around them, then the Church, the believers in that society, in that culture, no longer function as salt and light which is the preservative and illuminating factors of the remnant in the surrounding culture. The more we succumb to human viewpoint the more our impact is diluted and neutralized on the culture around us, and it all starts with our own thinking and our own willingness to evaluate and to challenge human viewpoint wherever we find it and whenever we find it.
What we see as we make our transition from Judges 7 to Judges 8 is what happens in this nation of Israel because of paganism, and we see how Gideon is going to challenge the compromise with paganism in this next chapter. Now we have to go back and get the overview because in Judges 6 and 7 we have focused primarily on Gideon. We have looked at the cause of the discipline that continued in Israel at the beginning of Judges 6 and the discipline through the military conquest of the Midianites and the Amalekites, the fact that Israel was under their control for six years and God's deliverance through Gideon. We focused on Gideon's need to become oriented to grace and oriented to doctrine and we saw the results of that in Judges 7 last time in how Gideon, with 300 men was used by God to defeat the army of 135,000 Midianites and Amalekites.
And the principle that we saw was that it is God's solution that is the only solution, and not man's solution, that when God called forth Gideon and gave him his job back at the beginning of the chapter He said there were too many, that Gideon had issued a call to several of the northern tribes and had gotten a response of about 32,000 to his call; 32,000 against 135,000 Midianites, but God said well, you've got way too many men, and so what we need to do is get rid of the cowards, so anybody that was afraid was told to go home. That left them with about 10,000 men and God said that's too many so we're going to have a second test to see who's really focused on priorities here, who's really ready to go to battle, so the second test involved how they handled drinking water when they went through the springs, and those that bent down or laid down to get their fill of water were sent home; those that kept their focus, watching the horizon for enemy troops and just lapped the water up with their hands were left, so Gideon was left with 300 men.
Then Gideon was given a unique assignment in terms of his tactic for taking the Midianite army. They were to surround the Midianites, each of the 300 Jewish soldiers were given a lantern or torch that was covered in a clay pot and then they were given a trumpet. They were told that on the signal, at the change of the watch of the Midianite army, they were to break the pot so that their torch would shine forth and at the same time blast on the trumpet. Notice one thing was missing from those instructions; they were not to charge, they were simply to break the earthen ware pot and blast on the trumpet and at that time, with the changing of the guard happening at that same time in the camp of the Midianites, you had the guards that had been on duty coming in, returning to camp, coming into the camp; you had the other guards going out and taking their new post, so they're just waking up and groggy, and as soon as the Israelites broke the clay pots and blasted on the trumpet, those that were still asleep woke up, saw men coming into the camp, assuming they were the enemy, God brought confusion into the camp and the Midianites began to kill one another in the confusion, and then all their camels got excited, it was just a tremendous rout and they went into full retreat. Notice that the Israelites never were instructed to charge and they did not charge and did not attack until the enemy was in full flight.
At the conclusion of the last chapter we saw that Gideon, as the Midianite army was in full retreat, Gideon sent messengers down into the hill country of Ephraim, calling them out to do battle and to guard the fords on the Jordan River to prevent the Midianite army from escaping. The Ephraimites did that, and they captured the two main leaders of the Midianites, two of the key leaders, not the kings but two of the key generals, Oreb and Zeeb, which means the raven and the wolf when translated. So that's where we ended last time. Now all of that has focused on the historical facts, the historical situation of their deliverance.
Starting in Judges 8 and in Judges 9 the writer of Judges is going to return back to what I would call his divinely inspired editorializing of the situation. He's going to start taking the events and showing how it fits into the overall spiritual doctrinal message of the book, and that is that everyone was "doing what was right in their own eyes," the problem of spiritual relativism. The key verse, repeated twice in Judges, found in Judges 17:6 and in Judges 21:25, they are identical and whenever the Holy Spirit repeats Himself we need to pay attention. This only happens a few times in Scripture where you have the identical verses repeated in a single book. "In those days there was no king in Israel, every man did what was right in his own eyes." So this shows the essential problem, the root problem, that was going on in the nation, which is pure relativism. Everyone was doing what was right in their own eyes. This shows the essence, the essence of all paganism which is man's self-assertion. You turn to Romans 1 and there we read that after Paul rehearses the shift to idolatry, the pattern of idolatry in Romans 1:18ff, the rejection of God, the rejection of the general revelation of God, negative volition at God-consciousness, then Paul says, "Professing to be wise, they became fools."
Man on his own thinks that he has enough intellectual acumen to be able to answer the ultimate questions of life: how did we get here? Where are we going? What is man's purpose? What are man's problems? How do we solve man's problems? Man thinks in arrogance that he is the ultimate determiner of reality. This is the essence of paganism. Man rejects God and in His place substitutes various aspects of the creation. We either worship creatures or we worship abstract idols generated from our own thinking, but the core of all of this is nothing more than arrogance. And arrogance is the core, ultimately, of all false religious systems.
