Tag Archives: Spirituality

Authentic Spirituality: Through the Lens of Genesis Chapter 1

 

When we open up our Bibles to the Book of Genesis we are immediately introduced to the the Ancient Near Eastern culture (*think – ancient Sumer, Mespotamia, etc). By examining Genesis chapter 1 we can gain an understanding of “spirituality” and ultimately reinforce our spirituality which is established in and through Jesus Christ as “authentic”. Take a minute to read through Genesis 1:1-31.

What you just read is the Genesis creation account. The phrase “formless and void” which can be found in Genesis 1:2 highlights that the creation at that time (“earth”) was comparable to a dry, useless desert wilderness with no possibility to sustain life (as expressed in the Hebrew -“tohu wabohu”). As we read, “In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth. The earth was formless and void, the darkness was over the surface of the deep, and the Spirit of God was moving over the surface of the waters (Genesis 1:1-2)”. Unfortunately, many have failed to note that “heaven and earth” is a covenant phrase used all throughout the Scriptures to refer to God’s old covenant people (Israel), as well as their covenant with Him (the Temple was referred to as “heaven and earth”) in contrast to earth simply being all of creation. This unfortunate failure to understand the covenantal aspect of these details has led to a distorted understanding regarding what is happening at the beginning and throughout the Bible. Far too many people think the phrase “heaven and earth” means the sky and the terra firma we are standing upon and that the beginning of the Bible is trying to explain the beginning of that. That is simply not the case.

(“Heaven and Earth” as used through the Old Testament cf. Leviticus 26:14-20; Deuteronomy 30:19; Deuteronomy 31:30-32:1; Isaiah 1:1-2; Isaiah 13:1-13; Isaiah 24:3-6, 19-20; Isaiah 34:3-5; Isaiah 51:16; Jeremiah 4:28)

As we “study to show ourselves approved, rightly dividing the Word of Truth (2 Timothy 2:15)”, we should be gaining a narrative understanding of what is being detailed from Genesis to Revelation. In step with gaining a narrative understanding, we should we learning the historical context and scene of the details we are reading, and picking up a familiarity with words and phrases that are used. Doing so will enable for a more beautiful, worthwhile, and wholesome understanding of God’s truth.

In Genesis 1:2, as mentioned above, there are quite a few covenant features. For example, “darkness” hints at confusion all throughout the Scriptures, and the “deep” or the waters, symbolize the mass of people outside of the covenant people (“Heaven and Earth”) all throughout the Old Testament. Also, the mention of the Spirit of God hovering over the chaotic waters should provoke the image of God initiating something within His creation. The big question is – what was God doing?

Again I mention that it is truly lamentable how far off people have gone in trying to gain understanding of what is happening in Genesis chapter 1. If confusion takes place at the start of reading the Bible, we end up going through the rest of the Biblical details with a bit of confusion. This speaks to to the rather weak and divided nature of Christ’s Church today, summarized by a failure to apply humility and understanding regarding the details of Scripture, and the various historical contexts through which they were revealed.

If and when we begin to understand Genesis as an ANE text and take in to account the historical context, we open up the door to gaining a radical (rooted) spirituality. Instead of Genesis 1 speaking to our contemporary concerns about God’s creation of the physical things we see – heaven and earth – the historical context speaks to the rampant idolatry and confusion that characterized the ancient near east. Surely God has created all things (cf. Colossians 1:16), however Genesis 1 is understood to be an ancient near eastern “temple text” aimed at establishing the sovereignty of the One True God covenanting with His creation. He establishes the “heaven and earth” (His covenant people) in a formless and void society all with the intention to begin a work (“hovering”) among the mass of people. In a more contemporary fashion we might say, “He was bringing light to darkness”, or clarity to confusion, which is exactly the first creative act highlighted in Genesis 1:3. Genesis chapter 1 is all about God establishing His covenant people to have an affect on the nations around them (“the waters”). This truth of how God worked with and among His people is conveyed through Moses’s song in Deuteronomy chapter 32.

“He found him in a desert land, and in the howling waste of a wilderness; He encircled him, He cared for him, He guarded him as the pupil of His eye. Like an eagle that stirs up its nest, that hovers over its young, He spread His wings and caught them, He carried them on His pinions. The Lord alone guided him, and their was no foreign god with him. (Duet. 32:10-12)”.

