|Why We Need to Clean Our Spiritual House|
|by Sensei Charlaine Engelhardt 3rd Dan 1999, revised 2022 by Charlaine (Engelhardt) Martin|
| Christians in martial arts struggle with the overt contradictions between their faith in Jesus Christ and the Bible’s teachings with the philosophies taught in martial arts in general and supposed similarities. While training in secular groups, usually highly traditional schools, many are bothered deep in their spirit and don’t know exactly why. But they finish training to get that coveted black belt. Then they embark on their own. Praise God, there are now Christian martial arts associations that have become more prominent to aid these individuals. But many come across web pages like this one seeking help to stay on track with their faith and not give way to foreign religions intertwined in the art. We pray that the Lord will use these articles to prompt individual thought and godly discernment in the “house cleaning” process. |
As you research various concerns pertaining to Christian faith practice, you should remember this: God is a jealous God. He does not want our divided attention. Therefore, it is imperative that we stay faithful and obedient to Him. He will bless us and our work building His Kingdom when we do. In the book of Joshua, God instructed Joshua to tell Israel to go in to take the Promised Land. He will multiply and prosper them, with the condition that they must be his faithful, obedient people (Joshua 1). We can apply this to ourselves today. If we, who are called by His Name, will be faithful and obedient, God will take care of our needs blessing us beyond our imaginations.
Why Clearing Out Idols Matters
Idolatry harms our relationship with God. We can turn from our worship of God by allowing idols to come to reside within the core of our being. (I am not addressing Arminianism or Calvinism, but rather the outward physical practice and inward dethroning of Christ in one’s relational priorities). This sin may occur if we linger too long with various “non-threatening” symbols, attitudes, and teachings. For example, in Ezekiel 8, God takes Ezekiel on a vision tour of the Temple. At the entrance to the Temple was an idol beside the gate to the Outer Court. God tells him how detestable this is to Him. He then takes Ezekiel to the North Gate of the Temple to see women mourning the death of Tammuz (a god who dies in the fall and lives again in the spring in this mythology). That upset God, but He wanted to show Ezekiel what angered Him even more. In the inner court, he witnessed the elders of His people, who had their backs to the altar of the Temple while facing the sun, practicing worship rituals to the sun. God reserved this area for the priests who were to minister to God. Our takeaway is that letting seemingly harmless symbols or practices take place in our lives will eventually become central in our lives over God. Idolatry is detestable to God and will become our downfall, much like what happened to Israel.
God Calls Us to be Modern-Day Daniels
Many of us enrolled in martial arts training of our own free will, only to find ourselves indoctrinated into a foreign culture complete with a built-in religion. Martial artists have been indoctrinated into a supposed humanistic worldview with its practices. If we wish to continue training and keep our belt rank status, then we must appease specific individuals. It’s a costly proposition. Even some, like us, have trained with Christian instructors who unwittingly brought along some elements of Eastern religious practices from their own training, passing them on to their students. During our training, tournament competitions, and seminars, for example, we’ve opted to avoid making waves. As a result, we’ve been viewed as valuable by those around us. But there are also times when we must stand firm against anything that will damage our allegiance to God. It’s not popular. We, and our students, have competed in tournaments wearing black uniforms displaying our Christian patches and our martial arts shoes, only to discover that our scores were marked down for these “infractions”. Our belief is the tournament ring holds no holiness of its own. We do a courtesy bow to the judges and other competitors, but wearing shoes in the ring is a sign of dishonor according to martial arts tradition, stemming from pantheistic religious views. However, it is better to offend people rather than God. God wants to bless and reward His people. The most significant reward we can receive from our Lord will be seeing others going to Heaven with us and hearing Him say, “Well done, good and faithful servant. Enter into my rest.” (Matthew 25:21)
The Yin-Yang Symbol
We are already hard-pressed to decide if we, as believers in Christ, aren’t already practicing a foreign religion with the physical aspects of our art. However, combat and self-protection are universal needs. The concern lies in whether it is appropriate for us to wear or display such a symbol. First, it’s valuable to understand where it comes from and what it means to those who believe it. Second, it is vital to see what God says about it.
