That’s how these things usually go.
When I checked my email this morning I saw that a friend had sent me this piece of nonsense: someone behind a blog called “NARWatch” in Israel is attacking me and my content. Normally I don’t even read these. There haven’t been many, mind you. But this one is so misinformed that I had to blog about it. It gave me something fun to do (though I’ll confess it took away a half hour of productivity). I can only hope that doing this increases my exposure to NARwatch’s tiny audience. It will result in them being less ignorant, which is a good thing.
Here are the first two paragraphs (It may have been intended as one paragraph):
Let’s educate NARwatch a bit.
1. My material is anything but speculative. Had this fellow read the book (I’m guessing he’s one of my frightened 1-star reviews on Amazon) he’d come across something the academy calls “footnotes” – they direct readers to peer-reviewed scholarly literature supporting a point just made in the running text of the book. Dear NARwatch: The numbers after sentences in my book aren’t there for decoration. They aren’t typos. They inform educated readers that what I’m saying is something published in scholarly literature. If you understood peer-review you’d know that baseless speculation doesn’t get published in scholarly sources. This accusation is very dishonest. NARwatch is counting on his readers to never look at my book where they’d see all the documentation for what I say.
Subnote 1a: my last name is Heiser, not Heisler.
2. Yes, “hyper-charismatics” like my content, but it isn’t because I’m a charismatic. I’m not, nor will I ever be. It’s because they like things like the supernatural world. Do you dislike the Bible’s supernatural content? Just wondering. Dear NARwatch: You might want to do things like read this blog, or maybe use that Google thing to find out what I really think about the NAR and hyper-charismania. Had you done that, you’d find these sorts of things:
- NOT GOOD NEWS: THE NEW NAR “PASSION TRANSLATION” OF THE BIBLE
- SOME BRIEF THOUGHTS ON “CHARISMANIA” AND THE NEW APOSTOLIC REFORMATION
Had NARwatch read my recent Demons he’d know I reject the NAR slant on “Strategic Level Spiritual Warfare” (I’m in agreement with Clinton Arnold’s critique of that – but let’s not let research get in the way of a smear).
Anyone who follows me or my content knows I’m no friend of the NAR. I had Holly Pivec on my podcast, and would have her on again. (I also had Mike Brown on to give the other side). But for me, I reject what the NAR stands for (see the post above that NARwatch so artfully missed). But charismatics and the NAR are not the same. I’m happy that either group reads my content, because it will help them. Why? Because it’s not wacky speculation. It’s biblical theology. It’s based on mainstream (non-charismatic) biblical scholarship (see above on the concept of “footnotes”). If NAR abuses doctrine, my content could help cure that. My goal is simple: do useful things for anyone who cares about Scripture. I’m here to help anyone who refuses to elevate experience over Scripture and biblical theology. That eliminates many in pop evangelicalism (inside or outside the NAR and the charismatic movement), but it’s just what’s needed for those who are hungry for biblical content.
Truth be told, I share NARwatch’s concerns about the shallowness of popular mega-church contexts. His solution is to snipe at them. Mine (and that of Celebration Church under Stovall Weems) is to try and help them awaken to a love for Scripture and the Great Commission. If they reject that, then we’ll have to part company — but we will always want to help steer them in the right direction if they are teachable. I’ll leave it to readers to decide which strategy is more biblical and has greater potential of turning hearts in the right direction.
3. Stovall Weems is not in league with the NAR. I know this because I work for him. I would never have gone to Celebration Church had this not been the case. And yes, I asked before going. Stovall has changed quite a bit over the last two years and Celebration has been blessed for it. Change is what happens when people turn from doing ministry one way to another. And it’s a process. It’s not instantaneous. I’m happy to be part of helping Celebration’s transition and its ongoing ministry.
