15 September 2011

How a Low View of God's Sovereignty Results in Bad Theology

Many years ago, the church I was attending offered a Wednesday-evening 'Bible study' course called Experiencing God by Henry Blackaby.  At the time, I appreciated the opportunity to learn more about my faith and took the course.  Even then, in my immature state of faith, some of what the book taught seemed odd to me.  I couldn't put a finger on why, and certainly couldn't articulate the details of what was theologically amiss, but I know something didn't add up. 

Over the years, I've heard many good testimonies from people about the Experiencing God study, and I've not usually said much, good or bad, about the study.  But when asked my thoughts on it, I usually tried to steer people away.  Over time, I started to figure out some of the theological details that were amiss, but hadn't really developed a full big-picture view of why an otherwise orthodox believer such as Blackaby could come up with such illogical teachings.

I think I'm starting to understand why now.  I think the biggest problem is a view of God which makes him less than the sovereign God that he is.  It turns him from the creator of the universe into a little guy sitting on your shoulder whispering suggestions into your ear. I know that Blackaby would deny that he belittles God and would certainly not appreciate the caricature I just made, and like almost everyone who practices a low-view of God, would say that he holds God as sovereign.  But in practice, and as his books teach, he does not.

A recent pair of blog posts over on the Pyromanics blog has helped me put 2 and 2 together on this topic.  Here's the first post, and here's the second.  Dan Phillips spells out the details much better than I can, so read them both (especially if you've ever done the E-G study or were tempted to buy the book these are posted about).  Here's a quote from the second post summarizing the problem-

"After pro forma niceties about Scripture, the Blackabys assure Christians that what 
they really need for a dynamic, personal, God-pleasing relationship is not to be found 
there. They would send them on a lifelong rabbit chase for which Scripture can offer 
no guidance, because it envisions no such pursuit."

If you want a testimony to what kind of damage the Blackaby theology can cause, read this.

My guess is, there are thousands of other stories out there about how this kind of unbiblical thinking has steered people astray.

Our focus cannot be on experientialism. It must be on the study of God's word instead.  Our faith has a content; a focus.  That focus is Jesus Christ.  We cannot have faith in something ethereal.  We have faith in Christ, and we therefore must know something about the character and nature of Christ.  The only place we legitimately get that is from Holy Scripture.  Any other source of revelation can at best point toward Him; it cannot explain Him.  Many of these other sources will point elsewhere. 

They are like the 7'4", 320 lb. woman.  This is a photo that was circulated a few years ago on the internet.  It was photoshopped, of course, but this was before many people know about the abilities of editing software.  It fooled a lot of folks because it was just odd enough (and interesting enough) that they chose to believe it.  Now, there's no real harm (I suppose) in believing in seven-foot women.   But there is indeed real harm in believing bad theology.  R. C. Sproul spells it out very well in one of his Renewing Your Mind broadcasts- being mistaken in your theology is sin.

So be careful where you choose to get your theology.  Other than natural revelation, most everything else other than Scripture will look good, have some esoteric appeal, or be touted by a hot-shot celebrity, but will not be what it claims to be.   Of this we are explicitly warned in Scripture.

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