Theological Science Fiction and the Fall of Satan

Theologians love to speculate.  The problem arises when they begin to think of their speculations as fact — and especially when they begin to convince laymen that their speculations are fact.  Then the bare fact that the speculation comes attached to the name of a famous theologian or pastor makes it authoritative — until somebody starts asking for biblical backing.

Sadly, many people don’t bother to ask.

When that happens, the speculation takes on a life of its own, and before you know it, it’s one of those things that “everybody knows,” and questioning it becomes literally unthinkable.  That way lies ruin; it is exactly in that way that tradition becomes more authoritative than God’s Word.

Case in point: there’s a particular bit of speculation going around that God created man in order to prove to Satan that His judgment of Satan was just.  When Satan rebelled and God condemned him, so the tale goes, Satan challenged God’s love and justice in condemning him to the lake of fire.  In response to the challenge, God creates man, whom He will save, in order to demonstrate His love and justice.  As it’s generally told, the whole thing ties in nicely with the gap theory (a serious problem in itself), which allows for the notion of a whole other world, governed and ultimately corrupted by Satan, destroyed in an enormous cataclysm, and reshaped into the world that Adam knew.  In the right hands, it’s a cracking good yarn; it’ll keep you spellbound for an hour or so of good storytelling.

What’s alarming about this speculation is not that someone crafted it, but the amazing number of people who accept it as gospel truth, on the flimsiest of biblical evidence (and in the teeth of a couple of verses I’ll cite below).  Accordingly, I would like to present a competing tale of the fall of Satan.  I openly and freely admit that I am speculating wildly. Although I think my speculations are consistent with everything Scripture says, I do not assert them as fact.  I wasn’t there; how would I know?  Please bear with me in a little folly; the method to my madness will presently appear.

The Fall of Satan: A Theological Science Fiction Story

In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth.  Genesis 1 unfolds literally as it’s told in the text, with no interpolated aeons that Moses somehow neglected to mention.  God made the formless and void stuff of the universe and then, over the next six days, He shaped it into the world that Adam and Eve knew.  Exactly when in this process God created the angels we don’t know, except that it was no later than the third day, because on the third day, God separated the dry land from the seas, and called the dry land Earth—and when He laid the foundations of the earth, all the angels shouted for joy (Job 38:4-7).  Throughout the remainder of the creation week, the heavenly hosts rejoiced at God’s magnificent creativity.  Undoubtedly Lucifer rejoiced with them, playing his timbrels and pipes to the glory of Yahweh.

God made a holy mountain, Eden, a place of fiery stones and ferocious beauty, and it was here that Lucifer walked back and forth before God, playing his music.  A river flowed out of this mountain, toward the east, and it watered the garden God planted for mankind.  On the sixth day, God made Adam there, and charged him with tending and keeping the garden.

Adam seemed to Lucifer a puny thing, earthbound and material, lacking the power and enormous beauty that Lucifer had.  Yet God paid inordinate attention to this man, gave him work to do, and made a companion for him, another puny being comparable to him.  And then, as Lucifer watched from the mountain of God, God ordered these two puny creatures to multiply their kind until they filled and subdued the whole earth.

Then God looked at all He had made — earth and sky, land and sea, animals, angels, and man — and saw that it was very good (Genesis 1:31).  And on the seventh day, God rested.

On the seventh day, Lucifer stewed.  The more he contemplated man, the angrier and more jealous he got. Lucifer raged, “I’ll never give up my mountain to these weak little things.  I’ll never see puny beings made of dirt—dirt!—walk in the midst of my fiery stones.  They must never fill the earth — I won’t have them here!”

But God Himself had given the order.  What could Lucifer do?  And as soon as he had framed the question, the answer came to him in a flash: he must overthrow God Himself.  If he could ascend to heaven and be like the Most High, then he could make the rules.  Lucifer rallied the angels.  Being immensely beautiful and powerful had its advantages; a great number of them came over to his side.

How did he think that he could supplant God?  We’ll never know.  Perhaps he remembered his own wakening to consciousness, only a few days before God made man.  Perhaps he speculated that if he was so immensely more powerful than man, and only a few days older, that God might be just a few more days older yet, and might be overthrown if he could just be quick and clever enough.  Perhaps the story of Zeus and Chronos is satanic wish-fulfillment.  Perhaps.  We will probably never know for sure.  But whatever his reasoning, he went to war with God.

And he lost.  He could not supplant God; God was too powerful for him.  Defeated but determined, he retreated to his mountain and regrouped.  If he could not defeat God with power, perhaps he could yet wound Him by ruining His creation.  If man would sin, and therefore must die, then Lucifer need not surrender his mountain after all.

Taking the guise of a serpent, Lucifer crept into the garden, to the Tree at the center, whose fruit God had forbidden.  He waited.  From time to time, the puny ones would pass by in their work of tending the garden.  He waited.  One day, they stopped to rest not far from the Tree.  Lucifer slipped a little closer and addressed Woman: “Yea, hath God said…”

A Challenge

Note a couple of differences between the fiction I mentioned at the start and my own fiction.  In the one, Satan falls before Genesis 1:2, and in the other, he falls after Genesis 2.  In the one, Satan watches the creation week as an enemy of God, and in the other, he shouts for joy.  In the one, there’s a whole other world that happened before Adam’s world, and in the other, there’s not.  They can’t both be true.  It’s one or the other — or neither.

I repeat, I am not asserting that the yarn I just spun for you is fact.  Very far from it.  I have no idea if that’s the way it happened.  My question is, can you disprove it?  If not, then why teach your own speculation instead of mine?  If we can spin multiple plausible (and mutually exclusive) stories about how it might have been, and we can’t seem to disprove any of them, then perhaps we should be more careful about asserting that one or the other of those stories is actually true.

Here’s a funny thought: maybe we should just stick to asserting what the Bible says is true.

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28 Responses to Theological Science Fiction and the Fall of Satan

  1. mamalazarus says:

    Amusing…not what I expected to read(from the title) at all…

  2. jameswharris says:

    Except for the mention of the serpent, the concept of Satan seems to be a much later invention in the Bible. Do we even have any evidence that what later became known as Satan was actual the serpent? And where is it said that God created the angels? It can be assume that God created everything, but does Genesis ever really say that? I’ve always thought it just meant he create our world. Also there are hints in Genesis and its variations that other beings existed, even rival gods. I think it would be very hard not to speculate about what’s in the early Bible. And while listening to the Bible recently, it felt like to me a series of stages, each a re-speculating on the whole, with new interpretations appearing over and over again.

  3. Matthew C says:

    I think the Gap theory has more credibility than you allow for.

    Have you read ‘God at War’ by Greg Boyd? He gives some convincing evidence for a pre-creation week fall.

  4. Jeremy Myers says:

    Tim,

    I’m hoping you can help me find something…

    You write,

    “there’s a particular bit of speculation going around that God created man in order to prove to Satan that His judgment of Satan was just.’

    I read something to this effect in some book or article during the past 6 months, and to tell you the truth, the arguments sounded intriguing. Only now I can’t remember what I read or where I read it. Do you know where you might have read this theory?

    Thanks,

    Jeremy

  5. Tim Nichols says:

    Jeremy,

    Hey! Good to hear from you. The place I encountered that particular bit of wild speculation was from someone who followed the teachings of Thieme. I was given to understand that Thieme taught it as fact, and that if I didn’t also see it that way, then I was very poorly equipped to help anybody do anything, because I didn’t even understand the purpose for humanity being on this earth…oh well.

    I don’t know what book or tape to reference for it — and if you’re familiar with Theime’s oeuvre, then you’ll understand when I say that only when I’ve completely exhausted the contents of Terri Clark’s “Better Things to Do” will I have the free time to hunt down the cite.

