42 thoughts on “Turning Psalms Into Commands”

  1. Ah, yes… This fallacy is a primary source of much of fundamentalist dogma, and unfortunately, it has a significant existence outside of fundamentalism as well. In fundy circles, it is usually an implicit extension of the literal-interpretation mandate. That is, if you don’t take every statement personally, you aren’t taking it literally. Here’s how it works:

    David pouring out his soul to God? His words are now binding to you.
    Jesus talking to his chosen apostles? He’s talking directly to you too.
    Paul admonishing Timothy? You too must heed his admonition.

    But of course, in true fundy fashion, this principle gets applied “conveniently.”

    So for example, when Paul says, “Are you free from a wife? Do not seek a wife.” (I Cor. 7:27b) We-e-e-ll, that sure does sound like an imperative statement, but poor Paul was probably just bitter. Every good Christian manly man needs a helpmeat to do his bidding, amen?

  2. God isn’t even telling us to pray that way. David is simply saying that he does that. Sure it’s a sign of spiritual maturity, but even David is not saying that people MUST do it the way he does. I recall Lester Roloff preaching along these lines. You want to take them over to Proverbs: “Pro 31:6 Give strong drink unto him that is ready to perish, and wine unto those that be of heavy hearts.” They sure don’t preach on that. It’s one of their “pretend the Bible doesn’t say that” verses.

  3. I’d only experienced this at Pensacola. One of the MANY times I thought to myself “is this really what it means”? I was simultaneously confused by & jealous of the poeple who were able to sleep through church/chapel. I would come out and ask people about stuff I didn’t think was quite right, and they’d either slept through, or didn’t really care that much, or worse thought it was spot on, and confused why I would want to discuss whether was correct or not.

  4. Odd, the sound doesn’t work for me. Actually, this is probably for the best. But it sure is entertaining watching it without sound and making up words to go along with his arm waving and hollering.

  5. ” That is, if you don’t take every statement personally, you aren’t taking it literally. ”

    Brandon, you’ve hit on the thing I hate most about how not only fundies but also a whole lotta evangelicals and pentecostals and charismatics (did I miss anybody?) read scripture.

    That whole thing about the Bible being “sixty-six love letters written to you from God”? They aren’t kidding – they walk around with this vague idea that the Bible is actually a direct address to them. Of course, any amount of attentive reading would dispel that notion, but then who has time to read attentively when you’re busy memorizing verses out of context and following chain references (note: I have nothing against chain references)?

    Stuff God said to Abraham? Promises to you! Levitical laws? Commands for you (and, more importantly, everybody you meet)! Condemnation of surrounding nations in the prophets? Damnation promised directly to. . .er. . .everybody around you! Advice or directives Paul gave to various churches in letters written to them? Timeless and binding on YOU!

    One easily sees how a good scriptural method (drawing out that which *is* timeless, whether command or promise) has simply been mishandled. What would our theology be like if we read the Bible (even just once through) with the original authors and audiences in mind?

  6. Er, I hope that doesn’t mean me, trex. Them’s fightin words! :-)

    No, I’m no dispy – not saying we/they should compartmentalize, merely contextualize.

  7. That whole thing about the Bible being “sixty-six love letters written to you from God”? They aren’t kidding – they walk around with this vague idea that the Bible is actually a direct address to them.

    I’ve heard many preachers encourage their congregations to open their Bibles to Genesis 1, write “Dear [Name],” above verse 1, and then turn to the end of Revelation and write “Love, God” after the last verse. Genesis 1 and Revelation 22 always struck me as funky ways to begin and end a personal letter.

    I was always one of those kids who felt like he couldn’t pray enough. In fundamentalism you have a tension between praying for everything and making your prayers count, which I found confusing. In practice, it seemed like the ideal was to shoot up a prayer the way the unhinged mutter to themselves through the day. What an epiphany when I learned Romans 8:26 in college. If the Holy Spirit prays for us, I don’t have to labor at conforming to an ideal of knee-jerk prayer reflex. That was a huge relief.

  8. Jordan, I’ve never heard that one. I guess the intent is good, but the implications, eh? Ugh.

    On this topic with regard to dispensationalism – why is it the fundy dispy dude (that sounds awesome – Fundy Dispy Dude to the rescue!) I work with can imagine that laws given specifically to Israel (like not shaving the corners of your beard, not getting a tattoo, etc.) are binding on him (and, more importantly, on others)? Further, why does he continue to wear clothes made from two kinds of fabric? And why does he eat shellfish? Ugh – why does anybody at that rate?

  9. @Darrell…

    This doesn’t pertain to this particular entry, but I’ve seen the term “helpmeat” used by well-meaning people twice today in your comment sections.

