Showing posts with label Media. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Media. Show all posts

Saturday, October 8, 2022

General Woundwort and My Friend Dahmer!?!?! – Harmless Horror Movies? - Purity 857


General Woundwort and My Friend Dahmer!?!?! – Harmless Horror Movies? - Purity 856

Purity 857 10/08/2022 

Good morning,

Today’s photo of my neighbor’s mangy cat, driveway, and rustic barn with pumpkins adorning the pathway to their home comes to us from yours truly as I decided to capture a candid of my neighbor’s cat as I departed my countryside home on October 2nd, thinking “this is the cat that hisses at you arrive at “the creepy place” in a horror movie!”   

But seriously, ok I did think that, but my neighbor’s cat may look a little feral and untrustworthy, I can attest to the fact that he is actually quite friendly even though his outer appearance, with his matted fur and damaged ear, make him look like the feline equivalent of “General Woundwort” from the 1978 animated classic, Watership Down, (which is available to stream on HBOMax and YouTube.

Okay, the cat doesn’t look that bad, General Woundwort still creeps me out. Who knew that bunny rabbits could be so vicious!

Anyway, I decided to share today’s photo because I thought that  the cat, the barn, and those pumpkins were a good visual representation of the month of October, Autumn, and the Harvest season.  Autumn is my favorite season and October is in the heart of it as the fall foliage changes and people begin to decorate their homes for Halloween. 

I was and am still am a fan of Halloween and, horror movies, but I have to admit that as I have grown in my knowledge and experience of the reality of Spiritual warfare, the spiritual forces of darkness, total depravity of man, and how it all ties in together and results in suffering and the evil that men do, I am less enamored with the macabre as I used to be and have increasing grown in my sensitivity of spiritual discernment and no longer see these dark forms of entertainment as “harmless”.  

Ironically as I have grown more sensitive to what I will allow to put in front of my eyes and less tolerant of the things I can stomach, the horror genre and society in general has become more desensitized to what disturbing images, subject matters, and themes can be offered up as entertainment.  One of the latest evidences to this trend is the  Netflix series: “Dahmer – Monster: The Jeffery Dahmer Story”, starring Evan Peters.

In recalling the details of Dahmer’s grisly crimes, I have to wonder why anyone would watch this show.

But in my limited research this morning, I realized that I was a huge consumer of and a reason for the success of shows like this.  There was one article online that presented a list of the 26 best TV shows about serial killers ( .  26!  I am somewhat ashamed to admit that of the 26 shows I had watched 9 of them in the years before and after I came to Christ.   

I also have to have to admit that I did watch the 2017 film: “My Friend Dahmer”, which was a memoir of one of Dahmer’s childhood friends, graphic novelist Jack “Derf” Backderf, that presented scenes from Dahmer’s life before his murders that highlighted the serial killers “inner demons”, his victimization at the hands of school bullies, and the neglect by the adults in his life.  The film concludes with the victim of abuse and neglect becoming a murderer ( .

But Backderf was clear in his comments regarding his memoir that he in no way sought to justify or excuse Dahmer for his evil actions but was only presenting his recollections of what happened in Dahmer’s life prior to his crimes to show how evil doesn’t necessarily just happen, that often atrocities have a back story rooted in abuse and points to the cycle of the abused becoming abusers, or even killers.  

My education in Biblical Studies and Christian Couseling, along my training as a Community Ministry Freedom Associate for Freedom in Christ Ministries, helps me to see these crimes and these macabre forms of entertainment in a new light that makes them less palatable.

In the realty of serial killers, while society and our justice system should never excuse killers with a defense for demonic possession, demonization, or demonic oppression, we should consider that spiritual forces of darkness could play a role in the violence and grisly crimes we see. 

The Bible describes the world as being under the sway of the evil one. I am sharing a link to an article on that briefly touches on this subject ( and provides the scriptures that back it up.  

So what’s my point? 

I guess, my point is that as we go further into the month of October, many of us may feel, like I did, that we want a good scare.