4. I’ve heard and seen things about Furtick. What I’ve seen and heard isn’t good. But since I don’t know him and have never heard him speak, I don’t know what’s true or not (but at least one thing I’ve seen used in his church is appalling). But should he just be cast to the wind without trying to help? Sure, Stovall Weems is on his board. But Stovall is hoping to use that relationship (we’ve talked about that, too) to at least try to get Pastor Furtick to change to a content-oriented church, to emphasize biblical theology and the Great Commission — to make the kind of transition out of the pop church culture that he has made over the past two years. Maybe that will happen, maybe it won’t. But if no effort is made, then odds are that it won’t. Dear NARwatch: doesn’t the New Testament teach that a brother should go to a brother who needs to change something and try to help him? I seem to recall that somewhere. It’s only after a brother refuses to change that separation needs to occur. The point is that there is a *process* to such things, at least if we care to follow the New Testament. The idea is to not treat fellow believers with contempt. At least try to help them see that they need to change something and come alongside and be an asset to that, not a liability. You might want to try that. It can be rewarding. Granted, it’s much easier to sit in your perch and snipe believers with whom you disagree, but if you aren’t willing to try and restore people first, stop talking about loving the brethren. Avoid that hypocrisy.
5. I don’t know what Tikkun is, so I can’t comment. I know Mike Brown and Paul Wilbur are part of it. Mike has friendships with some of the NAR leadership. I’ve said publicly I wish he would do more to rebuke its abuses and nonsense. To be fair, he wrote a whole book on charismania abuses. It’s good to see an insider do that, but I’d still like to see more from him there. He has the platform with them to help correct things. Perhaps that will come. In any event, my feelings about the NAR aren’t secret (if you read, that is).
From this point, readers of the NARwatch piece are treated to the following gems — his critique of me and my content (his “red flags” about me). I’m going to list them. Get your popcorn.
1. Catholic Ecumenism And An “Open-Boundaried” Canon
NARwatch links to something I blogged from John Hobbins’ website a number of years ago. The point of John’s statement back then (which is why I thought it worth thinking about) is that God can help people move along in their spiritual journey through the canon they use. That’s true. God can speak to people and move them in a needed spiritual direction through a movie, or a letter from a relative, etc. John isn’t saying (and neither am I) that we as Protestants ought to embrace books outside the canon we adopt so as to widen it into something that isn’t the Protestant canon. I don’t think any of the books outside the Protestant canon are canonical. Anyone who listens to my lectures knows that. But it’s so much easier to lift a sentence out of a blog post and misrepresent it.
On ecumenism, I’m opposed to that, too. I’m opposed to any movement or individual that dilutes or dismisses the gospel. Among the many things NARwatch apparently doesn’t know is the fact that my book, The Unseen Realm, was endorsed and reviewed by scholars, pastors and lay readers from every corner of the Christian world. Why? Because I don’t cater to ANY denominational distinctives. Instead, I focus on the meta-narrative of Scripture (the story and its core theological elements, with an eye to how the unseen world and the human world intentionally intersect in the story of salvation). Everybody gets to love the book or hate it. And the verdict is in. You don’t sell 130,000 books (to date) if it doesn’t resonate with real believers across the denominations that fragment the body of Christ.
2. Genesis 1-11 Written in Sixth Century Babylon?
This section is riddled with ignorance of the issue. Sorry, NARwatch (and your sources) this isn’t about Enuma Elish. The Babylonian content in Gen 1-11 is much wider, and much older. And you and your source seem not to realize that later stories from Mesopotamian are frequently rewrites of much older ones. Yes, I strongly suspect that Gen 1-11 may have been written or (here’s what NARwatch skips) heavily edited during the exile. Unless we believe Moses was transporting trays of cuneiform tablets with him when he fled Egypt, or at the exodus (then he was trucking them along in the desert wilderness), we have something like what I’m proposing going on. And note to your poor use of Petrovich. Doug would know that what I’m saying has ZERO to do with Moses and literacy. Of course Moses was literate. Of course he could write. That isn’t the issue — the issue is the clear Babylonian sourcing strewn through Genesis 1-11.
