28 January 2006

Of dreams, semi-hemi-demi private revelations, machetes, monkeys and their mystical masters

by Dan Phillips

[Update: some links are now dead. Story relayed below is also reported here.]

In my opinion, the Powers behind End of the Spear made a big mistake in casting well-known homosexual activist Chad Allen in the two (2) lead roles. I laid the foundations and made some predictions here, then I scored the accuracy of my predictions within five days of their issuance here (better than most modern wanna-be's), and finally tried to make some concluding comments on the controversy here.

In sum, my problem wasn't so much that the organ grinder got a monkey, to mess with Frank's parable. It's that the grinder hired a "monkey" well-known for defending and practicing the devastating art of machete-swinging, handed him a brand-new and freshly-sharpened machete, and set him loose on an initially unsuspecting audience.

But this isn't about that.

This is about the after-the-fact explanations that have been given, and their broader implications for Christian living. Jason Janz has been trying hard to follow this story conscientiously and Christianly from the start. Janz has now given a full accounting of the responses of Executive Producer Mart Green, and of Steve Saint himself, to Christians' concerns about this casting decision.

Whether or not you agree with all our reasoning and specifics, I think you have to grant that Jason, I, and many others have raised some contentful, specific, reasoned concerns about this decision. You also have to grant that subsequent developments have borne out our concerns, rather than negating them.

Now, there would be various ways of dealing with these concerns. You could ignore them. You could attack the personalities of those levelling the charges. You could say, "I see it differently," and refuse to engage. You could put your fingers in your ears and hum a little tune. You could feign inability to understand Engilsh. You could point and say "Look! a comet!", and change the subject.

Or you could do what I think is the responsible Christian thing: think it through seriously, Biblically, and prayerfully, being humbly open to correction (Proverbs 1:5; 9:8b-9; 25:12). You could then present a reasoned response, either explaining why your position is Biblical and God-honoring -- or confessing that you'd blown it, and showing genuine repentance.

Or you could slap down the Christianoid trump-card: "God told me to."

The earliest response I read from Steve Saint himself, reported by Agape Press in this story, dated January 19, 2006, was this:
I thought, 'What happens if I stand before God someday and He says to me, "Steve, I went out of my way to orchestrate an opportunity for Chad Allen to see what it would be like to live as your father did.' And then I could picture Him looking at me and saying, 'Steve, why did you mess with my plan?'"
Saint presents himself as just thinking this through, just speculating and wondering and musing. You can agree with his thinking, or you can disagree. I would have disagreed, and in many ways. But as Timmy also observed, it's simply presented here as a what-if.

Now Janz reports a response from Steve Saint that seems very different:
The deciding factor was a dream I had in Panama, just before Chad arrived. I was being chased by a mob of Christians who were angry with me for having desecrated 'their story'. I tried to explain that this story was even more special to me than to them, but they would not listen. The answer to their hostility was easy - just ask Chad to remove himself, since Mart could not rescind his contract with Chad.

As quickly as this thought came to me, I found myself standing before God. His look was not as compassionate as I had expected. With no introduction or welcome, God spoke to me. "Steve, you of all people should know that I love all of my children. With regard to Chad Allen, I went to great lengths to orchestrate an opportunity for him to see what it would be like for him to walk the trail that I marked for him. Why did you mess with my plans for him?"

I was fully awake by the end of this sleepy mind play. I knew that there would be a price to pay for any position I would take on this issue, regardless of the fact that I had not wanted to be involved. I knew one thing for sure. I would rather face the anger and even hatred of people who feel I have let them down here; than to take any chance of having to stand before my Savior and have to answer for messing up His plans for Chad.
So much seems wrong with this, but I'll confine myself to one issue. What seems to be presented as Saint's musings in the older article, now becomes the Christianoid trump-card. God tells Steve Saint something He didn't tell the rest of us.

Now, if true, that ends the discussion. Who wants to argue with God? Not you, not me. So that's it, right? We're done.

