IHOP—- No not the Pancake House

There is an interesting article in a recent issue of the NY Times about the International House of Prayer in Kansas City.

http://www.nytimes.com/2011/07/10/us/10prayer.html?nl=todaysheadlines&emc=tha23

For the record, I also have some reservations about the teaching of Mike Bickle.  My observation is that he himself needs more theological education than he has had.  His eschatology is not fully Biblical,  and he is given to making pronouncements about the return of Christ and its timing when in fact no one knows when Christ will return, and as Jesus says in Acts 1, it is not for us to know the times and seasons of such things.

I have no problems with the affirmation of the gift of speaking in tongues, but there seems to be some misunderstandings about how Biblical prophecy actually works and should be interpreted.   While I certainly agree that God can powerfully use our prayers to accomplish various things,  sometimes an almost magical view of prayer seems to be suggested, as if it were some kind of genie’s lamp one can rub and produce result, if we only have enough faith.

My own students who have spent time at IHOP have often given positive testimonials about their time there, but at the same time, some of the things they told me about the teachings about demons, among other things, gave me pause.  Of even more concern was the over-emphasis on emotions and emotionalism as if that were the essence of our relationship with God.   Some of this of course is common enough in Pentecostal religion in general,  and despite what the article seems to suggest, I do not see evidence of cultic practices or mind control at IHOP, so far as what has been reported to me by my students.   What I would however like to see is the leadership at IHOP getting some better and more in depth training in the Bible in the original languages, especially perhaps the prophetic and eschatological material in the Bible.  But perhaps that will yet happen.

  • http://occupy-till-i-come.webs.com/ Andrew Patrick

    Concerning:

    What I would however like to see is the leadership at IHOP getting some better and more in depth training in the Bible in the original languages, especially perhaps the prophetic and eschatological material in the Bible.

    I would think that a basic knowledge of English should be sufficient to realize that you shouldn’t try to predict a date for Christ’s return.

    Act 1:6-7 KJV
    (6) When they therefore were come together, they asked of him, saying, Lord, wilt thou at this time restore again the kingdom to Israel?
    (7) And he said unto them, It is not for you to know the times or the seasons, which the Father hath put in his own power.

    Mat 24:36-37 KJV
    (36) But of that day and hour knoweth no man, no, not the angels of heaven, but my Father only.
    (37) But as the days of Noe were, so shall also the coming of the Son of man be.

    If that isn’t clear enough already, I am not sure how Hebrew and Greek would be of any additional help here.

  • http://www.benwitherington.com ben witherington

    Andrew learning the languages makes clear that every English translation is already an interpretation of the original text, and translation done by fallible humans inevitably involves error.

    BW3

  • Dave Doty

    I by no means consider myself a Bible scholar but when looking into the original languages, I try to study every word in great depth. There are less than 9,000 unique Hebrew and 6,000 unique Greek words in the Bible. Trying to interpret / translate those into English, which now has well over a million distinct terms, it is easy to see how we lose some of the nuance of the original. To try to bring it all over would require a “writing of books without end.”

    I spent about eight years in the context of neo-Pentacostalism (including attending major conferences with Bickle, Frangipane, Wimber and Joyner) and have found the theology generally is about a mile wide and an inch deep. The message is often diluted and over-emphasizes personal salvation to a fault.

    On the other side of it, there is something to be said for the reality that, when we are in a relationship with another sentient being, there is always to be expected an emotional response to how that person (on in the case of the Trinity – persons) acts toward us. It is a living relationship and, very often, relationships have as strong an emotional basis as they have a rational one, or perhaps even more so.

    But (BW3), your point is well taken on the “genie-in-a-bottle” mentality, sometimes even approaching a Word-Faith expectation. It would be interesting to compare what is taught at IHOP with some of the historic literature on the nature of prayer and what contrasts might be exposed.

  • rev.spike

    I hope and pray this doesn’t work out like Lakeland…

  • Dennis P

    I have been very interested in the idea that our prayers could “hasten the coming of the day of the Lord” [2 Peter ch. 3]. The scriptures certainly tell us that no man knows the day or the hour. If Peter talks of looking for, and hastening [Speudo: to make haste...to desire earnestly] the day of the Lord, and Exo 32:14 tells us”Then the Lord changed His mind and did not bring on his people the disaster he had threatened.”, is it them possible that our prayers can in fact move God to “hasten” the return of Jesus?

  • Paul D.

    Languages are hard. Making up random crap and saying it’s a prophecy is easy.

  • http://occupy-till-i-come.webs.com/ Andrew Patrick

    Andrew learning the languages makes clear that every English translation is already an interpretation of the original text, and translation done by fallible humans inevitably involves error.

    I do not agree with your implied logic for multiple reasons:

    First, assuming that the leaders of IHOP are also fallible humans, then how would their trying to learn original languages ensure that their resulting interpretation (translation) would not also involve error?

    Second, some of our scriptures in the original languages themselves are translations made by fallible humans. For example, Acts 22:1-21 was originally spoken in Hebrew, but it is recorded in Greek. Luke was a fallible human.

    Third, a broad brushed assumption that everything is the work of fallible humans entirely removes God from the picture. The original languages themselves were scribed by fallible humans, but Peter is willing to trust that this was the work of the Holy Ghost (2 Peter 1:21). The holy men of old were also fallible humans.

    Fourth, your statement seems to imply that God is completely absent from the picture, but we have evidence that he still an active God. Jan Huss prophesied the appearance of Martin Luther “that they could neither “boil nor roast” 100 years in advance. William Tyndale prayed “Open the eyes of the king of England” and his prayer was answered. Both Jan Huss and William Tyndale were also “fallible humans.”

