By Brannon Howse
The Scripture: For he who is not against us is on our side.
The Twist: This scripture is used to validate a sort of inclusivity that says, “I know that person’s not a Christian, but he’s not against Christianity, so he must be on our side.”
One person in particular that many people think of in this regard is Glenn Beck. People have e-mailed me over the years with sentiments such as this: “Brannon, we are thankful that God is using Glenn Beck.”
Really? God is using Glenn Beck, a New Age Mormon? A guy who has made statements like, “We need a Jesus and a Buddha.”
I don’t think so.
Don’t believe for one minute that God is using Glenn Beck for the advancement of righteousness when he has gathered together leaders from all religions—including Muslim imams—in a spiritual enterprise to look to the “one God” Beck has proclaimed. God would not use Glenn Beck or anyone else to gather Christians together with another Jesus, another Gospel, or false religions. To do so would be a clear violation of Romans 16:17: “Now I urge you, brethren, note those who cause divisions and offenses, contrary to the doctrine which you learned, and avoid them.”
Second John 9-11 also tells us why God is not using Glenn Beck:
Whoever transgresses and does not abide in the doctrine of Christ does not have God. He who abides in the doctrine of Christ has both the Father and the Son. If anyone comes to you and does not bring this doctrine, do not receive him into your house nor greet him; for he who greets him shares in his evil deeds.
In other words, don’t give a greeting of solidarity to anyone who preaches a different Jesus and another Gospel. Paul also sounds this warning in 2 Corinthians 6:14:
Do not be unequally yoked together with unbelievers. For what fellowship has righteousness with lawlessness? And what communion has light with darkness?
So to people who say “God is using Glenn Beck,” I say, “Baloney!”
The misguided thinking that God does use Beck, though, is disappointingly widespread. The president of a Midwestern radio network sent me an e-mail a few years ago affirming that “God is using Glenn Beck.” As so often happens, Mark 9:40 is the proof text, but in this passage, Mark 9:40 is not talking about unbelievers. Look at what verse 38 shows about the context:
Now John answered Him, saying, “Teacher, we saw someone who does not follow us casting out demons in Your name, and we forbade him because he does not follow us.”
But Jesus said, “Do not forbid him, for no one who works a miracle in My name can soon afterward speak evil of Me.”
What is Jesus saying here? I believe Jesus was chiding them a bit for their sense of spiritual superiority. The disciples opposed the man because he wasn’t following them, but Jesus explains that what is important is whether or not the man follows Him.
In evaluating this scripture, it is pertinent to wonder: “Who was this person casting out demons?” Whoever he was, he apparently succeeded at casting out a demon, and we are left to believe that he was a true follower of Jesus Christ.
From many hours of in-depth study of this topic, I believe that the power to cast out a demon falls into the category of “signs and wonders.” One implication of this categorization is that I don’t believe people today are running around casting out demons because they don’t have authority over demons. To be sure, God has authority over demons, but I read nowhere in the Scriptures that Christians today have such authority.
And why is it that contemporary Christians have no authority over demons? Because signs and wonders were given for the establishment of the Church in the New Testament, but the power was for that period only. People do not have the gift of multiplying food or raising the dead nowadays, despite the silly claims of false teachers.
Because of this classification of exorcism as one of the signs and wonders, the question of the man’s identity in Mark 9 is an important theological question that we must cover if we’re going to have a consistent hermeneutic. So who is he? The short answer is that we don’t know because Scripture does not tell us. But we cannot assume it is just a random person who spontaneously starts casting out demons. If that were the case, we’ve got a hermeneutics problem in trying to be consistent in our understanding that casting out a demon was something done only by people who had the gift of signs and wonders.
In order to apply some intelligent, biblical speculation to the question, I studied many different Bible commentaries, some of which are very old. Several of them noted that this man must have been one of the disciples of John the Baptist, who was the last Old Testament prophet. These older commentaries also speculated that it could have been one of the 70 commissioned by Jesus but not yet known by the apostles. Wesley’s Explanatory Notes on Mark 9 reads:
Probably this was one of John the Baptist’s disciples, who believed in Jesus, though he did not yet associate with our Lord’s disciples.
It’s important to explain this because we don’t want to leave the impression that just anybody has the ability to perform signs and wonders. As I’ve said before, this ability was given to a specific group of people for a specific purpose—to give credibility to the Gospel and the foundational doctrine of the Church laid down by the apostles.
