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Winking, Wiggling and the Power of Words

Gregory Koukl

What do “Bewitched”, “I Dream of Jeannie” and Genesis 1:1 have in common? Quite a lot!

I got this crazy picture in my mind the other day. I don’t even know what causes these thoughts to come to mind when they do. I imagine there are times the Lord does that. But other times, who knows what causes those things to come to mind? This picture in my mind’s eye was off Jeannie, from “I Dream of Jeannie” fame. Remember her? Remember how she used to blink her eyes and make her magic happen? About that same time I was thinking about Samantha on “Bewitched.” What would she do? She’d wiggle her nose. (I wonder how many of you just did that.) She would wiggle her nose and then she’d make her little magic happen.

I got to reflecting about whether in their minds–of course they are fictitious characters–but if in their minds they were really doing something magical with their noses or eyes when they did that. In other words, if Samantha had not wiggled her nose do you think she could have still accomplished her magical feats? I imagine so. Or if Jeannie didn’t blink her eyes do you think she could still have accomplished what she meant to accomplish? After all, she was a genie, wasn’t she? She could do that kind of thing.

In other words, it doesn’t seem like there was anything magical in their actions. If there were then all of you out there who just wiggled your nose would have had something magical happen. But nothing did, so it’s not in the wiggling of the nose.

Why did Jeannie blink her eyes and Samantha wiggle her nose? Well, I’ll tell you. It was a sign to the viewers who were watching that Samantha and Jeannie were causing something to happen right then at that moment. You know that they’re determining to do something and then she blinks her eyes, wiggles her nose and then it happens. In other words, it’s an external manifestation which connects their act of will with what occurs. You can’t see their act of will can you? You can’t see something happening inside them willing something to happen. But you can see the eye blinking and the nose wiggling, so then you see the result of this thing appearing or disappearing–their magic occurring. We know that the person that blinked or wiggled caused this other event to happen. It’s a sign. In fact, if she didn’t blink her eyes or wiggle her nose how would we know that they had acted in their wills, which is the thing that we can’t see at all. Or when something appeared how would we be able to credit that to their actions? Maybe it just popped into existence. The wiggling of the nose signified that she was the source of the action that resulted in this thing happening.

One could ask, “Why didn’t they just speak something?” They could have. They could have said something like abracadabra or some magic word. But it fulfils the same function. The speaking in this case is no different than the wiggling of the nose or the blinking of the eyes. The speaking would merely signify an act of the will and no one else blinking their eyes or wiggling their nose or speaking by itself could make magic happen. In other words here, the power was not in the winking, blinking or speaking. The power was in the person who did those things. Those things merely signified and act of the will.

Now what does that have to do with anything? Well, there is actually a spiritual application in this–as is often the case, though not always on this show. All of this relates to the concept of the power of words–identified in the church as the positive confession movement, and identified in the world at large as positive thinking. Now I’m not against those things per se , and I’ll clarify what I mean by that because in fact it does depend what you mean by that–positive confession or positive thinking–whether that thing is bad, or damaging or not, or invalid. I think there is value if we understand them correctly.

Here is what we must understand. The first thing is that words do not have power. There is no power in words. There is no more power in the words themselves than in the wiggling of the nose or the blinking of the eyes as in Samantha and Jeannie. There is no power there. There is nothing about the sound of a word per se that carries with it any force. Even when you read in the Scriptures, “Life and death are in the power of the tongue,” it doesn’t mean that the sound of the word creates the power. The tongue is an agent of the person. It’s not talking about the word spoken in itself, it’s talking about the tongue representing the agent–the person–that’s involved. Words that injure don’t do harm because of any quality of the word itself. Some in both the positive confession movement and in the positive thinking movement in some form or another hold to that belief. That words themselves have power.

Simply put, I’m making an observation here, not a judgment. This is a occultic view of words. The word “occult” means hidden, and when we hold that words have hidden powers in themselves we are saying they have occultic powers. This is contrary to the Christian understanding because, according to the Bible and Christianity, things like words don’t have powers; only acting, willing agents have powers in that sense. It’s not the word or the sound of the word which carries the hidden force. When you believe that, well, that’s occultic.

