My article, “Out of the Darkness and Into the Light” served as the cover story for Prophecy in the News Magazine, October Issue (just in time for Halloween!) Here is the longer version (33% longer) of the same article. If you are not a subscriber to Prophecy In the News Magazine, click HERE. Hope you enjoy the article.
Out of the Darkness and Into the Light
There are many powerful images in the Bible. The image of light and darkness comprises one of the most commanding. Light represents righteousness—evil darkness. Everyone appreciates this image—it comprises an archetype embedded deep within the human psyche. Who doesn’t acknowledge that evil lurks in the dark while light drives the darkness away?
The metaphor of light and dark is pervasive. Wisdom teaches that crime occurs more often at night than in the day. In ages past, when darkness swallowed up the sunlight, cities established sentinels in towers and on city walls to stand watch. In our day, when children go to bed, they fear their closets have become hideouts for monsters. Likewise, adults often abhor the night because our darkest fears assault us most when we turn out the lights and our house grows quiet.
The Psalmist counsels us, “Blessed is the people that know the joyful sound: they shall walk, O LORD, in the light of thy countenance.” (Psalm 89:15) Another Psalm asks rhetorically, “For thou hast delivered my soul from death: wilt not thou deliver my feet from falling, that I may walk before God in the light of the living?” (Psalm 56:13) Jesus instructs his followers: “Yet a little while is the light with you. Walk while ye have the light, lest darkness come upon you: for he that walketh in darkness knoweth not whither he goeth.” (John 12:35)
In the fall of the year, when the days grow shorter, the nights grow darker, and our culture celebrates ghosts, goblins, and the paranormal (October 31 is Halloween of course), Christians face a dilemma. Society challenges Christians to judge whether it’s permissible to be entertained by scary movies, tales of the macabre, and especially whether our children should wear ghoulish costumes that recall the Gaelic festival, Samhain, which celebrates the Celtic god of death. After all, Christians are to be known as children of the day, not children of the night. As believers committed to the Kingdom of God, failing to detect this inherent conflict, means our “discernment meter” lacks adequate sensitivity.
So we must ask ourselves, “Should we countenance the world of evil at all? Are dark tales harmful to us? Are we giving ground to the dark side? Can we tolerate the gruesome? Or is there a balance here? Can wading in the sea of the supernatural actually intensify our faith?” This article intends to shed light (no pun intended) on this timely and often controversial matter.
Needless to say, our culture grows darker day by day. Consider the many television programs about vampires and zombies. The Walking Dead continues to be one of TV’s most popular shows. Fallen Skies builds upon the modern fear that the apocalypse will begin when aliens disclose themselves to earthlings. The History Channel’s Ancient Aliens mixes “the gospel of ET” with pseudo-science and mystery to add a chill to its presentation. Then there is Murder TV. It constitutes one of the most popular genres in entertainment. Entire networks deal with murder with its multiple methods and motives. Many of these top television programs fixate on serial killers exposing their sickness in graphic detail. Drama builds when police detectives set about to catch the madman before he kills again.
Why do we love horror stories? Why are so-called “slasher movies” so popular with teenagers? What compels so many to buy a $10.00 ticket to witness (obviously staged) paranormal activities on “found film”? Why do we enjoy sordid tales that make our skin crawl?
There are many experts in the field of psychology that study the phenomenon. There are some interesting explanations—some that are distressing while other reasons given can be deemed encouraging. First, the basic physiological reason: we experience intense stimulation—fright sends our bodies into chemical overdrive. It literally comprises a sensational experience. Second, the limited timespan promises a release after an hour or two. This also releases certain chemical substances into our bloodstream. We experience a strong feeling of relief knowing that the monster was smashed to death or the ghastly murderer was put down. However, there is more to why we like to be frightened than a mere fanciful experience.
For children, stories about evil people teach important lessons about trust and caution. From our vantage point, the original Grimm’s Fairy Tales overdid the evil done to the victims. Nevertheless, it was a much harsher time then when matters of life and death were everyday occurrences and children needed (or so their parents thought) to be scared to death, lest they wander off into the dark forest and be eaten by carnivores lurking there. For teenagers today, experts indicate that horror movies are popular because they reinforce societal roles for men and women. Girls scream while boys master their fear and laugh at rampaging zombies pillaging the living. For adolescents protected from most forms of evil, being exposed to manifested madness serves as a vicarious thrill.