    Summarizing, if God has method, motive, and opportunity to be involved, human assumptions of “inevitable error” no longer apply. I could understand why one might be skeptical if we were talking about a translation of “Gone with the Wind” or “Moby Dick” but the scriptures are a different matter.

    Psalm 127:1 “Except the LORD build the house, they labor in vain that build it… ”

    Matthew 19:26 “… With men this is impossible, but with God all things are possible.”

    With this in mind, I find it unlikely that the International House of Prayer would be able to become superior translators of the original languages into their native English within a few years of studying Hebrew and Greek.

    I am actually very suspicious of anyone who claims that they have a unique translation of the Bible text from their own personal knowledge of original languages. Are not they also “fallible humans” but with even less credentials?

  • http://www.benwitherington.com ben witherington

    Hi Andrew:

    Some of your suspicions are warranted, and some are not. But the only inspired text of the Bible we have that the Holy Spirit was directly involved in is written in Hebrew, Aramaic, and Greek. It is the Biblical writers, not us, that are the inspired writers of Scripture, and every English translation is most certainly also an interpretation offered by sincere but uninspired human beings. Kapish? I am not suggesting the IHOP folks should produce a new translation. What I am suggesting is that original language study and original language commentaries are the best hedge against false deductions based on the English diction of some translation.

    BW3

  • http://www.benwitherington.com ben witherington

    Dennis I don’t think prayer is a tool that can be used to make God do something that isn’t already within the scope of his plan and will for us all. God is not a cosmic bellhop at our beck and call and the rendering of that 2 Peter text is incorrect.

    BW3

  • http://occupy-till-i-come.webs.com/ Andrew Patrick

    But the only inspired text of the Bible we have that the Holy Spirit was directly involved in is written in Hebrew, Aramaic, and Greek. It is the Biblical writers, not us, that are the inspired writers of Scripture, and every English translation is most certainly also an interpretation offered by sincere but uninspired human beings. Kapish?

    I know what you are trying to say, but I don’t think you can actually prove that “nothing else is inspired.” Do you have a scripture for that?

    If God can inspire a prophet or holy men of old, he can also inspire a speaker, and it is certainly within his power to inspire translation of the scriptures.

    Luk 12:11-12
    (11) And when they bring you unto the synagogues, and unto magistrates, and powers, take ye no thought how or what thing ye shall answer, or what ye shall say:
    (12) For the Holy Ghost shall teach you in the same hour what ye ought to say.

    This passage from Luke (above) demonstrates that speakers can be inspired. Inspiration of the Holy Ghost is not limited to Hebrew, Greek, and Aramaic. Considering that God formed the world languages at Babel and publicly displayed miracles of tongues in Acts, translation is certainly not beyond his capabilities.

    As for translations of scripture, I think that they should be judged on their merits, and considered “innocent until proven guilty.” Starting with an assumption of “uninspired” leads to the conclusion that one’s personal understanding is “more reliable” (or “more inspired.”)

  • Dee

    What your students communicated were their experiences. Experience is fundamentally emotional and do not always communicate fact. Most of the IHOP “experience” is not an emotional one. Our meetings are more commonly NOT emotionally charged and although many visitors are stuck by the length of our worship times, they are followed by teaching from many who are classically trained in theology.

    You should come spend some time here, not just a weekend, and find out what’s really going on if you want to stand behind your statements. You’ve made some big assumptions about IHOP’s beliefs that are not founded. All of our teaching is available on the internet.

    Most of the people in this community are retired pastors, missionaries on sabbatical and people dedicated to worship and prayer as the core of their existence. Yes, there are a LOT of young people. Many of them are students but not all and the majority of IHOP is made up of well educated and mature adults.

    The article in the NY Times was obviously written by a reporter with a bent against Christianity as is quickly uncovered by a quick read through prior articles. I found it to be more that a bit manipulative.

  • Matt

    I’m always skeptical when I see a secular news source accuse a religious subculture of “groupthink” or “brainwashing”. Sometimes, no doubt, the accusation is valid, as we have seen recently with Harold Camping’s followers, for instance. But the problem is that it’s far too easy for a controlling majority to judge any worldview they find strange simply because they don’t share the same cultural assumptions. It begs the question, which group is more indoctrinated? It seems to me that minority subcultures often think through their beliefs more critically than majorities, since holding such beliefs means swimming against the tide of the prevailing cultural assumptions.

    Concerning Mike Bickle and the International House of Prayer, I think there is a danger in the dispensational approach to the end times that’s basically assumed there, which gives rise to a lopsided interest in many chronological expectations that are puzzle-pieced and prooftexted to fit a certain scheme. The more fundamental problem behind that hermeneutic, as I see it, is an overly positivistic epistemology which makes absolute pronouncements about obscure details that are far from clear in Scripture. And that’s a problem that goes much deeper in evangelicalism than the any one ministry like IHOP.

    But I also think Bickle is a really smart guy, who despite his lack of formal education is remarkably well-read, and I don’t think he’d ever go off into the kind of fanatical speculations that Camping and others have propagated. Bickle says often that doesn’t think we can know the exact date of the Lord’s return, and that, while he believes we are living in the last generation, no one can know for certain whether it will be sooner or later. It really seems like he is less interested in speculation than he is in giving as much motivation as possible for holiness. He also regularly encourages people to question his interpretations, which I hope will encourage more dialog as IHOP gains a wider visibility throughout the Church.

