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The Kabbalah Kraze!
I remember hearing a minister years ago as he quoted Dwight L. Moody. He said, “There are two types of religion in the world: Biblical Christianity…and all the rest.” Similarly, another minister I listened to later said, “The only two religions that exist in the world are Christianity and Hinduism…because Hinduism allows each man to find his or her own truth.”
A breed of ancient Jewish mysticism has recently resurfaced among the rich and famous, enticing those who are uninformed about the dangers of this cult. Madonna, who has given the Kabbalah Centre $18 million since 2001, Bette Midler, Demi Moore, Ashton Kutcher, Marla Maples and Roseanne Barr (refer to [http://radaronline.com/web-only/the-kabbalah-chronicles/2005/06/inside-hollywoods-hottest-cult.php] for more Hollywood stuff on Kabbalah) have been studying what’s known as “the Kabbalah.”
There is now a growing interest in the Kabbalah around the world. TV’s 20/20 just aired an interview with the charming Berg family whose Kaballah Centre is raking in millions off sincere followers, most of whom sport a red thread around their wrists.
So, what is the Kabbalah? Where did it come from? How should the Church view the Kabbalah according to Scripture?
I located this definition on the web: Kabbalah: (Various spellings) meaning: “to receive.” Mystical Jewish teachings intermingled with teachings of gnosticism, Neoplatonism, magic and the occult were handed down by oral tradition. The word Kabbalah was coined by an eleventh century Spanish philosopher, Ibn Gabirol. The philosophy developed in Babylon during the middle ages from earlier Hebrew speculation and numerology. An early Kabbalist, Moses de Leon, developed and systematized the philosophy in his thirteenth century work, The Book of Zolar (sometimes spelled Zohar meaning “Splendor”).
The media is filled with references to Kaballah these days and, as they have with their warmed-over, Westernized verson of reincarnation, prominent Hollywood personalities are clambering to take hold of this feel-good, popular, contemporary version of Kabbalah. According to the Israeli-based Kabbalist, Michael Laitman, the discovery of the upper spiritual world is the single truly satisfying answer to the growing demands of the modern ego. A scientist by profession, Laitman claims that exposing youngsters of all backgrounds and religions to the authentic Kabbalah sources can significantly reduce the escalating phenomena of drug abuse and suicide in today’s society. The brief daily exposure to these texts is highly recommended for getting youngsters back on track toward fulfilling their true purpose in life.
We should find it quite strange to discover the occult practices of Kabbalah rooted deep within Judaism. The venerated Torah is loaded with many prohibitions against all forms of the occult expression. Read on and we will see how Kabbalah is loaded with occultism and an anti-Scriptural doctrine.
After the destruction of the Temple in A.D. 70, having rejected Jesus as Messiah, Mosaic Judaism had a major problem. The Torah emphasized that “without the shedding of blood there is no remission of sins.” So, how could there be a continuation of the required blood sacrifices without an altar and a Temple? This, and other related issues, required a staff meeting. So, the Council of Jamnia was called in A.D. 90, and began, in essence, redefining Judaism, justifying their beliefs, essentially, and their reason for existence. This led to the formulation of the Talmud, the body of writings that seeks the interpret the civil law as well as the Law of God contained in Jewish Scripture), including commentaries on the Torah, or Pentateuch, and oral laws handed down through tradition. Among other things, the Talmud includes materials that concern decisions by Jewish scholars on disputed legal questions known as the Halakhah. Many examples and illustrations of the ethical, political, and religious principles involved in the laws are set down in the Haggada.
Now, two versions of the Talmud exist: the Jerusalem Talmud and the Babylonian Talmud. The Babylonian Talmud became authoritative because the rabbinic academies of Babylonia survived those in Palestine by many centuries. After the completion of the Talmud, the Halakhah continued to develop as rabbis adapted it to the changing times. The Haggada was also continually revised.
One of the most important parts of the Talmud is the Mishneh Torah. This was a compilation of all the rabbinical legal literature by various rabbinical commentators in existence at his time. Problems emerged when some Jews began veneration of the commentators over the text itself. People were focusing too much on the TEACHERS than their inspired TEACHINGS, much the same as some do today even within Christianity. It is simply the nature of people to do so.
Interestingly, in the 8th century, there arose a Jewish sect called the Karaites who clung to the strict interpretations of the Scriptures – let’s call them Fundamentalists – rejecting the Talmud and the rabbinical traditions that had been incorporated during the first six centuries. They were considered heretics by “Orthodox” Jews, and suffered persecution.
