Saturday, March 13, 2010

Rhema vs. Logos

In my first blog entry, I warned that this was fight for the truth. I now intend to start living up to that promise (or threat - you chose). We will tackle the false philosophy regarding God's Word which allows so much of the foolishness endemic to Evangelicalism, especially the Pentecostal/Charismatic side of things.

Rhema vs. Logos

The main task of Hermeneutics is to - first of all - realize that there is a God-given meaning in Scripture. That meaning is there whether any of us see it or not. Scripture means something even if it means nothing to you, me, or anyone else. That meaning is determined by God, its Author. Every verse has intrinsic meaning apart from any of us and the task of Bible study is to discern the true meaning of Scripture.

One of the hallmarks of Neo-orthodoxy is its “open-system” doctrine of Scripture. The Liberals denied that the Bible was the Word of God; the Neo-orthodox say it contains the Word of God. This sounds like a huge difference on the surface, but underneath it is still the same denial of Plenary Inspiration. The Neo-orthodox position holds that the Scripture says whatever you feel: it's whatever happens inside of you that becomes the Word of God to you. This destroys the central doctrine of Sola Scriptura. And once a person or congregation see Scripture as less than the final, complete, infallible authority for faith and conduct, the doors have been opened to absolute chaos.

Now the Liberals and Neo-orthodox were unable perhaps to sell us their theology, but their faulty hermeneutic has infected many of us, even without our knowing that we had ever encountered it. The so-called distinction between “rhema” and “logos” is perhaps the single biggest example.

According to this theory, the Word of God has two layers or forms. One is the “Logos” – the conceptual, written form. The other is the “Rhema” – the living, spoken word. In practical terms this is supposed to mean that often while we are reading the Logos, God’s Spirit “speaks” to us some Rhema, which has some special, living meaning for us at that exact time.

This is as dangerous as it is false. Its falsity can be seen in the fact that from Adam till Moses God’s people possessed only Rhema. God specifically commanded Moses, then later the Prophets and Apostles, to write down His Word in the conceptual written form of Logos. One does not need to be a rocket scientist to see the superior quality of written words over spoken ones. Spoken words can be forgotten, misunderstood, wrongly reported, misconstrued and misinterpreted. Once words are committed to print there is only one way to understand them: the way the author intended them. All of the dangers inherent in Rhema are avoided by Logos, which is precisely why God gave us His Word in written form rather than leaving us with an oral tradition. Those who claim to possess Oral Traditions, like the Roman Catholics and the Jews, inevitably place the foundationless Oral Tradition in a favored, superior position over the Written Word.

Advocates of the “Rhema word” do the exact same thing in placing the Logos in an inferior position, frequently referring to the written text as “the Letter,” or even worse a “dead Letter.” The Rhema, on the other hand, is seen as a living, spiritual Word. Lip service is paid to the Written Word, but is always clear that the Rhema is the preferred form of revelation. The problem with this as it relates to Scripture is that it thwarts any appeal to Scripture as the Final Arbiter regarding anything because the meaning of any given passage is up in the air, is fluid and to be ascertained mystically by the senses or feelings of the reader.

Many of us have been in one of those Bible studies where you go around the room and everybody tells you what they think the verse means. Or, worse than that, "Well to me, this verse means so and so." In the end what you get is a pooling of ignorance, unless somebody knows what it means apart from himself. The truth is that it doesn't matter what a verse means to me; it doesn't matter what it means to you; it doesn't matter what it means to anybody; it doesn't even matter if it means anything to anybody else. All that matters is, "What is God’s meaning? What did God intend to say by that verse?"

Our job then, is to discern that meaning; to discover the meaning of the text in its proper setting; to draw the meaning out of the Scripture, rather than to read one's meaning into it. It would be hard to overemphasize the importance of careful Biblical interpretation. We would even be safe in saying that misinterpreting the Bible is ultimately no better than disbelieving it. What good does it do to believe that the Bible is God's Word if you misinterpret it? Either way, you have missed the truth. But in spite of all of the dangers of misinterpreting the Scripture, we have these people who approach the Scriptures casually, without any understanding of the science of interpretation and make it say whatever they feel that it is saying to them. We must never do this. We must always endeavor to find the meaning of the Word of God apart from any personal experience we may be having. That is irrelevant.

Now the reason why the Rhema/Logos distinction is so deceptive is that is misinterprets an experience common to us all. Error is always most dangerous when it is parasitic upon some truth. The experience I am referring to is the deepening understanding of Scripture which occurs as we read and study it over time. As we mature, we see things and learn things which we had previously overlooked or were incapable of grasping before.

A new-born Christian may read John 3:16 and see simply in it that God loves him. A veteran believer, tested by the storms of life and well-versed in the rest of Scripture, may see many more of the truths and deeper nuanced inferences which this verse undoubtedly contains. The difference between the two people is a difference in capacity to understand. A fifth grader and a theoretical physicist both believe in the exact same numbers and principles of mathematics, but the physicist has seen, by frequent exposure, the deeper truths which numbers contain. The difference is in mental capacity, not in the numbers themselves and/or the first principles of mathematics. The physicist does not sometimes have a Rhema experience in which numbers “speak” to him that 2+2=3.5 or that a triangle can contain more than 180 degrees! The meaning of numbers and the rules governing their use are fixed.

The advocates of the “Rhema word” approach to Scripture mistake this fact of intellectual and/or spiritual growth for something else. Rather than saying that the meaning of Scripture is “forever settled in Heaven (Ps 119:89),” they would have the meaning to be forever fluid and fluctuating according to whatever one feels that the Spirit may be speaking to him at that particular moment. They have hereby jettisoned Sola Scriptura and have erected in its place their own vain imaginations.

No comments:

Post a Comment

Visitor Counter

Flag Counter