Revival Leaders Sometimes Write Theology
When God moves in powerful
supernatural ways and when people experience revival, revival leaders often
write theology - sometimes they write good theology and sometimes they
write bad theology. If they write wrongly and the matter is minor, it may
be of little consequence. But sometimes, if they write on a significant
subject, bad theology can lead to damaging and harmful consequences.
When I moved to Beth Messiah Congregation in 1978, I was increasingly
exposed to the "wild and woolly" charismatic world. I mainly refer here to
a world that was not part of the classic Pentecostal world which had by
that time developed very clear theological parameters (some of which, by
the way, I do accept and some I do not. For example, most held the view
that the rapture of the Church takes place before the tribulation).
I found myself regularly offended by what I knew to be wrong
interpretations of the Bible. One time, a man I was discipling, Asher
Intrater, raised a difficult question. He asked whether I had noticed that
many who were concerned about an accurate scholarly interpretation of
the text demonstrated little in the power of God, while those who
demonstrated that power did not concern themselves with such accuracy.
I later concluded that the explanation for this was not our concern to
handle the texts of the Bible carefully, but the Greek influence and mind
set of those who are academics.
How Interested is God in Accurate Theology?
My ongoing concern about bad theology and demonic influence did not abate
and is reflected in my book The Dynamics of Spiritual
Deception. For seven years, Dr. Mike Brown was part of our ministry.
He is a very trustworthy scholar. We discussed the relationship between
good theology and the power of the Spirit at length. We both concluded that
God is most interested in hearts that are passionate towards Him and
moves in power for such people, even though they may make many theological
errors. We decided that we would not let our desire for theological
accuracy steal the blessing of God's miraculous moves of the Holy
Spirit. Of course, we did not include those who were in heresy by
historical definition as a place to recognize the blessing of the move of
The Dangers of Bad Theology
However, I also found that over time serious theological errors would lead
to very negative consequences. Bad theology does have bad effects over the
long haul and can later lead to heresy and destruction. For example, I have
seen books declaring that the Old Testament is irrelevant to believers,
that the Old Testament can no longer be a basis for understanding God and
much more. People have used the Bible to teach that if a person is not
healed, it is always their fault. Bad theology can easily lead to bad
leadership, bad practice and bad relationships. These in turn can result
in abuse, oppression, heresy and even cultic behavior.
Using Good Scholars to Vet Prophetic Teachers
Recently I read Craig Keener's book Spirit Hermeneutics.
Dr. Keener is passionately committed to revival, to the moves of the Holy
Spirit and to his gifts and power. He is also one of today's top
biblical scholars. He proposes that those who write books containing
theological elements should have them evaluated by those with
scholarly ability who are open to the Spirit but can correct error. This
is not to adjust every little point, but to be sure that nothing of great
significance is out of balance. This is an important step, since there is
much writing today writing that contains serious errors and cries out for
I can use Asher Intrater to show how this works. Asher earned degrees from
Harvard, our Bible school in Maryland and Baltimore Hebrew College. Yet
Asher is not given to reading scholarly books. He pursues the Word and
seeks the Spirit for revelatory understanding. He is given great and
piercing understanding. Then Asher looks to Ariel Blumenthal and I to
evaluate and offer corrections to his books before publication. Both of us
have had more theological education on a graduate level than Asher. Usually
there is little to correct, but sometimes we are able to provide helpful
If this vetting process was the norm, the Body of Believers would be saved
from the negative consequences that come from uncritically published work.
I hope that in the future we will see a partnership of charismatic scholars
and revelatory, revivalist, prophetic teachers.