Having witnessed the ravaging effects of World War I upon Europe, in 1940 the socialist author George Orwell made the following observation while the League of Nations (later, the United Nations) was being established:
For two hundred years, we have sawed and sawed and sawed at the branch we were sitting on, and in the end, much more suddenly than anyone had foreseen, our efforts were rewarded, and down we came. But, unfortunately, there had been a little mistake. The thing at the bottom was not a bed of roses after all; it was a cesspool full of barbed wire. It appears that amputation of the soul isn’t just a simple surgical job like having your appendix out. The wound has a tendency to go septic.
The Soul of a Nation
Whereas the Scripture declares every human has a soul, it is proper to also say that every nation has a “soul.” How does one describe the soul of a nation? Where does it reside? How does it come into existence? What is its purpose? If the soul of a nation once knew a natural righteousness, can it know a moral and spiritual death? It may be that the United States of America has had a unique soul that influenced the souls of other nations.
Perhaps a nation’s soul may be simply described as its invisible spirit or mood as well as its national consciousness and conscience. If such a nation’s soul ever dies, there is no hope of its recovery. Although such a nation may continue to keep a natural existence, it will never be alive as it once was.
To define the soul of the United States of America, we would have to say that a major part of its composition has been true Christianity. It is important to observe that in our country’s formative years, there was no other prominent religion of great influence, including Roman Catholicism. Although Islam now is claiming it had some influence in the formation of our nation, this simply is not true. The major pulse of the soul of America has been Christianity. We are not stating our nation was born a Christian nation; however, any spiritual life that pulsed in its founding years came from Christianity.
Nonetheless, now we have come to the hour where our nation’s spiritual soul has died. Several years ago, John Stormer declared this in his book The Death of a Nation (1968). Each passing year confirms our nation’s increasing wickedness amidst the death of true biblical Christianity here. The façade of public Christianity today is not biblical Christianity. It has a name and an outward form, but it is not biblical Christianity. The death of true Christianity throughout our nation has brought the death of our nation’s soul.
What factors contributed to the death of our nation’s soul? In the nineteenth century, Liberalism and Modernism washed ashore from Germany and made its way into prominent churches and schools. These theologies had already devastated many theological camps throughout Europe. Liberalism denied the literality of Scripture, the inspiration of Scripture, and the credibility of Scripture. It publicly declared Scripture to be a dead book. Then Modernism arose to provide a false hope, using what it saw as a book of sagas, legends, and myths and interpreting them through contemporary philosophies. When these theologies spread in America, we began to bleed.
Then came the ideological teachings of Evolution. Charles Robert Darwin was unique in that he took the hypothesis of evolution and placed it into a philosophical context of the social sciences. This anti-God theory soon began to make its way into every fabric of the sciences.
The twentieth century saw the rise of several formidable enemies which followed in the wake of Liberalism and Modernism. Neo-orthodoxy first arose from Karl Barth, a student of Adolf von Harnack (father of Liberalism). Neo-orthodoxy declared that although the Bible was dead, perhaps we could return to it with a new presupposition and perspective to gain some benefit. Barth suggested we embrace the growing philosophy of existentialism (of Soren Kierkegaard) as a tool of interpretation. This approach nullified any sense of absoluteness about the Scriptures.
Existentialism advocates the embrace of an illusion, that is, believing subjectively something imaginary is a reality. It is man’s self bringing into existence his own illusion of reality or truth. Barth applied this illusionary interpretation to the Scriptures. However, couching his illusion in the traditional terminology of Protestantism and Reformed Theology, he birthed a new existential orthodoxy. His self-made subjectivity was forced to appear real by adopting traditional but redefined orthodox vocabulary. Though denying the Trinity, he spoke of the illusion of a Trinity. Though denying the deity of Christ, he spoke of the illusion of God’s Son. His traditional vocabulary provided a “virtual reality” for his false theology. Emil Brunner became the preacher of this new theology, and Rudolf Bultmann became its exegetical scholar.
As the earliest enemy to arise in the twentieth century, Neo-orthodoxy then paved the way for Neo-Evangelicalism. Neo-Evangelicalism was a false Evangelicalism that befriended Neo-orthodoxy by first denying the necessity of separating from the apostasy that Fundamentalists were attacking. With biblical separation discarded, Neo-Evangelicals began to broaden their base of the interpretation and understanding of Scripture.
