Snake-handling and Sola Scriptura–abc-news-topstories.html

The perils of Sola Scriptura and private interpretation of Scripture.

Thats so sad!!

I wonder how many in his little group he presided over are torn up or wondering if he was not a true believer to begin with?

I know… I kind of wondered this myself as well.

You must be joking!

Now mind you, I’m the furthest thing away from snake handling, but I from what I’ve researched about the practice, I’m not particularly sure that the practice is meant to “prove” that someone is a believer. If you get bit and die, people don’t say, “well I guess he wasn’t a believer since he handled serpents and died.” The idea is that he had faith in picking up the serpent to begin with. No matter what happened, he placed his trust in God and did what they believed God commanded. Everything else is just the sovereignty of God at work.

Now, that being said, I think they are seriously misinterpreting scripture and tempting God.

A question for believers: have you considered that this poor man was genuine in his belief, as genuine as you are in yours, and that his experience of belief was just like yours, in what you believe, and that your belief - in scripture, in life everlasting, in hell, in creation - may be just as unsoundly based? Or does the difference in what is believed in mean that such manifest failures of belief have no impact on you?

Jim Dandy’s post was removed? Is this basically not personal interpretation though? They are signs of the Holy Spirit, but common sense would tell you that you aren’t meant to tempt God. Afterall, based on that interpretation he should be drinking poison as well.

It is not unsound that this man believed that God was able to protect him. What was unsound is that he took a Bible verse promising divine protection to believers and mis-applied it, thinking that God would protect him if he foolishly danced with poisonous snakes.

While Jesus was in the wilderness, he was tempted by Satan to display his power as the Son of God in various ways so that the people might believe. But Jesus rejected the method of tempting God by doing outrageous things to attract attention, like falling off the highest point of the Temple and having angels catch him.

As a Christian, I believe that God is sovereign and, in the words of the Apostle Paul, “that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose” (Romans 8:28). God has given us certain promises in his word. These can be relied on, but they are not the sum and substance of our faith. As Christians, we shouldn’t haven’t to get bitten by venomous snakes and live in order to know that God’s word is true. In the words of Paul, “For all the promises of God find their Yes in him” (2 Corinthians 20). I put my trust in Jesus, and at the end of the day that is all I can do.

People in serpent handling churches will occasionally consume poison substances, such as strychnine.

I entirely accept the genuineness of your faith, and thank you for sharing it in response to my question. But can you distinguish for me between the faith of the snake-handling man and your own? You too believe things because you have faith that scripture means a certain thing. Is there anything we non-believers can use to distinguish your faith from his?

Snake handlers are a cult. A minority of a minority among religions in america. Although as Catholics we disagree with SS for good reason, I don’t think its quite fair to say SS brings them to this point, any more than any other weird cult makes people do strange things.
Most Protestants I knew back across the Tiber would rightly say the verse in Mark snake handlers often cite was prophecy that was fulfilled in the book of Acts. In Acts 28:3 the Apostle Paul was bitten by a poisonous snake and was miraculously spared.

I suppose there isn’t besides what can be observed. Someone’s faith cannot be observed, only the fruit of that faith.The Christian faith is one that is revealed. You have to have a revelation of who Christ is, that he died on the cross, rose again, that his blood was shed on the cross for the forgiveness of sins. This knowledge, this truth, can’t be attained by natural means. As you hear the gospel preached, as you read the word of God, the Holy Spirit has to do a work within your life. These things cannot be observed or quantitatively analyzed by scientific methods. They can only be seen through the results. The Bible says that the tree will be known by the fruit it bears. If it bears good fruit, it is good. If it bears bad fruit, it is bad.

Of course, Catholics will tell you that Christ has established his church (the Catholic Church with the Pope as its visible head on earth) to teach sound doctrine. It has the authority to determine what is and is not true Christian teaching.

Poor man.

Lord, have mercy.

As far as drinking poison.
Eusebius, in History of the Church 3.39.9, records the following story from one of the five lost books of Papias (late first century):

That Philip the apostle lived in Hierapolis together with his daughters has been made clear before. But as regards them let it be noted that Papias, their contemporary, mentions a wondrous account that he received from the daughters of Philip. For he recounts a resurrection from the dead in his time, and yet another paradox about Justus who was surnamed Barsabbas, as having drunk a deadly poison and yet, through the grace of the Lord, suffered no harm.

All that was written in that verse in Acts was fulfilled in Church history. In neither case (Paul and the incident Eusebius mentions) were the Christians LOOKING to fullfill the prophecy.

Sorry if this was posted before, (I am just skimming the thread as it is time for me to get ready), but I want to say first that this is a cult. Most Protestants have better sense than to tempt God that way.

But I believe this is all based on this passage of Mark 16:

Later Jesus appeared to the Eleven as they were eating; he rebuked them for their lack of faith and their stubborn refusal to believe those who had seen him after he had risen.(K)

15 He said to them, “Go into all the world and preach the gospel to all creation.(L) 16 Whoever believes and is baptized will be saved, but whoever does not believe will be condemned.(M) 17 And these signs(N) will accompany those who believe: In my name they will drive out demons;(O) they will speak in new tongues;§ 18 they will pick up snakes(Q) with their hands; and when they drink deadly poison, it will not hurt them at all; they will place their hands on® sick people, and they will get well.”

19 After the Lord Jesus had spoken to them, he was taken up into heaven(S) and he sat at the right hand of God.(T) 20 Then the disciples went out and preached everywhere, and the Lord worked with them and confirmed his word by the signs(U) that accompanied it.

If we even have sects in Catholicism under the capable hands of the Church, imagine how easy it is to be led astray, when you don’t have that guidance.

I watched a cable show on this sect of Christianity. What I thought was even more disturbing is that children become subjected to this at a very early age.

So by his own standard of preaching and understanding Sola Scriptura, is this to be understood that the Holy Spirit didn’t reside within him that day? I mean thats why they do this to begin with, right?

The whole situation is mildly disturbing.

I would think they would interpret it as:

  • his faith was not great enough in that situation or
  • it was God’s will that he should die that day

While in WVU in the 70s I attended InterVarsity Christian Fellowship. We had Christians of all stripes attending, even some Roman Catholics. One was a girl from a snake handling background. She was a nice girl, but a little strange.


On the documentary they were placing their arms in aquariums with numerous poisonous snakes, I can’t imagine how bites are not common. Yet they claim there are only few. The children they desensitized by handling one snake at a time, then progressing etc. Yet this is how this as a cult survives, through childhood indoctrination. No-one in their right mind would come from elsewhere to join. Cousre less one has some facination with snakes.

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