Remember the “big question” I mentioned above? What was God doing?

In order to make it explicitly clear that God was bringing forth judgment upon an idolatrous culture in Genesis chapter 1, and ultimately declaring His sovereignty and covenant among His people (“heaven and earth”) through what is known as“temple text”, I want to take us to a passage that uses similar language. Let’s read Jeremiah 4:22-28.

“For my people are foolish. They know me not; they are stupid children and have no understanding. They are shrewd to do evil, but to do good they do not know. I looked on the earth, and behold, it was formless and void; and to the heavens, and they had no light. I looked on the mountains, and behold, they were quaking, and the hills moved to and fro. I looked and behold, there was no man, and all the birds of the heavens had fled. I looked, and behold, the fruitful land was a wilderness, and all its cities were pulled down before the Lord, before His fierce anger. For thus says the Lord, “The whole land shall be a desolation, yet I will not execute a complete destruction. For this the earth shall mourn and the heavens above be dark, because I have spoken, I have purposed, and will not change my mind, nor will I turn from it”.

Exactly what we read in Genesis chapter 1, right? The prophet Jeremiah is prophesying to Israel the coming judgment at the hands of Babylonians which occurred in 586 BC. Jeremiah is using powerful imagery to declare this judgment showing that God’s people, as well as the surrounding nations would be confounded. The prophets continually bring to the forefront the reality that all of God’s creation yearn for His glory to be manifest – the creation and His creation. However, that glory is revealed through His creation, and due to carnality His creation seemingly stumbles again and again. Jeremiah uses rather powerful language to convey what we might call a “conceptual reality”.

A conceptual reality is the formation of thoughts pertaining to the natural environment that are understood as more real, more defining than the reality itself. This is in contrast to an abstract reality which is understood as otherworldly, and sadly enough this is how most people view things of the Spirit. Not so much the Hebrew people though. Many people view spirituality and what is often referred to as the “spirit realm” as mysterious and far away, where as the Hebrew people understood God as near and present to them, being understood through their concept of covenant. Instead of spirituality being understood as an otherworldly phenomenon that wooden images could only mysteriously convey, the Hebrew people saw themselves as the image of God to the nations through their elevated understanding (i.e. their understanding of Spirituality) of His covenanting among them.

It is exactly that, Israel being the image of God to the nations, which is a conceptual reality finding its beginning in Genesis chapter 1 and flowing through the rest of the Scriptures. God creating “heaven and earth” and “hovering over the surface of the deep” was illustrated through the calling out of Adam from the “formless and void” creation of Genesis 1:1 – all a picture of God establishing covenant among His people (Adam being the progenitor of that covenant). The spirituality (or understanding that comes from outside of man, beyond, elevated above) that flows from that “conceptual reality” is that Israel was to obey Torah knowing the sovereignty of the One True God who was manifest in, through, and among them.

Possessing an “authentic spirituality” requires a proper understanding of spirituality that was manifest from God covenanting among His people, as well as an understanding of what authentic means. The carnal manifestations of man’s logic and reasoning, ultimately leaning upon his own misunderstanding is characterizes by confusion and chaos, rather than a clear and clarifying (dare I say elevated/ spiritual) reality which was offered by God through covenant – first through His natural covenant with Israel (Torah) and today through the eternal spiritual covenant established in and through Jesus Christ.

“Now we have received, not the spirit of the world, but the Spirit who is from God, so that we may know the things freely given to us by God, which things we also speak, not in words taught by human wisdom, but in those taught by the Spirit, combining Spiritual thoughts with Spiritual words. But a natural man does not accept the things of the Spirit of God, for they are foolishness to him; and he cannot understand them, because they are spiritually appraised… For who has known the mind of the Lord, that we will instruct Him? But we have the mind of Christ (1 Corinthians 2:12-14,16)”.

In this blog I have offered an honest look at the historical context and details of Genesis chapter 1 in an effort to establish an “authentic spirituality”. We noted that instead of detailing the creation of physical things, we know Genesis 1 to be a ANE temple text highlighting the One True God covenanting with His creation (which would later become Israel). Understanding that allows for an “authentic spirituality” (those who have eyes to see and ears to hear) in regards to the conceptual reality being highlighted in Genesis chapter 1.

