118. Beware the hypocrites who find no Scriptural evidence - but will remove those who use Scripture to define heresy
[In the ensuing hub-bub Kevin Dare took the microphone]
Kevin Dare : "I feel for Roger on Sunday. I'm preaching as well - I won't be here. I will be preaching over the other side of Cardiff in a church that has its problems. And it makes it no more easy for me, knowing what's going on here. Now this is a suggestion, it's not a proposal, and I don't want to see hands raised and seconded and all the rest of it. But we have discussed tonight some of the issues that have come up in David's letter, particularly about heresy, and particularly about the way that he's done it. And they are NOT PROVEN! I don't think I'm stretching a point when I say that the majority of people here, if it were put to a vote, would say that David is out of line in the things that he has said and his statement about heresy IS WRONG! NO - IT'S WRONG! (in response to someone calling out!) I SAY that it's wrong and I think that the majority of people do - but that's - I shouldn't really speak on your behalf. I'm speaking on my behalf. My proposal is that - because of the issue has not been sorted out completely and I don't think that we're going to do it tonight. But because something has to happen on Sunday, and it's a very important service, with the BBC coming here and all the rest of it, something has got to be done. And I would ask - I would ask in love - that David and Zoë absent themselves this Sunday. For the sake of the church. I think that would be the first step forward to cover the immediate situation. What happens after that, I'm not quite so sure. But I do believe that tonight is the only opportunity we have to make a decision about it. And I would ask them publicly - because I think they've seen from the meeting this evening, the feeling of people, the charge of heresy has not been upheld (someone calls out). That's three people out of - I don't know how many. The charge of being out of line with - the method of doing it - the charge of being unloving, in the way that it was done. All of those things. I think at this immediate moment would mean that I, personally - but I say that I'm not going to be - but I would ask them, publicly, to absent themselves. This Sunday. So that the maximum amount of room for manoeuvre can be given. It's not going to solve the situation - and I'm not saying this will put everything right. But I think that that would be a step forward. I'm quite happy for it to be talked down, but that would be my suggestion."
[If you remember Kevin's earlier speech you will notice that he did not attempt to define heretic but instead gave his own personal opinion while admitting that it 'may not be a dictionary definition.' Well it certainly is not a dictionary definition and would not be considered by anyone seriously studying the subject of heresy, or using the rules of a court of law which should be based on Biblical principles, not Roman law, or the widespread liberalism which abounds in Western courts today. In a court of law we would call expert witnesses and not rely on hearsay. I quoted the Greek expert Vines, who is recognised world-wide as an authority, and NOT ONE witness refuted this expert witness! Instead people came with their own definitions - all of which were inaccurate and irrelevant to the accusation against Roger Wheelhouse. There is also the fact that Kevin cannot avoid - that his own description of Wheelhouse at work in church meetings fits the description of the work of a factious heretic! It is clear that emotion was the over-riding factor in this discussion, as witnessed by these closing references to heresy by Kevin when he emphasised: "I feel for Roger on Sunday."
When Kevin claimed that "we have discussed tonight some of the issues that have come up in David's letter, particularly about heresy, and particularly about the way that he's done it. And they are NOT PROVEN", he is making claims that are simply unsupportable. The heresy issue was white-washed, but the behaviour of Wheelhouse is perfectly defined by the words, 'heresy' and 'heretic', as explained earlier. For Kevin to go on: I don't think I'm stretching a point when I say that the majority of people here, if it were put to a vote, would say that David is out of line in the things that he has said and his statement about heresy IS WRONG" is, again, speculation. In fact, this was never put to the vote in this meeting! Once again Kevin gave a strong assertion and even claimed to know the hearts and minds of the majority present until he backed down on this issue: "I SAY that it's wrong and I think that the majority of people do - but that's - I shouldn't really speak on your behalf. I'm speaking on my behalf."
Sadly, the appearance of the church was more important than the truth being addressed at this meeting: " . . . it's a very important service, with the BBC coming here and all the rest of it, something has got to be done." The pretense of showing love says everything about the Laodicean nature of the church: "And I would ask - I would ask in love - that David and Zoë absent themselves this Sunday. For the sake of the church." Let's pretend to the BBC, to the world, that everything is alright here. Never mind the fact that we cannot admit that we have employed a destructive heretic, it is the front that the world sees that is important to the church today.
