Well, at least these Pentes are faithful to the scriptures

An edited portion of a transcript of the ‘Encounter’ program on Radio National

And these signs shall follow them that believe. In my name they shall cast out devils, they shall speak with new tongues, they shall take up serpents, and if they drink any deadly thing, it shall not hurt them. They shall lay hands on the sick, and they shall recover.

Kerry Stewart: And it emerged in the Appalachian Mountains; why there, do you think?

Ralph Hood: What it needed was a charismatic figure to model that behaviour, to start the ritual, and in Whiteoak Mountain, right here outside Chattanooga Tennessee, one of the licensed preachers in the Church of God, George Hensley, was out in the wilderness, pondering the Gospel and he saw a rattlesnake and was thinking of the verse in Mark 16, and he picked it up, and he was amazed that he was not bitten and was not harmed. And so he went back to this church, and began to preach that one could be obedient to God, handle serpents and do it with immunity.

Mark Brown: My name is Mark Brown, I live in a little community called Parrotsville, Tennessee, and I attend the House of Prayer in the name of Jesus Christ.

….

Kerry Stewart: Do you have to be anointed to handle the snakes?

Mark Brown: We feel like you do. There’s some in the faith that they like to do it just by faith, but we teach our children and our congregation that they need to have the anointing of God to perform the works of God. And that’s just not in serpent handling, but in praying for the sick, you need to be anointed in order for the Lord to be able to move for people, and drinking poison or even some members, we handle fire, we teach that they need to have the anointing of God to do these things.

…..

Kerry Stewart: So what happens when someone is bitten in a church service?

Mark Brown: Most of the time when someone’s bitten, whether they’re harmed or not harmed before we really know we’ll gather around and pray for him, and when there is harm, we’ll continue to pray and if they get sick, we’ll go back to someone’s house and they’ll stay there. We all stay with him till they get better.

Kerry Stewart: And if they don’t get better, how do you explain the death?

Mark Brown: We just feel that that was their appointed time to die, and whether it was through serpent bite or car wreck or a heart attack, that was just their time to leave this world.

Kerry Stewart: And you’ve had a very close experience of that. Your brother and his wife both have died from snake bite, haven’t they, in a church service?

Mark Brown: Yes.

 Kerry Stewart: And so is that very hard to come to terms with, a close family like that?

Mark Brown: No, it’s a grievous time. We hate to lose anyone, and death at a young age, but the grief is more of missing them than the idea of how they left this world.

http://www.abc.net.au/rn/encounter/stories/2009/2524989.htm


9 thoughts on “Well, at least these Pentes are faithful to the scriptures

  1. “at least these Pentes are faithful to the scriptures” – Wazza2

    What the scripture says:
    * There will be a group of people (them that believe)
    * Various signs will follow them

    What the scripture does not say:
    * All them that believe will do all the signs
    * Everyone who believes will do a sign
    * Signs indicate you are one of them that believe
    * Them that believe will follow after signs

    2Jn1:9 NASB

    Whosoever goeth onward and abideth not in the teaching of Christ, hath not God: he that abideth in the teaching, the same hath both the Father and the Son

    Goeth onward is literally “goes ahead”.

    John is juxtaposing abiding in the teaching with going ahead of the teaching. If you do the latter you lose (temporarily?) the father/son relationship we have with God by abiding in Jesus. Only by abiding in Jesus do we have the relationship.

    So are they being faithful? No they are getting ahead of the teaching. Just as with the other weird doctrines we have talked about over the years.

    If we make up doctrines we do it primarily to use Father rather than resting in what he has given us. By our actions we indicate to him that what he has done for us and given us is not sufficient. We cease to abide in his teaching and “have not God”.

  2. These sorts of things are tragedies. It’s an extreme example of the misuse of scripture. How many other examples are there though, which are fortunately not as physically dangerous? Shows how important it is to think for yourself, but also how strong the group mindset can be.

  3. Blunt and uncharitable this maybe, I don’t know, but there is no value to God in stupidity.

    What a waste

    ‘Do not put the Lord your God to the test.’

  4. “Blunt and uncharitable this” – MN

    Uncharitable as in unloving? True I don’t love dodgy doctrine or its consequences.