The yin-yang appears everywhere you go. We’ve seen it on jewelry, t-shirts, and public signs, hidden in products in commercials (in the 1990s, Trix yogurt, and Mentadent toothpaste, for example). The yin-yang seems to permeate martial arts as well. Even Billy Blanks put one in his studio, visible in his TaeBo videos, while also displaying, “For we walk by faith, not by sight.” 2 Corinthians 5:7 NKJV. Many Christians wear or draw them but don’t know what they stand for. Do you? Should Christian martial artists use or display them in our schools, clothing, or equipment? Is it compatible with biblical Christian beliefs or not?
The yin-yang is rather plain yet distinctive. One side is light, and the other is dark, with an eye of the opposite color on each. The two halves swirl together, looking like two fish curled around each other. The white side symbolizes light, good, male, and everything positive in the universe. The dark side symbolizes dark, evil, female, and everything negative in our universe. The eyes represent a small portion of the opposite present in the corresponding half, meaning there is a bit of good in the bad and a bit of bad in the good. The swirling represents tension, maintaining the balance existing between the two forces. 1 Evil should never eradicate good, nor vice versa.
Supposed opposing forces are used together to accomplish much. This concept also ties in with the doctrine of Ch’i, which is addressed in the article, Ch’i Whiz. Some martial arts strategies use it to knock an attacker off balance while conserving energy.2 You might see it in Kenpo frequently with stepping back while pushing forward or in Aikido by deflecting an attack, then redirecting the attacker’s force back at him. In nature, magnets pull together with opposite poles aimed toward each other. But this is in the physical realm, not the spiritual.
The yin yang comes from the religion of Taoism (pronounced Dowizm). It is a religion rather than just a philosophy because it deals with existential concerns (i.e. Why are we here? What happens after death?) and the understanding of a transcendent force–an impersonal god figure– in control that drives everything. This philosophical religion is based upon the balance of nature for Ultimate Reality, where the great Tao (universal life force) will eventually absorb all things and people. Anything we are willing to live and die for becomes our god. That is religion. Tao is a religion with Ultimate Reality (an impersonal force) as a god. 3 This religion meshes well with Buddhism, Hinduism, and Shintoism. These four major Eastern religions are foundational in the New Age movement today. 4 According to the Bible, there is no basis in reality that the concept of the Yin Yang could be valid from a spiritual standpoint. God’s Word says that good and evil (symbolized by light and dark) cannot exist together in harmony. In I John 1: 5-7, we are told that God’s very nature is light (good), and there is no darkness (evil) in Him at all. Christians cannot have fellowship with God if we walk in darkness (evil). We are to walk in the light so we may have fellowship with God and be cleansed from our sins by Jesus’ shed blood. Some Christians justify the Yin Yang as reality because we are God’s light in a sin-filled world. However, light (truth) exposes the deeds of darkness (evil) (John 3:19-20).
Many New Agers and Christian martial artists have justified the Yin Yang by saying that wherever there is light, there is a shadow. But in reality, there is no shadow without an obstacle. That obstacle is sin, which casts the darkness of the shadow. When sin is exposed in the believer’s life, repentance and obedience to follow God are essential. The one who continues in sin is drawn deeper into sin (Ephesians 5:17-32; I Timothy 6:9-12). So the shadow will either grow or fade. God calls us to walk in the light, having no fellowship with the works of darkness. We are to expose the evil deeds of darkness by the power of the Holy Spirit in our lives (John 3:20, 21; Ephesians 5:11). God calls Christians to be set apart, or holy, from the world because God is holy. This indwelling of the Holy Spirit enables us to be light in a dark, sin-filled world. We cannot relate to God, the Father of Lights, who is true, good, and holy, unless we know Jesus Christ as our Savior and Lord. Otherwise, we are doomed to darkness, evil desires, and actions. Jesus removed the obstacle casting the shadow of sin.
God’s Light Wins!