    For another fascinating bit of Adam/Eve/Satan sci-fi, see Jim Jordan’s _Reading the Bible (Again) for the First Time_. Fun stuff, if a little wild.

    His forever,
    Tim

  6. Jeremy Myers says:

    Tim,

    I love your sense of humor. Don’t worry about looking for a citation. I haven’t read much of Thieme, and have tried as much as possible to stay away from “Theimers.” I have been cornered by them before though, and I must confess, the dialogue is always…interesting (and a bit one-sided).

    Keep up the good work here on your blog. I do subscribe to it through bloglines, and so read every post.

  7. Jim says:

    LOL!

  8. Gary says:

    To all of you this is pertinent to:

    Your comments about Thieme and Thiemers do little to support anything positive coming out of CTS and you should think twice before attempting to set yourself apart from some of the men who may have shared classrooms with you at CTS.

    For what its worth to you, when I was struggling to find my way in an apostate christendom, I pulled back and spent full time trying to learn the Word of God on my own because I could not find a local Church that was focused on teaching it.

    After a few years of this very slow process, based upon what I read in the Text about God having gifted teachers on the earth, I prayed one of my most ardent prayers ever, asking Him for one. With CTS and its affiliated Church almost in my backyard, although unknown to me, one of the clearest answers to prayer I have ever experienced was an introduction to some Pastor in Houston with 10,000 hours of instruction available on tape free for the asking.

    God used that instruction to take me from spiritual childhood to some level of maturity, and it was Thieme who taught me the importance of instruction in the original languages, and who told me of a little seminary in CA in some rehab facility, and who introduced the leadership of CTS to the audience at one of his annual teaching visits to CA to speak face-to-face with his extensive congregation who learned the Word of God on tapes. For me this was an incredible way to spend 8-10 hours per day studying the Word in my semi-retired life. If that doesn’t sit well with you, then maybe you could ask our Lord why He answerd my request for a teacher in the way He did.

    I challenge one of you boys to show me a teacher who has it all correct. I challenge one of you who has the capability to teach 5+ classes per week for decades and not have some students who will take what you teach and not run it through their filter and come out with things that make you wonder who they’ve been listening to.

    If you were to listen to more of the man you ridicule you may be humbled at some point to hear the teacher who determined it best to be authoritative when dealing with many sin natures at varied levels of growth, a teacher who in one of his more solemn moments came to grips vocally with the reality that no matter who you are, or who you think you are, no man can learn this Book in a lifetime… Or maybe you would hear him tell the importance of taking the call to learn the languages so you could carry on the awesome responsibility of exegeting the Word of God because there is so much left to do in correctly interpreting it.

    And for what its worth, as a 40+ year old sitting in seminary with some of the 20+ year old boys and girls, trust me, the naivete about life in general, let alone the lack of realization of the mistakes you will certainly make over the coming decades that you will wish you could take back once you learned more about the Truth, gave me constant pause for how cute and uninformed you still were.

    Grow up boys. You’re mocking a man who gave his life in service to our Lord God, and you’re mocking some who grew up under him that I guaranty you can hold their own in conversation with you about the Text and the God who wrote it.

    By the way, Thieme also taught me not to put men, including himself on a pedestal. I think you’ll find that Paul pretty much taught the same thing. I have found several things about Thieme’s teachings that I have since tweaked and or changed in my thinking through the exegetical work I learned to do at CTS. So I have absolutely no problem with Tim’s article and I enjoyed my time in a class or two shoulder-to-shoulder with Tim. A few of the comments though, in my opinion, are not worthy of you young men.

  9. Tim Nichols says:

    Gary,

    I hold you in high regard, so please understand that I’m not seeking to offend, but your comment raises some hard issues, and since they’re on the table, we ought to discuss them honestly. I apologize in advance if this turns out not to be as gracious as I’m trying to make it, and I’m certainly open to correction if you think it’s in order.

    I was born into the ministry, I grew up in it, and I’ve had my fingers in a lot of pies, with a lot of different people. None of us were perfect, least of all me — but still and all, the Thieme phenomenon is one of the most perplexing things I’ve ever encountered.

    On one hand, there are people like you. After years or decades wandering through the desolation of the evangelical church, you discovered Thieme, and through him, the concept of serious, sustained attention to the Text. Inspired by his use of the languages, you set about to learn them for yourself, and you’ve continued to study and to grow. I admire all of this, and I can’t ignore the fact that you owe a large part of it to Thieme. You *could* have gotten it elsewhere (I know, because I did and so did most of my friends and partners), but in God’s providence you *did* get it from Thieme.

    On the other hand, there are people like a friend of mine we’ll call Jack. Jack doesn’t read his Bible much, but he listens to a couple of tapes every day. Jack honestly believes that he could read his Bible, but he wouldn’t understand it. He believes this because he’s been repeatedly told this, on those tapes he listens to. He’s got a lot of doctrine circulating in his soul, as he would put it, but he doesn’t know his Bible. He’s heard 400 sermons on Ephesians, but when you ask him what Ephesians is about, he doesn’t know. When you look at a passage in Ephesians with him, and ask him to explain it, he can’t — or he’ll say, “Oh, that’s talking about the doctrine of ___…” and launch into an explanation of the doctrine that has little, if anything, to do with the passage at hand. When you try to explain the passage to him with a straightforward exegesis of the text in front of you, he counters with “No, that can’t be true, that would violate the doctrine of ___…” and he’s off and running.

    Jack has not been brought closer to the Text; he’s been driven away from it, inoculated against it. He is further from the text than he was before he ever heard of Thieme; back then he thought the Bible was hard for him to understand, and now he thinks it’s impossible.

    I hate that attitude. Hate it. And I despise the hireling “shepherd” that would drive Jack, and others like him, away from the food that God gave to sustain His people.

    That’s what Thieme has done to Jack. He has driven Jack away from the Word of God, and substituted in its place the word of Thieme. Some will crank up the tired old justification engine and try to say that Jack has misunderstood what Thieme meant, or whatever. They can say that, but sheer demographics go against them — Jack is pretty normal for someone in the movement. The exceptions — people like you — tend to be male, and tend to have at least a suspicion that they might turn out to be pastors or teachers of some sort.

    So here’s the problem: I admire the man who produced you, and I despise the man who produced Jack — and it’s the same guy. But he’s produced a whole lot more of Jack than of you, and that kinda makes a difference.

    ***
    This is just one issue. I could have picked a whole bunch of others — an anti-legalistic streak that has led to license of Corinthian proportions, a doctrine of privacy that precludes biblical encouragement and confrontation, a doctrine of ‘impersonal love’ that leads people to depersonalize their relationships, a view of the beginning of life that sanctions infanticide, a view of marriage that has led to countless divorces, the collection of doctrines (right PT and others) that add up, functionally, to pastoral inerrancy, the reliance on personal authority and charisma (i.e., military leadership ethos) that created and maintained a cult of personality and spawned a host of imitative demi-papal pastors — and this in flat defiance to Jesus’ explicit statement that church leadership is to be *unlike* leadership in the world.

    In any of these issues, I’m talking about the mainstream, or a significant minority, of the Thieme movement, not some lunatic fringe.
    Does Thieme have good things to say? Yes. Of course. But there’s some bad stuff in there, too, and I don’t mean this just in the “every teacher makes mistakes” way. I mean that there’s horrifying, life-destroying, spiritually poisonous teaching woven in with the good stuff — and lots of it.

    This isn’t some casually negative reaction from a brush with one or two people on the fringe. I’ve devoted a significant portion of my ministry in the last 10 years to helping people within Thieme’s sphere of influence to overcome these and other errors. I’ve earned the right to speak to what the movement does to people, and this is it: it produces some real gems like you, and for every one of those it wrecks a bunch of lives with false doctrine.

