This article includes concerns with Michael Heiser, John Mark Comer, and Gregory Boyd, all influences on Bible Project’s Tim Mackie
Five points of concerns are given, and then each point is broken down with links responding to that point.
The Five Points
- The influence of Dr. Michael Heiser’s Divine Council/many gods beliefs: Heiser did some videos with the Bible Project. Mackie also did an approving video with John Mark Comer about the “many gods” teaching.
- Mackie’s close connections to troubling former pastor John Mark Comer
- Mackie’s embrace of the Enneagram
- Mackie’s embrace of mystical contemplative practices (this is the subject of as of yet unpublished article explaining why this is problematic
- Mackie’s positive mention of a recent book by Open Theist Greg Boyd and of Boyd’s ideas as well as Boyd’s apparent influence on Mackie
In the break downs below, I provide more information on each point with links that support my concerns or as reference. I use direct quotes when writing the exact words and paraphrase others.
Point 1, Dr. Michael Heiser
Divine Council, Many Gods
The late Dr. Michael Heiser has influenced Mackie with his Divine Council and many gods view (see CANA article on Heiser). Heiser promotes the idea that “elohim” refers to other gods in passages such as Psalm 82:1 and others. This word is used in many Bible passages and is translated as judges, rulers, angels, or maybe a “divine being,” depending on context and the Bible translation used.
This video of Comer and Mackie shows Heiser’s influence on both Comer and Tim Mackie where they agree there are gods. “False gods are not false in that they don’t exist,” states Comer after listening to Mackie, they exist but they are “created.” (There is more info on Comer in Point 3).
Mackie states that when God says “there are no other gods beside me,” God does not mean there are no other gods. According to Mackie and Comer, God is actually saying that there are no other gods like him, that is, no other gods in the same category as God (this is in the first 10 min.). (This is Heiser’s view).
The Divine Council view is a linchpin of Heiser’s theology and he shoehorns other scriptures into his view, and/or he speculates. It seems his filter for Scripture includes ANE (ancient near east) views, 2nd Temple Judaism, and the Book of Enoch (which he makes much of). It is one thing to use that material for historical context but it is quite another to use it as filter for exegeting Scripture.
Heiser also teaches that the “our” In Gen. 1:27 means that God made man in his image and in the image of his Divine Council (this is also in The Unseen Realm, p. ). This of course has never been the view of the church in 2,000 years. The historical orthodox belief and biblical view is that any being who appears as a god or is worshiped as a god is in reality a fallen angel (demon), which is my view.
In at least 5 places in the Bible, false gods and/or idols are equated to demons (Lev. 17:7, Deut. 32:17; Ps. 106:37; 1 Cor. 10:20-21; Rev. 9:20). The idols themselves are only material objects but represented the false gods being worshiped.
Heiser claims Deut. 32:17 equates demons with gods.
“They sacrificed to demons, not God, to gods they had not known.”
However, I think that this shows that false gods are demons, not that demons are gods. It could be a parallelism between “to demons” with “to gods they had not known.” The logical conclusion would be that false gods are demons, especially in light of the fact that God has declared that there are no other gods.
It would make sense from such passages that the gods being worshiped are in actuality demons. That raises the issue of whether demons are gods. But then we are back to what is a god according to Scripture. Redefining the word to mean an actual god is illogical because if there is only one true living Creator God, then no other god can exist unless one redefines the word, which only confuses the issue.
God is revealed in and defined by Scripture and has certain attributes, which the false gods do not have. They are only gods in the minds of those who believe in them, just as we speak of the Mormon god or the New Age god. Those gods are not actually the one true God nor are they even real. However, fallen angels can disguise themselves so that if false gods are called upon or worshiped, the fallen angel becomes the false god, which is what those five scriptures tell us.