Drawing from the expanding influence of existentialism, Neo-Pentecostalism and the Charismatic movement brought another dimension to Christianity. As public Christianity moved further from the Bible, it corrupted the true understanding of a biblical experiential Christian life. What has remained is the illusion of true Christianity. The Charismatic movement only gives an illusion of the Holy Spirit. Having rejected the literal revelation of God’s Word, their revelation arises outside of and separate from the Bible. The apostasy of Christianity has been the weapon to destroy the national soul of America.
The National Witness of Kurt Cobain
If Christianity was the stabilization of the American soul, what was the music of the nation’s soul? Music has been defined as the expression of the soul. And, America has given the world an unprecedented proportion of music. When the soul is in its most vibrant moments, it can bring forth some of its greatest music. When that soul is dying, such decay will arise in that soul’s song. The death of the soul will bring death to that soul’s song.
Perhaps the best example of the death of America could be the suicide of Kurt Cobain. At the time Kurt Cobain took his life in 1994, he probably was the most powerful figure in the rock music world—greater than the Beatles or Elvis, selling more records than Michael Jackson! As an icon throughout contemporary Western civilization, in some ways Kurt Cobain’s suicide testified that the soul-song of not only America but also Western civilization was dead. His self-inflicted death was a new American experience. Although there had been rock stars who had taken their lives before, Kurt Cobain made this decision in such a brutal way that his death became the commentary of the finality of his philosophy.
In a 1994 magazine article from the Rolling Stone, Donna Gaines observed that although teenage suicide was extremely rare in the 1960s, by 1980 almost four hundred thousand teens were attempting suicide. And although by 1987 suicide had become the second-leading killer of youth after automobile accidents, the only reason it had declined in the early 1990s was due to teens killing each other.
Rock ‘n’ Roll began in the latter part of the 1940s, escalated viscerally in the 1950s, and transformed itself into a political and religious pied piper for a whole generation in the 1960s. Rock music has been the product of the souls of the young people of each of the decades. What was their philosophy? In a post-world-war era, they believed that Western civilization had failed and collapsed; they rejected Western civilization and its God. Having rejected Western civilization, they turned to the existentialism of rock music as their illusion and escape.
The generation of the 1990s began to set forth postmodernism. Postmodernism is the product of a society rejecting sanity and logic and embracing an existential illusion of vain hope. This kind of life is the only life this generation believes is left.
Because Kurt Cobain understood his generation more than most, he became its legitimate icon. He understood his generation had adopted a language of mere illusion and that rock music excelled in painting for them their illusionary world. Donna Gaines continues a description of this generation that sought escape through rock music:
The 1980s offered young people an experience of unsurpassed social violence and humiliation. Traumatized by absent or abusive parents, educators, police, and shrinks, stuck in meaningless jobs without a livable wage, disoriented by disintegrating institutions, many kids felt trapped in a cycle of futility and despair. Adults...utterly failed across the board and abandoned an entire generation by failing to provide for or protect them or prepare them for independent living. Yet, when young people began to exhibit symptoms of neglect, reflected in their rates of suicide, homicide, substance abuse, school failure, recklessness and general misery, adults condemned them as apathetic, illiterate, amoral losers.
Kurt Cobain and Buddhism
When Kurt Cobain came on the scene as a rock star, he had embraced Buddhism. Buddhism to Cobain represented possibly the last hope for his generation.
Buddhism arose out of Hinduism; Hinduism is a religion of many gods (over 33 million gods). The man Buddha (6th century bc) believed that Hinduism was hopeless. He rejected the existence of Hinduism’s gods and advocated finding meaning to life through suffering. Mankind’s life is an accumulation of physical, mental, and emotional suffering. Mankind’s only hope is to escape it by finding Nirvana. Nirvana is a state of mind a person reaches in which there is absolutely nothing in his thinking. Such an individual becomes an expressionless mind. Nirvana is being free from or oblivious to pain, worry, or any thought of the external world. To reach the emptying power of Nirvana is to reach a state of true hope.