    The ‘boys’ that you’re calling on the carpet have seen the Thieme movement from the outside, from varying distances, have noted these and other problems, and want no part of it. It’s hard to blame them. Having found those in the movement generally inured to the tamer forms of correction, they’ve fallen back on mockery, which is an eminently biblical thing to do — cf. the practice of Jesus, Paul, John the Baptist, Isaiah, Amos, etc.

    And anyhow, let’s face it, the veritable flood of mockery and vituperation Thieme and his adherents have visited on other ministries puts you in a poor position to complain. Your choices here reduce to two: found your complaint on his character, or argue that in a given instance, he was right. If we were talking about, say, Zane Hodges, you could argue that he’d been unfailingly irenic in his dealings with others, and deserved the same treatment from them. But Thieme? I don’t think so. Thieme’s homiletical approach was that there was no point in stepping on an ant if he still had hand grenades left; after how he’s treated so many others, to argue that he should be immune to mockery is just hypocritical. So your remaining option is to argue that he’s right about the issue at hand, and therefore, to mock his conclusions is to mock the truth, and one shouldn’t. We’ve had some of those discussions over the years, and as you know, I’m open to more.

    ***
    I know this subject is near to your heart, and I hope I haven’t offended unduly. As I said, I’m certainly open to correction. But this is what I see at this point.

    His forever,
    Tim Nichols

  10. Gary says:

    Tim:

    As usual in our interactions, Thank You for the reply and for your thoughts, which I too normally hold in high regard, and have since we spent some time together in the same classroom.

    To assist us in this discussion, I attempt here to narrow down my point of contention. Here’s my problem in a nutshell: Terms like Thiemers, or Thiemites, or whatever else the imagination comes up with that I have heard circulating, can be offensive especially when they are cast around openly and arbitrarily without regard to the individual who may be sitting near one in a classrom, or for that matter partaking in a constructive Blog which in some connective way is based from the same common classroom. The terms can come across as a bit arrogant.

    In addition, as a man with my now partially expressed history who sat in classes where a professor would hand out a document that I recognized had come from Thieme, but that professor was obviously embarrased when I noticed it and absolutely silent and even a bit nervous in response to my recognizing it, the air around that very small institution became a bit stale for some of us at times. This condition was silly and maybe the whole matter should have been brought out and discussed and put to rest. It certainly should not have been encouraged to continue.

    In this regard I have to disagree that I should find myself in a poor position to complain, or rather to voice my opinion. Frankly, I see myself as being in a perfect position to raise the “Thiemers” issue. And thus I do see it reasonable to not be limited to just the 2 choices you say I am limited to.

    As I communicated in my comment, your article was in no way something I took issue with, and I knew immediately what it was related to without having to read the attending comments. As exegetes and students, at minimum, constructive discussions about the contents of the Text are necessary and to be honored. I try to live by this even though it is hard to at times.

    Also, without your having had to explain some things to me as you now have, although we have not discussed this matter at any great length, I do know a bit about your thinking as I have read other things you have written where you have stated opinions on what I recall your calling the Doctrinal Movement, and on some perceived necessity to open teachings with certain protocols, or traditions.

    Tim, I can and do appreciate your thoughts on certain teachings and issues you’ve highlighted and on how some persons will approach you if you disagree with something they have been taught. I am not unaware of some of the things you speak of in regards to how certain individuals do tend to place their teacher and their training on pedestals and how they think that hours spent necessarily equates to knowledge and understanding gained.

    However, having said this, I will maintain my position of having called this matter on the carpet. I cannot stop anybody from using these labels, but I do reiterate that they are not constructive and the attitude connected to their use was not beneficial for the seminary we come from in ways that I’m not going to elaborate any further at this point.

    You have not offended me in the least with your views. The matter that is near and dear to my heart is to understand the thinking of our Lord God, and when reading solid communications on such, to not have to hesitate for side issues that could have been addressed some time ago before we all went out to wherever we’ve gone with supposedly some greater level of maturity having been gained.

    Thanks again for the writings.

    Gary

  11. Tim Nichols says:

    Gary,

    Heh. I just knew we’d see eye to eye on not seeing eye to eye. Thanks for your reply, and I should point out, in case it matters, that none of the other correspondents in the comments above is affiliated in any way with CTS, so if you’ve got a beef with someone over how this kind of thing makes CTS look, it’s just with me.

    If your objection is to the term ‘Thiemer,’ would you care to suggest an alternative? I’ve heard ‘Thiemeite,’ which seems subject to the same set of objections, and the adjective ‘doctrinal’ (e.g. “doctrinal movement,” “doctrinal church,” “doctrinal believer.”)

    Designators with Thieme’s name in them seem to come across as condescending or pejorative, and almost invariably are met with some variant on the slogan, “It’s the message, not the man.” This response is perfectly understandable — as Christians we prefer to be perceived as followers of Christ, not of a particular pastor. However, the use of these terms is also understandable; there’s a distinctive ‘flavor’ to someone who’s been in Thieme’s sphere of influence for a while, and like it or not, it is *Thieme’s* sphere of influence. People who are mature Christians by way of some other tradition don’t talk the same way, react to the same hot-button issues, etc. The difference that makes a difference here is Thieme. Some reference to him in that connection is not entirely inappropriate. (To take a parallel example, I wouldn’t enjoy being called a Niemelite, but if the term were being applied in the context of my exegetical practice, I’d have to concede that the designation isn’t entirely out to lunch. You can watch me teach, or look at what I do in the study, and tell that I’ve been with John.)

    On the other hand, as you noted, I tend to use the adjective ‘doctrinal,’ because it seems to be the preferred in-group term, and is less likely to give offense. However, I have to tell you that I don’t like using that term, for the same reason I don’t like using “Spirit-filled” to describe a Pentecostal church. There’s an inherent attempt to claim the high ground with terminology: “I go to a Spirit-filled church; what kind of church do you go to?” As if the expected answer is something like “I go to Ichabod Memorial Mausoleum of the Holy Ghost.” The implication, of course, is that if you don’t do it like the Pentecostals, then the Spirit is not filling you.
    Likewise, the use of ‘doctrinal’ carries similar implications. If I say “This is not a doctrinal church,” what message does that convey? It’s mystical? We don’t care about doctrine, as long as you have warm regard for Jesus? And likewise for “I’m not part of the doctrinal movement,” and “I’m not a doctrinal believer.”

    But if I say “I care about doctrine, but I’m not a Thiemeite,” people find it offensive.

    There’s definitely a distinct group to be referred to, and there will be a need for a term to refer to them in conversation. What would you suggest?

    His,
    Tim Nichols

  12. Gary says:

    Tim:

    Heh, back at you. Firstly, as it seems I have mistaken the comments of a person to be those of a CTS student, my mistake and my apologies to him and to you. My assumption was based upon my personal experience at CTS and the experience of others we both know who had similar experiences. Also, I thought I recognized a name. Again, it looks like I was mistaken.

    Secondly, I must correct you once again in regard to your pigeon-holing techniques, my “beef” is with anybody I care to have a beef with and for any reason I care to have it. And it does seem that at least part of my beef has to do with CTS policies. And I don’t really have such a beef with you, because in reality I have never heard nor seen you use the labels we are discussing. From what I’ve seen and heard, you usually take your way to the high-ground by noting your view on a topic, or an interpretation, or on an approach or attitude you see as correct or incorrect. You typically discuss a Scripture related topic and seem to go to at least some length to just stick to the topic. This is why I periodically look into what you’re writing about.

