The Bronze Serpent Explained: A Monergist View of Divine Healing

And the LORD said unto Moses, “Make thee a fiery serpent, and set it upon a pole: and it shall come to pass, that every one that is bitten, when he looketh upon it, shall live. And Moses made a serpent of brass, and put it upon a pole, and it came to pass, that if a serpent had bitten any man, when he beheld the serpent of brass, he lived.” (Numbers 21:8-9)

And as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, even so must the Son of man be lifted up: That whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have eternal life. (John 3:14-15)

[Scene: The border of Canaan near the land of Midian, two Israelite men from the tribes led by Moses and a silent young woman all stand at a high point and look out over the promised land]

Zimri: Ah, finally on the border of the promised land!

Carmi: Yes, we’ve come a long ways.

Zimri: Now we get to enjoy the good part. Been quite a journey here, hasn’t it?

Carmi: Indeed. We’ve known nothing but the desert our whole lives.

Zimri: Yeah, the was was pretty dangerous too, but God’s been faithful to deliver us, even when we failed Him. Remember that time we all complained so much against Moses that God sent those vipers into the camp?

Carmi: All too well…

Zimri: But even then God’s mercy was amazing; when Moses put up that bronze serpent, all we had to do was look at it and God cured us. It was awesome, all God asked was that I look up and acknowledge my need for His help, and He healed me.

Carmi: But, what you are in effect saying is that you cured yourself.

Zimri: Cured myself? What are you talking about?

Carmi: I’m saying that you hold a man-centered view of divine healing, and lack vital understanding as to how God cured us.

Zimri: Vital understanding?

Carmi: Yes, when God delivered those He wished to from the serpents, He did so all of His own power, with no inherent cooperation from those bitten. This important teaching is commonly called the doctrine of snakes.

Zimri: You lost me. How did I cure myself?

Carmi: Looking up at the snake, in your beliefs, is something you did, and therefore you caused your own cure.

Zimri: That seems to be a bit of a stretch. God was the one who gave the cure, and commanded Moses to put up the bronze serpent, all he told us to do was look at it and-

Carmi: But looking at it was a work, it was something that you did.

Zimri: Wait, now looking is work? Remind me not to wake up on the Sabbath.

Carmi: Since it was you who effected the condition, it was in essence you who effected the cure.

Zimri: So you’re saying God just gave us the power to cure ourselves or something?

Carmi: Oh no, not at all. God had to revive you before you could look up at the snake at all.

Zimri: Revive me?

Carmi: Yes, you were actually already dead from your snake bite.

Zimri: Dead, like hyperbole ‘dead?’ Like a Genesis 20:3 ‘dead man?’

Carmi: No, literally dead.

Zimri: Like, “I am dead Horatio” dead?

Carmi: No, dead as in ‘physically decomposing’ dead, and therefore totally powerless to do anything but be a corpse.

Zimri: Uh, I don’t recall this.

Carmi: Of course not, you were dead at the time.

Zimri: Oh right, right.

Carmi: And because you were already dead from your snake bite, you weren’t capable of looking up at the snake, so you had to be brought back to life to do so.

Zimri: Well, I was certainly pretty delirious and weakened from the venom, so I have no problem buying that it was God who gave me strength to look up….

Carmi: No, no, God didn’t merely give you strength to look at the snake, He irresistibly changed you so you would both be capable and irresistibly drawn to look up at the snake.

Zimri: Changed me?

Carmi: By reviving you of course.

Zimri: Ah.

Carmi: It’s called the ‘irresistible snake.’ So you were literally dead and helpless, but God brought you back to life so you would be able and willing to look at the snake. See, it’s written right here, “…and it came to pass, that if a serpent had bitten any man, when he beheld the serpent of brass, he lived.”

Zimri: Um, isn’t that saying that the people who looked at the bronze serpent survived?

Carmi: No, it’s saying that those who lived, or rather were brought to life, looked on the bronze serpent.

Zimri: That sounds a bit backwards. It seems that our living was contingent on looking at the bronze serpent, and I distinctly recall feeling the effects of the poison subside when I looked at it, not before.

Carmi: Your mistake is a common one, but your being revived, cured, and looking at the serpent all happened at the same instant in time, it’s simply a logical necessity that your being revived came first. You have to study and think about it real hard for a long, long, long time before arriving at this important truth.

Zimri: I’m sure you do.

Carmi: Of course you being a Phinehasite wouldn’t understand it.

Zimri: A what?

Carmi: A Phinehasite. Followers of the beliefs of Phinehas, you know, Aaron’s grandkid – the priest.

Zimri: Oh, him.

Carmi: He holds to the heretical view that those bitten by the snakes weren’t yet completely, physically dead, but merely had the sentence of death working in them. Phinehas is under the delusion that he wasn’t irresistibly compelled to obey by being literally resurrected, but thinks that he somehow just ‘cooperated’ with God in performing the impossibly difficult task of looking up at the snake so that he could be healed! And since he believes that he had to make some kind of decision to look up (obviously a work meritorious beyond imagining), he is therefore robbing God of the glory in healing him! So anyone who believes that free will plays any role in divine healing is a Phinehasite.