This was our family’s experience. Our kids felt very safe at home with their parents and at their school. Violence and murder were restricted to the world of “entertainment.” It appealed to them in part because it was so foreign to the world they lived in.
On the other hand, for adults the reasons are less obvious. Many times the appeal lies in the logic employed by detectives to determine what has happened at a crime scene, profiling the serial killer and the recognizing insane patterns in the minds of psychopaths. We find such knowledge fascinating. In an inexplicable sense, it’s reassuring to know that such killers are truly sick and different from “the normal people like us” who follow society’s rules. Because the criminally insane portray such a stark contrast, we feel safer in our own skin. Unlike real life, the bad guy usually “gets what’s coming to him.” The entertainment contains the thrill of danger too—and that remains an important ingredient.
However, academics investigating this issue point out that almost all adults lose interest in the horror genre as they grow older. Life has provided enough true stories about real murder, violence, and mayhem. Adults need no reminder that evil exists—so the mature prefer to think about happier themes. Finally, for adults who are parents, happily most retain a sense that they should shield their children from violence and scary images. Especially when we are children, we have an innate fear of frightening faces—nature seems to have supplied all of us an instinctual alarm built deep into our DNA.
In his gospel, John underscores the linkage between being evil and doing evil: “And this is the condemnation, that light is come into the world, and men loved darkness rather than light, because their deeds were evil. For every one that doeth evil hateth the light, neither cometh to the light, lest his deeds should be reproved.” (John 3:19-20) It’s in this context that John recounts the metaphor used by Jesus to explain what sets Christ apart and why we should follow His commandments: “Then spake Jesus again unto them, saying, ‘I am the light of the world: he that followeth me shall not walk in darkness, but shall have the light of life.’” (John 8:12)
In the Book of Acts, Paul recounts his conversion—Jesus Christ appeared to him on the road to Damascus in blinding light. The visionary appearance of Jesus which Paul describes, employs this metaphor and presents a synopsis of the meaning of the gospel: “But rise, and stand upon thy feet: for I have appeared unto thee for this purpose…To open their eyes, and to turn them from darkness to light, and from the power of Satan unto God, that they may receive forgiveness of sins, and inheritance among them which are sanctified by faith that is in me.” (Acts 26:16,18)
The reality of the supernatural holds a strange intrigue for Bible-believing Christians. This issue demands we throw some light on the subject also (again, no pun intended). We who are People of the Book assume the supernatural realm exists—a dimension where angels and demons dwell. We believe in otherworldly places, namely heaven and hell. We believe in the ultimate supernatural being, the Lord God Himself. And yet, the experience we have day in and day out, seldom demonstrates anything but natural causes and effects. Upon reflection, we readily admit to witnessing “minor miracles” all the time. These are usually circumstances happening in such a way we discern the Lord stands behind the scenes, making things work together for our good (Romans 8:28). Candidly, this realization comprises the “standard way” we experience God’s presence and reassurance that He walks alongside us and is looking out for us. It remains His manner of reinforcing our faith virtually every day.
Proverbs 16:9 teaches, “A person plans his course, but the LORD directs his steps.” While Proverbs 20:24 reminds us, “The steps of a person are ordained by the LORD—so how can anyone understand his own way?” And yet, we yearn for more demonstrable examples of God breaking into the everyday world, the mundane, and making us aware of His power and presence in an unmistakable way. We want to be “wowed”.