Mart Green presents his part very similarly, in the same exchange with Jason Janz (emphases added):
I wish I were able to articulate all the things that happened which led to me deciding God had, in fact, sent Chad to play the parts of Nate and Steve. It is very hard to share the ways the Lord leads especially when you can't fully grasp why He is doing things that don't make sense to the natural man. It is hard to see people have to defend a decision that I was responsible for, for people to have ugly things said about them because of a decision that I made. Why must others have to go through this when it wasn't their fault? I have total peace about the decision that was made. But I have to trust God for the others affected, as it is too big for me to handle. I must admit even though I wouldn't have thought so when I began the process, I have total peace Chad Allen was the man God intended to act in the movie, End of the Spear. I will be held accountable for this decision and I feel I have made the right decision.
What we have here, in terms of content, is that Green interpreted circumstances and feelings as indicating God's will and leading. And so now he "feels" sure that he has read God's mind, and knows God's will for this situation. Therefore, anyone who opposes his decision opposes God's mind, and thus opposes the will of God as made known to this one man, Mart Green. Evidently, such ones are thinking like "the natural man."

If you take away the feelings, readings of providential signs and portents, and claims of dreams, what are you left with? As I read them, they say they had no idea Allen was a homosexual activist when they offered him the role, and just felt he was the very best man for the part.

Now, if that was all we had to interact with, we could have a real, rollicking debate. We could ask how a Chad Allen could really be the very best and only choice for this role. It wasn't name-recognition, as I think you'd have to say that Allen is a B-list actor. There's no shame in hiring, or being, a B-list actor; but there are many excellent B-list actors not known for championing and trying to legitimize soul-destroying practices -- let alone capable Christian actors. And isn't that rather a slam to working Christian actors, to suggest that none of them could have handled this role?

But even more than that, we could express astonishment that anyone could be in such a powerful position, involving so many people and so much money, and not take the time to find out what even a dim bulb like me was able to find out after two minutes at IMDB.

But now we can't have that discussion. Green and Saint have removed themselves from being engaged on such trivial concerns as facts, Scriptural principles, and reasoning. God hinted and motioned and portented His will to them, privately, by special extra-Biblical channels. Oppose their decision, and you oppose God. Disagree with them, and you are sinning -- unless you have a definition of sin that doesn't include "opposing the will of God."

That certainly seems to be the design and implication -- and that's also the problem with this whole open-Canon or leaky-Canon mindset we were discussing at the old Pyromaniac site. If you think God now whispers, mutters, nudge-nudges, does hand-signals and mime, drops hints, gives meaningful looks and broadcasts low-frequency hunches, and if you invest those perceptions with Divine authority... well, you've removed yourself from the arena of debate. You're not responsible anymore. Anyone who disagrees with you is fighting against God, and therefore is a bad, bad man or woman.

On the other hand, if you really, really believe in the fact and implications of the sufficiency of Scripture (2 Timothy 3:15-17); and if you believe that the Word of God gives you all the direction God expects you to follow, and is how the Holy Spirit talks to you (cf. Proverbs 6:20-23; Hebrews 3:7f.); and if you believe that it is your God-given responsibility to think through and make responsible decisions in areas not directly ruled on by Scripture (Proverbs 16:1, 9; 19:21) -- then you're in an entirely different position. You have to learn to think, decide, and act like a grown-up (Hebrews 5:11-14). It's hard, and it's hard work. It's painful. I don't really like it all that much; if there was an "out," I'd be the first to bolt for it. But it's what God calls us to do.

How do I know?

God told me.

He told me in all the Scriptures laid out above, and many others beside. He told me in every Biblical command addressed to me as a Christian, and by the fact that He put those commands in Scripture instead of confining the New Testament to one sentence: "Everything else you need to know, God will tell you directly." Everything that leads me to that conclusion is publicly available to every Christian; I claim no private, secret knowledge. It's all on the table, laid out as the common possession (and responsiblity) of every child of God.

And because God doesn't tell me (or you) anything that He doesn't also tell every other Christian (Hebrews 1:1-2; 2:1-4), He told you, too.

Dan Phillips's signature


36 comments:

Matthew said...

I'm not exactly one to keep up with the latest goings-on as far as social/political hot potatoes go, but I have had the same recurring dream over the last week or so.

Fortunately, it has nothing to do with "mobs of angry Christians" or homosexuals activists or film producers with obvious agendas. :)

Patrick said...

Great Post!

The producers need to be held accountable and I'm more convinced now that they have made a foolish choice.

Not to diss Steve Saint or Mart Green, but the "god told me so" argument is pretty weak..

ResponsiveReader said...

One of my Elders is awlays reminding me that in his industry: "Its often times easier to ask forgiveness, than for permission." It is easier to deal with the fall-out AFTER a decision you know is wrong - than to justify it sufficiently BEFORE you act on it. The Christian community in this country will let this fade into oblivion and just get on with forgetting it all happened. Every Tribe Entertainment will turn out films without the controversy and no one will even remember.