Heiser writes that we should not be afraid to think that these are actual gods who are residents of the spiritual realm and have some kind of rulership, including with God. Heiser supports his claim by writing that it makes no sense for passages that denounce other gods if those gods do not exist, and it makes no sense for God to be greater than other gods if those gods do not exist. However, to assume they must be gods is overlooking the simple fact that belief in false gods makes those “gods” real to those who believe. They are not real as actual gods but as constructs. They function as though they are real gods in the minds of people although they are actually fallen angels.
Israel was surrounded by peoples who worshiped false gods in very debauched and wicked ways that included child sacrifice, sorcery, divination, and sexual perversions. To denounce these gods would have been the only logical thing to do because the minds of the people were enslaved to them, and because God is the only God. A false god is not a god at all according to Scripture, since only one God can exist. This is I believe a very reasonable explanation to the references to other gods in Scripture.
Made in the Image of the Divine Council?
There is more damage than just the idea of other gods in Heiser’s Divine Council view. Heiser claimed that Genesis 1:26 means that man is made not only in God’s image but also in the image of the beings of the divine council. This is why, writes Heiser in The Unseen Realm, it says “Let us.” The “us” includes the spiritual heavenly residents who are also made in God’s image.
- This would seem to make humans a less than unique creation, whereas scripture strongly emphasizes the unique status of man as made in God’s image. Angels are never said or to be made in God’s image. If what Heiser claims is true, it would affect man’s relationship with God because it would denote that man has or should have some kind of relationship with the spiritual beings in heaven as we do with God. I see no scriptural support for that idea.
- Genesis 9:6 points out that shedding blood will result in one’s blood being shed because man is made in God’s image. There is no mention or hint that man is also made in the image of any spiritual beings. The action of shedding blood as wrong is due to man being made in God’s image. (Credit to Dr. Lydia McGrew for this last point).
- There is no basis in Scripture for belief that the heavenly residents (angels, “divine beings,” spirits, Heiser’s “gods”) are made in the image of God.
- Heiser goes further to aver that God was suggesting to the divine council that all of them create man in their image, although only God did the creating (The Unseen Realm, pp. 43, 52). There is nothing in scripture or other passages to support this idea. It would mean that man is to think of himself as also made in the image of these spiritual beings which, frankly, we know very little about. It squeezes God out of the picture a bit as well, but that bit is more than enough. It is in my view an attack on God.
- Moreover, how is one to soundly and logically separate the “Let us make man” from “in our image?” Since Heiser asserts that only God made man but the “our image” part refers to divine beings, why assume the “Let us make” does not also refer to the so called divine beings creating man? In fact, if the “us” refers to divine beings, it is only reasonable and logical to assume that the divine beings are in the “Let us make” part of the statement. So in my view, there is no basis for asserting that only the second part refers to divine beings.
Pastor Chris Rosebrough refutes Comer about the “many gods” in this podcast. Rosebrough considers this view cultic.
Heavenly Bodies as Divine Creatures
There are other issues in the video referenced above such as Mackie stating that every single time there is a mention of stars in the Hebrew Bible, it refers to creatures. In some passages, “stars” refer to angels, but not all, especially in the Genesis 1 creation account. This view is also given in a video on Genesis 1 done by the Bible Project in partnership with Heiser in which the video asserts that the Old Testament authors believed the sun and moon to be “divine creatures.”
Point 2, John Mark Comer
John Mark Comer was the pastor of Bridgetown Church in Portland, Oregon until stepping down in 2021. He was replaced by Tyler Staton. Comer has recommended Richard Rohr, who is a heretic. Comer quoted Rohr on sin, which is disturbing since Rohr does not believe sin separates us from God. Rohr thinks that we have always been in and with God (this is from Rohr’s panentheism and Perennial Wisdom beliefs.
Comer also has endorsed the Enneagram (Comer’s previous website was more open on the Enneagram which he does not have on his new website; however, he stills is in favor of it but has stepped back from it). The Enneagram is a false tool from the New Age. Comer supports and teaches mystical practices.
Point 3, The Enneagram
Mackie has embraced the Enneagram and appeared on progressive Ian Cron’s Typology podcast along with Bible Project partner Jon Collins.