3. Universalism Is Possible if ANE Confirmed?
Honestly, I don’t even know what this one means. I can’t think that illogically. What the heck does an ANE context for the Bible (something you just quoted your source, Petrovich, for by the way) have to do with universalism? Goodness. I’m not a universalist. If I thought that was a good idea I’d at least come up with a way to to defend it that wasn’t absurd.
4. Leanings Towards Annihilationism
Right, me and that other hyper-charismatic, John R. W. Stott! (I don’t imagine that Mr. NARwatch knows who that was, so he’ll miss how funny that is). Annihilationism is on the table for me, basically because of my own lack of omniscience in regard to Rev 20:12-14; 1 Cor 15:26.
12 And I saw the dead, great and small, standing before the throne, and books were opened. Then another book was opened, which is the book of life. And the dead were judged by what was written in the books, according to what they had done. 13 And the sea gave up the dead who were in it, Death and Hades gave up the dead who were in them, and they were judged, each one of them, according to what they had done. 14 Then Death and Hades were thrown into the lake of fire. This is the second death, the lake of fire. (Rev 20:12–14)
24 Then comes the end, when he delivers the kingdom to God the Father after destroying every rule and every authority and power. 25 For he must reign until he has put all his enemies under his feet. 26 The last enemy to be destroyed is death. (1 Co 15:24–26)
Here’s the issue: If Death itself is destroyed, how can it be said that sinners keep on dying? If we take these passages at face value (that means “literally” for NARwatch), then there is no more death — which in turn would mean that annihilation is the correct view. But maybe we have something metaphorical here. I don’t know. And neither does NARwatch. But maybe he has some way of unraveling this that has been lost to scholarship. Please, let’s have it (my suggestion: use footnotes).
5. Emergent Endorsement
I don’t know what “emergent” means, so I can’t add anything here. Frank’s a good guy. I’ve read enough of him to know we’d have disagreements on some church things (ecclesiology), but I don’t require everyone to agree with me to consider them a friend or useful to the kingdom of God.
6. Flat Earth: The Bible Got It Wrong?
I’m not sure what his point is here. If he’s a flat-earther, then he has my pity. If he’s not, I don’t know what the point is. If he thinks we can take all biblical statements about the natural world at face value, then my prayer is that if he ever needs brain surgery he won’t be anticipating an operation on his heart or intestines to correct the problem. (Biblical writers wrote about the seat of emotions and intellect being those things … can NARwatch give me the biblical Hebrew word for “brain”?).
NARwatch brings up the red herring used by so many who don’t want to think: the perspicuity of Scripture. (Perspicuity means “clarity”). This is trucked out by people who don’t like someone’s conclusion to something but don’t want to do the hard work of investigating the data. There is no such thing as *inherent* perspicuity. We have to ask the obvious question that has either evaded NARwatch (or is avoided by him): to whom is the Bible “perspicuous”? I’d say the original audience had a high degree of perspicuity. We have much less — because we are thousands of years removed from the original context. If there’s a self evident truth here, that’s it. It’s utterly obvious. To appeal to perspicuity when you don’t like someone else’s understanding of the text is arrogant at best — it presumes that YOU (or some 16th century reformer) understood the text in context as well as someone living at the time of the biblical writing. That’s absurd. But it’s really an excuse to be lazy.