    Concerning tongues, prophecy, etc, I personally moved to Kansas City after being burned by sensationalism in various charismatic churches growing up, and I found IHOP, for the most part, to be a breath of fresh air in this regard. While the “gifts of the Spirit” are greatly encouraged, there is a remarkable diversity of personalities throughout the leadership of IHOP, from more outspoken and eccentric to more subdued and introverted, which helps keep a good balance by not holding out one expression as the thing to be emulated. Personally, as a more subdued person who engages best in worship by simply standing or sitting with my Bible open, I found the prayer room to be one of the most healthy and charismatic environments I’ve ever seen.

    I do have concerns about the way some prophecy is handled there, however. It does sometimes appear that Bickle’s handling of Scripture is governed more by the significant prophetic words he’s received than by trying to approach Scripture on it’s own terms and letting that govern the way he handles such prophetic words.

  • Kurt

    agreeing with Matt on positivism and dispensationalism… :)

  • http://www.benwitherington.com ben witherington

    And I agree with Matt as well :)

    BW3

  • Dennis P

    Dr W, I hardly believe or have implied that God is a “bellhop” when it comes to our intercession. If my rendering of 2 Peter is incorrect, I am interested in hearing your thoughts. And wouldn’t you say that the rapture of the church, and Jesus’ return are very much a part of God’s plan?

  • http://www.benwitherington.com ben witherington

    Hi Dennis:

    The notion of the rapture of the church is an idea that only arose in the 19th century. Previous to that revival in Glasgow, no Christians believed in the rapture. The early church knew nothing of this concept whatsoever, and neither did the writers of the NT. Dispensationalism is a modern theology embraced by many, especially by lay people, but that doesn’t make it Biblical at all.

    If you want to actually learn the history of Dispensationalism, and the problems with its theology,
    see my two chapters on the matter in The Problem with Evangelical Theology. There is no Biblical reason to believe that the church that exists on the earth when Jesus returns will not also have to go through the same tribulations and trials that every generation of Christians has endured. We have always had persecution, martyrdom and the rest.

    Yes, indeed the IHOP theology is available on the website, and it has the same problems as other forms of Dispensational theology, including the non-charismatic varieties.

    Blessings,

    Ben W.

  • http://www.benwitherington.com ben witherington

    Andrew you are mistaking the inspiration of persons with the notion of the inspiration of texts. I am talking about the latter. The issue is persons who were inspired to write inspired texts. This is not the same thing as being inspired to say something. Since I believe that prophecy still exists in the church, I do indeed believe that some people today are inspired to speak in this way. I do not believe they are inspired to insert what they say into the canon of Scripture. The canon is closed, and has been for a long time.

    BW3

  • http://www.benwitherington.com ben witherington

    P.S. There is no teaching on prayer in 2 Pet. 3.

    The text in question says ‘The Lord is not slow about his promise, as some think of slowness, but God is patient with you, not wanting any to perish but all to come to repentance.’

  • Andrew

    Dr. Witherington

    If a person only had time to study one of the Biblical languages which one would you encourage them to study? Why?

    Thanks!

  • http://www.benwitherington.com ben witherington

    I would encourage studying the Greek, since that’s the language the NT is in and Christians are all under the new covenant, not any of the old ones.

    BW3

  • Dennis P

    re comment 16: If the conditions on earth do not change after the return of Jesus to the earth, then what meaning and context do you attribute to the book of Revelation’s description of the 1000 yr. reign of Jesus, with satan off the earth? And what about 1Cor description of incorruptible bodies? It sure seems as though life with Jesus back on the earth will be extremely different than it currently is. I do appreciate your comments!

  • http://www.benwitherington.com ben witherington

    Dennis I agree with you on this last point you are making. See my book Jesus, Paul, and the End of the World. When you have a bunch of resurrected Christians running around during the millenium that will certainly make for a difference. But the renewal of creation itself does not happen until Jesus banishes disease, decay and death, the last enemy at the end of that period.

    BW3

  • http://aerycksmusic.wordpress.com Eric Sawyer

    ‘Of even more concern was the over-emphasis on emotions and emotionalism as if that were the essence of our relationship with God. Some of this of course is common enough in Pentecostal religion in general ….’

    I’m glad you used the word ‘Some’, as very often those who are engaged in teaching (pastors), in what you refer to as ‘Pentecostal religion’, are some of the most sober-minded persons, who very often discourage superficial emotional displays and prophecy type mongering. I recall, Keith Green’s testimony about his own struggles with those who attempted to divide the brethren.
    I remember that the very first thing that happened after I was baptized with the Holy Spirit and began speaking as the Spirit gave me utterance, was to walk down the hill to the hall where I heard (really heard) my first teaching (35 years ago) and I can still remember the text. It was the one about the lust of eyes, the pride of life and the lust of the flesh.

    Sincerely,
    Eric.

  • http://aerycksmusic.wordpress.com Eric Sawyer

    ‘The notion of the rapture of the church is an idea that only arose in the 19th century. Previous to that revival in Glasgow, no Christians believed in the rapture. The early church knew nothing of this concept whatsoever, and neither did the writers of the NT. Dispensationalism is a modern theology embraced by many, especially by lay people, but that doesn’t make it Biblical at all.’

    Hi Ben,
    I used to believe in ‘the rapture of the church’, until I took a slow read through the Bible.

    ‘After that, we who are still alive and are left will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air. And so we will be with the Lord forever.’
    1 Thessalonians 4:17

    Peace,
    Eric.