Ian Cron is a close associate of Richard Rohr and co-author of The Road Back to You, the first Enneagram book for evangelicals (and which contains many falsehoods as well as Progressive Christian/Universalist views), the most popular Enneagram book in the church.
Cron has also done Enneagram workshops with New Ager Beatrice Chestnut.
Point 4, Contemplative Influences
Mackie’s embrace of contemplative practices includes his admission that he learned about prayer from Thomas Keating (d. 2018). Keating is someone I have read and followed since the 1990s. I also heard Keating speak in 2005, and met with him afterward. Keating, a Trappist monk, was close to Richard Rohr who has stated that Keating was an influence on him.
Keating writes things such as, “if you want to pray to God, don’t think about God” and “silence was God’s first language.” This comes from Eastern religions, something Keating admired. Keating believed that Christians could learn about biblical meditation from Buddhist monks and even had Buddhist monks come to his abbey to instruct the Trappist monks there.
In Eastern spirituality, all matter is illusion; this includes the mind, so one cannot attain spiritual insight through it but must disengage from the mind to grasp spiritual truths.
The fact that Mackie learned about prayer from Keating is a disturbing. Mackie seems to have turned a corner in his thinking the past few years, according to many interviews I’ve watched, and I think this comes in part from his exposure to contemplative practices.
In his Foreword to contemplative pastor Tyler Staton’s book, Praying Like Monks, Living Like Fools, Mackie quotes and recommends Keating:
“My hope is that you will come to experience prayer and the presence of God in the way Keating describes it”. As quoted on Word Like Fire
It would be my firm hope that nobody would experience anything based on what Keating described or taught.
Mackie gave a talk at Bridgetown Church (formerly pastored by John Mark Comer, now pastored by Tyler Staton). The original video I watched was removed later and in the “new” video, some of the statements made by Mackie were missing. However, my comments on this include a few that address some of the missing statements because they were never recanted by Mackie, and his statements in the second video do not conflict with the missing statements.
Mackie states he started seeing a Spiritual Director who told Mackie to start every day by sitting in a long period of silence asking God to speak to “the whole of me” in some way outside of his “normal” way of engaging with God.
How else would God speak to someone but to the “whole” of the person? This statement reveals a belief that the mind is not sufficient for receiving God’s guidance, therefore, God must speak to other parts of the self. However, God communicates with our whole being all the time, which includes what is called “the mind and heart” in popular parlance.
The Bible refers to the whole person with language such as “mind, heart, soul, and strength” (said by Jesus in Luke 10:27). This phrase refers to the whole person – one’s will, mind, spirit – in other words, the whole self. God speaks to the whole self all the time; speaking to one’s heart or anything else apart from the mind is impossible and nonsensical. We can only process ideas and language with the mind.
Due to the false divisions between mind and heart promoted heavily in contemplative teachings (in which the “heart” is always superior to “mind”), some Christians think that people are divided between their mind and feelings, and/or between the mind and spirit/soul. However, when we think or do things, our whole selves are involved – mind, will, heart (feelings), and spirit/soul.
Contemplative proponents make the false distinction between mind and heart/emotions/soul because they are deceived into thinking that one must have sensations and experiences to be living the Christian life and if one is not, it is a result of knowing God intellectually and not with what they consider the heart or soul.
This is a deception because salvation and the relationship with God is built on faith, not on techniques. Faith builds with prayer and knowledge of Scripture and can result in experiences, which is how the mind, heart, and soul/spirit work together. However, nothing in the Bible indicates Christians should seek experiences.
The word translated as “heart” in the Old Testament is usually lebab, which means “inner man, mind, will, heart.” In the New Testament, the word translated as “heart,” is kardia, which means “the heart; mind, character, inner self, will, intention, center” (from lexicon on Bible Hub and other sources). So when “heart” is used, it is not about the feelings or the spirit apart from the mind; it is about the whole person.
In the original video, Mackie stated he asked God to speak to him outside of him mind. Ironically, to ask God to speak to a part of you outside of the mind requires your mind to formulate and ask God that question to speak to the supposed “you” outside of your mind.