7. No Adam? No problem! No Original Sin? No Problem Either!
More ignorance. I believe there was an Adam and Eve. I suppose NARwatch couldn’t find the places I say this. Try listening to my podcast. You might learn something or be less wrong. On the original sin, this is about the only thing that NARwatch gets right. I don’t believe in the mainstream understanding of Romans 5:12. But what NARwatch doesn’t seem to know is that my view is actually part of Baptist tradition. (People have also told me it’s E. Orthodox, but I don’t know EO that well to know if that’s really the case). In any event, my take on Romans 5:12 is exegetically defensible. If NARwatch wants to have aborted babies and stillborns in hell, that’s his right (in his view of Rom 5:12, all humans conceived are sinful and under wrath, and cannot believe . . . I guess non-elect by definition . . . or . . . ). Or if he wants to lie to people and tell them God makes an exception to human sinfulness to get these unfortunates into heaven, he can proceed with such unscriptural dishonesty. I won’t. There is a better way to parse these things so that human sinfulness isn’t side-stepped and the work of Christ remains the sole source of salvation, with no human merit (or cuteness) involved.
8. Indifference to creation
It’s difficult to believe he can be this poor a thinker, but here we are. Yes, I don’t care what view of creationism one holds to — but I have said many times (I’m on the internet in a lot of places) that the fact of a Creator is essential. No matter what view of creationism one holds, whether involving evolution or not, it all starts with a Creator creating all matter. It’s pretty simple, yet NARwatch manages to bungle this point.
9. Heiser’s Non-JEDP, But Largely Non-Moses Hypothesis
Jesus’ line about straining at a gnat comes to mind for this one. Yes, I’m not a traditional Mosaic authorship guy (for reasons that all NARwatch’s readers can learn here – thanks, NARwatch!). I’m also not buying JEDP. I think it is based on circular reasoning. I think there was a Mosaic core that got added to (what used to be called a supplementarian in the early days of resistance to JEDP).
10. Late Dating The Exodus And The Ras Shamra Tablets
Another item that tests my ability to think illogically. I don’t take the late date. I’m still undecided here. On one hand, it really all comes down to Exod 1:11, and the late date has the best arguments here, at least right now. But on the other hand, I agree with Rohl (in parts — he goes too far in other respects) that Egyptian chronology needs compression. Wood’s work (cited by NARwatch) is also excellent. It’s as though Mr. NARwatch doesn’t realize that I know all these people and their work. I do. (Dear NARwatch: let’s add this to what you don’t know: When I was in charge of public lectures for Logos Bible Software in Bellingham, WA, guess who I had in to speak on Jericho and the exodus? Why . . . Bryant Wood!). While we’re on early date scholarship, I highly recommend the work of John Bimson as well. You might want to listen to the Naked Bible Podcast series on exodus. We devoted several episodes to the problems of the exodus date.
At any rate, the date is still up in the air for me. But honestly, who cares? NARwatch does, and has put the world on notice! Zzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz. Anyway, there are scholars of both views who hold to things like inspiration and inerrancy. I wonder why “perspicuity” hasn’t helped here? Hmmm.
I don’t get the Ugaritic part, but I do know poor thinking when I see it. Just because the Ugaritic tablets exist doesn’t mean that Moses couldn’t write. Of course he could. You’re dishonestly making people think that I don’t believe Moses could write. Early 20th century fundamentalism would like its arguments back, please.
11. The Great Deluge of Genesis: Just A Local Downpour?
No flood view, local / regional or global, is just a downpour. No view excludes the biblical statements about the magnitude of the flood. They just understand what the descriptions meant differently. I don’t care what view of the flood anyone takes. I’m fine with either. And let me thank you for another opportunity to educate your audience. As a thought experiment, I blogged a while back at how one would defend, from the biblical text, a local/regional view. Check it out here — and learn how to engage the biblical text, not prooftext and lift quotes from sources to make your opponent say things he doesn’t believe.
NARwatch finishes off his dishonest and uninformed missive with one review of Unseen Realm that agrees with him (I wouldn’t be shocked if it was his own review). What he doesn’t tell his audience is that there are 1470 other reviews that think the book is awesome. But let NARwatch be true and every other believer a liar! Sigh.
Well, that gives you an idea. Yes, I lost productivity doing this. But it was fun.
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Dr. Michael Heiser