Est. May 2008

08 September, 2013

Snake-handling

So I guess National Geographic is going to be celebrating the extremely dangerous and, IMO, unbiblical practice of so-called 'Christian' snake-handling in a new series.

And I figure at least a few of you readers just flinched when I called it ‘un-biblical’, and you’re probably already pointing to Mark 16, verse 18, in your Bibles and saying, ‘Look, see, it’s in there; how can you say it’s not biblical?’

First off, go look that verse up for yourself right now, so you can compare it to what’s below in the blockquote:
And these signs will accompany those who believe: in my name they will cast out demons; they will speak in new tongues; they will pick up serpents with their hands; and if they drink any deadly poison, it will not hurt them; they will lay their hands on the sick, and they will recover.” (Mark 16:17-18, ESV; emphasis mine)
If you’re looking in your Bible, take a look at verses 9 through to the end. They’re probably blocked inside of brackets (like these – [ ]); that means that this entire section is disputed. There are lots of Bible scholars who don’t think this section was in the original monograph of Mark’s gospel, and for a couple of different reasons. Three of those are that most of the earliest pieces of Mark don’t include them (though some do); most of the earliest Church Fathers don’t refer to this section at all in their writings (though some do); and there are Greek words and sentence structure in this section that aren’t repeated anywhere else in Mark’s writing.

Go re-read verses 17 and 18 again. Notice that there’s no sense of command in any of those statements? Believers will be able to do these things, but they’re not commanded to do them, are they? Which is why ‘Pastor’ Coots’ statement …
"To me, it's much a commandment from God when He said 'they shall take up serpents' as it was in the Ten Commandments when He said 'thou shall not commit adultery.'"
… is, IMO, a bunch of eisegetical hogwash. ‘Pastor’ Coots might believe it’s a command, but I’d like to see him explain why.

I've read through the other quotes in the article – and the quotes from other snake-handling ‘pastors’ – and I keep picking up on a sense of inordinate pride in these folks who say they pick up snakes because God protects them; I also get the distinct feeling that by picking up snakes, they’re ‘put[ting] the Lord their God to the test’ (Deuteronomy 6:16), both of which are sins. They remind me of these folks who jump into zoo enclosures with tigers, lions, bears, and other dangerous animals while saying, ‘God will protect me!’ And what happens most of the time?

They come out in body bags.

And what happens if, in ‘Pastor’ Hamblin’s church, somebody’s son, daughter, wife, husband gets bit and dies?
"To me, if anyone gets snake bitten (and) they die, I still flip to the 16th chapter of Mark and in red letter in the King James Bible it stills says 'they shall take up serpents.' It's still there, it don't change."
I’m sure that’s cold comfort to the family and friends of the victim, ‘Pastor’. And it’s no explanation at all – either God does or He does not protect people who handle poisonous snakes, ‘Pastor’ Hamblin.

I’d love to hear his explanation as to why God didn’t do it this time.

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