A reader responded to my post on helping my daughter go to sleep:
I found your experience with Tobias and the prayer to relinquish the influence of another spirit fascinating. I think I understand and agree with what you and Tobias did. My question is this – how does one identify such foreign influences in one’s life? I understand that it is through the Holy Spirit, and in this case clearly Tobias was led to advise you this was not of God. But, as an example, if I had learned some relaxation techniques in college (which I did), techniques which were secular (they were) and seemingly spiritually ‘neutral’ (meaning not related to yoga or TM or another religious practice), then…
Do these represent another authority and spirit, or are they more along the lines of, say, learning physical exercises such as stretches to relax muscles? What if you had simply made Lydia a cup of chamomile tea, but neglected to ask God to show her how He would help her?
No and yes. No, they are not grounded in the demonic, nor are they a denial of Christ. They aren’t even wrong, per se. But look how fast we jump to “remedies” before we jump into the arms of Christ. Hey, what I am saying here is convicting to me. Why are we in such a hurry to solve the problem, rather than ask Jesus why I’m having a hard time relaxing. The Bible has plenty to say about relaxing, so there is plenty of reason to consider that there MAY be a spiritual connection.
As I begin to filter more of my life through what happened with this incident, it starts to get scary how much we are controlled by “vain imaginations” that have nothing to do with God. Look at Col. 2:8.
“See to it that no one takes you captive through hollow and deceptive philosophy, which depends on human tradition and the basic principles of this world rather than on Christ.” I’m going to make a conjecture about this verse, and I may even post my answer to you to see if anyone will respond (though I confess Lydia gets more online responses than I do by far!). I’m well aware that non-Christian philosophies are damaging, not only because they deny Christ and all that implies, but also because of what they affirm. They are full of lies that lead people into lives that are destructive and even dangerous. That being said, I’m not sure that’s the emphasis of this passage. I think that the discussion here is about the fact that they are “empty” and “human” – as opposed to Christ-filled. They are based on “tradition” and the “elemental spirits.” There is debate over what the latter term “stoicheia” means. The word means “rudiments” or “elements.” I think I am on at least defensible grounds when I suggest that we are talking here about systems that propose to follow “the way things are.” That is, they follow natural patterns, or they conform to natural examples, or the well-founded traditions of men. Astronomy and all the modern sciences would fall under this.
Here is where my claim may seem radical, but not so if Paul is not emphasizing their wrongness, but rather their independence from Christ. Notice that Paul starts to admonish the Collossians in verse 8 and picks up the thread in verse 16. Everything else is a theological grounding for his insistence that their radical commitment to Christ is in fact not crazy, as their world would have judged, but rather the real Truth that informs victorious living. Read verses 9-15 from the perspective of someone caught up in the thinking of verses 16-17 and 21-23. Such a person seems to have a measure of wisdom grounded in experience. If a true test for comparison is the “philosophy’s” impact on the person, then we see that the approaches advocated by the world (vv. 21-23) may have the desired effect on the body (e.g., behavior), but not on the flesh (v. 23), which, of course, the world cannot touch, because the flesh (spiritual nature) is a matter of the heart, which is deceitful and wicked.
Over and over again, third world Christians tell us that the reason there are hardly any miracles in the West is because we don’t need them. How do we not need them? We act like we don’t because of our dependence on Science and our implicit faith in naturalistic reasoning, which is Greek philosophy. This is where we get defensive and shout, “but are you saying that modern medicine is of the Devil?” If Paul, as I argue, is not emphasizing the wrongness of philosophy, but its independence from Christ, then it helps us see the resolution. The problem comes in actually trying to imagine what medicine would really look like if it were founded wholly on Christ. I think it’s better to leave it at that for imagination’s sake, rather than try to attempt a description. I think this approach disarms the whole polarized discussion about science vs. faith.
The conclusion: Your question takes off the table any question about an approach’s demonic origin. That’s good; it’s a red herring.
1. Where is your reliance? Christ or the elemental spirits?
2. What is your goal? resolution of a problem, or God’s glory?