The Bible #8

Metaphors & The True Nature of God

When reading Holy Scripture it’s very obvious that the inspired authors used many metaphors when trying to describe God and His nature. But, not everything said about God is a metaphor. So, how do we decide upon which things are more on the metaphor side and which things are more literally accurate?

Answer: we take God’s own word and example for it. Jesus is God giving us His own opinion of Himself. And according to Jesus, the eternal, Triune God IS perfect Love, Mercy, Grace, and Goodness.

The Bible #7

Rightly Dividing the Word and Reading the Bible “Literally”

Many precious Believers pride themselves on reading the Bible “literally.” In other words, they read their preferred English translation and supposedly take everything at the surface level, face value reading. This is sometimes referred to as “wooden-literalism.”

Of course, NO ONE reads the Bible in its entirety in that kind of “literalism” and nor should they. For example, in Joshua 10:1-15 we see that through Joshua’s prayer/command that both the sun and moon stood still. Well, if we take that in a wooden-literal sense then that basically means nothing b/c the sun and moon “stand still” already. And btw, if we’re going to be “literal” then the sun and moon must have legs since they “stand” still, right? But, we understand the point of the story. Based on the pre-scientifc understanding of the author it seemed from their vantage point that the sun/moon “stood still.” Of course, something else was going on.

Another example could be found in Rev. 6:13 which says, “And the stars of heaven fell unto the earth, even as a fig tree casteth her untimely figs, when she is shaken of a mighty wind.” If we take this “literally” then that would basically be the end of human history as we know it b/c if even one star fell to the earth then…BOOM…WE GONE…THE END! But, of course, there is something else being communicated and we should not read this in a wooden-literal sense as Revelation has several more chapters after chp. 6.

Ultimately it’s extremely important when reading Scripture that we understand what kind of literature that we are reading. And that, btw, is what “literally” actually means: according to the literature. Should some scriptures be read and understood in a wooden-literal sense? Yes, of course. But, should MANY portions of Scripture be read through other literary lenses? YES!!! As a matter of fact, Jesus and Paul read and interpreted Holy Scripture through the lens of signs, symbols, parables, prophetic images, metaphors, allegories, hyperbole, idioms/figures of speech, and the like, at least as much, if not more, than they did through a wooden-literal sense. And if that was good enough for Paul and Jesus then it should certainly be good enough for us! And if we fail to ascertain then this vitally important truth then it will simply not be possible for us to “rightly divide the word of truth.”

The Bible #6

-When to take Scripture “literally” and when not to-

When reading the Bible ALL of us (as Believers) have to choose for different reasons which scriptures to take more literally and which ones are employing metaphors, allegories, idioms/figures of speech, hyperbole, signs-and-symbols, etc. Again, we ALL do this. Some would like to say that they do not and only read the Bible “literally” but that simply isn’t true at all. For example:

In the Calvinist system it is believed that:

-God does not have emotion(s); He’s above-and-beyond having emotion.

-in eternity past God sovereignly predetermined every single thing that would ever happen in human history in absolutely every sense. No free will, no actual decisions or choices, only a God who LITERALLY controls EVERYTHING, period, no exceptions.

Thus, based on these two presuppositions (taken from Greek philosophy, then picked up by Augustine, then picked up again by Luther and Calvin, most notably) that the Calvinist system plasters over scripture and makes scripture conform to, any and all scriptures that ever portray God as having emotions of any kind, or that portray God changing His mind, or that show humans making actual decisions (which is portrayed on every page of scripture) are therefore considered hyperbolic, metaphoric language.

And while it’s perhaps a little easier to show this in the Calvinist system, quite frankly, because of how utterly absurd it is, it’s nonetheless true that every theological system MUST and DOES also have to decide when and where to do the same thing; that is, decide which scriptures are more literal and which are employing metaphors and the like.

So, the question is, at the end of the day what is the best way to navigate through this important scriptural issue? Does scripture itself give us any kind of an answer or insight to help us work through this? Thankfully, it does! We have an absolutely rock solid way to sift and work through these kinds of issues in Scripture! How so? What’s the answer?

