So Nimm Denn Meine Hande...

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Transitions and the like...

Okay...Much like everyone and their dog, I'm now apparently writing on Wordpress.

Come over here for the "next time"!

I may still post something here from time to time, but most likely I'll get on Wordpress and stay there.

God bless my 4 readers from the last 5 years! LOL!

Longing For the Day,

Lyndon "The Armchair Theologian" Unger

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Sickly and Reflecting...

I'm home sick from seminary today, coughing up a storm and I've been pondering some thoughts about the future. I've been listening to The Dividing Line webcast a fair bit, and going back to reading a bit on Mormonism, as well as apologetics. I've got 1 more year left on my MDiv and then I'm done school, unless I seek a ThM somewhere (or skip to PhD), but I've realized that I haven't really found a direction to focus my study. What I mean is that I've been writing about a variety of topics (though not here), for many things peek my interest, but I haven't found myself getting "into" anything fully...

...I have wanted to continue writing some stuff on cessationism, and Mormonism, and Catholicism, and Apologetics, and Premillenialism (which I'm admittedly only beginning to study), and textual criticism (which is more interesting that I thought it would be), counseling, youth ministry (which I think severely needs some half-brained content added to it's Evangelical corpus) and so on, but seminary and marriage demand almost all of my time these days. In a year, I'll be freed up from the humongous shackles of school (for really the first time in 25+ years) to finally pastor and pursue whatever writing/apologetic/pastoral ministry I desire, and I'm not sure what I want to do! Oh the misery of choice!

If I do a ThM, I'll have to pick an area of specialization and begin research. Same thing goes for a PhD.

If I begin a writing ministry, I'll have to start working in a direction (apologetics, cults, cessationism, eschatology, etc.) and start really sharpening my knowledge and interaction with whatever field. Either way, I know I'll be involved in a church and I also know that I will have to find a secondary outlet for all my learning (not bragging, but I've got a slight bit more theological and biblical education than your average lay-person). What to do? Where to go?

This probably sounds super arrogant...doh! Oh well. I haven't posted here since before Apple stocks plummeted, so I don't think I have any readers anymore. Either way, just thinking on the old blog.

Until Next Time,

The Armchair Theologian

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Brad Jersak's Argument for Listening Prayer...

The biblical argument for listening prayer from the book “Can You Hear Me”

(This post was originally put up on Facebook and has been re-posted here for a curious individual)

Up front, I must anticipate and answer the “why do you attack Brad Jersak” questions that are inevitable. If a person sees a loved one/brother doing something unwise, dangerous or outright sinful, there is a biblical imperative to attempt to come alongside them in love and attempt to call them to alertness to their situation, as well as lovingly call them to repentance.

Luke 17:3 instructs: “So watch yourselves. If your brother sins, rebuke him, and if he repents, forgive him.”

Galatians 6:1-2 states: “Brothers, if someone is caught in a sin, you who are spiritual should restore him gently. Carry each other's burdens, and in this way you will fulfill the law of Christ.”

Paul wrote to Corinth in 2 Corinthians 7:8-10, regarding his aggressive 1st letter and said: “Even if I caused you sorrow by my letter, I do not regret it. Though I did regret it—I see that my letter hurt you, but only for a little while— yet now I am happy, not because you were made sorry, but because your sorrow led you to repentance. For you became sorrowful as God intended and so were not harmed in any way by us. Godly sorrow brings repentance that leads to salvation and leaves no regret, but worldly sorrow brings death.”

2 Timothy 2:25-26 speaks of the man of God and says: “Those who oppose him he must gently instruct, in the hope that God will grant them repentance leading them to a knowledge of the truth, and that they will come to their senses and escape from the trap of the devil, who has taken them captive to do his will.”

Jude 20-23 says: “But you, dear friends, build yourselves up in your most holy faith and pray in the Holy Spirit. Keep yourselves in God's love as you wait for the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ to bring you to eternal life. Be merciful to those who doubt; snatch others from the fire and save them; to others show mercy, mixed with fear—hating even the clothing stained by corrupted flesh.”

In as the Bible does instruct me to “encourage others by sound doctrine and refute those who oppose it” (Titus 1:9), it also gives me direction for the character of that teaching and refutation. Part of that is in having a gentle and respectful spirit, which I desire to model. That being said, I still have serious problems with the ideas and teaching of the book “Can You Hear Me” and desire to call to attention what seems to be unbiblical teaching that has been insufficiently addressed (to the best of my knowledge)

Understanding Listening Prayer

Can You Hear Me is broken up into three sections. The first section goes through the “what” and “why” questions, attempting to help the reader know what “listening prayer” is and to give a biblical basis and argumentation for the reality and normative nature of listening prayer. The second and third sections answer the “how” and “when” questions, explaining how listening prayer works practically and how/when to use it in various situations. So let us examine the argument of the book and see what is being said.

