Friday, March 30, 2012

The Union and Communion with Christ

A devotional message

By J.C. Philpot

In our Meditations on the sacred humanity of the adorable Redeemer we must never, even in thought, separate His human nature from His divine. Even when His sacred body lay in the grave, and was thus for a small space of time severed from His pure and holy soul by death and the tomb, there was no separation of the two natures, for, as we have before shown, His human soul, after He had once become incarnate in the womb of the Virgin, never was parted from His Deity, but went into paradise in indissoluble union with it. It is a fundamental article of our most holy faith that the human nature of the Lord Jesus Christ had no existence independent of His divine. In the Virgin’s womb, in the lowly manger, in the lonely wilderness, on the holy mount of transfiguration, in the gloomy garden of Gethsemane, in Pilate’s judgment hall, on the cross, and in the tomb, Jesus was still Immanuel, God with us. And so ineffably close and intimate is the conjunction of the human nature with the divine, that the actings of each nature, though separable, cannot and must not be separated from each other. 

Thus, the human hands of Jesus broke the seven loaves and the fishes; but it was God-man who multiplied them so as to feed therewith four thousand men, besides women and children. (Matt. 15:38) The human feet of Jesus walked on the sea of Galilee; but it was the Son of God who came on the waves to the ship. (Matt. 14:33) The human lips of Jesus uttered those words which are "spirit and life;" (John 6:63) but it was the Son of the living God who spake them. (John 6:69) The human hands and feet of Jesus were nailed to the cross; but the blood shed by them was indeed divine, for all the virtue and validity of Deity were stamped upon it. (Acts 20:28)

But there is another thought connected with a believing view of the Lord Jesus Christ as Immanuel, God with us, and that is, the union of the Church with Him in all that He did and suffered for her. He being the Head, all the members of His mystical body in covenant union with Him shared in His sufferings, death, resurrection, ascension, and glorification. Thus Paul speaks of himself as crucified with Christ, (Gal. 2:20) and of believers generally as dying with Christ; (Rom. 6:8; 2Tim 2:11) being buried with Christ; (Rom. 6:4; Col. 2:12) as rising with Him, (Col. 3:1) and sitting together with Him in heavenly places. (Eph 2:6)

Now, as the Blessed Spirit is pleased to guide us into an experimental [experiential, ed.] knowledge of the Lord Jesus, and to give us a measure of union and communion with His sacred Majesty, He leads us into a fellowship with Him in His sufferings, death, and resurrection. This is what the Apostle speaks of as typified by the ordinance of baptism as a standing figure and permanent representation of the baptism of the Holy Ghost: "Know ye not that so many of us as were baptized into Jesus Christ were baptized into His death? Therefore we are buried with Him by baptism into death, that like as Christ was raised up from the dead by the glory of the Father, even so we also should walk in newness of life. For if we have been planted together in the likeness of His death, we shall be also in the likeness of His resurrection." (Rom. 6:3-5) The ordinance of baptism is thus represented as the figure of that higher, more sacred, and spiritual baptism whereby, in living experience, believers are made one with Christ in His death, burial, and resurrection. And here His humanity is indeed seen in its special grace and distinguishing glory, for it is only as "members of His body, of His flesh, and of His bones," (Eph. 5:30) this being the foundation of the union, that they are baptized into this spiritual communion with Him.

But this part of our subject may demand a little further opening up. The Church, then, has a mystical, but not less real, union with Christ, from His having taken the flesh and blood of the children into union with His own divine Person. By virtue of this union with Him, as members with the head, she participated with Him in all He did and suffered for her sake. But this mystical union all the elect have, even those still unregenerated or unborn. This union does not, therefore, of itself give communion, though it is the foundation of it. Another kind of union, then, is needed, which is peculiar to the regenerated, and which they have in exact measure to their participation of the Spirit of Christ, for "if any man have not the Spirit of Christ he is none of His," that is, by inward or outward manifestation. 

By being made partakers, then, of Christ’s Spirit, the members of His mystical body have a living union with Him, for "he that is joined to the Lord is one spirit." (1Cor. 6:17) Being thus baptized by the Blessed Spirit, they are made one spirit with the Lord, and thus have a fellowship with Him in His sufferings, death, and resurrection. As, then, He died under the curse of the law and the guilt and burden of sin, and yet by death died unto the law and unto sin, being by death freed from the curse of the law and the penalty of sin, so the believer dies under the curse of the law and the burden of guilt and sin in his conscience; and yet by virtue of his union with Christ as a member of His body, and of communion with Him as baptized by His Spirit, he dies also unto the law and unto sin, no more to suffer the penalty of the one or to live under the power of the other. 

But though thus delivered, yet to the end of his days, as mourning and groaning under sin, as suffering from the hidings of God’s countenance, as tempted and assailed by Satan, as hated and persecuted by the world, and often forsaken by followers and friends, he is crucified with Christ, and has fellowship with Him in His sufferings and death. His sorrows, His trials, His temptations, and His sufferings, all, as sanctified to his soul’s good, lead him to the cross of his suffering Lord, to get life from His death, pardon and peace from His atoning blood, justification from His divine obedience, and resignation to the will of God from His holy example. 

Here the world is crucified to him, and he to the world; (Gal. 6:14) here sin is mortified, (Rom. 6:6; 8:13) and its reigning power dethroned; (Rom. 6:12) the old man crucified and put off. (Rom. 6:6; Eph. 4:22) and the new man put on. Thus, having a spiritual union with his suffering, dying Lord, the heaven-taught believer suffers and dies with Him, and by this fellowship of His sufferings and death becomes here below conformed to His suffering image, (Rom. 8:17, 29; 2Tim. 2:12) and is made conformable to His death. (Phil. 3:10)

This is no mere doctrine, an article only of a sound creed, but a fountain of life to every believer’s soul in proportion to the measure of the Spirit whereby he is baptized into the death of Jesus. But for the most part it is only through a long series of afflictions, bereavements, disappointments, vexations, illnesses, pains of body and mind, hot furnaces, and deep waters, as sanctified to his soul’s profit by the Holy Spirit, that the child of God comes into this part of Christian experience.

These things are indeed death to the flesh, and are meant to be so, that it may be crucified and mortified; and are killing blows to all schemes of earthly joy, worldly happiness, and temporal prosperity and pleasure, as well as to all legal hopes and pharisaic righteousness; but they are, in the Spirit’s hand, the very life of the believing soul. For "by these things men live, and in all these things is the life of their spirit." (Isa. 38:16) 

Crucifixion is a long, painful, lingering death. Nature dies hard, and struggles, but struggles in vain, against the firm but blessed hand that nails it to the cross of Christ; but grace, cleaving all the more closely to Him who suffered and bled there, draws life and power from His blood and love. This experience made the Apostle say of himself, "Always bearing about in the body the dying of the Lord Jesus, that the life also of Jesus might be made manifest in our body. For we which live are alway delivered unto death for Jesus’ sake, that the life also of Jesus might be made manifest in our mortal flesh." (2Cor. 4:10,11) Here was the secret of all his strength, of all his holiness, and all his happiness. This inward experience of the power and blessedness of the cross inspired him with a firm and holy determination to know nothing among men save Jesus Christ and Him crucified; and this made him say, as the grand distinguishing test of the lost and of the saved, "For the preaching of the cross is to them that perish foolishness, but unto us which are saved it is the power of God." (1Cor. 1:18)

For this was not Paul’s experience only, a hidden secret of which he alone was made by grace the happy partaker. All who are taught by the same Spirit, and have the same union and communion with a crucified Lord, whether Jew or Greek, know Him to be the power of God and the wisdom of God. (1Cor. 1:24) We read of believers being "trees of righteousness, the planting of the Lord, that He might be glorified," (Isa. 61:3) and this planting is a being planted into Christ so as to have that union and communion with Him which the living branch has with the vine. The Apostle therefore speaks of our being "planted together in the likeness of His death." (Rom. 6:5) 

What the vine is, the branches are. Where the vine is, there will the branches be. The vine was once prostrate on the ground; the branches were prostrate with it. The vine rose from earth to heaven; the branches rise with it. As then a tree planted into good soil drinks of its juices, or rather as a grafted scion becomes so incorporated with the stock as to be one with it, not merely in outward strength and firmness of union, but so one with it as to draw virtue, sap, and fruitfulness out of it, so the true believer, being planted into the likeness of Christ’s death, draws supplies of grace and strength out of His fullness.