This is why, by the way, when the word carries the force, it doesn’t matter who uses it. Anyone can use the word has the force because it is the word that has the power. Someone says, “It’s the name of Jesus that has power”. What they mean is that the word or phrase “The name of Jesus” has power. If that were the case then anyone could recite that sound, just like anyone could stand in front of the cavern and say “Open sesame” and the cavern would open. Or anyone could say abracadabra, and since the magic is in the word then the event would happen because of the force of the word itself. There is no magic in the phrase “In the name of Jesus”. There is only power in the person of Jesus.

Words are very important. They do a couple of things. This is why I am willing to give some ground to the idea of positive confession or positive thinking, whether you are thinking of this issue in secular or religious terms. I will give ground as long as you understand, as I mentioned, that first of all, the words themselves have no power. Power is in persons. Second, what words do is signify acts of the will.

I was very bothered when a fairly well known person suggested that even God had to speak in order to create. It really sounded like he was saying that the words had the power that even God was subject to, and God couldn’t created unless He spoke.

Now listen, I want to ask you a very important question. Does God have a mouth? No. Neither does He have lungs or vocal chords. Therefore He cannot speak in that sense. When the Scriptures say that God spoke and the worlds were created, I don’t think that He said a magic word. I suspect that the notion of God speaking in that sense is the same as Jeannie and her blinking and Samantha and her wiggling. In other words, it was an event that signifies for us an act of will. God didn’t have to speak to create. He merely willed it to happen and it was so. Now, how do we know of that act of will? We know of it because it is referred to in terms of speaking, but it was the personal act of will that made the difference. When God said, “Let there be light,” He willed that. “Be still.” “Come out of him.” It isn’t the words themselves, it is the willing of the person with the power that makes the difference, not the words. As I mentioned, even the phrase “In the name of Jesus” is not magical. What “In the name of Jesus” means is that someone is acting according to the power and the authority of Jesus Christ. Words signify acts of the will.

Words can also be used to focus the will, and this is where we move more into the area of positive thinking that I think can be very helpful. If a person is going to think positively and repeat these words of success because in speaking the words themselves they will magically bring about the desired end, then they are wrong. Words don’t have that power. But if they are setting a goal and repeating their goals to themselves on a regular basis–getting up every morning and saying this is my goal–I think that is good if we understand that the words are being used to focus the will which makes the difference. In fact, if you make goals in January for the rest of the year and you never look at them for the next twelve months, chances are pretty good that you aren’t going to accomplish your goals because you don’t remember them and your will is not focused on them to accomplish. However, if you write out your goals, get up every single day, repeat them out loud and then you imagine in your mind the steps you have to go through to accomplish that goal, the word is not functioning there as magic. What you are doing is disciplining your mind and using words to focus your will so that your will then can accomplish these goals.

There’s no magic in words, just power in the will that acts. Words can signify acts of the will. Words can also be used to focus the will. And finally, words can be used to convey personal attitudes.

I think this is the sense in which the biblical authors often speak of the power of the tongue. “Death and life in the power of the tongue”. Why? Because of magical words that fall off your lips? No. But because your words convey your attitudes, and when people learn through your words that your attitudes are either good or ill that could be destructive or supportive depending on the case. So if your words are “I hate you” to your wife or your child, you destroy those people. Not because of the words, but because of the attitude in your heart that is communicated with the action of using the words. If you say, “Well done good and faithful servant. I love you.” When you put your arms around your child and say good things to them, the power is not in the words per se but in that the words convey to that person your feeling.

Words have power, after a fashion. We speak words to identify acts of the will. We use words to help focus our will. And we use words in either a constructive or a destructive way to convey personal attitudes. But there is no power in the words themselves. For those who are involved in the positive confession movement, if you think the power is in the words and that you must get that word spoken into daylight, as it were, then you are practicing the occult. You are not practicing Christianity.

If you are being helped by positive thinking material I think that can be helpful if you understand that the only thing that changes things for you personally apart from the direct help of God is your will. No magic words. You use words to help focus your will to accomplish important things. Then you are training your mind in a good way. But if you are using words because you think there is something magic about getting the word out into the air like “success” or “$1 million a year” or “Cadillac, Mercedes” or something like that then you are practicing the occult, and that’s not going to get you any where.

http://www.str.org/site/News2?page=NewsArticle&id=5724

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