Mystical Interpretations of Scripture
Charismatics are infamous for bizarre and far-fetched interpretations of Scripture. They love to downplay theological education in favor of their being “led by the Spirit.” Nonetheless, they make weird displays of knowledge for the purpose of making their audiences feel that they are not ignorant.
I heard a message by Rich Wilkerson, brother of the famous (and equally weird) David Wilkerson. His sermon on Acts 9:31-34 was entitled, “What To Do When You Lose Your Nerve.” In his message he explained that after the church was in a time of peace, Peter went to Lydda, which Wilkerson said in the Greek meant “place of conflict.” By this he meant to say that when there was peace, Peter went looking for a fight. He then went on to say the Aeneas means noble and Aeneas’ disease, palsy, in the Greek meant “loss of nerves.”
The only reason why he was able to get away with such stupidity is that Charismatics are naïve. First of all, Lydda does not mean place of conflict. Strong’s Concordance tells us that the word is of Hebrew origin and its exact meaning is uncertain. In other words Lydda does not mean anything in the Greek, because it is Hebrew. But not only does it not mean anything in Greek; it doesn’t mean anything, period! Secondly, saying that Peter went to the Lydda looking for a fight because the name means place of conflict is like saying that to find angels we need to go to Los Angeles! This is not interpretation; it is an undisciplined imagination run amuck! No doubt, there are people in the world named Philip who do not like horses, despite the fact that Philip in the Greek means lover of horses. Likewise, just because Aeneas means noble, this does not imply anything about his character. And on top of it all, whether or not palsy means loss of nerves in the Greek this is not a reliable medical explanation. I doubt very seriously that Mr. Wilkerson would be satisfied if his doctor still practiced medicine at the level of Hippocrates or Galen. And never mind ancient medicine. Neither would he like it if his doctor practiced blood-letting like the physicians of 200 years ago. Besides, “losing one’s nerve” is an English idiom and everyone knows that idioms do not mean what the individual words mean literally.
Disregard for Scripture
With all their lip service to Scripture, they are no different that the Hegelian relativists outside the Church who deny the existence of objective truth. Nearly 100 years ago, G.K. Chesterton wrote, “At any innocent tea-table we may easily hear a man say, ‘Life is not worth living.’ We regard it as we regard the statement that it is a fine day; nobody thinks that it can possibly have any serious effect on the man or on the world. And yet if that utterance were really believed, the world would stand on its head. Murderers would be given medals for saving men from life; firemen would be denounced for keeping men from death; poisons would be used as medicines; doctors would be called in when people were well; the Royal Humane Society would be rooted out like a horde of assassins. Yet we never speculate as to whether the conversational pessimist will strengthen or disorganize society; for we are convinced that theories do not matter.” (1) How are we supposed to reason with these people meaningfully regarding the truth of Scripture, when “the truth” is interpreted on the basis of their latest vision or visitation?
On that worldwide source for “Charismatic chaos,” TBN, I heard a young preacher interpret Habakkuk 2:2 (2) as saying that when God gives us a “vision,” (which word was left completely unexplained) we have to write it down so we can go back to it and read it and study it. What is this but creating one’s own Scriptures? Yet as he spoke, he was greeted with a continual stream of “Amen’s.” This shows the level of ignorance that is prevalent through the entire Charismatic movement: A man can get on TV and blaspheme the Holy Scriptures and have the complete assent of the audience.
The famous Charismatic preacher, T.L. Osborne, came to the Philippines with his wife in the early 1990’s to conduct a seminar. What he really did was promote his and his wife’s literature by the outrageous claim that using their material would “win the world.” One got the impression that what he really wanted to say was that it was better if everyone used his material rather than their own – or even the Bible. In the course of his lecture he commented on St. Paul’s prohibition against women preachers (3) by calling Paul a “male chauvinist.” His exact words were, to the best of my memory, “How dare he tell me what my wife can or cannot do!” John MacArthur was correct when he said that although the Liberal theologians and the neo-orthodox were unable to sell their theology to the Pentecostals, they succeeded in selling them their exegesis. (4)
1 G.K. Chesterton, Heretics, Introduction
2 And the Lord answered me, and said, Write the vision, and make it plain upon tables, that he may run that readeth it.
3 1 Timothy 2:12
4 John MacArthur, Charismatic Chaos