  • http://www.benwitherington.com ben witherington

    Hi Eric:

    1 Thess. 4.17 is about meeting Jesus in the sky as he is returning and then returning with him to reign on earth. It is not about the church being raptured into heaven at all. And anyone who knew the procedures where a greeting committee goes out from the walled city to meet a returning ruler who had announced his coming by a herald blowing a trumpet would know Paul is using an analogy to that protocol to describe the second coming. The greeting committee leaves the city, meets the ruler on the road, and they return together into the city. They do not go back down the road from whence the ruler came! This very procedure had happened in Thessalonike within living memory of when Paul wrote 1 Thess.

    Blessings

    BW3

  • http://aerycksmusic.wordpress.com Eric Sawyer

    I like that thought. Peace, Eric.

  • http://aerycksmusic.wordpress.com Eric Sawyer

    Of course the idea of ‘meeting Jesus in the sky as he is returning and then returning to earth’, certainly could be read as a rapture up to Him, which I suspect is what you mean. Right?

  • http://matthartke.wordpress.com Matt

    Eric,

    I’m not sure if your comment about 1 Thess 4:17 is serious or sarcastic, but either way it may be helpful to give some context to that passage. The word “rapture” comes from the 4th century Latin translation of this verse, but (as Dr. Witherington pointed out) there was never an elaborate theological scheme associated with the word until about the 19th century, and this later scheme is entirely at odds with Paul’s own meaning. There are two points which need to be made here:

    1) The picture Paul paints in 1 Thessalonians 4:16-17 (with Christ descending and our ascending “in the clouds” to meet him) echoes Daniel 7:13, which uses the image of a “son of man” ascending (not descending, mind you) to speak of the vindication of the covenant people after their suffering. The imagery of the “son of man” ascending on the clouds to heaven is metaphorical for exaltation, not literal for an upward movement into another realm or dimension (which isn’t literally “up” anyways). The point of Daniel 7:13-14 is the vindication of the “son of man” over the “beasts” that previously prevailed against him. It’s sociological, not metaphysical. And that, I think, is why Paul draws on it when speaking of the time when God’s people, the Messiah’s people, will be “saved from wrath” through him (cf. 1 Thess 5:9).

    2) To speak of any messiah figure’s “coming” or “parousia”, as Paul and several other NT writers do with reference to Jesus, was to explicitly and subversively draw on an imperialistic image which was well known in the ancient world. In it’s technical usage, “parousia” speaks of an emperor or other dignitary making a state visit to a city or province–or even, when the emperor had been elsewhere, at war or expanding the empire, it would speak of his return to Rome. Thus, to speak of the “parousia” of Jesus in this imperialistic context was to say, in a very evocative way, that he is Lord and Caesar is not, and that there is coming a time when the whole world will see this. And, likewise, the point about the saints “meeting” Jesus in 1 Thess 4:17 is not that they will stay in the meeting place; rather, it refers to a meeting outside the city at an imperial “parousia”, after which the civic leaders would escort the dignitary back into the city itself.

    Given these two points, and setting them within the larger covenantal picture which Paul and the other NT writers give concerning the climax of this age (e.g. Rom 8:12-30), it is simply not tenable to claim that 1 Thessalonians 4 teaches some sort of “snatching away” in which God takes the saints to heaven and leaves the earth to its horrible fate.

  • http://matthartke.wordpress.com Matt

    Aw man, looks like Dr. Witherington beat me to it. :)

  • http://aerycksmusic.wordpress.com Eric Sawyer

    ‘Given these two points, and setting them within the larger covenantal picture which Paul and the other NT writers give concerning the climax of this age (e.g. Rom 8:12-30), it is simply not tenable to claim that 1 Thessalonians 4 teaches some sort of “snatching away” in which God takes the saints to heaven and leaves the earth to its horrible fate.’

    Matt,
    That’s quite a big study you are drawing from. :)
    How did you come about such lofty terminology? What books have you been reading?
    Peace,
    Eric.

  • http://aerycksmusic.wordpress.com Eric Sawyer

    Hi Matt,
    I see you’ve studied the subject quite heavily ~ http://matthartke.wordpress.com/2008/02/19/daniels-70-weeks-an-alernative-premillennial-understanding-introduction/ ~

    I asked Ben a question, before you swooped down and turned my mind into dust. If you like, why don’t you see if you can answer that. (read back)

    Peace,
    Eric

  • http://matthartke.wordpress.com Matt

    Eric,

    Which question are you speaking of? Post #27?

    As for the books I’ve been reading, in addition to the titles Dr. Witherington has already mentioned, I would highly recommend N.T. Wright’s Surprised By Hope and Joseph Plevnik’s Paul and the Parousia. Incidentally, since you’ve glanced at some old studies on my blog, I should probably clarify that I’m no longer premillennial. In this regard, several books and articles have been influential for me: M. G. Kline’s article “The First Resurrection”, Vern S. Poythress’s article “Genre and Hermeneutics in Rev 20:1-6″ (you can find both of these online by googling the titles), The Millennial Maze by Stanley J. Grenz, Regnum Caelorum by Charles E. Hill, Apocalypse and Allegiance by J. Nelson Kraybill, The Theology of Revelation by Richard Bauckham, and the commentaries on Revelation by George Caird and Gordon Fee.

  • http://occupy-till-i-come.webs.com/ Andrew Patrick

    Noting Ben above at comment 17:

    Andrew you are mistaking the inspiration of persons with the notion of the inspiration of texts. I am talking about the latter.