Now when I talk about how Israel succumbed to paganism or the religion of the Canaanites, I'm using paganism in its technical sense and that is that it is a technical term for all forms of thinking, all systems of thinking, that are antagonistic to the Word of God, all thought forms that are antithetical to Scripture. So in that sense paganism is the same as human viewpoint, it's the same as cosmic thinking or the world system, or worldliness as the vocabulary is developed in the New Testament. So we see that the starting point for all paganism, for all religions, whether they are overt religious systems or anti-religious systems, such as atheism and secular humanism they are still religious systems. To say there is no God is just as much a religious statement as to say there is a God. The idea that atheism is not religious is absurd; atheism is as much a religious statement as any statement from Islam, Buddhism, or Christianity. Just because it's stated in the negative doesn't men it's not religious. Just because they reject all religion that's just as much a religious statement as the acceptance of all religion.
So man rejects God and in His place always inserts and always invents some sort of substitute religion. And the result of arrogance is always destructiveness; it always results in division, it always results in fragmentation and that happens not only individually in the soul but it also happens corporately in a nation. Proverbs 13:10 states the principle: "Through presumption," which is the Hebrew word zadown, which means pride or arrogance or presumption, "comes nothing but strife." So we can translate this: "Through arrogance comes nothing but strife, but with those who receive counsel there is wisdom. That's the Hebrew word chokmah which is the ultimate in terms of the application of doctrine in the believer's life.
Now what we are going to see in Judges 8 and 9 is the consequence of the arrogance in Israel. They're still arrogant; they're still operating on pride. We saw that when the Midianites came in and overran the nation they cried out to God for deliverance. But there's no turning back to God. They are still rejecting the God of the Mosaic Covenant, they're still rejecting Biblical absolutes, they're not turning back to God, they're just crying out in misery and pain because they are going through extreme divine discipline. And we saw the principle that God in His grace always meets us where we are. God delivered them in grace, not because of who they are, not because of the intensity of their sorrow, not because of anything that they had done but God responded to their cry because He was their God, He's the head of the nation Israel, and so He was delivering them. And we see this principle again and again in Judges, that the people go through, from one cycle to the next they get progressively worse until we get down to the end and they don't even cry out to God any more.
What we're going to see here in this episode with Gideon is that prior to this there was some element of spiritual renewal in the nation, there was some turning back to God at least partially, but here we see that the arrogance that has characterized the nation and has fragmented the nation up to this point is going to continue and we're going to see how it plays itself out in the destruction of the nation. Here is a map of Israel and the area that we are talking about, where the battle takes places, is down in this general area here, north of the Dead Sea, north of Jericho, the battle has taken place up here in the valley of Jezreel, and the Midianite army has fled to the south and they're coming down here and then crossing over Jordan in roughly this vicinity. There's a problem with the fact that several of the place names that we find in the text are uncertain; we're not sure exactly where they are, there's a lot of guesswork, but for the most part it's probably this general area, about maybe forty or fifty miles north of the Dead Sea which is the scene of action. Here's a map of how the boundaries of the nation were divided. And if we look at this map the area where the battle took place is in the area of the tribe of Manasseh. When Gideon first issued his call, if you look at Judges 6:35, "he sent messengers to Asher, Zebulun, Naphtali and throughout Manasseh. So here is Manasseh in the center part of the country, north of Ephraim. He sends out messengers to Zebulun here, Asher is along the coast up here to the northwest, and Naphtali is around the Sea of Galilee, to the northwest of the Sea of Galilee. So he has sent messengers and he assembled his original army of 23,000 in this area of northern Israel. He did not send messengers to the south, to Dan, to Ephraim, to Judah. Apparently the major incursion of the Midianites was in this area but we're going to discover in this chapter that there are other reasons for not having sent messengers to gather troops from the south. And that is that there seems to be some division in the nation. There is competition, the nation is fragmenting along the lines of the tribes and they're not maintaining their unity.
Now this map is of the battle itself in the valley of Jezreel and this line is the line of retreat. As the Midianites headed to the south, they head south to this area just to the west of Succoth, and there they are going to cross over the Jordan. Now this area out here to the left all belongs to the tribe of Ephraim. And so Gideon is going to finally call the Ephraimites out to put together a quick force to block the retreat of the Midianites across the Jordan and they did an excellent job of doing so but their attitude was less than desirable. They are victorious, they have two battles, one in which they kill Oreb and the other in which they kill Zeeb, but 8:1 tells us of the underlying problem that continues, the underlying problem of arrogance that continues to plague Israel. Now 8:1 doesn't take place chronologically after 7:25. I've made this point before that when the Jews were writing history they write logically, not chronologically. So if they start on one theme the writer will follow it out to its conclusion, even though the last part of it may happen chronologically some time later. The men of Ephraim don't come to Gideon and challenge him and express their anger until some time later. But because he has been talking about the Ephraimites and their battle there at the end of chapter 7 he goes on to follow it out to the end to show us the attitude of the Ephraimites.