One thing I found interesting at their site. Their Mission statement.

Our Mission: "To create quality entertainment for a broad audience
that inspires hope through truth.

Every Tribe Entertainment grew out of the hopes and dreams of film-makers and individuals who desire to make a difference in our world and in our culture. Frustrated with the lack of quality story content in films today, and driven to provide more than just entertainment in our films, Every Tribe was founded to bring to life stories of courage and strength of the human spirit. Courage, tolerance, mercy, forgiveness, faith and love. We base our film choices on what we hope to inspire rather than what we hope to sell.

This philosophy has its fingerprints on what we do and how we do it. We hope to inspire all who view our films as well as those who work with us to create them."

Make no mistake, there is nothing overtly Christian in it. Somethings parallel, but they are being true to THEIR colors. I would not expect Christian values from this statement, for they are nothing other than loftiness without any moral underpinnings. Shame on us for not seeing through it sooner.

donsands said...

i think it's great to make movies with the intent to "inspire hope through truth". And there is a thousands of storylines for them to chose from. However, when you chose a story like Jim Elliott and his fellow martyrs going forth for the gospel, in the gospel, and for the name of Christ, and to even die for the gospel of grace, why not stick to the storyline. I don't get. Not to even mention the Lord Jesus Christ hurts my heart.
May the Lord help us to be courageous without arrogance, and fear Him and not people.
Amen.

John D. Chitty said...

Hey, Responsive Reader,

I'm glad you picked up on the same thing I picked up on in Every Tribe Entertainment's Mission Statement. It confirms for me the fact that, while they may be "fighting the culture war," they are doing so as a movie production company, not as a Christian church or non-profit parachurch ministry. They are expressly dedicated to providing "positive" "clean""good" movies that will have a wholesome and refreshing effect on the supply of film choices we have to make, however, they have not expressed a commitment to being discriminitory in the types of characters they hire to portray the types of characters they're out to portray. Correction, they will discriminate against all the actors who didn't do as good of a job in the auditions.

I'm telling you, we American Christians just have too much hope in everything but the Chrisitan ministry revealed in Scripture to "save America." The church isn't going to impress the world into becoming Christians by insisting on working without them while we live "of the world but not in it" (thanks for that line, Michael Horton), neither are we going to impress them and influence them with all of our hope-instilling, family oriented movies, God will bring to Christ those whom the Holy Spirit draws to faith in response to the Gospel preached (and Scripture didn't mean the Romans Road spelled out in "preachy message movies" on the big screen).

Sophisticated American Christian Culture Warriors, get over yourselves and enjoy a good story for what it is and quit telling others how to do their job. We should leave the preaching to the preachers (and yes, all you critics, that includes personal evangelism) and we should leave the entertaining to the entertainers. That's what it boils down to. The more we wring our hands about the "Christian Movie Industry," the more we continue spinning our wheels, when we could be trying to do our best at what our hands find to do (other then mote inspection) for the glory of God.

By the way, if you go see the movie without an agenda, you just might find something to appreciate about it.

Oh and I agree that Saint and Green and some of the other Christians involved in this project may be rather mystical in some of their thought processes but I believe this is more about Christian vocational decisions, living as God's people "in the world, but not of it" and less about the theological implications of their attempt to do the best job they can for God's glory. To honor a contract they've already committed to shows the kind of integrity other opportunistic Christian entertainers of recent history could have learned from.

Steve said...

So Steve Saint and Mart Green have saddled God with the blame for their ill-informed choice?

Are they making these statements in the hopes of appeasing the uproar they've caused?

They would've been far better off accepting the blame directly, and not dumping it on God. That's a far worse error than their choice of a homosexual activist for the lead role.

Steve said...

Capt. Headknowledge said: "To honor a contract they've already committed to shows the kind of integrity other opportunistic Christian entertainers of recent history could have learned from."

Which is more important: Honoring the contract, or honoring God?

And interesting you should attempt to argue "We should leave the preaching to the preachers (and yes, all you critics, that includes personal evangelism) and we should leave the entertaining to the entertainers."

The fact is, God calls every single Christian to the same standards, as recorded in His Word. Doesn't matter what our profession is--we're all called to be holy and to live with discernment. There isn't one set of standards for pastors/evangelists and another set for entertainers.

