Let me make this clear right off the bat. Obviously all things are pure to the pure, just as Paul says to Titus (Titus 1:15). There are many God fearing Christians who serve as doctors, nurses, pharmacists, and scientists. But let’s not forget the other thing St. Paul says to Titus. He says, “but to the defiled and unbelieving, nothing is pure; but both their minds and their consciences are defiled.” He then goes on to say that they are incapable of doing anything good.
It is with this in mind that I bring up modern medicine and science being today’s sorcery. This came to me while reading one of the comments under Pastor Rojas’ post on closed communion. The reader commenting gave an analogy of a pharmacist practicing open medicine in which he gives out any medicine anyone who wants it. This is comparable to a pastor giving the Lord’s body and blood to anyone who wants it and claims to love and believe in Jesus.
That analogy only works if you assume that God exists and that his Sacraments actually contain his divine power. It only works if you actually believe that some got sick and even died because they ate the body and blood of Jesus while not agreeing with the others gathered (1 Cor 11:18, 30). How many people will hear this analogy, then scoff and think, “That’s not a fair comparison!” Why not? Because a pharmacist is a steward of things with real power? This is precisely the issue.
The reader’s analogy really nails it. Because the fact is that people literally believe that a pharmacist wields more power than a steward of the mysteries of God. This is what our reason assumes, after all. The steward of the mysteries is only there to affirm the people in what they already think they know. It’s in this way that science and medicine become a sort of witchcraft. It’s what people truly rely on. It’s what truly makes people tremble and silently listen. Of course I’m not attacking pharmacists per se, many of whom are God fearing Christians. But it is interesting that the term “sorcery” is from the Greek “pharmakeia, (Gal 5:20)” and “sorcerer” is from the Greek “pharmakos. (Rev 22:15)” In fact, Plutarch uses “pharmakeia” to describe the practice of using poison to cause an abortion or prevent pregnancy (Plutarch, Romulus 22:3). A false god is made thus in the heart of man, as Jesus says (Matt 6:21), “Where your treasure is there your heart will be also.” And modern medicine has become such a treasure. It has become a false god making people tremble, hope, and trust more than anything else.
But we should fear, love, trust, and hope in God instead (Matt 10:28). This must be the beginning of understanding any theological issue. The fear of God is the beginning of wisdom. When we fear anything else more than God then we have used the best things in the worst ways. We have resorted to sorcery and witchcraft. To think that your pharmacist or doctor can give you better news than your pastor is to put yourself in the company of Ahaz who thought that the Assyrians or gods of Damascus could give him better news than the sign he refused to heed from Isaiah, “Behold the Virgin shall conceive and bear a Son and shall call his name Immanuel. (Is 7:14; cf. 2 Chron 28; 2 Kings 16:5ff.)”
Those who practice sorcery are not those who are strange and uncouth. It made sense for Ahaz to sacrifice to Baal and the gods of Damascus. It made sense for him to appeal to the king of Assyria. This was simply the way of human reason, which fancies itself more practical than God’s promises. Pekah of Israel and Rezin of Syria were coming against Judah. The last thing Ahaz needed at that time, so thought his reason, was some promise of a Virgin birth, which wouldn’t take place for roughly another seven hundred and twenty years. What Ahaz needed right then and there was some medicine. He saw how the gods of Damascus were working out for the Syrians. And if that pill didn’t work, he had a backup dose of Assyrian appeasement. He had it all figured out.
But this was all sorcery. It was all witchcraft. This is because Ahaz didn’t believe that God is powerful to save and keep his promises. He didn’t actually believe God’s Word. The Assyrian Rabshakeh’s mockery of God’s Word during the reign of Hezekiah, Ahaz’s son, would have resonated with Ahaz. The Rabshakeh called God’s Word “vain words. (2 King 18:20; Is 36:5).” This is the source of sorcery. It is unbelief. And unbelief in God’s Word is simply faith in something else.
The Lord’s Supper is more sacred than the Ark of the Covenant itself, which made people die when they touched it unauthorized (2 Sam 6:7; 1 Chron 13:10). The new testament gives life to those who trust Jesus’ words. It does this precisely because it gives the body and blood of Jesus whereby he made full satisfaction to God’s justice and turned away God’s wrath. When we let anyone commune based on a two or three question survey, it not only shows how little we value unity in doctrine and confession. It also shows how powerless we actually see the Word and sacraments to be.
This is not to say that people render them completely powerless. There is a big push for emotional healing, spiritual healing, or whatever you want to call it. This has nothing to do with terrified consciences trembling at God’s Word wanting the assurance of the Lord’s body and blood for forgiveness and salvation. We might think it does. We might even put down as one of the three questions, “Are you sorry for your sins?” But if people want the Lord’s Supper without learning and submitting to the doctrine our churches teach from Scripture, then they really couldn’t care less about God’s wrath against sin. “Am I sorry for my sins? Sure, why not?” If they are not interested in attending a church that teaches God’s Word faithfully, then whether they are sorry for their sins is truly meaningless. It’s like asking someone, “Do you admit that you’re not perfect?” Most people won’t have a problem with that.
So why would they come to the Lord’s Supper if they don’t really care about God’s Word, and they don’t fear God’s wrath against sin? It’s because they want healing. Something is stressing them out. Or they need balance. It goes without question that the pharmacist has the real power in his pills. But these people are open minded to more holistic and “spiritual” kinds of healing. Their religion tells them that they just need inner peace. This isn’t peace with a God who is justly angry with sin. Rather, it’s simply a sense of calm they get when a Priest, Levite, or other religious figure blesses all of their own household gods. They are even willing to put up a good fight to have access to such spiritual services! Check out Micah and the Danites as they fought over a Levite (Judges 17 and 18). But they didn’t only fight over the Levite. They also fought over the idols, which the Levite was supposed to bless. Again, this is because they want healing. They want peace. So while the servant of God serves a purpose in their eyes, he does so no more than a dog they can pet.
God has richly blessed us with modern medicine and science. But believing that true power is found in the works and inventions of men is nothing short of sorcery. And we can say this for other sciences as well. God blesses us with various stations in life, in the home, with fellow servants and employers, in the church, and under all earthly authority. He gives us opportunities to confess his Word, relying on the power of his Word to accomplish what he says it will accomplish. But leave it to the religion of human reason to depend on sociology and other human schemes as driving forces or “bridges” we winsomely create for God’s Word. Such things should creep us out as a sort of updated voodoo.
But the true power of God is in the gospel (Rom 1:16). This is because it does not simply give us earthly, emotional comfort like a fluffy puppy might give to some, but it gives us something objective. It gives the righteousness of Christ, which turned away the burning wrath of God. Now that is real power! May God grant us faithful stewards of such mysteries!