How to Ruin Your Life by Misunderstanding the Will of God: The Danger of Christian Mysticism
(This is an intentionally ironic title. You’ll see.)
“The Bible never tells us to seek the will of God. It tells us to do it.” (Dr. John Hannah)
Modern Christians, especially in conservative churches, tend to be obsessed with finding “the will of God” for their lives. We will examine what the Scripture actually teaches about the will of God, as well as refuting a number of very prevalent misconceptions about God’s will.
Lord willing, I’ll be presenting this topic at the adult Bible study at our church on Wednesday, February 7.
I will post a PowerPoint presentation, and other resources when they are complete. (PowerPoint has been posted here. Note the PowerPoint contains far more information than I actually covered. I used only about 40% of it.)
Anatomy of a Train Wreck
Photo of a train wreck in LaGrange, Illinois, from The Monkey Is Always Watching photoblog by Daniel Heath.
In some ways, the lesson was a disaster. I wanted to get people thinking about dangerous, unbiblical rhetoric we use, and instead wound up inflaming the congregation. At least 8 people walked out.
I touched on a number of foundational topics, including the KJV, with a slide entitled, “Why the KJV is Not the Word of God.”
However, my first two points on that subject were these:
Don’t excommunicate me: Almost everything I have studied leads me to believe the KJV is a highly accurate, trustworthy translation from excellent manuscripts. But it isn’t perfect.
And, we have a serious problem with the rhetoric we use.
But no one heard them.
I had to discontinue that topic after two slides, although people kept bringing the discussion back to them. But completely unheard were my points about translation errors, the danger of sounding like Ruckmanites, or even how the Jewish religious leaders Jesus debated with in the temple would not conduct theological discussions in any language other than Hebrew. Also prohibited was something that is very important to me:
Significant changes in the English language over the last 400 years are rendering the KJV less and less relevant to our spoken language.
Although most people can understand it, the meaning of many words and verses is completely unclear without a historical understanding of the English language.
This is a serious problem. We are in danger of insulating the common people from the Word of God, just as the Catholic Church did (most famously before the Reformation, but through the 1960s).
So, to reiterate:
- I do believe the KJV is the Word of God (although I did state otherwise in attention-getting slide title—the text of my slides makes my ultimate meaning very clear)—although I do not believe it is the only English version of the Bible that can be called the Word of God. (However, I made no attempt, and, indeed, specifically avoided, recommending a different version to our congregation.)
- We are making a big mistake when we don’t acknowledge that, like any translation, the KJV has errors and ambiguities.
- The KJV is very difficult for modern English speakers to read; a number of word meanings have changed significantly in the past 400 years, some enough to cause erroneous interpretation.
- The KJV absolutely should not be elevated (in rhetoric or otherwise) to the level of the original languages in which Scripture was written. There is a reason God chose Hebrew, Chaldee, Aramaic, and Greek, over another language like English. (This is especially clear when comparing the compexity and nuance of the Greek to English.)
What I wish I had done differently:
- Not used hyperbole (or perhaps even irony, as defined literarily) with an Independent Baptist Church audience. Despite the fact that this is an oft-used literary device (ask my Sunday school students), even by our own pastor, the people were not familiar enough with my teaching style to stop to listen beyond the radical statement.
- Asked questions instead of making statements about semantics—I still have no idea (for several reasons) what specifically those most offended disagreed with. Had I introduced the topics with questions about specifically what people meant by certain phrases, they probably would have been lest hostile. (Several people disagree with me on this, believing I was doomed no matter how gentle my presentation.)
- Not tried to put quite so much material into the presentation.
- Spent more time on the conclusion, which was a little weak. (I also goofed on illustrating one point, but in retrospect that seems less significant.)
You’ll want to read all the comments on this one.
(Edited significantly on Tuesday, February 27, 2007.)