 And while I think that we should all be free to choose to do that, I think we should be aware of the spiritual realities of the world and be highly concerned for our friends and family that don’t know about the principles of spiritual warfare or don’t have a covenant relationship with God through faith in Jesus Christ that enjoy these dark forms of entertainment.   

I feel that horror movies can be entertaining, and educational, but we should try to instruct others in the supremacy of God over evil and be genuinely concerned about people that don’t have faith in Christ and isolate and watch violent or horrific films and TV shows.   

According to an article on (

"In thousands of scientific studies over the last six decades, researchers have documented four basic negative effects from exposure to screen violence: increased aggression, increased fear, desensitization to real-life and screen violence, and increased appetite for more violence, on and off screen". (p. 54)”

None of those effects sound very good and without a Biblical basis of wisdom considering evil, sin, the spiritual forces of darkness, and the God who stands above it, our loved ones could suffer from negative mental, emotional and spiritual consequences as our society will continue to only grow darker.  

So we need to know the truth, that God is sovereign, He is in control, and that He provides eternal security and spiritual safety and power to those who put their faith in Christ. Jesus reconciles us to God and provides us with a share of His spiritual power and authority to confront and confound the works of the devil.

As Christians we are to shun what is evil and to think upon what is good. We also have freedom. So as Christians, we may choose to watch a horror movie, but if we do we should do so in the context of our identity in Christ and be discerning of what we watch and not quench the Holy Spirit in us if He convicts us to pull the plug and not persist in our unwholesome habits in the name of tradition or nostalgia.  

As exposure to violent media has the effect of desensitizing us and may lead to negative actions,   our exposure to the Word of God and the guidance of the Holy Spirit will oppositely sensitize us to what is evil and increasingly draw us to do good,

Even though I am still a horror fan, I guess , I am a lot more discerning about what I will watch as the Holy Spirit increasingly draws me away from things that do not edify my spirit and quite frankly, as I have continued to walk in the Spirit, I have a lot less desire to watch or listen to most secular forms of entertainment, whether spooky or not, because my intense love of the Lord causes me to want to use what time I have left in this life wisely, to pursue things that will build me up rather than just occupy a few hours and leave me with a thrill or a chill but nothing more. 

So as we go further into October and the nostalgia and pageantry that surrounds Halloween, keep walking and talking with God and follow where He leads. When you walk with Him. you may begin to discover that the desire to dabble in darkness is replaced with conviction to live in the light.


As always, I invite all to go to where I always share insights from prominent Christian theologians and counselors to assist my brothers and sisters in Christ with their walk.

Today we continue sharing from Dietrich Bonhoeffer’s “Discipleship”, also known as “The Cost of Discipleship”

As always, I share this information for educational purposes and encourage all to purchase Bonhoeffer’s books for your own private study and to support his work.  This resource is available on many websites for less than $20.00.

Chapter Six

The Sermon on the Mount

Matthew 5

On theExtraordinaryof Christian Life

The Beatitudes – Continues

“Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.” The disciples are needy in every way. They are simply “poor” (Luke 6:20). They have no security, no property to call their own, no piece of earth they could call their home, no earthly community to which they might fully belong. But they also have neither spiritual power of their own, nor experience or knowledge they can refer to and which could comfort them. For his sake they have lost all that. When they followed him, they lost themselves and everything else which could have made them rich. Now they are so poor, so inexperienced, so foolish that they cannot hope for anything except him who called them. Jesus also knows those others, the representatives and preachers of the national religion, those powerful, respected people, who stand firmly on the earth inseparably rooted in the national way of life, the spirit of the times, the popular piety [Volksfrömmigkeit]. But Jesus does not speak to them; he speaks only to his disciples when he says, blessed—for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. The kingdom of heaven will come to those who live thoroughly in renunciation and want for Jesus’ sake. In the depths of their poverty, they inherit the kingdom of heaven. They have their treasure well hidden, they have it at the cross. The kingdom of heaven is promised them in visible majesty, and it is already given them in the complete poverty of the cross.