Here, then, we see the blessedness of the bleeding, suffering, dying humanity of our adorable Redeemer. By virtue of His suffering humanity He has union with a suffering people, and by virtue of being baptized with His Spirit they have union and communion with a suffering Lord. He died that they might live, bore the curse of the law that it might not light on them, and suffered "the just for the unjust" that they having fellowship with Him in His sufferings and death, might have every gracious motive communicated, and the supply of all spiritual strength imparted, to crucify them to sin, to the world, and to self

By J. C. Philpot, Excerpted from: MEDITATIONS ON SACRED HUMANITY - THE UNION AND COMMUNION WITH CHRIST (Chapter 7. Adapted for clarification in blog posting. Original HERE.

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Overcomer or Succumber?

Today’s Evangullible Church

By Warren B. Smith

  • overcome–to get the better of in a struggle; to conquer
  • succumb–to give way (to), to yield, to submit (to succumb to persuasion)

In today’s evangullible church, countless believers are yielding to the temptations of our Adversary and falling away (Luke 8:13). Giving in to the compromised teachings of the emerging apostate church, once faithful believers are succumbing to the deception that Jesus warned would come in His name (Matthew 24:3-5). Those who could have been overcomers become succumbers–unless, of course, they remember what they received and heard, and hold fast, and repent (Revelation 3:3).

Overcomer–one who patiently waits for Jesus Christ’s return, hates evil, tests and tries false teachers and false apostles, labors for the true Jesus Christ with patience and does not faint under pressure (Revelation 2:2-3); one who does not fear suffering and is faithful unto death (Revelation 2:10); one who holds fast to the name of Jesus Christ and does not deny the true faith of Jesus Christ (Revelation 2:13); one who holds fast, is not seduced by false teachers and false teachings and keeps the works of Jesus Christ unto the end (Revelation 2:20-26); one who is watchful and strengthens the things that remain, remembers what he has received, holds fast, and is always ready to repent (Revelation 3:2-3); one who keeps the Word of Jesus Christ, does not deny His true name, and holds fast to what he has (Revelation 3:8-11); one who is willing to be rebuked and chastened (Revelation 3:19).

In short, one who is faithful to Jesus Christ and all that He teaches in His true Holy Word.

Succumber–one who does not wait patiently for Jesus Christ’s return, does not hate evil, does not test and try false teachers and false apostles, does not labor for the true Jesus Christ with patience and does faint under pressure (Revelation 2:2-3); one who does fear suffering and is not faithful unto death (Revelation 2:10); one who does not hold fast to the name of Jesus Christ and does deny the true faith of Jesus Christ (Revelation 2:13); one who does not hold fast, is seduced by false teachers and false teachings and does not keep the works of Jesus Christ unto the end (Revelation 2:20-26); one who is not watchful and does not strengthen the things that remain, does not remember what he has received, does not hold fast, and is not always ready to repent (Revelation 3:2-3); one who does not keep the Word of Jesus Christ, does deny His true name, and does not hold fast to what he has (Revelation 3:8-11); one who is not willing to be rebuked and chastened (Revelation 3:19).

In short, one who is not faithful to Jesus Christ and all that He teaches in His true Holy Word.

The Encouragement

He that overcometh, the same shall be clothed in white raiment; and I will not blot out his name out of the book of life, but I will confess his name before my Father, and before his angels.
—Revelation 3:5

Permission to re-post this devotional given by Warren B. Smith of Mountain Stream Press

Monday, March 19, 2012


Neologisms for Evangelicals

RHEMA SCRIPTURA [rhā'-mä] [skriptər' uh]

[Strong’s G4487 – rhēma from ῥέω (G4483) 1) that which is or has been uttered by the living voice, thing spoken, word; 2) subject matter of speech, thing spoken of. See HERE for biblical instances of this term.] [Scriptura: 1250–1300; Middle English and Latin scrīptūra writing. See script, -ure]]

  1. The teaching that all things in Scripture are not self-contained, sufficient, plain or complete as written but that, compensating for Scripture’s insufficiency, a new Word from God is needed for this generation and is now being delivered by self-appointed and self-anointed apostles and prophets (or other mystics), whose spoken words (i.e., rhēma) now supersede, override or render obsolete that which is written in the Bible – the faith which was once delivered to the saints (Jude 1:3b).
  2. For reason of continuing rhēma-revelation, belief that the Canon of Scripture (i.e., the collected sixty-six books in the Protestant Bible) is open and not closed, as God’s Word constantly stands in needs supplementing by “sacred” words received by new revelatory experiences; these words of rhēma are considered to be of equal or superior spiritual value to the Holy Bible and, as such, often supplant the received biblical text of the Old and New Testaments. [See Inclusive Scriptura]
  3. Establishing new spiritual teachings based on one’s personal experiences, both subjective and/or mystical, of hearing a voice, getting a message, seeing a vision, receiving a revelation, dreaming a dream or experiencing an impression purportedly from God and/or one of God’s messengers, be they other humans, angels, creatures, etc.
  4. The act of creating new doctrinal constructs based upon extra-biblical revelatory messages or words subjectively validated by the individual self, affirmed by a group or peer consensus and authorized by a cadre of elite leaders, as well as personal and self-authenticating experiences of synchronicity, coincidence, serendipity and other esoteric confirmations.
  5. In the process of deriving one’s spiritual inspiration from extra-biblical words received during subjective experiences, downgrading the value and supremacy of the canonical-biblical text in all matters pertaining to genuinely spiritual and godly living (See 1 Peter 1:3.),
  6. While investing with divine authority the extra-biblical words received during spiritual experiences, and to rationalize living the Christian faith in the new and heightened mystical consciousness, downgrading the value of obedience to the canonical-biblical text as written (See 2 Peter 3:1-2.).
  7. The belief that these extra-biblical words (i.e., rhēma) have divinely invested spiritual power to be used as a weapon in spiritual warfare, a key to obtain wealth (i.e., “Name it, claim it!”), a prescription to gain health, and a power to further the goals of a dominionist political agenda.