The fact Mackie has had a spiritual director is troubling. Spiritual Director is a title used in the evangelical church only over the last 3 or 4 years. Originally, this term is from medieval monasticism. According to Richard Foster, one of the people responsible for bringing contemplative practices into the evangelical church. What is spiritual direction?
Spiritual direction is a relational process in which a trained spiritual guide listens to and companions someone who desires a deeper relationship with God. For Christians, this means becoming more like Jesus Christ. Richard Foster defines spiritual direction “an interpersonal relationship in which we learn how to grow, live, and love in the spiritual life.”
The spiritual director is trained to listen, discern and sometimes ask questions. The task of the spiritual director is to diligently pay attention to the person’s story and the Spirit, and to encourage spiritual growth. Spiritual direction is not counseling, friendship, mentoring, teaching nor discipling. It is the commitment to discover what God is doing in a person’s life and to help that person come closer to Christ. From “What Is Spiritual Direction?” Portland Seminary
This may sound good but the role of a spiritual director is not found in Scripture as are the roles for pastors, elders, teachers, and others. The processes connected with spiritual direction are subjective, experiential, and mystical. The same website above for the quoted excerpt advises that “The actual hour [with the spiritual director] usually begins with centering prayer to prepare you both to listen without distractions.”
Centering prayer, also called Contemplative Prayer (some will contend there is a distinction, but in practice, there usually is not one), involves being still and quieting the mind so that the thinking mind is quiet or inactive. It is based on Eastern meditation methods.
Spiritual direction is part of the Contemplative Spirituality that is overtaking the church.
Mackie talks about the biblical prophets being in another “reality.” He is not using that word to indicate that they were having biblical visions, but rather that they went into another state of consciousness and reality. The biblical authors, claim Mackie, “have a different way of seeing reality than most of us do,” He states there is also a “state of consciousness” which is an “altered state” that Jacob, Ezekiel, and John were all in. Ezekiel had a “severe alteration of consciousness” when he had his vision in Ezekiel 8. This accounts, according to Mackie, for their alleged different views of reality and “states of consciousness” (starting around 49 min.).This is a mystical view that comes from the contemplative movement that is at odds with a biblical worldview. [Note: Another article expanding on this is being worked on for the website].
Our reality is constructed from our experiences in which we develop “coping mechanisms” and so “what we experience as reality is a result of these shields we build up for years and years.” Astonishingly, Mackie adds that the biblical authors consider the reality man expirences to be “a very sub, sub, distorted manipulated version of reality that we are making for ourselves,” and that “true reality” is what happens “when we let our guard down,” such as in sleep. “This is how the biblical authors see the world,” asserts Mackie
“There is a level of consciousness awareness of reality that is soul level, and it’s a full-on language in a way of interacting with the eternal now,” claims Mackie. This is wny he thinks he has had “an undeveloped soul.”
Mackie states that he has had
a rediscovery of prayer and the presence of God in a way I knew about as a set of ideas and it is becoming for me a set of experiences that are reframing how I see everything.
Becoming a Christian will reframe how one sees everything, especially if one becomes a Christian after childhood. Reframing in that case would be seeing the true God for who he is because one is leaving false ideas for true ones. However, once a person is a Christian, it should not be the case that one will reframe how one sees everything unless they have fallen into false teachings. As a Christian, one can gain Insights, yes; a deepening understanding, yes; changes in perspective, yes, but not reframing how one sees everything.
For Mackie, I believe this reframing means a change in how he views reality and support for that idea comes in the next statements. According to Mackie:
Apparently, Jesus and Paul and the biblical authors have a really, really different way of seeing reality. Apparently, Paradise in the Bible is a symbol, an image. But it is a way of describing something fundamental to how Jesus and the biblical authors saw reality, and that imaginative picture of the world is this: that somehow there is a truest, most foundational, most fundamental dimension of reality that is actually undergirding and making all the rest of reality possible. But that reality is not perceptible to our five senses and it is not perceivable in the four dimensions that we inhabit….(snip)…it’s more real than anything else, it’s a person.
