Saturday, January 26, 2013

Putting Scriptures Together

Understanding the Bible requires that we believe and strive to obey what God says. It also requires putting scriptures together, looking at all the scriptures that may apply to a particular question or issue.

Bob Thiel recently used the principle that Paul described in 1 Corinthians 9:19-23 to justify his use of pagan prophecies in his books and blog posts: "For though I am free from all men, I have made myself a servant to all, that I might win the more; and to the Jews I became as a Jew, that I might win Jews; to those who are under the law, as under the law, that I might win those who are under the law; to those who are without law, as without law (not being without law toward God, but under law toward Christ), that I might win those who are without law; to the weak I became as weak, that I might win the weak. I have become all things to all men, that I might by all means save some. Now this I do for the gospel’s sake, that I may be partaker of it with you". (See my previous post for a review of Bob Thiel's recent post about this.)

This passage is not a direct command from God. It is a general principle Paul followed, and God inspired its inclusion in the Bible because it is a good point of wisdom showing us how we can be more effective in preaching the gospel. The general principle here, as I understand it, is that we can be more effective in teaching others sometimes when we emphasize what we have in common with them and speak to them in their terms from their point of view. This is not a universal rule, because there are also occasions when emphasizing differences, even to the point of being confrontational, is a better approach, as shown by the examples of the Old Testament prophets when God inspired them to give very sharp rebukes, and by the examples of John the Baptist and Jesus Christ who rebuked the Pharisees very sharply, calling them snakes. But the strategy of emphasizing what we have in common with those who hear us can be an effective tool when the occasion calls for it. I think it is a good principle for Bob Thiel to follow in his book publishing and promotion.

But in applying the general principle, we should not apply it in ways that go against a direct and specific command of God. We can "be like" our readers to win them over, but not to the point of sharing in their sins or to the point of leading them into sins they have not known before.

God directly commands us to give no regard to prophets that do not teach the way of God or to soothsayers and diviners (Deuteronomy 13:1-3, 18:14). In principle, this would prohibit quoting and publishing the prophecies of pagan prophets and those "prophets" that do not believe and teach the truth of God but rather teach error and falsehood. But does the principle God gave through Paul in 1 Corinthians 9:19-23 override Deuteronomy 13:1-3, 18:14, or does Deuteronomy 13:1-3, 18:14 take precedence over 1 Corinthians 9:19-23? Is there a way to obey both?

When we were in Worldwide, for those of us who were in the Church at that time, when Mr. Tkach began to teach that resting on the Sabbath was optional, he used the example of a man having to work on the Sabbath to support his family, and he used the scripture in 1 Timothy 5:8: "But if anyone does not provide for his own, and especially for those of his household, he has denied the faith and is worse than an unbeliever". He said that this verse may require a man to work on the Sabbath to support his family.

But that is not right. Consider that if we could use the need to support our family to override one of the ten commandments, the fourth commandment, then we could also use it to override the eighth commandment, you shall not steal. So if stealing money is the only way to support your family, then you should steal, according to that logic.

Some may say that the eight commandment is greater or weightier than the fourth commandment, but this is not according to God's word. According to God's word, the fourth commandment is more important, because it carries a greater penalty for breaking it. In Old Testament Israel, if a man stole something, he was to restore it double, or fourfold, or fivefold, depending on the situation (Exodus 22:1-4). But if he worked on the Sabbath, contrary to the fourth commandment, he was to be killed (Numbers 15:32-36).

There are other ways of supporting your family besides stealing or working on the Sabbath. Yes, we are to support our families, but God's law places limits on HOW we are to support our families. The general principle of supporting our families cannot be used to override God's direct commands not to steal and not to work on the Sabbath.

Likewise, we can show people what we have in common with them when we teach them and we can speak to them from their point of view in terms and language they can identify with, but God's direct commands place limits on how we do this. We must not participate in their sins. We do not preach the gospel to prostitutes by going to bed with them. We do not teach thieves what we have in common with them by stealing. We do not work at our jobs on the Sabbath to show our fellow factory workers or office workers we are "just like them" so they will listen to us when we preach the gospel.

Likewise, we should not indulge in reading and spreading pagan or Satan-inspired prophecies, or witchcraft, or voodoo, or astrology, or any form of the occult, contrary to Deuteronomy 13:1-3 and Deuteronomy 18:14, to show our readers that we are just like them when we preach the gospel to them. Rather, we should live in obedience to God's commands and let others see our good example. "Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works and glorify your Father in heaven" (Matthew 5:16).