This seeking for the sensational, however, is a temptation about which the spiritually minded need to be wary. Too much of our focus in the prophetic community focuses on the unexplained, the paranormal, the work of the devil, and the grand conspiracies in our world that our enemy no doubt inspires. Jesus rebuked the leaders of his day for failing to discern the “signs of the times.” On the other hand, he rebuked the entire populace for fixating on seeking spectacular signs. “And when the people were gathered thick together, he began to say, ‘This is an evil generation: they seek a sign; and there shall no sign be given it, but the sign of Jonas the prophet.’” (Luke 11:29) It is my opinion that an unabated interest in UFOs, the nephilim, the illuminati, Satanic Ritual Abuse, and the like threatens to suck us into the darkness unawares. These realities exist and we are blessed to have ministers who tackle blatant evil in the trenches where these realities manifest. And it stands to reason that there are lessons to be learned from knowing something about the evil deeds of those who habitually walk in the darkness. Plus, the Bible tells it to us straight: the good, the bad, and the ugly. Certainly, spiritual warfare should be a part of the Christian experience. Nonetheless, it should not captivate us to the point where we distance ourselves from our community by becoming vocal advocates for paranormal phenomena; supposing our advocacy amounts to witnessing for the Kingdom. We must exercise caution here. Championing the highly strange may mark us as unstable persons and thereby lose our platform for testimony—no longer able to witness to the riches and relevance of Christ living within us. Indeed, our mission as Christians rests not in our knowledge of the paranormal, but as light bearers to those that live in darkness (Matthew 5:14, Luke 11:33). If we dwell in that same darkness as they do, we have no light to offer them.
C.S. Lewis pointed out in The Screwtape Letters that the devil tricks us in two ways: one—that he does not exist; two—that he does exist and he can be thrilling to follow. However, the average Christian must shun the inclination to dwell too much on the dark side. As we said before, there are ministers who are called to stare down evil and destroy the works of the devil. It is for this reason Christ came “For this purpose the Son of God was manifested, that he might destroy the works of the devil.” (1 John 3:8) Proof derived from the paranormal does demonstrate that the supernatural dimension exists, and it’s proven dangerously close and all too easy to access. Indeed, witnessing a demonic encounter amazes us and likely energizes our faith. But Jesus cautioned the 70 disciples he commissioned to preach the Kingdom around the countryside when:
“The seventy returned again with joy, saying, Lord, even the devils are subject unto us through thy name…” [But then Jesus admonished them] Notwithstanding in this rejoice not, that the spirits are subject unto you; but rather rejoice, because your names are written in heaven. (Luke 10:17, 20)
In his epistles, Paul frequently resorts to this same metaphor: “Ye are all the children of light, and the children of the day: we are not of the night, nor of darkness.”
(1 Thessalonians 5:5) Paul explains that our human nature itself reflects darkness and not light: “For ye were sometimes darkness, but now are ye light in the Lord: walk as children of light.” (Ephesians 5:8) And again: “In whom the god of this world hath blinded the minds of them which believe not, lest the light of the glorious gospel of Christ, who is the image of God, should shine unto them.” (2 Corinthians 4:4)
The Apostle John uses this metaphor extensively in his writing. He testifies, “This then is the message which we have heard of him, and declare unto you, that God is light, and in him is no darkness at all.” (1 John 1:5) Since there is no darkness in God, John admonishes believers with these words, “But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship one with another, and the blood of Jesus Christ his Son cleanseth us from all sin.” (1 John 1:7) Thus, the inverse logically follows: if we walk in darkness, our sin is not cleansed. We must be vigilant and watch our steps—carefully.
James testifies to the same reality with vivid and inspiring words: “Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, and cometh down from the Father of lights, with whom is no variableness, neither shadow of turning.” (James 1:17)
One of my favorite Bible verses encompasses a description of the Christian community and why we are to be distinct from the culture and society around us. We are not called to separate ourselves from the world, but to remain so we might impact it for good. Yet, while living in the world, existing side-by-side with believers and non-believers, we must live according to the high standard of God’s Kingdom—a kingdom of light, not darkness.
So as we consider how much to allow the dark side into our lives, we should prioritize our high calling and recall the reason God has placed us in this world. Our calling should consume us such that precious little time remains to assay the darkness in the world whose means and methods the enemy has designed to achieve his sinister agenda.
“But ye are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, an holy nation, a peculiar people; that ye should shew forth the praises of him who hath called you
out of darkness into his marvelous light.” (1 Peter 2:9)
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