Mackie then states that Jesus is Paradise and is the “eternal now.” Mackie states that he wants by “habit formation” to adopt the way of seeing the world that Jesus did.
I would not say Paradise is a symbol but an actual place. I would not say Jesus is Paradise or that he is the Eternal Now. Jesus is outside of time because God cannot be limited by time nor does God act sequentially from moment to moment. Jesus is not an abstract Eternal Now.
As for adopting seeing the world the way Jesus did – well, how do we know how he saw the world? Based on all the talk about other realities and super-realities and states of consciousness in the Bridgetown talk, I think that Mackie has been overtaken by Contemplative mysticism. Contemplative practices, like Eastern meditation, does alter one’s reality. Mackie seems to think that Jesus and the biblical authors saw reality differently and that is what we have to enter into. This is a very insidious deception.
There is only one reality! There is not a reality more real than another reality, as Mackie’s remarks suggest. There may be parts of reality that humans do not perceive, such as the heavenly realms and the realm of angels, but that does not mean humans are in another reality, or that the biblical authors were writing about another reality, “more real” than ours.
Who created reality? God did. Reality is called that because it is something we perceive as having real existence. Reality is the truth and substance of the material world, who we are (physically and spiritually), the realms of angels, and who God is. What we know as reality is based on evidence and on Scripture.
It is the Eastern religions, the occult, and the New Age that claim the reality we see and live in is not the “true” reality, a belief I once had for many years. Although Mackie is not specifically stating that our reality is false or non-existent, he comes close to it when declaring that there is a super reality and we are in a “sub” reality. He is making claims parallel to Eastern and New Age views about reality that are not biblical.
Jesus saw reality as fully God, fully man, a state none of us have. What we do know about how Jesus saw things is in Scripture and it is pretty clear. At least, what we need to know is made clear in Scripture and that is sufficient. Nothing in Scripture indicates that we need to change our view of reality or that Jesus had another view of reality. Jesus as God saw beyond what we can see but that is not what Mackie meant.
Every esoteric teaching from Eastern religions to the occult to the New Age teaches that man is trapped in a false, deceptive, or non-existent reality and must come to an awakening of the true nature of reality (however that is taught in those beliefs). As soon as Mackie started talking in terms of other realities, I knew the Contemplative poison had infected his mind.
Mackie and the Spiritual Disciplines
The late Dallas Willard turned to Contemplative Spirituality and with Richard Foster founded a Spiritual Formation organization, Renovare. (An article on Foster and Willard coming to the website soon). Renovare has been a major force behind the Contemplative invasion of the church.
In a video (original video has been removed but this one appears to be the same lecture) Mackie introduces what are known as the spiritual disciplines from Contemplative Spirituality. Mackie refers to Dallas Willard and enthusiastically promotes his writing on contemplative practices. He does not give the title, but Mackie is holding up Willard’s “The Spirit of the Disciplines,” which is being sold at the church.
The first so-called spiritual discipline Mackie tackles is solitude. This of course comes from the Contemplative discipline of solitude (which usually goes along with silence). To support this idea, Mackie reads the Luke 4 passage about Jesus being driven into the wilderness by the Holy Spirit.
Mackie claims (around 18 min.) that when Jesus encountered Satan, it caused Jesus to doubt his vocation, identity, and what he came to do. Certainly Satan was hoping it would do that, but nothing in the text indicates Jesus had any doubts. In fact, Jesus responds quite directly and forcefully to Satan in all three temptations.
Mackie moves on to Luke 5:5:
Yet he often withdrew to deserted places and prayed.
Yes, Jesus did this at various times. The text does not tell us why Jesus did it. We can reasonably assume Jesus did this in order to spend time with God the Father with whom he was in constant communion. This is supposed scriptural support for the discipline of solitude.
Mackie then points to the account in Luke 6:12-13 that tells us Jesus spent the night praying on a mountain, and chose the 12 disciples as his apostles the next day. Mackie states that after this night of prayer, it led Jesus to make “a new decision of appointing the twelve.”