    Father loves the people of course. I might too if I met them.

    It is an interesting point you raise though MN. When we see dodgy doctrine like this that damages people (at least physically in this case) do we say “well they are doing the best they can – they are just lead badly” or something similar or do we call a spade a spade? Which is more loving if loving is the measure.

    I recall LionFish some time ago indicating that people are fooled because they want to be fooled. That we all take responsibility for who we follow in the end. Is he correct?

    I admit I don’t answer this the same way every time 🙂

  5. I have been thinking along the same lines myself. This is such an extreme example of spiritual abuse – where people lose their lives as a result of bad doctrine and practice.

    This church is not an isolated example. Apparently there are an estimated 200 churches in the Appalacians which practise this and it has been going on for four generations. It seems incredibly stupid to put yourself and your children at such risk, and not to revise your theology when members of your family die.

    But something else must be occurring for people not to wake up to reality. Firstly there is the sectarian, elitism thing again. There is a social binding in doing something that is so against the cultural norms and is even illegal, although appears to have scriptural backing.

    Secondly I think there is a change in conciousness, an experience that occurs when they handle snakes that they identify with the Holy Spirit. The fear that results from snake handling can put people into a semi-trance state, and this has been used in other religions and occult practices. In these churches they identify it with the “annointing”, and the experience then appears to confirm the theology.

    Yes people are fooled because at some level they want to be fooled, and they have some responsibility for what they are doing. But there are some strong influences upon them which cause them not to think rationally.

  6. I think there are times when a spade should called a spade, and to do anything else is both chicken and unloving. But there certainly are different ways to go about it.

    Interesting in the context of this particular discussion that Jesus told us:

    “Therefore be as shrewd as snakes and as innocent as doves.”

    In answer to Heretic’s question:

    “That we all take responsibility for who we follow in the end. Is he correct?”

    My answer is yes – and I do believe it to be correct – but I don’t believe it is the only answer.

    So for example we are told not to cause little ones to sin – better it would be to have a millstone etc

    We are told not to be a stumbling block…

    There are numerous exhortation about right teaching etc

    Picking up on Wazza’s comment we are told:

    “Dear friends, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits to see whether they are from God, because many false prophets have gone out into the world.”

    So we are left with a blend of responsibilities and accountabilities at individual, family and community levels.

  7. Yes people are fooled because at some level they want to be fooled, and they have some responsibility for what they are doing. But there are some strong influences upon them which cause them not to think rationally.

    Yes LF’s approach was somewhat black-and-white. And harsh too perhaps.

    Strong influences indeed Wazza, cultural certainty four generations back, bound together, as you say, against the tide of the world by your contrarian beliefs.

    I take your meaning to be that it is not completely their fault because the odds are stacked against them.

    My first thought is that this situation is just the normal and usual mark of the cultish. Not “cult” per se but having the characteristics of cult and moving in the direction of cult (see http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cult).

    Then again the next thought has to be that there are strong influences to conform to extra-biblical (religious) norms in most churches – christian or otherwise. People want to be good Christians and so go along with all the other good Christians.

    Then again (again) there are strong influences to conform to extra-biblical (non-religious) norms in society. People generally want to be good people, for their local definition of “good people” (back to tribalism I guess).

    So I think after all this thinking that strong influences are just normal. “Wide is way” verses “narrow (literally groaning – Vines) is the way” and “Strive (literally agonise – Vines) to enter through the narrow door; for many, I tell you, will seek to enter and will not be able”. People everywhere think they are basically OK for whatever reason and rely on that reason (mammon) for their rightness. And sometimes that reason is church. And as you say not usually rational.

    The other side of the coin is that it is not really my place to say who is on which road. Even if I sometimes think I know.

  8. “I think there are times when a spade should called a spade, and to do anything else is both chicken and unloving. But there certainly are different ways to go about it.” MN

    And also ““Therefore be as shrewd as snakes and as innocent as doves.”” and “We are told not to be a stumbling block”.

    And we certainly don’t want to be stumbling blocks by barging into big groups of strong-cultured extra-biblical gatherings and mouthing off about how crappy there teachings are.

    I take heart that Jesus said that he would send the helper who would convict the world of sin, righteousness and judgement. It does not appear to be on my job description 🙂

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