The Answer is: JESUS! Jesus Himself (The Eternal Almighty God in the Flesh) came to humanity and gave utter clarity and set the “what-is-God-actually-like” record straight once and for all! According to Jesus (Who is God), God is EXACTLY, PRECISELY, COMPLETELY, ABSOLUTELY, FULLY JUST LIKE HIM!!!

Therefore, we can put all of our proverbial eggs in the “God-is-just-like-Jesus” basket. That is the one thing that we can unwaveringly bank on! As it’s been said, “God is like Jesus. God has always been like Jesus. There has never been a time when God was not like Jesus. We’ve not always known that, but now we do.”

Thus, and finally, when navigating through the many intricacies of Scripture we KNOW based on God’s authority Himself in the Person of Jesus that God is eternally JUST LIKE Jesus, and therefore anything in Scripture that portrays God as being contrary to the nature and actions of God revealed in Jesus, there must of necessity be something else going on. It may be metaphoric language, it may be an allegory, it may be a parable, it may be the darkened, culturally-conditioned, pagan-influenced, blinded-by-sin-death-and-the-Law mind of the author, or it may be something else. But, one thing we can know beyond any and all shadow of doubt is that the eternal, immutable God is perfectly revealed in Jesus and anything or anyone that says otherwise is simply misinformed, incorrect, wrong, etc.

Hebrews 1:3 – “The Son is the dazzling radiance of God’s splendor, the exact expression of God’s true nature—his mirror image!…”

Spiritual Coverings & Spiritual Fathers/Mothers

In all my years in the Charismatic church world (since I came to faith in 2004) I’ve seen the devastating effects of the “spiritual covering” doctrine first hand. This false teaching really emerged in the 80’s and was also known as the “Shepherding Movement.”

If you’re unfamiliar with this teaching then…good! Nonetheless, this teaching basically and essentially asserts that “the people” of a church, ministry, etc. are under the “covering” of the minister/leadership and thus they must FULLY “submit to” and obey the “spiritual covering” that God has placed you under and that failure to obey your “spiritual covering” is literally failure to obey God Himself. Here are some of the ways that this teaching is propagated:

-God would never disagree with your Spiritual Covering that He has placed you under. Therefore, to disagree with your Covering IS to disagree with God.

-Jesus is the Shepherd of the Church and the pastor of your church is your “Under Shepherd.” So you must obey your Under Shepherd just as you would your Shepherd (Jesus).

-If God ever wants you to leave the ministry that you’re currently at, He will tell the Covering/Leadership first.

-If you disobey your Spiritual Covering then you will get outside of the umbrella of God’s protection and you will be an open target for the devil.

These kinds of statements essentially encapsulate the idea of this teaching but the effects of it can be very far reaching. It goes so far sometimes that some Spiritual Coverings decide who can marry or not marry whom in their congregations, which cars the parishioners should buy, etc. It also gets into silly mindsets and ideas such as:

-the “anointed” leaders are too anointed, holy, and special to be around the “sheep” b/c if they do then the “sheep” will get “too familiar” with the “Covering.” (Of course, if getting close to a leader causes you to lose respect for them then the problem lies with the “Covering” not the “sheep”)

It gets so bad that people can’t even visit other churches or conferences b/c the Covering is scared that “their people” will be drawn to those other churches/ministries instead of staying “under their Covering.”

In a nutshell, this completely unbiblical teaching is nothing more than a form demonic witchcraft that gives leadership complete control over people’s lives. And when you experience and see it firsthand you realize that it’s no small matter to say the least! This false teaching has a MASSIVE list of casualties!

In one sense it’s kind of baffling and inexplicable that people buy into this absurd, false teaching because of how thoroughly, completely, utterly unbiblical it is. But, then again, it is understandable because people generally have some kind of trust and respect for the leadership that they find themselves under the influence of. And it’s more understandable given that it’s so prevalent in Charismatic churches b/c people see the Gifts of the Spirit operating through the ministers so they naturally assume that whatever they say must be endorsed by God, b/c after all, He does miracles through them.