Judges 8:1, "Then the men of Ephraim said to him, What is this thing you have done to us," notice their attitude, they are challenging Gideon and they feel slighted, it demonstrates that they are preoccupied with their own fame, their own honor, they are in fact arrogant, they have little concern for the other tribes of Israel, they are more concerned with their own reputation and getting their own glory, in fact, getting a part of the booty from the defeat of the Midianites. "Then the men of Ephraim said to him, What is this thing you have done to us, not calling us when you went to fight against Midian? And they contended with him vigorously." See, what happens in arrogance is that we become hyper-sensitive, and as soon as we become hypersensitive we loose all objectivity and we don't realize what the real issues are. Now the issue was that the Midian incursion was not in the realm of Ephraim, it was more to the north and so for strategic reasons Gideon only called the northern tribes, but Ephraim took it as a personal insult, and this always goes along with arrogance.
We live in an age today of hypersensitivity. There are so many things that go on in our culture that you can make comments about this group of people, or that group of people, and it doesn't matter whether it's true or not, the people you make those comments about, it may a racial group, an ethnic group, it may be an economic group, it may have to do with feminists, it may have to do with men, whatever the group may be, somebody is going to become offended and start making a major issue out of something. Hypersensitivity is one characteristic of arrogance and it is one of the most destructive things that happens in relationships of all kinds, not just in terms of national issues but it also happens in relationships, in marriages, or in any kind of friendship or relationship one person becomes hypersensitive and they become self-absorbed and the next thing you know the other person does something that in and of itself is not necessarily bad or wrong or even inconsiderate but the other person takes it that way because they're in arrogance and self-absorption, and so they react in hypersensitivity and get mad and the next thing you know there's a reaction on the other side an polarization takes place because where there is arrogance there is always strife and division.
This happens not only on the individual level in terms of personal relationships but we see it played out here among the tribes of Israel. They have become so arrogant and self-absorbed that there's hypersensitivity now about who gets the glory. The issue is no longer the honor of the Lord and the glory of the Lord and the defeat of the enemies of God and all of the enemies around Israel are always viewed as the enemy of God but they have lost the divine viewpoint perspective on what really matters, and so it has distorted their priorities. But notice how Gideon responds. Now this is a lesson to any of us who are ever faced with the reaction of hypersensitivity. Gideon does not react, he does not say you're all out of line, you're just carnal, you're still operating on the idolatry of the Canaanites, he doesn't rehearse their failures or their successes.
Now it's helpful to understand a little bit about Ephraim. Ephraim had become overwhelmed with pride because of their history. They were the tribe of Joshua and therefore they had a prominent role in the conquest and they were also given a large inheritance in the hill country of Israel. But Ephraim was also one of the first tribes to compromise with the Canaanites and not to conquer all of their land. However, we also learn from our study of Judges that in earlier situations, under the judgeship of Ehud and of Deborah, Ephraim was very strong; they responded to the call of Ehud after he assassinated Eglon, and they had to run the Moabites out of the area, that took place in the hill country or in the tribal region of Ephraim, and they responded to his call and defeated the Moabites. They were also available to Deborah, the location outside of Shiloh where Deborah had her place where she exercised her judgeship was in the area allotted to Ephraim, and when Deborah and Barak called out the troops the Ephraimites responded. Yet in the song of Deborah in Judges 5 there is a hint or foreshadowing of the trouble that is going on in Ephraim. There we read that it is in Ephraim, their root is in Amalek. Now that could refer to a historical fact that this had once been the geographical area of Amalekite control but it could also imply the fact that they had been influenced by the thinking of the Amalekites in that area. And it had already taken root in their thinking and they had compromised the basic assumptions and presuppositions about life but because of the influence of the Amalekites that still resided in the territory of Ephraim.
So they have given themselves over completely to arrogance, and self-absorption; all they're concerned about is their own personal glory and not the issue of deliverance of the nation and instead of reacting against them in anger, notice how Gideon responds. He points out how successful they have been, he praises them for the military defeat of these two generals, Oreb and Zeeb, and he does not react in anger. In other words, he exemplifies the proverb that "a gentle answer turns away wrath."