    I thought we were speaking of something else entirely, namely the inspiration of thoughts and actions to provide translation of existing scriptures into the common tongue.

    I am not entirely sure where you stand here, so to clarify what you have been saying.

    a) Are you are saying that it is against God’s character to use fallible humans to provide a translation of his scriptures?

    b) Are you are saying that it is outside of God’s power to use fallible humans to provide a translation of his scriptures?

    c) Are you are saying that it is against God’s stated word or promise to be able to use fallible humans to provide a translation of his scriptures?

    Your prior claim from post #2 was:

    … translation done by fallible humans inevitably involves error.

    This was the premise that I challenged.

    God is still active, God can produce perfection through fallible tools, and with God, all things are possible. I formerly used reminders from scripture to show that God still uses fallible humans. The gospel writers themselves were fallible humans.

    We were not talking about “adding to the scriptures” although I would have much to say about those who take it on themselves to add to scripture, if space would allow.

    Neither were we talking about adding additional books to the canon, though I should point out that we have no right to determine whether God has closed the canon or not. That logic would have led to a rejection of the Greek scriptures back in the first century.

    When Christ returns and if four more books were later added to bring the sum total to seventy, should we reject them then because someone in the 21st century decided that “the canon is closed?” Who has the right to close the canon?

    If you have any scriptural basis for deciding that God cannot inspire a translation (guiding its translators) to keep it from error, I would really like to see it. I have never seen anyone provide a scriptural reasoning for the position you have put forth.

    1Co 14:27-28
    (27) If any man speak in an unknown tongue, let it be by two, or at the most by three, and that by course; and let one interpret.
    (28) But if there be no interpreter, let him keep silence in the church; and let him speak to himself, and to God.

    It is not like God hasn’t been able to use fallible humans for interpretation of unknown tongues in times past. Why would he be unable to use fallible humans for the translation of known tongues? Can you provide a scripture, or something other than opinion?

  • http://aerycksmusic.wordpress.com Eric Sawyer

    Which question are you speaking of? Post #27?
    —–

    Yes, that’d be it mate. :)

    —–

    As for the books I’ve been reading, in addition to the titles Dr. Witherington has already mentioned, I would highly recommend N.T. Wright’s Surprised By Hope and Joseph Plevnik’s Paul and the Parousia. Incidentally, since you’ve glanced at some old studies on my blog, I should probably clarify that I’m no longer premillennial. In this regard, several books and articles have been influential for me: M. G. Kline’s article “The First Resurrection”, Vern S. Poythress’s article “Genre and Hermeneutics in Rev 20:1-6″ (you can find both of these online by googling the titles), The Millennial Maze by Stanley J. Grenz, Regnum Caelorum by Charles E. Hill, Apocalypse and Allegiance by J. Nelson Kraybill, The Theology of Revelation by Richard Bauckham, and the commentaries on Revelation by George Caird and Gordon Fee.
    ———–

    Thanks Matt.
    You’re not the first person to recommend NT. Wright’s book. I’ve another ( I forget the title now ) that’s in the reading pile. :)
    I don’t recognize any of the others (excuse my ignorance), however I have familiar with Gordon Fee. (though once again, way down near the bottom of the pile)
    You say, ‘I’m no longer premillenial’ ?
    What is your current position? Futurist, Hyper-Preterist, Orthodox Preterist?

    Peace,
    Eric.

  • http://www.benwitherington.com ben witherington

    Andrew:

    I suggest you read my book The Living Word of God, and get back to me. On the point, you are making, it is interesting that Joseph Smith indeed claimed to be an infallible translator of Reformed Hieroglyphics and so produced the Book of Mormon. Alas, there is no such thing as Reformed Hieroglyphic.

    It is interesting you would cite 1 Cor. 14. What Paul says there and what he says in Romans 12 is that a prophet should only prophesy according to the measure of his faith, and precisely because it is possible that his words might be 80% inspiration and 20% perspiration his prophecy needs to be weighed, and indeed sifted, sifting the wheat from the chaff. The same applies to English translations of the Bible. So far as I know, not a single translation team, definitely including the team that translated the KJV ever claimed they were infallibly inspired to produce an infallible and perfect translation. Not, Wycliiffe, not Tyndale, not the producers of the Geneva Bible, not the producers of the KJV, not the producers of the RSV or NIV etc. etc. etc. None of them ever made such a claim, and with good reason. They knew perfectly well that there were many places where the renderings of the Hebrew or Greek or Aramaic into English involved choosing from several possible options, and there was and is always debate about such options. While they certainly believed in God’s guidance and in prayer as they translated, they did not believe they were infallible translators, nor does the history of any of these translations and their translators suggest they believed that God through the Spirit mechanically dictated to any one of them exactly which words they should use in translation. Historically speaking, it simply didn’t happen that way, and no one claimed it did either.

    BW3

  • http://matthartke.wordpress.com Matt

    Eric,

    The short answer is “yes”, although I do have some reservations about that, both because of the cultural assumptions that generally go into the idea of a “rapture” of any kind and because I don’t really agree with a triple-decker cosmology which pictures heaven as a location somewhere “up” within this spacio-temporal universe. There’s a lot to be said about that, but I think Wright gives a good introduction to the subject in Surprised By Hope.

    Regarding my stance on the millennium, I now accept what I like to call an “inaugurated” reading of Revelation 20, which is a way of saying I’m basically amillennial while trying to avoid all the Augustinian baggage (e.g. spiritualizing, platonic, etc) that such a label generally implies.