Of course, by no means do all Charismatics teach this doctrine. For example, Bro. Hagin spoke out against this false teaching on his Ministry Gifts series and referred to it as “bunk and bologna.” Pat Robertson also spoke out strongly against it saying that this teaching was ‘witchcraft’ and said the only difference between the discipleship group and Jonestown was ‘Kool-Aid.’

So, i would highly recommend and strongly encourage anyone to stay away from this dangerous, demonic false, unbiblical teaching. There are indeed true, legit spiritual mothers and fathers out there that will love you, help you, guide you, encourage you, etc. without the baggage of manipulation and control. There are leaders who will serve you instead of demanding that you serve them. If necessary, pray for the Lord to bring such people into your life and He will. And we should also pray for all the people caught up in this terrible and unsound teaching, both the leaders and the congregations.

The Bible #5

Understanding the Old Test. in Light of the New Test.

The narrative of the Old Testament scriptures is man groping around in the darkness of sin and death, blinded by the Law, ever trying to come to terms with what the true and living God was actually like through several “covenant journeys.” Sadly, time and time again humanity/Israel would encounter certain truths of God only to distort them into gods of their own making or to outright reject Yahweh and worship the false gods of other cultures. We must understand this in order to have a proper and healthy approach to Scripture and view of God.

But, in the “fullness of time”, God came in man’s midst to set the record straight. The overarching story of the OT isn’t a vindictive, blood-thirsty, murderous, genocide commanding, infanticide committing god who suddenly got nice one day but rather it’s about a people who projected their own darkened-“fallenness” onto God as they believed Him to be just like them. And the NT story is God came in Person to show/tell exactly what He is eternally like. Jesus came to perfectly display God’s Image so mankind would no longer try to make God in their own image.

Much of the purpose of the fully inspired Old Testament scriptures is to reveal what God is not like against the backdrop of what He is precisely like as revealed by God Almighty Himself in the Flesh: Jesus.

-Matt. 11:27 – All things have been handed over to Me by My Father; and no one knows the Son except the Father; nor does anyone know the Father except the Son, and anyone to whom the Son wills to reveal Him.

-John 1:18 – No one has seen God at any time; the only begotten God who is in the bosom of the Father, He has explained Him.

-John 14:9 – He who has seen Me has seen the Father…

-Col. 2:16-17 – Therefore no one is to act as your judge in regard to food or drink or in respect to a festival or a new moon or a Sabbath day—things which are a mere shadow of what is to come; but the substance belongs to Christ.

-Heb. 1:3 – And He is the radiance of His glory and the exact representation of His nature…

The Bible #4

“I just read the Bible, believe it, and do what it says.” Wrong!!!

Just because something is recorded in Scripture that doesn’t necessarily mean that Scripture is teaching that as truth or something that is an instruction for us.

For example, you can read in Genesis where God instructed Noah to build an ark b/c of a coming flood. But, that doesn’t mean that you or I should read that as literal, direct instructions for us today. Or we can read in Leviticus all of the many instructions for the priesthood, the Temple, etc. but that does not mean that we are supposed to

So, when we read sacred Scripture we must, as Paul instructed, “rightly divide the word of truth” and discern what is directly applicable for us and what is not.

The Bible #3

“The Bible says it, I believe it, that settles it”

-When “Moses” and Stephen DISAGREE-

The author of Genesis says in Gen. 49:29-32 that the Jewish Patriarchs were all buried near Hebron in a place called Machpelah.

AND YET Stephen, “a man full of grace and power, [who] did great wonders and signs among the people” (Acts 6:8) breaks with that Hebrew tradition when preaching to the Sanhedrin and instead follows the Samaritan tradition which said that all the Patriarchs were rather buried in Shechem (Acts 7:16)

So, Stephen preached a message that is recorded in inspired Scripture in which he makes a “factual” statement. And yet the “factual” statement that he made as recorded in inspired Scripture blatantly denies and contradicts another statement also recorded in inspired Scripture.

Is this in-and-of itself a problem? No. The only problem is the false paradigm that we’ve been given when it comes to sacred Scripture. The “The Bible says it, I believe it, that settles it” paradigm falls apart quicker than a cheap suitcase when confronted with these kinds of facts.f