    Next, if you are selecting yourself to be the CTS spokesman here, and if you think you can make a difference, so be it. The attitude towards Thieme around CTS was non-productive and lead to childish actions by even a professor or more. The attitude about the word “doctrine” is equally non-productive and even absurd to a point. Its the typical pendulum swing away from something that bothers some for whatever reasons. I think I’ve seen the word Doctrine used very favorably by some writers we both greatly admire and study intently.

    I understand your point about labels and it is a decent one. I considered this point while writing and before your most recent answer. I have been pondering it and I will ponder it more over time. The point you raise about attempting to take the high-ground through the use of labels is a good one. And maybe this is part of my problem with the practice. You and I both know, and you better than I through your other form of extensive training, that if you’re going to offend, at some point you best be prepared to back it up, or that you’re simply willing to take whatever consequences may result. It is my view that few of us are as prepared as we think we are. As a side note, I think we may well be entering a time in history where we will all be more tested in this regard.

    I have no problem with your use of the term Doctrinal. As I had no real problem with your writing about the Doctrinal Movement. I did not agree with you in all respects, but I respect your views enough to know that you would have reason for them, and that you would be prepared to give answers for them if you were asked.

    To me, these labels are what you have recognized, they are [potentially or most often] high-ground techniques, intentional or sub-conscious, that are mostly not well thought out even to the point of not having considered a base definition for them. You seem to consider your use of words as can be seen in your developing writing style as you produce your oeuvre (had to look this one up when I read it). If you would have used a certain label around me in class, I would have challenged you to define it and then to explain to me if you thought I fit into the category or if there are exceptions to your categorization. I have no doubt the conversation could have lead to days of discussion if we chose to allow it to because it rightfully would have had to take in an awful lot of, pardon my expression, Biblical Doctrine. Maybe this could have been productive, maybe not.

    Its funny you bring up the term Niemelite because I was going to use something similar in my last comment but chose not to. So are you a JNer or a GMer? Am I asking about your exegetical technique, or Gospel view, or position on Church leadership actions, or something else altogether? Am I asking in a derogatory mindset because I think my view or someone else’s view is better (in my high-ground opinion of whatever I’m asking about)? Am I intending to offend or have I just more likely not considered my use of words, whether or not I really have a definition for the label if asked for one, and whether or not they may be remotely or comprehensively accurate? Are we prepared to ridicule a man’s oeuvre because of something[s] he taught or because some amoeba determined that it all meant what he thinks it did? Are we judging in some manner and have we considered fully our judgment?

    So, my answer to your question, the last one in your previous comment, is, What exactly is the distinct group you are referring to? All students of Col. R.B. Thieme? Certain students of Thieme? If only certain students of Thieme, what is the criteria for the classification you seek to label? Does this criteria have to do with an interpretation of the Biblical Text, or with an attitude, or with personal character, or with some other standard you are seeking to label? Is the label you seek meant to be offensive or derogatory in any respect, or is it meant to be non-offensive and productive?

    I might suggest that you be very cautious in your considerations in this matter. It is becoming common practice in this time and place to outlaw such labels and make them forms of something called hate-speech for which you can find yourself imprisoned as a criminal, or even as a terrorist! Of course if it has to do with any Christian infighting it will probably be OK and even encouraged. We may have to force you to hire past students of Thieme to work at your ministry and insure that you will be punished if you discriminate about their use of terms such as Doctrine, or Rebound, or Faith-Rest, or….

    With all of these words now expended, in retrospect, I probably should have just asked Jeremy Myers what he meant by the label and whether or not he thinks he might go to lengths to avoid me and all of the thousands of students of Col. Thieme because we are certainly Thiemites. And I should have asked you if you share, exactly, the view of what a Thiemite is since you seemed to accept the term to whatever degree.

    I do appreciate the way you have handled your disagreements on doctrinal, pardon me, topical issues of the Word of God. Keep up the development and the edifying.

    I’m happy to assist you on your search for a label if we can gain a better mutual understanding of what you seek to do and how comprehensive a definition you are seeking.

    Until then, it seems you may have given your customary level of mature consideration to the term you have chosen and unless I miss my guess, you probably have a defintion of that term in mind. It seems to denote a way that one views the Text, which is probably where we should attempt to keep such labels. Free Grace, Reformed, Dispensational, Covenantal, Pentecostal, Evangelical, Doctrinal… Seems to fit pretty well. But Thiemite?

  13. Tim Nichols says:

    Gary,

    Couple of things in our mutual exchange of corrections. First, I wasn’t suggesting that the only beef you should ever have with anyone, ever, is with me, over this. I was just saying that appeals to treat our seminary well, and attendant rebuke over not doing so, didn’t apply to anyone in this thread but me, as I’m the only person in the thread who was ever affiliated with CTS. I think we agree on this point. Concerns based on other grounds — Christian charity, respect for a fellow saint, whatever — are of course fair game for all the brothers in the thread here no matter where they went to school, and I was never suggesting otherwise. I’m sorry if I wasn’t clear on this point.

    Second, I am neither qualified for, nor interested in, speaking for CTS here. I’m not presently affiliated with CTS; haven’t been since the move in May ’08. CTS-ABQ is an unknown quantity to me. I’ve had brief contact with a few of the faculty members and one student (and of course I know George Meisinger), but I have no idea what the culture of the school is, what courses it presently offers, the emphases of the present faculty members, the board’s current vision for the school, or whether that vision is actually being achieved — important things if one is going to talk about what a school stands for. All that to say that even if I presumed to speak for the school as it is now, which I don’t, nobody should listen to me; I wouldn’t know what I was talking about.

    On the other hand, I can certainly speak about what CTS-CA was, and what happened there; I was affiliated with the school quite intimately from 1999 up through the move.

    The negative reactions you witnessed to the word “doctrine” at CTS-CA should be food for thought. Certainly no one who picked our theology-heavy seminary was opposed to Bible doctrine, in the *mainstream* Christian use of that term (= “what the Bible teaches”). All of *those* guys went somewhere else and got M.A.s in youth communications or something. At CTS, we were all theology geeks to some extent.
    The negative reaction you witnessed was largely due to the fact that Thieme and his circle self-identified using that word. It was through their choice of words that “doctrine” came to be identified not with the broad definition “what the Bible teaches” but with a vast, terminologically isolated, increasingly idiosyncratic body of work largely unique to Thieme. “Taking in doctrine,” for many, meant listening to Thieme’s tapes, or to a speaker from his circle. Other speakers were not serious, not deep enough — “He’s fun to listen to, but he doesn’t teach doctrinally” is a complaint I’ve heard often. In this usage, “doctrinally” = “like Thieme.” By the same token, I’ve heard a number of pastors make a case for “teaching doctrinally” by which they mean teaching in the style/tradition of Thieme.
    In that climate, it’s about as predictable as sunrise that people who don’t like Thieme’s teaching will begin to shy away from the word “doctrine.”

    In fact, my own discomfort with the term “doctrinal movement” is precisely due to this hijacking of the word. I don’t shy away from the word, but that’s purely because I’m feistier about fighting lexical imperialism than most. I still use “catholic” to describe the universal church, too, and I make it a point to quote old writers who use the word “gay” to mean “happy.” But that’s just me.

    Regarding the distinct group for which I am seeking a label: First of all, I’m talking about a fuzzy set here, not a bivalent set; membership can be measured in degrees of “family resemblance,” such that one could be a member of the group only to a certain degree in the same way that one could be half Irish and the other half something else. Imagine a circle, deep crimson at the center, concentrically fading through reds to ever-lighter pinks and thence to white where it shades into the background. Put Thieme at the very center, and range around him various people, closer or further according to his degree of influence on them (or, to put it a little differently, their degree of resemblance to him). I would be interested in several areas of resemblance: homiletics, personality, terminology, content of teaching, and ecclesiastical/liturgical practice. By way of example, we both sat for a time under a pastor who I would characterize thus: moderately influenced in his homiletic, mildly in personality, very little in terminology, moderately in content, and strongly in ecclesiastical/liturgical practice; if an average rating is worth anything, call it a medium pink.

