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Paul L. King: Hermeneutics in Modern and Classic Faith Movements

Reflections and Conclusions

Spirit-guided revelation and hermeneutics are not mutually exclusive entities that oppose each other. Again, this is not a case of “either-or” but “both-and,” two polarities that are maintained in dynamic tension in the elliptical nature of truth. Scholarship and Spirit-led knowledge go hand-in-hand. Exegetical and hermeneutical study provides the banks needed to contain and maintain the flow of the river of God’s Spirit. This is not to say that a person must be a scholar to be used by God or to hear from God. Moody, Smith Wigglesworth, Tozer, and MacMillan had not completed a high school education yet were greatly used by God and received genuine insights from God. Tozer stressed the need to be not just Bible taught, but Spirit taught.17 Torrey, though a Yale graduate, did not denigrate lack of education. He too understood that a person may be well-educated but not Spirit-taught: “Prayer will do more than a theological education to make the Bible an open book. Only a man of prayer can understand the Bible.”18 Torrey balanced human education with divine education:

The man who can be most fully taught of God is the one who will be most ready to listen to what God has taught others. … But we should not be dependent on them, even though we can learn much from them. We have a divine teacher: the Holy Spirit. We will never truly know the truth until we are taught by Him. No amount of mere human teaching, no matter who our teachers may be, will give us a correct understanding of the truth. Not even a diligent study of the Word, either in the English or in the original languages, will give us a real understanding of the truth. We must be taught by the Holy Spirit.

The one who is thus taught, even if he does not know a word of Greek or Hebrew, will understand the truth of God better than someone who does know the original languages, but who is not taught by the Spirit. The Spirit will guide the one He teaches “into all truth”—not in a day, a week, or a year, but one step at a time.19

There is a need, therefore, on the one hand, for contemporary faith teachers to accept, learn and apply sound principles of hermeneutics, and, on the other hand, for those from a non-charismatic background to recognize that God does speak to people today and give special insight—whether it is called revelation or illumination or whatever. Those of us who are evangelical and/or charismatic scholars need to be open for the Holy Spirit to give new insights and fresh application to Scripture.

Contemporary faith people need to be willing to submit all supposed revelations to the tools of sound hermeneutics. (I once had a friend and colleague who was a Christian education director in a church where I was serving as assistant pastor. She often received insights into the Scriptures that could be described as revelations. However, since she had not studied the Bible in the original languages, she would come to me and say, “I believe God is saying to me that this passage means this. Does this square with the Greek or the Hebrew?”). I would recommend this approach to contemporary faith leaders. Whenever they believe they have received a special revelation from God, it would be biblical and appropriate to submit it for confirmation to scholars of like mind who are open to the realm of the supernatural—for instance, professors at charismatic or Pentecostal colleges and seminaries—like Oral Roberts University, Regent University, Assemblies of God Theological Seminary, Church of God Theological Seminary, etc., or Pentecostal/charismatic scholars at other evangelical seminaries, such as Gordon Fee and Wayne Grudem.

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Category: Church History, Pneuma Review, Summer 2012

About the Author: Paul L. King holds a D.Min from Oral Roberts University and a D.Th. from the University of South Africa. He served for 16 years on the faculty of Oral Roberts University as Coordinator of Bible Institute programs and Adjunct Professor in the College of Theology and Ministry. Author of 12 books and more than 60 articles, he was ORU 2006 Scholar of the Year. He has also served as Scholar-at-Large for the D.Min. program at Alliance Theological Seminary, Doctor of Ministry Mentor for the Randy Clark Scholars program at United Theological Seminary and Global Awakening Theological Seminary, Leadership and Church Ministry Consultant and Trainer, an ordained pastor with the Christian and Missionary Alliance, Interim Consulting Pastor for the Plano (Texas) Chinese Alliance Church, and Faculty Director of Purdue Ratio Christi/Christian Faculty and Staff Network. His books include God's Healing Arsenal: A Divine Battle Plan for Overcoming Distress and Disease (2011), Anointed Women: The Rich Heritage of Women in Ministry in the Christian & Missionary Alliance (2009), Only Believe: Examining the Origin and Development of Classic and Contemporary Word of Faith Theologies (2008), Genuine Gold: The Cautiously Charismatic Story of the Early Christian and Missionary Alliance (2006), Binding & Loosing: Exercising Authority over the Dark Powers (1999), and A Believer with Authority: The Life and Message of John A. MacMillan. Twitter: @PaulLKing.

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