What many are defining and trusting as “spiritual” is actually a stronghold delivering them right into the hand of the enemy (the carnal mind – The Satan). What many understand the details of Genesis 1 to be about is also leading many into the hands of the enemy through skepticism, doubt, and confusion. The work of the Satan is the be an adversary to God’s truth and lead us to lean upon our own misunderstandings. Christ was manifest to destroy the devil (1 John 3:8), to give the Church victory over him,(“crush him under their feet” cf. Romans 16:20), and allow for the true knowledge of God to be established among His people (cf. Revelation 21:22-26). Let’s continue to walk as children of the Light offering clarity where there is confusion.

  • I am looking to publish a new book, Wicked, in March 2017. Wicked will deal with much of what was mentioned in this blog in regards to the Biblical narrative, covenant, spirituality, and more.

To God be the Glory!

Advertisements

Leave a comment

Filed under Uncategorized

Spiritual Stuff: Disagreeing with Dr. Michael Heiser

“The path has not been easy. It came with risk and discomfort. Friends, pastors, and colleagues at times misunderstood my questions and rebuttals of their proposed answered. Conversations didn’t always end well. That sort of things happens when you demand that creeds and traditions get in line with the Biblical text”.

Recently I had the pleasure of listening to brother Travis Finley’s podcast, Rethinking Revelation, with a guest appearance by Dr. Michael Heiser, a well known Old Testament/ Ancient Near East scholar.

You can listen to that podcast at the following link,

https://www.spreaker.com/user/rtb4tftx/episode-17-interview-w-mike-heiser

While highly esteeming his credentials, and in many regards would seemingly be a “grasshopper in his sight”, I have come to be in sharp disagreement with him. Namely, his understanding of the “Divine Heavenly Council”, also however his perspective on the “spirit realm”.

I finished reading Dr. Heiser’s book, The Unseen Realm, a couple of months ago and have been planning to write a short review. Plainly, this is a classic example of someone saying so much I find myself in agreement with, yet finding myself completely disagreeing with them in many other regards. How does that happen!?!?

In the opening introduction, Dr. Heiser explains his coming to understand his view of the “heavenly council” in such a manner:

“There it was, plain as day: The God of the Old Testament was part of an assembly – a pantheon – of other gods”.

I heard about this “heavenly council” view from Pastor David Curtis of Berean Bible Church, and then of BBC’s elders, Jeff McCormack wrote an article for FULFILLED! Magazine on the same topic. Simply put, I have found no substance for this view and see it to disturb the way the ancients would have understood things, as well as the narrative of the Bible.

Oddly enough, Dr. Heiser make the following points in his book;

He speaks about his seeking to understand the “heavenly council”, as a “…a place evangelicals fear to tread”, something I experienced by and large as I studied eschatology and came to understand Full Preterism.

“The explanations I found from evangelical scholars were disturbingly weak….”, which again would be true of my journey. Actually, some of this was shown by Dr. Heiser’s explanations of Revelation (as detailed in the above podcast I shared).

“When I looked beyond the world of evangelical scholarship, I discovered that other scholars had churned out dozens of articles and books…”, again I think of men like Dr. Don K. Preston, Dr. Ed Stevens, among many other scholarly men who influenced me as I navigated toward the truth of Full Preterism, in opposition to what other “evangelical scholars” had to say about eschatology.

“My conscience wouldn’t let me ignore my own Bible in order to retain the theology with which I was comfortable. Was my loyalty to the text or to the Christian tradition? Did I really have to choose between the two? – And there we have the ongoing reformation mindset. Glory to God!

I have to say upfront that I appreciate Dr. Michael Heiser and the mind that God has given him. He clearly has a desire to know, understand, and teach the truth. He mentioned the amount of time it took him to finally write a book on these views, 15 years. At that I feel I must be humbled and tread lightly in my critique. I’m not a know-it-all, so as I study, I’ll either have better responses or be proven wrong – so be it. In the meantime, I am disturbed that a man can have so much right, yet miss so much on the other end.