    I don’t need a derogatory label; if I did, Scripture is full of good ones. What I’m looking for is a label that designates this group without insult and without conceding terminological high ground. To put it another way: if were arguing that Thieme created a cult of personality around himself, for me to use the term “Thiemeite” is to insist on inserting my conclusions into the very terms in which the debate is conducted. In the same way, if someone is trying to argue to me that Thieme’s teachings are biblical, to speak of listening to his tapes as “taking in Bible doctrine” obviously biases the terminology.

    Now in both cases the person using the term could say, “Hey, my choice of terminology is consistent with my position; if you don’t like it, pick your own terms.” And sometimes that could happen, and it would be okay. But most of the time, the argument will dissolve into an argument over terminology, at the expense of the point at issue. So it would be nice if there were a term that wasn’t loaded, and I can’t think of one.

    Any thoughts?

    His,
    Tim Nichols

  14. Gary says:

    Tim:

    Again, Thanks for the discussion.

    Thinking out loud here so bear with me:

    It seems to me we’re dealing with 2 main items in this particular labeling issue, Pastor R.B. Thieme and or his teachings, and then certain students of Thieme’s.

    As you identified in a previous comment, Thieme’s body of work is extensive. I listened to his tapes for years and much of the time on a several hours per day basis almost to the level of a full-time job. In all of this I would roughly estimate having taken in less than one-third of his lessons. I also read all of his books. If I were to call any one man my Pastor, Pastor Thieme would be that man, and I’m thankful to our Lord for informing me about him as an answer to a very intense prayer session.

    I have great admiration for the man, and I think I have some degree of understanding as to some of the choices he made about his course in conducting his ministry. I learned much from Thieme. I do not agree with all of his interpretations. Outside of the writers of the Text I do not agree with all the interpretations of any teacher I have ever listened to at length, including some men you and I both know. As I look back I do not agree with all of the interpretations I have come up with. I don’t see this changing while I’m on this earth studying God’s Word.

    Pastor Thieme recognized the problem you and others are trying to label. He may have even recognized how he could have had a hand in bringing it about, but on this I only speculate. Thieme taught a series on Iconoclastic Arrogance, as he called it. It has to do with putting men on a pedestal, on how this is a practice of human arrogance, and on how once we put a man on a pedestal, we will ultimately tear him down because no man can live up to the expectations of mens’ constantly changing expectations.

    Thieme also taught a simple but strong message to go along with the above one and in essence it strongly stated that the only celebrity is Jesus Christ. If we’re going to have a practice of putting anyone on a pedestal, let it be Jesus Christ. “Eyes on Christ” was an often repeated expression of Thieme’s.

    I can go on and on with positive lessons I learned from Thieme. And I fully understand some of the concerns you have with some of his teachings and practices. But in the end, as you have said, ultimately students come out from teachings differently, one in this character, one in another, and the shades of this are in the full spectrum of the crimson to white spectrum you used as an illustration. This sadly seems to be the nature of how men come out of teachings in every arena, and it is certainly no different in the Christian one.

    At the end of the day I think you may be searching for a characterization of a phenomenon within a spectrum that has too many shades.

    Maybe we should just go to Paul’s having seemingly dealt with the very same or certainly similar issue in Corinth. The divisiveness based upon who one was evangelized or taught by, Paul just boiled down to labeling as being SARKIKOS and NEPIOS in Christ.

    For me, Tim, I’m trying to come to grips with being, as Charlie Clough would say, Provocative, not flippantly, nor arbitrarily, but at meaningful times, and for meaningful purposes. Its a growth process still frought with some failure. The more I study the Text, the more I listen to and read other peoples’ writings, the more I see how important our choice of words are and how we just run around using so many of them so casually, when in reality if asked to define them, it is my opinion that most of us cannot as much as we might think we can. And then if we take this into the Biblical realm, its a whole other level of the same story because we have God using words in ways that it can takes months or even years just to determine what He may ultimately mean by a single word, if He’ll even let us in on such an understanding at the moment.

    So, I guess I’m going to delay or possibly even renege on my promise to assist with coming up with a label for this one. “Thiemite” in my opinion is provocative and in labeling a certain Thieme student or students as such it drags many thousands of people into a net that they probably do not belong in and some in that net can certainly give the labeler cause for rethinking his label. Also, the label can unnecessarily tie some potentially infantile student back to a man who may not really be the cause of the infants issues or attitudes.

    I’ll keep the matter in the mental files for consideration as I continue to study, and ponder, and grow in Christ. And for now I’ll try to limit myself to considerations of the accuracy of biblical teachings/doctrines, and with regards to people, their being in Christ or not, spiritual or carnal/infantile and even enemies of the cross. And when I hear a term used that I don’t fully understand the meaning of, I’ll look it up, study it in the Text, or ask the speaker/labeler what he means by it. If it provokes, whether meant to or not, I may or may not challenge it. “Thiemite” may well continue to be such a label I will ask to be defined if I hear or see it, and I may even continue to challenge it. We’ll see.

    By the way, I’m happy to continue almost any given discussion with you in this venue, personal email, telephone at my expense, or even a visit if you ever come to this neck of the woods and need a place to stay.

    Will check in again tomorrow if I’m able.

    Gary

  15. Tim Nichols says:

    Gary,

    I don’t mind you backing out on this one. I may have set us an impossible task trying to come up with a neutral term for the followers of a man who inspired intense love in some and intense antipathy in others, but neutrality in very few. Myself, I will probably continue to use a patchwork of terms to cover the territory, according to the needs of the situation and the person I’m speaking to.

    His,
    Tim

  16. Truth Testy says:

    To this Forum:

    Thiemite? If the shoe fits wear it. Thieme was unwarrantedly and overly aggressive “in your face” “stare you down” and “browbeat” you (as long as the armed Houston police were guarding the exits and backing Thieme up). I have no respect for thiemites who will not objectively dicern the difference of the perfect authority of Jesus and the corrupt authority of Thieme. Nor do I respect thiemites who do not objectively discern the difference between Thieme doctrine and bible doctrine. Nor do I respect thiemites who do not discern bewtween the words of Thieme and the Word of -od. Why? because those thiemites who fail to discern are cult followers of Thieme and have earned the title of thiemites.

    Tim quote “Does Thieme have good things to say? Yes. Of course. But there’s some bad stuff in there, too, and I don’t mean this just in the “every teacher makes mistakes” way. I mean that there’s horrifying, life-destroying, spiritually poisonous teaching woven in with the good stuff — and lots of it.”

