Did God kill Jesus? Olson and Caiaphas vs. Piper

One of my first major posts on this blog, in June 2006, tackled the controversial question Did God kill Jesus? See also the post which led up to this, “The Father killed the Son”: the offence of the Gospel?, and the follow-up Did God kill Jesus: should I post like this?

Today Roger Olson is asking exactly the same question, Did God kill Jesus? He writes that

Recently a leading evangelical pastor and author has declared publicly that “God killed Jesus”–meaning, I suppose, the Father killed Jesus.  That’s his way (I assume) of emphasizing the penal substitution theory of the atonement.

Personally, I think some “friends of penal substitution” are its worst enemies.

John PiperA little Google research reveals that the pastor and author that Olson refers to is none other than John Piper, who in a sermon this Sunday said, with reference to John 11:50,

In the mind of Caiaphas, the substitution was this: We kill Jesus so the Romans won’t kill us. We substitute Jesus for ourselves. In the mind of God, the substitution was this: I will kill my Son so I don’t have to kill you. God substitutes Jesus for his enemies.

God Killed Jesus?

I know it sounds harsh to speak of God killing Jesus. Killing so easily connotes sinning and callous cruelty. God never sins. And he is never callous. The reason I say that God killed his own Son is because Isaiah 53 uses this kind of language. Verse 4: “We esteemed him stricken, smitten by God.” God smote him. Verse 6: “The Lord laid on him the iniquity of us all.” Verse 10: “It was the will of the Lord to crush him; he has put him to grief.” God smote him. God crushed him.

My first response to this is an exegetical one. If we look at Isaiah 53:4-5, in Piper’s preferred English Standard Version, we read three propositions about the Suffering Servant separated by other material, which we can summarise as follows: “Surely A; yet we esteemed B. But C”. In other words, A is certainly true, and B is our own human estimation of the situation, which should be rejected in favour of C. That is to say, B is a false proposition, or at least inadequate one, according to the text of Isaiah itself. And what is proposition B? That the Servant was “stricken, smitten by God, and afflicted”. Thus the verse Piper quotes to prove that God smote Jesus in fact says the opposite. It is redundant to note that the Hebrew verb translated “smitten”, although sometimes used in the context of homicide, does not actually mean “killed”, but only “hit” or “beaten”.

Meanwhile, when the apostle John (11:51) writes that these words of the High Priest were a prophecy, Piper dares to declare that Caiaphas was speaking his own mind, not the mind of God, which Piper claims to know better the prophet does!

Olson, eirenic as always, declines to name Piper. But he makes a strong case for a proper understanding of penal substitutionary atonement. He agrees with the prophetic words of Caiaphas rather than with Piper’s speculation:

Men [gender inclusive, surely?] committed the violence against Jesus, not God the Father, and the actual suffering of the atonement was the rejection Jesus suffered by the Father.  “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” was the moment of atonement.  God did not kill Jesus (at least in my version of penal substitution); people did.  The Father did not inflict punishment on the unwilling, innocent Son as his victim; the Son volunteered to suffer the Father’s wrath.  The Father’s wrath was not physical violence; it was the rupture within the Godhead suffered by both the Son and the Father (in different ways).  The atonement was that he (Jesus), who knew no sin, became sin for us…., with the result that the Father had to turn away and forsake him.  The penalty for sin is spiritual death; separation from God, not physical death.

This presentation of penal substitutionary atonement, with the Son suffering as a volunteer, avoids any suggestion of the split in the Trinity which is implied by Piper’s version. It refutes Steve Chalke’s accusation of “cosmic child abuse”. The focus is no longer on the Father’s wrath but on his love. This seems similar to J.I. Packer’s view of the atonement as “planned by the holy Three in their eternal solidarity of mutual love”. It is also compatible with the Christus Victor model of the atonement, differing from it in perspective more than in content. Most importantly, it is far more biblical than Piper’s caricature.

The only major negative point I would make about Olson’s critique of Piper’s position is that Olson follows Piper in focusing too much on personal sin and justification, on what Scot McKnight calls the “soterian gospel”. Thus Olson’s gospel seems a little unbalanced in the way that I described in my post this morning Which Gospel? Justice or Justification? Olson doesn’t seem to have commented on McKnight’s book The King Jesus Gospel . I would be interested to see his response.

Which Gospel? Justice or Justification?

