Revival Leaders Sometimes Write Theology
When God moves in powerful supernatural ways and when people experience revival, revival leaders often write theology – sometimes they write good theology and sometimes they write bad theology. If they write wrongly and the matter is minor, it may be of little consequence. But sometimes, if they write on a significant subject, bad theology can lead to damaging and harmful consequences.
When I moved to Beth Messiah Congregation in 1978, I was increasingly exposed to the “wild and woolly” charismatic world. I mainly refer here to a world that was not part of the classic Pentecostal world which had by that time developed very clear theological parameters (some of which, by the way, I do accept and some I do not. For example, most held the view that the rapture of the Church takes place before the tribulation).
I found myself regularly offended by what I knew to be wrong interpretations of the Bible. One time, a man I was discipling, Asher Intrater, raised a difficult question. He asked whether I had noticed that many who were concerned about an accurate scholarly interpretation of the text demonstrated little in the power of God, while those who demonstrated that power did not concern themselves with such accuracy. I later concluded that the explanation for this was not our concern to handle the texts of the Bible carefully, but the Greek influence and mind set of those who are academics.
How Interested is God in Accurate Theology?
My ongoing concern about bad theology and demonic influence did not abate and is reflected in my book The Dynamics of Spiritual Deception. For seven years, Dr. Mike Brown was part of our ministry. He is a very trustworthy scholar. We discussed the relationship between good theology and the power of the Spirit at length. We both concluded that God is most interested in hearts that are passionate towards Him and moves in power for such people, even though they may make many theological errors. We decided that we would not let our desire for theological accuracy steal the blessing of God’s miraculous moves of the Holy Spirit. Of course, we did not include those who were in heresy by historical definition as a place to recognize the blessing of the move of the Spirit.
The Dangers of Bad Theology
However, I also found that over time serious theological errors would lead to very negative consequences. Bad theology does have bad effects over the long haul and can later lead to heresy and destruction. For example, I have seen books declaring that the Old Testament is irrelevant to believers, that the Old Testament can no longer be a basis for understanding God and much more. People have used the Bible to teach that if a person is not healed, it is always their fault. Bad theology can easily lead to bad leadership, bad practice and bad relationships. These in turn can result in abuse, oppression, heresy and even cultic behavior.
Using Good Scholars to Vet Prophetic Teachers
Recently I read Craig Keener’s book Spirit Hermeneutics. Dr. Keener is passionately committed to revival, to the moves of the Holy Spirit and to his gifts and power. He is also one of today’s top biblical scholars. He proposes that those who write books containing theological elements should have them evaluated by those with scholarly ability who are open to the Spirit but can correct error. This is not to adjust every little point, but to be sure that nothing of great significance is out of balance. This is an important step, since there is much writing today writing that contains serious errors and cries out for correction.
I can use Asher Intrater to show how this works. Asher earned degrees from Harvard, our Bible school in Maryland and Baltimore Hebrew College. Yet Asher is not given to reading scholarly books. He pursues the Word and seeks the Spirit for revelatory understanding. He is given great and piercing understanding. Then Asher looks to Ariel Blumenthal and I to evaluate and offer corrections to his books before publication. Both of us have had more theological education on a graduate level than Asher. Usually there is little to correct, but sometimes we are able to provide helpful input.
If this vetting process was the norm, the Body of Believers would be saved from the negative consequences that come from uncritically published work. I hope that in the future we will see a partnership of charismatic scholars and revelatory, revivalist, prophetic teachers.