Defining “Listening Prayer”

Brad Jersak introduces the phrase “listening prayer” on the sixteenth page of Can You Hear Me, but takes his time defining exactly what listening prayer is (and his definition is not necessarily reflective of his practice). Walking through the introduction, Jersak comments on how he studied the Bible intently and became proud of his seminary degrees and personal piety but had never heard God’s voice (page 10). He says “I had accumulated Bible facts but ended up bankrupt because I didn’t know the Living Word, Jesus” (10).

He then explains how a man named Patrick confronted him on his “stronghold of spiritual pride” by quoting and applying 2 Timothy 3:5 (akin to calling Brad a false teacher), Matthew 22:29 (somewhat akin…maybe… to calling him a Pharisee) and John 5:36-40 (again akin…somewhat…to calling him a Pharisee). Patrick allegorically applied those 3 scriptures to Brad and by ripping them outside of their historical/grammatical context, used them to tell him that the “extra something” in the Christian life that Brad was seeking was to “hear God’s voice” (i.e. embrace charismatic experience and become a prophet).

He continues in the introduction to record how he “recognized none of the early Christian experience or ministry in my own life”, how the Lord shattered his “rationalistic” master of divinity degree and how he prayed that God would show Jersak his glory (10).

In commenting on his credentials, Jersak states that his education will not “authorize me as a spokesman for God’s heart”.[1] Speaking of his book, he writes that “it offers an alternative that appeals to those mystical cravings yet demystifies the process” (10) and that it is written to pastors and leaders to prepare them to “train their congregations to hear God without fear of producing prophetic flakes” (12).

In the first chapter, Jersak writes that “in listening prayer, we meet none other than Jesus Christ, the voice of the living God” (16). [Meeting Jesus sounds good, but that statement is not a definition in itself.] He talks about the frustration of how some people “go around claiming ‘God told me’” (wrongly claiming or utilizing prophetic revelation) and then contrasts that with “Jesus Christ’s approach to hearing God”, which is apparently given in John 10:2-15 (17).

Skipping ahead, Jersak comments that Jesus promised Christians the reception of propositional revelation beyond the canonical scriptures (21), that Acts 2 brought a flood of revelation (21), that prophecies, visions and dreams are all versions of God’s voice (21) and that when Jesus poured out the Spirit in the book of Acts, “…he began to pour our the Spirit-the Spirit of revelation in particular-on every believer” (22). It seems clear that Jersak sees “listening prayer” as essentially “functioning prophetically” and Jersak see this promise of prophetic function (the reception of new revelation) to be for all believers. This claim seems to be a large one, though not impossible. Jersak indeed has a large goal in mind if he is to give adequate biblical proof for his position, so let us examine his biblical defense…

The Biblical Case for Listening Prayer

Jersak’s key text is John 10:1-18, and he reads John 10:2-15 as applying directly to Christians. He extrapolates several promises from the passage: Christ has a voice, he does speak and his sheep do hear his voice (18). Given that he defines God’s voice as “prophecies, visions, and dreams” (21) among other things, he apparently takes the passage to mean that Christ speaks propositional revelation and his sheep hear his voice prophetically. He comments on John 10:2-15 saying, “Note that Jesus did not say ‘My prophets hear my voice.’…According to Jesus, his voice is not reserved for the spiritually elite, the priest, or the guru” (18).

***Just to be clear, Jersak takes John 10:2-15 as “Jesus Christ’s approach to hearing God” and given his definition of “God’s voice”, the passage of John 10:1-15 becomes Christ’s prescription for functioning prophetically (17).

Thinking to the time before he discovered listening prayer, Jersak then asks why he previously did not hear God’s voice. Jersak answers himself with Elihu’s words from Job 33:13-18, learning that God does speak (regardless of personal doubts), he speaks all the time and he speaks in many ways (20). He goes on to say that “Elihu is telling us that God’s radio station is always on. He’s broadcasting loud and clear, 24 hours a day, seven days a week. The trouble is, we are not dialing in” (20).

***So Jersak takes Job 33:13-18 to mean that God is constantly delivering propositional prophetic revelation to mankind and people simply do not know how to receive it.