The youth of Kurt Cobain’s America had come to believe that suffering and despair were synonymous with life. Endeavoring to bring them hope, Cobain even named his rock band Nirvana, the apex of Buddhism’s false hope. His most classic song was entitled “Never Mind.” The title phrase means, “Don’t bother, don’t concern yourself with something.” If you don’t believe that there is anything out there that gives meaning, or value, or significance to life, then “never mind.” Though he had a wife and daughter, he had come to believe that nothing in life had any meaning. Nothing was worth investing any more thought. “Never mind, never mind. Life, never mind.”
Evolution provides no meaning or purpose to life or living. Once an individual, a society, a generation, or a nation accepts the hypothesis of evolution, what meaning does life have? Only God, only a Creator gives meaning and value to anything. All that Cobain’s hope of finding Nirvana gave to his generation was, “Don’t think of anything; do not think anything in life is important; remember that life is futile; there is nothing in life that will ever help you; it will never bring purpose.” Without God, he could finally only sing, “never mind, never mind—don’t be bothered by this; don’t invest any thought in this.”
Nirvana as the Buddhist term for salvation rises to mean “a cessation of existence, expressional extinction.” Buddha, for many good reasons, rejected the Hindu idea of gods. There were too many gods; they were too wicked, not worth following; they became like the Greek gods and goddesses. Buddha rejected the idea of any concept of God, and he understood even more profoundly that if one can get everything out of the mind, one may come to Nirvana. He supposed such a state of emptiness would bring happiness.
Cobain concluded that the only way to bring about a thoughtless (and thus happy) mind was suicide. If there is no purpose, if there is nothing to be mindful of, then perhaps the thing to do is to end it all. Since one comes to believe there is no life after death, there is no judge after death, and there is no purpose in living, why not end it all? As a young multi-millionaire, Cobain concluded, “never mind.” Slipping into an upstairs room above his garage, Cobain killed himself, hoping that no one would find him for several days and believing this was the best in life.
Cobain’s perspective toward life is not a new philosophy. Friedrich Nietzsche (1844–1900) came to a similar nihilistic perspective, believing there was no purpose in life, which drove him into insanity. His deeply immoral and perverted life brought him to final hopelessness. Cobain and Nietzsche are examples of where our society now resides.
We live amidst a strange land that is becoming stranger as its sins abound and the soul of our nation lies dead. At the same time, Washington leadership on Capitol Hill abounds with those who believe they can create some sanity out of the nation’s insanity. Yet, their very lives are filled with tragedy while they lead us into a deeper condition of a soulless nation.
Only true Christianity can give our nation hope! But this hope must be the “biblical” Christianity, the true gospel of the true Christ. Because contemporary Christianity has no hope, it has resorted to Charismatic Existentialism, living in an illusion of safety and security. Contemporary Christianity or “Christianity Today” provides no more hope than Hinduism does.
Again, Christianity was the only religion that brought hope, and America in its history lived on this hope of God in the nation: it was the hope and the reality that Christ died on the cross; the hope that whosoever believeth in Him should not perish but have everlasting life; that there is a purpose in living, and that is to do the will of God, to fulfill the divine appointment for one’s life. Yes, this is what brought hope to America. This was once the life of the soul of America.
Music of Western Civilization
Having considered Kurt Cobain’s music, we must briefly review the rise of music in Western civilization. There has been little great music in the history of false religions such as Islam or Buddhism. Due to the influence of Western civilization, only in recent years has some music become an increasing part of Islam and Buddhism.
Only Christianity’s teachings of God the Creator have given man true purpose for living. Was it this sense of divine purpose that brought music to the forefront of Western civilization? Our English word music comes to us from an older English word meaning “to muse, to think.” Inherent in this word is the thought that music is the “expression” of the soul. The thought life is not only what a man truly believes but also what he expresses in his music. In Acts 16, Paul and Silas were locked up in a dungeon singing praises to God at midnight. They were not morbid or given to death chants! “They prayed, and sang praises unto God” (v. 25).
Whereas Augustine (ad 354—430) was the first church leader to bring to the forefront music in the church for expressions concerning God, Martin Luther (1483—1546) was the next important figure regarding church music. Taking the burden of Augustine’s writings, Luther brought music out of the cloisters and into the congregation as an expression of the laity’s redeemed soul. He firmly understood God had brought a universal priesthood to all believers! This perspective has pervaded Christianity and Western civilization since his days.