C. Peter Wagner:

"Logos and Rhema
“...Pentecostal theologians have made the helpful suggestion of distinguishing the logos word of God from the rhema word of God.... The rhema is regarded as a more immediate word from God which we do not find in the 66 books of the Bible.”[1]

"Synchronizing Earth with Heaven
“...In chapter 2, I discussed the concept of rhema, or a direct word of God to us. At this point the personal prayer life of one who would attempt to bind the strongman is essential. Through prayer we draw into intimacy with the Father so that we can most clearly hear His voice to us. Through our personal prayer lives, and also through association with other members of the Body of Christ who have gifts of intercession and prophecy and discernment of spirits, we can know what has or has not been bound in heaven.”[2]

What Is Theology?
“What are we talking about? What is theology anyway? Here is my attempt at a definition: Theology is a human attempt to explain God’s Word and God’s works in a reasonable and systematic way. This is not a traditional definition. For one thing, it considers God’s works as one valid source of theological information. For another, it sees God’s Word as both what is written in the Bible (logos) as well as what God is currently revealing (rhema). Admittedly, a downside of viewing theology in this way is possible subjectivity, but the upside is more relevance to what the Spirit is currently saying to the churches on a practical level. Teachers research and expound the logos, prophets bring the rhema and apostles put it together and point the direction into the future.”[3]

“[B]oth Jack Deere and I now believe that God does speak to His people directly today and that He always has. In my paradigm shift, I was helped most of all by my good friend Cindy Jacobs.... [I am one] among rapidly increasing numbers of others who believe that a valid source of divine knowledge comes through what some would call ‘extrabiblical revelation’. I daresay that the standard-brand evangelical doctrine of ‘logos only’ that we were taught might now find a place on an ‘endangered doctrines’ list, about to become extinct.”[4]

Bill Hamon:

“The same biblical principles about the attitude that we are to have toward the written word, the logos, should be applied to the rhema that is declared prophetically.” (p. 82)

“If we obey and do exactly what the prophetic word says, we will not be deceived and our spirit and mind will be ready to know the will of God.” (p. 84)

[Believers should feel a] “deep peace, an unexplainable joy, and a sensation of love and rejoicing.... This sensation is the confirmation that the Holy Spirit is bearing witness to our spirit that all is in order....” (p. 94)

“God can declare something new to a person through a prophet . . . God uses the prophets to express new truths.” (p. 95)

[The purpose of these prophecies is] to “use them for war.” (p. 96)[5]

Juan Carlos Ortiz:

“The apostles even defined the doctrine [in the early church, ed.]. As a matter of fact, the Acts report that the people followed the doctrine of the apostles—not the doctrine of Jesus, but the doctrine of the apostles. The things they wrote were infallible—a concept we still believe. They believed the apostles were led by the Holy Spirit in founding the church.... When the pope says that he is infallible, he is not too far from the truth.”[6]

The Truth:

The elevation of prophets and apostles obviously made way for individuals to abuse Scripture. It allowed some to give the 'Spoken Word' equality with Scripture. 'There could be no greater error', denominational leaders warned.... [The Assemblies of God] General Secretary, J. Roswell Flower cautioned: “Predictive prophecy resulted in untold disaster wherever it had been given free course.” Flower was well-versed in the history of Pentecostalism and recalled numerous prophecies that had come to nothing. The New Order of the Latter Rain in fact was nothing new. The ground had been covered before, with lessons learned through costly mistakes. Now a new generation seemed to want to repeat it all.[7]

“At various times throughout the history of the church, and particularly in the modern charismatic movement, people have claimed that God has given revelations through them for the benefit of the church. However we may evaluate such claims, we must be careful never to allow (in theory or practice) the placing of such revelations on a level equal to Scripture. We must insist that God does not require us to believe anything about himself or his work in the world that is contained in these revelations but not in scripture. The Bible contains all the words of God we need for trusting and obeying him perfectly."[8]

“Then the Lord said to me, ‘The prophets are prophesying falsehood in My name. I have neither sent them nor commanded them nor spoken to them; they are prophesying to you a false vision, divination, futility and the deception of their own minds’.”
The Prophet Jeremiah, 14:14 (NASB)

[1] C. Peter Wagner, Engaging the Enemy (Ventura, CA: Regal Books, 1991): 15-16, cited at: and See additional commentary on Wagner and his beliefs by T.A. McMahon, “The New Spiritual Warfare Strategies Part 1,” “Extrabiblical revelation is the cornerstone for the development of most of the doctrines of the new spiritual warfare. Though considered spurious not too long ago by the majority of evangelicals, extrabiblical revelation is now regarded by a growing number of leaders as necessary to fulfill God's mandate to the church today. They profess to find support for their belief in the doctrine of rhema.”
[2] C. Peter Wagner, Confronting the Powers: How the New Testament Church Experienced the Power of Strategic-Level Spiritual Warfare (Ventura, CA: Regal Books, 1996): 155.
[3] C. Peter Wagner, Dominion!: How Kingdom Action Can Change the World (Chosen Books, 2008),
[4] Wagner, Confronting the Powers, 54-55.
[5] Quotes are from a chapter on prophecy authored by Bill Hamon in Hector Torres’s book The Restoration of the Apostles and Prophets (Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson, 2001). See also: Herescope, March 08, 2007, “The Return of the Warrior-Prophets,” Networking the Church: Part 4.”
[6] Juan Carlos Ortiz, Call to Discipleship (Plainfield, NJ: Logos International, 1975), 92 emphasis added. See also Herescope, March 12, 2007, “Militant Apostles: Networking the Church: Part 5,”
[7] The Assemblies of God, A Chapter in the Story of American Pentecostalism, Vol.2, Edith Blumhofer, cited in Strange Fire: The Rise of Gnosticism in the Church by Travers and Jewel van der Merwe, posted at:
[8] Wayne Grudem, Systematic theology: An Introduction to Biblical Doctrine (Downers Grove, IL: Inter-Varsity Press, 1994): Cited at article titled “Logos v. Rhema, Round Two,” which relates the information that: “Grudem’s Systematic Theology has a full chapter on the Sufficiency of Scripture and additional discussions elsewhere on the nature of prophecy for today.” See also a concise refutation of the Word-Faith false teachings about rhema and logos at See also:

Adapted from

NOTE: This post is authored by several members of the Discernment Research Group, including Pastor Larry DeBruyn and Sarah Leslie, along with Pastor Ken Silva of Apprising Ministries. This is part of a joint project to develop a descriptive vocabulary for the new doctrines, practices and heresies of the emerging evangelical church.

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Pan-Evangelicalism Driven "Off-Message". . .

. . . by diverting attention from the Gospel to ineffective political attempts to legislate morality

An Editorial by Rev. Dr. Orrel Steinkamp

We oldies lament how American culture has changed especially in the last 50 years. The Christian influence that shaped Western culture worldwide through the 19th century has given way to practical atheism and moral relativism. In the name of equal rights, political correctness and tolerance the sings of gross immorality, pornography, abortion, sexual immorality and divorce (in and out of the church) and homosexuality have become sanctioned in the wider society. 

So what is the body of Christ to do about it? Is it just a political problem that can solved politically? In the last several decades evangelicals have promoted a political solution to what is seen as a political problem. But America's moral decline is not essentially a political problem. It is a spiritual problem, and consequently its solution is the Gospel, not partisan politics. 

Evangelicals have become known in the wider culture as primarily a political force. Howard Fineman, a liberal/progressive political analyst, has stated the obvious in stark terms: "In the new ruling class, 'revival tent' proponents are driving out the old 'big tent' advocates." This new "God's own party" is a "doctrinally schizophrenic coalition... to create a better country...." It "unites Catholic traditionalists who especially revere the papal hierarchy, evangelical, fundamentalist and charismatic Protestants; some strands of Judaism, including those ultra-orthodox on social issues... and Mormons, who ironically aren't regarded as Christians by most other members of the coalition." 

