On speaking things into existence and the biblical narrative

mouth open_lifeIn my last post, I opened up my discussion on how we read the book of Revelation with a personal anecdote of how we bring presuppositions into reading the Bible. The specific example I used was a belief that I had for many years, which is that God gave Christians the ability speak things into existence and are required to do so. You can read here on how that unraveled for me just by reading one verse in its proper context. Romans 4:17 – calling things that be not as though they were.

It is so painfully obvious that Paul is not saying Abraham was to call those things that be not as though they were but that Abraham’s faith is being credited to him for righteousness because of his belief in the God who calls those things that be not as though they were. In other words, it is God and God alone who can speak anything into existence. You cannot possibly derive that we are called to speaking things into existence from this passage.

So why did I believe for so many years that this passage supported the notion of speaking things into existence even though I had read this book many times? I’ll tell you why. It is because this concept has been so pervasive in a strain of evangelicalism that it gets read into the biblical text. It is because the concept has been so popularized and regurgitated that it has become like a major doctrine in some parts.

If you believe that God has given his creatures this ability, that our words somehow contain power to create conditions in circumstances and that God only moves according to this power, please keep reading. I want to challenge you on the biblical narrative itself. Continue reading

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Some more thoughts on Revelation, the church and the bigger picture

people holding globeI remember that day back in Spring of 2006 almost like it was yesterday. I was pacing in bedroom while reading Romans 4 and then that moment came. I stopped dead in my tracks reading 4:17, “He is our father in the sight of God, in whom he believed—the God who gives life to the dead and calls into being things that were not.” You see for many of my Christian years, I cited that phrase as if it is something we can do, calling those things that be not as though they were.  It’s not like I didn’t read the Bible. I read it diligently. But I imposed the philosophy of “speaking things into existence” unto the text.  Because it was so popularly taught in my circles, I sincerely believed that words contain power and we can use them to wield that God would move according to the words we spoke, as if our words had some kind of power over circumstances. So when reading Scripture, I brought that presupposition in to whatever I read (such as Mark 11:24).

But during this particular time, I was already being challenged on the fragmented way I had read Scripture and the frequency of ripping verses out of their context. So when I read that verse in it’s context, it really brought to life my propensity to bring presuppositions into the text. That one verse sent ripples through considering elsewhere in the Bible where that did not validate this concept. It struck me so powerfully that I had imposed this thought unto the biblical text and presumed it was the way it was.

In some sense, I think I’ve had one of the moments as I’ve been studying the book of Revelation and eschatology, in general. As I wrote about here, I’ve been reading Revelation with fresh eyes because of certain assumptions that I’ve made for many years when approaching this book. Presumptions included that 1) it tells a story of what will happen in the order; 2) that it describes literal events that will take place in the future and 3) that it involves bringing Israel to salvation as the church has been moved out of the way. In other words, as I wrote about in my last post, I presumed a dispensational premillennial position. Funny thing was that I’ve long had some tensions with some components of this position that I just took for granted because of the presuppositions that I held regarding the futurist chronological literalism of the book. Continue reading

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Why pursuing shekinah glory can leave Jesus behind

OT_templeI can’t harp enough on how important it is to understand the relationship of the Old Testament to the New Testament. When we don’t make proper connections, this impacts how we understand the events of the Old Testament apply to us. In a way, I suppose this post is a follow up to You Can’t Read the Bible Any Way You Want.

One such way is when Christians pursue the “shekinah glory” remiscent of how the glory filled the temple in the Old Testament. I spent many years in church circles where this was a common occurrence, especially at special conference type of events. The thrust of pursuit was worshipping hard enough so that that “atmosphere” was charged and that glory can fill the physical space.

I recently started reading Kingdom Come: The Amillennial Alternative, by Sam Storms. I purchased the book because of my shifting views on eschatology (end times) and seeing more and more, especially in context of Revelation, how biblical prophecy points more to what is accomplished in Christ than literal, physical interpretation of events. But I have another post on that! So this post is not necessarily about eschatology but about how we understand the relationship of the Old Testament to the New Testament.