Such expressions from the priesthood of all believers continued to expand in the ministries of Isaac Watts and the Wesley brothers, spilling onto the shores of America in the eighteenth-century revivals. Protestant churches had grown beyond the objective doctrines and theological details of God; the subjective workings of God’s grace in the human heart began to be manifested in song and worship. As Christianity thrived, music became an increasing part of the soul’s existence. The Reformation had brought God back to the life of man, proposing a genuine and meaningful expression of a heart for God.
Much of the foundation of America’s musical legacy is rooted in the music of the Puritans and the early Methodists. Music was a genuine expression of their souls. Amidst many changes during the nineteenth century, the music of both America’s churches as well as its secular venues still maintained some sense of God in their worldview. By the 1950s, however, the expression of America’s soul began to die.
Even while Elvis Presley was aiding in the dying of America’s soul, Christian music still had an influence in our nation. It is often forgotten that Elvis Presley sold more of his gospel recordings than he did his secular ones. A type of gospel music was the heartbeat of his expressions. It was not a spiritual understanding of Elvis that catapulted him into his fame; however, his perverted view of gospel music did assist in the transition of America from life unto its death. Elvis tapped into the powerful heart of Christian music in the American consciousness. He endeavored to keep it alive, even though perverted. His secular music was heavily and eclectically mixed with his love of gospel music.
Strangeness and the Death of America
After Elvis Presley, the secularization of music became more prominent in Western civilization. Remembering that only God can give meaning to life, Western civilization’s soul more rapidly began to die. The Devil knows that only God can give purpose; only God can give reality to life. Outside of Him, there is no life. Just as Satan inspires the abortion of life in the womb of a mother, he inspires the abortion of life in the years that unfold after birth. It is an a priori [first principle] that man is a religious creature. When man stops his natural religious quest, there remains no purpose left except nihilism and suicide.
Once a nation enters this state, it may work tirelessly to prop up its artificial life with some semblance of meaningful existence. However, it is in this deplorable state that strange gods invade a society such as America. Strange gods beget strange children. America witnessed this in the latter part of the 1960s with its flower children of the Hippie movement, strange women, strange men, strange vanities, strange clothing, strange flesh, and strange thinking. That generation had no purpose of life left.
Because people have no true purpose for life or even their bodies, such strangeness has continued to mutate toward even strange desecrations of the body. If you reject the truth that the body is for God to be the temple of the Holy Ghost given in consecration to God, then what is left? When man denounces the truth of God and the purpose of life in Him, hedonism takes over that body. This hedonistic approach is manifested in body piercings, tattoos, alcohol and drug abuse, all forms of fornication, as well as flirtations with death. The Devil knows that if he cannot stop a person from becoming a Christian, he can at least damage both his spiritual heart and physical body. Even if he eventually gives his heart to God, Satan hopes there will be little left of his body for God.
The strangeness of the Charismatic movement brought finality to the death of public Christianity. My dear father Dr. O. Talmadge Spence said that it was the Charismatic movement that attempted to give to a dying public Christianity an artificial stimulant that made it appear alive. It kept many denominations going and encouraged an ecumenicity among them for survival. However, Christianity had already lost its genuineness by the time the Charismatic movement was born in the latter part of the 1960s. Although there are still small remnants here and there across America, true biblical Christianity is publicly dead. The soul of America died with the death of Christianity.
One might ask, “How do you create life in such a death as today? How do you create spirituality in the very religious entity that destroyed it? In the secular world, Kurt Cobain was the commentary seeking this answer. If you throw God away, if you throw His Son away, and if you throw the hope of Christianity away, there is no purpose for living. Life comes to nothingness. And a life that has come to nothingness then climaxes its journey with suicide.
The Strange Fire
Globally, public Christianity is a religion without God. Christ is outside this Laodicean Church, this last Church Age of history. Though there may be a small remnant of true Christianity in America, it is not large enough to contribute to the soul of our nation today. The only reason we are witnessing strangers such as Muslims and sodomites ruling our country is because the spiritual power of Christianity is absent in this land. The Devil knows there is no power in the public contemporary Christianity today! The Charismatic movement simply exists today to animate the corpse of the institutional church, giving to the world the illusion of life and power.