  • http://occupy-till-i-come.webs.com/ Andrew Patrick

    Dear Ben, concerning:

    I suggest you read my book The Living Word of God, and get back to me.

    I was hoping that you could provide a scripture to support your statement, but if you would send me a free electronic copy of your book with your email address and your sincere promise to respond in kind, I will read your book and then get back with you.

    I do find it interesting that you suspect Joseph Smith for the reason that he claimed to be inspired, but then you reject everyone else because they are humble and do not claim inspiration. By the same measure you ought to reject John the Baptist because he specifically said he was not the Elijah to come.

    John 1:20-21
    (20) And he confessed, and denied not; but confessed, I am not the Christ.
    (21) And they asked him, What then? Art thou Elias? And he saith, I am not. Art thou that prophet? And he answered, No.

    But Jesus said John was that Elias. Who was correct?

    Matthew 17:11-13
    (11) And Jesus answered and said unto them, Elias truly shall first come, and restore all things.
    (12) But I say unto you, That Elias is come already, and they knew him not, but have done unto him whatsoever they listed. Likewise shall also the Son of man suffer of them.
    (13) Then the disciples understood that he spake unto them of John the Baptist.

    I suppose we could lay the error at the feet of Matthew. Maybe he erroneously entered this statement in his gospel? After all, Matthew never claimed to be inspired, nor did he claim to be given the words by mechanical dictation.

    So by your stated reasoning, the claim of inspiration is the mark of a fraud, but you will not consider the possibility of inspiration unless one has personally claimed inspiration themselves. Inspiration must be mechanically dictated. That’s quite a dilemma you have created.

    You wrote:

    … nor does the history of any of these translations and their translators suggest they believed that God through the Spirit mechanically dictated to any one of them exactly which words they should use in translation.

    There would be good reason to avoid any bible translation that was claimed to be delivered through “mechanical dictation” or “automatic writing.”

    Did Paul claim that he was mechanically dictating his epistles? The “mechanical dictation” you were suggesting is usually a mark of devil possession. I cannot recall a single instance where the Spirit of God moved men to write in a such a manner.

    In the meantime, I think I will be extra suspicious of men who claim that their personal understanding is more inspired than reliable translation of the Hebrew and Greek scriptures that have been tested, tried, and proved.

  • http://www.benwitherington.com ben witherington

    I’m afraid Andrew this last email of yours is incoherent. As Rom. 12 and 1 Cor. 14 make clear, all claims to verbal inspiration should be critically evaluated. Some will be true, some will be false, some will be partially true. I am not denying either verbal inspiration of some modern prophets, or the inspiration of all of Holy Scripture. What I am denying is that we should be adding texts to the canon. There is a reason for the warning at the end of the book of Revelation about neither adding to the written revelation nor subtracting from it. God in his providence knew this would be the last book in the canon and in the last chapter this would be said. We need to take it seriously.

    Blessings,

    BW3

  • http://occupy-till-i-come.webs.com/ Andrew Patrick

    Dear Ben,

    The actual subject was always concerning whether God could or could not keep written translations of scripture from error. Please see posts 7, 10, and 33, each of which restated this premise. There should be no cause for confusion.

    You originally said that every translation must contain error (post 2) so I asked for a scriptural proof (post 10) and later for clarification of what why you would automatically exclude God from the work of translation (post 33). Was this really incoherent? I never did see an answer to either of these requests.

    The question was always translation since post 2. I have been trying to keep the question in focus, even asking for specific responses. The portions concerning the “new books to the Bible” and “mechanical dictation” originated from your posts 17 and 35 (respectively.) If these were red herrings, they were not my doing.

    I think we are left with the conclusion that a broad statement of “translation done by humans inevitably involves error” itself is an unsupported assumption made by fallible humans.

    I have heard other people say this before, but when such an oft-repeated claim has no support from scripture, we must evaluate it logically. But from a logical standpoint, it is self-defeating, even if we allow its implied premise of an absent or indifferent God.

    Sometimes bad assumptions must be challenged. This would not have been difficult (or lengthy) if we had stayed on topic.

    Take care,
    -Andrew

  • http://www.benwitherington.com ben witherington

    The answer in the abstract Andrew is of course yes, God could have prevent error in translations if he wanted to do so. The historical answer in fact is no he didn’t.

    Why didn’t he? No one can say for certain, but I suspect the reason is he doesn’t want anyone committing bibliolatry, the making sacred and eternal of a particular translation. The Bible of course is translated into hundreds of languages and none of these translations are perfect.

    I suspect the problem of humans turning things into idols is the same reason we do not have the original autographs of the Hebrew, Greek, and Aramaic text either.

    Lastly, I am trusting you know that the earliest mss. of the Greek NT we have today is from the second century A.D. And when we have even earlier manuscript discoveries in the future, we will have to keep revising our translations of the Bible the closer we get to the original copies.

    You can’t make a perfect translation from a copy of an original that is not perfect in itself.

  • http://occupy-till-i-come.webs.com/ Andrew Patrick

    Ben answered,

    The answer in the abstract Andrew is of course yes, God could have prevent error in translations if he wanted to do so. The historical answer in fact is no he didn’t.

    So you are speaking for God?

    You should be careful before making absolute statements that are beyond your ability to prove. To substantiate your claim, you would need to provide an instance of erroneous translation from every existing translation in existence.

    Or alternately, to proceed with your theory in good faith, you would have had to demonstrate erroneous translation from every translation you have encountered.

    This would be the scientific way to test your theory. Have you done this?

    Ben also concluded,

    You can’t make a perfect translation from a copy of an original that is not perfect in itself.

