When I saw Chris Rosebrough tweet something about a “sneaky squid spirit doctrine” I thought it must be something from The Onion or the Babylon Bee. It is not. It is the latest thing from the world of charismatic continuing prophecy. The author and podcaster behind this new revelation is Jennifer LeClaire and she has published an article in Charisma Magazine, “When The Sneaky Squid Spirit Starts Stalking You.” Once again, this is not a test of the emergency orthodoxy network. This is an actual emergency.
She begins thus:
When my friend told me she saw a vision of herself with a big squid lodged atop her head, I knew enough about the unseen world to understand a spiritual attack was underway.
It proceeds thence. LeClaire testifies that she responded:
The attack was severe, but when I laid hands on her and commanded the squid to be bound, the most violent symptoms would cease.
It turns out that fear and unforgiveness can “open the door to a squid spirit.” Others have testified to doing battle with “squid spirits.”
Again, this is not a put on. This is no parody. This is the living theology, piety, and practice of many “Charismatic” Christians. I have had conversations with believers about similar sorts of things. I recall one dear man, who was in this movement, who spoke of similar sorts of encounters with demonic forces. The “Kansas City Prophets” and the “Brownsville Prophets” and the “Toronto Prophets” et al all laid claim to receiving direct revelations from the Lord about this or that.
Why bring this to your attention? Because either Scripture is the final, magisterial authority for the Christian faith and the Christian life (Sola Scriptura) or it is not. It is plain that, in this case—and implicitly for Charismatics and Pentecostals— Scripture is no longer the un-normed norm, the final, magisterial authority. If that is the case, then who is to say that there are no such spirit-squids or, more to the point, that LeClaire et al are not actually receiving revelations?
Of course, we might object on the basis of natural reason and experience but that sword may do more than we wish. We do believe, after all, that there are unseen realities in the world. The Holy Spirit does operate mysteriously through divinely ordained means. His work cannot be tested and replicated in a laboratory but it is still a truth of the Christian faith. We receive that truth on the basis of authority, the authority of Holy Scripture. If Scripture is not the sole authority (in the sense given above) then additional revelation, like those claimed by LeClaire, may be. Even if we discount those, what about the others? What about the prophecy that I heard repeated in the foyer of St Aldate’s Church in 1993? What about all those alleged prophecies in Kansas City or Toronto? LeClaire’s claim only highlights the problem of claims of continuing, extra-canonical (i.e., outside of canonical Scripture) revelation.
Implicitly, all those who claim such revelation agree with Rome, Mohammad, and Joseph Smith that there is continuing revelation. All that is in question for proponents of continuing revelation is which one is correct? For confessional Protestants, the answer is clear: sola Scriptura. The Bible is God’s Word written. It is the final, magisterial (ruling), sufficient authority for the Christian faith and the Christian life.
To anticipate some objections:
- I am not saying that there are no demons at work in the world. I believe there are. I see no biblical case to believe that Christians, who have been bought with blood of Jesus Christ, can be possessed but I do not doubt that there is spiritual evil in the world and that demons are active.
- I also think that late-modern Christians need to be self-critical about the degree to which we have been taken captive by Modern assumptions. E.g., when I ask how Jesus walked through a closed door, many late-modern Christians want to tell me that he de-materialized (ala Star Trek) and re-materialized on the other side. Part of the problem is a bad Christology (namely a failure to account for the biblical doctrine of Jesus’ true humanity) but an equal part of the problem is the modernist assumption that we know that doors do not change, ergo, Jesus must have changed. Funny how that works. Jesus can walk on water but doors cannot change.
- A hyper-spiritualized world, however, is just as problematic as an implicitly closed, Modernist world. In a hyper-spiritualized world there is no ordinary providence and the world becomes essentially magical. This view of the world manifests itself when people want to make everything sacramental, in which case nothing is specifically sacramental. It is a form of superstition. Such a hyper-spiritual world has more in common with ancient paganism than with the world as Scripture understands it. Sometimes a cold is just a cold (and not a demon).
Sola scriptura is a bulwark against the Jennifer LeClaires of this world. We need not give any credence to her or to any of her ilk because she is, as Luther would have said (and did about the Zwickau Prophets and Thomas Müntzer, the Charismatics and Pentecostals of his day) Schwämerei, “fanatics.” These are those folk of whom he said, “They have swallowed the Spirit feathers and all.” Sola scriptura is not a charter for a closed universe, in which the supernatural is impossible a priori but it does norm all the claims by all the latter-day prophets.
When the next Joseph Smith or Jennifer LeClaire comes to you with an alleged new revelation you tell them “get thee behind me Satan.” They are not coming with God’s Word. Our conscience is captive to the Word of God. If it is not, even just a little, we have no unassailable basis against which to resist Jennifer LeClaire.