Kyle said...

Apparently Chad Allen converted—according to Mr. Saint, he's a child of God!

Mike Garner said...

This has actually been a very good post. I am not a cessationist so I disagree with a sentence here and there or some conclusions that are drawn. However, the article does a very good job. As a continuationist, we would of course argue that God is never going to "reveal" something to an individual that in any way contradicts what he has said before. We do not throw Spiritual principles out of the window and then say "Don't talk to me ... God already told me!"

Great piece. It is sad that this movie could have been so much better. If you look at the terrible reviews and the horriple position in the polls that it has maintained, then one begins to wonder if they will learn their lesson or keep defending this error.

In Christ alone,
mike

gaw said...

So where does freewill v. predestination fit into this equation? Could it be that God sovereignly ordained that Chad Allen would play that particular role in that particular movie? Or does arguing against the choice of selecting Allen for the lead role make you a closet arminian?

Which is more important: Honoring the contract, or honoring God?
Honoring a contract does honor God. Contracts are very dear to Him.

Mike Garner said...

So where does freewill v. predestination fit into this equation? Could it be that God sovereignly ordained that Chad Allen would play that particular role in that particular movie? Or does arguing against the choice of selecting Allen for the lead role make you a closet arminian?

Clearly he did ordain it ... it has come to pass.

However, the fact that He ordained it does not make it a good decision. The fact that he ordained it does not absolve them from their responsibility.

The simple illustration is the death of Christ.

Jesus was predestined to die on the cross.

Even so:
A) It is not wise to murder the son of God.
B) You are still guilty of sin regardless of the fact that it was ordained.

Stevie B said...

So God ordains sin?

Does this mean God is the author of sin then, Mr. Garner?

Matt said...

Oh, come on guys. You all know Mr. Garner didn't mean that. But obviously there is nothing in this universe that is outside of God's control, and so all sin that comes to pass must have been permitted by God, otherwise it could not have done so.

I would have thought that was an obvious point which needn't have come up here. Let's keep it real, please.

Darel said...

Sir,

I find your arguments unconvincing.

ambiance-five said...

I have a hard time understanding God ordaining "bad decisions" when all things work together toward good for the elect.

I would prefer to just believe something good will come out of it all.

Darel said...

I make no defense of ETE or any of the EOTS stuff....

However, I have a hard time reconciling Scripture with a disbelief that God speaks through dreams. Or that God has changed, and no longer uses dreams (or any other supernatural means) anymore.

donsands said...

"Him [Jesus] being delivered by the determined counsel and foreknowledge of God, you [men of Israel] have taken, and by wicked hands have crucified and slain."Acts 2:23

"For of a truth against thy holy child Jesus, whom thou has anointed, both Herod and Pontius-Pilate, with the Gentiles, and the people of Israel, were gathered togther,
For to do whatsoever thy hand and thy counsel determined before to be done." Acts 4: 27-28

"Joseph said, Fear not: for am I in the place of God?
But as for you, you thought evil against me; but God meant it unto good, to bring to pass, as it is this day, to save much people alive." Gen. 50: 19-20

The Scriptures teach this over and over. God is Holy and Sovereign, and He purposes things to be, and works all things after the counsel of His own will."
Whether it's His most ultimate act of sovereign grace, the Cross of our Savior, or bringing a filthy sinner like me into the light out of darkness, God displays His justice and mercy as He pruposes in Himself! And that should humble us before such an awesome, holy, and merciful Lord.

centuri0n said...

My wife is reading the End of the Spear and finds it a very interesting memoir.

I'm going to read it when she's done, and they I'll have more to say on this subject even though I said at my blog I was done.

centuri0n said...

I'm scrolling down this comments thread, and I see an rather ugly debate on Reformed theology looming on the horizon.

Does anyone really want to debate the Sovereignty of God based on David's post and the comments made so far in this thread? Is it even warranted?

DJP said...

Frank / centuri0n -- "Does anyone really want to debate the Sovereignty of God based on David's post and the comments made so far in this thread?"

By "David," do you mean "Daniel"? Or am I missing a post?

We really need to "do coffee."

(c8

== > Dan (or Daniel, or DJP) < ==

centuri0n said...

Sorry Daniel! ~8-O Everyone else confuses you with Canadian Daniel, and I confuse you with the guy in the office across from me ...

No excuse for that one. And we can't even edit these lousy blogger-based comments ...