    First, I do not think that you can prove that we are lacking sufficient source text.

    Second, Computer science often deals with creating perfect copies from imperfect transmission methods, so your theory is disproved in practice. Manuscript evidence works on very similar principles.

    Third, besides this we actually have written promises from God himself that he would preserve his word, down to the jot and the tittle (see Matthew 5:18). It sounds like you are removing God from the picture.

    Mat 5:18
    (18) For verily I say unto you, Till heaven and earth pass, one jot or one tittle shall in no wise pass from the law, till all be fulfilled.

    I am hearing a lot of unsupported contentions here. If you are going to make a claim that all translations of scripture contain error, you need to be ready to back it up with facts and evidence.

    Otherwise, it would be much safer for one to remain simply agnostic on this issue until they were willing and able to investigate it fully with the full attention it would require.

    I realize that this is veering off the original blog topic. If you want to continue on this subject, why not drop me an email so we won’t be confined to tiny blog windows. Then we may talk openly and at our own leisure.

  • http://aerycksmusic.wordpress.com Eric Sawyer

    Thanks for replying to my question, (originally addressed to BW3 – post 27)

    ———-
    Your reply:

    The short answer is “yes”, although I do have some reservations about that, both because of the cultural assumptions that generally go into the idea of a “rapture” of any kind and because I don’t really agree with a triple-decker cosmology which pictures heaven as a location somewhere “up” within this spacio-temporal universe. There’s a lot to be said about that, but I think Wright gives a good introduction to the subject in Surprised By Hope.

    —————

    Yeah, to your Yes.

    I’m poorly educated and a very slow reader (basically self-taught) and am currently engaged in a study which will probably take me about ten or twenty years. (I’m in it for the long haul ;) )
    Though I love to dabble and I’ll certainly have a look at the book you have twice referred to by NT Wright, I’ve got several books to read on the subject (a progressive prescription, flowing out of a series of rather intense questions) which need to be covered very carefully. Funnily enough one of the books is by NT Wright (Jesus and the Victory of God), but it’s far off in the distance.
    Having been caught up in web of King James Only-textual-criticism for about a decade (heaven knows why I was so stubborn?), I’m literally re-studying the entire Bible from cover to cover, but that will only happen after I’ve done this very important study. (It’s important to me, because it covers the Atonement, the second coming and the next world/afterlife). It’s going to be a long, long, long journey. :) My prior conclusions are all therefore on hold, but I suspect the word of the angels about Jesus (return?) (second coming?) will be of the same nature as his departure. No? If the reply is going to be too complex, rather email me.

    ——-
    You say:

    Regarding my stance on the millennium, I now accept what I like to call an “inaugurated” reading of Revelation 20, which is a way of saying I’m basically amillennial while trying to avoid all the Augustinian baggage (e.g. spiritualizing, platonic, etc) that such a label generally implies.

    ——–

    Oh, okay. I’m still too young (in this) to know what that means, but I’m sure you’ve given it plenty of careful study and thought.

    Peace,
    Eric.

  • http://matthartke.wordpress.com Matt

    Eric,

    I don’t mind replying to your question, but I think I should preface my reply with respect to Dr. Witherington: if you (Ben) think this discussion should be had elsewhere, feel free to give us the boot!

    Eric, it looks like you’re on a really good journey, and I trust the Lord’s leadership to guide you into all truth as you follow his lead with openness and humility.

    Now, concerning your question, I think it’s important to note that the NT writers rarely speak in such terms of the event we have come to refer to so strictly as the “second coming”. Most often they refer to it, rather, as Christ’s “appearing” or “revealing”. The more comprehensive biblical hope in which that central event makes sense is the restoration of creation, the coming together of heaven and earth. That, of course, is what passages like Revelation 21-22, Romans 8 and (the often overlooked) Ephesians 1:10 are all about. But if we think in terms of the coming together of heaven and earth, and of the “appearing” of Christ as the focal point and climax of that redemptive goal, then it makes much more sense why the NT doesn’t merely refer to that event in standardized terms of a downward decent from heaven (which is up?) to the earth (which is down?).

    In terms of the “coming” language used by the NT writers to refer to that event, they didn’t make that language up; rather they got it from the OT, from YHWH’s “coming” to Mt. Sinai and from his many promises that he would “come” and dwell in the midst of his people forever. In light of the early Christian belief that Jesus is YHWH in person, it only makes sense that they would reinterpret all of those OT “coming” passages in a new Christological, bodily sense. But that wasn’t the only kind of language used by the OT to speak of the Eschaton; hence the reason it wasn’t the only language which the NT writers used to speak of the same event in light of Christ. Rather, they both speak of it also in terms of a great judgment, a time when the righteous are finally vindicated and the wicked are finally condemned. We know of many passages throughout the NT where the “second coming” is spoken of in those “final judgment” terms (e.g. 1 Thess 1:6-10; Rom 14:10).

    Now, concerning the Greek word parousia: properly speaking, parousia means “presence” as opposed to “absence”. Indeed, Paul can use it that way in reference to himself, without implying that he is going to be flying downwards on a cloud (e.g. Phil 2:12). That’s not to say that when Paul speaks of Jesus’ own parousia (in 1 Thess 4, for instance) he doesn’t perhaps have in mind what we might call a “literal” downward descent. He very well may. But it is to challenge the literalistic construct by which the word has been stripped of its historical overtones and forced to play the very narrow part of Jesus’ “coming down” in a “second coming”. While Paul may have a literal downward descent in mind in 1 Thessalonians 4:16-17, that’s definitely not at the forefront of his mind. This is clear from the points I made earlier.