Here Jesus’ blessing is totally different from its caricature in the form of a political-social program. The Antichrist also declares the poor to be blessed, but he does it not for the sake of the cross, in which all poverty is embraced and blessed. Rather, he does it with political-social ideology precisely in order to fend off the cross. He may call this ideology Christian, but in doing so he becomes Christ’s enemy.[12][1]

---------------------------more tomorrow------------------------

Join our “Victory over the Darkness”, “The Bondage Breaker”, "Freedom in Christ" series of Discipleship Classes via the mt4christ247 podcast!

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Encouragement for the Path of Christian Discipleship

[1] Dietrich Bonhoeffer, Discipleship, ed. Martin Kuske et al., trans. Barbara Green and Reinhard Krauss, vol. 4, Dietrich Bonhoeffer Works (Minneapolis, MN: Fortress Press, 2003), 102–103.

Saturday, June 18, 2022

Sources of Influence – Protecting Your Spiritual and Mental Health – Purity 761

Sources of Influence – Protecting Your Spiritual and Mental Health – Purity 761

Purity 761 06/18/2022 Purity 761 Podcast

Good morning,

Today’s photo of blue skies and clouds over some green rolling hills comes to us from yours truly as I paused to enjoy a quiet moment to recognize the beauty of God’s creation while I was travelling through Schodack Landing NY while at work on June 10th. 

Well, we made it to the weekend and it is my prayer that all of my friends will take some time this weekend to enjoy some quiet moments to enjoy what the Lord has provided them with and to realize just how wonderful our lives truly are.  

You know when I took today’s photo I thought I was capturing just a wonderful scene to share and it is but when I looked at it this morning I thought it was a little darker than I thought it was and I was tempted to edit it to lighten it up a little to enhance the beauty of the scene. But I decided against it. I decided to share it for what it was, a simple roadside view of the sky and hill country in rural Schodack Landing, with no filter.  

On Saturday’s my pace in composing my daily encouragements is different. As I weekend with my wife in rural Easton NY, the location of my writing space is different, the available internet speed is slower, my routine is different , and because I don’t have to rush out to work at five to seven I am not in as much of a rush to “get er done”.   Because of all these different factors and due to  what may be a tendency toward  attention deficit disorder, I tend to get distracted when I sit down to pray, study the Bible, and blog.   In truth, what is a systematic process of chronological steps during the week becomes a blending of all my practices at once on Saturdays. 

When I am at my place down by the River, I waken, exercise, pray, study the Bible, write the blog.  But at my country side home, the facilities, for and my motivation to exercise, is different and is abandoned but that loss of activity is somewhat replaced by walking the dog at lease once, sometimes two and three times a day, down Waite Road, so I don’t sweat that too much, Oh puns…

While I am at casa de countryside, my prayer and Bible study are still part of my daily spiritual practice but when I pray at my River House I do it from a meditation cushion, so prayer is on the cushion, and Bible Study is at the desk.  There is not meditation cushion at Countryside, nor will there be, there just isn’t enough space for one in my very literal “prayer closet”. So prayer and Bible study are both done at the small desk that my wife has provided me with.  

So on Saturday’s I pray like I usually do and read the Bible but the two sometimes are blended together and derailed because I will get distracted by emails or news items that grab my attention when I go to my phone to get the photo of the day.  This morning as I shifted from prayer, to Bible study, to getting today’s photo, and Bible verse, I saw a story on that proclaimed “America’s belief in God Hits New Low” ( and within that short article was a link to another article from April of 2021, that was titled: “America is losing it’s religion” ( Both stories were disconcerting because they report statistics that indicate that our society is increasingly becoming more atheistic as more people today don’t believe in God and don’t belong to a house of worship than they did in the not too distant past.  

I provide the links if you want to check out the numbers that reveal this trend but frankly I wouldn’t bother.  What?!? Why not? Don’t you care? Don’t you even care?!?!