    If you haven’t addressed this already, a blog post on helpmeats/helpmeets would be welcome as well as hilarious.

  10. What an epiphany when I learned Romans 8:26 in college. If the Holy Spirit prays for us, I don’t have to labor at conforming to an ideal of knee-jerk prayer reflex. That was a huge relief.

    ::nodding::

    It’s weird. Because they do say it all applies right here to this very second, but then they say, “Well, not that. That doesn’t apply today.”

    Like the Sermon on the Mount. The Sermon on the Mount!! Some will actually try to argue that that doesn’t apply to the “church age.” :-O

    But then they go on and on over the stonings in the OT. It’s crazy talk. Or insist that Song of Solomon doesn’t really mean that.

    The first time I heard someone take the last 2/3rds of Daniel seriously was a very liberal theologian. ::giggle:: That made me laugh for days.

    John Crowe Ransom wrote in the Teens and Twenties that his ideologues needed an Old Testament god with lightening strikes and violence, not that mamby-pamby Jesus. I think that’s what it is. Or a large part of it.

  11. I was taught in fundyland to personalize the text. e.g. “For God so loved JimE, that he gave…” Jn3:16. Naturally you need to make sure that you are a subset of the noun that is replaced. Some forget the subset rule and suffer for it.

    Ignoring the massive amounts of irrational rant, I find it humourous that he bashes his followers and then invites the “unsaved” to join them.

  12. @Rob: you said (I can’t figure out how to quote other than copy and paste) “I’d only experienced this at Pensacola. One of the MANY times I thought to myself “is this really what it means”? I was simultaneously confused by & jealous of the poeple who were able to sleep through church/chapel. I would come out and ask people about stuff I didn’t think was quite right, and they’d either slept through, or didn’t really care that much, or worse thought it was spot on, and confused why I would want to discuss whether was correct or not.”

    I had a similar experience at BJU. Only when I tried to ask people I was accused of saying the Bible lies. So I stopped asking outwardly.

    BTW, what is the point of this sermon. He seems to go from one rant to another.

  13. @Free I knew enough socially to not speak to the people that would accuse me of doubting the veracity of scripture. I had believed the more “rebellious” ones of us would be more interested in discussing what was wrong. I was usually wrong one way or the other, but most of the accusers I could spot a mile away and keep at an arms distance.

  14. Re: Free’s post:

    With no ability to debate or question, there is no real learning – only indoctrination.

    Truth can stand on its own merits.

    My experience in fundyland was similar to yours.

  15. Jordan said,

    “I’ve heard many preachers encourage their congregations to open their Bibles to Genesis 1, write “Dear [Name],” above verse 1, and then turn to the end of Revelation and write “Love, God” after the last verse. Genesis 1 and Revelation 22 always struck me as funky ways to begin and end a personal letter.”

    Isn’t there a verse in Revelation 22 that addresses something about adding to the Word of God and judgment against those who do?

  16. Lots of empty seats in that church. Wonder why?

    First off – the old testament was addressed to the Israelites.
    Second – we’re not under the law anymore
    Third – we live in an age of grace.

    Yes – God saw that we’d have a 21st century dude, but he also saw the accomplished work of Christ.

  17. Please read my comments at “Preaching To The Converted” (June 2010) on this site. You may not agree with me on every point but this is EXACTLY what happens when you put a NT believer under the OT Law!

    @ Matthew: Nicely stated.

  18. As a young man I decied to grow a beard. A retired (and “old-time”) minister told me how Joseph shaved his face before going before the worldly King. Then he asked “how much more should we prepare (ie. shave) when going before the heavenly King?” So Joseph, like David, set the standard? Why look for context? Do examples really need to be analogous? This wasn’t even part of the law. This was just one person’s reaction to another

  19. @Private I: Of course, he’d ignore the part about Christ having a beard… you know, because of all the people in the Bible, Joseph trumps Jesus. Cough, Cough, Cough…

  20. I couldn’t watch all of this. “God’s tired of the excuses”?!? Yikes.

    I was born into fundyland and remained in it til my 20th year. Thank God for Cedarville University (sort of a shock my parents let me go there!)…and for the book Transforming Grace by Jerry Bridges. God used both to show me the light big time about how grace doesn’t just get us “in the door” but is how he treats us once we’re His and how He wants us to live our entire lives. But even though I “know” better, fundy-ness is what was programmed into me, and still, in my 40s, I struggle to believe, really and truly, that God loves me regardless of my “excuses” (read: disillusionment, anger, etc.).

    *sigh*

  21. Fundies take the Bible literally except where Jesus says at the Last Supper “This IS my Body, this IS my Blood”. Why if they took that literally they would be as bad as the Catholics who believe in the Real Presence of Christ in the Eucharist.