This evangelical political movement is led by a bevy of religious political operatives. Combining excessive patriotism and political activism, the Gospel message has been quietly under-emphasized. Rank and file evangelicals in all innocence have signed on to this moral political crusade. Conversely, many progressive/liberal media analysts depict evangelicals as political activists pure and simple. I know that writing this I may be misunderstood. Be assured, I also loathe abortion and abominate the practice of homosexuality. But an all-out public cultural war by Christian political operatives creates many anomalies and misunderstandings to an unbelieving society looking on. 

The unbelieving media has learned quite well that the Christian Political Right is actually propelled - not only to legislate morality - but behind it all, often hidden, many Christian political operatives operate from a base/core motivation that goes beyond even patriotic and political moral solutions. Liberal analysts commonly report on the Internet that the Christian Right is a "front" for Christian Dominion/Totalitarian rule of the culture. 

The New Apostolic Reformers (NAR), as I have previously written, have jumped into the political battles. For them it is mix of politics with prophetic/spiritual armament, with the ultimate goal a Christian Totalitarian America. Indeed most evangelicals don't know this, and even many of the evangelical political operatives don't either. But the liberals know all this very well and have reported extensively on the Dominionist agenda. 

The "Apostles and Prophets" prophesied Rick Perry into running. Two Texas NAR prophets gave him a word from God to run. This resulted in Perry's political prayer meeting in Houston's Reliant Stadium. But false prophets propose and a sovereign God disposes of a Perry campaign. For, you see, when you decide to do public politics it can get physical and messy. In the process the eternal Gospel message has often been co-opted or even ignored because of the temporal winds of partisan politics. 

But is the answer politics? Did Paul call an "apostolic" pastors meeting and endorse a moral Roman procurator? (Good luck! No Roman moralist could be found!). The first century world was much more immoral than America and Western civilization. Regarding Paul's Corinthian mission we must remember that the Greek word "korinthiazesthai" (to "Corinth size" ) had become a part of the Greek language meaning debauchery and homosexual immorality. Fourteen of the first fifteen Roman emperors practiced unnatural sex. Nero took a boy called Sporos had him castrated, and married him with a full marriage ceremony. Nevertheless, the Gospel saved many homosexuals and Paul announced that "And such were some of you: but ye are washed, but ye are sanctified, but ye are justified in the name of the Lord Jesus, and by the Spirit of our God." (1 Cor. 6:11). Paul describes homosexual sin in Romans chapter one. But in chapter two he doesn't skip a beat to accuse the moralist Jewish Pharisees of their sin and awaiting judgment. 

All sin stands under the judgment of God and only the sacrificial blood of Jesus can cleanse and cure it. It is only the Gospel that can redeem sinners of all varieties of sin whether public or private. It's the Gospel message preached and lived out as a witness that can snatch brands from the burning (Jude 1:23). 

Only the Gospel can cure those trapped in an evil culture. The moral legislative crusade of prohibition against alcohol of the 1920s is ample proof that one cannot legislate morality. God will use His powerful arm and saving message to show the world that immoral and humanly moral sinners can be reconciled to Him. But, by becoming moral political activists, we mask and divert the saving Gospel from the very people who need the Gospel message most - and make them our enemies. 

We must return to the only cure for whatever evils there are in any culture. Will we stamp out evil by the Gospel? Hardly! And neither will the political moralists. But the Gospel will be more effective than moral crusades. We already know from Scripture that the days will become more and more evil as the return of Jesus nears. Everyone apart from Christ is trapped in sin. But uniquely, the Gospel offers God's forgiveness and a new life by the power located in the Gospel message. 

God can do Corinth all over again, but it will be the Gospel message witnessed and preached - not political theatrics - that will actually change the culture.

"For all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God; Being justified freely by his grace through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus: Whom God hath set forth to be a propitiation through faith in his blood, to declare his righteousness for the remission of sins that are past, through the forbearance of God;" (Romans 3:23-25)

Monday, March 12, 2012


Neologisms for Evangelicals


[Impressia: 1325–75; Middle English impressio (u) n and Latin impressiōn- (stem of impressiō), equivalent to impress (us) (see impress1) + -iōn- -ion; Impressionism: A style of painting associated mainly with French artists of the late-nineteenth century which sought to re-create the general impression of a scene by constructing their pictures from freely brushed colors that took precedence over lines and contours, captured the momentary and transient visual effects instead of details, especially by recreating the sensation in the eye rather than delineating the details of the subject.] [Scriptura: 1250–1300; Middle English and Latin scrīptūra writing. See script, -ure]

  1. The teaching that in Scripture all things are not objective, plain or sufficient as written, but that God’s Word needs an “energy boost” provided by the arousal of subjective feelings, impressions, sensations, heightened awareness, vague ideas, abstract thoughts, speculative ideas, images, and perceptions within the human mind/soul.
  2. The idea that it is not necessary for readers of Holy Scripture to pay attention to the details of the Bible, nor derive one’s beliefs from the meaning of the biblical text in situ (e.g., in the original place), but that the meaning of the words of Scripture can only be deciphered via abstract symbols, subliminal messages, evocative metaphors and esoteric meanings sequestered away in the text. [See Metaphora Scriptura]
  3. The premise that readers should to employ the Bible as an evocative tool to alter and/or induce moods, elicit impressions, stimulate imaginations, and imprint emotions within their soul/minds, moods, impressions, imaginations and emotions which have no relevance to the text as written. [See Nebula Scriptura]
  4. The belief that the Bible is a record of people’s experiences with God and therefore, that the meaning of the text will only be found within “the light” of one’s own subjective experiences and perceptions. [See Narcigesis]
  5. In a piecemeal fashion, seeking out random Bible verses (i.e., “proof texts”) and selfishly ascribing a privatized spiritual meaning to them even while being oblivious to the obvious meaning of the text; then, in numbed oblivion to the text’s obvious meaning, applying the patchwork of Bible verses to any life situation deemed personally appropriate, especially to soothe one’s emotions, forecast one’s future, drive one’s purpose in life, discover one’s destiny, determine God’s will, etc.

Related Concepts: “Deliteralizing” the Bible: from Plato to Peterson: Scripture amidst the Shadows


“These men painted only what their eyes brought them, but this left the question as to whether there was a reality behind the light waves reaching the eyes. They called it ‘following nature.’ After 1885 Monet carried this to its logical conclusion, and reality tended to become a dream.”[1]

“The historical flow is like this: The philosophers from Rousseau, Kant, Hegel and Kierkegaard onward, having lost their hope of a unity of knowledge and a unity of life, presented a fragmented concept of reality; then the artists painted that way. It was the artists, however, who first understood that the end of this view was the absurdity of all things.”[2]

“[H]umanism had no base for certainty in knowing. Interestingly, the artists had seen the problem before the philosophers and scientists. For... the Impressionists painted what they saw, but this left the question of whether there was reality behind the light waves reaching their eyes. Monet took the next step in 1885 and reality tended to be obscured.”[3]

Endnotes:[1] Emphasis in original, Francis A. Schaeffer, How Should We then Live? The Rise and Decline of Western Thought and Culture (Old Tappen, NJ: Fleming H. Revell, 1976): 183.
[2] Ibid. 190.
[3] Ibid. 199.

