12 August 2013

Jentezen Franklin's 'Spirit of Python'

There is more than one way to "squeeze the life out of" a person, even in the figurative sense. Some may use this phrase when speaking of something exceedingly dull or particularly stressful. But there is something running rampant in the church today that can squeeze the spiritual life out of a person: false teaching.

This blog first discussed Word Faith, seeker-driven pastor Jentezen Franklin in depth at the time of Steven Furtick's Code Orange Revival. At that time, it was noted that,
Jentezen Franklin is the lead pastor at Free Chapel in Gainesville, GA and in Irvine, CA. Yes, he is the lead pastor of two separate churches across the country from one another. But he is not just a "flat screen preacher." No, Franklin ministers live and in person in both locations:
Every Sunday, Franklin arrives at Free Chapel in Gainesville by 5 a.m. for prayer, preaches two sermons and shakes hundreds of hands before boarding a private jet at 2 p.m. with his family and two staff members. They arrive at John Wayne Airport, located five minutes from Free Chapel Orange County (OC), and by 6 p.m. Franklin is in the pulpit. (Source)
photo: Tambako the Jaguar via photopin cc
Jentezen Franklin now has a new book available for pre-order. It is called The Spirit of Python: Exposing Satan's Plan to Squeeze the Life Out of You. The description at Amazon reads as follows:
Pythons have an interesting way of killing their prey. They constrict it until it can no longer breathe, literally suffocating the life out of it. In the spirit realm Satan often works in the same way, slowly slithering his way into our lives, attempting to choke the very life out of us.

The python spirit can squeeze the joy out of your worship and prayers. It can pressure you to keep quiet when God wants you to speak up. And it can steal the peace of knowing that you belong to God. But there is a way to defeat him. You don’t have to become his prey.

The Spirit of Python helps you understand the strategies of this subtle destroyer, how he works, how to detect him, and how to break his hold from your life.
(Source
Franklin has delivered a message with this same title, though it is unknown if his upcoming book will be based upon this same sermon. Regardless, it behooves us to be aware of what Franklin already has taught about this "Spirit of Python":


According to the YouTube description, this message was delivered to a group of young people and, from the video, it is obvious that this was shared at a very large, well-attended conference. Parents must be acutely aware of what type of teaching their children are exposed to at these events. Jentezen Franklin's message is an ideal example of the necessity for parents to be grounded in Scripture.

There is much in Franklin's 'sermon' shared above that is worthy of critique. For example, why does Franklin warn against "musical pornography," and then offer an example of it for the audience, playing a graphic song while two people dance inappropriately on stage? How is this edifying? Did Franklin really think that these teenagers needed him to provide an example illustrating his point? Did he not consider that he simply succeeded in filling those young minds with more pornographic thoughts and pictures?

Yet, listen closely at approximately 29:30 in the video. Franklin claims that he wrestled with whether he should include this portion of the message. He says that he asked God if he could let people dance on stage in a suggestive and inappropriate manner. He would, after all, be speaking to "church kids." Then, Jentezen Franklin claims that God told him that "the devil targets church kids more than any other kids." So not only is Franklin claiming that God speaks personally to him, but God also has given him permission to depict lewd acts on stage in front of thousands of "church kids."

Jentezen Franklin
Those who viewed this video in its entirety likely noticed that very little biblical teaching was employed. Oh, some typical advice was offered to the teenagers: don't sleep around, don't do drugs, etc. But was there any true teaching of the Bible, a practice that, when properly executed leads to a right understanding of God and thus leads to right behavior? No. In fact, apart from some final illustrations from Scripture at the close of the message, the most mention of the Bible occurs in the first few minutes, when Franklin explains his interpretation of the "Spirit of Python" that is referenced in Acts 16:16.

The NASB rendering of this verse is similar to that of other popular translations:
It happened that as we were going to the place of prayer, a slave girl having a spirit of divination met us, who was bringing her masters much profit by fortune-telling. (Acts 16:16)
Why does Jentezen Franklin fail to share with his young audience this verse in its entirety, especially considering that the second half of the verse explains the nature of this spirit? Why does he fail to share the broader passage that tells the whole story of Paul, Silas, and the girl with the spirit of divination? Answer: to do so would not accommodate or further his agenda. If Jentezen Franklin were to read this verse as it appears in Scripture, he no longer would be able to propagate his man-centered mythology.