I really appreciate Storm’s straight forward easy style of writing. In his first chapter, he appropriately lays the foundation that Jesus is the center of the Old Testament. Specific to the glory of the temple he explains what the shekinah glory in the OT means for the NT; Continue reading

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Christians, you cannot read the Bible any old way you want – Part 2

As a follow up to You Can’t Read the Bible Any Old Way You Want-Part 1, which really was a primer for this one, I first want to express why I’m so passionate about this topic. One of the greatest tragedies of my Christian life is how I read the Bible. And from day one of trusting in Christ as my Lord and Savior, I had a firm desire to know what his word said. But because I did not know the framework of how the 66 books fit together, I read it in a very disjointed fashion, imposing whatever philosophies influenced me through the teaching I was under, which for many years was pretty wretched.

I came across an article recently on docetism and Scripture, which resonated with me in terms of how I would approach Scripture. Docetism was one of the earliest heresies that infiltrated the church and the pre-cursor to Gnosticism. Docestists placed emphasis on the “spiritual” to the neglect of the physical. You can see docetic approaches to Christianity in some sectors of Christianity today, where the Holy Spirit acts as a rogue agent;

A docetic approach to the Bible is one that allows any text to have any meaning to which we might consider ourselves led by the Spirit. The human dimension of the Bible is ignored so that the careful exegesis of passages and a sound hermeneutic are regarded as unspiritual impositions on the Word of God. What the Spirit makes the text mean to me is what it means! It is true for me even if it isn’t true for you. What is worse is that any fanciful interpretation of Scripture is then attributed to the Holy Spirit’s leading. But the Word is inspired by the Spirit, and his leading is always testable against the responsible exegesis of the Word.

Of course, no one is going to sit and devour the Bible in one setting. It makes sense that we only read a little bit each day. But it helps to put whatever we’re reading in context – in context of the author’s theme, in context of the genre and in context of the placement in the redemptive narrative. That means we just can’t read it anyway we want to. Continue reading

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Pope Fiction: The clash of the Protestant Titans

pulp fiction_travolta and jacksonAs I’ve watched the events unfold these past few days with Pope Francis’ visit to the U.S., I’ve watched another set of events unfold – Protestants. Angry Protestants. Protesting Protestants. Protestants that pepper the interwebs with angry rants about the evils of Catholicism and the falsehood of the pope celebrated as the head of the church (which actually he would say Christ is the head of the church as would any knowledgeable Catholic). Nonetheless, I’ve been somewhat amused at the “hit job” that has emerged from a simple visit as if the Pope is seeking to take over the United States and must be silenced.

Now, I am staunchly Protestant so please don’t confuse me with a overly mushy ecumenical sympathizer who just wants to blindly sing Kumbaya with my Catholic friends (some of whom really are Christian by Protestant standards BTW) while I bask in the presence of his majesty the pontiff. I’m no expert but I believe I have a somewhat firm grasp on the distinctions between Catholics and Protestants. While I am sympathetic to the premise of Catholic belief especially the intrinsic relationship of Christ to his church, I don’t agree with some tenants of Catholicism primarily the way the indistinguishable nature of the invisible church with the visible church leads to a faulty view of justification as a Christian. Of course, as a Protestant I believe that justification is a one time forensic act through the work of the Spirit not an infusion as one walks out their Christian faith in the context of the church. I am also vehemently opposed to the veneration of Mary and prayers to the saints.

However, given the tumultuous Catholic v. Protestant divide, I took the opportunity in seminary to really investigate Catholicism through a couple of required research papers with the intention of dealing fairly with the material, to the best of my Protestant ability. Considering the charges that are commonly levied against Catholicism and it’s adherents as being misled at best or a false religion at worst,  I thought it was really necessary to examine the charges levied against this system by actually striving to understand the system. Given the love that Christ has lavished on his church, I think some caution is in order before banishing folks out as heretics. Continue reading

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