Adapted from

NOTE: This post is authored by several members of the Discernment Research Group, including Pastor Larry DeBruyn and Sarah Leslie, along with Pastor Ken Silva of Apprising Ministries. This is part of a joint project to develop a descriptive vocabulary for the new doctrines, practices and heresies of the emerging evangelical church. 

Thursday, March 01, 2012

“Deliteralizing” the Bible: from Plato to Peterson

Scripture amidst the Shadows

By Pastor Larry DeBruyn

“Beware lest any man spoil you through philosophy and vain deceit, after the tradition of men, after the rudiments of the world, and not after Christ.”
The Apostle Paul to the Colossians (2:8, KJV)

“Truth did not come into the world naked, but in symbols and images.”[1]
The Gospel of Philip (Gnostic)

Increasingly, evangelical-emergent leaders are viewing the Bible as “metaphor”—to be constituted of less than literal language from which the reader subjectively derives spiritual meanings. To fully grasp the sense of God’s Word, the reader must do so through the lens of the metaphor.[2] This “new hermeneutic” asserts that ignoring the nuances of metaphor makes the Bible unintelligible. For example, Eugene H. Peterson (well-known composer of The Message) states in Eat This Book that “if we do not appreciate the way a metaphor works we will never comprehend the meaning of the text.”[3]

The issue confronting Bible readers is not whether the Bible contains metaphors (As any good literature, it does.), but whether the Bible is metaphor; and for students of God’s Word, there’s a world of difference between understanding that Scripture contains metaphors and assuming Scripture is metaphor.

At the outset, let it be stated that this writing does not concern itself with the art and science of biblical interpretation, a discipline known in Bible colleges and seminaries as “hermeneutics.” There already exist excellent guides addressing the discipline far better than I am capable of.[4] Rather, in a pastoral way, this writing will seek to explain the philosophical underpinning of why evangelicals increasingly embrace the Bible as metaphor. In my thinking, viewing that God’s Word is primarily couched in metaphors has come about for reason of philosophy’s influence upon the Christian worldview and upon the source of the Christian faith, the Bible. As it did to late Judaism and in the early church, Plato’s ancient philosophical worldview appears to again be influencing how emergent-evangelicals are viewing Scripture. 

A Warning
Paul warned the Colossians: “Beware lest any man spoil you through philosophy and vain deceit, after the tradition of men, after the rudiments of the world, and not after Christ” (Colossians 2:8). In the historical and cultural context of his warning, the apostle understood that popular Greek philosophy, as espoused by Plato (427–347 BC), and perhaps Aristotle (384–322 BC), threatened the revealed faith of the early church. Colin Brown notes that from Alexandria, Egypt, an intellectual center in the ancient world, Plato’s philosophy influenced both Judaism and the early Christianity; Judaism through Philo (c. 20 BC–c. AD 50), the Jew of Alexandria, Egypt, who in mingling with the intelligentsia of that culture mixed his Jewish faith with Hellenistic philosophy; and the early church through Clement (c. 150–c. 215 AD) and his student Origen (c. 185–254 AD), both of whom incorporated Plato’s worldview into their teaching, thereby compromising the Christian faith.[5] The resultant mixture of Platonism with late Judaism and early Christianity is called Neoplatonic philosophy.

So Christians would do well to understand Plato’s presuppositions about the world in which we live and how these philosophical assumptions can impact the Christian faith, especially the way in which language communicates God’s Word to man. For reason of Platonism’s influence upon hermeneutics, allegory was understood to be the literary carrier of God’s word to man in both late Judaism and the early church, and now, in a parallel, or perhaps even equivalent manner, metaphor is thought to be the carrier.

Plato’s Reality, Two Worlds
In his book Philosophy and the Christian Faith, Colin Brown introduces Plato’s view of the universe, a view that dichotomizes reality into two spheres; that of shadows in the temporal world below, and Form in the eternal world above. He explains:

Nearly four centuries before Christ the Athenian philosopher Plato (427-347 BC) had taught that the world which we see with our eyes and touch with our bodies was in reality only a world of shadows. It was a copy of the eternal world of spiritual Forms to which the pure soul could attain by philosophic contemplation.[6]

The World Below
The easiest way to explain how Platonism affects the Christian faith is to understand how Plato compartmentalized reality (whatever “is”) into two spheres—that which is below (copy) and that above (Form). In the reality below, humans live, move and have their being (Acts 17:28). This reality is like living in a shadowy cave. As Paul put it, “now we see through a glass, darkly” (1 Corinthians 13:12a). In this shadowy reality, there’s little if any light and according our immediate awareness-consciousness, things are observed to be in chaos and contaminated by what the philosopher called “necessary evil.”
In concert with evolutionary theory, in Plato’s thought the origin of this shadowy underworld and human participation in it just came to be.[7] In the world “‘Participants’ ‘come to be’,” summarizes Julia Annas, “while Forms [just] ‘are’.”[8] So as might be stated about living in the shadowy cave of our reality, “It is what it is.”
But while Plato’s explanation of the universe exempts God from being the author of evil because our underworld “just came to be” (In part, this explains why many scholars call Plato’s philosophy pre-Christian.[9]), his explanation (as did that of other ancient philosophers) denies creation ex nihilo, denies the once pristine condition of nature (“And God saw every thing that he had made, and, behold, it was very good.”), and denies the subsequent divine curse upon creation for reason of the Fall “cursed is the ground for thy sake; in sorrow shalt thou eat of it all the days of thy life.” (Genesis 1:31; 3:17)
A World Above
The important distinction to take out of this discussion is how Plato dichotomizes the shadowy reality below—one contaminated by evil—from the sunny reality above—the world of pure Form.[10] Annas addresses the distinction:

Forms [the designs by which the cosmos exists] function as patterns for the Craftsman as he makes our world. Things in our world... are embodied in matter and spatially situated... and, crucially, they ‘come to be’, whereas Forms ‘are without coming to be’. This is the important metaphysical difference between Forms on the one hand and on the other, the items around us which are said to ‘participate in’ Forms, or to be ‘likenesses’ or ‘images’ of them.[11]

In The God Who Is There, Francis A. Schaeffer designated the two realities as nature below and grace above.[12]
So there you have it—two realities, that of transcendent and immutable Form above, and that of immanent and mutable ‘likenesses’ or ‘images’ below. The distinction may be compared to Heaven on the one hand, and earth on the other. This difference Jesus acknowledged to be the case when He told the Pharisees, “Ye are from beneath; I am from above: ye are of this world; I am not of this world” (John 8:23). Plato’s assertion of two realities bears similarity, though not sameness, to the realities revealed by Jesus and in Scripture. On this point, the philosophical difference between the dualism of Plato (Reality is divided.) and the monism of Hermes Trismegistus (Reality is united—“As above, so below”.) should be noted. While the former might resemble a Judeo-Christian worldview, the latter characterizes a pagan worldview. As one Gnostic source advises, “Understand the inner meaning, for you are children of inner meaning.”[13]
However, concerning human language below, the question must be asked whether or not it can communicate the truth of “Form” from above, or for reason of inhabiting the shadowy world below, whether language is too contaminated by necessary evil to carry “Form-Truth”?