    Dr. Wall would agree with this as stated in his doctoral dissertation. “Serious defect not just academic error. “Critique
    The most glaring shortcoming of Thieme’s analysis of the objective of the
    Christian life is that he does not present a balanced view of what the objective is.
    The Christian’s life objectives include not only developing grace orientation,
    mastery of the details of life, a relaxed mental attitude, the capacity to love, and
    inner happiness, but they should also include the development of a deeper
    personal relationship with Christ (Phil. 3:10a) learning how to tap divine power in
    prayer and daily living (Phil. 3:1Ob), learning what it means to be identified with
    Christ in his suffering (Phil. 3:10c), serving God so that everything one does
    glorifies God (I Cor. 10:31), and completing every responsibility God has given to
    us for the course of our lives (2 Tim. 4:7).
    15
    This last objective includes one’s part in fulfilling the great commission of Christ to disciple the nations (Matt.
    28:19, 20). This lack of balance is not merely academic. It is a serious defect in
    Thieme’s teachings for it produces students who are either negative or indifferent
    toward active evangelism and ministering to the needs of others.
    Also, although Thieme has emphasized some of the characteristics of
    spiritual maturity found in Scripture, he leaves a wrong impression of what fully
    constitutes maturity. Paradoxically his teaching is at the same time both an
    oversimplification and also an overly complex system. The terminology makes
    the teaching seem complex, but the analysis itself is simplistic, as it reduces an
    extremely broad concept to just five characteristics. The Scriptures describe
    spiritual maturity in terms of Christ-likeness (Eph. 4:13), and the character of
    Christ involves much more than Thieme’s description of the Edification
    Complex.
    In addition, it should also be observed that Thieme’s statements
    concerning the “mastering of the details of life” disregard the biblical approach to
    one’s priorities. Thieme makes family and friends secondary to Bible doctrine.
    This is an extremely dangerous approach (as illustrated in the cults such as the
    Children of God who define commitment to God in terms of commitment to their
    leaders’ teachings, and then place the group above family and other relationships).
    A healthy set of priorities should place one’s personal relationship with God first
    (Lk. 14:26), family second (I Pet. 3:1-7; Eph. 5:22-33; 1 Tim. 5:8; and John
    15:13), and one’s relationship to a teacher and his doctrine at a much lower level
    of priority (3 John 9, 10).”

    Dr. Wall “Paradoxically his teaching is at the same time both an
    oversimplification and also an overly complex system. The terminology makes
    the teaching seem complex, but the analysis itself is simplistic, as it reduces an
    extremely broad concept to just five characteristics. The Scriptures describe
    spiritual maturity in terms of Christ-likeness (Eph. 4:13), …

    Thieme failed to teach the full concept of maturity. Also, Thieme had no “lording over” authority that was necessary to be recognized for “positive volition” to begin spiritual learning as clearly is stated in
    2 Cor. 1:24 YLT “not that we are lords over your faith, but we are workers together with your joy, for by the faith ye stand.”

    Thieme abused the translation from greek not to english, but to an extremist “reich-wing” agenda interpretation(ex: brotherly love). And? As such? Rightly as earned the title for his cult followers “thiemites”

    I confronted Thieme and I confront all thiemites now. You do not stand for truth when Thieme taught false, you stood for Thieme over truth.

    Truthtesty

  17. Ric Webb says:

    Dear Gary {and Tim},

    This is the first of this site or this thread that I have seen, but speaking as one with an immense amount of experience in this arena, the ‘doctrinal movement,’ I’ll weigh in.

    Thieme’s tapes, the old reel to reel, played in the background of my home from the earliest of ages… 4, 5,6. We attended Grace Bible Church in Hot Springs, AR, which was founded by tapers who wanted something more than just tapes, an in person PT. I have been in or around the doctrinal movement which, as Tim so aptly pointed out, is a misnomer in itself but one fully and wholeheartedly embraced by those who adhere to Thiemology and the ICE as the only method of teaching the Word of God, for 30 plus years in some form or fashion. Including being on staff as an Asst. Pastor at a ‘doctrinal’ church for 9 years. That small bit of historical background is simply to say, “I know of what I speak.” Firsthand, first person, with eyes, ears, and heart open, and as one like yourself, Gary, who has read every book Thieme ever wrote and listened to more tapes from the Col. and his various clones than can be counted.

    It has been argued by some with a less-than-full grip on reality and history, to me personally, that there is no such thing as the ‘doctrinal movement,’ never has been. That is a way of trying to deny, minimize, or disregard the incredible damage done to so many by so few. It would also come as a surprise to those many who followed, sat under, and / or were dominated by the some 900 plus PTs, Evangelists, and Missionaries ordained by Berachah Church in the past 50 years. The term ‘doctrinal,’ misleading as it is, has been eagerly reveled in by Thieme and Thiemites for decades now, as in ‘doctrinal believers, doctrinal churches, doctrinal pivot,’ etc. I know of several churches to this day with Doctrinal or Doctrine as the centerpiece of its name: Doctrinal Studies Church, the Bible Doctrine Church, Grace Doctrine Church, and on and on ad nauseum. There is definitely an elitism to the name ‘doctrinal,’ and it is used in precisely that manner. “Well, so and so is not a doctrinal pastor. That church across town has some good teaching, but they’re not doctrinal.” It is meant as elitism and it comes across exactly that way: there is no way people can grow to maturity or explode into the Supernova of Supergrace cause they don’t teach like the Col. does, don’t hold every aberrant position he does, don’t use his unbelievable arcane terminology, and Heaven forbid, don’t even talk about aorist participles, antecedent nouns, or Hithpael imperatives. Yes, I’ve spent a little time in the classroom myself.

    Now I’ll speak to the issues raised by Tim concerning the egregious errors promoted and perpetuated by the ‘doctrinal movement.’ I speak now as an insider, someone who has seen and personally experienced in his own life {filled with knowledge and empty as far as intimacy with Jesus} and countless other lives. I am shepherding many of these broken lives at this very moment, and I can promise you my friend, I have every right to speak with authority. It is one thing to listen to tapes for hours on end, and you obviously have benefited from that aspect, as I and many others have, it is quite another to be part of an organization with almost no sense of being a Brotherhood of Believers, a Family of Faith, and in complete submission to Doctrine, pastored and in many cases tyrannized by one of the many men who tried to ‘channel’ the Colonel in their pulpits. A horrible, horrible mistake, as many have found out through the years.

    There is very little intimacy with the Trinity, and even less with one another. “Loving the Lord your God with all your heart, soul, mind and strength and loving those in your periphery as yourself” is never set forth as an achievable or even desirable goal in the Spirit of Christ. Other people, especially those who are ‘negative to doctrine’ simply don’t matter much in the Long Run.

    I can’t help thinking many of those who were written off over the years as ‘negative’ or ‘in reversionism’ simply didn’t like the angry, belligerent, and intransigent attitude or personality of pastors and the elitist mindset that, “It’s not possible for me to be wrong.” “I have a Dispensational background, I know the languages, and I’ve been taught by Thieme; I can’t be wrong.” I was told by a man I considered to be a mentor for many years, “As a pastor, never admit you’re wrong. If you teach something different from what you’ve taught in the past say, ‘This is what my understanding is today.’ Or, ‘Now I see this passage this way because of….'” What I didn’t realize at the time was that this man literally lived this way in every arena of his life: ministry, marriage, parenting, friendship. He could not admit he was wrong. Ever. He is an older man, too young to have been in WWII, and his attitude is very much like my grandfather’s was when he was alive. That, however, is no excuse.

    The doctrinal movement emphasizes, because of the ‘depth of teaching’ [and I use that phrase loosely], an ‘information-only Christianty,’ which is a contradiction in terms. Emotion is essintially outlawed, banished, made fun of, because of how ‘dangersous’ it is to live from. It is a point hammered so often that whether it was intended to produce this effect or not, it has: emotion almost becomes a form of evil. My question is this: If emotion is so evil, why does everybody except sociopaths have them? And why do we feel so strongly about so many things that move us, stir us to the depths of our being, like doctrine, e.g.?

  18. Ric Webb says:

    It seems I ran out of my alloted space in the comment department, so I’ll continue with a second.