DJP said...

I blame myself. I clearly haven't angered enough people to impress my name on everybody's mind. I promise to do better... or worser... or -- you know what I mean.

For instance, I notice everyone knows your name.

(c;

Jim Crigler said...

Same horse, different paddock

Thanks to Dan for bringing back up the topic Phil was trying to discuss when the whole cessationism thing blew up. Our precious Lord has sovereignly made private revelation the subject here again, and I hope all the Pyroids chime in on it.

I'm still looking forward to material dealing directly with Gothard and Blackaby.

Jim Crigler said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
donsands said...

centuriOn
Knee jerk reactions can surely become ugly.
Sorry about that cheif!

centuri0n said...

Don: I'm on your side of the fence. I'm sorta worried that the soft Reformed (the "not that there's anything wrong with that" crowd) and the non-Reformed ("you're making a monster out of God!") are going to start something they will neither finish nor listen to.

No harm done, yes? :)

donsands said...

No harm done, Si!
This was quite a well written article, indeed, and I enjoyed it, and agree with Dan, or Daniel, or DJP.

MTG said...

God told me so..is that not the dumb argument made by many today when they do stupid things?

Ken Banks said...

Excellent article.

I would offer one aspect in addition. Not only do we now have a public and therefore open revelation in His Word, we can all act as bereans when others say 'Thus saith the Lord.'

If we all would spend more time abiding and studying His Word there would be less private interpretation on a whole host of areas. 2 Pet 1:20

natalie said...

Good post. Amen on "God told me..."
Whenever I hear that, I think, "OK, does this go between Jude and Revelation, or after both? Am I supposed to write it on a sticky note and put it in my Bible?"

DJP said...

Okay, let me group some overdue responses to some great posts:

Steve said...

"So Steve Saint and Mart Green have saddled God with the blame for their ill-informed choice? ...They would've been far better off accepting the blame directly, and not dumping it on God. That's a far worse error than their choice of a homosexual activist for the lead role."

Agreed. But this is so common today, and the open/leaky-Canon view is a big enabling factor. Haven't you known folks to do irresonsible, irrational, even harmful things, and "credit" it to God? Or to refuse to obey some command of Scripture until they "feel led"? I certainly have.

********
Kyle said...

"Apparently Chad Allen converted—according to Mr. Saint, he's a child of God!"

I think you're exactly on the money. I'd just add this -- it isn't just "according to Mr. Saint." According to Mr. Saint, this is what GOD said! Note that he quotes him directly, he claims to give us the very words God spoke. Or is he?

That's more of the dark legacy of this notion of continuing dribbles of sorta-revelation. Can we hold Saint responsible for this, or can't we? Is he claiming to be speaking the Word of God, as a prophet, or isn't he? In the mushy, slushy atmosphere of our day, we're not supposed to be too demanding.

But we should be!

********
Mike Garner said...

"This has actually been a very good post. I am not a cessationist so I disagree with a sentence here and there or some conclusions that are drawn. However, the article does a very good job."

I really appreciate that, and the rest of what you said. One would hope they'd learn!

DJP said...

Now some more overdue responses:

********
gaw said...

"So where does freewill v. predestination fit into this equation? Could it be that God sovereignly ordained that Chad Allen would play that particular role in that particular movie? Or does arguing against the choice of selecting Allen for the lead role make you a closet arminian?"

Being a Biblical Christian, I believe that God's will is always the final word, period (Psalm 115:3; Proverbs 19:21; Daniel 4:35).

But that isn't our issue, ever, in the matter of decision-making. Check this out for a fuller development:

http://bibchr.blogspot.com/2006/01/gods-will-central-issue-for-biblical.html

And Mike Garner was right, too.

********
Stevie B said...

"So God ordains sin? Does this mean God is the author of sin then, Mr. Garner?"

God is not the author of sin, of course.

But if you think sin trumps God's will -- in fact, if you think anything trumps God's will, then that thing is God, and not God.

********
ambiance-five said...

"I have a hard time understanding God ordaining 'bad decisions' when all things work together toward good for the elect. I would prefer to just believe something good will come out of it all."

Yes, that is a chewy truth; but many passages such as Judges 11:20 and Acts 4:26-28 require that we chew. God really is God!

And as to believers, yes, praise God, He even works our mess-ups out to our good and His glory. But that doesn't mean that He doesn't hold us accountable for them (1 Corinthians 3:14-15; 2 Corinthians 5:10-11, etc.).

