Saturday, July 29, 2006

Twisted Scriptures

Now that we have seen a 3-part series on Word-Faith, it is important to examine some scripture in light of BWW and see how it compares to the historic, orthodox Christian interpretation. Before we do this, I need to make a point.

I have authored over 100 poems. Some of those are easy to figure out what I am talking about, but I also have many that are totally metaphorical. In some of my poetry, you might read it and get inspired. That inspiration may have nothing to do with the meaning of the poem as I wrote it. Is your interpretation wrong? Yes, if you are reading it outside of the context and meaning that I wrote it. I am the author, and as the author, I am the standard for proper interpretation. In light of this, I would like to point out that God is the author of the Bible. Yes, it is true that humans had an inspired part in that, but it is God that holds the testimony of what it is. As the author, it is God that determines the interpretation. The study of proper interpretation is called hermeneutics. While it is true that there are some interpretive challenges among knowledgeable Christians, most can agree as to what those verses are, but the Word-Faith interpretation is totally self-centered, illogical, and lacking in historical context. You see, if I were writing a letter about a situation during World War 2 relating some war-related issue, you could not properly interpret my letter without a knowledge of what was happening in the world at that time. Such as it is with the Bible, particularly since the New Testament is almost entirely letters including some of the Gospels such as Luke.

The Twisted Scriptures

These will be taken from a 10 minute scripture bend that Larry Winters did at a Saturday night weekend conference (where Quixtar Rules tell us that Religion should not be included by the way). These are also recorded on BWW151, “The Badge of Honor”. I use this because Larry pretty much sums up all the wrong interpretations of importance that are found within BWW and other motivational organizations and Word-faith movements in three basic clips.

He says the formula for success is (note that formula):

You need to work

You need to have faith,

He uses this verse:

Faith without works is dead. (James 2:17)

Larry’s Interpretation: This verse is used to bash those that did not show plans; if your calendar is empty you are not working by faith. You should not be checking for results, but instead should simply know that results are there because you are doing the work. You don’t check what you are doing to see if you will win (go Diamond), but you look at what God says. Notice how it is self-serving, for this world, and turns your actions into proof that you are actually doing a human work.

Historical Orthodox Interpretation: First, the context is James talking about a person who professes to be saved, but is embracing what we might call ‘antinomianism’, which crept up early in the church. This was a belief that since we are saved by grace, all we need to do is confess Jesus and then we can live any way we choose, violations of His commands or not. James is saying here that if you profess to be a Christian, your life will demonstrate Christianity. He goes on to explain what that might look like: ministering, sharing your excess goods, loving people if they can love you back or not. This verse is about how our works demonstrate our salvation, not about how our works fulfill a human plan.

Getting what you give:

As you sow, you reap, you will get if you do not get weary in well doing, you will be blessed abundantly overflowing. Larry ends this one by saying that he read this in Deuteronomy and the New Testament. He says that everything that Paul said lined up with Bill and everything that Bill said lined up with the Bible.

This one demonstrates a common Word-faith theme: attaching several verses together (most if not all out of context). This is a combination of:

  • Galatians 6:7b - Whatever a man sows, this he will also reap.
  • Galatians 6:9 - Let us not lose heart in doing good, for in due time we will reap if we do not grow weary
  • Malachi 3:10b - if I will not open for you the windows of heaven and pour out for you a blessing until it overflows
  • Luke 6:38 - Give, and it will be given to you. They will pour into your lap a good measure--pressed down, shaken together, and running over. For by your standard of measure it will be measured to you in return.
  • Bits and Pieces of Deuteronomy 28, the classic blessing / cursing chapter.

Larry’s Interpretation: Larry uses these verses in combination to say that if you are just out showing the plan, than at some undisclosed amount of time, you will suddenly make more money than you could ever imagine.

Historical Orthodox Interpretation:

To examine all this, I will consider Deuteronomy 28 first. This chapter is the conclusion to the Israelite Law. God promised blessings if that people at that time followed that law. He offered a promise of curses for turning away from that law. To quote that chapter as your promise also requires you to follow that law, sacrifices in all, so let me ask you few questions if you are claiming that: When was the last time to you went to the priest to report a mildew problem? Did you give your required cattle sacrifices lately? Have you totally forgiven every debt against you lately? I think you get the idea…if you claim this promise, you are claiming the Israelite law as yours.