Of course I care! But the reason I tell you that you may not want to bother is not because I think this is “fake news” but because this is old news.   The numbers that these two articles that were written in 2021, and just “20 hours ago” as I write this, are reporting data that is from Gallup poles in 2017! That’s 5 years ago guys.  

I was upset by those numbers in 2017, or 2018, whenever I first heard of them and that information hasn’t changed nor has my concerned for our ever increasingly post Christian society.   Those numbers were bad in 2017 but I can only imagine that the numbers would be worse today. 

The data they draw from is 5 years old.  It was before Covid-19. And although I don’t have a Gallup pole to report from, I can tell you that from my personal observations at my local church, some people stopped attending church when Covid dropped and they haven’t come back.  

In ages past, Christians would stay and care for the sick.  During plagues, plagues guys, where people were dropping dead left and right and medical technology was not what it was todays, Christians didn’t abandon the sick and they certainly didn’t abandon the church because they knew that whether they lived or died they were secure in God’s hands.

Anyway, that crisis caused a big decrease in church attendance and I shudder to think what a Gallup pole performed today would have to tell us about the state of faith in our nation. 

One of the articles stated that those who now report themselves as “none” seem to adopt politics or social justice movements as a replacement for religion and that the language they use reveals their faith in a political candidate or a special interest group to affect the changes they feel they need.  

After seeing that and entering into a “news zone” I saw how the “click bait” of current news stories would inflame the fears or outrage of people who held certain political or moral stands.  There was a story about a victim of incest dying after they were refused an abortion. There was a story about a police officer commenting how they would lose their gun again after being involved in a shooting at a crisis call. There was a story about a political figure declaring the need to reduce green house gas emissions.  And on and on it went, stories reporting “the facts” – the ones that interested me were 5 year old facts” – but they all could be seen to inflame a different segment of our society to outrage or fear.   

And so, I decided to write about this – and no I don’t want to raise your ire about “fake news”, but I wanted to highlight how what we put before our eyes and what we think about can influence our mental and spiritual health.  

The stories I clicked upon about decreasing faith in America, regardless of the age of the data, could cause me to react in several ways.  I could be drawn to despair because people seem to be turning away from God in increasing numbers or I could be inspired and motivated to go and share the gospel with a society that so desperately needs the good news.   

But I don’t want to just hit the “straw man” that is the media.  As I reported in a previous post, the media gives people what gets ratings and report on the things that will shock and cause people to be drawn in and keep watching. That fact, too is “old news” but may have gotten a little worse by the networks producing news that caters to certain political leanings.  But that’s A new spin on an old story.   

I’m not here to attack the news. I would encourage you to be discerning, reduce, or abandon the news all together.  Today’s photo of rolling hills in the country side shows no ill effects of our “world falling apart” and if you travel to the country you can see areas that have been relatively untouched by change.  Today’s stories that are so compelling will fade away. And the stories of national interest, in truth, only actually affect the people who are dealing with those situations on a local level.  I don’t mean to sound uncompassionate but a lot of the horrors that are reported will not touch your life but they can touch and disturb your mind and your heart.  

The ability to media to influence our thoughts and emotions also extends to the things we turn to for entertainment.  The world system that is anti-Christ is revealed in more than just the “evil that men do” that is reported on the news.  

Movies, television/streaming dramas, and “reality tv” can also drive our thoughts and emotions to places that would draw us away from the righteous living that is prescribed in the Bible.  

Lustful, violent, and positive depictions of drug use is changing hearts and minds to accept things that were taboo in the past and have always been classified as sin in God’s word.   Programs glorify drug use, adulterous relationships, aberrant sexual practices, and seeking revenge or “justice” through violent means of :not getting mad” but getting even.  Seeing these things performed on television turns into seeing these things in our society as it is a reflection of what is already happening but also encourages these things to be repeated through their promotion.  Seeing sin will encourage others to let go of their restraint and do it for themselves.   Or seeing sin will cause us to hate those who sin and cause us to live in fear.     