In addressing this scripture twist, we’re involved with two issues. First, it is wrong to say that “he who is not against us is on our side” can apply to a nonbeliever like Glenn Beck. The man this verse refers to is a believer. We know that because he was successful in casting out a demon, and Jesus did not condemn the man. Rather, He actually stopped His disciples from being critical of the man.
Does that mean false teachers today don’t attempt to cast out demons? Unfortunately, no. Indeed they do claim to do such things. But look at Matthew 7:22-23:
Many will say to Me in that day, “Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in Your name, cast out demons in Your name, and done many wonders in Your name?” And then I will declare to them, “I never knew you; depart from Me, you who practice lawlessness!”
In this Matthew passage, we see false teachers trying to cast out demons or saying they’ve cast out demons, and, perhaps like the people addressed in this scripture, today’s false teachers make some wild claims about what they do. I’ve heard some say that if you have allergies, it’s a demon of allergies. If you have a toothache, it’s the sore tooth demon. A backache demon causes backaches, and so on. They think there is a demon behind every bush, and every problem you have is because of a demon that needs to be cast out. If you show up at one of their meetings and have enough faith (and throw enough money in the plate), then the false teacher supposedly can cast out your demon of back pain or tooth ache or whatever it might be. Talk about twisted!
So Matthew 7:22-23 says false teachers will claim they cast out demons, but I don’t think they really do. False teachers may even act like they’re casting out demons, but are they really casting out demons? No—because they have no authority to do it.
Matthew 7:16-20 explains another reason why a person like Glenn Beck is not “for us.” It says:
You will know them by their fruits. Do men gather grapes from thornbushes or figs from thistles? Even so, every good tree bears good fruit, but a bad tree bears bad fruit. A good tree cannot bear bad fruit, nor can a bad tree bear good fruit. Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire. Therefore by their fruits you will know them.
And what fruit are we talking about here? It’s their doctrinal fruit.
Does Glenn Beck proclaim biblical truth? No! Read his book Seven Wonders That Will Change Your Life, and you’ll see why I say that. In it you will discover the following:
On page 79, Beck and Ablow promote transcendental meditation and Eastern mysticism.
On 85 we read, “As you commit to unlocking and bringing forth the truth inside you, don’t be afraid to pray for help. Don’t be reticent to sit with yourself in silence and meditate. Connect with the miracle of spirit, of God, that has lived inside you from long before you were born.” (Christian mediation is not about “bringing forth the truth inside of you,” nor is it about contacting God who has “lived inside you from long before you were born.” This is not biblical, and any Christian who thinks otherwise is either a false convert or is biblically illiterate.)
On page 132 Beck and Ablow encourage readers to “Pray to whatever higher power you believe in…. Praying that God or Nature or the Cosmos or your own internal, immeasurable reservoir of spirit allows you the courage and faith to find and then face the truth.”
In several places readers are told it really does not matter what religion or religious leader they follow. On page 157 Beck writes, “Finding what worked for me made all the difference. Finding what works for you will do the same.”
On page 74 the reader is instructed to “Just be sure you visit with a minister or therapist from a religion or healing discipline you actually have affinity for, or suspect you might.”
On page 236, reincarnation is promoted through the writings of Robert Pirsig’s book, Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance, “the ‘spirit’ of Chris or the ‘ghost’ of Chris, then you can say without further translation that the spirit or ghost of Chris is looking for a new body to enter.”
Several Christians have told me Beck does not really know much about the Mormon faith, but that is not what Beck writes in his book. This is what he says about how thoroughly he investigated the Mormon faith:
I questioned everything I could think to question about the faith. I went over my doubts again and again with the church bishop. I read everything there was to read on their website and every word of Mormon Doctrine.…I went to anti-Mormon literature for hints, but I found most of it to be unfair or just plain wrong. I tried every trick I could think of to find a contradiction. The problem was that I couldn’t. Mormonism seemed to explain the world and my place in it better than any other faith I had looked at.” (page 149-150)
“Latter-day Saints do not believe that your chances ever cease, even with death. They end only with the full understanding and denial of truth by your own exercise of real free will. And even then there is no ‘lake of fire.” (page 149)
“As Keith likes to say, ‘There’s no original sin left in the world. Everyone’s just recycling pain now.’” (page 154)
“There is no infant delivered evil, out of the womb. There never has been. Not even one. … Charles Manson was not born evil. Ted Bundy wasn’t. The BTK killer wasn’t. Hitler wasn’t.” (page 162)
To the contrary, the Bible says all have sinned and fallen short of the Glory of God (Romans 3:23). Even babies are born with a sin nature, and we are all conceived in sin: “Behold, I was shapen in iniquity; and in sin did my mother conceive me” (Psalm 51:5). Yet Beck insists:
“People are inherently good” (page 165)—even though the Bible says in Jeremiah 17:9 that “The heart [is] deceitful above all [things], and desperately wicked: who can know it?”