Zimri: I barely know Phinehas, much less studied anything he wrote or said.

Carmi: Doesn’t matter, you still fall into that category. If you don’t believe in totally monergistic divine healing, then you’re automatically a Phinehasite of some kind. Of course, Phinehasism is really just semi-Nimrodism, and everyone knows that the Phinehasism eventually leads to either spirit channeling or sun worship, as that’s really what consistent Phinehasism amounts to….

Zimri: And I have no idea what you’re talking about.

Carmi: Hopefully God will reveal it to you and save you from your Phinehasite blindness. In fact, here’s a list of scrolls I recommend you read on the subject that will give you a better understanding of monergist divine healing and the Phinehasite error.

Zimri: So if God actually revived us so we could look at the serpent, then why did some people stay dead from the snake bites?

Carmi: Because God didn’t want everyone to look at the snake. God only intended that certain people look at it.

Zimri: Really? I didn’t get that indication at all.

Carmi: God’s ways are very mysterious.

Zimri: Yeah, but Moses invited anyone who was bitten to look at it.

Carmi: Yes, that was the ‘outward hiss’ but not the ‘effectual hiss.’

Zimri: The what?

Carmi: God only wanted certain people to be cured, so He made only a limited amount of antivenin,

Zimri: I wasn’t told this.

Carmi: -then He chose certain people to be cured and let the rest die.

Zimri: Ah, so He chose them because He knew they’d hear and respond?

Carmi: No, He chose them from eternity past based on nothing whatsoever about them, then after they died from the snake bites, He revived the ones He chose so that they would both have the innate desire and the irresistible unction to perform the action of looking up at the bronze serpent, thereby receiving a dose of the limited supply of antivenin that He’d prepared beforehand.

Zimri: Where exactly are you getting all this?

Carmi: I…it’s…it’s so elementary, even a child could see it.

Zimri: But, didn’t He say that anyone who was bitten could look and be cured?

Carmi: Oh He did, but that was God’s “I don’t really mean this, I just say stuff like this to relate to people” will talking. In God’s “super-duper-secret really, really I actually mean this” will, He didn’t really want everyone who was bitten to look at it, and hence wouldn’t revive them, which is why the antivenin was limited.

Zimri: ….This seems like a somewhat overly complicated system of beliefs.

Carmi: Well it has to be true, otherwise you must logically have cured yourself.

Zimri: Hmmmm…I see. So since the antivenin is limited, then what if I get bitten by another viper? Could God not cure me?

Carmi: That’s the best part. The fact that you were cured of your snake bite guarantees that you will make it into the promised land.

Zimri: Really?

Carmi: Yes, it’s like a divine seal of approval. To those who have been chosen and cured, God has unconditionally chosen to provide final entrance into the new land.

Zimri: I seem to recall Him listing some stuff we’d better not do, as well as what would happen if we disobeyed….

Carmi: Oh that’s just something God’s “I don’t mean this” will says to goad you into living right. It’s all up to His sovereign “super-duper-secret” will really.

Zimri: Hey, that kind of makes sense. I mean, He wouldn’t have cured us if He’d wanted us to die in the desert.

Carmi: Exactly. While being brought to life again will certainly make you want to avoid future snake bites, there’s no actual chance for you to fall short of entering, even should you run across every viper this side of the Jordan. You can rest in complete assurance that you will make it through.

Zimri: Oh wait, but I’m pretty sure I’ve seen a few of the people die who had previously been cured.

Carmi: They were never really cured. The belief that they were actually cured stems not from objective observation, but the influence of biased Phinehasite teachings.

Zimri: But they were, you know, walking around with no apparent problems.

Carmi: God provided them with a temporary means to give the illusion that they were alive and had been cured, so that we and even they thought that they were, but the fact that they have failed to make it to the promised land demonstrates that they were never truly cured.

Zimri: How could they think they were cured, or even move around at all if they were already dead?

Carmi: That- …That’s a mystery.

Zimri: So if someone might be walking around like they’re perfectly healthy, but in reality still be poisoned, and dead no less, then isn’t it possible that you or I might not really be cured as well?

Carmi: Technically, yes, but unlikely; and if you aren’t truly cured there’s nothing you can do about it anyway, so you really shouldn’t waste time troubling yourself about such things.

Zimri: Wow, that’s a relief. I was kind of worried about bringing this Midianite chick back to camp with me. If I didn’t know for sure that God was going to preserve me, I’d be scared of what Phinehas might try and do.

Carmi: I for one find it highly doubtful that he was ever cured in the first place.

Zimri: You’re definitely right on that one. He is so man-centered. Come on Cozbi, let’s get to the camp. I’ll show you the Tabernacle.

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