All of this stuff that the world dishes out can influence our behavior, our thoughts, our emotions and our entire worldview. What the world dishes out doesn’t give us peace.

I grew up in the 80’s for most of my childhood and the threat of nuclear annihilation was the soup du jour in our media at the time. The threat of impending doom cause fear and a hopelessness in my life. I wasn’t sure who I was, or what I wanted to be, and in light of the possibility of being killed in a nuclear holocaust those concerns seemed utterly pointless.  So I, like many others, sought to live for today and not worry about tomorrow because it didn’t matter anyway, right, and sought to get my kicks with sex, drugs, and alcohol before the world came to an end.  

The problem was that it was a lie.  The world didn’t end and what I did with my life did matter.  The choices I made matter not only because they resulted in positive or negative consequences but I later realized they mattered to God, as scripture speaks of rewards for the righteous and judgement for those who reject Christ that are based on the choices we make.   Our lives matter to God.  

He sent Christ to save us to prove He exists and wants to have a relationship with us where we can have peace and live with Him forever.   So put your faith in Jesus Christ, continually, and know the peace that comes from the Lord. 

But while we are here on the earth, we also have to seek to protect ourselves from the media that can influence us and drive us to fear or despair.  

Somewhere along the line in my pre Christ existence, somewhere after the death of my son in 2002, I watched the television movie “The Day After” a post nuclear war television film that was made in 1983. Now granted this was probably during the 2-3 year depression I was mired in in the traumatic loss of my son but, I remember that after watching that movie how the old fears of nuclear annihilation came to the forefront of my mind and how it transformed my perception of a world causing me to see it as a place plagued with suffering, devoid of meaning, and filled with violence and death.  These were some dark days in my mental health because I had suffered loss and was influenced by the things I decided to watch.  That movie had caused me to question what point of living was and I viewed the brightest days through a lense that made everything grey.  A simple film seen at the wrong time change my worldview into utter hopelessness.  

Well luckily, those bad times and that trauma of loss, caused me to seek the truth of life and death and caused me to seek spiritual answers to these existential questions.  And because I sought the truth, even though I took detours that were dead ends, the Lord was gracious and revealed it to me.  God revealed His love for me and the world though Christ. He care enough about us to send His only begotten sun to die for us and His word instructs us to focus on Him.

Philippians 4:8-9 (NKJV) says
8  Finally, brethren, whatever things are true, whatever things are noble, whatever things are just, whatever things are pure, whatever things are lovely, whatever things are of good report, if there is any virtue and if there is anything praiseworthy--meditate on these things.
9  The things which you learned and received and heard and saw in me, these do, and the God of peace will be with you.  

God cares about our spiritual and mental health. He wants us to focus on the good rather than the evil. He wants us to live our lives according to the things we can learn from His word.  And when we turn our attention to the things that are true, noble, just pure, and lovely and shape our lives to follow the example of Christ and according to the wisdom contained in God’s word, we will experience the presence of the God of peace in our lives.  

So repent from what you have been allowing to influence your mind, will, and emotions. Turn yours eyes and thoughts away from the things that would lead you to sin or cause you to fear and despair. Instead draw close to God and keep walking and talking with Him.  The more we know Him, who are in Christ, and make the daily decision to live by the truth of God’s world that more peace we will know.  

Seek God and you will find peace. God bless you and have a great weekend.


