Both D. A. Carson and Steven L. Porter recently wrote articles that appeared in the Journal of the Evangelical Theological Society questioning the approach and methodology of spiritual formation teaching. Although separated by eight years, Carson’s article explaining the dangers of spirituality apart from a robust bibliology appears to have laid a solid groundwork for Porter’s article espousing the need for a biblical methodology that presents a clear and thoughtful evangelical theology of sanctification. In the process of their individual critiques they offer some pertinent historical context related to sanctification.
Porter begins his critique of spiritual formation teaching by asserting that its practices must fall within prescribed biblical territory and as such the effort to define acceptable spiritual formation activities belongs to Christian theologians. That Christian theologians have not been involved in establishing parameters is evidenced by the “plethora of false spiritualities plaguing church and society” in our present day. This is to be expected when the purpose or goal of sanctification is not rooted in biblical revelation and directive.
In this series of posts I’ve been discussing the great need of the Church today that it’s shepherds be theologians in the highest sense of the word. I share with you a quote by CH Spurgeon who was speaking about the importance of pastors preaching the full counsel of God’s Word. He stated:
“The glory of God being our chief object, we aim at it by seeking the edification of saints and the salvation of sinners. It is a noble work to instruct the people of God, and to build them up in their most holy faith: we may by no means neglect this duty. To this end we must give clear statements of gospel doctrine, of vital experience, and of Christian duty, and never shrink from declaring the whole counsel of God. In too many cases sublime truths are held in abeyance under the pretense that they are not practical; whereas the very fact that they are revealed proves that the Lord thinks them to be of value, and woe unto us if we pretend to be wiser than He. We may say of any and every doctrine of Scripture—to give it then a tongue is wise in man. If any one note is dropped from the divine harmony of truth the music may be sadly marred. Your people may fall into grave spiritual diseases through the lack of a certain form of spiritual nutriment, which can only be supplied by the doctrines which you withhold. In the food which we eat there are ingredients which do not at first appear to be necessary to life; but experience shows that they are requisite to health and strength. Phosphorus will not make flesh, but it is wanted for bone; many earths and salts come under the same description— they are necessary in due proportion to the human economy. Even thus certain truths which appear to be little adapted for spiritual nutriment are, nevertheless, very beneficial in furnishing believers with backbone and muscle, and in repairing the varied organs of Christian manhood. We must preach “the whole truth,” that the man of God may be thoroughly furnished unto all good works.”
Psalm 82:1 in the NASB says, “God takes His stand in His own congregation; He judges in the midst of the rulers.” Note that “rulers” used here in the NASB is better translated “gods” or elohim.
This same passage in the ESV says, “God has taken His place in the divine council; in the midst of the gods he holds judgment.” This is a better translation from the original Hebrew.
The Old Testament gives a clear picture of Yahweh utilizing a divine council of elohim to administer the affairs of the cosmos. Indeed the Israelites believed in a multitude of elohim but only assigned certain characteristics to one elohim, the divine name Hashem. Is this news to you?
Episode 15 is my interview with Dr. Mike Heiser on Soaring Eagle Radio. Listen here.
Dr. Mike Heiser is the Scholar-in-Residence at Logos Bible Software. He holds a Ph.D. in Hebrew and Semitic Studies from the University of Wisconsin and graduate degrees from the University of Wisconsin in Hebrew and Semitic Studies and the University of Pennsylvania in Ancient History with a focus on Egypt and Syria-Palestine.