Continued from part 2, on the symbolism of face-covering
Then Pharaoh also called for the wise men and the sorcerers: and they also, the magicians of Egypt, did in like manner with their enchantments. For they cast down every man his rod, and they became serpents: but Aaron’s rod swallowed up their rods. (Exodus 7:11–12)
In part 2, I ended with Scripture’s principle—or, one might say, Scripture’s recognition of the inevitable creational pattern—that you become what you worship. Before moving on to part 3, I am going to make a brief digression on this point, because there is a disturbing corollary to it.
To understand it, we need to first have a basic grasp of the rationale behind magic and idolatry—two things that are generally opaque to modern Christians. If you find the idea of worshiping an idol baffling, and simply cannot understand how anyone could imagine that a carving was a god, then you are missing a crucial understanding of the world that is instinctively obvious to a man unencumbered by Enlightenment thought-patterns.
The reason people make idols and do magic in non-Enlightenment thinking is precisely because of the connection between symbol and reality. Throughout history and cultures, they have naturally intuited the power of symbolism to help them become what they worship. By symbolically representing the reality they are interested in, they hope to enter into that reality, or even cause it to come about in some way.
A classic example of this mindset is the idolater who symbolically represents fertility by having sex in the temple—so the gods in heaven will bring about fertility in the land. Similarly, the witch-doctor symbolically represents hurting someone by driving needles into his effigy—so that person will actually be hurt. Or, the modern athlete symbolically represents his past win by wearing the same clothes that were closest to his body on that day—intuiting that he might re-present that reality, that win, in the world.
This is often called sympathetic magic.
Certainly the thinking behind sympathetic magic is mistaken—but Scripture is not actually clear in what way or by how much. From what we have seen about symbolism already, magical thinking is not nearly as mistaken as smug modern Christians would like to imagine—those people who understand so little of the connection between physical and spiritual realities that they can’t even fathom why anyone would create an idol to worship in the first place. We must acknowledge that the physical really does image the spiritual, and that there is some sense in which magic can therefore really produce these kinds of connections. The exact mechanism, causality, and reliability of magic is obscure; but the witch of Endor really did descend into the underworld by going down into her necromancy pit—and she really did call up the spirit of Samuel (1 Sam 28:11–20). By the same token, spiritual beings really do produce supernatural effects in the physical world, as the girl afflicted with the spirit of python (Acts 16:16–18), or the magicians of Pharaoh (Ex 7:11–12, 22; 8:7).
It was not because magic didn’t work that Yahweh forbade it under pain of death (Ex 22:18; Lev 20:27; 1 Sam 28:9)—but because it did.
We must take this with the utmost seriousness, because the sacraments themselves follow this same pattern and logic. In baptism, we really do descend into death with Christ, and we really are raised up a new creation (Col 2:12; Rom 6:3–4; 2 Cor 5:17)—which is why Peter can say that baptism saves us (1 Pet 3:21). In the Lord’s supper, we really do partake of the Lord’s body and blood—which is why Paul can say that whosoever shall eat the bread or drink the cup of the Lord in an unworthy manner, shall be guilty of the body and the blood of the Lord (1 Cor 11:27). In Christ, we really are seated in the heavenly places (Eph 1:17–23; 2:4–5, 10), so that in worship, we really do enter the heavenly court (Heb 12:18, 22–25)—which is why Scripture makes so much of our not despising this extraordinary gift (Heb 12:28–29; 10:23–27).
Am I suggesting that the sacraments are magical?
No. God forbid. I am saying, rather, that magic is a distortion and perversion of a true symbolic mechanism, built into creation and properly regulated by covenant—and that this is a mechanism which really does something.
So here is what occurs to me—a disconcerting thought for you to pursue in your own time, if you do not find it entirely too wacky:
- If mask mandates are motivated and directed by the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places…
- And if masking is symbolic and tacitly religious…
- And if symbolic actions really do something, such that we can—at least sometimes—participate in the deeper reality we are expressing…
Is it possible that masking up is meant to be a kind of magical ritual, performed unknowingly by masses and masses of people, in order to spiritually, magically facilitate the very subjugation it represents?
That is a conspiracy theory worthy of consideration, don’t you think?