Scot McKnightScot McKnight posts today on The Three “J’s” in the Gospel Debate, and by doing so opens up in interesting ways this debate about what the gospel is and how we should understand it. This debate is fundamental to the Christian faith, because, in McKnight’s words,

The gospel is at the heart today of every major theological debate, and it spills over into one ecclesiastical debate after another.

For McKnight the key to the debate is how to frame the gospel. He notes that “some people frame the gospel through the category of justice“, and others “through the category of justification“. The latter group, especially those who call themselves “Reformed”, tend to reject as “liberals” the former, who tend towards political activism. The latter often reject the former as “fundamentalists”. McKnight responds to both groups:

The gospel, I contend, is not properly framed as injustice becoming justice (though clearly this happens) or as the unjust becoming just/justified (though clearly this happens too). And the debate between these two folks proves an inability to convince one leads to the other compellingly. There’s a better way.  Instead…

This is where McKnight brings in his third J. He writes that “some people frame the gospel through the category of Jesus“, and for his discussion of this framing he links to his own recent book The King Jesus Gospel: The Original Good News Revisited . He concludes:

There are three J’s in the gospel debate. The right J is Jesus.

If you preach Jesus as the gospel you will get both justification and justice.
If you preach justification you may get Jesus (but I see only some of Jesus and not the whole of Jesus) and you may get some justice (I’m skeptical on this one).
If you preach justice you may get some justification (but I’m skeptical on enough justice gospelers ever getting to justification) and you get Jesus, but again only some of Jesus (often only his teachings, his life, and his life as an example).

If you preach the Jesus of Paul’s gospel (1 Cor 15) or the apostolic sermons in Acts or the gospel of the Gospels, you get all of Jesus and all of Jesus creates both justice and justification.

As for me and my house, we take the third J.

And so will I. Jesus comes first. Following him leads to personal justification and also to action for justice. But both have to spring from a relationship with him and follow the path on which he leads.

Do we really need a Charismatic Reformation?

J. Lee GradyScot McKnight reposts an article by J. Lee Grady, in Charisma News, It’s (Past) Time for a Charismatic Reformation. As the article is in honour of Reformation Day tomorrow, Grady offers a set of theses, not 95 like Luther’s (which McKnight also posted today) but a mere 15. These theses (don’t try to say that too quickly!) are directed at today’s charismatic church, which, he claims, needs a new Reformation. He writes:

I am no Luther, but I’ve grown increasingly aware that the so-called “Spirit-filled” church of today struggles with many of the same things the Catholic church faced in the 1500s. We don’t have “indulgences”—we have telethons. We don’t have popes—we have super-apostles. We don’t support an untouchable priesthood—we throw our money at celebrity evangelists who own fleets of private jets.

Well, Grady certainly has some hard things to say. But who is he saying them to? Is he perhaps attacking a straw man? I won’t go through all his theses, but to respond to some of them:

  1. Which charismatics really treat the Holy Spirit as “an “it” … a blob, a force, or an innate power”? Maybe some people do try to manipulate him, but are they really charismatics?
  2. Which charismatics have dramatic experiences but do not test them against Scripture? But while it is true that “Visions, dreams, prophecies and encounters with angels must be in line with Scripture”, we must be careful not to reject ones that don’t accord with our preconceived interpretations of Scripture. And if the test here is supposed to be that the church mustn’t do anything not explicitly described in the Bible, then that rules out most of the things that ANY church does.
  3. Who really blames everything on demons? Maybe some blame too much on them, but overstating one’s case does not help such theses to be accepted.
  4. Does anyone really believe that we can win spiritual battles just by shouting at demons? But surely it can be a legitimate part of the persevering prayer which is needed.

Now I can in general agree with the rest of the 15 theses. But I still wonder if the abuses that Grady points out are genuine or widespread. Of course where these abuses are found they need to be stopped. But the problem with Grady’s article is that it suggests that the charismatic church is in a far worse state than it really is. Thus he plays into the hands of its enemies, who can easily misunderstand Grady as suggesting that these abuses are characteristic of the charismatic movement as a whole.

However, I can entirely agree with Grady’s final thesis:

15. Let’s make the main thing the main thing. The purpose of the Holy Spirit’s anointing is to empower us to reach others. We are at a crossroads today: Either we continue off-course, entertained by our charismatic sideshows, or we throw ourselves into evangelism, church planting, missions, discipleship, and compassionate ministry that helps the poor and fights injustice. Churches that embrace this New Reformation will focus on God’s priorities.