Also, I totally agree with Dr. Michael Heiser’s approach in understanding the Bible. He clearly recommends a healthy understanding of “audience relevance” as well as the points he made in the following quotes:

“Our traditions, however honorable, are not intrinsic to the Bible. They are systems we invent to organize the Bible. They are artificial. They are filters”.

“The facts of the Bible are just pieces – bits of scattered data. Our tendency is to impose order, and to do that we apply a filter. But we gain a perspective that is both broader and deeper if we allow ourselves to see the pieces in their own wider context. We need to see the mosaic created by the pieces”.

I am a big advocate of what it referred to as “Narrative Theology”. Not the quote unquote liberal theory of Narrative Theology, but rather a big “picture theology” that is shaped by an understanding of the whole story that graces the page of Scripture. However, it would seem my and Dr. Heiser’s understanding of that narrative differs.

Dr. Heiser says, “The story of the Bible is about God’s will for, and rule of, the realms He has created, visible and invisible, through the images He created, human and nonhuman. This divine agenda is played out in both realms, in deliberate tandem”.

I would summarize the Biblical narrative to be a big picture reality on how man has come to and can come to know the truth of God. If man coming to know God is redemption, then what we read through the pages of Scripture is the historical detailing of that redemption. God used Old Covenant Israel as His historical people and example through which man’s sin is highlighted and offered the gift of grace through the Messiah. God wants man to rule, reign, and rest with Him and for Him and that is found “in the Spirit”, however man naturally leans upon his own misunderstands (cf. Proverbs 3:5-6). Man leaning upon his own misunderstanding, in contrast to heeding the truth of God (Spirit) is the conceptual reality that is highlighted in the Genesis account, and than man being saved from that through the Messiah is highlighted in the last 2 chapters of the Book of Revelation.

Where I have come to sharply disagree is how Dr. Heiser is his understanding of “the intersection of our domain and the unseen world”. I remember reading through various books and articles on Hebrew mythology and the Ancient Near East and wondering how did all of this reflect upon the details I find in Scripture. How does the truth of Scripture contrast the understanding of the ancient near eastern myths and cults? It would seem that Dr. Heiser has allowed these “Hebrew myths” to develop his understanding of the “heavenly council”, which in some respects has become his “filter” (talked about above).

Honestly, I couldn’t fully read through the book. He used a host of texts (some you will find in a picture below), and used them in a very erroneous matter. I couldn’t stomach the disagreement any more, so I jumped to some chapters, and then finally just reading the last 2 chapters to make sure I didn’t miss anything.

Dr. Heiser uses Psalm chapter 82, of which he says, “has at its core the unseen realm and its interaction with the human world”.

Let’s take a look at Psalm 82:

“God takes His stand in His own congregation; He judges in the midst of the rulers. How long will you judge unjustly, and show partiality to the wicked? Vindicate the weak and the fatherless do justice to the afflicted and destitute. Rescue the weak and the needy; deliver them out of the hand of the wicked. They do not know nor do they understand; they walk about in darkness; all the foundations of the earth are shaken. I said, “You are gods”, and all of you are sons of the Most High. Nevertheless you will die like men, and fall like any one of the princes”. Arise I God, judge the earth! For it is Thou who dost possess all the nations”.

I am baffled that this text could cause so much disruption in Dr. Heiser’s view. The is surely a Messianic picture. God taking His stand is God coming in judgment, and that judgement would be in the midst of His people. Thus is why Jesus Christ quotes this passage in John 10:34-37. Jesus is explaining to the Jews (who are the rulers who judged unjustly and showed partiality to the wicked), namely they did not follow the command of Deuteronomy 4:6-9. Not to see this is to miss the entire point of the Old Testament and the purpose of the Messiah coming to His own. I have no idea how this verse disturbed Dr. Heiser.

Old Covenant Israel was those who walked in darkness and did not know nor understand. Israel was suppose to have the presence of God, however due to sin, which was highlighted by the picture in the garden (which would have been a covenant story for Israel throughout all their generations) they were separated – thus “dying like men, and falling like the princes”.

Dr. Heiser’s confusion is compounded because he has said, “At no point in the Old Testament does the Scripture teach that Jews or Jewish leaders were put in authority over the other nations”. I put a big frown in the book next to this statement. How could Dr. Heiser miss this?