Language below—Philo and Allegory in Late Judaism
Walter C. Kaiser, Jr., noted the influence of Platonic philosophy influence upon interpreting Scripture during the few centuries before and after Christ; namely, in the introduction of the allegorical method interpretation. This way of interpreting the Bible resulted from the influence of Greek Hellenistic culture upon both latter Judaism and early Christianity. Kaiser explains that, “The Alexandrian [school] specialized in the allegorical system of interpretation built on a doctrine of correspondence between earthly and heavenly realities....”[14] One of the main players in the Alexandrian school of interpretation was Philo (20 BC–50 AD), the eclectic Jewish scholar who as he embraced the speculations of Greek philosophy, sought “to exhibit the mystic depths of significance which lie concealed beneath the sacred words.”[15] Illustrating his Platonic assumption that God’s Word dwells in a symbolic world of “shadows,” we note Philo's allegorizing comments on the “the tree of life” (Genesis 2:9):

These statements appear to me to be dictated by a philosophy [Platonism?] which is symbolical rather than strictly accurate.... And by the tree of life he was shadowing out the greatest of the virtues—namely, piety toward the gods, by means of which the soul is made immortal....[16]

Note: “by the tree of life he was shadowing out the greatest of the virtues.” Describing this school’s assumption about interpreting Scripture Kaiser remarks:

Simply stated, it claimed that for every natural or earthly object or event, there was a corresponding spiritual or heavenly analogue that went with it. The idea was derived from Plato, who divided the world into two: one world was invisible and the other emblematic; one actual and the other invisible.[17]

The reason for asserting allegory as a dominant method of interpreting Scripture was the Platonic assumption that human language was an inadequate carrier for God’s Word (Plato would say Form.). As to human language’s ability to communicate “Form-Truth” from above, one scholar assesses that Plato viewed that “our use of language embodies convention and prejudice and on its own is no good guide to philosophical truth (Cratylus, Statesman 262-3).”[18] This assumption explains why the philosopher turned to contemplation as a means to seek out and experience the eternal verities of the universe. In his dark cave, and beyond his immediate senses, he could only discover Form via mystic meditation.

To this point, and distinguishing grace (the spiritual and noumenal world of God above) from nature (the sensual and phenomenal world of man below), Schaeffer pointed out that when philosophy arbitrarily separates nature from grace, the bifurcation leads to understanding God as “the philosophic other, unknown and unknowable,” and correspondingly, the Word of God as “undefined.”[19] When the two realities are compartmentalized, as Schaeffer popularly explained, “nature eats up grace.” Therefore any understanding of God and His communication can only be perceived to be sequestered away in ethereal allegory or mystic metaphor.

Language below—Origen and Allegory in the Early Church
The star pupil of Clement of Alexandria (c. 150–c. 215 AD) was Origen (c. 185–254 AD). Though he believed in the pre-existence of souls (contra Genesis 2:7) and a new probation after death (contra Hebrews 9:27), Origen was “pre-eminently the father of biblical science, and one of the greatest prodigies of learning and industry among men.”[20] Following the path of Philo the Jew and Clement the Christian, Origen was “a mystico-allegorical exegete.”[21] Assuming that many portions of Scripture were unintelligible when taken literally, Origen maintained that Scripture could only be understood by paying attention to its threefold sense: the fleshy/literal, the moral/psychical and the spiritual/allegorical.

Of these three sense combinations, Kaiser informs that, “The method Origen used for his biblical hermeneutics was that of anagoge, (“ascent”), the ascent of the soul upward from the level of the flesh [shadows] to the realm of the spirit [Form].”[22] Only as readers encountered the allegory of Scripture were they able to reach into the realm of pure Spirit, never mind that that level can only be accessed in, with and through the Holy Spirit (1 Corinthians 2:7-16). The “allegorical method offered the inspired Christian reader a window into the heavenly Jerusalem....”[23] In other words, allegory provided the literary steps by which a mystic soul could climb a spiritual ladder to obtain the heavenly vision.

Language below—Peterson and Metaphor in the Contemporary Church
In a continuing way, Plato’s assumption regarding the compartmentalized realities may explain why many evangelicals have grown skeptical of any Grand Story which claims to explain Form (“Down with metanarratives!” they protest.). For reason that it inhabits this imperfect and shadowy world, language is simply incapable of conveying metaphysical Truth. Revealing a Platonic bent of mind, Eugene Peterson confesses: “I sometimes marvel that God chose to risk his revelation in the ambiguities of language.”[24] Likewise he says,

For one thing, God’s action and presence among us is so beyond our comprehension that sober description and accurate definition are no longer functional.... All language, but especially language that deals with transcendence, with God, is inadequate and falls short.[25]

Evidencing skepticism of even the ability of metaphor to carry truth about God, he also states: “A metaphor states as true something that is not true.”[26] Given the cleavage between the world above from the world below, Peterson offers this counsel on how to understand the Bible:

The place to begin with, though, is not, as is often supposed, with a grammar and a dictionary. The fixity of the words on paper, removed from the nuances and ambiguities of the living voice, gives an illusion of preciseness and seems to invite a matching preciseness in the reader. We do better to begin with a consideration of metaphor.... If we don’t understand how metaphor works we will misunderstand most of what we read in the Bible. No matter how carefully we parse our Hebrew and Greek sentences, no matter how precisely we use our dictionaries and trace our etymologies, no matter how exactly we define the words on the page, if we do not appreciate the way a metaphor works we will never comprehend the meaning of the text.[27]

Or consider a statement by Leonard Sweet. Before endorsing James O. Davis’ book on communication, Gutenberg to Google: The Twenty Indispensable Laws of Communication, as “a guidepost to transformational preaching in the 21st century,” Sweet states: “Preachers are commissioned not only to exegete the words of Scripture but to exegete the images and metaphors that God chose to reveal the divine to the human.”[28]

As the Plato effect caused Philo, Clement and Origen to view Scripture in terms of allegory, now the same philosophical influence may explain why Peterson, Sweet and other evangelical-emergents assume that God’s truth primarily, if not exclusively, dwells amidst images and metaphor. In the dark cave below, God’s communication to man lays camouflaged among the literary shadows.

This assumption about the inability of human language to carry divine truth in a literal way may also explain why like Plato, emergent-evangelicals are now turning to mysticism in order to catch a glimmer of God within their souls. As a way for evangelical-emergents to orient themselves to the light above even while dwelling amidst the shadows below, in solitude and silence they contemplate. Ancient philosophy is affecting contemporary spirituality!

The Word in this World
 In light of the ancient philosophical influence exerting itself upon evangelicals today, the question confronting the biblical Christian is this: Is God’s Word from Heaven (from the ideal world of Form above, to use Plato’s distinction), as He communicated it through the Scriptures contaminated by virtue of its being packaged in human language, by coming into contact with the necessary evil that “comes to be”? And in light of this dichotomy, does metaphor become the only language suitable to represent the “heavenly analogue”? Is metaphor the means by which the human spirit can ascend from this shadowy underworld into the world above?
Before drawing attention to three truths about the Word in this world, we should note Kaiser’s statement that, “the Bible nowhere teaches such a doctrine of shadows and images or a doctrine of correspondences. Those doctrines are drawn directly from the secular philosophy of the day....[29] In other words, though the Bible often employs metaphor to express truth about God and man (“The Lord is my rock,” “All flesh is grass,” “Ye are the salt of the earth,” “I am that bread of life,” etc., etc., and etc.—2 Samuel 22:2; Isaiah 40:6; Matthew 5:13; and John 6:48), the Bible is not metaphor, a linguistic playground in which readers may imagine and mystify whatever they want about what the biblical text is saying about God and themselves. We now conclude with three points about how Scripture closes the supposed linguistic gap between the world of shadows and Form, between the phenomenal and ideal worlds, between earth and Heaven, between “nature and grace” as Francis Schaeffer put it.

