Sunday, March 1, 2015

To Bee or Not To Bee...? (A Theological Question)

Having been deeply involved for most of my life in a religious tradition most people would probably classify as "hyperspiritual," I have made it a point these last few years to try to examine spiritual phenomena through as objective and reasonable a lens as possible. Now engaged in studying History, I found one of this week's lessons particularly interesting. It was an excerpt from Laurie Winn Carlson's book A Fever in Salem, in which she hypothesizes that the physical complaints prevalent during the Salem Witch Trials were plausibly caused by an epidemic of encephalitis lethargica. She goes so far as to list side-by-side the symptoms from the trial documents with those of a 1930s encephalitis epidemic. Allowing for discrepancies in terminology, it seems the manifestations of the symptoms would have looked the same. Here is a duplication of Carlson's list:

1692 SALEM                      1916-1930s ENCEPHALITIS EPIDEMIC
fits                                        convulsions
          spectral visions                    hallucinations
mental "distraction"             psychoses
pinching, pricking                myoclonus of small muscle bundles on skin surface
"bites"                                  erythmata on skin surface, capillary hemorrhaging
eyes twisted                         oculogyric crises: gaze fixed upward, downward, to side 
inability to walk                   paresis: partial paralysis
neck twisted                         torticollis: spasm of neck muscles forces head to one side
repeating nonsense words    palilalia: repitition of one's own words
Whether Ms. Carlson's suspicions were correct, I do not know. But I do know that because of scientific discoveries, people's interpretations of "inexplicable" events change over time (as explanations become accessible). This knowledge caused me (a while back) to begin questioning what I had always taken for granted to be true about the (hyper)spiritual world. I began to question the validity of demon possession, and even instances of supernatural revelation (i.e., God "speaking" to someone, which claim so often leads to...um...let's say "non-positive" ends...).

WHERE THE BEES COME IN...

In one of my undergraduate courses, our professor had previously been a missionary in the Philippines for a while. He told of an individual who used to roam the streets there, crying out that bees (which were visible to no one but himself) were stinging him. But here is the clincher: he had visible stings.

Upon hearing this story, half (or most?) of me believed it an obvious proof of demonic activity. Another part of me wondered if the marks on his body were psychosomatic manifestations of whatever mental illness the man was experiencing. (Now I wonder if he might have had encephalitis too!) I guess I'll never know.

ON THE SWEETER SIDE OF THE HONEYCOMB...

Yesterday on Facebook, a very good friend of mine who, with her husband and two children recently moved to Hawaii where her husband is now the pastor of a church, posted this:
So thankful to the Lord for his protection our house caught fire last night while sleeping her a popping noise woke up and looked out window and back end of house was on fire . This is where [Daughter's] room is located [Husband] ran to put the fire out and I ran to get [Daughter] her room was filling with smoke got her out thanks to a helpful neighbor and then went to get [Son] he wouldn't wake up his room was full of smoke started dragging him down the hall he woke up then and got ou...t. I'm so thankful I know the Lord woke me up if not within a minute or two [Daughter's] room would of been engulfed as I got her out within a minute her window blew out. Thankful the Lord gave me 2 verses to pray yesterday over my kids and I told [Husband] the verses. My mom calls this morning telling me she felt a spirit of Death and the Lord gave her the Exact two verses to pray yesterday over her family. Thankful for my God!!
In a comment underneath, she later wrote:
Thankyou all for the sweet comments our pool pump caught on fire which is connected to the house. [...]the verses the Lord gave me yesterday were For he has given his angels charge over thee and in thy pathway is life no death. Also No evil will befall me neither shall any plaque come near my dwelling. I thought it was odd to pray over my children at the time but I did and laying here this morning the Lord reminded me of praying this and then my mom calls I don't tell her the scriptures and the exact two the Lord had her pray yesterday over her family. God had his hand on our kids and I'm so thankful. 
Things like this...just completely do a number on all my reason and objectivity. I KNOW these people; they are my very dear friends, with whom I have worked, spent holidays, and all but lived. I have known things like this to happen with them before (the freaky "knowing" part). I have known it to happen with other close church friends, too, just somehow "knowing" things, usually during times when they were in prayer. Yeah, you can chalk it up to intuition, I guess...but does intuition span so many miles...? Is it always so accurate...? What is intuition anyway?!

I don't know. I just can't explain it all away! I guess this is why, despite my changing beliefs about Jesus' mission and message, God's will and Being, and a host of other things, I still consider myself "Pentecostal". I still believe in the (not-so-hyper)spiritual. I still believe in the Holy Spirit.

Do you have any explanations or experiences you would like to share? Please do!
 
 
 
 
 
 

2 comments:

  1. I do know that God tells us in His Word that those that consider themselves wise by the world's standards will consider the gospel foolishness. And that His ways are higher than ours and we cannot understand them in full in this world. And in the end times Truth will become known as lies and lies will be known as truth. You can see the beginnings of this many places today.

    I do believe in demonic activity, but I don't think all of it is demon spirits indwelling people. I think there is a demon or demons of alcoholism, of drug addiction, gambling to excess, etc. That they more often than not, don't indwell, they are just on the fringe of our existence, exploiting our own weaknesses and genetic prepositions to lure us into sin and perversion.

    Think of how cunningly Satan tempted Eve in the garden. He only slightly twisted God's command and produced doubt in Eve's mind. That was enough.

    As to the Lord speaking directly to a person spiritually, I do believe He does. The Bible says He does. And he has to me a time or two. But what He speaks will NEVER contradict the Bible. Unfortunately, there are spiritual hucksters out there. There were in the early church...Paul warns of them. By and large, God communicates to us through His written Word by way of the Holy Spirit.

    May I propose you consider there are many New Testament churches. They all believe Jesus is the one and only Son of God, born of a virgin in the flesh. That He lived a sinless life and willing laid that life down to save us. Some are near hysterical with emotion in their worship. Some are staid and quiet in their worship. And there are many, many shades in between. I believe God knows how different we all are in personality and demeanor. I think He rejoices in that, in fact celebrates that and is pleased by all these various forms of worship.

    Life & Faith in Caneyhead

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  2. I think it's good that you have started to question all this spiritual/supernatural/magic stuff. Isn't it striking that there is a strong negative correlation between the increased understanding of science and the observations of witchcraft/acts of God? Many things that were earlier attributed to God can now be easily explained, such as earth quakes, lightning, deceases, and the northern light (aurora borealis).

    Have you ever asked the question: Why do people believe in God? I have, and since I'm pretty much a rational person (and scientist), I have concluded on the following 3 explanations:
    1. Because of observations we can't explain.
    2. Because of our collective fear of death (there must be something more, after life ends)
    3. Because we learn it from our parents (why are there more Catholics in Rome and more Muslims in Mekka? It's not because some have found the true God and some not).

    Whatever; science does not rule out the existence of God. Science doesn't really compete with religion, because science only deals with hypothesis and models that can be confirmed (or rejected) by observations. Religion and God is a simple question; believe it or not >:)

    Cold As Heaven

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