Israel was given the oracles of God (cf. Romans 3:2), they were to rule and reign over the nations as they lived the example of the Law (cf. Deuteronomy 4:6-9), and they came under judgment again and again for failing to live up to this, ultimately culminating in the AD 70 “coming of the Lord”.

After hearing Dr. Heiser on the Rethinking Revelation podcast and really paying attention to his thoughts on eschatology, I realized maybe he needs to return to study of the Biblical narrative past the ancient near east. The “spiritual realm” which is being conveyed through the whole of Scripture (from Genesis to Revelation) is a conceptual reality (an actual reality being made known through a picture), not a dualistic other-world.

Through covenant God chooses those who dwell in His presence, His people had been removed from His presence only to gain access through Jesus Christ at the end of the age (cf. 1 Corinthians chapter 10; Hebrews 9:26). No other gods dwell there.

I urge a study on all the verses that will be in the picture below – of course after a healthy understanding of the Biblical narrative from Genesis to Revelation. Keep an eye out for my book, Wicked, due to be published in March 2017 which will deal with some of these details as well as an examination of all things wicked – Satan, demons, hell,etc…

In Service to Him,

Pastor Michael Miano

2 Comments

Filed under Uncategorized

Who is That?!? Yahweh’s Divine Council (Part 2)

For the past month of so, I have continually obsessed and examined the “Divine Heavenly Council” teachings that are coming into the Church, especially pertaining to those in the Preterist view.

In part 1, we examined the phrase “ben elohim” which can mean either “sons of God” or “sons of the gods” depending on the context in which we find it being used. Neither time does the phrase speak of “otherworld being” or what we often erroneously refer to as “spirit beings”, instead some times the “sons of God” is a reference to Israel, and other times it is a reference to pagan believers (“sons of the gods”).

Let me be clear. I do believe in a “Spiritual Realm” (while I will readily admit this is an area I am willing to learn and do some study). I do believe in “spirit beings” – however I am cautious not to allow my mind to create figments of my imagination and then impose them on Scripture. As I put the Scriptural Narrative at the forefront and examine ANE literature, what I like to call taking a Biblical look at the ANE, I find the story of a God who is Spirit who is inviting His people to become like Him. The whole narrative of the Bible from Genesis to Revelation is painting this picture. Our understanding of the “Spiritual realm” must start there.

With that said, I wanted to take you through some of points in the “Divine Heavenly Council” that seem to be out of sync with the rest of the Biblical narrative. In this examination I will focus on passages provided in the article by Jeffrey McCormack in Fulfilled! Magazine called “Yahweh’s Divine Council” .

Again let me reiterate the focus of this part 2, namely to show that the Scriptures and phrases used to support this teaching of “Yahweh’s Divine Council” are not being demonstrated in line with the context of the Biblical narrative from Genesis to Revelation.

Below we will look at some of the verses Mr. McCormack uses to propagate his view of the “watchers” being an assembling hierarchy of “little g” gods. A view in which he further states “Thus, when we read of gods such as Baal and Molech, we are reading of these angelic leaders.”

The book of Psalms is a noted as a poetic book, one of the “books of wisdom” in Scripture, which use highlight poetic/allegoric details to bring us into the Wisdom of the Father. It is important to consider what style of literature you are reading when seeking to use verses to make a point. I would hardly use the poetic language in Psalms to prove doctrinal points. In reading through the Psalms, I have found I tend to agree with the simple readings offered by translations such as NIV and NLT rather than the more dogmatic KJV or NASB. Read through the Psalms in different translations and see for yourself.

OK so, Psalm chapter 82 it seems to be a rant against the rampant idolatry in Israel. If you study through the historic context in the days of King David you will find how this fits. Israel was continually judged for their failure to heed the Wisdom of the Father by their being enticed to wickedness and idolatry. This Psalm speaks against that. The one true God, when put in a courtroom setting with the other so-called “gods” he is the true Judge, the one who lasts forever, and in due time He will bring forth judgment. Pretty much the continual cry of the righteous in Israel against the rampant idolatry.