God’s Word is Light
That we live in a shadowy—even dark—reality is not at issue. We do. Scripture assesses we live amidst “the darkness of this world” (Ephesians 6:12; See also John 1:5; Colossians 1:13; 1 Peter 2:9; etc.). What is at issue is whether God has penetrated the darkness of this present evil age with His revelation to humanity (Galatians 1:4). The Bible tells us He has. Amidst this present world of shadows and darkness God, who is light, has shone the way to us (1John 1:5). “Every good thing bestowed and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights, with whom there is no variation, or shifting shadow (Emphasis added, James 1:17). In bridging the gap between the shadows below and the brightness above, God has shined His light upon mankind primarily through two revelatory means—first through His incarnated Son, and second through His inspired Scriptures which bear infallible witness to the Lord Jesus Christ (See John 5:39; Luke 24:44.). As the Psalmist exclaimed: “Thy word is a lamp unto my feet, and a light unto my path” (Psalm 119:105). As Jesus declared: “I am the light of the world: he that followeth me shall not walk in darkness, but shall have the light of life” (John 8:12).
Note: Jesus uttered this witness concerning His being to Jews whose spiritual worldview had been affected by the Neoplatonic influence from Alexandria, Egypt, where because of Philo and others, Judaism was being mixed with Platonism. So Jesus’ statement rebukes the idea the God’s communication is affected by the shadows and the darkness, a paradigm that could be applied to the incarnation of Jesus as well as the inspiration of the Bible.[30] Because of our Savior and the Scriptures, the Word of God is not so shadowy and dark after all, is it? There’s Light to guide us, and where there’s Light there’s also Life!

God’s Word is Life
The Bible is associated with the very life of God. Paul writes that, “All scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness” (2 Timothy 3:16). The Scriptures are sufficient to tell believers what they should believe (“doctrine”), what they should not believe (“reproof”), how they should not behave (“correction”), and how they should behave (“instruction in righteousness”).
In the Old Testament, a phrase recurs hundreds of times—“the word of the Lord.” Because it’s His word, Scripture is God breathed. As such, it’s not as if God looked at words written on papyri by the prophets and anthropologically speaking, waved His hands over them, went “Whoosh!” and the Scriptures became the Word of God for reason that He “inspired” them. No, it’s rather that the Scriptures were “out-breathed” by God. As such, the Bible derives from the very life of God Himself. The genius of the Bible is its creation by God’s “outspiration,” not inspiration.

In his classic work, Revelation and Inspiration, B.B. Warfield states:

And Scripture is called theópneustos in order to designate it as “God-breathed,” the product of Divine spiration, the creation of that Spirit who is in all spheres of the Divine activity the executive of the Godhead.... It [theópneustos] does not express a breathing into the Scriptures by God.... What it affirms is that the Scriptures owe their origin to an activity of God the Holy Ghost and are in the highest and truest sense His creation. It is on this foundation of Divine origin that all the high attributes of Scripture are built.[31]

The “word of God is living” (Hebrews 4:12). God’s words are not eking out an existence in our shadowy underworld, but are alive and powerful, full of light and life. They are God-breathed. Jesus told the disciples in the Olivet Discourse, His prophetic sermon: “Heaven and earth will pass away, but My words shall not pass away” (Matthew 24:35, NASB; See Luke 16:17.). Why will Jesus’ words “not pass away”? Because they are alive! But not only is God’s Word life and light, it’s literal.

God’s Word is Literal
In an earlier sermon, the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus informed His listeners: “For verily I say unto you, Till heaven and earth pass, one jot [the smallest letter of the Hebrew alphabet] or one tittle [the smallest distinguishing marking of the Hebrew alphabet] shall in no wise pass from the law, till all be fulfilled” (Matthew 5:18). In the Hebrew language, the “jot” looks something like an upside down comma raised to the level of a letter while the “tittle” looks something the dot over the letter “i” or the cross through the letter “t.” In making His point, Jesus is not qualifying the letters and makings of the Law to be couched amidst metaphors, is He?
In speaking of the Law’s continuation in parallel with the created order, Charles Ryrie notes:

Observe that Christ does not start with concepts and then allow for optional words to be used to convey those concepts [metaphors].... He begins the other way around. The promises are based on the words as spelled, and those words can be relied on fully and in detail.[32]

In other words, the meaning of Scripture is to be derived from the markings, letters, words, sentences of language, and not imagined by way of comparison or analogy—by, what one might say, “a metaphorical leap” into the dark. One has stated that the allegorical method of interpretation “introduces... chaos into speech and destroys all objectivity of truth: it is ‘fantasy unlimited’.”[33]

Now-a-days, the interpretation and opinions of some Bible studies (“I think the verse means... I feel the verse says.... Well, that’s just your interpretation....” etc.) might be compared to impressionistic or abstract art which elicits many responses from viewers who find various subjective meanings in it. In fact, the less the consensus and the more the controversy about what a painting might mean, the more successful the art is considered to be as people share their perceptions and engage in dialogue about its meaning. Beauty’s in the eyes of the beholder. In our digitally wired world where “image” is king, discussion over meaning becomes even more relativist.... “Well,” the saying goes, “whatever!” In my thinking, the same can be said of a literary impressionism which approaches Scripture as image and metaphor.
But it’s difficult to see how the “thou-shalt-not(s)” of the Decalogue, as well as other didactic, parabolic and narrative portions of Scripture, can be wholly turned into metaphor. There’s a world of difference in approaching the Bible as the written and literal revelation of God to man or a book whose literary message is sequestered away somewhere amidst a matrix of metaphors. Approaching the Bible only as metaphor demands assuming something about God’s communication to man which is at odds with the plain meaning of the language and structure of Holy Scripture. As Milton S. Terry (1890) states in his classical work, Biblical Hermeneutics:

A fundamental principle in grammatico-historical exposition is that words and sentences can have but one signification in one and the same connection. The moment we neglect this principle we drift out upon a sea of uncertainty and conjecture.[34]

We close with the oft repeated statement attributed to B.B Warfield (1851-1921) which so vitally summarizes the connection between Heaven and earth, between eternity and time, between the reality above and below, and between the next world and this one. He said: “The Bible is the Word of God in such a way that when the Bible speaks, God speaks.”