********
Darel said...

"...I have a hard time reconciling Scripture with a disbelief that God speaks through dreams. Or that God has changed, and no longer uses dreams (or any other supernatural means) anymore."

I love your Wednesday Addams icon; it makes me smile every time.

Well, perhaps we could start the discussion with the Scriptures I cited in the essay. What do you make of them?

********
donsands

Good Scripture, good thoughts, and thanks for the encouragement!

********
Morgan said...

"God told me so..is that not the dumb argument made by many today when they do stupid things?"

Yes! It's the ultimate cop-out! And it's brought so much shame on the name of God.

And what has one hundred years of supposed semi-revelation added to us? Isn't it fair to ask for even one sentence produced that adds new truth to the Bible, of the caliber of Isaiah, Jeremiah, or the apostle Paul?

Instead... well, just re-read what Steve Saint quotes God as saying. God's all worried that Steve will mess up His plans. Embarrassing.

********
Ken Banks said...

"Excellent article. I would offer one aspect in addition. Not only do we now have a public and therefore open revelation in His Word, we can all act as bereans when others say 'Thus saith the Lord.'"

Amen. It's all I can do to begin scratching the surface of the 66 books we've got, without new editions coming out.

********
natalie said...

"Good post. Amen on 'God told me...' Whenever I hear that, I think, 'OK, does this go between Jude and Revelation, or after both? Am I supposed to write it on a sticky note and put it in my Bible?'"

Thanks, and EXACTLY! I say, "Wait, wait, wait! Let me open up to the blank pages at the back of myi Bible! I don't want to miss anything."

(We're very bad, you and I.)

Darel said...

DJP,
Did you want an answer here?

I'll put it here, and you can tell me if you want further comment elsewhere....

You said, "and is how the Holy Spirit talks to you (cf. Proverbs 6:20-23; Hebrews 3:7f.)"

To expound on this, I have to make an assumption. The assumption is that you mean that the one and only way in which the Holy Spirit speaks to a person is through the reading of the Scripture. That if one were to say "God told me..." it would mean that "Scripture revealed to me". I don't think this is a misstatement of what you're saying. I've heard the Reformed speak in these terms quite often, so much so that I usually just dismiss it out of hand as something there is no point in discussing with them.

"Only Scripture contains the Will of God", which statement you purport to uphold through the following statements from Scripture:
1) "My son, keep your father's commands and do not forsake your mother's teaching. Bind them upon your heart forever; fasten them around your neck. When you walk, they will guide you; when you sleep, they will watch over you; when you awake, they will speak to you. For these commands are a lamp, this teaching is a light, and the corrections of discipline are the way to life, "

A very wonderful Scripture with two meanings.

A) It speaks of a parents care for their children, and a child's responsibility to follow the guidance of their parents. -- A very good piece of advice, but irrelevant to your statement.

B) That the Proverbs (and extrapolated to all of Scripture) are for the same purpose. Guidance, but most specifically according to this Scripture, guidance into the way of life... that is to say, unto salvation. -- Truly wonderful information, in fact the most wonderful and important to understand. Yet again, while it comes closer, it is still largely irrelevant to the discussion.

2) Moving on to Hebrews. Here is a paraphrase of a Psalm. "So, as the Holy Spirit says: 'Today, if you hear his voice, do not harden your hearts..'" and et cetera. -- This is MOST relevant to the discussion. Yet, it seems to say the exact opposite of what you claim it says.

In fact, it warns against the very thing you seem to be advancing, if you can believe that.

These little excercises are why I hate longwinded responses that give little references the way you do in your post. I end up seeing that they are either barely related, say the opposite of what is claimed, or have no bearing whatsoever.

To sum it up a bit:
You make the claim that since these Scriptures (along with Timothy, et al) give the very important rule that Scripture is true and useful for all sorts of instruction and training, guidance and discipline, and that within Scripture is contained all that is needed for eternal life ( that is, salvation ), that it is the only means God uses to transmit information to believers and unbelievers alike.

This is a colossal, in my opinion, leap to make.

Why do I think that leap is across the Grand Canyon of logical gorges? Since the very foundation of Christian truth, Scripture itself, shows us how God uses "divers manners" of ways to transmit His will both to His elect and to the world at large. He uses both natural events as well as supernatural events. He uses men and he uses women. In some cases he uses animals (frex, Balaam's donkey).

