The gospel is not a treatment.

My day job is being a physician to the mad. In that job, there is a scholarly discussion, complete with randomized trials, on the use of spirituality as a therapeutic goal: at present there are two streams of this: one is Muslim psychiatrists talking about Islamic focused therapy, and the other is the use of meditation techniques taken from Hindu and Buddhist approaches to teach mindfulness and compassion.

A couple of years ago I went to a seminar on mindfulness because I did not understand what it was about (The Canadian Psychiatry Meeting, about 2011) and one of the leaders there said overtly it is teaching meditation, and to be a mindfulness therapist you must meditate an hour a day. I thought, at the time, this is wrong.


I’d rather spend an hour in the word of God and prayer. I should spend an hour a day in mindfulness and prayer. But the Gospel of Christ is not here for our happiness, our prosperity, or even our healing. It is here to reconcile us with God, so we will be with him beyond this life.

And there is a risk in claiming the Spiritual has some therapeutic value.

The Sons of Sceva

And God was doing extraordinary miracles by the hands of Paul, so that even handkerchiefs or aprons that had touched his skin were carried away to the sick, and their diseases left them and the evil spirits came out of them. Then some of the itinerant Jewish exorcists undertook to invoke the name of the Lord Jesus over those who had evil spirits, saying, “I adjure you by the Jesus whom Paul proclaims.” Seven sons of a Jewish high priest named Sceva were doing this. But the evil spirit answered them, “Jesus I know, and Paul I recognize, but who are you?” And the man in whom was the evil spirit leaped on them, mastered all of them and overpowered them, so that they fled out of that house naked and wounded. And this became known to all the residents of Ephesus, both Jews and Greeks. And fear fell upon them all, and the name of the Lord Jesus was extolled. Also many of those who were now believers came, confessing and divulging their practices. And a number of those who had practiced magic arts brought their books together and burned them in the sight of all. And they counted the value of them and found it came to fifty thousand pieces of silver. So the word of the Lord continued to increase and prevail mightily.

(Acts 19:11-20 ESV)

The first thing we need to understand is that just because we are saved we are not perfect. We still have the training and habits of the flesh: we still seek reconciliation and respite in the rituals, in the habits and in the substances we have always used. In times of stress we return to them.

The second thing we need to recall is that we are not promised happiness within this life and in this time. The spirit of this world is not the spirit of God. Instead, it imitates such. I have no doubt the sons of Scaeva had some success in healing. But when they cast out demons calling for Jesus to help without a relationship and the consequent obedience of Christ, they were vulnerable.

I mistrust those who speak of spirituality.

I mistrust those more who talk about spiritual therapy, and healing, often using a combination of Jungian, Freudian, Mindfulness and Oprah. I know too much about the people who developed these things: Freud was at least a safe set of hands but I would not let any female friend near that lecher Jung.

Much better to see them as writing fiction: as Charles Stross calls it — weaving lies for our entertainment.

The job of sanctification is around, every day, choosing not to go to that sin which we love, be it sexual romances (visual or written), booze, weed, overwork, gambling, or the cinnabom of diabetes. Whatever gets between you and God. This is the hard work of obedience. Our society makes it too easy to avoid these things.

It speaks the prettiest of lies: that we are worthy and right just as we are. This is a lie. Instead of sitting listening to those twittering about spirituality and their development, do something. Hit the gym. Get your diet right. Pray. Read the word.

Do your duty.

The gospel is for our salvation and powerful for this: all else is ephemera.

God and Empire?

The idea of a holy war, or jihad. predates the Islamists by a couple of thousand years. But we then have to ask ourselves what this means. For today’s text is as much about revolution and aggression., and it is as much about us as our enemies.

Psalm 149

5   Let the faithful exult in glory;
let them sing for joy on their couches.
6   Let the high praises of God be in their throats
and two-edged swords in their hands,
7   to execute vengeance on the nations
and punishment on the peoples,
8   to bind their kings with fetters
and their nobles with chains of iron,
9   to execute on them the judgment decreed.
This is glory for all his faithful ones.
Praise the Lord!

As an aside, when people talk about Christians and Jews being weak and easily defeated… they do not like it when I start muttering decisive battles. From Lepanto to the Yom Kippur war. Well, if all you hear is ideology and no history, you will repeat the mistakes of your forefathers.   For war is a human affliction, and as a subject of Her Majesty, I live in a country from an empire, that has fought for God and Empire.

We were good at it. We are good at it.

But that is not what the real war is. The real war is a series of choices. Our true loyalty is to God alone, not to Queen, our country.

Colossians 3:1-17

1So if you have been raised with Christ, seek the things that are above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. 2 Set your minds on things that are above, not on things that are on earth, 3 for you have died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God. 4 When Christ who is your life is revealed, then you also will be revealed with him in glory. 5 Put to death, therefore, whatever in you is earthly: fornication, impurity, passion, evil desire, and greed (which is idolatry). 6 On account of these the wrath of God is coming on those who are disobedient. 7 These are the ways you also once followed, when you were living that life. 8 But now you must get rid of all such things – anger, wrath, malice, slander, and abusive language from your mouth. 9 Do not lie to one another, seeing that you have stripped off the old self with its practices 10 and have clothed yourselves with the new self, which is being renewed in knowledge according to the image of its creator. 11 In that renewal there is no longer Greek and Jew, circumcised and uncircumcised, barbarian, Scythian, slave and free; but Christ is all and in all!

We spend a lot of time in this life arguing about fornication, divorce and children. Now, given the state of the current mating environment, this is appropriate. But that is not the full teaching. We are not to be greedy, abusive, malicious, slanderous.

Here we have to watch ourselves. You are faithful? You do not look past the beauty of your wife? Excellent. But. like Captain Mal from Serenity, is your sin of Choice Wrath? Or Greed? Or are you a slanderous, gossiping troll? We all have our favourite ways to err.

These are considered the things of the flesh. And in Christ, we should do the works of Christ. With arms or without.