Today’s Bible verse does not come to us from “The NLT Bible Promise Book for Men”, because I left it at my home down by the River. While I had an idea to just go to the next verse sequentially from yesterday’s verse, I received an email from a member of my church who pointed in me to Psalm 84 as an encouragement to me to meditate on God’s word in preparation for serving on the prayer team at my local church tomorrow. So I decided to share the first four verse from Psalm 84 as

This morning’s meditation verse:

Psalm 84:1-4 (NLT2)
1  How lovely is your dwelling place, O LORD of Heaven’s Armies.
2  I long, yes, I faint with longing to enter the courts of the LORD. With my whole being, body and soul, I will shout joyfully to the living God.
3  Even the sparrow finds a home, and the swallow builds her nest and raises her young at a place near your altar, O LORD of Heaven’s Armies, my King and my God!
4  What joy for those who can live in your house, always singing your praises. Interlude

Today’s Bible verses reminds us that the house of the Lord is to be a place of joy and that it is to be a home away from home in our hearts.  

If you didn’t know, going to church is supposed to be a joyful experience.  For many of you that may be a surprise. But unfortunately, the vast majority of “Christians” don’t know who they are in Christ, nor their freedom in Christ, experientially because they have categorized “religion” as a separate part of their lives that is relegated to a day of worship rather than applied to the entirety of their life.

  That’s often due to ignorance,( they never knew how to live the Christian life), choice, (they would rather live like the world- “not be holier than thou” ), or due to the simple fact that they have never made Christ their Lord and Savior (they were in a church but not part of the body of Christ).

Not for nothing, but the joy of my salvation is an endless resource of joy. The fact of our salvation, that we are accepted by God, is the single most important thing about us and the great value of our relationship with God should our thoughts and cause us to continually give Him thanks and praise.  

So reflect on what the Lord has done, for you, for others, for the world, and know how good it is to be part of His kingdom and to have the opportunity to gather with others to worship Him.  

We are commanded to love God with all of our hearts, minds, souls and strength so if you don’t know what that is like let me encourage you to seek to know the Lord more and to know who you are in Christ. 

Because when you have a close relationship with the Lord through faith in Jesus Christ you should know the love of God and be enthusiastic to express the joy of having been accepted by Him.  

When we know His love and who we are in Christ experientially, there is joy in the house of the Lord and they joy goes with you everywhere you go.   




As always, I invite all to go to where I always share insights from prominent Christian theologians and counselors to assist my brothers and sisters in Christ with their walk. 

Today we continue sharing from Clinton E. Arnold’s “Powers of Darkness”

As always, I share this information for educational purposes and encourage all to purchase Clinton Arnold’s books for your own private study and to support his work.  This resource is available on many websites for less than $20.00.

Dionysus: God of Sensual Pleasure

In contemporary Western society Dionysus might be looked at as the ultimate “party animal.” Most scholars refer to the three-to-five-day observance of his mysteries as “ecstatic rites”: loud, frenzied, drunken celebration. One ancient observer summed up the revelry in this way: “To consider nothing wrong … was the highest form of religious devotion among them.”20 In another sense there was a serious spiritual side to the mystery rites of Dionysus; the mystery of Dionysus held out the promise of a blissful life in the other world after death.

The Dionysian mysteries (also called the Bacchanalia) were very popular at the time Christianity began to spread. Celebrated throughout Greece, Asia Minor, Egypt and even Italy, they were widespread. The revelry especially appealed to the lower classes, but those from the higher social classes were also attracted. The celebration of the mysteries of Dionysus (or Bacchus, his Roman name) provided an opportunity for all to transcend the drabness and monotony of day-to-day life.

In 186 B.C. the Roman government condemned this “everything goes” religion, which, however, did not abate its ongoing popularity. In fact, prior to the time of Christ, some high-level Romans favored this cult. Writing close to the time of Christ’s birth, the Roman historian Livy provides us with an incredible description of the nature of the Bacchanalia:

There were initiations which at first were imparted only to a few; but they soon began to be widespread among men and women. The pleasures of drinking and feasting were added to the religious rites, to attract a larger number of followers. When wine had inflamed their feelings, and night and the mingling of the sexes and of different ages had extinguished all power of moral judgment, all sorts of corruption began to be practiced, since each person had ready to hand the chance of gratifying the particular desire to which he was naturally inclined. The corruption was not confined to one kind of evil, the promiscuous violation of free men and of women; the cult was also a source of supply of false witnesses, forged documents and wills, and perjured evidence, dealing also in poisons and in wholesale murders among the devotees, and sometimes ensuring that not even the bodies were found for burial. Many such outrages were committed by craft, and even more by violence; and the violence was concealed because no cries for help could be heard against the shriekings, the banging of drums and the clashing of cymbals in the scene of debauchery and bloodshed.

