Thoughts on Charismatic Bible Interpretation

In the last post on this topic, I was touching on various approaches to the Bible. I’d like to hone in a bit more on the crux of what I’m grappling with. There exists today a tremendous gap between Charismatics and Evangelicals in their approach to Scripture. So I’m a hard core Charismatic with an evangelical background at an evangelical seminary. No wonder I’m living in tension.

Why the tension? Well on the one hand the best of evangelical preaching and thought is very grounding. It’s straightforward. It’s wholesome. It’s clear. Take Charles Stanley. I think he may be the best of all evangelical Bible teachers. Here is a guy who opens up the Bible, and tells you the most straightforward facts it contains, and yet you remain glued to the TV. What is the deal? Part of the deal is certainly his view of Scripture. He teaches from the Bible. He assumes that the Bible must teach you. No points for complex or secondary interpretation. On the other hand, the best of Charismatic preaching is incredibly dynamic and interesting. The best of the Spirit filled guys can take was seems to be the most obscure Bible passage and bring it to life with a whole new shade of meaning you never saw. I’m always thinking “man I wish I could learn how those guys get that out of the Bible.” Can you have both?

Recently I’ve been thinking about the actual process of getting value from the Word. The problem with even the best of evangelical approaches is that they start and end with the rational mind. Intense memorization, incredible background study, etc. I’ve come to realize the fact that we are spiritual beings and that we must live out of The Spirit. The mind should definitely be engaged, but the Spirit should govern. Moving in the Spirit in one day, you can probably do more than a whole lifetime of the mind only. Take T.L Osborn. He was a missionary to India. No fruit. Came back, encountered William Branham began to move in faith and the supernatural, and for decades to come led massive crusades which healed untold numbers and changed countless lives. If the process of Bible interpretation begins and ends with the Spirit, then I think we’ll get real value. I rather have a prepared Spirit and an unprepared mind than a prepared mind and an unprepared Spirit. Of course, what you really want is both. When I preach my goal is to know all of my facts and points, but to be animated by God.

Here is the thing about Charismatic Bible Interpretation that I’m starting to realize though. We’ve come to the place where if it is new and exciting, or has a new angle we think it’s true. It’s a “revelation.” There is a spiritual atmosphere when people preach and deliver these revelations. It can be very captivating and life shaping, but it may not be 100% true. That’s the danger of a revelation isn’t it? Not so bad for an occasional message, but when an entire branch of the Church is built around it, it can get unbalanced. Instead of being really tied to the Bible and its plain meaning for truth, we are actually tied to these revelations which are preached. I think the Bible calls that “being tossed about by every wind of doctrine.”

The problem when you shut down revelatory preaching, however is not only that things can often get as dry as a stick, but that you’ve actually undermined the way that the New Testament itself was formed. Many of the OT quotations in the New would never be derived from a rational study of the OT text or by use of the so called grammatico-historical approach. They come by revelation to the apostolic authors. Now they do not undermine the text, but the average reader would not likely have gotten from point A to point B. I believe we ought to be in the same hermeneutical flow as the apostles were. More on that later.

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1 Comment

  1. Such a good post.

    I too had an evangelical upbringing, but then went to a Charismatic bible school in Pensacola, Florida, birthed out of a revival you might have heard of.

    I too struggle with the tension of how so much evangelical teaching is great in how it’s grounded in the Word, but my mind usually hurts after a while, but then how charismatics seem to have “life” oozing out of their small insights into the Word but look like they aren’t really grounded in it.

    I appreciate your post and insights into this.

    Steve B

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