Yes, this kind of charismatic Reformation is what we need today.

Peter Enns Unpacks Theological Belligerence

Peter EnnsIn a post Fear Leads to Anger: Unpacking Theological Belligerence Peter Enns brilliantly explores the roots of why many Christians are so quick to attack their brothers and sisters in Christ over doctrinal differences, which on further investigation often turn out to be illusory or trivial. He writes:

When I see someone who:

seeks theological conflict with fellow Christians,

or is quick to turn the temperature up at the slightest provocation,

or presumes to be right at every turn and has has an excessive need to display it,

I know I am dealing with a deeply fearful person.

Sadly there are far too many fearful people like this on the blogosphere.

And not only there, as Enns knows personally. In 2008 he was effectively fired from Westminster Theological Seminary because of the controversy over his book Inspiration and Incarnation: Evangelicals and the Problem of the Old Testament. He has also recently ceased to be a Senior Fellow with the Biologos Foundation (confirmed by his own edit of his Wikipedia biography on 19th September 2011, although curiously he is still listed as a Senior Fellow at the Biologos website), and one blogger has reported his departure as follows:

What both Enns and Karl Giberson (also recently departed) had in common was their repudiation of the physical existence of Adam and Eve—something that angered the evangelicals, who desperately want to save that story to ensure that Jesus didn’t die for a mere metaphor.  I would guess that both Enns and Giberson were shown the door because of this issue …

Well, that may be pure speculation, but if anything like true it would suggest that more deeply fearful people have turned on Enns.

So all credit to Peter Enns that he has not responded in anger or even in self-justification against the people who have had him fired, at least once and perhaps twice.

How much power does Satan have in the world?

I was rather surprised by a reaction I received to my post Lance Wallnau’s Apocalyptic Vision of the Kingdom. Rod of Alexandria, who usually posts at Political Jesus, chose Joel Watts’ blog Unsettled Christianity for his post, addressed to me, Thanks, Peter! More Evidence Dominionists Reject Christus Victor.

Rod of AlexandriaIn this post Rod looks at an issue which was not at all in focus in Lance Wallnau’s video or in my post about it, and jumps to an unjustified conclusion about Wallnau’s view of the Atonement. He then compounds his error by generalising this view to “Dominionists”, that extremely ill-defined group who, if Wallnau is to be included, must include anyone who accepts that some Christians should be involved in politics. I wrote more about this in comments on Rod’s post.

My main point here is rather different. It springs from what Rod wrote in his post and his own comments on it. In the post he expounds his own Christus Victor view of the Atonement. He writes that in this model

The Devil is defeated, he has no ground to stand on … Satan is defeated and is stuck here, with only the ability to lie. … Satan is in retreat—this is the message of hope of CV atonement; he cannot hide, he has been exposed.

I would totally agree, although I am not as committed to a specific model of the Atonement as Rod seems to be. And I am almost sure that Lance Wallnau would agree. Although I summarised part of his teaching as “Satan taking his last stand on earth”, I did not mean to suggest that Satan has firm ground on earth on which to take this stand.

But Rod claims that Wallnau’s “views of Satan … contradict the claims of Christus Victor”. When I objected he responded by linking, indirectly, to a YouTube video of Wallnau saying something like “Satan Hand Picks Our Government Leaders”:

Here are some of Wallnau’s actual words in this video (length 2:34):

Satan determines which ones he is going to get the most out of and promotes them to the top (1:10). … And the false prophets and counterfeit priesthood of Satan isn’t necessarily wearing clerical robes. They’re dressed in suits and they have Gucci briefcases, but they are his priests in many cases, because they were hand picked for that assignment at the top of the mind moulders, because he gives it to whom he wills (1:53).

“Right Wing Watch” who posted this seem to expect viewers to be shocked by it. But to me it looks as if Wallnau is hinting at much the same as the Occupy protesters, attributing the ills of our society to a few people “dressed in suits and they have Gucci briefcases”.

Rod seriously misunderstands Wallnau here:

Wallnau also believes Satan has the power to determine who is in power: … he totally is anti-everything Christus Victor, if not a dominionist. No CV affirming Christian believes the Devil has that sort of power.

