Yes, indeed: why should Frank and Phil have all the fun?
Bypassing for the moment the beloved physician and Dr. Piper, I'd like to focus on the fountainhead article: My Conversation with God, in Christianity
I'm surprised nobody has accused me of paying Dr. von Cipher for illustrating virtually every point I've ever made about the leaky-Canon set. Let's see, what do we have here?
Anonymity. We are supposed to accept his anonymity right off the bat, and keep reading with respect, openness, and interest. But should we?
The Bible says, "The wicked flee when no one pursues, but the righteous are bold as a lion" (Proverbs 28:1).
Our erstwhile prophet says, "I can only [testify personally to hearing God's extra-canonical voice] anonymously, for reasons I hope will be clear."
Um... yeah. Maybe they are clear.
I guess maybe some parents might feel a tad uneasy if they knew one of their kids' profs was hearing voices which he felt compelled to obey? Or adults might save their money, if they learned that one of their professors did not really believe that the Scripture was sufficient? Or the trustees, or the department head, might be uneasy about continuing to employ a man who felt equally morally bound to obey internal voices as the Word of God on occasion.
If he were honest about it, about his rubber-meeting-the-road beliefs, it might cost him his job or something, I guess. Meanwhile, better to let all the folks who trust him and trust their kids (or money) to him think that he is something other than what he really is.
It's hard to think why the writer feels he must maintain this anonymity — or at least hard to think of a charitable reason. Christians don't kill Christians for having different doctrine these days. Heck, we can barely bring ourselves to have a decent argument with each other! If we even try, we're called "judgmental," "unloving" — "shrill," even.
This man isn't a Muslim professing Christ, likely to bring horrible torture and death on himself and his family. Further, the leaky-Canon position is all the rage today; if he's such a famous author, surely some "love-that-Bible-,-but" school would snap him right up. If he lost his job, he'd be a hero!
What good motive are we all to attach — as he invites us to do — to his secrecy?
God made him write a book. Again and again, those poor souls desperate to save modern revelatory counterfeits assure us that their notion of "prophecy" does not threaten the Canon. God won't be writing any books through them, they insist. The Bible is safe and inviolate.
Yet read what this man would have us believe (emphases mine):
The next week, I was at the same spot in my morning exercise when something amazing happened. Out of the blue, a book title came to me. It was so clever I knew two things instantly: It wasn't mine, and it would sell.Well, I guess so! It would have to be good! He got it by inspiration of the Holy Spirit!
Then, in almost the same instant, the entire outline of the book was there in my mind. Every chapter and its title. No discursive thought preceded it. I immediately went home and began writing. As I wrote, I had the distinct feeling that this was not me. I had never written like this before. The words poured out. Two weeks later, a 200-page manuscript sat on my desk. I knew it was good.
"Whoa, whoa there, wait just a minute. He didn't say that," a modern enabler might object.
He didn't? Do words mean things, anymore? Are we supposed to believe what he tells us? What he tells us is that this book title "came" to him "out of the blue," and he knew instantly "It wasn't mine." It wasn't? Then whose was it? And whence did it come? "No discursive thought preceded it," he insists, thus most plainly telling us the source was not his own mind. Would it be going too far to re-phrase him as asserting that his book did not come from his own interpretation, nor was produced by his own will?
Read 2 Peter 1:20-21, and tell me what this describes.
He's a theology professor. He knows what he's claiming — or he'd better darned well.
Now, a pagan would say, "Oh yes, this is a well-known phenomenon. It's called 'automatic writing.'" But the writer is not a pagan. He's a Christian, writing to Christians. Clearly, we're meant to believe this book was "given by inspiration of God," as the phrase goes. (And the proof is that he got a lot of money for it. Hey, don't look at me like that — read the article!)
So, if it came from God, as Dr. Braveheart clearly wants us to believe — how much of it came from God? Was it 14%? 39%? 87%? 99.732%? 100%? How much?
Those welded to the charismatic tradition hate it when I use the phrases "leaky canon" and "low-octane, semi-hemi-demi-revelation" — but you tell me what this is supposed to mean, if it's supposed to mean anything.
Don't bother. I'll tell you: it is supposed to mean that God imparted new, unmediated, verbal revelation to this man.
Again, read the article: "Then God spoke: It's not your money.'" That is a direct quotation, purportedly from God. Just like Isaiah and Jeremiah and any prophet proclaiming koh 'amar Yahweh ("thus says the LORD"), so this man tells us exactly what God says, verbatim.
So, were those God's exact words? Wow, that's really something.
Now, just reflect on that earth-shaking claim for a moment. This is the selfsame God who spoke the Ten Commandments, Isaiah 40, Psalm 23; the God who most recently was seen breathing out Romans, Hebrews, Revelation.
And now He parts the curtain once again, after two thousand years of silence as to fresh revelation, to give direct, unmediated, verbal inspiration — and what He has to say is:
"It's not your money."Oh. Huh. Wow. Well...em...not exactly Romans 8, is it?
But "God" wasn't done. (I won't put "God" in quotation-marks throughout; mentally supply them, please.) Our man isn't brave enough to tell everyone his name, but he is brave enough (on his own admission) to argue with God, to demand an explanation of Him. (Mercy; if only Job, Peter, Isaiah had known it was so easy and casual to speak to God in this way!)
God replies, "It's not your money. It's his."