Not only is God “broadcasting” his thoughts, but he wants to share what he has to say with people. He comments that Psalm 139:17-18 informs him that God is constantly thinking innumerable thoughts about Christians (individually) and John 16:12-15 explains that “he (God) is willing-no, longing- to share those thoughts with you” (20). Commenting on John 16:12-15 Jersak writes,

“Jesus told his disciples that even after we consider everything he told them, both that which is recorded in the gospels and all that was not, he still had much more to say. But he withheld it, because they could not handle it yet…The Holy Spirit would come and continue sharing that which Jesus had left unsaid. He would guide them into all truth (John 16:13). If you wand to personalize this message, what Jesus is really saying is, there is so much more he wants to share with you. Were you to memorize every word of the Scriptures, the Lord would still not be satisfied. There is still more. And this ‘more’ is what the Holy Spirit is sent to deliver.” (20-21)

So what does the Holy Spirit share with us? Jersak writes,

“His (Holy Spirit) task is to share ‘whatever he hears.’ What does the Spirit hear? And whom does he hear? The Spirit hears the Father and Son. He eavesdrops on their conversations-on the innumerable thoughts they exchange with one another. Remember, a myriad of those thoughts are about you and for you. The Spirit overhears them and then comes over to say “Do you know what they’re saying? I want to tell you.” (21)

Jersak comments that “in the Old Testament era, the voice of God seemed rare, sporadic, and exclusive” but when Jesus poured out the Spirit in the New Testament, the pouring out of the Spirit was “generous, continuous, and all-inclusive” (22). Jersak states that “According to Paul, our God is no speechless idol. He is a God whose Spirit speaks to and through his people (1 Corinthians 12:2-4)” (26).

But how do Christians have assurance that they have guaranteed access to this constant divine revelation? Jersak finds another answer in the Old Testament. He also quotes Jeremiah 33:3 and observes,

“As we call out to God, let us rehearse this straightforward promise. God does not say ‘Call to me and the devil will answer and deceive you.’ Nor does he say ‘Call to me and I might answer you when I feel like it.’ Nor does he say ‘Call to me and I will answer you if…’ Rather, he promises us (upon the life of his Son), ‘I [the Lord and no other] Will [most certainly] answer [respond to, converse with] you [not just the prophets or the priests, but you my children]”. (26)

Addressing Skepticism to Listening Prayer

Now Brad Jersak isn’t a fool; he knows that what he’s talking about may sound frightening to some of his readers. In efforts to explain to his readers that they already are experiencing what he is talking about (and thereby should be quick to embrace his teaching), Jersak comments on several ways that God “speaks” to people that they do not recognize. He comments that God already “speaks” to people through salvation (27), scripture (28), preaching (30), worship (31), conviction of sin (32), burden of conscience to pray for individual (33) and prompting of conscience to encourage individuals (34). Jersak notes how “normal” circumstances and convictions are, in actuality, God speaking (35). He rebukes his readers in missing God’s common methods of speaking, saying how it is wrong to think that “… God will only speak in grandiosity…” (35). Apparently, God speaks more frequently through seemingly meaningless events and situations in daily life.

Jersak also addresses the problem of extra biblical revelation when he writes “God’s voice is heard primarily through the Scriptures” (37), but when one reads the Scriptures, one is not necessarily hearing God speaking. Jersak asks his readers “…did you know that you could carefully study and faithfully memorize the Scriptures all your life and still never once hear the voice of God?” (38). He evidences this statement up by quoting John 5:37-40, paralleling Cessationists with Pharisees, saying “The doctrine of cessationism taught that once the canon of Scripture was complete, God had delivered his final word; when the last word of the book of Revelation was written, God ceased to speak. Modern-day prophets were said to have crossed the line of orthodoxy” (39). So what changed his mind?

Jersak records that “The turning point came for me when I encountered a genuine, modern-day prophet for the first time” (39). The prophet showed him familiar image and that extremely coincidental experience was taken as a verification of the person’s authentic prophetic function (In fact, Jersak abandoned his version of “cessationism” by seeing a familiar image of a burning ice cube…there’s no mention of any sort of biblical examination at all, either of his experience or his new doctrinal change). After that experience, Jersak explains how he “returned to the Scriptures with new ears to hear the truth concerning God’s voice” and learned, from the Scriptures, that “God’s voice may be heard via at least three broad avenues: messengers, circumstances, and direct messages to our hearts” (40).

So what does this all mean?