Judges 8:2, "But he said to them, What have I done now in comparison with you?" Now Gideon is the general, he has every right to claim his own personal honor because of his defeat of the nation but he says I've done nothing compared to you, you're the ones who destroyed the enemy at the end there, you're the ones who destroyed Oreb and Zeeb, he uses a metaphorical statement, he says "Is not the gleaning of the grapes of Ephraim better than the vintage of Abiezer?" Now he is from the town of Abiezer so he is saying isn't what you have done, the results of what you have done better than anything that I have done.  "God has given the leaders of Midian, Oreb and Zeeb into your hands; and what was I able to do in comparison with you? Then their anger toward him subsided when he said that."
See, we have a contrast here in humility and arrogance; arrogance is self-absorbed and wants to assert itself, Gideon who has every right to claim the honor and prestige of the victory as the general who engineered the whole thing, strategized the entire thing downplays his own role and responds in objectivity and calm and diffuses the situation. Gideon keeps his focus on the ultimate issues which relate to the glory of God, whereas the Ephraimites have lost all perspective spiritually and they're just concerned about their own personal honor.
From this I want to summarize the doctrine of arrogance in about five points; this is just a brief summary. First of all, arrogance is the basic mental attitude sin that under girds every sin. It is defined as preoccupation with self. Arrogance is the basic mental attitude sin that goes along with every sin. In fact, it often is hand in hand with the basic emotional sin which is fear. When Adam and Eve sinned in the Garden, when Adam and Eve were confronted by God when He came to walk in the Garden they ran and hid and when God said why are you hiding, they said we were afraid. That's the basic motivational emotion of man is fear and it goes hand in hand with the basic mental attitude sin of arrogance. Arrogance was the initial sin of Lucifer; in the prehistoric past before God created mankind Lucifer fell. He was the highest of all of the angels; he was the most beautiful, the most intelligent, the most capable of all of God's creatures. No one had more beauty, no one had more intelligence or skill in almost every area than area than Lucifer but Lucifer wanted to be like God. He became preoccupied with himself and his own glory and that is arrogance.
So we can define arrogance as the inordinate exultation of self, where you become concerned with self, with me, with what's going on in my life and my own thinking, my own success. It is a failure to recognize the Creator/creature distinction, to recognize that I am a creature created by God to serve God. This is how all of this fits into the angelic conflict. Lucifer is operating on arrogance and wants to demonstrate that is unfair by not letting His creatures do what they do. What God is demonstrating is when man makes himself the final authority and does what he wants to do, does what's right in his own eyes, the ultimate result is always fragmentation and self-destruction. So arrogance is the inordinate exultation of self; it's a failure to recognize the Creator/creature distinction, and it is a failure to accept the authority of God in our life.
Point number four, arrogance, then, is the starting point of all sin but then it quickly combines with any of the lust patterns and other mental and emotional sins to accelerate the believer's spiritual destruction and reversionism. Once you start sinning then it begins to snowball, you get involved with approbation lust, power lust, sex lust, chemical lust, whatever your lust pattern is, it combines with arrogance and it will eventually polarize into legalism or licentiousness and that promotes either moral or immoral arrogance which always leads to greater division and self-destruction. It may be a while before you experience the consequences of that but it will always end up in self-destruction and misery.
Some of the key verses for understanding arrogance: Proverbs 11:2 states, "When pride comes," or when arrogance comes, "When pride comes, then comes dishonor, but with the humble is wisdom." Humility is authority orientation, orientation to the authority of God, orientation to doctrine. And only with humility can we learn doctrine; humility, therefore, involves teachability. So all of this is part of grace orientation which emphasizes that God has provided everything for us and it's not dependent on who we are or what we do. We have to exercise humility. When we're emphasizing self then that results in dishonor.
Proverbs 16:18 states, "Pride goes before destruction, and a haughty spirit before stumbling." Arrogance always culminates in some form of failure and self-destruction and fragmentation.
Proverbs 23:29, "Who has woe? Who has sorrow? Who has contentions? Who has complaining? Who has wounds without cause? Who has redness of the eyes?" All of this relates to the person who is arrogant in context.
Then we come into the New Testament and we see the various things that go along with arrogance and the trends of reversionism in 2 Timothy 3:2 and following. Talking about the trends of the Church Age, "For men will be lovers of self, lovers of money, boastful, arrogant, revilers, disobedient to parents, ungrateful, unholy,  unloving, irreconcilable, malicious gossips, without self-control, brutal, haters of good,  treacherous, reckless, conceited, lovers of pleasure," notice the emphasis on self, "lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God,  holding to a form of godliness," that's some form of external religion, "holding to a form of godliness, although they have denied its power; and avoid such men as these." See, you read through this list it seems like it's a characterization of modern American culture.