Here Kums the Kabbalah!
As was mentioned earlier, The Zohar was a monumental work composed by Spaniard Moses de León, who lived in Guadalajara until 1290, before living the life of a wanderer. De León was a prolific writer, completely immersed in mysticism. The Zohar, his greatest work, was written in Aramaic over a 30 year period. The doctrine taught in his book was deceptively credited by de León to some legendary Palestinian scholar, Shimon ben Yohai, claiming that a Spanish-Jewish scholar and mystic named Moses ben Nahman had found the book in a cave in which Shimon and his son had found refuge from Roman persecution. When Moses tried to send ben Yohai’s important teachings to his son in Catalonia, de León claims he intercepted it and began making copies, which he then circulated among the more educated folk.
De León failed in this attempt to deceive the world and hide the fact that he was its actual author. In his own lifetime a Palestinian mystic who doubted the authenticity and antiquity of the Zohar, investigated the matter. De León finally promised to produce the original, but died before the matter was settled. One must always closely examine the founder’s background when investigating any philosophical or religious movement. In this case, the author was a deceiver. His Zohar depicted God as merely a powerful force that one should aspire to obtain. De Leon taught that God is the unknowable, immutable Ein-Sof (Infinite “Nothingness”). From this philosophy sprang the Kaballah, the name of an occult theosophy that developed among Jews in Babylonia, and later Italy, Provence, and Spain, between the sixth and thirteenth centuries A.D.
The doctrine they taught was that heavenly revelation was received by enlightened Jews, and was passed on to succeeding generations through oral tradition. At first it was used by the mainstream of Judaism, but eventually it became identified with those who believed that the Kabbalah was an esoteric, occultic tradition that explained the true meaning of the Hebrew Scriptures, which was kept hidden from the masses and only made known to those who were spiritually ready to receive it.
Typically, Kabbalah is divided into two systems: theoretical and practical. The theoretical is concerned with theosophical speculation upon God and His attributes. The practical is concerned with bringing what has been theorized into the realm of everyday experience. This is attempted through prayer, ascetic practices, and the employment of various occult means, such as numerology, talismans, amulets, and incarnation of divine names and words.
One Kabbalah belief is that Scripture is inspired, not only in its obvious interpretations, but even to the degree that, through the use of occult symbol interpretation, one could find hidden meaning in the very numerical and alphabetical interpretation of the texts. Thus, the doctrine of the Kabbalah was derived through study of the Old Testament, but only when occultic interpretative techniques were utilized.
To give you an historical perspective, Kabbalah grew out of two basic needs in the Jewish consciousness. First, because they had rejected their Messiah, God temporarily rejected the Jewish nation (Luke 13:35), and so, in the centuries that followed, there were no prophets and no immediate manifestation of God’s presence among them. This left them feeling that God was far removed from them and made them more prone to be influenced by the philosophical climate of the people in whose lands they dwelt. This included Greek; Neo-Platonism and its “Christian” offshoot, Gnosticism. These philosophies had a very transcendent view of God: He is infinite and far removed from any conceivable contact with man. As the Jews embraced increasingly transcendent view of God, they needed to reconcile this with the traditional Hebrew belief in the accessibility of God to man. This need seemed to be met best through the doctrine of the Sefirot, the attributes or “emanation” of God, the groundwork of which had already been laid by the Gnostics, and Philo of Alexandria, a Jewish philosopher and contemporary of Christ.
The second reason for Kaballah’s emergence was that, by around the twelfth century, Talmudic legalism, ritualism, and intellectual slavery had reached its peak. Kabbalah became popular because it opened up an approach to religion that seemed more pleasurable, immediate, and less confining.
The Kabbalistic belief is that God, or “Ein Sof,” is infinite and transcendent, and can make no direct contact with finite beings like us. We came into existence when the Ein Sof voluntarily limited Himself by allowing Himself to become manifest through attributes or “emanation” (the Sefirot), listed as: Crown, Wisdom, Intelligence, Greatness, Strength, Beauty, Firmness, Splendor, Foundation, and Sovereignty. Each emanation would be further removed from the Ein Sof, and thus further from His perfection and transcendence. The Sefirot would be repeated on four different levels, and these realms, according to descent, were called: “Atziluth” (the world of the supernals, or heavenless), “Briah” (the world of creation), “Yetzirah” (the world of formation), and “Assiah” (the world of material action). Taking on a personal form, these Sefirot, as angels, served as intermediaries between God and man.