I have never seen a more obvious sign that the church of today is blinded by "an angel of light" (2 Corinthians 11:14). In my twenty two years in Cardiff as a Christian, I have accepted invitations to meetings held by some of the more cleverly disguised cults, and, since the city is heavily populated by young students (away from home for the first time and therefore very vulnerable - see Christadelphian section), I have attended in an attempt to warn young Christians who might be drawn into these deception. As a result I have sat in Christian Science meetings, for example, listening to Hindu teachings being dressed up as Christianity. Looking around these meetings, I notice that the average age is well over sixty and most of those present are women. I have questioned their speakers to try and draw out the errors being promulgated as truth - and then found the speaker congratulating me for my exposition of his doctrine! Such is the ability of Satan to twist God's truth in the mind of the deceived, just as he convinces the contemporary church that it is really handling the Word of God accurately. In this way people hear Scripture quoted without grasping what is actually being said and subsequently allow the Wheelhouse's of the world to continue their destructive careers.
As the church meeting descended further into chaos, our good friend Hazel Baker went to the microphone to ask why we were being asked to absent ourselves from the church, "Because they've done nothing wrong." Despite repeatedly asking: "What have they done wrong?," she received no reply. Since we were already scheduled to be elsewhere on the following Sunday, it was no skin off our noses to say that we would not be at the church for the BBC broadcast. We did not state in any form that we were absenting ourselves because we agreed with Kevin Dare's proposal, or anything that the church meeting had concluded, as has already been made clear. As the meeting ended I asked Richard Lewis and Kevin Dare to give me clear Scriptural exposition in writing to show where they considered the letter to be at fault. Kevin immediately came over and said Jeremiah also questioned God to which I replied: 'Jeremiah was wrong!' (to question God)." Kevin looked at me stunned - perhaps no one has ever given him this obvious answer before - and then gave me the following notes on interpretation of Scripture. He said, 'I expect you'll agree with most of them' - to which I replied: 'I'll probably agree with all of them!' These notes follow:
Principles of Biblical Interpretation?
Biblical interpretation is firstly, and most importantly, co-creation with God. We should follow a method of interpretation that enables us to listen carefully to the text, to learn about the context behind the text and to respond obediently and freely to the message of the text. The power of the past, the opportunity of the present and the shape of the future lie awesomely in our God-given capacity to interpret, to understand and act, to co-create.
Quoting the Bible does not in itself guarantee correctness of position. The best meaning of "literal interpretation" is the effort to understand the plain meaning of the text, based upon study of both its grammatical-literary features and its historical setting. Using texts out of context is a misuse of the Bible.
To avoid selective use of evidence, the entire biblical witness on a given subject should be considered. This will lead to considering how biblical teaching with its variety, and even apparent contradiction, is authoritative; it will also lead to us discerning how certain parts of the biblical witness interpret other parts.
Each particular text or section of the Bible should be used for its main emphasis, not for its attendant features. For this reason our study of the Bible should focus on literary units - paragraphs, chapters, sections and entire books.
The interpreter should give priority to theological principles and basic moral imperatives rather than to specific counsel on particular topics, especially when these two conflict. This is part of the effort to determine how the Bible functions normatively for believing communities removed from the history and culture in which it was written. It is related also to the concern that we follow the "spirit of Scripture" and not become legalistic in interpretation. Hanging major positions on a particular - possibly even questionable - meaning of a word, or on one or two texts, should be avoided.
Biblical interpreters must learn from the poor, the disenfranchised, the persecuted and the oppressed. The eyes of these people have gifts of insight that bring the biblical message into clear focus. Interpretations that selfishly benefit the power of the interpreter, or the group they represents, run counter to the basic teaching and spirit of the biblical message.