    Tim’s assessment and his dealing with former ‘doctinal believers,’ Thieme followers, or just those exposed to his teachings, is dead on. The errors of which he wrote have done unbelievable damage to literally untold lives. What former Thiemers, doctinalites, etc., have experienced in leaving Berachah, its many clones, the doctrinal movement, or simply an information-only Christianity behind is something akin to leaving the tyranny and domination of a cult behind on the negative side, with all the attendant doubt, guilt / shame {often used as a manipulation technique by those still ‘in’ and ‘positive to doctrine’}, and mistrust of anyone who even remotely smacks of infalliblity. I have known many of the leaders in the doctrinal movement personally, and I can assure that neither they nor I are infallible. Unfortunately, as Tim’s comments attests, the history of these many churches and their leaders’ lives demonstrates immense infallibility [I think he means ‘fallibility’ -ed.] and in many cases license of Corinthian proportions. But because it was “the message not the man” as we were brainwashed with over and over and over, nobody called them on things like serial affairs or just plain tyranny, treating people like they were beneath you, like they were expendable and therefore easily dismissed from my life, circle, etc., until it was too late and much damage was done.

  19. Traveller says:

    Greetings. I moved to a city 1700 miles away. I was seeking a Bible-teaching church in a Berean tradition. The church I found, by doing a Google of “Bible-Based” and “Church” brought up two churches. The first I’d call a “Disco Church” because of the heavier emphasis on music performance over Bible teaching, the second one is where I now worship. It gives me direction, positive encouragement and easy-access as to HOW to dig deep into Scripture. According to this board/thread my church is what’s called “A Thieme Clone Church.”

    I’ve been reading with great interest all entries. Hmmm. “…unbelievable damage to literally untold lives.” Hmmm. I disagree. Just statistically speaking, wouldn’t it seem that just by the odds of people in the general population suffering from personality disorders and dysfunction (either nature or nurture) mean that we’ll find an incidence of “destroyed” persons in each and every religion/faith on this planet? For instance, to me, the Roman Catholic faith has left a lot of dear friends shipwrecked and marooned. That dogma has caused them to reject Jesus Christ alltogether. Faithless and now growing old, fear’s kicked-in regarding “what’s next” as they ponder the hereafter. So New Ageism seems to be a nice solution as is a synchritized sort of Christian faith that’s growing in the so-called “Emergent Church” tradition.

    The “real” Bible-teaching church is becoming extinct as organizations of God-seekers create their own religions and worship with very little, if any, regard to learning more about him from the terrific “Living Manual” our Lord gave us to sustain us while we eek out 70-80 years of life here; i.e., The Holy Bible.

    Would you agree how it’s a fundamental behavior in our society to focus more on that which is “bad” rather than that which is “good?” Furthermore, who arbitrates “bad/badder” differentiating from “good/better?” A psychotic man with narcissistic personality disorder bringing guns into a health club sure seems to plead the case, doesn’t it?

    Time of troubles. It’s not that easy.

    Well, this I know: Thieme’s scholarly work requires an open Bible on your lap or table…you gotta work. The teaching takes me by the hand as I discover more about the history and factual essence of our Creator’s desires, promises and mandates. I know my Lord more. The Holy Spirit has kicked me into a higher gear than I’d previously known. This kind of teaching won’t turn everyone’s crank, to be sure. But I’d invite you to FIRST experience this sort of teaching/fellowship rather than the broad-stroke categorizations I see here. Thieme’s tutored some great pastor-teachers… in this vast wasteland of Bible-less churches.

    In closing, I’m reminded of Matthew 7: 13-14, when Jesus said, “Enter through the narrow gate. For wide is the gate and broad is the road that leads to destruction, and many enter through it. But small is the gate and narrow the road that leads to life, and only a few find it.” He’d continue saying, “Watch out for false prophets. They come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly they are ferocious wolves. By their fruit you will recognize them.”

    Isn’t the Lord’s instruction for us to pray perhaps a more efficacious tool than the smears found on an internet message boards? What kind of fruit do you think you have?

    Yours in Christ’s Love…

  20. Tim Nichols says:

    Hm. I’ve been out of the country and had minimal time to keep track of this discussion, but clearly I need to get caught up.

    TruthTesty,
    Do you find the testy approach you’re taking to be generally productive when talking to believers that Thieme has influenced? Beginning with a litany of all the people you have no respect for? Really?

    If you find that it actually is productive in stirring your fellow believers up to love and good deeds, then certainly don’t change your tune on my account. But if, as I suspect, you mainly find yourself making enemies and driving people away, then perhaps you should reconsider. After all, we are not of those who think “He must just be negative to doctrine” when someone won’t hear us — could be that our approach is causing the truth to be ill spoken of, rather than adorning it. If they’re not actually stirred up to love and good deeds, then the bright vision of Heb. 10:24 is still a long way off; no soul is saved from death, and no sins covered, unless the erring brother actually repents. Giving him a good, hard shove toward the pit and then yelling the truth at his retreating back isn’t good enough.

    But perhaps I’m wrong, and in God’s providence the aggressive stance you take is actually working in the circles you move in?

  21. Tim Nichols says:

    Ric,
    Thanks for weighing in, and for your kind words. Overall, your experience accords with mine.

    With regard to that pastor you mentioned who never admitted he was wrong in any area: are you familiar with the old phrase lex orandi, lex credendi? Originally coined to argue that the liturgy of the church is an authoritative source for her theology, i.e., what the church prays is what it believes, the general truth extends a lot further. How people worship will be how they live, and the quality of thought that is modeled for them in the pulpit will be the way that they think. To my mind, this has a lot to do with why the Thieme movement has done so much damage.

  22. Tim Nichols says:

    Traveller,

    Real Bible teaching churches are not becoming extinct, nor will they ever. The nations are being discipled and the earth will be filled with the knowledge of God’s glory as the waters cover the sea. It’s gonna happen. Christ’s church is being built, and the gates of Hades will not prevail. Of course it is not a steady advance; there are setbacks, disasters, times when the kingdom suffers violence as well as times of great gain. It may be difficult to find a lot of good, Bible-teaching churches in your area and in your limited experience, but don’t give yourself an Elijah complex over it.

    I’m grateful to the Lord for bringing you closer to Him, and if He chose to use a Thieme-influenced church to do it, then glory to God for His marvelous work. I’m not going to complain that a fellow saint was edified, believe me.

    That said, I’d like to respond to “Thieme’s scholarly work requires an open Bible on your lap or table…you gotta work.” Truthtesty and Ric Webb aside, I personally know everyone who’s posted to this thread regarding Thieme, and there’s not a slacker among them. To a man, these are hard-working servants of the Word, and you won’t hear any of them complaining about breaking a sweat in the study — they love it. You may have encountered people in the past who resist Thieme-style teaching from sheer laziness, but let me assure you, that’s not what’s happening here. If you open your Bible and attend to what it is saying, you will quickly discover — as several of these men have — that Thieme’s ‘scholarly’ work is desperately lacking in a number of key areas, and often winds up nullifying and obscuring what the text actually says. Thieme’s sphere of influence has produced some good men and good churches, but also a considerable number of Bible-less churches where a strange hodgepodge called ‘doctrine’ is taught, but precious little actual Bible — places where ‘teaching verse-by-verse’ means that the pastor covers three words a week, taking each word as an invitation to free-associate and meander aloud through his own personal doctrinal system with no regard whatsoever for the context, places where a person can listen to 400 sermons on Ephesians and still not be able to answer the question “What is Ephesians about?” There’s a problem there, and it isn’t too much Bible.

    You also said, “I’d invite you to FIRST experience this sort of teaching/fellowship rather than the broad-stroke categorizations I see here.” Who, exactly, do you think you’re talking to? The objections to the Thieme movement voiced in the comment thread above are largely based on just such experience. The broad-stroke categorizations are generalizations, to be sure, and there are always exceptions. Hopefully your church is among them. But most of the generalizations above are true in the way that generalizations can be true — generally, most places, most times, more often than not. The test of a false prophet is indeed his fruit, and on that point many ‘doctrinal’ pastors fare poorly indeed.

    Others fare pretty well, and perhaps yours is among them. I am curious, though, as to whether you have much experience with the Thieme movement as a whole, or whether perhaps your experience has been limited to your church. If you don’t mind me asking, exactly what is your background?