However, nothing in the text suggests that the night of prayer led Jesus to make the decision of choosing the 12. Nothing in the text suggests this was a “new decision.” To assert this is rather startling. I see this as a possible influence from Greg Boyd, an Open Theist. In another video, Mackie appears to be captivated by ideas from Boyd after reading one of his books (or maybe more).
Did Jesus not know from eternity he would choose 12 men and knew who they were? Although we know Jesus limited his knowledge to a degree (as in Matthew 24:36 and Mark 13:32), this does not mean that he was limited this way all the time. We know from this and other passages that Jesus knew the thoughts of people and predicted events of the future.
Moreover, since the text does not indicate that the night of prayer led Jesus to a decision (much less a “new” one) of choosing the twelve, it is not wise to state this as fact.
At the very end of the video, Mackie waxes rather passionately about solitude and states that we
“need solitude to fully function as human beings and as followers of Christ.”
There is no biblical teaching to support this. The issue is not if solitude is good or bad but rather that there is no teaching in Scripture that one must do this to “fully function” either as a human being or as Christian.
The phrase about “fully function” as a human being is similar to statements from other Contemplative teachers who say Jesus is showing us how to be “fully human” (or words to that effect). Mackie uses a phrase like this at least one other time in this video.
This practice of solitude, along with the other Contemplative practices, are adding to the easy yoke of Christ (Matthew 11:28-30).
Mackie refers to how the disciples prayed, stating that they were adopting the “spiritual practices” of Jesus. Mackie claims that a First Timothy 4 passage (vv. 7-9) is about new habits, i.e., spiritual practices.
The passage in First Timothy has been used by Contemplative proponents (including Dallas Willard) to support Contemplative practices. But does it? Actually, nothing in that passage is related to the Contemplative practices taught today.
The context is false teachings (see vv.1ff). Paul goes immediately from warning about false teachings and “worldly fables” to “discipline yourself for the purpose of godliness.” The discipline is about standing firm in sound doctrine (see verse 6). Paul uses the word “nourish” in verse 6 in connection with the faith and sound doctrine. The English word “nourish” is from a Greek word meaning to “train up” as in to educate. A Christian needs to grow in knowledge of God and God’s word.
I checked several commentaries, and they all said similar things: that one is to continue in this knowledge which brings godliness. The Pulpit Commentary points out that the nourishment is in opposition to the false teachings of verse 1:
The phrase, “nourished in the words of the faith,” etc., explains the καλὸς διάκονος, and shows what a man must be to deserve the appellation – one, viz., who is nourished in the words of the faith, etc. The faith; here again objective, as in ver. 6 (see note). The good doctrine, etc. In opposition to the “doctrines of devils” in ver. 1. From Bible Hub
Being nourished and growing in the faith, that is the doctrines/teachings of the faith, is what the training is about. To further support this, note that verse 8 states that this “holds promise” for this life and “the life to come.” The context for the verses cited by Mackie cannot in any way apply to contemplative practices. If they did, the context would be different and such practices would be clearly taught and referenced in the New Testament, but they are not.
Mackie claims that if we don’t “sense” the presence of Jesus or don’t feel a “connection” to him, then we probably need to practice withdrawing and isolating to “cultivate a relational connection” with Jesus. Mackie goes on for awhile to try to explain how solitude can help one “become more human” and closer to Jesus. However, he seems to be using his own experiences and outlooks, and maybe pop psychology, to support this idea.
There is nothing wrong with being alone to ponder Jesus or Scriptures. However, there is nothing that indicates this is a practice from First Timothy chapter 4, nor that this is a practice that a Christian needs to do.
Mackie then states that when Jesus prayed, he probably prayed from a pattern in Psalms. Pointing to the first Psalm which refers to meditating day and night on the law (this is also in other passages). Mackie discusses the Hebrew word translated here as “meditation,” which is “hagah.” It is a word, according to Mackie, that means a “relational interaction with God with the Scriptures as a medium” by reading the Scriptures slowly, aloud, carefully, and prayerfully.