“O Timothy, keep that which is committed to thy trust, avoiding profane and vain babblings, and oppositions of science [gnosis] falsely so called: Which some professing have erred concerning the faith.”
The Apostle Paul, 1 Timothy (6:20-21, KJV)

[1] Marvin Meyer, “The Gospel of Philip,” The Gnostic Gospels of Jesus: The Definitive Collection of Mystical Gospels and Secret Books about Jesus of Nazareth (New York, NY: HarperCollins Publishers, Inc., 2005): 67. Dear reader, please do not take my quotation of this Gnostic gospel, which is no Gospel, as approval of it. In an ancient way, the quotation merely illustrates the “deliteralizing” and mystification of Scripture that is going on in contemporary Christendom.
[2] One dictionary defines metaphor: “A figure of speech in which a term is transferred from the object it ordinarily designated to an object it may designate only by implicit comparison or analogy, as in the phrase evening of life.” Webster’s II: New Collegiate Dictionary (Boston, MA: Houghton Mifflin Company, 1995): 688.
[3] Eugene H. Peterson, Eat This Book: A Conversation in the Art of Spiritual Reading (Grand Rapids, MI: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 2006): 93.
[4] Among others, see Roy B. Zuck, Basic Bible Interpretation (Wheaton, IL: Victor Books, a Division of Scripture Press Publications Inc., 1991). A text that more in depth addresses contemporary issues of meaning is, Kevin J. Vanhoozer, Is There a Meaning in the Text?: The Bible, The Reader, and the Morality of Literary Knowledge (Grand Rapids, MI: ZondervanPublishingHouse, 1998).
[5] “Judaism and Hellenism, so to speak, came into closest contact in this celebrated metropolis of Egypt [Alexandria], and in their spiritual and intellectual mingling produced what became known as Neo-Platonism.” See Milton S. Terry, Biblical Hermeneutics: A Treatise on the Interpretation of the Old and New Testaments (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan Publishing House, n.d.): 611.
[6] Colin Brown, Philosophy and the Christian Faith: An Introduction to the Main Thinkers and Schools of Thought from the Middle Ages to the Present Day (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsityPress, 1971): 15-16.
[7] On this point, the Platonic philosophy of origins resembles the Gnostic belief that somewhere in the chain of devolving deities one came into being, a Demiurge, that created the evil world in which we live. In the pecking order of deities, the Demiurge was not the supreme God, but a devolved lesser god. In other words, the world is the image of “a form”, but not Form. As to which gave rise to which, Platonism to Gnosticism, or Gnosticism to Platonism, the explanation remains shrouded in ancient history. Because of resemblances involved, scholarship has argued both ways.
[8] Julia Annas, Plato: A Very Short Introduction (New York, NY: Oxford University Press, 2003): 86.
[9] Some Christian scholars view that just as the Hebrew Scriptures prepared the Jews for Messiah’s coming, so Plato’s writings prepared the Gentile world for his coming. In this sense, Plato is viewed as a kind of pre-Christian philosopher-prophet. I do not share this view.
[10] A resemblance between Plato's philosophy and Quantum physics can be noted as necessary evil (chaos) can be contrasted to Form (fractal). . Indeed, as the Preacher says, “there is no new thing under the sun” (Ecclesiastes 1:9).
[11] Annas, Plato, 84.
[12] Francis A. Schaeffer, The Francis A. Schaeffer Trilogy: The God Who Is There (Wheaton, IL: Crossway Books, 1090): 63-65.
[13] Meyer, “The Gospel of Truth by Valentinus,” Gnostic Gospels, 106.
[14] Walter C. Kaiser, Jr. and Moisés Silva, An Introduction to Biblical Hermeneutics: The Search for Meaning (Grand Rapids, MI: ZondervanPublishingHouse, 1994): 210.
[15] Terry, Biblical Hermeneutics, 611.
[16] Emphasis added, Philo, The Works of Philo, Translated by C.D Yonge (Albany, Oregon: AGES Software, 1999): LVI (153), page 67. Zuck also notes that “Philo taught Sarah and Hagar represent virtue and education, Jacob and Esau represent prudence and folly, Jacob’s resting of the stone speaks of the self-discipline of the soul, and the seven-branched candelabrum in the tabernacle and the temple represent seven planets.” Zuck, Basic Bible Interpretation, 32.
[17] Kaiser, Biblical Hermeneutics, 220.
[18] Emphasis added, Annas, Plato, 86.
[19] Schaeffer, Schaeffer Trilogy, 64.
[20] Terry, Biblical Hermeneutics, 641.
[21] Ibid.
[22] Kaiser, Biblical Hermeneutics, 219.
[23] The SCM Press A-Z of Origen, John A. McGuckin, Editor (London, England: SCM Press, 2006): 50.
[24] Peterson, Eat This Book, 93.
[25] Ibid. 96.
[26] Ibid. 94. Evidencing this “below” mentality in a Quantum physics way, Peterson also states on page 96: “The raw stuff of the world is not matter but energy. How do we express this interconnected vitality? We use metaphor.”
[27] Ibid. 93.
[28] James O. Davis citing, “From the Desk of Leonard Sweet,” Billion Soul, July 9, 2009.
[29] Kaiser, Biblical Hermeneutics, 220.
[30] The Platonic compartmentalization of reality—shadows below, Form above; nature below, grace above—not only calls into question God’s revelation in Scripture, but also God’s revelation in the Son. To paraphrase his remark about Scripture (“I sometimes marvel that God chose to risk his revelation in the ambiguities of language.”), Peterson might also state: “I sometimes marvel that God chose to risk his incarnation in the ambiguities of human flesh.”
          Yet directly refuting Platonism, the New Testament states of His incarnation that though in His pre-incarnate state Jesus “existed in the form of God” (Philippians 2:6), in His incarnation He was “the image of the invisible God” (Colossians 1:15; 2 Corinthians 4:4; Hebrews 1:3). Jesus told His disciples: “he that hath seen me hath seen the Father” (John 14:9). John wrote of Jesus, “No man hath seen God at any time; the only begotten Son, which is in the bosom of the Father, he hath declared him” (John 1:18). In other words, Jesus the Light came into and dwelt amidst this world of shadows.
          But there were false teachers who in the early church bought into Plato’s dualistic dichotomy. To early Christians, the Apostle John wrote: “For many deceivers are entered into the world, who confess not that Jesus Christ is come in the flesh. This is a deceiver and an antichrist.” (2 John 7; Compare also 1 John 4:2-3.). This way of explaining Jesus was called “Docetism,” a term describing the early heresy which regarded “the human aspects of Christ as imaginary or apparent instead of being part of a real incarnation.” See Gerald L. Borchert, “Docetism,” Evangelical Dictionary of Theology, Walter A. Elwell, Editor (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Book House, 1984): 326.
          In other words, the heretics taught an incarnation by imagination. To these early heretics affected by Plato’s compartmentalized realities, Jesus just “seemed” (coming from the Greek verb dokeo, “to suppose or to think”) to be incarnate. In my opinion, I am amazed by how many New Testament scholars attribute the heresy of Docetism to have occurred for reason of Gnosticism’s and not Platonism’s  influence upon Christianity (the resulting admixture being Neoplatonism). While on points Plato’s philosophy may be construed to resemble a Christian worldview, at core it’s anti-incarnational and therefore anti-Christian. To those under the spell of Platonism, Jesus can only be a “mystic messiah,” a messiah of the mind.
[31] Benjamin Breckinridge Warfield, Revelation an Inspiration, Volume I of Ten Volumes (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Books, 1932): 280.
[32] Charles C. Ryrie, Basic Theology: A Popular Systematic Guide to Understanding Biblical Truth (Chicago, IL: Moody Press, 1999): 100.
[33] Ernest F. Kevan, “The Principles of Interpretation,” Revelation and the Bible: Contemporary Evangelical Thought, Carl F.H. Henry, Editor (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Book House, 1958): 291. I thank Roy Zuck for drawing attention to this quote. See Zuck, Basic Bible Interpretation, 37.
[34] Terry, Biblical Hermeneutics, 205.

Reproduced with permission of the author. The original is posted HERE