One of the best compliments I ever received was when a former pastor of mine told me that I had a very practical theology. Now he was not talking about the field of Practical Theology, but more broadly that I see the Bible, and God, as immensely practical. In my view, Christians often hold views about God and the Bible that are not the least bit helpful to us at all.
For example, I read a comment on 1 Corinthians 13 (the love chapter) that said that it expressed a wonderful ideal if we could reach it, but we cannot as we are bound by sin. To me this is nonsense on two levels. First, we are no longer bound by sin but free not to sin and, therefore, we can walk in love. But on a practical level, it is also wrong. What good does it do to tell us what it would be like to walk in the love of God if we cannot do it. That is impracticable and a waste of time as far as I am concerned. The Bible, the New Testament, tells us what to do and empowers us to do it! That is a practical theology.
On the other hand, we have to be careful not to become pure pragmatists. Americans are very pragmatic people. We believe that if something works then it is a good thing. If something has bad effects it is a bad thing. So the known results of something determine whether it is good or bad. A diet is good if it helps you lose weight and makes your body healthy, and a diet is bad if it does the opposite. It all seems very sensible.
But what seems sensible to us is not always good. Just yesterday, in fact, I was with a group of ladies at work who were discussing losing weight in the new year. (It seems that everyone is planning to lose weight after the fattening holidays are over. I am among them.) One woman was talking about using hypnosis in order to lose weight. They were all talking about it like it was perfectly alright. The only question in their minds was, "Will it work?". That is the question of a pragmatist. The pragmatist does not ask what is behind that hypnosis, but what will be the known practical effect of what I am doing.
One of the ladies, a Christian, asked me if hypnosis was "against Christianity". I was really quite bold. I not only stated that it was wrong, but I told them that it is a demon which causes hypnosis. Some of them heard me, but I am not sure they accepted it. One or two of them ignored me as if I had said nothing, but I hope that some had ears to hear. Then one woman said that 'you have to open yourself to it' for it to work. I said, "Open yourself to what?".
That is the non-pragmatic question. "What are you opening yourself to?" The idea of 'being open' sounds good to us. We are told to have open hearts and open minds, etc. 'Openness' is supposed to be a good thing. That is not always the case.
We are supposed to be open to the Spirit of God and closed to the devil. This woman does not realize that hypnotism is opening up oneself to evil spirits. The devil is glad to do "good things" for you if you open yourself to his influence. We must resist this kind of deception and warn others. Losing some weight is not worth opening yourself up to a demon spirit.
I later spoke privately to the woman who was considering hypnotism to lose weight. I explained that it was not a good thing. She said that she was a Christian and walked close to the Lord, but she was not going to do the hypnosis because she did not think she could be hypnotized. She does not think could open herself up like that. I am happy that she is giving up on this idea, but her reasons were actually more practical than spiritual. I pray that she get more wisdom and spiritual understanding.
Then we got onto the topic of yoga. I told her that some of the ladies used to do yoga before work hours. She said that the ladies were talking about that earlier. Then, I told her that I had rebuked the evil spirit behind it and it stopped.
Many Christians, unfortunately, are not informed about why yoga is wrong. They say it is healthy and makes one feel peaceful. They do not realize that this "peace" they get is deceptive. The devil can counterfeit the peace of God and make people temporarily feel better as a result.
But we have to understand what yoga is. It is worship of Hindu gods. The mantras that are repeated are names of gods. That is worship, false worship. And the music is praising these same gods. It is idolatry. But Christians, thinking that it is just a technique, are unaware of what they are doing. I do not think that God is mad at them or that they will go to Hell or anything, but we need to quit being so gullible where these things are concerned. We should know what something is really about, what its origins are, before we practice them. Instead, we just use it if it seems to make us feel better or lose weight or become healthier.
The apostle Paul ran into a similar thing at the church in Corinth. He became aware that some members were attending pagan temple services. Pagan temples served both a social and religious function. Obviously, they were places where idols were worshiped. But they also were places where people met together, ate dinner, and did business. Some Corinthian Christians did not see anything wrong with going there. They had learned that there was only one God. There were no other gods so going to the temple of a god who did not exist would do no harm.
But Paul explained that the idols, which are not true gods, are inhabited by demons who receive the worship being offered to the idols. Eating dinner with idols was having fellowship with demons. So, the Corinthians who thought they were wise in eating in pagan temples were actually foolish since they opened themselves to evil influences.
Some Christians who practice things like yoga think that since they don't believe in Hinduism and all their gods are not doing anything wrong. Or they do not even realize that yoga is a form of pagan worship and believe it is only exercise. Like the Corinthians they need to be more fully informed. We live in a world full of evil spirits and we must be careful not to open ourselves to them.
Many Christians think that as long as their hearts are right, everything is fine. They are not trying to worship demons so it doesn't matter what they do. But they open themselves up to the devil when they practice such things.
The devil knows that we are suckers for things that appear good and have good effects on our minds and bodies. He has devised things that "help" us feel better and look better so that he can gain some kind of foothold in our lives if possible. So, let's "be wise and understand what the will of the Lord is".