But Wallnau says nothing about “power to determine” anything at all. Yes, he uses the word “determines”, but in the context he is clearly using it in the sense “decides, chooses”. He clarifies this later with “hand picked”. In other words, he is teaching that Satan chooses which of his followers, his “priests”, are fit for promotion to the top of one of the “seven mountains”, of which, we must remember, government is only one.

Rod clarifies his objection to this teaching of Wallnau by denying that Satan has “the power of election, to choose who is in control of the world”. But he accepts that Satan has “the ability to lie”, and this is the only power that the evil one needs to put his chosen people on the mountain tops – if his followers are in the majority, or even if they are a minority but the others keep out of politics or retreat into monasteries. This is because Satan, the great deceiver, is also the great persuader. He only needs to get a few key people behind him to persuade those who pull the strings of power in our world, or even a whole electorate, to choose his candidates for the highest offices. By the way, here I don’t want to imply that any specific office holders, or potential ones, are Satan’s candidates.

To support his claim that Satan’s power is limited, Rod quotes Hebrews 2:14, in an anonymous version which reads, in part,

so that through death [Jesus] might destroy the one who has the power of death, that is, the devil.

This reads rather differently in NIV:

so that by his death [Jesus] might break the power of him who holds the power of death—that is, the devil.

Hebrews 2:14 (NIV)

The Greek verb katargeo, rendered “destroy” in Rod’s version, is probably better understood as “make powerless”, hence NIV’s “break the power”. But if it does mean “destroy”, it is clear from other Bible passages that this destruction was not already accomplished when Jesus died and rose again. The cross may have made Satan’s final annihilation inevitable, but it is apparently only at the very end that it will actually happen, when he is thrown into the lake of fire (Revelation 20:10).

Meanwhile, as the apostles specifically teach and as I commented on Rod’s post, Satan is alive and active in the world, in our current “church age” after the Resurrection and Pentecost:

Peter: Satan can fill apparent Christians’ hearts (Acts 5:3);

Paul: Satan can scheme and might outwit Christians (2 Corinthians 2:11);

Paul: Satan can block Christians’ way (1 Thessalonians 2:18);

Peter: The devil prowls around and might devour Christians (1 Peter 5:8);

John: The evil one controls the world (1 John 5:19).

Now Rod is correct that Satan has

a power to deceive and over the lives who believe his lies, but nothing more.

But he doesn’t need anything more to exercise his control over the world.

However, the situation is not quite as bleak as I have painted it, because we Christians are in the world. The apostle John writes to us that

the whole world is under the control of the evil one

1 John 5:19 (NIV)

but also that

the one who is in you is greater than the one who is in the world.

1 John 4:4 (NIV)

Indeed Satan has no power over us, because he can only tell lies and we know the truth. We need to recognise his lies, but we have no reason to be afraid of him. By the power of the Holy Spirit we can proclaim this truth, refute Satan’s lies, and expose his deception. But we can’t do this by hiding in holes in fear. Instead, like Jonathan and his armour bearer in 1 Samuel 14:1-23, we need to boldly climb the mountain, confront the enemy, and take back the world for God.

Is this “dominionism”? Maybe. But surely it is better than letting Satan rule the world through his chosen candidates.

#Occupy Wall St #OWS, or be a Hide-Behind-Wall Saint?

At Red Letter Christians Jonathan Wilson-Hartgrove writes an interesting response to Occupy Wall Street and the worldwide Occupy movements which have grown up in response: Waiting For St. Benedict: Where Does Occupy Wall Street Go From Here? But I cannot agree with Jonathan’s apparent conclusions. I can agree with him that

The world as we know it is coming to an end. We’re all aching for the world-to-come.

But the question is how to get there. …

The Occupy Wall Street protesters may indeed not know how to get to where they want to be – or even exactly where it is they want to be, but on that issue see this great cartoon (thanks to Sam Norton for the link):

The Silent MajorityBut I’m sure they don’t want to go where Jonathan seems to think they should go:

Early in the 6th century, when the Roman Empire faced attacks from without and discontent from within, there came a point when most people knew that things had to change but no one was certain what would come next. About that time, a middle-class young Italian named Benedict left his home in Nursia to go to school in Rome only to find that the Empire which had been centered there was almost completely gone. … Benedict went to a cave, built himself a prayer cell, and so enrolled in the university of the world-to-come. …

The power of Benedict’s Rule was this: in a world that was falling apart, it gave structure to small communities of faith that could experiment in a new kind of community. It did not aim to restore Rome to its former glory or even to reform the church. The Rule simply offered people a way to live a vision of life together rooted in service, humility, and love. Throughout the Dark Ages, the Rule guided communities that existed as points of light in a sea of dark despair.

