The Question Box
By Norman Grubb
May-June 1985 – Union Life Magazine
Q. My purpose for writing is to get your perspective on the place of the many elements of Eastern religion/philosophy and “New Age” thinking that are present in the union message. So you’ll know that I’m not on some kind of “tangent”, let me give some background that led up to my discovery of these similarities.
I have a close friend who has made a detour from the faith, and has come to believe that “Christ within” is true of all humanity, regardless of whether or not they’ve accepted Jesus Christ’s death as atonement for sin.
I have always been fascinated with counterfeits, and have taken the time to read about various cults and counterfeit teachers that are prominent today. Since I had not heard of the “New Age” movement, I decided to do some reading about it, and picked up a book entitled The Hidden Dangers of the Rainbow, by Constance Cumbey. I ended up in a “New Age” bookstore that carried many of the writings that Miss Cumbey cited, as well as other Eastern and Occult books. I purchased some of these books, and scanned many more while in the store.
What disturbs me is that many of these books sound very much like what some of the folks at your meetings say, save for the difference in terminology. I picked up a book entitled Yin-Yang, and was startled to read a detailed teaching on the law of opposites. I looked at a book on the Tao, and read of the one God in the universe that brings oneness to the world. In other books, I read of the dark side of God, calling things into being by our words, recognizing Christ in us, and on and on.
I realize that the difference in their teaching of the Christ within is that our foundation is the Cross. We can only experience Christ within by recognizing our inability to live up to God’s standard and by putting our faith in Jesus Christ’s ability to do so. His death, burial, resurrection, and ascension are what make possible the giving of His spirit to us. Rather than the “Christ within” being true of all humanity, the natural state of man is to have Satan (self-loving self) within. Each person must die in order for the nature of Christ to replace the self-loving self.
I’ve heard of you speak to others of Taoism, etc., so I assume that you must have reconciled the similarities between Taoism and your teachings, or is this the precise counterfeit of our message? If so, is our only way of discerning the true from the false to get back to the foundation of the Cross? Do we need to always start there, regardless of our assumptions about the people we’re sharing with?
A. How good to get this letter from you with its full digging into the problems you raise. You’ve not only dug out the false root, but replaced it with God’s tree of truth—the Cross!
Many meet these alternative “faiths” in which there seems to be so much light, and then begin to ask the questions: “Is this true?” or “Which is true?” You yourself give the answer!
The answer is quite plain and simple, once the Spirit has enlightened us with the simplicity of His ways. Nothing can consciously be known except by its opposite—Yin-Yang knows that, and all the great “see-ers” of history have known it as you mention: Lao-Tse of the Tao. But it is only in the Scriptures, God’s revelation, that the truth is made plain.
We all have been caught up by the false negative, Satan, that we might come to and learn once and for all the root of all sin—independent self. Thus, when we accept Jesus we are free from the root of all sin, but only because he went through the dying process for all mankind. This then is our simple touchstone. If anyone claims any truth and light which is not based on a death to that old way of life and resurrection to the new, we know it is off-base and is only elevating a lying Satan-form of self.
Now as to those who never could have known the historic Christ, I am not saying that they did not have an inner recognition of the Spirit and of the death-resurrection reality. For instance, Moses knew “the reproach of Christ” (!), and Abraham “rejoiced to see His day.” And so I have to assume that some of the great see-ers of the past, such as Lao Tse, may have seen and inwardly known this resurrection. For that reason I glean truth from all sources, relate it back to my foundation (the Cross), and seek to profit by it. I don’t see myself as the judge of the inner truth of a human source, except that now that Jesus has been manifested as the Christ, I just do not accept those that claim some “New Age” thought which is not based on the Cross.
Q. Do Christians have evil tendencies? How do you explain the apparent downward pull in the born-again person? What about Paul’s Romans Seven words: “sin that dwells in me,” and “I see a law in my members warring against the law of my mind, and bringing me into captivity to the law of sin which is in my members”? Please explain.
A. This is a big question to answer in a few words. Put shortly, we humans have no nature of our own. We are branches manifesting the fruit of a vine (Rom. 6:21, 22), and so our nature is to produce the fruit of the vine of which we are a member.
But, you ask, what about the downward pulls experienced by Christians? Temptations, according to James 1:13, are the pulls on our humanity—the normal flesh impulses of body or soul (physical or emotional). When we were in our former condition as branches of the Satanic vine, the pulls were from the Holy Spirit without to return to God (just as God “temped” Abraham—Genesis 22:1). Now in our fixed union with Christ as branch to Him our Vine, the outer pull on our flesh is Satan tempting us. We might even succumb to the temptation, and thus sin, finding our restoration as indicated in 1 John 1:9.
But the “pulls” do not mean that we have two natures, but, rather, that our humanity is created in its aliveness to “respond to environment.” It expresses the one “deity” nature indwelling us, but it is also open to the temptation of the other spirit (see those who spirits named in 1 John 4:6).
Paul speaks of “sin that dwells in me” in the present tense of Romans 7:17, because he speaks as in the illusory condition of all believers, until by personal act of faith they move into the victory of Romans Eight. Paul exchanges his 7:17 statement of indwelling sin for the freedom of Romans 8:2. What he had once reckoned by faith (Rom. 6:11), he now realized in inner Spirit-knowing (Rom. 8:2). He finally recognized that the expressions of “sinful nature” which still appeared in him from time to time were the operations of, not he, but sin in him (7:17); and now he knew that it was “deceiving” him (7:11). Paul knew that “indwelling sin” had been cast out in Christ’s death and resurrection, but he had to recognize that fact by personal faith before it would become experience.
Q. When you were in our area recently, one of the people at the fellowship meeting asked about prayer. You replied, “The God in you prays to the transcendent God.” In the past, you have been quoted as saying, “I never pray.” I know that there is a paradox here, but please explain what you mean.
A. A Prayer in the Spirit expressing His mind by us (“Praying in the Holy Ghost”—Jude 20; “The spirit of supplications”—Zech. 12:10). So it is He in us as us communing with the Father and the Son. When I say I don’t pray, I am referring to the kind of prayer which is a formal duty. Paul says, “Pray without ceasing,” so prayer can only be a continuity, a permanently inner relationship of communion, expressed in whatever inner or outer form the Spirit leads us.