2 Timothy 3:6, "For among them are those who enter into households and captivate weak women weighed down with sins, led on by various impulses,  always learning and never able to come to the knowledge of the truth." Look at verse 7, that categories so much of our culture, always trying to find a solution, always seeking something that gives the answers to life but always rejecting the answers that are in the Scriptures. "Always learning," always seeking something, always coming up with some new theory, some new way of solving problems, some new way of finding success or happiness or meaning in life, but always rejecting the Scripture, so "never able to come to the knowledge of the truth." This is what characterizes paganism, this is what characterizes and is a result of arrogance. And as a result of that there is always division.
Let's see how this division in Israel has also played itself out in terms of the tribes across the Jordan. Not only have we seen the fragmentation between Ephraim and the other tribes but we'll see it with those tribes across the Jordan. Look at Judges 8:4, "Then Gideon and the 300 men who were with him came to the Jordan and crossed over, weary yet pursuing.  He said to the men of Succoth," this is the first village he came to after crossing the Jordan, he pleads with them to give him supplies, to give his men bread, "Please give loaves of bread to the people who are following me, for they are weary, and I am pursuing Zebah and Zalmunna, the kings of Midian." Now notice the response of the leaders of Succoth; now these are part of the tribes who live across the Jordan. There should be unity because the entire nation is under the Mosaic Law, but notice it has fragmented because of the arrogance of paganism. They are not supportive of Gideon at all.
Judges 8:6, "The leaders of Succoth said, Are the hands of Zebah and Zalmunna already in your hands," we don't know whether they're talking literally or figuratively here, earlier we saw with one of the initial episodes in Judges where they had cut off the thumbs and the toes of the enemy commander in order to take away his ability to fight, so we don't know whether they're saying well if you physically cut off their hands or whether they're just talking about it metaphorically in terms of having destroyed their power, "Are the hands of Zebah and Zalmunna already in your hands, that we should give bread to your army?" Notice the fear there, they're not concerned about what's right for Israel. They're saying we're not going to help you because we've been so much under the threat and under the oppression of the Midianites that if we help you and you lose, then they're going to come back and seek vengeance on us, so we've compromised for the last six years in order to get along and not have any conflict in life, in order to be able to survive, so we have compromised. And that's what we're going to see in these tribes across the Jordan, is that they have compromised with the enemy so that they no longer have as their priority the priorities laid out in the Mosaic Covenant, they no longer have a unified goal with the tribes on the other side of the Jordan. [7, "Gideon said, All right, when the LORD has given Zebah and Zalmunna into my hand, then I will thrash your bodies with the thorns of the wilderness and with briers."]
So Gideon left Succoth without having received any sustenance and he went to the next town, Penuel, this is in the area where Jacob had wrestled with the angel; the angel had touched his hip and had crippled him and he said afterwards I will call this place Penuel because I have seen God face to face. That's what that means. So it's a reminder to us that God has been involved in this area; there is a history in this particular area of God's direct revelation and yet we see that this has made no impact on the present population.
Judges 8:8, "He went up from there to Penuel and spoke similarly to them; and the men of Penuel answered him just as the men of Succoth had answered.  So he spoke also to the men of Penuel, saying, When I return safely, I will tear down this tower." They had a tower there that was a place that gave them a position of honor and respect in the area and people would come there, it probably had a religious significance, and so part of what Gideon is doing by tearing down this tower that was dedicated to the worship of the Canaanites gods is that he is removing the base of paganism, the physical base of paganism in this area.
Then in Judges 8:10 we go on with the battle, "Now Zebah and Zalmunna were in Karkor," that's a little further east of the Jordan, "and their armies with them, about 15,000 men, all who were left of the entire army of the sons of the east; for the fallen were 120,000 swordsmen." So now Gideon is down to 300 fighting 15,000 so it's down to 500 to 1 odds, and God is still the One who is going to give him the victory.  "Gideon went up by the way of those who lived in tents," this is a Bedouin trade route in the Transjordan, so he took this back trail "on the east of Nobah and Jogbehah, and attacked the camp when the camp was unsuspecting." So instead of going down the major trade route he took a little used Bedouin trail back in the hills and he came around behind them and executed a surprise attack on their camp.
Judges 8:12, "When Zebah and Zalmunna fled, he pursued them and captured the two kings of Midian, Zebah and Zalmunna, and routed the whole army.  Then Gideon the son of Joash returned from the battle by the ascent of Heres.  And he captured a youth from Succoth and questioned him. Then the youth wrote down for him the princes of Succoth and its elders, seventy-seven men." He's getting his military intelligence here, finding out who the key leaders are, who the influential men in Succoth were so that he knows who to deal with when he goes back to punish them.