Certainly reading the Bible slowly and prayerfully and aloud is edifying, but then Mackie brings up Lectio Divina and tells the audience to try it.
Mackie describes doing Lectio Divina the way that is given by other Contemplative teachers. One notices a word or words and thinks about it (this is usually described as letting a word “jump out at you”) in a very subjective manner. One uses the words from the passage and that one reflects on that. The way Mackie describes it sounds less startling than how Lectio Divina is usually taught, so it is a muted, and therefore more dangerous, presentation.
Reading Scripture in a subjective manner without taking the context into account is not sound hermeneutics and is not profitable, and can lead to wrong understandings. In Lectio Divina, one can take away meanings that are not there, especially if one is reacting subjectively, which is the way Lectio Divina is set up. This is really an esoteric way to read the Bible. Since the Bible is not esoteric, it is an incorrect way.
Point 5, Open Theist Greg Boyd
In an audio discussion on Revelation and violence in the Old Testament that Mackie did with John Mark Comer, at around minute 46, Mackie states that the Flood “changed God.” In discussing the violence against Canaan in the OT, Mackie states several times that God “compromises.”
Mackie makes these statements unless I note any from Comer (the following starts at minute 50):
- God gives up his “ideal” in order to “accommodate.”
- In order bring redemption to the world, God must “put up” with humans. This principle governs the accounts of violence where God commissions Israel to go into Canaan and fight.
- The Israelites most of the time “just think that He [God] is their national tribal God.” Mackie asserts that in the book of Joshua, God acts like a tribal God because he “seems to be” for Israel and against the Canaanites.
- Comer states that re the OT laws “around women, children, and slavery” that it is “crystal clear that it is not the heart of God” and Mackie agrees.
- Comer states we need to apply this hermeneutic to the violence and war stories in the Bible and Mackie agrees.
- Mackie (at minute 52:36) refers to Greg Boyd’s “recent book” (I think this is Cross Vision) as helpful in explaining the OT accounts of violence. As an Open Theist, Boyd believes that God has to work things out with man because he cannot always carry out his will (due to man’s free will). Many theologians consider Open Theism a heresy (I agree that it is).
- Mackie states that “God will allow himself to engage in things that are not becoming of his ideal purpose or character because he is committed to this person.” Greg Boyd’s proposal, states Mackie, is that “God is allowing himself to be depicted as a kind of god that he isn’t” by the OT authors “because of their limited point of view.” Mackie states he is “pondering” this and he is reconsidering these violent narratives in light of that idea.
Responses to Points 3 and 7
My response to point 3 about the Israelites seeing God as a “tribal god” is that this view was held by the Higher Critics who denied the supernatural, and is held by Progressives today. Their view is that God was initially seen as a tribal god, one of many gods, but later was elevated by Israel and/or the Hebrew authors of Scripture into the “chief God” and/or only God.
What Mackie means by saying God was for Israel and against Canaan is unclear. I do not know if Mackie is expressing the view he thinks the Israelites had or what he thinks Scripture depicts. Of course God is for Israel, he created Israel and Israel provided the lineage for the Messiah.
Regarding point 7, to say that God deliberately allows himself to be depicted as who he is not is close to blasphemy. This is asserting that God willingly allows or even creates a deceptive picture of who he is. The opposite is the case: God purposefully and clearly revealed who he was to his people and to Gentiles (such as Pharaoh and Egypt) in the Old Testament and who he is to everyone through Jesus Christ and Scripture. God is more than able to break through any cultural or other barriers that may limit people. God gives revelation of who he is clearly and unambiguously.
Point 5, Greg Boyd
It seems that Mackie was referring to Greg Boyd’s Cross Vision in the audio discussed in the previous point. This book is a follow-up to Boyd’s Crucifixion of the Warrior God. Boyd is not only an Open Theist but tries to explain the violence in the Old Testament by saying that God “accommodated” the culture because the Jews could not grasp who God is. God also appeared as something he is not in order to play along with the Jews (Mackie states this in the discussion with Comer, and Mackie states that he got that from Boyd).