It seems rather difficult to misunderstand what Jersak is suggesting. Let’s quickly jump back through what he said his problem was and what changed his mind:

- He studied the Bible but didn’t really experience charismatic experiences in his life (which he thought, based on his reading of the book of Acts and his rebuke from Patrick, that he should have experienced)

- He was rebuked by a person who misapplied scripture to his life and told him that the thing he sinfully longed for (he admits that he hated prophets who appeared more spiritual than him on page 9) was the thing he should be chasing.

- He met a “real” prophet and was convinced by a striking experience (which also suggests that the Bible wasn’t enough to convince him).

He seems to clearly expect that though not every Christian does function prophetically (receive propositional revelation from the Holy Spirit via either audibly or visually), but they should. The possibility for every Christian to receive extra-biblical revelation is both promised in the Scripture and should be part of the normative Christian experience. Is Jersak’s position biblical? Is he faithful to the teaching of Scripture? An examination of his supporting texts and a look at his hermeneutical practices will show whether his position on “listening prayer” stands or falls. But, time is fleeting and this note has taken me far too long to get out (I’ve been unbelievably busy). I’ll simply throw down his biblical support, open up discussion, and then systematically address it some future post.

There are essentially four texts of scripture that Jersak takes as prophetic promises regarding ‘hearing” the voice of God; John 10:1-15, Job 33:13-18, John 16:12-15 and Jeremiah 33:3.[2] The verses are used to form the formula of listening prayer:

1. God speaks propositional communication to Christians (John 10:1-15).

2. God speaks propositional communication regardless of its perception (Job 33:13-18).

3. This propositional communication is extra-biblical revelation that the Holy Spirit will make known to Christians (John 16:12-15).

4. The Biblically prescribed method for accessing this revelation is by request (Jeremiah 33:3).

Now this leaves one to examine the texts and see if Jersak seems to be properly handling the various scriptures in their own respective contexts, properly applying them for the formulation of the answer which he presents. Does Brad’s argument seem to clearly flow from the passages of scripture that he puts together? Do the passages seem topically related? Do they seem to be talking about prophecy, or something else altogether?

More so, what does Brad’s ‘conversion’ experience to non-cessationism seem like? What do you think of his description of himself in his bible school days? Is the Bible as unclear on the issue as he claims? Is the crux of the question of cessationism/non-cessationism simply that the Cessationists simply have not met a real prophet where as the non-Cessationists have? Does God ‘speak’ equally through salvation, scripture, preaching, worship, conviction of sin, burden of conscience to pray for individual and prompting of conscience to encourage individuals?

Talk amongst yourselves.

Until Next Time,

The Armchair Theologian (Lyndon Unger)

[1] “A spokesman for God’s heart” definitely sounds like Jersak is simply talking about being a prophet, for that definition seems strikingly familiar. Walvoord defines a prophets as “authoritative channels through which God could give divine revelation, sometimes about the contemporary situation and sometimes about the future.” John Walvoord. 1986. The Holy Spirit and Spiritual Gifts. Bibliotheca Sacra 143 no. 570 (April-June): 113.

Stitzinger defines a prophet simply as someone who functioned “as a spokesman for God…on the basis of possessing supernatural knowledge.” James F. Stitzinger. 2003. Spiritual Gifts: Definitions and Kinds. Master's Seminary Journal 14 no. 2 (Fall): 167.

Farnell almost uses the same words as Jersak in defining prophecy, saying that a prophet is a “spokesman or mouthpiece for the Lord”. David Farnell. 1993. When Will the Gift of Prophecy Cease? Bibliotheca Sacra 150 no. 598 (April-June): 173.

[2] On page 70, Jersak re-lists his “promise verses” as Matthew 28:20; Joshua 1:5; John 10:14,27; Jeremiah 33:3 and Matthew 7:8-11. The verses listed though are the main passages from which Jersak derives his exegetical support in his opening chapters and Matthew 28:20, Joshua 1:5 and Matthew 7:8-11 are not to be found in the first 2 chapters as part of that exegetical support. It is confusing why Jersak changes his supporting texts in the third chapter, but the change is not addressed by Jersak.

Thursday, November 13, 2008

I remembered my password!

I may start blogging again! Hooray!

Until Next Time (or next year),

The Armchair Theologian

Thursday, May 01, 2008

Explanations and articulations...

Well, today I remembered that I apparently have a blog. I kinda forgot...

I've migrated to Facebook for much of my connection and idea sharing with people, and the blogdom seems to have kinda died out for me. I may revive it some time, but the original purpose for this blog has been removed and now I'm sidetracked from blogging from all the other things in my life (marriage, school, work, Facebook, etc.).