Beck’s book uses the phrase “your truth,” “your true path,” or “my truth” at least 23 times. Here are a few examples:
“It is never too late to embrace your truth.” (page 124)
“What is your truth whispering?” (page 130)
“Use compassion to stay on the path to your own truth.” (page 161)
“. . . determination to unearth and embrace my truth.” (page 215)
“The fact that I am always attempting to honor my truth.” (page 216)
“There is only your truth.” (page 220)
“You must use courage and faith to empty the hard drive of your soul and then fill it with your truth.” (page 288)
Beck’s book promotes the New Age idea that God dwells within all:
“The third chapter of Exodus helped me start to understand how crucial it was that my focus be on finding God not just in the seas or the cosmos, but in myself.” (page 57)
“If God is everything and everywhere and inside everyone, then I figured He had to be inside me, too.” (page 58). This is the promotion of pantheism and panentheism.
“Divine power is still inside you.” (page 71)
“Reach out to people to steady them and enrich them and reflect back to them the light that comes from God inside them.” (page 283)
“You won’t doubt your ability to achieve what you want to achieve in this life because you won’t doubt that God is not only by your side, but inside you.” (page 254)
Beck’s book promotes the New Age idea that you need to tap into a positive energy for a successful and happy life ten times. Some examples include:
“You have a polestar inside you. It is connected with all the energy in the universe. When you begin to follow that star you align yourself with immeasurable, inexplicable forces that will actually help you manifest your best intentions.” (page 79)
“The current energy that flows in your favor when you stop denying what you have lived through and how it has shaped you and how you must change is the immeasurable force that you can tap into to dramatically improve your existence.” (page 113)
“…you will elicit the same positive energy from others. When you stop pretending to be just fine and start admitting that you have struggled, just as we all have, then spiritual energy will fill you.” (page 117)
I have documented all this in my book, Religious Trojan Horse and go into great detail about how many Christian leaders have united with Glenn Beck. Yet the Bible tells us that someone who teaches these things is not a believer. Therefore, we cannot simply say, “Well, if he’s not against us, he’s on our side.” The Scripture clearly tells us that someone who has good doctrinal fruit proclaims biblical truth. Yet, Mark 9:40 is used over and over to say that someone who has conservative ideas on public policy is on the side of God and Christians even if this person is proclaiming another Jesus and another gospel. Mark 9:40 has been used against me many times to say, “Glenn Beck’s not against us; he’s for Jesus. So, he’s on our side.” But no. If he is not for the Jesus of the Bible and is for the Jesus of the Mormons, he is not on our side or God’s side but Satan’s, according to Jesus. In John 8, He tells the Jews who want to kill him that they are in the camp of Satan:
Jesus said to them, “If God were your Father, you would love Me, for I proceeded forth and came from God; nor have I come of Myself, but He sent Me. Why do you not understand My speech? Because you are not able to listen to My word. You are of your father the devil, and the desires of your father you want to do. He was a murderer from the beginning, and does not stand in the truth, because there is no truth in him. When he speaks a lie, he speaks from his own resources, for he is a liar and the father of it.
You see, there are only two camps. You are either in God’s camp as a true believer or Satan’s camp as an unbeliever or false convert.
Unless Glenn Beck and any other unbelievers repent of their sins and place their faith and trust in Jesus Christ, God’s wrath will not be appeased no matter how many good works they do or how conservative they might be in certain public policy areas. They are still at odds with God, at enmity with God, and are still under God’s wrath.