Yes, “Saint” Benedict’s Rule and the monasteries which sprang from it may have saved some of the treasures of ancient civilisation and provided part of the basis for its Renaissance rebuilding. Meanwhile they became the rich oppressors of the late Middle Ages, which had to be overthrown through a protest movement called the Reformation. This slow process of recovery followed many centuries of the chaos of the “Dark Ages”, and, to quote Tolkien, “some things that should not have been forgotten were lost”.

Wouldn’t it have been better if a talented man like Benedict (c.480–547), instead of retreating into monasticism, had stayed in Rome, like his contemporary Boethius (c. 480–524), to work hard at preserving and renewing its failing civilisation? Boethius, who has been called “the last of the Romans”, lost his life because of his political involvement, and within a generation Rome was devastated and largely abandoned. Benedict kept himself safely out of the way and died peacefully in old age. Could he have prevented the fall of Rome? Probably not, single-handed, but he could have tried.

Our western civilisation is not yet as far gone as the western Roman empire in the early 6th century. It is not yet ruled by foreigners who have seized power by force. It is not yet too far gone to be saved and for its wrongs to be righted. But if Christians, who may well have the best perspective on its rights and wrongs and the best ideas on how to save it, don’t play their part, the future is bleak. Our civilisation looks likely to be torn apart, as Rome was, by those with financial and military might but often lacking goodwill and long term vision.

So, I would plead with my fellow Christians, don’t be thinking at the moment how to retreat into personal sanctity in places of safety, behind walls or in mountain hideaways. Yes, there is a place for Christian community, “a way to live a vision of life together rooted in service, humility, and love”, but it is not in isolation from the world like Benedict’s monasteries. Rather, as Christians we need to occupy our neighbourhoods, if not in the literal way of Occupy Wall Street, at least by being lights of Christian witness within them.

For some of us, as it was for Boethius, the way to be a Christian witness will be political activity of one kind or another. We shouldn’t let scares about “dominionism”, as if there is a real danger that anyone will have enough power to impose Christian morality by force, distract us from our urgent calling to rescue our world from the threatening chaos. Do we want our world to remain under the “Domination System” of the evil one, as expounded by Walter Wink and today by Kurt Willems? Do we really think that is better for our world than it being under the dominion of God?

As Kurt writes, our Christian task is not to join the occupiers, nor to demonise them, nor to flee from them:

Only when we see our oppressors as gifts, as objects of love in spite of their un-love, will we be able to become the kind of just peacemakers that the way of Jesus invites us.  Our task as followers of Jesus, when we understand the dynamics at work in the Domination System, is to humanize our oppressor and in turn become more fully human ourselves. …

… the people of God have a gift to offer the world – the gift of the “third way” between inaction and violence.  The way of Jesus exposes the dehumanizing systems of the world, while seeking to raise the humanity of all parties involved in any conflict – even one dealing with economics.

Lance Wallnau’s Apocalyptic Vision of the Kingdom

Lance WallnauLance Wallnau sent me a link to an interesting new video (19 minutes) outlining some of his teaching: Increasing Access to Peace and Glory in Every Shaking. (Sadly the “embed” feature doesn’t seem to work in WordPress, but this link does.)

Lance is infamous in some circles for the leading role he takes in promoting the Seven Mountains Mandate. This has been accused of being “dominionism”, but, as I have argued before, it is nothing of the sort: it is just Christians being urged to play their full part in whatever field of human activity they find themselves in, including politics.

In this video Lance shows how his Seven Mountains teaching fits into a wider picture, an almost apocalyptic vision of the kingdom of God coming to earth. He starts to present this at about 6:53 in the video. He starts by agreeing with N.T. Wright that the future hope is not us going to heaven but heaven coming to earth. Indeed he sees heaven, which he identifies with the kingdom of God, as currently coming near to earth. As a result “we are receiving a kingdom that cannot be shaken” (Hebrews 12:28, NIV).

One small issue I found in this video is that Lance uses the word “literally” about the movements he sees, starting at about 8:45. I am sure he wouldn’t really claim that his third heaven is above the earth, with the second heaven in between, in one of our real physical dimensions. Rather he is talking about movement in some kind of spiritual dimension. In this case it might have been better to avoid the word “literally”.