Jesus disarmed evil on the cross, destroying Satan’s power over believers (Colossians 2:15; Hebrews 2:14-15). He opened up our access to God the Father when the veil over the Holy of Holies was torn in two from top to bottom (Matthew 27:51, 2 Corinthians 4:3-4). Why would we want to put that obstacle back with something like the yin-yang, an incompatible symbol? Ephesians 6:10-17 says we are in a spiritual battle with Satan and his evil forces. Without God’s armor, we could never withstand the attacks. This armor is issued to us when we accept Christ as our Savior. We make Him Lord when we put it on and use it. Satan’s whole purpose is to try to thwart God’s plan. Is that harmony? In the end, Satan, his demons, and unbelievers are cast into the Lake of Fire, the second death. Because of this, New Jerusalem, where believers will live forever with God, never closes its gates for protection from attacks. Nothing evil ever enters into it. Light is continually present since God and Christ are its lamps. No one is ever sad or sick because those result from original sin. There is no darkness, no evil in eternity (Revelation 20:11-15; 21, 22). We will live with God forever and ever, as was His plan all along.
During the existence of Heaven and earth, good and evil are at war. There will only be goodness and light when this world ends and the new begins. Good and evil are not compatible. War is not simply tension but an attempt to conquer or destroy one another. They cannot exist in harmony. If you’ve noticed through our Bible study segment, God is not an impersonal force, but He has a definite concern for us. He wants to have a personal relationship with us. Since we cannot see in the darkness of our sin, He, a holy and righteous God, made the effort to remove the obstaclecle between Him and us by sending Jesus to die in our place. This is called atonement (Romans 5:10; Colossians 1:21-22). It is the only way to live harmoniously. What a radically different concept than becoming one with an impersonal force achieved by our own efforts!
It’s imperative that we be careful what symbols we use because we are identified with it. It’s confusing to Christians and non-Christians alike as people observe us in our classes, demonstrations, tournaments, and everyday life. So let’s check the meaning behind symbols before we use them. Sometimes we think we have done our homework only to discover a new tidbit of information. For example, we used to put out the newsletter for the martial arts ministry where we trained, titled, The Bushido Gazette. Our instructor had transliterated the Shinto “way of the warrior” to Christians in spiritual warfare. When we shared some newsletters with people in our home church, one WWII veteran friend had a problem with the title. He explained what Bushido meant when he served in the Pacific Theatre. As we checked into this further with careful prayer and consideration, we decided that Bushido was incompatible with our Christian faith. We urged our instructor to change the name, but he couldn’t see the problem. We don’t use it or any of the terms and symbols from traditional martial arts because we did our homework. That doesn’t mean we are perfect. We could accidentally carry along a few “graven images” without realizing it. But God knows our hearts and will bless our efforts to “clean house.” How is your house today?
Note: I just started reading The Second Coming of the New Age by Steven Bancarz and Josh Peck. Both of these men were deeply involved in New Age practices before becoming Christians. What an eye-opening read! I highly recommend this book. I receive no compensation if you purchase this book through the link https://www.amazon.com/Second-Coming-New-Age-Spirituality/dp/1948014114/ref=sr_1_1?crid=378XJF1IGHPWJ&keywords=The+Second+Coming+of+the+New+Age&qid=1665152391&qu=eyJxc2MiOiIwLjQxIiwicXNhIjoiMC4yMyIsInFzcCI6IjAuMjEifQ%3D%3D&sprefix=the+second+coming+of+the+new+age%2Caps%2C108&sr=8-1.
1 The World Religions by Huston Smith. Copyright 1991 by Huston Smith. Published by Harper Collins Publishing Company. P.p. 201, 214.
2 Chuck Sullivan. Karate Connection video series. Copyright unknown.
3 Religion: A Preface 2nd Edition by Wilson and Clark. Published by Prentice Hall, Engelwood Cliffs, NJ.
4 Invasion of Foreign Gods by David Jeremiah, 5 https://www.britannica.com/topic/pantheism
Copyright 1999 by Charlaine Engelhardt. Copyright 2014, 2015, 2022 by Charlaine Martin. All rights reserved