Monday, February 1, 2010

A Little Here, A Little There

Topical teachings: What are we to do with them? I mean really. What? A clever and charismatic person has gleaned his way through the Bible, sifting out verses like brush strokes in a large canvas that he has spread out for his listeners, leading them to a realization, a grasping of the wonders of his new big picture, a paradigm to judge everything else by... A sort of connect-the-dots or paint-by-numbers approach to Bible study that's quite compelling when well done. Well you may well have sat under many of these teachers. I certainly have. All the way from IBYC to YWAM and everything in between. And I'm tired of it. Quite tired of it.

Okay I see the need for something like it. There's background to all the Bible that an unsuspecting reader might not pick up on. There are throwaway comments that have much more behind them, that have to be explained in a larger context than just that of the passage. The whole backdrop of the Bible is out there and the clues are littered all through the book. Sounds like I've justified this thing that so I'm tired of. Well no. I haven't. If the object of topical teaching was to give the listener the whole big picture all at once, I could be understanding. But it's not. What it frequently does is give a different big picture for every new teaching, a picture which advertises itself as the key to everything, when in fact it's only a small part of a larger puzzle and is apt to skew the whole thing if taken as seriously as the teacher seems to advocate.

In the quest of fairness, I listened to about an hour of Andrew Wommack's teaching today (my friend that I mentioned earlier pointed out some stuff I didn't take into account on my last foray into his material). I found it depressing on several fronts. He was advocating looking at everything through those glasses labeled "Battle With Satan" (my paraphrase). That instead of staying with explanations found in the natural world, we should be looking at events as having primarily spiritual causes and effects. And mostly that personal criticism, and events we consider negative should all be examined with the idea that Satan is often behind the negativity. Personally I believe that that gives a finite, albeit spiritual and powerful being far to much credit (Jesus really is infinitely much greater than he) and presumes a lot more notoriety that any of us have in the '2nd Heaven.' (as some are wont to call the realm of the enemy) Secondly I found that where freedom and mercy are given in Christ, they are snatched back by this teaching in the name of needing to be careful in the war zone. -- "Can't be too careful what we say, How we react, etc... -- We could be giving the enemy a foothold." It looks to me like legalism in a new guise. Thirdly I think that assuming a higher plane of existence in human interaction, so that every conflicting input from our fellow man is now somehow to be either spiritual or fleshly, is not supernatural, but simply unnatural and smacks not of discernment but pride.

So I was going to respond to him in a blog post (even more than the above), when I noticed that much of what he was saying only made sense if you accepted a whole host of assumptions which were already a given to him, assumptions that all could do with some examination, and I realized it's not just a teaching (a fairly common one in charismatic circles, I might add) about spiritual warfare that needs addressing; it's the whole culture of working up these teachings that needs a total rethink. I think that we rely way too much upon connected dots for some of our cherished teachings with spiritual warfare being only one of many. A classic example (still in the spiritual warfare section and now widely discredited) would be putting the "Put on the full armor of God," passage with the "struggle against principalities and powers" and add to it that passage about binding and loosing and we have the weird practise of binding the enemy in prayer over a city, something we never see Jesus doing (he was too busy actually binding the enemy through his works of power here on earth!) Was that practise at all presaged by either passage? I think not. That's only one line of two dots. Some teachings have many. And you have to hear the whole teaching to really appreciate it.

Which is where I bring in the title to this post. Isaiah writes of possibly drunken prophets doing a hebrew version of blah de blah de blah which has been famously mistranslated as "rule on rule, precept on precept, a little here, a little there..." Rumours are that some have taken this as a justification for the complication they hold dear. Justifying that if you don't accept the earlier part of the construct, if you don't buy the distortions presented at the beginning, the later parts make no sense at all.

I guess I'm sort of out of steam here. I'm trying to articulate what for me is somewhat blurry, something that's mostly a feeling. I suppose my plea is most of all that each new teaching, and they will continue to proliferate, whatever I may say about it, at least have some built in humility to lead one to subordinate and integrate it into the main and plain message of the Bible (and yes I believe that such a thing exists) that needs 'no rule on rule' to make it make sense. Reducing the number of extra-biblical assumptions we base it on would help, too.

1 comment:

  1. Just a little addendum. You know that passage about the enemy prowling about like a lion? Read it again, in the context of the whole book of 1st Peter. He's talking about persecutors seeking an occasion against Christians. The devil is either metaphorical, or the persecutors are his agents. And yet how broadly, possibly inappropriately, is that applied, pulled into the framework (rule on rule) of spiritual warfare