From the official testimony to the Roman proconsul, which resulted in the condemnation of the cult in 186 B.C., comes this exposé:

From the time when the rites were held promiscuously, with men and women mixed together, and when the license offered by darkness had been added, no sort of crime, no kind of immorality, was left unattempted. There were more obscenities practiced between men than between men and women. Anyone refusing to submit to outrage or reluctant to commit crimes was slaughtered as a sacrificial victim. To regard nothing as forbidden was among these people the summit of religious achievement. Men, apparently out of their wits, would utter prophecies with frenzied bodily convulsions: matrons, attired as Bacchantes, with their hair disheveled and carrying blazing torches, would run down to the Tiber.

Drunkenness stamped the revelry of the Bacchants (those celebrating the Dionysian mysteries). During the Roman period, wine was a key symbol of Dionysus, who was often represented with clusters of grapes and known as the god of wine and intoxication. No doubt this contributed significantly to the wild, uncontrolled frenzy of the celebrations.

Sex and sensual pleasures also played a vital role in the Bacchanalia. Another important symbol of the cult was a wicker basket laden with fruit from which a male phallus arose. A representation of the phallus was carried at the front of all the processions of those celebrating the Dionysian rites. The culminating point of the mystery initiation may have been the revelation of the phallus. It was likely a symbol of life-giving power; and as such, it may have insured the hope of a joyous and blissful afterlife. It is also possible that the phallus simply symbolized the mystery and joy of sexuality.24

After the celebration of the mysteries, a time of feasting, dancing and revelry occurred. Scattered ancient documents report the sacrifice of live animals, taking place while the Bacchants are wildly eating the raw, bloody parts of the animal. The reports from Livy cited earlier give the impression of murder and possible human sacrifices.

During the Roman period, people’s increasing concern with the afterlife made the cult of Dionysus attractive. Initiation into the mystery of Dionysus could help the person avoid the dreaded punishing demons (poinai) after death. These punishing entities are often depicted as ugly winged female demons who bring a chill of horror. The initiates did not anticipate a resurrection after death, but a blissful life in another world filled with continuing sensual pleasure (anticipated in the mystery celebrations).

Dozens of other gods and goddesses could be portrayed. During the New Testament period, Isis, Mithras and others were extremely important. My purpose, however, is not to provide a thorough overview of Hellenistic religions, but merely to give a brief glimpse at the practices and beliefs surrounding three deities who rivaled the Lord Jesus Christ for adherents. The church fathers strongly believed Satan himself animated those gods and goddesses with his powers of darkness. Their demonic interpretation of these religions originated, in part, with the apostle Paul.

Gods and Goddesses in the Book of Acts

While the Pauline epistles have little explicit information about Paul’s contact with the worship of pagan gods, Luke records some specific instances in the book of Acts. The first encounter that Luke chooses to record occurs in south Galatia in the city of Lystra (Acts 14:8–20). After Paul healed a crippled man, the crowd concluded that Paul and Barnabas were an incarnation of Hermes and Zeus. It is interesting that Barnabas is equated with Zeus, the highest god, while Paul is associated with Hermes. Hermes was regarded as a messenger of the greater gods, especially Zeus. Paul’s dominant role in the situation probably garnered him this identification as the herald of Zeus. Not receiving the response from the crowd they anticipated, Paul and Barnabas immediately renounced their association with these pagan deities. They did not denounce the gods as demons, but rather as “worthless things,” a common Jewish way of referring to pagan gods. Paul pointed them to “the living God,” who is the creator and who exercises his gracious providence for their well-being.