Now, that's funny, too. If God wanted to say it was His money, this would be no great news. It is all His, every last bit. We know that from the Bible (Psalm 50:10; Haggai 2:8, etc.).
But it is passing odd for Him to say the money belongs to someone else — after He'd made such a point about personal possession and rights of private property (see commandments ##8 and 10). Has He, well, you know...changed His mind? (I speak as a very-leaky canoneer.)
I guess that's why it took fresh, unmediated revelation. The Bible never would have told him this.
And that whole thing is odd, isn't it? The man imagines that he's got God's ear, and he wants to quibble about royalties? Two thousands years of silence broken, and this is the topic?
Why didn't he ask God for something quotable on baptism, or eschatology, or what happens to infants when they die? Why not ask Him for the exact exegesis of Romans 5:12? Or 1 Corinthians 13:8-10? (Wouldn't it have been funny if God had told him it meant that revelatory gifts would cease with the close of the Canon? What a conundrum! But I digress.) Or the meaning of "Parbar"? Or what God's favorite Bible translation is?
The Deepest Concern. But wait, there's more. And I think this may be the most table-poundingly important aspect of the whole thing.
Charismatics like to (evade responsibility for their claims and) insist that what they experience is not high-octane, canonical-level revelation. It's just a fun little intimacy they share with God. No cause for alarm. Put away the big guns. Nothing to see here.
Uh-huh. Well, we've already seen that that doesn't quite work out. But check out this interchange, in which Dr. von Cipher is arguing with God about giving all his royalties to the prospective student. We resume the "conversation" in progress, adding emphases:
First, the smaller point: he "raise[s his] fist in the air." The sinless, perfect, burning seraphs cover their eyes and feet before the glory of Yahweh (Isaiah 6); prophets and saints fall on their faces and beg for mercy, expecting to die instantly. But the impact that a visit from God has on this man is... well, it ticks him off. Brave before God, not so much before men. Prophets and apostles and angels in glory shake their heads in astonishment.
"All of it?"
"That and the rest."
I knew "the rest" meant any further royalties the book might earn after it was published.
Absolutely flabbergasted, I raised my fist in the air and asked aloud, "What about my roof?"
The voice said, "I'll take care of your roof, if you'll be obedient."
Then I said, "If you want to use me to help him go to the university, why not give me everything it will cost? Why this amount that will make a difference but not pay his whole way?"
"Others have to be obedient, too," I heard in reply.
Now, the greater point: "OBEDIENT." Said twice.
"Obedient" speaks of moral obligation. It is a binding of the conscience and will. It is a narrow road. Obey, and you do righteousness. You please God. Disobey, and you sin. You invite the judgment of God.
Obedience is a wonderful and essential Christian grace (John 14:15; 15:14, etc.), and its opposite is an appalling offense. "Has the LORD as great delight in burnt offerings and sacrifices, as in obeying the voice of the LORD? Behold, to obey is better than sacrifice, and to listen than the fat of rams. 23 For rebellion is as the sin of divination, and presumption is as iniquity and idolatry" (1 Samuel 15:22-23a).
But nota bene: the man is speaking of obedience, not to a Biblical command such as "Do not commit murder," "Do not commit adultery," "Love Yahweh your God with all your heart...", or "Husbands, love your wives."
He is speaking of obedience to a voice in his head.
Think about it. Now, please think this through soberly and as Christian adults. What do we have here? We have two momentous claims: (1) the claim of a book authored by God Himself, and (2) quotable verbal revelation with absolute binding moral authority.
What is a nine-letter word for that kind of revelation? I'll give you a hint: it starts with a "C."
The man then reveals this revelation to his wife, who (go figure) was kind of looking forward to fixing the leaky roof. But he tells us that she "is more spiritual than I am." Lucky thing for him, that. The roof is going to have to wait, because he's had a direct, verbal revelation of the morally-binding will of God, and she must obey too.
If our hooded brother had wanted to write an anonymous article about how he had felt moved — by Christian love and generosity, voluntarily, and according to a personal application of Biblical principles — to give his royalties to a struggling young student, that would have been one thing. We would easily have understood the anonymity as being Christian modesty and reluctance to toot his own horn. We would have understood the point of the story as being that we should maybe live out the values of the early church, in thinking of how we can invest in others. There could have been a lot of positive value in the story, and no argument whatever. We'd have admired him, and felt challenged to emulate his example.
But that isn't what the story was about, it isn't why it was written, it isn't the impact it is meant to have.
Look, I could go on and on and on, and it wouldn't get one bit prettier.
This is the foundation. Tomorrow, Lord willing, some (far briefer) reflections on the whole.
AFTERWORD: I am aware that this is a blisteringly scathing essay. What possible justification is there, for this tone?
Because our Lord Jesus, and His apostles and prophets, were always the most unsparing and ferocious with false teachers and religious leaders.
Because the issues are huge, though they're being dealt out as if this were a playground conversation.
Because I feel deeply concerned for all the people who you and I know darned well will read an article like this, envy this man's (purported) intimacy with God, and start listening for voices in their head, too. And they'll start heeding those voices, even if (as in this case) they don't quite jibe with the Bible.
And what kind of Christ-shaming, damaging, ruinous behavior will come of that?
You want to resent me, be mad at me, rake me over the coals? Go for it.
Because I'm laying it all right out here before you. I'm not hiding behind a claim to private revelation.
And, by God, I'm signing my name to what I'm telling you.