One certainly can offer props to Franklin for creativity in this message, but all kudos must be stripped away when it is realized how wickedly he has twisted the biblical text. There is no secret message in Acts 16:16 about a "Spirit of Python" that will squeeze the "joy out of your worship and prayers." What, then, is this verse saying? To Franklin's credit, the Greek literally does read "a python spirit," however, Dr. John MacArthur explains exactly what that means:
What is a python spirit? In Greek mythology, there's a place called Pytho, and Pytho was at the foot of Mount Parnassus. Now, at Pytho, there was a dragon. The dragon guarded Pytho, and the dragon's name was Python. This dragon guarded the oracles of Delphi. 
Delphi was a place where oracles were given. . . . The term "oracle," which is an occult term, means either a place where mediums consult demons or it means the revelation the demons give themselves. So it can refer to the place or the demonic revelation. The oracles at Delphi—Delphi was a place that was a monstrous temple and in this temple were all these medium priestesses and these priestesses were conjuring up demons and giving out information. 
Now, you say, what about the dragon? Well, supposedly, long ago in Greek mythology, this dragon guarded these oracles. Apollo, who was the third son of Jupiter in mythology, came down and slew the dragon. All of the oracle power of the dragon was then transferred to Apollo and he took on the name Pythias. And so the python idea ties in with Apollo who received the dragon's power and was able, then, to contact these demon spirits at Delphi. Now, let me say this just so you'll understand. They believed, the people in this world believed that the gods were alive. They believed in Apollo and Jupiter and Venus and Mars and all those people, Cupid and everybody else. [And] they believed that Apollo spoke through the oracles at Delphi. And so the term python means any kind of medium contact with the god Apollo. 
This girl, then, was one of the thousands of priestesses from Delphi who were called pythons because they were plugged into Apollo whose other name was Pythias. . . . People would consult this girl, or these priestesses, and they had temples all over the place. They would consult these priestesses and they would then think that Apollo, the god, was giving them the information. Now, we know who it really was, right? [It was] Satan and his demons. . . 
They are just vehicles through which demons speak. Now, here was this girl and Satan had his instrument. And according to the ancient writings, these girls would go into frenzies. It says "soothsaying" at the end of verse 16. The root word is frenzy. They would go into almost like a fit and in this terrible frenzy they would become totally distorted. There's some writings that describe visage of these people in the midst of this—horrifying. And they would utter these statements and this is exactly what is common today. Well, this girl was . . . making a fortune. Why? Because everybody's hung up on the future. Everybody's preoccupied with finding out the future. So it says at the end of verse 16, she brought much gain to her masters. She was making money. 
(Source, emphasis added)
Perhaps now it is easy to comprehend why most modern translators opted to simply call this a "spirit of divination," which provides a right and accurate understanding of the text. It also is easy to see how Franklin has misused this small phrase, "spirit of python," to create a new, glimmering gimmick for the kids (and anyone else who may be so easily deceived).

photo: Thomas Hawk via photopin cc 
The "spirit of python" in this verse is not peer pressure, it was speaking of a true demonic spirit. And instead of focusing on the grace and goodness of God that is found in verse 18, when Paul by the power of God casts the spirit out of the girl, Jentezen Franklin instead has taught thousands upon thousands of young people to read themselves into this descriptive passage of Scripture. And now, with his upcoming book, he no doubt will teach many more to do the same.

Instead of resorting to a contrived stunt like Franklin's "Spirit of Python," let the Christian call a spade a spade. What truly can "squeeze the life" out of a believer? Sin. Do not let sin hinder your walk with the Lord as you strive for holiness and as you seek righteousness.

Sin also destroys the unregenerate man, though in a greater, eternal way. If a man does not acknowledge his sin and repent of it before the thrice-holy God, if he does not turn to the Lord, trusting in Christ's work alone for salvation, then that man will find that this earthly life was his best life, and that eternity finds him condemned to endure God's wrath without reprieve.

Do not let the latest professing Christian fad or fable sweep you away. To do so eventually will squeeze the spiritual life out of you as you realize that your quest for the latest and greatest has led you fearsomely far away from the Truth.

Further Reading
Affirming Sola Scriptura
Witnessing to a Blank Stare
Walking on Water with Mark Batterson

7 comments:

  1. This >>> "let the Christian call a spade a spade. What truly can "squeeze the life" out of a believer? Sin."

    This is what is avoided by most charismatic ministries - instead it is what other people are doing to you and your dreams/potential either now or in your past. So they will tell you to get theophostics or your streams cleansed, get sozo'ed...go back and find the root hurt or habit.
    But they never preach the law to expose sin so it can then be brought to the cross, have the gospel applied and life and grace given.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Right on Nic. Also, don't "think about" what's happening/what the Spirit is doing and "don't judge". These teachings leave people wide open for deception. It seems the quest is more for power than for Jesus. More for miracles and healings, dreams, and visions, and less about become humble in the face of our Almighty God. If you notice, most of the Christian songs sung today is "about" God and not actually singing "to" God. For people who are interested, look up "Kundalini Spirit" and the deception going on right now in charismatic churches. The spirit of eastern mysticism has invaded our church and it's time to get it back...the real teachings of Jesus and knowing that discipline is not a bad word - we should be reading the Bible, memorizing scripture (hide God's Word in your heart), and praying and fasting.

      Delete
  2. Interesting article. Erin. None of us are likely to take Jentzen Franklin seriously But the thing that struck me was the irony of a false teacher ostensibly "exposing" a false practice, while essentially engaging in some theological "squeezing" of his own.

    Satan must be chuckling at how easy some of this is to put over on people.

    ReplyDelete
  3. This sermon/teaching was presnted by Carl Strader in Lakeland, Florida over 20 years ago and has now been plagiarized by this goof...

    ReplyDelete
  4. I am kinda embarrassed to say that I watched the entire video of that Scripture twisting festival with the youth group I was involved with many years ago. Granted, I was an unregenerated "church-pew-filler-volunteer" at the time but, nevertheless, I did expose my kids to this stuff and thought it was spot on.

    Oh, that God would open the eyes of "church-pew-filler-volunteers" in the same way He opened my eyes...that He would regenerate hearts in the same way He regenerated mine and give discernment in a time when it is so badly needed.

    ReplyDelete
  5. I actually ordered "The Spirit of Python" (the book) and read the first 38 pages. I was shocked to find terrible error and misuse of scripture (see my one-star rating and comment on Amazon.com). It's sad to see that others are being sucked in by this.

    ReplyDelete
  6. This happened a while now and I am just seeing this. Have not watched the video and will not. Came upon the book in a store and planning to buy it....now not so sure.

    ReplyDelete

Please keep it pithy (in other words, if your comment is long enough to be its own blog post, don't bother), pertinent (please don't go off-topic), and respectful (to the author, to the other readers, and to the subject of the post). If you can't do that, your comment will not be posted.

If you haven't already, please read the Comment Policy in its entirety.