Now it is on to Galatians. Notice that Larry can quote 6:7 and 6:9, but he left out the 6:8 - For the one who sows to his own flesh will from the flesh reap corruption, but the one who sows to the Spirit will from the Spirit reap eternal life. It can be argued that throwing all your devotion to a controversial business model to make yourself rich is certainly sowing to the flesh. Now, I say this understanding that some people may want all that money to give to ministry. I say again, God is more interested in your heart and your money, I will not reinsert all the balancing points to this argument because they are already all over this site.

Again, the context of this Galatians verse is to the spiritual teachings of the apostles, not a means to gain wealth by giving all devotion to a business system.

The verse in Malachi is in reference to the tithing in the Israelite culture. You see, they were a Theocracy, that is, the governmental policy was directly controlled by the central religion. In that system, they were required to give a tithe, not of 10%, but closer to 33%. In fact, their tithe and our (America) tax system are essentially the same thing. It was the love offerings in that culture and the donations in our culture which are the extra giving.

The verse in Luke is a restatement of a summary of true Christ-likeness. If you follow the rest of the text, he talks about the standards of judgment, pardons, forgiveness, and finally giving.

There is an interesting teaching in the middle of this that I found interesting. Larry says that he will only listen to two men: Bill Britt and Paul Miller. If he hears a preacher (or someone like me) and what they say is the same as Bill and Paul, he will listen, but if what they say is contrary to Bill and Paul, without any examination, he will reject that person and listen instead to Bill and Paul.

What God wants for you:

“Beloved, I wish above all things…beloved…that’s me!...I wish that thou may prosper…and be in good health, so that you can enjoy [your prosperity], comma [yes, they always say the word ‘comma’] even as thou soul prospers.”

This is from 3 John 2 - Beloved, I pray that in all respects you may prosper and be in good health, just as your soul prospers.

Larry’s Interpretation: Larry makes it easy for me because he says “You know what that says in Larry’s term? ‘Hey, Larry! I’m God, I want you to do good, I want you to be healthy, all you got to do is learn some of my spiritual truths. You grow in me, I’ll grow in you and we both win.’”

Historical Orthodox interpretation: Larry actually did not come up with that, Oral Roberts was the first to make that twist to the scripture in the 1950’s, and now it is spouted out like truth. In reality, that verse is not a blanket statement of God talking to all Christians, it is the salutation to a personal letter in that time! You know, very similar to the ‘Dear so and so’ that we start our letters with today.

Another interested point, Larry says that Bill and Paul “Studied certain teachers that were anointed in teachings”, like those are the teachers that God put here and the rest are not of God. Larry never lists them, but I know who he is talking about. They are the Word-faith teachers that I have listed elsewhere on this site.

Next, Larry sets up the straw man by taking the opposite extreme, namely, the poverty gospel, and using he classic ‘whining insult’ voice to make fun of people who do not think that God is interested in blessing people. He even says, “I can tell you don’t believe [God wants to prosper you], I look at your life: disease, catastrophe, lay-offs, average, mediocre.” Sound familiar? I covered these points over the last three posts.

Conclusion

Now, we have seen the three verses with a modern, self-centered, human exulting interpretation. We have seen how these are in stark contrast to the historical orthodox interpretation. Which is correct? Well, let us examine a few things.

First, the earliest church writings were most consistent with the protestant teachings that resurfaced in the reformation (note that it was a reformation, not a revolution). The Bible was the standard, but had to be understood in proper cultural context. The theologians of history understood the language and culture of that people. Further, we have writings which date back to the times of, and shortly after, the apostles. In nearly 2000 years, these amazing truths of healing and business success were hidden from people who have done nothing but study their Bibles all day long? That is absurd!

Next, the focus of the Bible, as well as early church writings, consistently pointed to the coming glory of God, the resurrection, trials ahead for the believers, grace, and service to man-kind. These new teachings are man-centered, self-serving, teach the seeking of worldly things, etc. Which are we to believe? You can follow a man if you want to, but I will follow the Lord in the understanding of who He revealed Himself to be within the context of the whole of the Bible.

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