Apr 10

Testing the spirits

"What is the air-speed velocity of a swallow?"

I overheard an odd conversation today between what looked to be a man and his adult grandson. They were talking about the appearances of angels, and the working of miracles. The older man referred to 1 John 4:1, and mentioned the need to test the spirits to see whether they are of God.

At this, the younger man said, "You have to test the spirits by asking the spirit, 'Who do you serve.' If you ask him that, then he has to tell you the truth." Unfortunately, the older man seemed to actually agree with him.

I have to say that this one took me off guard. I have heard bad explanations of "test the spirits" before, but this one takes the cake. For the moment, let's lay aside the obvious response, that "testing the spirits" refers specifically to false prophets, and is an exact parallel to Isaiah 8:10, ("To the law and to the testimony! If they do not speak according to this word, it is because there is no light in them."). It is not surprising to me in the least that there would be such ignorance, but what is notable is that this was clearly something taught both these men.

This is certainly a doctrine of devils, designed to circumvent any examination of false doctrine, or for that matter, any real "testing" of real honest-to-goodness "spirits" which might happen to manifest themselves, perhaps in lying signs and wonders, visions, etc.

Which brings me to my question: Has anyone ever heard of this before? Is this some established doctrine of one of the cults? It seems to be a perfect fit.

It reminds me of those who perform exorcisms, and always begin by asking the "spirit", "What is your name?" And then, of course, the next question is, "What is your quest?"

Sorry, couldn't resist. But it may as well be. It makes about as much sense.


I'm a Lutheran pastor, a CTO, a father, amateur photographer, programmer, Irish music fan, and all around geek, but I only have one blog. So, you will find here a mix of theology, photography, geek speak, family news, and whatever else strikes my fancy. If you get confused, there are now categories…




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