    And fundies don’t believe Jesus drank literal wine. It was Welch’s grape juice. No good fundie would drink wine, so Jesus wouldn’t, either.

  22. @ Connie: “I struggle to believe, really and truly, that God loves me regardless of my ‘excuses’.”

    Me too! I feel like a hamster on spinning wheel: I sin. God is angry at me because I sinned. If God is angry, then God is rejecting me. Thinking God rejects me is doubting His essential love and goodness. Doubting His goodness is a sin. I sin!” Argghh!!

  23. Oh hun (@Pastor’s Wife)! Big time *hugs.* I think–I THINK, though, that God is NOT angry at us for sinning. My new head knowledge tells me God poured out all his anger on Christ while on the cross. Of course, you may “know” this and still struggle with it–and therein lies the rub.

    Blessings to you!

  24. @Private I

    Then he asked “how much more should we prepare (ie. shave) when going before the heavenly King?

    So the Old sage was comparing God to Pharaoh? That’s rich.

    When I started growing my beard I had an Old Paths retired preacher ask me when I was going to shave and something about Jesus not wearing a beard. I just smiled and made a comment about you can’t pluck out three day old growth so Jesus must have had at least enough beard to grab hold of. He tried to enlist the pastor on his side but the pastor said it was customary for first century Jews to wear beards. He seem to be very depressed that we had left the Old Paths of the 1940-50’s era of church Etiquette and seemed to be moving the old landmarks. :-)

  25. @ Connie, thank you! I’m so glad the Bible says, “There is therefore now NO CONDEMNATION for them who are in Christ Jesus”, but I guess I have a hard time believing it applies to me! I keep waiting for the other shoe to drop. But He’s good, loving, gentle, and patient. I saw so little of God’s character in the people who told me about Him that it’s hard to really trust that He is as the Bible says not how they made Him out to be.

    1. ” I saw so little of God’s character in the people who told me about Him that it’s hard to really trust that He is as the Bible says not how they made Him out to be.”
      Oh, PW, that hit me. Now there’s a conviction, right there, for me.

  26. “God said evening and morning and noon will I pray…”

    God said that? I thought it was David.. I’m confused.

  27. Sounds like good preaching to me. He starts out by giving an example of David praying and telling the congregation to pray with their familys and to read the Word of God. Sounds like pretty good advice to me. Paul told Timothy to “preach the word” reprove rebuke exort with all long suffering. Reproving and rebuking is obviously a part of preaching. And if your a Child of God you need to hear the truth. This world is full of woe and sorrow and sin. God help us.

  28. @Shannon – nobody said it was bad advice necessarily. The whole point is that it is horrible preaching. He takes the verses and applies them in ways that they were never meant to be applied. He takes a person’s (David’s) prayer to the Lord and turns it into a command that everyone must follow if they are going to be spiritual.

    This is the worst kind of preaching, because he decides what he wants to say beforehand and then finds some passages that seem to back up what he thinks. So, he is not “preaching the word.” He is doing exactly what the pharisees did that got them into trouble with Jesus. He is adding a bunch of man-made rules to the gospel of Jesus Christ.

  29. My favourite line to hear: “I know this was said/written to Israel, but…”
    The idea that every single thing said in the Bible can be applied to the present Church is appalling.

  30. @Private I,

    To put it into proper historical context, if Joseph shaved his face before he went to Pharaoh, he was probably doing it to conform to Egyptian standards of grooming and cleanliness. Egyptian wall-paintings use facial hair as a distinguishing mark of their enemies and subject nations. Joseph was intending to present himself as an Egyptian, not as an enemy or subject, but as a civilized person worthy of respect. And seeing as Egyptian grooming standards also included shaving the head and removing all body hair with a pair of tweezers, then it probably wasn’t just the beard that got the chop.

  31. Wow…Dave Jones. We used to have an 8-day campmeeting at our church in December (since we didn’t believe in Christmas, we had to give everyone something else to keep them occupied), and Jones was the featured speaker and would preach each night after another preacher. That was before his cover got blown for boinking women at nearly every church he visited.

  32. I found an example of this on facebook today and thought I’d put it here:

    “We are all desperate for a new spate of godly leaders. In my reading this morning, Scripture held an insight for how we get them. King David (a man after God’s own heart) said this:

    ‘Turn to me and have mercy on me;
    show your strength in behalf of your servant;
    save me, because I serve you
    just as my mother did.’ Psalm 86:16

    Godly leaders are made by godly mothers. Keep raising your children in faithfulness moms, we need the children you will raise.”

    My opinion: Godly leaders may or may not be made by godly mothers. While I do believe that the Bible teaches parents to raise their children to follow God, I do not believe that this passage says what the facebook poster said it was.

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