The question, given the abundance of ways in which God communicates to humanity, is not "Does God send dreams?" ... because, well, duh... "In the last days, God says, I will pour out my Spirit on all people. Your sons and daughters will prophesy, your young men will see visions, your old men will dream dreams." We know this is true, since Scripture tells us it is true.

The question instead is "How do we know it is from God?" That's the buck two ninety-eight. On this question I stand alongside anyone who requires 100%. If a prophesy or a vision or a dream or anything else is less than 100% in line with God's revealed Word in Scripture, then it is not from God.

The fact that we can even have a debate about whether God meant what He said in Joel and that Peter quoted at Pentecost, is simply appalling. We might as well just call God a liar.

----

I hope that isn't too harshly put, but even looking back, I can't think of a better way to say it.

DJP said...

Well, Darrel, the harshness more puzzles me than it is anything else. What concerns me more is the cavalier, superfical dismissal of Scripture that may be uncongenial to a previously-held position.

For instance, how long did you study Proverbs 6:20-23, before you brushed it off as dealing with "Guidance, but most specifically according to this Scripture, guidance into the way of life... that is to say, unto salvation"? What study and internal debate preceded your dismissal of it as "largely irrelevant to the discussion"?

I'm really unsure what "discussion" you think you're having, if you can shrug off that Scripture so casually. Let's look at the terms. My translation of v. 22:

"When you walk about, it will guide you;

"When you lie down, it will keep watch over you;

"And when you awake, it itself will talk with you."

On what hermeneutic will "when you walk about, it will guide you" be taken to mean "It will tell you how to be saved"? "Walk about," in Old and New Testaments, is a figure for the practical details of life (cf. Psalm 1:1; Ephesians 5:15). If that language doesn't deal with life's practical issues and decisions, what would you propose?

Here we have what every believer wants: God talking to him. It just isn't the way certain recent traditions want it. Many have come to clamor for direct don't-quote-Me-on-this kinda-sorta revelation. By starkest contrast, what God gives is mediated, DO-quote-Me-on-this revelation in the Word. Behind the human author of Proverbs, God speaks to his children, then and now (cf. Hebrews 12:5ff.).

Next, I take it this was your first encounter with citing Hebrews 3:7 in this connection, or I phrased it very badly, since you seem totally to miss what the passage says. "Just as the Holy Spirit says," the author writes, and then quotes from Psalm 95. So that Psalm, written maybe a millennium earlier, is what the Holy Spirit is saying (present tense, legei), to his readers. The Holy Spirit speaks. How? In peeps, mutters, hunches? No, He speaks in the words of Scripture. Will we hear His voice, in the living, eternal words of Scripture?

Also significant, is what you ignore. You don't really deal with 2 Timothy 3:15-17, which says that Scripture gives us what we need to know as Christians to be fully equipped to serve God; nor with the discussed implications of Proverbs 16:1, 9; 19:21 nor with Hebrews 5:11-14. Nor do you deal with the linked essay that discusses Scriptural teaching on the will of God.

So, as I see it, you brush off some evidence without warrant, ignore the rest, and then announce that nothing germane has been said.

What is more, you do not cite one positive Scripture to teach that God neglected to inscripturate anything essential for Christian living. You don't provide even a snippet that asserts clearly and in-context an alternative to what Scripture does clearly teach.

Now, you do allude to (rather than cite or wrestle with) the passage in Joel, as if its meaning is transparent. You do not actually suggest a credible interpretation; rather, you seem to assume that one (yours) is self-evident. But is it?

What is your interpretation? Do you insist that this is a program for all of God's children in all the time from the Ascension to Christ's return? If so, then why hasn't it happened? Why have most of God's children experienced none of those phenomena?

I have neither prophesied nor seen revelatory dreams, ever. Does that mean that I am not a child of God? Does it mean that Calvin, Luther, Owen, Wesley, Edwards, Spurgeon, Machen -- in fact, every professed Christian prior to 1906, was not a child of God?

Perhaps it isn't so pellucid as you thought.

I don't have any cutting concluding remark. I'd suggest that you have good reason to reconsider. I wish you would. That's all.

Darel said...

DJP,
I like you.

My dismissiveness has to do with over a decade of having the discussion in depth with others who take your same position. It has nothing to do with you particularly, just that I normally, at this point 15 years later, still cannot meet an agreement between myself and those who hold your view. What I am trying to express is that this holds a lot of baggage for me from previous encounters.