If anyone wants to keep tabs on me, look up "Lyndon Unger" on Facebook (though I think I'm connected with all 3 of my readers already).

I may do some "summer posts", namely re-post some of the things that will end up on Facebook. We'll see. Either way, I figured that I'd stop by and kinda declare this blog "dead until further notice".

God Bless all.

Until Next Time,

The Armchair Theologian

Friday, February 15, 2008

Some thoughts to share on salvation...

Someone recently asked me "What exactly does it mean to be 'saved'?" and I gave them this response...

It's not some esoteric mystery.

Christianity isn't about making you a better person. (It's *partly* about recognizing that you're a wretched, cursed sinful person)

Christianity isn't about getting a membership badge. (Though a Christian does become a member of the church universal)

Christianity isn't about getting out of Hell. (Though Christians are no longer threatened by the judgment for their sin that lands them up in Hell).

Why do you think Christians use the term "saved"?

The Bible says that Christians are "saved"."

Saved" from what?

Hell? no.

Sins? no.

Christians are "saved" from the coming wrath of God.

Romans 5:9 says "Since we have now been justified by his blood, how much more shall we be saved from God's wrath through him!"When a person is "saved", they're no longer under the threat of God's unmitigated wrath against their sin.

Instead, Christ perpetually averts God's judgment against sinners:"Now there have been many of those priests, since death prevented them from continuing in office; but because Jesus lives forever, he has a permanent priesthood. Therefore he is able to save completely those who come to God through him, because he always lives to intercede for them.Such a high priest meets our need—one who is holy, blameless, pure, set apart from sinners, exalted above the heavens. Unlike the other high priests, he does not need to offer sacrifices day after day, first for his own sins, and then for the sins of the people. He sacrificed for their sins once for all when he offered himself." - Hebrews 7:23-28

...What changes when a person is "Saved" is that they are saved from God's wrath and judgment and have Christ to intercede for them, perpetually averting the wrath of God against them.

Salvation ultimately ends up with a person being thrown into hell...but a person is indirectly "saved" from the penalty and directly saved from the judgment...hence Christians are not "saved" from Hell.

Until Next Time,

The Armchair Theologian

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Thoughts on Revival...

This is a response to a question regarding Christian revival that a friend recently e-mailed to me. I figured I'd share it with you, my reader(s): Christians NEED revival, even when we've been made alive in Christ? Well, there is a difference between being "regenerate" and being "filled with the Spirit". Paul commands the latter in Ephesians 5:18, and he commands that of Christians. Essentially, Christians need to be increasingly under the control of the Spirit, growing in obedience to God's word.

That is one of the reasons why Paul wrote all his epistles to Galatia, Corinth, Ephesus, etc. They needed to be instructed by the Lord how to "walk in the Spirit" more than they currently were. But when you read Paul's epistles, you also recognize that Paul was writing to people who WERE Christians. They just were not walking in complete obedience to the Lord...hence they needed revival; the stirring up of the Spirit in them, teaching their minds the truth of God and stirring their hearts to obey.

So yes, we always need THAT kind of revival.

We don't need to get "psyched up" or "on fire for God". That's useless.

Getting "excited" or "on fire" is not revival. That's sheer emotionalism that then leads people to make oaths to God as to how they plan to "be better people" or "serve him more", and those self-driven oaths always crap out, leaving people frustrated that they cannot sustain that level of emotional commitment to God.

When, in modern "revival", people get all psyched up and commit to doing things, they do so usually in response to a "let's get going" sermon; one designed to drum up an emotional response. (I admit that it's a lot easier to preach LOUD than to preach WELL, and most people are clueless as to the difference.) But making oaths to God in a frenzy of emotion consistently leads to frustration, for we lack the resources in ourselves to produce righteous fruit in our lives.

True revival comes from God's Spirit changing hearts via the insertion of truth (in expository preaching, though it can also occur from personal study of the word, or group study of the word) and the scripture doing it's work in the human heart. People often don't recognize true revival because it's often quiet.

It lacks emotionalism, sensationalism, and volume (usually...). But, when the word is effectively delivered to the heart and starts renewing the mind, empowered by the Spirit, then deep heart changes (down in the depths) occur and lives are overhauled. That is what is needed. The core of the heart is where change needs to occur, and that is where real revival happens.

Just some rambling thoughts on revival.

Until Next Time,

The Armchair Theologian