Judges 8:15 "He came to the men of Succoth and said, Behold Zebah and Zalmunna, concerning whom you taunted me, saying, 'Are the hands of Zebah and Zalmunna already in your hand, that we should give bread to your men who are weary?'  He took the elders of the city, and thorns of the wilderness and briers, and he disciplined the men of Succoth with them." That's not exactly what it says in the Hebrew. What he did was he roped, like whips, from the thorns and the briars, and he basically flayed them alive, he just ripped the skin off their backs, it's a very harsh treatment. Then he went to Penuel and  "He tore down the tower of Penuel and killed the men of the city."
Now what's going on here; before we can get to application we have to have some interpretation and there are some interpretive disagreements here. There are those who assert that at this point, starting in verse 4 Gideon is in reaction, he's in carnality, obviously anybody who is following the Lord and does something of this nature is acting too harsh to have any kind of spirituality here so Gideon is now showing his future arrogance. Well it's true that Gideon, before we get to the end of the chapter is going to demonstrate his own arrogance and is going to end up rejecting God and leading the nation back into idolatry. But that's not what's happening here.
Gideon is disciplining these leaders because they had failed. He's still a judge, this is part of his job as a judge, is to remove the evidences and the influences of paganism from within Israel. So he is not out of line, he is no different from Moses, some of the disciplinary actions of Moses, some of the disciplinary actions of Joshua and other leaders in removing the sinful carnal rebellious sinful leaders from the land who are influencing the people into paganism. Now understanding that it gives us an important application and this is that we are involved in a spiritual warfare and all of these warfare passages in the Old Testament ultimately give us lessons on the spiritual warfare of the believer.
We have set up the overall pattern, that as Israel moved into the land the land represents to us the totality of our thinking as believers. The land has been given to us, just as the land was given to Israel so that they possessed the whole land potentially, we have salvation and we are going to be regenerated eventually, we have eternal security, we can't lose our salvation. Nevertheless, we have been given a task. Just as Israel's task was to go in and remove the Canaanites from the land it is our responsibility to remove human viewpoint and paganism from our thinking. This is a battle; sometimes it is less of a battle than at other times but there are times when we have to take strong offensive action in our own thinking in order to recognize, root out and remove human viewpoint thinking that has infected our thinking.
So as I reflected on this I was thinking what are some of the more egregious forms, more popular forms of human viewpoint thinking that has infected our culture? And one of these is psychology. We live in a psychologized culture. Psychology has become so accepted and so much a part of the warp and woof of our culture that we accept as truism all kinds of things that would never have been accepted 50 or 60 years ago; concepts like well, if a person is going to be happy or successful in life they have to have positive self-esteem. Positive self-esteem is another word for confidence. Who is our confidence supposed to be in as believers? Is it supposed to be in our self, or is it supposed to be in God. Now in some sense we have to have a certain confidence in our self, certain assuredness of who we are and what we're doing, then we're able to do the job, but that's not what the concept of self-esteem really talks about. Some of the greatest crooks in all of history had tremendous self-esteem. Hitler had great self-esteem. Stalin had great self-esteem. The issue is not that we are to esteem ourselves, we are to esteem God.
So the human viewpoint thinking of psychology has so infiltrated the church that whenever people have a problem in life, whenever they have a problem with other believers, whenever they have a problem with marriage, whenever they just don't seem to be happy…[tape turns]…there's always this trend of self-absorption there, the solution often is well, let's go to a counselor, or therapist, or find a marriage counselor to help us through our problem or even call the pastor and the pastor will counsel us, as if that is the solution now becomes sitting down and talking through things. The buzz word for that is called "talk therapy." Now I'm not saying there is not a place for Biblical pastoral counseling at times; we all need a little advice now and then, there always needs to be someone sometimes with a little objectivity who can point us in the right direction, but we need to realize that 98% of pastoral counseling is what happens right now, when the pastor is teaching the Word of God we are to be taking in the Word of God, learning the principles and applying them to our lives. If we do that we will eventually learn how to face and solve any problem that comes along in life and any difficulty that comes along in life.
I remember one time talking to a professor of mine in seminary and I'd been a pastor for about 8 years and I made the observation to him that in 8 years of pastoral ministry I had perhaps had 3 or 4 people come to me for counseling, that in 8 years of pastoral ministry I said I don't understand these guys who complain the fact they don't have any time to study because they're spending e, 4, 5 hours a day in counseling, I said what in the world is going on. And he looked at me and said well Robby, nobody wants to come to you for counseling because they know what you're going to say, you've taught it from the pulpit, these other guys aren't teaching anything from the pulpit. So people think that when they come to them they're going to have somebody give them exactly what they want or help them with their problem because they're don't get the information from the pulpit.
We live in a time when psychology, even among believers and especially among believers I might add, is terribly misunderstood. So we're going to use psychology of example of one strand of pagan thinking that has infiltrated and infected Christianity with all sorts of ideas. Now I know that I'm going to step on a few toes but if you wait till I get done next time, maybe some of your questions will be answered.