The result of this process of heaven invading earth, Lance says, is chaos but also new possibilities. He sees Satan taking his last stand on earth. As Christians we are in a place, the kingdom, that cannot be shaken, but to remain unshaken through this we need to be filled with the power of the Holy Spirit. The believer’s edge, advantage for life in this world, is to live in the authority which this gives us, the authority to plunder the strong man’s house.

This picture may not be the same as many of you may be used to. I would accept that some of the details need to be worked out more fully. But I hope the video is enough to show you all that Lance Wallnau is not pushing the “dominionist” message of legalism but has a totally different vision of Christians living the life of God’s kingdom in our world.

Campolo: The future is bright – is this “Dominionism”?

Today we see the final humiliation of Harold Camping, as his prediction of the end of the world today fails to come true – at least it will have failed if you are still reading this tomorrow! Camping may be unlike most evangelicals in offering a precise date for the end of the world. But he is in line with many of them in preaching that the end if nigh, that Jesus will come to rescue his people and destroy an evil world.

Tony CampoloTony Campolo, who has little in common with Camping except for the first four letters of his surname, is one of a growing number of evangelicals, now including Peter Wagner, who take a very different position. Campolo has posted an important article about this at Red Letter Christians: Hope for Despairing Christians In A World That is Getting Worse and Worse. He starts:

For many Evangelical Christians, the normative attitude is to view world history with despair.  Most have been led to believe that forces of darkness are increasingly raising havoc in the world as we move toward the end of history.  Many have grown up believing that evil will become more and more pronounced in the last days, and the demonic forces of darkness more and more evident in the affairs of our lives.

He then gives good biblical arguments against this picture, and shows that it is not true to what is happening in the world as a whole today. He concludes with a very different scenario:

Jesus is coming back and, as it says in the first chapter of Philippians, the good work that He began in us, He will complete on the day of His coming.  The future is bright because we have the promise of Jesus that His Kingdom will grow until the end, and at the end all that is evil and perverse will be destroyed.  His Kingdom will come on earth as it is in Heaven. … Praise God for what the Church and its missionaries have accomplished in His name and through His power.

It is good to see some Christian leaders clearly standing against the unbiblical teaching, dating back only to the 19th century, that the world is going to get worse and worse, and that believers will be snatched away from it before the return of Jesus.

But is this what some Christians, and political commentators, have condemned as “dominionism”? Clearly it is not the “dominionism” of the religious right, as expounded by R.J. Rushdoony and allegedly promoted by presidential hopefuls Michele Bachmann and Rick Perry. After all, Campolo is a leading figure on the so-called religious left. But, as Allan R. Bevere has argued, following James Hunter, in his book The Politics of Witness,

the religious right and the religious left are nothing more than mirror images of each other … both groups are centered on a faulty hermeneutic (method of biblical interpretation). (p. 37, emphasis as in the original)

I agree with Bevere that these groups share a hermeneutic, but, as I explained in my review of the book, I am far from convinced that it is as fundamentally faulty as he claims. This alleged fault is linked to what Scot McKnight has rightly pointed out today, that there is a danger among the religious left of confusing social justice with the work of the kingdom of God. I could equally argue that among the religious right there is a danger of confusing promotion of family values in society with the work of the kingdom of God. But Christians are surely called, as Jeremiah appealed to the exiles in Babylon (Jeremiah 29:7), to seek the peace and prosperity of the place where they are living, in exile from their real home in the kingdom of God. This is what provides a proper theological basis for political action by Christians on the left and on the right.

Moreover, the work that we Christians are doing in the kingdom of this world will not be in vain. Ultimately, when Jesus returns, we will be able to cry out in triumph with the words from Revelation which Campolo quotes (in a different version):

The kingdom of the world has become
the kingdom of our Lord and of his Messiah,
and he will reign for ever and ever.

Revelation 11:15 (NIV)

And this implies that our work for the good of this world will become transformed into work for the kingdom of God. Indeed the good work that Jesus began in and through us he will complete on the day of his coming.

