Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Holy Heresy Pt 2

We now come to our third installment in this series. We will be looking at the next two marks of heresies - ones that are clearly displayed by the Charismatic movement, i.e., (3), Mystical Interpretations of Scripture, and (4) Disregard for the Bible

• 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.” We’ve all heard the “cemetery, I mean seminary” joke. Despite the fact that Christ commands us to love God with our mind (Mt 22:37), Charismatics insist that we check our brains at the door. Many of their preachers glory, indeed revel, in the fact that they have no formal theological training. They will nonetheless make weird displays of knowledge for the purpose of making their audiences feel that they are not completely ignorant.

Several years ago, I heard a message by Rich Wilkerson, brother of the famous (and equally weird) David Wilkerson. His sermon on was on Acts 9:31-34 and 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.” Wilkerson asserted from this that when the Church experienced peace, Peter went looking for a fight. He then went on to explain that Aeneas in Greek 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 na├»ve.

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 used leeches or practiced blood-letting like medieval physicians. Besides, “losing one’s nerve” is an English idiom and everyone knows that idioms do not mean what the individual words mean literally.

I have a very hard time finding anything nice or charitable about a man who will stand in the Lord's name in the pulpit and spew forth that sort of idiocy! My suspicion is that Jesus would have driven him from the temple with a whip had he tried to preach like this during Jesus' ministry.

• Disregard for the Bible (or at least, belittling Scripture)

With all their lip service to Scripture, Charismatics are no different that the Hegelian relativists outside the Church who deny the existence of objective truth. A little over 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 angelic visitation?

On TBN, that worldwide source for “Charismatic chaos,” 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 “Amens.” 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.

There was a medieval heretic named Joachim of Fiore, who lived and wrote in the 12th Century. He was an esoterist and mystic. He had a teaching – which earned him his excommunication, by the way – that there were three eras of the world: The era of the Father (for which we have the Old Testament), the era of the Son (for which we have the New Testament) and the era of the Spirit, which was yet to come in 1202 when Joachim died. His logic implies that when the era of the Spirit dawns, we will have revelatory additions to God’s Word. The Father has His Testament and the Son has His, so the Spirit will get His too. The heresy of such a position is explicitly apparent. Yet anyone familiar with Charismatic literature will tell you that this sounds like something right out of the Vineyard.

At the invitation of a friend, I visited a church which, it turns out, actually practiced what this man advocated. During his sermon, the minister kept quoting lines from a “prophetic word” given by Brother “Jones” a few years back. The minister did not quote the Bible, mind you, but acted as confident when he quoted Brother Jones, as if he were quoting the Bible! Then to make matters worse, right in the middle of his message, the minister pulled out a mini-cassette player from his coat pocket and played an actual recording of the “prophecy!” In the foyer were printed copies of the prophecies given on the previous few Sundays. So say what they want about the superiority of Scripture, when people believe in continuous revelation, the Bible gets the heave-ho!

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 Paul 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.

Tomorrow, God permitting, we will wrap up this series of posts wherein we will look at the last two heretical marks of the Charismatic movement.

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

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