  23. Rick says:

    You know, I have never seen in scripture where PTs are to talk about other PTs. Maybe it is just me as it seems to be counter-productive. Maybe just study 1 Cor.

  24. Tim Nichols says:

    Rick,

    Thanks for weighing in. I’d love to hear you comment further on your last sentence; I’m not sure what you’re driving at there.

    As to one teacher speaking of another, there are a number of biblical examples; I’m honestly not sure how you would have missed them all. In a narrative vein, Luke records the story of Apollos’ zeal for the faith, his lack of knowledge, and how he learned and grew through contact with Priscilla and Aquila (Ac.18:24-28), and Paul tells the tale of Peter’s legalism in Antioch (Gal.2:11-22). Positively, Peter speaks well of Paul (2Pet.3:15-16), Jesus speaks about John the Baptist repeatedly (e.g., Mt.11:7-19, 21:32), Paul speaks well of Epaphras (Col.1:7). Negatively, well, there’s a long and venerable history of this kind of thing. Micaiah has a few choice comments about the other prophets (1Ki.22:19-23), Paul spoke about Hymenaeus and Philetus (2Ti.2:16-18 — and keep reading through 3:9!), and John devoted half a book to Diotrephes (3Jn.) I’m sure there are more examples, but these were all I could dig up in a few minutes, and I think they’ll do to get a discussion started.

    You’ll notice that I’ve confined myself to places where the identity of those being talked about is brutally plain (names named, etc.) If we also include application of passages discussing similar principles, the pool of examples gets a lot broader. For example, teaching Gal.1:8-9 and then saying “…and this means that God’s curse rests on the Reverend ABC, because he teaches salvation by works, which is a different gospel,” or teaching Rom.16:17-18 and saying “…and therefore you ought to avoid Reverend XYZ, because he is just the sort of person this passage is talking about.”

    As to the productiveness of all this: When one undershepherd spies another undershepherd making barbecue out of Christ’s flock, or ushering savage wolves into the sheepfold, you suggest that the most productive thing to do is remain silent? How do you figure? And where is your compassion for the sheep?

  25. Rick says:

    Tim, I still do not see the mandate to evaluate other PT’s ministries. Paul says that he leaves the evaluation to God even on his own ministry. When we talk about others (especially in the negative), the focus seems to drift off course. I am just saying, why get in foxholes and shoot at each other. It seems to me that this is what Paul is trying to correct in the Cor believers.

    “remain silent” is interesting. The biggest problem that man faced was the problem of sin. Christ solved that problem on the Cross. Yet to get to the Cross He remained silent. He endured human trials that were horrific just to get to the solution. God solves problems. God never hangs a sheep out dry. His grace is on time on target in just the right amount. As far as sheep are concerned, God’s compassion never fail.

    Please do not read any offense to this. Absolutely none is intended. I appreciate your response.

  26. Tim Nichols says:

    Rick,

    I intend no offense either, and I’m more than glad to continue the dialogue. I agree with you that there is such a thing as an unrighteous evaluation of someone else’s ministry. No one calls us to run around with a measuring stick, checking to see how everyone else is doing. That said, there is a kind of evaluation that is necessary, and we know this because we see it repeatedly practiced in Scripture by the very men who are supposed to be our models for ministry.

    So I’d ask you to consider some of those examples a little more closely. If it’s unrighteous and unproductive to look at another pastor’s ministry and say, “he loves to have the pre-eminence” and then go on to recount his related misdeeds, then why does John treat Diotrephes in exactly that way? And if it was righteous for John to do so, then how is it unrighteous and unproductive for a pastor today to speak about Diotrephes’ modern-day equivalent in similar terms? What would you have him do instead? Not follow John’s example?

    As to Jesus remaining silent, He certainly did on the cross. And He just as certainly did not when He repeatedly confronted the Pharisees and Saduccees during His earthly ministry. If he’s to be our pattern — and I assume you would agree on that — then we must speak of errant teachers of the Word just as Jesus did.

    Regarding “As far as sheep are concerned, God’s compassion never fails”: I’ve got to tell you, this sounds dangerously close to “Depart in peace; be warmed and filled.” Sure, God doesn’t hang His sheep out to dry. But God uses means. You don’t take “God rewards those who diligently seek Him” as an excuse not to share the gospel with unbelievers; you don’t take “My God shall supply all your need” as an excuse not to give to a brother in need; why would you take “God doesn’t hang His sheep out to dry” as an excuse to let a wolf in sheep’s clothing savage the flock? No. We are Christians; we image God to the world. Because He rewards those who diligently seek Him, we share the gospel. Because He generously gives all things, we give generously also. Because He defends and has compassion on His sheep, we also defend them and have compassion on them — as Jesus did, as Paul did, as John did. This is good company to be keeping, and we ought not to depart from it.

  27. Rick says:

    Tim, I see Matthew, John, Peter, Paul with a spiritual gift of Apostleship that had leadership authority over pastors. By virtue of their spiritual gift, they had that authority. This spiritual gift ended with the death of John. I do not believe that PTs have that authority.

    My point about silence is that God always provides the solution. He can and does use whatever. It is always about Him and His plan. God gets the job done. He gets it done in spite of people. If you are asking does the believer have an obligation to represent, then answer is yes. When God presents the opportunity, yes. I believe that the Christian is watched and watched closely by other believers, unbelievers and angels also.

    I enjoyed the dialogue.

    Rick

  28. Tim Nichols says:

    Rick,

    In Ac.20:28-31, when Paul told the Ephesian elders to watch out for the flock, and to protect it even from each other, because some of them would go bad — what do you think he was talking about? And how do you propose they were to go about that task, if not to follow the example set for them by Paul himself? When Paul wrote to Titus, he told him to appoint elders in every city because there were perverse men who needed to be silenced and sharply rebuked, because they were subverting whole households. The elders Titus was to appoint must be able to do this job, which necessarily entailed evaluating someone else’s “ministry.” The examples could continue…

    You started out saying that you couldn’t see where in the Bible a teacher was supposed to make an evaluation of another teacher’s ministry.

    Upon being given a pile of examples, you wave your hand and say, “Oh, but we’re not supposed to imitate those.” You’re claiming that a Christian is supposed to emulate and represent God — except for where that would entail speaking as God speaks about a shepherd gone bad. That function, you’re telling me, belonged solely to the apostles. How do you know? What biblical warrant do you have for making that claim? As far as I can see, you just made it up out of whole cloth.

    And that’s just a problem with defending the principle as you stated it. Defending it as actually practiced is going to get even worse. I regularly hear categorical pastors trot out this notion about not critiquing someone else’s ministry, but always in a certain set of circumstances. I’ve never listened to a categorical pastor for more than a couple of lessons without hearing him bring out his own series of whipping boys — the Lutheran church down the street, pastors influenced by modern psychology, pastors who allow worship bands in their churches, pastors who allow multiple elders in their churches, Roman Catholics — the list, as you know, could go on for a while. It’s far from uncommon to hear a categorical pastor go off on a tangent, savaging one of these favored targets for half an hour at a time. Whole doctrines have been invented for the sole purpose of showing how wrong some of these whipping boys are. These same guys, when a critique is aimed at them, or someone they like, immediately trot out the notion that it’s not right to criticize someone else’s ministry.

    No doubt you can see the basic hypocrisy there, but the more important issue is to see the principle as it is really believed and practiced. Categorical pastors regularly do name names and point fingers, after all. So the actual principle being espoused here, the one that categorical pastors really believe, is this: “I and those categorical pastors I approve of cannot be criticized or evaluated in any way. Everyone else, however, is fair game.”

    Not sure how anyone would defend that.

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