Anabaptists: Pioneers of the Charismatic Movement

Anabaptist Dirk Willems saves his pursuerIt seems that the early Anabaptists should be acknowledged as forerunners of the modern charismatic movement in the church. Thanks to a Twitter link by Alan Knox to an old post of his Things I Didn’t Learn in Baptist History Class, and to Jon for his post History of Speaking Up In Church, I found some interesting but little known information in the Wikipedia article on Anabaptists (links and footnotes deleted):

Charismatic manifestations

Within the inspirationist wing of the Anabaptist movement, it was not unusual for charismatic manifestations to appear, such as dancing, falling under the power of the Holy Spirit, “prophetic processions” (at Zurich in 1525, at Munster in 1534 and at Amsterdam in 1535), and speaking in tongues. In Germany some Anabaptists, “excited by mass hysteria, experienced healings, glossolalia, contortions and other manifestations of a camp-meeting revival”. The Anabaptist congregations that later developed into the Mennonite and Hutterite churches tended not to promote these manifestations, but did not totally reject the miraculous. Pilgram Marpeck, for example, wrote against the exclusion of miracles: “Nor does Scripture assert this exclusion…God has a free hand even in these last days.” Referring to some who had been raised from the dead, he wrote: “Many of them have remained constant, enduring tortures inflicted by sword, rope, fire and water and suffering terrible, tyrannical, unheard-of deaths and martyrdoms, all of which they could easily have avoided by recantation. Moreover one also marvels when he sees how the faithful God (who, after all, overflows with goodness) raises from the dead several such brothers and sisters of Christ after they were hanged, drowned, or killed in other ways. Even today, they are found alive and we can hear their own testimony…Cannot everyone who sees, even the blind, say with a good conscience that such things are a powerful, unusual, and miraculous act of God? Those who would deny it must be hardened men”. The Hutterite Chronicle and The Martyr’s Mirror record several accounts of miraculous events, such as when a man named Martin prophesied while being led across a bridge to his execution in 1531: “…this once yet the pious are led over this bridge, but no more hereafter.” Just “a short time afterwards such a violent storm and flood came that the bridge was demolished”.

Holy Spirit leadership

The Anabaptists insisted upon the “free course” of the Holy Spirit in worship, yet still maintained it all must be judged according to the Scriptures. The Swiss Anabaptist document titled “Answer of Some Who Are Called (Ana-)Baptists – Why They Do Not Attend the Churches”. One reason given for not attending the state churches was that these institutions forbade the congregation to exercise spiritual gifts according to “the Christian order as taught in the gospel or the Word of God in 1 Corinthians 14.” “When such believers come together, “Everyone of you (note every one) hath a psalm, hath a doctrine, hath a revelation, hath an interpretation,” and so on..When someone comes to church and constantly hears only one person speaking, and all the listeners are silent, neither speaking nor prophesying, who can or will regard or confess the same to be a spiritual congregation, or confess according to 1 Corinthians 14 that God is dwelling and operating in them through His Holy Spirit with His gifts, impelling them one after another in the above-mentioned order of speaking and prophesying”.

What I find interesting here is the clear evidence that the early Anabaptists were not only forerunners of the current organic church movement (Alan’s main concern) but also forerunners of the modern charismatic movement. This can be seen in their emphasis on prophecy, speaking in tongues, and miraculous healing. The phenomena of “falling under the power of the Holy Spirit” and “contortions” are reminiscent of the Toronto Blessing, one of the more recent expressions of charismatic renewal. And the reports of raising the dead remind one of Todd Bentley‘s claims.

The early Anabaptists were not the only Christians in their time to exercise the gifts of the Spirit. For example, in his book Surprised by the Voice of God Jack Deere has a chapter showing that the early Scottish Presbyterians practised prophecy. Even John Calvin may have spoken in tongues. But these gifts seem to have been more prominent in Anabaptist spirituality than in that of the other churches emerging from the Reformation.

The charismatic gifts soon fell into disuse among almost all these Protestant groups, including the Anabaptists. We have to accept that some of these charismatic Anabaptists went “off the rails” with outlandish prophecies, especially those linked with the misguided attempt to establish a theocracy at Münster. As a result prophecy got a bad name, and even the Anabaptists backed off from using the gifts. It was left to the Pentecostals of the early 20th century to rediscover this aspect of spirituality, and for the charismatic movement of the late 20th century to make these gifts again acceptable in many denominational churches.

Today’s church has a lot to learn from the early Anabaptists, who were so shamefully treated by most other Christians in their time, and who are still so often misrepresented. Here is yet another aspect of their spirituality which needs to be recovered for our days.