On the day of dedication of the tabernacle (Leviticus 10), two sons of Aaron, Nadab and Abihu, were required to take fire from the brazen altar and place it upon the golden altar of incense before the veil in the holy of holies. Leviticus 9:24 states at the dedication of the brazen altar, “And there came a fire out from before the LORD, and consumed upon the altar the burnt offering and the fat: which when all of the people saw, they shouted, and fell on their faces.” It was from this fire that hot coals from the brazen altar were to be taken into the holy place to ignite the fire upon the golden altar of incense.
However, Leviticus 10:1 reveals that Nadab and Abihu did not take fire from the brazen altar; instead, they “offered strange fire before the LORD, which he commanded them not.” Because of this transgression “there went out fire from the LORD, and devoured them, and they died before the LORD.” Although the Bible does not reveal where they secured this fire, Leviticus 10:8, 9 does state, “And the LORD spake unto Aaron, saying, Do not drink wine nor strong drink, thou, nor thy sons with thee, when ye go into the tabernacle of the congregation, lest ye die.” These verses may imply that these two young men were drunk when they committed this offense before the Lord. Three times the Bible calls it a “strange fire” (Lev. 10:1; Num. 3:4; 26:61). We have a trilogy here.
Initially, the Lord’s fire came out from the holy of holies, supernaturally going through the veil (without burning it), bypassing the golden altar of incense, and reaching the offering upon the brazen altar. From this point in the history of the tabernacle, this fire was never to go out. This fire was started by the Lord Himself, dwelling between the cherubim over the mercy seat in the holy of holies. All fire used in the tabernacle context had to come from the altar’s fire.
God sent His Son to earth where He died. The brazen altar is one of those mysterious types and shadows that represent several things. It was constructed of acacia wood (a very tight-fiber wood) overlaid with brass, making it airtight. This altar was used for centuries, twenty-four hours a day, seven days a week, and its structural wood was never burnt up. This brazen altar was a perpetual altar, representing Christ. The brazen altar was also a type and shadow of the cross upon which Christ died. Any fire used in any other dimension in the tabernacle had to come from that fire that was sent by God.
On the day of Pentecost, there were cloven tongues, like as fire, that came down upon the hundred and twenty. These cloven tongues symbolized this fire, the Shekinah fire, that now will be in these men and women as a perpetuation of the witness of Christ. Thus, in the type and shadow, unless the fire comes from the brazen altar of Christ’s death on the cross, there can be no true praise nor true prayer from the golden altar of incense before the veil.
In 1967 the Charismatic movement was born within the apostate Protestant denominations. It did not come from the sacrifice of Christ; the true Sacrifice these denominations had rejected. Whatever religion they purported to have, it was an illusionary language and liturgy. By 1969 this existential movement made its way into the Roman Catholic Church, where it flourished. By 1972 this strange fire had begun consuming the rest of Protestantism, including the Pentecostal churches. In all these movements, this strange so-called revival fire bypassed the sacrifice of Christ, having found its source in an apostate concept of Christ.
Although most will believe it was a shame that Kurt Cobain took his life, it should at least be noted that he probably was the most honest of his generation. Believing that if God was not there, he honestly acknowledged that life is not worth living; for, he refused to live an illusionary, existential, false life. This is why Cobain initially turned to Buddhism. Although he thought his hope was in gaining Nirvana, he never found it.
How sad it is that public Christianity today is still outwardly functioning. We have the emerging megachurches, the self-esteem religion of Joel Osteen, the existential Charismatism of Benny Hinn, Kenneth Copeland, and John Hagee. All these churches appear to be flourishing. Nevertheless, it is all an artificial, synthetic, existential illusion; their fire is not the fire from Calvary; it is not from the true Christ.
Dear reader, never give up your belief in a genuine life in God; never create a substitute for the real. There is a point in our seeking God that, if we are not careful, we will get so discouraged as we wait upon God. We may ask, “Why hasn’t it happened?” It may be because of a lack of faith, or it may be that our past is still cluttering our mind and heart. If so, we must get back to Calvary. We must return to the cross, the sacrifice of Christ. Any and every aspect of a deeper life comes from Christ on that cross. There is no other way, no other fire!