    My guess is that if we could ask Paul whether he thought Jesus really will descend “literally” and “spatially” at his coming, he would probably say something like, “Yeah, I think so, but that’s not exactly what I was getting at.” So the point isn’t that you shouldn’t “think spatially” with regard to the concept of the parousia, but rather that, whatever spatial picture you envision, you shouldn’t put that vision (which should actually form the background against which the picture can be seen) in the center of the frame. The point of Jesus’ parousia is the climactic establishment of God’s long-awaited, transformative, judging-and-saving reign on earth as in heaven, not a downward descent to earth from heaven.

    Regarding Acts 1, I think the disciples really did see something like that, but I would also question whether Luke is simply conveying history starkly, “as it happened” (which, truth be told, is an Enlightenment myth), or whether he is conveying the eye-witness account of the disciples in a way that evokes its cosmic significance. The account is overlayed with echos of Daniel 7, the kingly ascension of the son of man into the presence of the ancient of days, and the meaning drawn from the event throughout Acts is not a matter of distance (i.e. that Jesus has gone “up” to a place far away in this spacio-temporal universe, removed from the earth like an absentee landlord) but rather a matter of sovereignty (i.e. that Jesus is now seated at the right hand of YHWH, exalted to the position of authority over the earth).

    “Therefore, being exalted to the right hand of God, and having received from the Father the promise of the Holy Spirit, he poured this which you now see and hear… Therefore let all the house of Israel know that assuredly that God has made this Jesus, whom you crucified, both Lord and Christ.” (Acts 2:33)

    The point here in Peter’s sermon on Pentecost is that it is precisely because (and not in spite of the fact that) Jesus has been exalted to the right hand of God in heaven that we know he is the Messiah, and it is because he has received all authority in that exaltation that he has poured out the Spirit for his people (cf. Acts 1:1).

  • http://aerycksmusic.wordpress.com Eric J. Sawyer

    Matt,
    I’ve cut-copied-emailed-your-tome-to-myself. If you write to me at katoikei@gmail.com, we can chat some.
    NB. I’m currently up to my neck in studies (some related, some unrelated.) However, if you are really interesting in tracking my progress: Why I am not an Orthodox Preterist … yet? – http://www.theologyweb.com/campus/showthread.php?140559-Why-am-I-not-an-Orthodox-Preterist – This led to a series of explanations by John Reece on Theology Web Campus, which you can track as they opened up towards the end of this discussion.
    As I have already mentioned, I am a very slow reader and determined to complete the study materials that I’ve been pointed to, before I start absorbing the numerous views there are on this subject.
    Thanks for the effort, but I do think this can be managed via email.
    Goodbye,
    Eric.

  • http://aerycksmusic.wordpress.com Eric Sawyer

    Thanks for the epic post, Matt. Ever consider writing a book?

  • http://matthartke.wordpress.com Matt

    Thanks for the encouragement Eric! I hope to, someday. I need to get some formal education first though. I’m a young husband and father who up till now has engaged with theology out of sheer love for the Bible, but I hope to go back to school this next year, God willing.

    Blessings,

    Matt

  • http://aerycksmusic.wordpress.com Eric J. Sawyer

    Hey’ya Matt, my pleasure. I don’t know about others, but apart from the fact that one needs a particularly tough mind to manage both philosophical and theological studies, it very often become a very delicate balancing act between loving one’s partner and loving one’s studies.
    Though I left off studies until in my 40s, I quickly ascertained that I had certain limitations (though I’ve had fun studying the likes of Gordon H. Clark, some Jean Cauvin and a dribble of Michael Sudduth) and have taken a very slow and less demanding route, one — where I am able to admire my children stretch to embrace the depth, breadth, height and length of love of Christ, in whom are hid all the mysteries of wisdom and knowledge.

    Blessings to you and your lady, and may you grow in knowledge and grace.

    SDG.
    Eric.

  • http://aerycksmusic.wordpress.com Eric Sawyer

    BW3,

    (Part of your reply to Andrew Patrick of Home – Occupy Till I Come – http://occupy-till-i-come.webs.com/ )
    ‘I suspect the problem of humans turning things into idols is the same reason we do not have the original autographs of the Hebrew, Greek, and Aramaic text either.

    Lastly, I am trusting you know that the earliest mss. of the Greek NT we have today is from the second century A.D. And when we have even earlier manuscript discoveries in the future, we will have to keep revising our translations of the Bible the closer we get to the original copies.

    You can’t make a perfect translation from a copy of an original that is not perfect in itself.’

    ——–

    Thanks for your straight up and clear reply and book reference. (((The Living Word of God))) = http://www.amazon.co.uk/Living-Word-God-Rethinking-Theology/dp/1602580170

    Blessings in Jesus Christ.

    Eric

  • IHOP-er

    Well I’m at IHOP, I’ve read your book Living Word, and have a small group going through your commentary on the book of Acts. (that is a big seller in the IHOP Bookstore)

    This was great, but I’d invite you to do to take a deeper look then just through the eyes of 22- 27 year olds (who probably misquote and misrepresent your content at times as well) :)

    THere is more than emotionalism going on.

    Matt is a product of IHOP. Attended from 16-23. Though he has some disagreements with the theology would find that indicative of IHOP. People actually get trained in the Word, and get to come to their own conclusions.

  • IHOP-er

    * That should say 16 to 23 years old. Matt was involved here. Great guy! Miss him much!


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