Sustained reading and study of the biblical text is necessary to overcome the economic, political, sociological, psychological and religious influences that affect our interpretation of the Bible. These factors, together with psychological forces related to our own lives, loves, values, and circles of friendship, affect our use of the Bible. We should seek to become conscious of these influences upon us and use a method for the study of Scripture that gives us distance from these influences. Through sustained listening to the text, the message of the text may puncture, change and convert the interpreter s biases and ideologies.
The interpreter's religious tradition also exercises enormous influence upon their insights and judgements. The influence of such tradition upon biblical interpretation is very significant. This influence has several dimensions. Differences in interpreting and assessing those beliefs and practices make understanding the Bible more difficult. The influence of church tradition functions both negatively and positively in the interpretative process.
The biblical interpreter should recognise the temporal and cultural distance that exists between the world of the Bible and the world of the believer today, especially when addressing social issues. The same word, command or instruction may differ significantly depending upon the historical and cultural place and time in which it was and is spoken. Especially when the issue involves social structures, Christians must consider their responsibility for those structures. It is one thing for Christians not to seek to change an oppressive social structure when Christians as a small minority have no control over those structures; but it is quite another thing for them to argue for such structures when they are created and sustained mostly by Christians. Whether we use the distance between the text and the interpreter to excuse or assist us in Christian discipleship is most significant.
The historical-critical method as employed in biblical studies is useful because it respects the distance between the interpreter and the text, making it possible for the text to speak its distinctive message. At its best the historical-critical method enables the interpreter to grasp the distinctive character of each text by placing it in its historical and cultural setting. By learning as much as possible about the situation of the writer and of the writing's recipients, the interpreter gains a clearer understanding of the text. This method cannot perform the total task of interpretation; other perspectives and resources are necessary to supplement it.
The relationship between the Old and New Testaments is an important question in biblical interpretation. One most fruitful understanding of that relationship between the Old and New Testament regards the New as fulfilment of the promise contained in the Old. The fulfilment in Jesus, portrayed in the New Testament, provides the pattern of authority that should be considered normative. A proper understanding of New Testament teaching frequently depends upon seeing clearly the structures of thought and life in the Old Testament that the New Testament fulfils. Hence both of the Testaments are important for serious Bible study.
Both diversity and unity of thought are present in the Bible. Differences of perspective emerge not only between the Testaments but also within each Testament. These differences, if viewed as God taking history and culture seriously, can be regarded positively. Coherence amid the diversity is expected not at the level where all statements say the same thing, or where all expressions of faith are uniform, but rather at the point of seeking fidelity to the central testimony. In taking the differences in history and culture seriously, biblical revelation engages in a two-way contextualisation: contextualising the gospel to people in their world and culture and at the same time contextualising the varied cultures and experiences of people into conformity with God's will and kingdom.
The divine and human dimensions of biblical revelation are not such that they can be materially distinguished, as though some parts are divine and others human. Rather, as in the Incarnation, the divine and human dwell together so that the divine is manifested in the human and the human in the divine, because of revelation in history. The cultural human factor is present not only in some texts but also in the entire Bible. Thus, in every situation of biblical teaching the Word is near to us, sometimes instructing us to take culture more seriously and sometimes instructing us to strongly critique our culture.
The more occasional nature of some biblical teaching needs to be taken into account. When it is clear that a specific teaching was occasioned by specific problems and needs, its very specificity should be instructive to us as a model or paradigm, suggesting how we too in our settings may make specific applications of the gospel's teaching. Such applications then and now should not be regarded as timeless prescriptions. The diversity of application and expression instructs otherwise.
The purpose of biblical interpretation is the discovery of God's purpose and will for humanity and the edification of God's people. Scripture points to Christ and to God as final authority. Interpretation, therefore, stands always in the service of obedience and worship; it calls for humbly walking with God and depends upon the vision and power of the Spirit. While the method of interpretation is indeed important, no precise set of rules can be rigidly formulated or followed in biblical interpretation. This freedom, arising from the Spirit, should not be taken, however, as an excuse for self-justifying tendencies or laziness in study and exegesis.