Point number one, psychology is one of the most destructive aspects of cosmic arrogance today. It is in fact another religious option; it is not scientific, it is religious. I'll demonstrate that as we go along with quotations from sources such as the American Psychological Association. It is, in fact, another religious option and all psychological systems are loaded with pagan religious assumptions. Every psychological system is loaded, even those that are so-called Christian psychology, and we'll see what's wrong with that term, are loaded with pagan assumptions. We'll take some time to look at those.
I want to break this down, four more sub points in our initial statement to help explain and define our terms. Paganism, first of all, refers to all thought forms erected independent of God and hostile to God. So paganism refers to all thought forms erected independent of God and hostile to God. Now let me say something; I'll come back and address this later, what always happens, I remember 10 years ago I used to get in enormous arguments with people over this, and ultimately those who affirm and want to support psychology always say well, I hold this system and it's Biblical because there's nothing in the system that's contradicted by Scripture. Is that what makes something Biblical? Is something you believe Biblical because it's not denied by the Scripture? No. What makes something Biblical is that it is derived form the Scripture; it is the result of exegesis and theology, not because it is not specifically not contradicted in Scripture. That doesn't mean it's Biblical. In fact, if it's not mentioned in Scripture at all it probably isn't Biblical.
Paganism refers to all thought forms erected independent of God and hostile to God, and therefore it's not consistent with thought that's developed form the Word of God.
The second point of this introductory breakdown is psychology is based on the assumption that man through empiricism and his own rational capabilities has the ability to plumb the depths of the human soul and to explain, based on principles of scientific methodology, to explain the operation of the human soul, to develop a correct view of personality and personality development, the development of emotional and mental problems, their solutions, remedies and cures. That was a mouthful; let me break that down for you.
First of all, psychology is based on certain assumptions; there is a methodology that is used in all psychology and that's what I'm dealing with. It's based on certain assumptions and the primary assumption is that man can use empiricism and his own rational abilities in order to come to a complete and perfect knowledge of the human soul and to explain based on these principles of scientific methodology how the human soul operates; how emotional and mental problems develop, what their solutions, remedies and cures are. So psychology is based on an assumption that man using empirical procedures can plumb the depths of the human soul.
The third point by way of introduction is that the term "psychology" derives from two words in the Greek. This really ought to say it all if we're thinking believers. The first is psuche, which means soul, and the second is logos, which means the science of something or the study of something or knowledge about something. So psychology itself means the study of the soul, the knowledge of the soul, science about the soul. However, the Bible claims to be the exclusive authority on the nature of the human soul. In fact, when we talk about psychology, one of the interesting things, most people think that there's just this solid block of data out there that's psychology. The fact is we'll see that there are 400 different psychological models and over 10,000 different psychological techniques and among those 400 different psychological models in every year there's always somebody that comes up with a new model; many of them are based on materialistic concepts of the nature of man. In other words, they would reject the idea that there is an immaterial part to man. When we think of "soul" we think of something that is immaterial, that is made up of the mind, the emotions, the will, conscience, self-consciousness, but for many psychologists the soul is just a term for the behavior of man and man is a material creature totally, there's nothing immaterial there, so from the very beginning they have a skewed conception of what makes man operate.
So the very term "psychology" implies knowledge of the soul and is in contrast to the Bible which claims that God Himself is the only one who claims ultimate authority in telling us what the soul is, what the problems in the soul are, that is sin, and what the solutions are. So the term "psychology" itself indicates that there is a conflict and what I'm talking about here in terms of psychology is psychotherapy as derived from Freud, Jung, Maslow and all the various systems developed from these and others, are what is called talk therapy or transpersonal psychology.
Now I think that there are other aspects of the study of man and behavioral, what we might call behavioral sciences which have a legitimate place, perhaps in the study of war, you want to study the nature of your enemy, how he operates, how he performs, the operation of soldiers under certain kinds of conditions. I think there are some legitimate applications there but that is totally different from what I'm talking about, even though those areas are deeply impacted by the same sort of transpersonal assumptions that I'm criticizing here.
So finally, there is a conflict, we must recognize there is a conflict between systems of psychology and their truth claims, and the truth claims of the Scriptures. Psychology claims that on the basis of their techniques and theories and practices man can solve problems, achieve stability and find happiness in life. That's what I mean by psychology.
The second point; all psychological systems, as I said there are over 400 models of theories of human personality, human makeup, human behavior that extend from the purely materialistic to the more extreme metaphysical New Age type of psychologies. All psychological systems derive their knowledge from empiricism, and empiricism is always limited by the data. Always remember this. Empiricism is always limited by the data; empiricism means I have 900 pieces of data and as a result of looking at those 900 pieces of data I can derive this conclusion that's consistent with those 900 facts. Then next week I discover fact 901 and it changes how I look at everything else. So the discovery of a new piece of information tomorrow can change all previous conclusions.