In this theosophy, the Sefirot are viewed as archetypes for everything in the world of creation, an understanding of their workings make clear to the seeker the inner workings of the universe and all of history. The concept is that the Zohar provides a cosmic-symbolic interpretation of Judaism, and of the history of Israel, in which the Torah and commandments – as well as Israel’s life in exile – become symbols for events and processes in the inner life of God. Interpreted in this way, the proper observance of the commandments by man takes on a cosmic significance.
That’s it. From the get-go, the concept of Ein-Sof was a tragic attempt to depersonalize God. After all, no one can relate to an unknowable force. On the other hand, the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob IS a knowable, personal God who rejoices over His children with singing and longs to bless them. Jesus said, “When they see me, they’ve seen the Father.” Jesus showed humanity the character and nature of God in the flesh. One author writes, “…any attempt to chart the “inner life” of the Godhead, by means of the Sefirot or any other, is akin to “uncovering the Father’s nakedness,” a sin of grave disrespect emphasized in the Tenach itself!”
The disciplines of Kabbalah include meditative practices that promise to enable individuals to share and participate in the diverse dimensions of God’s being. Kabbalistic discipline was also limited to the elite who were highly educated in the texts of Talmudic Judaism prior to their immersion in Kabbalistic studies. Kabbalistic communities soon developed (not unlike today’s Kabbalh Centre), generally organized as secret societies of disciples that gathered around a specially gifted mystical teacher (Tziddik). Such communities soon spread all over Europe with increasingly broad appeal among learned Jews – the rich and famous wannabee’s, if you will. As the Berg’s stated during their 20/20 interview, even though one may not even read Hebrew, the very act of merely LOOKING at the Kaballah will command a blessing!
What should be the Christian response to Kabbalah?
There are many other aspects of Kabbalah that one can search out on this subject to expose the errancy of this theosophy. Don’t waste your time…read your Bible instead. I can hear an old friend of mine saying, “Let the Kabbalah movement grow! Its followers will ultimately come up empty. Finding that it leaves them wanting, we, The Church, must be there to show them unconditional love of Jesus. THAT is all they were ever looking for in the first place!”
Prayer is the greatest response to the “Kabbblah Kraze.” In today’s occult revolution where every dimension of the occult is being explored, there has been a revived interest in Kabbalah among both Jew and Gentile. Yes, its Jewish origin makes it unique, but Kabbalah is still essentially an occultic practice, and is thus incompatible with the Judaeo-Christian faiths. Its Pantheistic theology teaches that all reality springs directly from God’s own essence. Even if one believes that these emanations from God’s essence have gone through a descent of ten spheres on four different levels, the conclusion is inescapable that even he who is on the lowest level is still of one essence with God; and thus, ultimately, that individual IS God. This belief is nothing short of Pantheism.
Pantheism is a concept that is incompatible with the biblical concept God, who created the world out of nothing, not out of Himself. In Genesis 1:1, the Hebrew word for “create” is “bara,” referring to something coming out of nothing. Genesis 1:1 debunks Pantheism, the belief that God is IN the creation and IS the creation. God is the tree? He is the rock? He is the building? He is the air? Pantheism holds that God permeates, and, therefore, IS all.
I recall a debate with a believer in Pantheism where I asked him if God was in those bird droppings on the fence before us. I believe I heard his mental wheels come to a screeching halt for a moment. “Come now,” I said, urging him not to check his brain at the door, “your beliefs are either absolutely true in all instances or they aren’t true at all.” Pantheism, for those who aren’t aware, is a non-biblical world view. The concept is, basically, that only the spiritual dimension exists. Pantheists refer to the perception of material reality as maya, which means illusion. Some Pantheistic religions include Hinduism, Buddhism and Taoism. Pantheism also forms the basis for Transcendental Meditation and some aspects of New Age mysticism. It should not be confused with believing that God is omnipresent. God IS omnipresent. He is everywhere at once. David could say, “…if I ascend up into heaven, thou (God) art there: if I make my bed in hell, behold, thou art there,” (Psalm 139:8). But God is NOT the created world. In fact, He is completely EXTERNAL to the created world. Worship belongs to the Creator, not His creation. Paul tells us in Romans 1:25 that there will be those “Who changed the truth of God into a lie, and worshipped and served the creature more than the Creator….”