Imagine that Bob Thiel does reach some people with the gospel and someone comes into the Church because of his efforts. That person is then faced with a question about the occult. Maybe his son or daughter wants to dabble in witchcraft, reading books about magic and spells, learning about demonism. The man thinks, well, Dr. Thiel teaches pagan prophecy, so I guess it is ok. Is that setting a right example? Is that letting our light shine before men?

Just as there are other ways for a man to support his family without breaking the Sabbath or stealing, so there are other ways we can speak to people in their language from their point of view without publishing demon-inspired prophecies to know the future. God's direct commands in Deuteronomy 13:1-3 and Deuteronomy 18:14 take precedent over the general principle of being all things to all men that Paul outlined in 1 Corinthians 9:19-23. We can apply the principle of 1 Corinthians 9:19-23 in preaching the gospel, but only in ways that do not violate the letter or spirit of Deuteronomy 13:1-3 and Deuteronomy 18:14.

In closing, I might add here something I tried to express in a comment I made in my post "Don't Play with Fire". In that comment I said, "Though it may seem I am painting Bob Thiel with a 'dark brush' and condemning him, I am not trying to hurt him personally, but I am warning about his actions....I am not condemning him, but I think he is making serious mistakes that are very dangerous for him personally and have the potential to harm God's work and the Church if members are not alert to what Deuteronomy 13:1-3 and Deuteronomy 18:14 say."

I have no ill will towards Bob Thiel personally. I am not trying to hurt him. I think he made a mistake in leaving LCG, and I do not want to see him pull tithes and offerings out of LCG so that LCG's income is diminished. But now that he has done this, I would be happy if he reaches more people with the gospel, provided he does not do it by publishing pagan prophecies.

I do not rule out the possibility that God may use him as a true prophet in the future. It may be that he has to pass a test first. God tested Abraham to see if he was willing to give up his son. Jesus Christ had to be tested and overcome Satan's temptations in the wilderness for 40 days before God used Him to preach the gospel. It may be that Bob Thiel is being tested now on a point of God's word regarding pagan prophecies. If he passes the test, then God may (or may not) use him as a prophet, but in any case, he will have passed a test. God may require that he pull his books from publication and remove any posts referring to pagan prophecies from his blog. That, in a way, can be a severe test at this point, because a man can feel attached to his writings just as Abraham felt attached to his son (not to the same degree of course). Perhaps the toughest part of the test for Dr. Thiel would be having to admit to the Church and the world that he was wrong to publish this stuff to begin with. That would be very humbling.

Yet as tough as that would be, I do not think it would be as bad as the consequences of failing the test. Because if Dr. Thiel disregards God's clear instructions in Deuteronomy regarding this matter, he has rejected God's word, and all God's warnings and examples of consequences of rejecting His word may come into play.

"And Saul said to Samuel, 'But I have obeyed the voice of the Lord, and gone on the mission on which the Lord sent me, and brought back Agag king of Amalek; I have utterly destroyed the Amalekites. But the people took of the plunder, sheep and oxen, the best of the things which should have been utterly destroyed, to sacrifice to the Lord your God in Gilgal.' So Samuel said: '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 heed than the fat of rams. For rebellion is as the sin of witchcraft, And stubbornness is as iniquity and idolatry. Because you have rejected the word of the Lord, He also has rejected you from being king' " (1 Samuel 15:20-23).

"My people are destroyed for lack of knowledge. Because you have rejected knowledge, I also will reject you from being priest for Me; Because you have forgotten the law of your God, I also will forget your children" (Hosea 4:6).

I don't see how I could ever accept Bob Thiel as a true prophet of God, no matter how accurately he predicts the future, even if he shows "signs and wonders", such as if he received a dream or vision accurately predicting the next earthquake in such detail that no man by human reasoning could predict, as long as he continues to publish pagan prophecies that predict the future. That alone would disqualify him.

It is good to have zeal for preaching the gospel to the world, but we must do it lawfully. We have to have the patience to wait for God to open doors to preach the gospel without violating the principles of God's word and law. If we believe and obey God, God will work things out right in the end. If we have violated God's law in the past, we need to repent and trust God to forgive us, we need to learn our lesson and move forward, not repeating our mistakes. I have to struggle with my human nature to do this and we all have to fight that battle, though in comes in different forms and different details for each of us.

If we submit to God and humble ourselves, there will be a reward that will be worth more than what we have given up.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

You are being too kind. He is a false priest who would offer diseased pig meat on God's altar. He needs reprimand, not diplomatic nice talk.