Our nation is marked by a strange spirit that believes in a strange god with a strange concept of a holy ghost. Even conservative politicians are keeping alive a strange concept of Christianity. Will a movement arise with the slogan “Let’s Make Christianity Great Again”? If so, it will be a false Christianity. When it comes to another generation having a genuine experience with God, real fire in the soul, the experiential working of God in the life, a true conversion, a true purity of heart, a truthfulness, and the empowering of the Spirit, an illusion will not work. We must know a genuine working of God’s amazing grace in the human heart.
The institutional church has destroyed the altar; it has destroyed the cross. It is living an illusion. It sets before the people the vain hope of a Christianity of prosperity and health. There is no true cross in its Christianity.
The New Age is strongly promoting spiritualism for its new world order. The new world order needs spirit, but its demonic spirit is a powerful illusionary substitute of God’s Spirit. Will the Charismatic movement merge with the New Age movement to become the powerful (demonic) spirit it is seeking for the new world order?
Interestingly, in the Tribulation Period “the sign” to promote the power of the Antichrist before the world will be fire out of heaven (Revelation 13). The fire from the holy of holies at the dedication of the tabernacle and the fire from Heaven at the dedication of the Solomonic Temple were true. What will be the fire of the Antichrist in Revelation 13? Will it be an illusion? Will it be “smoke and mirrors”? Or will God permit it to come from the Devil to deepen the world’s delusion during the Tribulation Period? Whatever it is, it will come from above and will cause the world to wonder. It will be the strange fire of End-time deception!
God’s saints must not leave their real walk with God! When Shishak of Egypt took from Solomon’s son Rehoboam (1 Kings 14:25–28) all the golden shields that Solomon had made, Rehoboam replaced these shields with brass ones, manufactured from a man-made alloy. Although this metal may be polished to shine like gold, it is not gold! This is the danger that if an individual, a church, a Christian school, or a nation ever goes back on God, an illusion of a Christian life could be created. Public Christianity has left the true God, because it has left the true Christ of Scripture. It now lives in a time when the power of the flesh looks like the real work of the Holy Spirit. The power of the flesh in these Charismatic meetings looks like the power of the Holy Spirit, but it is not Him. Contemporary men of renown inspire themselves by their words and accomplishments convincing themselves this is of God.
Yes, there is power in the flesh today. Only God’s true people can discern between the flesh and the Spirit. Strange gods and strange fire have come into Christianity. I have been in the ministry for fifty years. When I was a boy, I thought the institutional church was everything. But as the years have unfolded, I have seen the spiritual mother, the institutional church, radically change from its early years. It has changed the message of the gospel; it has changed the fire and put another fire in its place. The Charismatics have brought in a fire of illusion. No longer can we speak of the “rapture of the Church”; we simply anticipate the “rapture of the saints,” the “rapture of the militant true Church,” or the “rapture of the elect.” Modern Christianity either denies the Rapture or believes anyone and everyone identified with the church will go up in the air.
We acknowledge the total collapse of our nation America and that there will be no return to sanity or a true historic understanding of God. Even though we are in the strangest hour of our history, there are still evidences of the tokens of God’s mercy! There is still a remnant in touch with God. While this generation has turned to fatalism and self-destruction amidst their hopelessness, we must continue to be a witness to the Truth. Our own walk with God must be clearly based upon the absolutes of God’s Word. When mankind comes to believe that death is the only way out of a collapsing life, we must never lose sight of hope in God for our lives. We must separate from the vocabulary of our religious day that seeks to maintain an illusionary hope for our dead society. Only God can give meaning to life! Let us speak the vocabulary of His revealed Word.
May we ever know daily communion with God through His Spirit and Word. May we know a continued deliverance from any god that will try to take the place of the true God, whether it be materialism, money, religiousness, or self. In these days of Charismatic prayers, may our prayers be biblical. May our burnings of life be of Christ. May the fire within our soul be consecration rather than burnings of lust and the world. May we keep the strange religions from “creeping” into our homes. And may we live in such a way that we will keep the remnant churches from becoming a strange religion with the façade of Christian familiarities. Oh, that God will deliver us from compromise and neutrality, and enable us to live in such a way that we will contribute to our local church with soundness of living and conversation. May God help us!