However, looking over your comment, I see what I've always known is the difficulty. And here is the phrase that causes me the most pain:
"Do you insist that this is a program for all of God's children in all the time from the Ascension to Christ's return? If so, then why hasn't it happened? Why have most of God's children experienced none of those phenomena?"

To me... from my experience... in my opinion... however you want to phrase this, that is simply ignoring what goes on around you. It's more than that, though. It's arguing from your conclusion.

In Joel God says that in the last days he will pour out his Spirit. Has that happened? In fact, the New Testament is rife with definite statements that this is true (2 Cor 1:22 is just an example). To not see Pentecost as the beginning of that time is... amazing to me. Why do you think Peter quoted Joel at Pentecost? When Scripture makes the connection for us, why should we argue its interpretation?

So if Scripture gives us all the pointers to when these "last days" are, why can we not accept all the other statements that he makes in Joel concerning the "last days"? Have scoffers come, have men who love pleasure more than God come (2 Tim chapters 3 and 4)?... Paul tells Timothy not only that this will come but that it has already come. Why? Because God's spokesman in Peter said that Joel's prophecy had come true. It is Scripture. Should I be looking for a higher authority to tell me these things have come to pass?

What is it, exactly, that God says will happen in these "last days"? What precisely were we promised?

1) Prophecy. That is very specifically "delivering the word of God". Since I'm with you in the "God has already done all the future-predicting prophecy that he's going to do" camp, I am wholly accepting that this is speaking of relating God's word and will to the world (i.e. preaching).

2) Dreams. God will give dreams to his servants. This is specifically enumerated in the text, right next to the outpouring of the Spirit. Therefore, it holds its place with no less forcefullness than that his servants will have his Spirit. If God does not give dreams, then he doesn't give his Spirit either.

3) Visions. What does this even mean? Well, the word "Chizzayown" can mean dreams. That is, visions in the night. It can also mean a kind of oracle... that is information from God. In my own humble interpretation, I would classify this as inspiration. God putting together events and Scripture in your mind so that you see something that you hadn't seen before. You come to a realization of some truth God wanted you to understand.

4) The key... "Everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved". This is the purpose, the end, to climax of all the rest. The reason for pouring out his Spirit, the reason for the prophecy, the reason for the dreams and visions. The aim, if you will, of all of this is salvation.

So God promises that all of his children of the flesh will be preaching his gospel, dreaming his dreams, seeing his visions, to the purpose of bringing salvation to the world. Has God's purpose changed? No. And since he already outlined his modus operandi for acheiving it in the "last days", then why do we imagine he has stopped? Do we think the "last days" are over? Has Christ appeared to take us home? Has he withdrawn his Spirit from us?

Then why do you think your inspiration and ability to preach to the gospel doesn't come from God as he promises here? What is it in "dreams" that you find the ability to say "it hasn't happened"?

What is it you actually think God means when he says "But when he, the Spirit of truth, comes, he will guide you into all truth."? If I said "you interpret Scripture through the guidance of the Holy Spirit" you wouldn't blink an eye. Are you just squeamish about this guidance coming while you're sleeping after you've spent all day studying it?

I hope that was more ... comprehensive... or at least gives a better explanation of what I'm trying to say and why I see it the way I do. Why do I spend any time defending it? "Do not allow what you consider good to be spoken of as evil."

donsands said...

After readings darel's concerns.

I thought of this whole dream thing that Steve Saint is trusting in, and I don't want not to believe Steve, but I just can not believe that dream was from the Lord.
Can God give dreams to His people? Sure, if He purposes to. Who am I to say He can't? Do we have to believe He is doing this in His Church today? No, I don't think we have to.
If a brother believes this is true for this day, that's fine. One day we will all know for sure.

I believe Steve had a dream. Was that dream from our Lord? I don't think it was because of the content.
I can not belive God would speak like that. I just can't.
We need to be on guard of our own flesh, and the devil. Especially our own flesh. I know I have needed to repent of so many things I thought was the Lord, but wasn't. And that is not easy to do-- to admit I was deceived, or that I made it up, or embellished on something, so that things would look good for me.
Repentance is difficult. Impossible really. But, not through faith in God's grace. Jesus is more than able to empower us to repent for His glory, and for restoration into the joy of the Lord. Psalm 51:12
Mk. 4:22