Biblical interpretation is not a private enterprise. In the last analysis it is not the domain of either the individual or the scholar. Interpretation should be tested and validated by communities of faith. Similarly, the insights and truth claims of one community should be shared with and tested by other communities of faith, especially in order to seek cross-cultural validation. Not only is interpretation to be cognitively evaluated and affirmed by communities of faith, but the value claims of the Bible are adequately perceived and tested also only by the faithful church, the people who seek to live by the power of God's salvation.
The interpreter should regard the community of faith, rather than society as a whole, to be accountable to the biblical teaching. As communities of faith live out the ethical vision and the teachings of the Bible, the patterns of biblical morality will exist in society as testimony and witness. Church members should be held accountable to the biblical standard and expected to exemplify that way of life to unbelievers. This seriousness about moral values among believers becomes then the basis for witness to the larger society (to the state, for example, on political issues).
The above is adapted from Slavery, Sabbath, War and Women (Case Issues in Biblical Interpretation) by Willard M Swartley, published by Herald Press, 1983. It is not intended as a hermeneutical blueprint, but rather a set of principles to guide the Biblical interpreter towards the truth.'
Reading these the notes, I definitely disagree with the first assertion that 'Biblical interpretation is firstly, and most importantly, co-creation with God'! This is open to all kinds of dangerous interpretation. The basic rule of interpretation is laid down by the Holy Spirit (God Almighty Himself!) in Romans 12:6:
And since we have gifts that differ according to the grace given to us, let each exercise them accordingly: if prophecy, according to the proportion of his faith;
The Holy Spirit is the one who 'will guide you into all the truth; for He will not speak on His own initiative, but whatever He hears, He will speak; and He will disclose to you what is to come' (John 16:13) So, clearly, without His leading we are all capable of falling into error, as false religions and the cults prove! The general teaching of Scripture on any subject governs the interpretation of any particular passage. No Scripture may be interpreted in a way that conflicts with the general teaching of the Bible. Difficult passages are interpreted in the light of clearer passages. This should be clear to most people - and certainly clearer than Kevin's notes! Because of this there will be no new 'surprise' Benny Hinn type revelations. Well, not outside Charismaniac circles, anyway! I simply ask anyone to point out where my interpretation of the teaching in Wheelhouse's sermons, which was played out in his factious behaviour amongst the flock, breaks any of the rules of Biblical interpretation in Kevin Dare's notes and the clear meaning of Scripture and word definition in the context of these events. The interpretation was really more simple than the Holy Spirit revealing to the apostles that Ananias and Sapphira had lied about their sale of land (Acts 5) and their lies brought about their deaths. The lies and contradictions of the Wheelhouse's were no less blatant. No one is above correction, but the emotionalism by which decisions were made in this whole scenario also fails the scrutiny of Scripture. Paul exhorted Timothy (2 Timothy 2:15):
"Study to show thyself approved…rightly dividing the word of truth."
This has the idea of ploughing a straight furrow and, as Charles H. Spurgeon said:
"I believe there is no preaching God will accept but that which goes decidedly through the whole line of truth from end to end and is always thorough, honest and downright (total, complete, pure)."
There is no way that Roger Wheelhouse's sermons could be called such! Since no one involved in this fiasco at Calvary Baptist Church has been able to prove my interpretation amiss in any way, but has merely used personal speculation, emotion and ad hominem attacks, I remain utterly convinced that my comments on Wheelhouse's sermons are correct. The testimony of two pastors in the Baptist Union varied, from that of Byron Jones, a man with a proven track record of honesty and integrity, who said, honestly and frankly:
'Regarding the heresy, he will just claim that he made a mistake, but the pastoral abuse is very serious and must be dealt with in a public church meeting.'
to that of Richard Lewis :
In public: 'there are times when we who are ministers may use words which in hindsight we may not wish to use again - incorrectly, but unless you want your minister to stand there with a piece of paper in his hand and read it word for word, then, you know, you must be open to that.'
In private: (a view expressed to Francis Corney after the meeting): 'Yes, it was Antinomianism.'
Again, the end result was shown by the testimony of witnesses to be lawless behavior exhibited by Wheelhouse towards a large section of the fellowship - doctrinal error over the place of Law in a Christian's life resulting in an outworking of factious and heretical behavior! QED!