In Psalm chapter 89, we are reading a praise of God’s sovereignty. In this praise we are reading a polemic against the other false narratives of the gods. The mention of the chaos and the serpent-creature Rahab alludes to the myths and lies of the pagan beliefs. Again, this is all done in poetic prose not to assert the validity of the pagan “gods”, simply to exclaim praise for the One True God.

Failure to understand the poetic style of these statements seems to be the issue with McCormack’s using these verses to try to validate his “Heavenly Council” stuff. Simply put, when we understand and pay attention to the genre of the Psalms, and the historical context of what was happening during the time of King David and the writing of the Psalms, the “poems” seem rather clear in depicting the sovereignty of God. Bringing strange teachings about otherworldly beings does not fit within the historic narrative and audience relevance.

In his article, Mr. McCormack writes, “Space does not permit discussing it here, but read 1 Kings 22:19-22 to see this divine council at work”. In that passage we read the prophetic words of Micaiah against King Ahab. He speaks prophetically about the sovereignty of God and how a false spirit was within the king’s prophets who told him to go to war against Ramoth-Gilead.

Mr. McCormack would have us to believe that this prophetic picture is a real event happening in the heavens, wherein a one of the “divine council” have decided to falsely lead King Ahab’s prophets. His perspective seems to illustrate confusion in reading through the prophetic versus what actually happened. Consider how prophets talked about wars and calamities that occurred.

He further details that within the historic narrative of people becoming disobedient to Yawweh, He finally gave them over to the leadership of lesser gods. Not only does that sound ludicrous, Mr. McCormack even tries to utilize Scripture in the midst of his confusion. Consider his citation of Dueteronomy 4:19; 29:26; and 32:8-9.

And lest thou lift up thine eyes unto heaven, and when thou seest the sun, and the moon, and the stars, even all the host of heaven, shouldest be driven to worship them, and serve them, which the Lord thy God hath divided unto all nations under the whole heaven. (Deuteronomy 4:19)”

If you do an honest reading through the Law of Moses, and ultimately understand the reason for it (to set His people, Israel, apart from the nations and the rampant idolatry), you will see clearly what this verse is saying. Whereas all the pagans looked into the sky and made “gods” of all that they saw, Moses herein is instructing God’s people not to look into the sky (shamayim in the Hebrew) and worship anything – not the sun, not the moon, not the stars, nothing of the group of things they see in the sky.

For they went and served other gods, and worshipped them, gods whom they knew not, and whom he had not given unto them..(Dueteronomy 29:26)”.

I can see how a cursory reading of this verse can lend us to the idea that God gave Israel over to false gods, a reading very similar to what we read by the Apostle Paul in Romans chapter 1. However, I believe God gave His truth to His people and they forsook it, and God is speaking in contrast to that. His people began to worship gods who they made up, as the Prophets say again and again, whom He had not given them – in contrast to His giving of Himself and His truth. There is no need to go on and read strange details our reading.

When the Most High gave the nations their inheritance, when He separated the sons of man,
He set the boundaries of the peoples according to the number of the sons of Israel.“For the Lord’s portion is His people; Jacob is the allotment of His inheritance (Deuteronomy 32:8-9)”.

I have read through Deuteronomy chapter 32 again and again, even using the text in my own apologetics regarding Preterism, and I have never read this in the text. As I looked into commentaries on the text I realized most commentators are in line with the natural understanding I would have gathered from the text. You can see for yourself by visiting this link which provides various commentaries, http://biblehub.com/commentaries/deuteronomy/32-8.htm

All in all, as I explained this morning in Bible study, we must develop an understanding of Spirituality that is in line with the narrative and details we find in Scripture. The Prophets spoke to give ‘spiritual clarity’ in regards to historic events that were happening. Hebraic Spirituality in contrast to pagan or later developed Hellenistic Spirituality was abstract and not necessarily “otherworldly”. That offers a shameless plug to my upcoming book release, Wicked: The Search for Spirituality and Life, wherein I will further explain the distinction of Hebraic spirituality and it’s God-ordained inspiration from other versions of “spirituality” which sum up to be the wild thoughts of man’s imagination.

I pray I have offer clarity in these regards.

Blessings in Christ Jesus,

Pastor Michael Miano

Leave a comment

Filed under Uncategorized