Aside from Boyd’s skewed view of the Old Testament, Boyd believes that God is “risk-taking” and “adventurous.” Boyd’s concession to God is that God is so smart that he can anticipate what will happen even though he does not know the future with any certainty.
Summary of Concerns
All five points are disturbing. I do not see how Mackie’s views cannot but seep into his teachings and the videos the Bible Project puts out (and Heiser’s views are in some Bible Project videos) There are three reasons why this is dangerous:
- The deception in these areas can be subtle because ideas are framed with familiar language and words that appear to honor God. However, these ideas do not honor God; they demean or are against God.
- Many are not familiar with Thomas Keating or Greg Boyd and would have no reason to be concerned because of that. How many would bother to check them out?
- Christians trust Mackie, many almost blindingly, as a great Bible scholar and teacher. Most Christians (this would include pastors) seem to assume someone like Mackie could not be deceived or would not recommend any teacher or book that is problematic, so they will not check any of this out.
Does Mackie provide any good teaching? Yes, he does. Is he sincerely wanting to teach others? Yes, absolutely. But the most dangerous deceptions are ones that include truth blended with unbiblical views.
Is it enough to say listen to Mackie but be discerning? I think not because Mackie’s view of reality seems to have shifted due to the contemplative influences and due to other serious concerns, and the influence of the people discussed in this article is insidious and undermines sound doctrine.
Critiques of Michael Heiser by others:
The “divine council” concept morphs from being “a neglected topic of study that legitimately needs to be examined more carefully” into “the key to everything.” Several of the reviews I linked above give examples of this phenomenon, so I don’t need to rehash all of it. This, however, does tie into the somewhat sensationalistic element I noted above. The reader is given the distinct impression that the “divine council” is the secret key to unlock all of the hidden mysteries of the Bible. The reader starts to pick up a subtle undertone: All of the theologians of the past 2000 years have misread the Bible. All of the creeds and confessions have mis-read it. But now! The key has been found! From Keith Matheson
Criticism of Heiser’s hermeneutics: Dr. Thomas Howe, who has authored several books, taught Greek and Hebrew at Southern Evangelical Seminary, Charlotte, NC. He was my seminary professor for Hermeneutics, Old Testament 1 and 2, and Overview of Biblical Languages. Dr. Howe wrote a critique of Heiser, his main point being that Heiser has a poor biblical hermeneutic.
Why Michael Heiser is Probably Wrong About Satan in the Book of Job, by Kenneth Berding
Dr. Shandon Guthrie, Christian philosopher, comments:
Heiser’s mistakes are committed by the fact that he lets poetry and mythographic accommodation do all of the metaphysical work in his biblical theology. For example, that Asaph mentions God taking his place in the divine council (Psalm 82.1) is not to say that *there is* a divine council, but that there is a God who has taken his rightful place (as sovereign judge). It’s roughly equivalent to saying that God is “God of gods” (e.g., Psalm 136.2) where this expression does not commit one to be affirming that there are indeed other gods out there. And, speaking of Psalm 82, it’s doubtful that 82.6’s reference to “gods” points all the way back to verse 1. It’s more likely that it refers to the wicked ones of the immediate verses–those who “have neither knowledge nor understanding, they walk about in darkness; all the foundations of the earth are shaken” (v. 5). That verses 2-5 are not describing the divine council is because verse 2 is *Asaph* speaking and *not God.* It is the *Psalter* who is crying out *to God* as to “How long …” before God himself judges the wicked (cf., 119.84; Habakkuk 1.2).
**Dr. Guthrie has a Ph.D. in philosophy, Manchester Metropolitan University, England and is Visiting Lecturer of Philosophy at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas, (2002 – current). You can download an mp3 of Dr. Guthrie’s talk, “The Apologetic Value of Christian Demonology” with interaction with Dr. Heiser here.