God is related to the world as a sculptor is related to his sculpture, or as an artist is related to his painting, and I am related to this message on my computer screen right now. The sculptor is not the sculpture. The artist is not the painting. The writer is not the writing. The sculpture, painting, and writing are productions. They are produced by the One that creates, and what one creates, can be created again. Perhaps it will be different or it may be better.
God is infinite; He existed before the world existed. He still exists, co-existing with the universe and allowing you and me, through Christ Jesus, to become co-laborers with Him for we ARE seated with Him in heavenly places. That’s present tense. The universe is finite, having a very definite beginning and ending. The universe will end. Scientists reckon that the sun will shine about five million more years. Then in a great burst of energy, it will swell up, engulf and consume the planets before shrinking into a white dwarf. They claim the sun will eventually burn itself out, and the whole universe will come to a great cataclysmic end. God only knows. The Bible says that heaven and earth WILL pass away (Matthew 24:35). It also states, “…the heavens shall pass away with a great noise, …the earth also and the works that are therein shall be burned up,” (2 Peter 3:10). 1 Timothy 6:16 says that “the Lord only hath immortality, dwelling in the light which no man can approach unto.”
God created everything just by speaking it into existence. It was not difficult. He’s God, you know. “Let there be light and there was light” (Genesis 1:3). Poof! “Let the waters bring forth and they brought forth, Let the earth bring forth and it brought forth” (Genesis 1:20,24). Poof! God was not put to a test to make the universe. Some say, “Mankind was a more difficult product!” God formed Adam out of the dust of the ground; we must not have been TOO tough. Like a mud pie maybe. Poof! He took a rib from Adam’s side, spoke a word, and turned it into a woman. Poof! That was not hard for God. This whole creation was not such a magnificent production where God was concerned. To us, it is absolutely unfathomable. With just a little word, it all came to be. It was really easy for the Creator. Genesis1:31declares that in six days, it all came to be, simply through spoken words.
Imagine having that kind of an all-pwerful Creator God handling your measely, temporal problems! He WANTS to!
Finally, my brethren…
Although Kabbalists’ insistence upon the inspiration of Scripture in its literal form was commendable, their carrying this point to the extent of seeking to find hidden meaning in its numerical arrangements was just plain unnecessary. Logically speaking, couldn’t we apply Kabbalistic methods to almost any piece of literature and draw almost any interpretation from it? “Green eggs ‘n Ham” by Dr. Seuss might take on a profound new meaning! Their method of interpretation is neither acknowledged in the Bible, nor justified by it. The application of this method to the Bible have produced interpretations that are not supported by Scripture, and, in fact, produced something directly opposed to it.
To any Christian individuals considering the Kabbalah, I would say this: In the words of author Chick Missler, “Recognize that your adventure as a student is unfinished. “Now we see through a glass darkly; then, face to face.” Like a giant jigsaw puzzle, each piece takes its significance in how it fits in among those already in place. Forcing it only causes distortions. Withhold judgment until all the key pieces are in place.”
You may be dissatisfied or disillusioned with your most holy Chrsitian faith but, as my wise ol’ mom used to say, “You get out of it what you put into it.” Are you studying the Scriptures daily? Fellowshiping with strong believers? Praying? And if you’re praying, what is the Spirit saying? Are you listening to His still, small voice? As a disciple, are you practicing the disciplines of the faith, following the examples and studying the teachings set by Christ Himself? If not, then it’s no wonder Christianity is leaving you hungry. The delicious banquet has been set before you…but no one’s going to force you to partake.
Remember the wise counsel of Paul: “Beware lest any man spoil you through philosophy and vain deceit, after the tradition of men, after the rudiments of the world, and not after Christ,” Colossians 2:8.
Bottom line: Kabbalah is a mystical, spiritual teaching that emphasizes secret knowledge (old-fashioned gnosticism, addressed by Paul in Colossians, that’s still around today). This secret knowledge stands in direct opposition to the way God communicates plainly with us through His Word. “Kabbalah uses animistic principles of superstitious practices to attempt to exert control over the world: numerology, talismans, amulets, and incarnation of divine names and words,” to quote from an article on Kabbalah by the Christian Research Institute.
Currently, the Kabbalah is spreading like wildfire, consuming disenchanted Jews, Christians and Celebs in its wake as many, if they are not abandoning their traditional faith all together, are trying to create some sort of hybrid faith by using a smorgasbord technique.
What will the Church do? What will YOU do? Pass this message on to others now. Someone out there needs to read this today.
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