Now one of the underlying assumptions that I always hear and that you run into is well, all truth is God's truth. I can't tell you how many times I've heard somebody say that, well how can you attack psychology, all truth is God's truth so the truth that we derive from empirical observation we can then merge in with the truth of God's Word so that we can have an accurate view of man and man's personality and how man operates. There are a number of problems with this statement and this statement doesn't just relate to psychology, you find it in many other cases of merger as well. By this claim what is meant is that the "all truth," that is principles discovered through the use of scientific methodology, the "all truth" is equated and is at the same level of truth as Scripture. The "all truth" at the beginning of the proposition is equated to the same level of truth as given in Scripture.
Now there is a sense in which this is true. If, in fact, I do make an accurate observation and that observation is true, then, for example, on a base ten system 2 + 2 = 4, that's true, and that's consistent with what's in the Scripture, but that's not what we're talking about here. There are some levels of scientific information that is attestable and verifiable and there is much that is not. And what happens is that in the realms of philosophy, psychology and a number of other areas, you have truth claims that can't be tested or verified like you can certain mathematical or scientific principles so because they're not testable, not verifiable the conclusions may be changed by new discoveries tomorrow. So what this is basically claiming is that through general revelation man can derive the same level of absolute knowledge of truth that is given through special revelation.
Now there are four basic problems with this kind of thinking. The first is that it assumes that truth exists…or the reality is…excuse me, the reality is that truth exists in varying degrees of certitude. The statement "all truth is God's truth" acts as if all truth is at the same level of certitude but truth does exist in varying degrees of certitude. We know that 2 + 2 = 4 but we are not always certain about other conclusions from philosophy or psychology. So these principles in philosophy or psychology or even linguistics or grammar must be held tentatively because based on empiricism new data may be discovered tomorrow that changes the conclusions that we hold dear today.
For example, the fountainhead of all psychology was the thinking of Anton Mesmer, the person from which we get the term mesmerized, the first person who developed hypnotism. In 1779 he boldly asserted that there is only one illness and one healing. He believed that an invisible fluid, called animalmagnetism, was distributed throughout the body and this fluid or energy had to be in proper distribution or there were physical and mental problems. As his system developed it promoted a new way of looking at life and promoted three main ideas. These ideas are hypnotic suggestion, number one; number two healing through talk, and number three, mind over matter. The first gave rise to hypnosis; the second idea gave rise eventually to psychotherapy and the third idea gave rise to the mind science cults, such as Christian Science and the modern health and wealth theologies. According to the American Psychological Association, in their book, A History of Psychotherapy, A Century of Change, they stated: "Historians have found several aspects of mesmerism and its offshoots that set the stage for 20th century psychotherapy. It promoted ideas that are quintessentially American and have become permanent theoretical features of our 20th century psychological landscape," but the fact is much of the thinking that Anton Mesmer had has been invalidated by later studies.
The same thing is true about Freud. In fact, Morris Eagle, the President of the APA's psychoanalysis division and professor of psychology at Adelphi University stated that "there are very few analysts who follow all of Freud's formulations," in other words much that Freud thought was true 100 years ago has been invalidated by later discoveries. So what are you really going to rely on. In fact, Eagle goes on to state, "nevertheless, psychotherapists of all stripes still tend to share two of Freud's core beliefs; one is that our behavior, thoughts and emotions stem from unconscious fears and desires often rooted in childhood experiences. The other is that with the help of a trained therapist we can understand the source of our troubles and thereby attain relief." Not only are those two assumptions held by most psychotherapists, they're held by most Americans. Most Americans believer there is something in your soul called the unconscious, but the concept of the unconscious was a category developed by Freud; it's not Biblical, it's not derived from exegesis, it is something that was unique to Freud's thinking, and the idea that if we want to have solutions to our problems then we need a trained therapist in order to achieve that. In fact, there are many seminary students that when the graduate, after four years of studying Greek, Hebrew, exegesis and theology, they don't think they have enough information to help people so then they go back to school and get a degree in counseling or psychotherapy so that they can help people. They have basically sold their birthright of Scripture for the pottage of psychology and psychotherapy.
All of that addresses the first problem with the statement, "all truth is God's truth," and that is that truth in reality exists in varying degrees of certitude and truth derived from empirical data may change tomorrow. What we hold to be absolute today may be rejected tomorrow. So on what basis, then, are we going to say that this is truth and equate it with Scripture? We're running out of time so we'll come back and review this and we will continue our study of how psychology is a major element of pagan thought that has influenced and infected Christianity and promotes fragmentism, fragmenting marriage, fragmenting the soul and fragmenting the nation.