In naming this article ‘A Rant Today to Keep the Devil Away’ I am not just butchering a common adage, but summing up my purpose in writing this post. I don’t rant often, however when I see the word of God tortured and butchered, then ranting seems most appropriate.
By ‘Word of God’ I mean, firstly, the Lord Jesus Christ, and secondly, the inspired scriptures (the bible) that reveal His nature, character, principles, and priorities. Hardly a month goes by that I don’t come across some or other form of ‘Word butchering’, but when I am personally impacted in one week by not one but two such acts of spiritual brutality, then I feel its time for a bit of a rant.
My first encounter of the week was with an attempt to build a theological foundation for dominion theology almost exclusively on the authority of three very well known charismatic teachers, one now departed and the other two alive and kicking. The second encounter was with someone who had taken issue, ever so kindly, with the leader of the small group they are attending. Before I give examples and analysis, I must first make a disclaimer.
Why I Don’t Name Names
I very seldom call a person out by name when I write or preach into what they say or do. There are two main reasons for this:
- The people who teach aberrant theology, prominent as they may be, are not the focus of my attention. I am more concerned about helping folk to recognise false teaching and false prophets than I am on naming and shaming the culprits.
- Before I would think of calling someone out I would need to carefully study their teachings and practices in context and then, preferably, have interacted with them personally at some level. I have not met either of these preconditions concerning my sources for this article.
The Big Bad Picture
I am aware that for some readers, too much detail and too long an article, detracts from their appreciation of the content. For this reason, I will first describe the overall problem and the heart of my rant. After that, I will give some details of the encounters with the faulty theology and biblical interpretation I have recently encountered.
I have previously written about Hyper-literalism and flawed semantics HERE, so I won’t bang on about these issues again in this article, although what I want to highlight does flow from these two poisoned wells.
The people whose faulty interpretations and theology I am ranting about here all claim to respect the inspiration of the bible and to love Jesus. They make a point of stating that they are both biblical and Jesus-centred in their approach. However, being truly ‘biblical’ does not allow taking texts out of context, creating elaborate and ultimately illogical word chains based on a word or two in the original languages, or leaping to unwarranted conclusions in order to make the text mean what they want it to mean (eisegesis). And to be Jesus-centred does not allow detracting from His uniquely divine-human nature, nor playing fast and loose with what He taught.
One of the key proof-texts for a brand of theology that is the cause of my current distress is the last part of Psalm 138:2, which the NKJV translates as ‘For You have magnified Your word above all Your name’. This is a carry-over from the KJV of the bible translation and is regarded by every major theologian I have consulted as a very poor translation of the Hebrew. The NIV translates this verse far more accurately as ‘for you have exalted above all things your name and your word’. The bible does not proscribe God, but He, through the agency of His Word (Bible and Jesus), proscribes all other things. From this deformed root has grown a theology that teaches that what certain people understand of the scriptural revelation binds God and proscribes what He can and can’t do. For instance, they claim that God cannot do anything on earth without the participation of human agencies… because He has said that man has sole dominion over the earth. The reasoning is as follows:
- When God created man, He said: “and let them rule over.. all (non-human) creatures” (Genesis 1:26). Therefore, if mankind has dominions that means that God has given up His divine dominion.
- As a result, they claim that God has no jurisdiction on Earth and cannot even enter the physical realm without human permission. So, not only has what has said become His master, but so have the humans who decide what He meant by what He said. In my view, this theology is both heretical and blasphemous and evidence of massive human arrogance. Genesis 1:26 ‘says’ no more than that God permitted mankind to look after His creation. It is not an irrevocable mandate or power of attorney and there is a multitude of biblical passages proclaiming God’s ongoing sovereignty over all things.
From this warped understanding of scripture, at least one of the culprits I have read reinterprets the whole mission of the Lord Jesus and the prime purpose of all Christians. According to him, Jesus came not to reveal the Father, nor to provide eternal life for those who believe, but to reestablish a physical Kingdom of God on earth and to enlist people into His colonisation project.