In Athens Paul found a point of entry to communicate effectively to his audience based on an altar inscription, which read: “to an unknown god” (Acts 17:16–34). By calling attention to this inscription, he affirmed their keen spiritual interest, but redirected their focus to the God he considered supreme—the God who is the Creator, who is providentially sovereign, who is not a carved image of human design, who is the judge of the world—the God who raised the Lord Jesus Christ from the dead. In this evangelistic context, Paul did not deem it appropriate to associate the Athenian gods with Satan and his demons, perhaps partly because such an indictment would assume a familiarity with Jewish demonology that these Athenians would not have understood. Furthermore, he may not have considered it evangelistically wise to indict their gods as demonic counterfeits. We know from his correspondence with established churches (especially Corinth), however, that he would subsequently teach Christians about the connection between pagan religion and the demonic.

One of the most dramatic encounters Paul had with worshipers of a pagan deity occurred at Ephesus, the key port city of western Asia Minor (Acts 19:23–41). Here Paul incurred the wrath of a great mob incited by the members of a trade guild who made and sold silver shrines of the patron deity of the city, Artemis of Ephesus. Because of a large number of conversions to Christianity, these tradesmen perceived Paul to be a considerable threat, not only to their business, but also to the worship of their revered goddess. The tradesmen successfully fomented a mob scene at the beautiful theater in Ephesus that resulted in an uproar of praise to Artemis lasting two hours. Everyone shouted in unison: “Great is Artemis of the Ephesians.” In spite of the mob’s fury, Paul wanted to address the crowd, but some insistent fellow believers prevented him from doing so. Such was the danger now present for Paul that he immediately left the city to continue his ministry elsewhere. Significantly, in describing Paul’s nearly three-year ministry at Ephesus, Luke chooses to write mainly about Paul’s conflict with the followers of this pagan deity. As we noted in chapter one, it is also important to recall the connections of this goddess with magical practices (manipulation of spirits).

Luke records one other incident involving pagan gods. In this instance people again had mistaken Paul as a god. The situation occurred on the island of Malta after he was bit by a poisonous snake and neither took ill nor died (Acts 28:1–6). When Paul was first bit, however, the people immediately assumed the goddess Dike (Justice) was punishing Paul for murder. Luke then says, “[the people] changed their minds and said he was a god” (Acts 28:6), after seeing that the venom had no effect on Paul. Luke’s account is so abbreviated at this point that he does not tell us how Paul responded to their claims. Presumably, Paul responded in a way similar to the Lystra situation by denying their wrongly directed adulation and pointing to the one true God.

Finally, Luke mentions by name two other pagan gods, Castor and Pollux, also known as “the Twin Gods” (Acts 28:11). They were the figureheads on an Alexandrian (Egypt) cargo vessel which Paul boarded. No indication is given of Paul’s response, but Luke is interested in mentioning this fact. These gods were popular with navigators in the ancient world, perhaps because their constellation, Gemini, was regarded as a sign of good fortune in a storm. This reference serves as one more reminder of the multiplicity of deities in the New Testament world and their involvement in the everyday life of people of that time.

The book of Acts is largely taken up with the geographical spread of the gospel from Palestine and across the Mediterranean lands to Rome. Luke is concerned with recording the opposition that the pagan cults posed to the spread of the gospel, but only superficially. He does not embark on detailed descriptions of any of the pagan cults. Neither does he seem concerned with describing the difficulty that pagan converts faced when reconciling their new allegiance to the risen Christ with their former religious practices. Paul was more reflective on this issue because of his concern to strengthen his congregations with sound teaching that is exceptionally relevant to people who had formerly worshiped these various gods and goddesses. Paul clearly believed these deities and their respective systems of cultic worship are closely associated with demons.[1]

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[1] Clinton E. Arnold, Powers of Darkness: Principalities & Powers in Paul’s Letters (Downers Grove, IL: IVP Academic: An Imprint of InterVarsity Press, 1992), 43–47.