A story in Acts 19:13-16 makes this point. False teachers were trying to carry out exorcisms, but it doesn’t end well:
Then some of the itinerant Jewish exorcists took it upon themselves to call the name of the Lord Jesus over those who had evil spirits, saying, “We exorcise you by the Jesus whom Paul preaches.”
Also there were seven sons of Sceva, a Jewish chief priest, who did so.
Eventually, the demons reply saying, “Jesus we know, and Paul we know, but who are you?” These false teachers had no authority even over the demons, even though they were serving Satan himself.
So let’s look further at the background of this man who was casting out demons but that the disciples had discouraged from doing it. Luke 10:1 offers a clue: “After these things the Lord appointed seventy others also, and sent them two by two before His face into every city and place where He Himself was about to go.” I believe the man was one of these 70. Jesus had given the 70 power to heal the sick—that’s the gift of signs and wonders—and to cast out demons, as Luke 10:17-20 indicates:
Then the seventy returned with joy, saying, “Lord, even the demons are subject to us in Your name.”
And He said to them, “I saw Satan fall like lightning from heaven. Behold, I give you the authority to trample on serpents and scorpions, and over all the power of the enemy, and nothing shall by any means hurt you. Nevertheless do not rejoice in this, that the spirits are subject to you, but rather rejoice because your names are written in heaven.”
When Scripture recounts someone casting out demons, the action falls into the category of “signs and wonders” that could be done by prophets in the Old Testament, prophets in the New Testament, the apostles, Jesus, and the 70. Perhaps you are thinking of someone you know who claims to have cast out a demon, but the question is: Did he really cast out a demon, or was the demon exposed and simply left on its own accord; or did the individual hear the Gospel and respond, which meant the demon was commanded to leave by the power of the Holy Spirit that came to dwell in this new believer’s life? I believe most demons want to fly under the radar and don’t want to be known as possessing someone and that, if discovered, they choose to leave of their own accord.
To review, then, we’ve covered two essential points in this discussion. First, we don’t want to say that just because somebody isn’t against us, he’s for us. If it’s an unbeliever, guess what? He or she is against us because an unbeliever is in the camp of Satan. A person can only be in one of two camps: the camp of Satan or the camp of God. You’re only in the camp of God through faith and repentance in Jesus Christ. So if you’re not in the camp of Jesus Christ, you’re in the camp of Satan, and someone who is there definitely is not for us.
The second point is that this man who successfully cast out a demon wasn’t just a random person on the street. The ability to cast out demons is one of the signs and wonders, and not just anybody can go about doing signs and wonders. It could only have been someone who had a gift of signs and wonders. This man had to have been a disciple of John the Baptist, or one of the 70 Jesus commissioned, whom the disciples may not have known at this point. Otherwise, we’re on shaky ground hermeneutically because we can’t just simply say, “Anybody then could cast out a demon. Therefore, if anybody can just cast out a demon, then anybody can have the gift of signs and wonders.” That’s not consistent with what we see in the biblical record.
I realize many people will say, “Brannon, I know of a pastor who says he cast out demons.” My response is always that he may say he did, but that doesn’t mean he really did. For instance, if this pastor says to a demon, “I command you to leave,” I would argue that the demon was going to leave anyway or that the demon had already left by the time he told the demon to go. To take this a step further, I believe some of the popular false teachers that we see on television are very possibly demon-possessed themselves—which makes it all the more important to Satan that people not know they’re demon-possessed. That would “blow their cover” as a false teacher.
To sum this up: if someone says to you, “I have the power to cast out a demon,” you would be wise to be very, very, very suspect of the claim. Today, we don’t have people with the gift of signs and wonders. If you know someone who has demonic issues or is possessed, then preach the Gospel to that person. Preach the Gospel, and the demon will flee if the person responds to the Gospel and the Holy Spirit enters his or her life. Demons hate the Gospel. They hate Christians. But we don’t see anywhere in the Scripture that we’re to go around railing against demons and binding Satan or binding demons.
When faced with demonic powers, our response should be to do what James 4:7 teaches: submit to God and resist the devil. In submitting to God, we line up behind Him, under His authority. Resisting the devil means to take your stand. That puts you clearly on God’s side.
Copyright 2014 ©Brannon Howse. This content is for Situation Room members and is not to be duplicated in any form or uploaded to other websites without the express written permission of Brannon Howse or his legally authorized representative.