My First Upsetting Encounter of the Week
My first encounter of the week concerned the ‘Gospel of the Kingdom’. I have already described the misconception that Jesus’ purpose on earth was primarily to announce that the world was now a colonisation of the heavenly Kingdom of God and that His disciples are actually its ‘kings’. Here, I will summarise one of the arguments for this as follows:
They contend that God’s purpose is to govern the earth through His followers. This, they say, is made clear in two Old Testament scriptures. Genesis 1:26-28, which is part of the creation account, where two Hebrew words are translated as ‘rule’, and Psalm 8:3-6 where another Hebrew word translates in a similar way. This is used to ‘prove’ that God’s purpose for each of us is to partner with God and each other in ruling the world.
Of course, the deciding factor in biblical interpretation is not simply the meaning of particular words in the biblical account, but what I call ‘the first intended meaning’. We determine this by;
- Considering the context of the word and passage
- Referring to what Jesus said and did,
- Surveying what the rest of the bible teaches,
- Considering the meaning of the actual words and syntax of the original languages used.
A reasonable and consistent understanding of ‘dominion’ relates to stewardship and care of the natural world rather than dominance over it. While He walked this earth, the Lord Jesus was an example of this ‘care’ concept both in what He taught and how He acted. However, the line of reasoning used by the dominion-now protagonists, to whom I am referring, centres rather on one of Jesus’ ascriptions as ‘King of kings and Lord of lords’ used twice in the book of Revelation (Revelation 17:14 and 19:16). Their argument is as follows:
The words ‘King’ and ‘Lord’ are in the singular tense, but the words ‘kings’ and lords’, indicate that we are all kings and lords born as a god-class to have dominion over the world.
However, the context of this passage in Revelation is much more obviously understood as a simple reference to the supremacy of the Lord Jesus over all others, particularly those who are earthly kings.
My Second in a Week Run-in with Aberrant Thinking
As if all this was not enough to trigger a good rant, I was speaking to someone about the inter-church bible study group they attended. The leader had just announced that the next book they would be studying would be by yet another well known, now deceased, misguided teacher. Note well that the ‘bible study’ in mind actually consisted of a string of books rather than the bible itself. The person I was talking to informed the group leader that what they were teaching was neither biblical nor theologically sound. The leader, who claimed to be passionately committed to biblical authority, gave a defense that floored me when it was recounted to me. In essence, this is how it apparently went: “All teachers are human and not perfect but the Holy Spirit inspires some to teach profound truth. Paul was human and so what he wrote in the bible was no more authoritative than what these other ‘men and women of God’ have written”. So much for the unique inspiration of the bible then!
Now for the Real Rant
I could write a whole lot more, but I think I have made my point. The object of my concern is not as much for the authors concerned as it is for the thousands of Christians who believe them and teach others and then propagate their doctrines. Of the three well-known teachers, I referred to in this article, two are dead and buried and I know with certainty that the other has been challenged many times by many sound theologians and church leaders, all to no avail.
I realise that most of you who read this post will be just as amazed and outraged as I am, but there are some folk who are sent this article, or just stumble upon it, who really need to catch a wake-up call! To those readers, I say:
“Please, for the love of God, and for your own sake, stop buying into and propagating false doctrine, half a ‘gospel’ message, and an unbiblical portrayal of Jesus. There is so much excellent teaching out there and so many churches where the truth is faithfully proclaimed. Commit yourself rather to seeking the truth, for Jesus himself has said: ‘I have much more to say to you, more than you can now bear. But when he, the Spirit of truth, comes, he will guide you into all truth. He will not speak on his own; he will speak only what he hears, and he will tell you what is yet to come. He will bring glory to me by taking from what is mine and making it known to you’” (John 16:12-14).
God have mercy on us all, and God bless us all.