October 25, 2011

+++ Testing the spirits

"Dear friends, do not believe every spirit, 
but test the spirits to see whether they are from God, 
because many false prophets have gone out into the world." 
1 John 4:1

With St. John's advice in mind, I want to offer an admittedly abbreviated collection of wise guidance we have been given, through the centuries, on this subject.

"...no one can say, 'Jesus is Lord,' except by the Holy Spirit." 
1 Corinthians 12:3

I have often considered the above Scripture verse as an essential test of alleged apparitions or miracles. It appears to offer us a clear indicator. However, some knowledgeable reporters have suggested that fallen angels are so adept at lying that they can deceive by skirting around this limitation. Perhaps they play word games. So, even though this Bible verse appears definitive, we would be wise to err on the side of caution, realizing that the stakes are high and deception is not only possible, but a primary goal of the evil one.
So, how do we gain a level of confidence in the truth or falsity of seemingly miraculous manifestations from God? What are the signs along the the path to careful, prayerful discernment? Let's look at various aspects of thoughtful evaluation.


"... and many false prophets will appear and deceive many people."
Matthew 24:11

"For false Christs and false prophets will appear and perform great signs 
and miracles to deceive even the elect--if that were possible. 
See, I have told you ahead of time."
Matthew 24:24-25
[The Gospel of Mark 
also presents these warnings in 
chapter 13, verses 22 and 23.]

"The coming of the lawless one will be in accordance with the work of Satan 
displayed in all kinds of counterfeit miracles, signs and wonders..."
2 Thessalonians 2:9


“Watch out for false prophets. They come to you in sheep’s clothing, 
but inwardly they are ferocious wolves. By their fruit you will recognize them. 
Do people pick grapes from thornbushes, or figs from thistles? 
Likewise every good tree bears good fruit, but a bad tree bears bad fruit. 
A good tree cannot bear bad fruit, and a bad tree cannot bear good fruit. 
Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire. 
Thus, by their fruit you will recognize them."
Matthew 7:15-20


"But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, 
goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. 
Against such things there is no law." 
Galatians 5:22-23


"And we must not be surprised if, since the demons and apostate spirits 
are at his [Satan's] service, he through their means performs wonders, 
by which he leads the inhabitants of the earth astray."
Saint Irenaeus
Against Heresies, Book V, Chapter XXVIII 

"... some miracles are not true but imaginary deeds, 
because they delude man by the appearance of that which is not; 
while others are true deeds, yet they have not the character of a true miracle, 
because they are done by the power of some natural cause. 
Both of these can be done by the demons..."
Saint Thomas Aquinas
Summa Theologica, Q. 178, Article 2


God has said everything in his Word
"In many and various ways God spoke of old to our fathers by the prophets, but in these last days he has spoken to us by a Son." Christ, the Son of God made man, is the Father's one, perfect and unsurpassable Word. In him he has said everything; there will be no other word than this one. St. John of the Cross, among others, commented strikingly on Hebrews 1:1-2:

"In giving us his Son, his only Word (for he possesses no other), 
he spoke everything to us at once in this sole Word - and he has no more to say. . . 
because what he spoke before to the prophets in parts, 
he has now spoken all at once by giving us the All Who is His Son. 
Any person questioning God or desiring some vision or revelation 
would be guilty not only of foolish behavior but also of offending him, 
by not fixing his eyes entirely upon Christ 
and by living with the desire for some other novelty."

There will be no further Revelation
"The Christian economy, therefore, since it is the new and definitive Covenant, will never pass away; and no new public revelation is to be expected before the glorious manifestation of our Lord Jesus Christ." Yet even if Revelation is already complete, it has not been made completely explicit; it remains for Christian faith gradually to grasp its full significance over the course of the centuries.

Throughout the ages, there have been so-called "private" revelations, some of which have been recognized by the authority of the Church. They do not belong, however, to the deposit of faith. It is not their role to improve or complete Christ's definitive Revelation, but to help live more fully by it in a certain period of history. Guided by the Magisterium of the Church, the sensus fidelium knows how to discern and welcome in these revelations whatever constitutes an authentic call of Christ or his saints to the Church.

Christian faith cannot accept "revelations" that claim to surpass or correct the Revelation of which Christ is the fulfillment, as is the case in certain non-Christian religions and also in certain recent sects which base themselves on such "revelations".