Driscoll’s two faces: God loves you, God hates you

JanusWhich does Pastor Mark Driscoll believe? That God loves everyone, or that God hates most people? Like the Roman God Janus he seems to have two different faces, and he can’t make his mind up which to present to the public.

Scott Bailey has quoted from a video by Driscoll, which was formerly posted at his church’s website but has since been taken down (annotations apparently by Zack):

Some of you, God hates you. Some of you, God is sick of you. God is frustrated with you. God is wearied by you. God has suffered long enough with you. He doesn’t think you’re cute. He doesn’t think it’s funny. He doesn’t think your excuse is “meritous” [the word he’s looking for here is “meritorious”]. He doesn’t care if you compare yourself to someone worse than you, He hates them too. God hates, right now, personally, objectively hates some of you.

The sermon this is taken from is new, but there is nothing new in Driscoll’s sentiments. Here at Gentle Wisdom I reported him saying much the same in 2007, in my post What Driscoll really said about God and hate, which included

GOD HATES SINNERS. …

The whole “God loves you and has a wonderful plan for your life” — that’s the wrong place to start. “God hates you and its going to go really really bad forever!” – hey now that is true…

But a completely different face of Driscoll is seen in his response when Fred Phelps and his family threatened to picket his church, a blog post from June this year with the long title Westboro Baptist Church, This False Prophet and His Blind Lemmings Welcome You to Our Whore House for God’s Grace and Free Donuts. (Thanks to Jeff commenting on Scott’s post for the link.) In this post when Driscoll writes:

God does not love everyone—in fact, He hates the majority of mankind, and has purposed to send them to hell when they die.

he is quoting, and then rejecting, the teaching of Westboro Baptist Church. Driscoll continues:

The whole ”read-the-words” of the Bible thingy is actually pretty good advice. And in reading the Bible, we see that it says everyone is loved by God, and though not everyone is saved, anyone who turns from sin and trusts in Jesus will receive eternal life. Additionally, we know that it’s not God’s hatred that leads people to repentance but instead his kindness (Romans 2:4). Here are some Scriptures that speak plainly about God’s love for people:

  • John 1:29: “John saw Jesus coming toward him and said, ‘Look, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world!’”
  • John 3:16–17: “For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him.”
  • 1 Tim. 2:3–6: “God our Savior, who wants all men to be saved and to come to a knowledge of the truth. For there is one God and one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus, who gave himself as a ransom for all men…”
  • 2 Peter 3:9: “He [God] is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance.”

Good teaching! Here Driscoll sounds almost like an Arminian, choosing to quote the Bible verses most commonly used to refute Calvinism.

Driscoll offers a more nuanced presentation in his recent FAQ: Predestination and Election. Much of this is a fair presentation of the issues between Calvinists and Arminians. In it he mostly avoids the “hate” word. But the generally Calvinist tendency becomes clear in the section “Answers To Common Questions About Predestination & Election”, which omits from its long list of Bible verses discussed the “Arminian” verses Driscoll chose to quote to the Westboro Baptists. Just before he confirms that his own position is more or less Calvinist (although he calls it Augustinian), Driscoll writes:

Does God love the non-elect?

Yes, he does, and does so with common grace (Matt. 5:45). Yet he also has a special affection for the elect. So, God loves everyone in a general way, and also loves the elect in a saving way.

In other words, as 4xiom interprets this in a comment on Scott’s post,

God brings a person into the world to be tortured endlessly as an object of his vindictive hatred, but his love for said person is clearly demonstrated by a brief period of ‘common grace’?

If Driscoll really believes what he wrote to the Westboro Baptists, why isn’t this material included in his FAQ? And why is there no explanation of how he apparently believes in two contradictory things, that God hates many people and predestines them to hell, and that God loves everyone and wants them all to be saved?

So why the contradiction? Could it be that Driscoll is just so naturally combative that he always takes the contrary position to anyone he is discussing these matters with? Perhaps more probably he does in fact take the moderate Calvinist position outlined in his FAQ, but sometimes in his preaching he gets carried away with “God hates you” type language and so goes against his own theology. That would explain why the offending video was taken down.

But what does it say about Driscoll as a preacher if he is so little in control of what he says that he makes unintentional public statements like this? With this hate speech he is not only denying his own theology, he is bringing the Christian faith into disrepute. At least Fred Phelps is consistent in how he spews out hatred. If Mark Driscoll really doesn’t have the same beliefs, why does he sometimes say the same things?