Unsettled Christianity

Gloria Dei homo vivens – St Irenaeus
November 4th, 2015 by Joel Watts

Review, @LexhamPress’s “Supernatural: What the Bible teaches about the unseen world and why it matters.”


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What do we do with all of the “weird” stuff in Scripture? This is a serious question for Christians today. Many ignore it, reenacting a poor caricature of Rudolf Bultmann, ignoring all mythic language from Scripture — and from Christian Tradition. Are we embarrassed in our modern world of talk of spirits, angels, and demons? Have we become so entrenched in post-modern monotheism that we forget about the other heavenly bodies?

As a Bible scholar, I’ve learned that strange passages (and lots of other little-known and little-understood parts of Scripture) are actually very important. They teach specific ideas about God, the unseen world, and our own lives.1

Heiser is correct, even if I disagree with some of his interpretations. Scripture and Tradition presents us a world that is more than just the three dimensions on a map. Rather, as he discusses in chapter 5 of Supernatural, the dimensions around us include the realm we cannot see and it is in this realm much of Scripture occurs. If you think about, God begins there (pre-Genesis) and we end there (Revelation). Not only this, but this unseen realm interacts with us constantly.

Imagine if I told you there was an unseen, but real, world interacting with us, affecting our movements and sometimes history. Would you think me a theologian or a quantum physicist?

I cannot help but approach this book with appreciation. Again, while I find some issues I could discuss with him, he is finally highlighting for those separated from the Saints the fact that the early Church has no issue with reading the odd parts of Scripture as something rather plain — an odd word choice given the invested depth placed in these verses. Yes, there is a divine council. Other gods roam the unseen realm. They have portions of the world they control. The Incarnation is the final one, but not the first. All of these ideas presented by Heiser are drawn directly from Scripture and Tradition. Who hasn’t read of St. Justin’s thoughts in explaining this worldview? Oh, that’s right…most Protestants. But now, thanks to Heiser, many are being introduced to how Scripture sees that which we cannot. I can only hope either they or Heiser does a follow up of how the early Church – and indeed, many in the Catholic and Orthodox communions today live in the same world of Scripture.

What Heiser is doing is interesting, in my opinion, both as a scholar and a theologian. He is bringing to light Scripture nearly hidden since the Reformation. He has divorced himself from the usual talk of Catholic v. Protestantism and instead spoken plainly about often overlooked portions of Scripture. It is refreshing, to be clear. It is well within Christian Tradition. And it is, for a lack of a better term, extremely biblical.

Supernatural is a condensed version of The Unseen Realm, having 16 chapters — each building upon one another to present a picture and an argument that Scripture contains a cosmology far different than what many of us have been led to believe. It is a powerful picture. It is meant to give the argument found in The Unseen Realm to an audience not familiar with higher forms of biblical scholarship, but interested in reading a condensed version. It is likewise, I assume, meant for small group studies — and it should be used as such. Finally, Heiser makes the cosmology of a biblical worldview, simply, a lot more fun.

The book is also available via Logos Software.

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On Logos, the bible verses are hyperlinked with pop up windows, allowing the reader to continue reading while easily referencing the Text.

  1. Michael S. Heiser, Supernatural: What the Bible Teaches about the Unseen World—And Why It Matters (ed. David Lambert; Bellingham, WA: Lexham Press, 2015), 14.
Joel Watts
Watts holds a MA in Theological Studies from United Theological Seminary. He is currently a Ph.D. student at the University of the Free State, analyzing Paul’s model of atonement in Galatians, as well as seeking an MA in Clinical Mental Health at Adams State University. He is the author of Mimetic Criticism of the Gospel of Mark: Introduction and Commentary (Wipf and Stock, 2013), a co-editor and contributor to From Fear to Faith: Stories of Hitting Spiritual Walls (Energion, 2013), and Praying in God's Theater, Meditations on the Book of Revelation (Wipf and Stock, 2014).

Comments

12 Responses to “Review, @LexhamPress’s “Supernatural: What the Bible teaches about the unseen world and why it matters.””
  1. “the dimensions around us include the realm we cannot see and it is in this realm much of Scripture occurs”…
    “Would you think me a theologian or a quantum physicist?…”
    Except for one rather big problem. Quantum physics bases it’s conclusions upon mathematics, and laboratory measurements upon things like electron and photon scattering, electron tunneling, etc..
    Scripture talks about seeing visions of dragons, dry bones coming alive, priests using random chance to determine guilt, innocence, talking donkeys, etc..

    Two totally different things (realms, if you will).

    The problem, today, we have use math to quantify probabilities on the state of electrons. But we see no occurrences of visions that are real, or predict future events via supernatural effects. Why, may I ask, do people like Heiser think these supernatural events seemed to occur in rather high frequency to an ethnic tribe in the Middle East, 2000 to 3000 years ago, but seem to not occur today? (I am obviously discounting fringe like Joseph Smith, blood moon followers, David Jeremiah’s end time junk based on Daniel, and related company, from the mix, since I consider them simply crazy, or unethical.)

    I am not saying I don’t believe what Heiser is selling. I am just saying that I will have to take the “Doubting Thomas” approach. I have never had a supernatural experience. Until I do, I will have an open, but seriously doubting attitude.

    • Gary, but they are sorta the same. They both rely on observations. For the mytho-poet, these observations are rendered in mythic language like we see in Scripture. For the Quantum Physicist, they are rendered in Satan’s language, i.e., math.

      • I hope you are right. It would make for a more interesting world. Worlds? Universe. Dimensions. But…
        As soon as I have a vision of dry bones coming alive per Ezekiel (besides the Ohio State running back scoring a TD), or my dog talks to me per Balam’s donkey, I’ll jump on the bandwagon.

        • Dry bones, referring to a 70 year old jumping up and down after a touchdown by Ezekiel Elliot. Since you spent time in Dayton, you’ll understand.

        • but… that was a vision. thus poet. metaphor. Not observational science.

          • Actually, I would be interested in a little more detail on Heiser’s book. Some examples on what he is driving at. I checked out his sites, and he doesn’t give much detail or examples. I found one piece he did on Nephilim, and he went into a long discussion about word syntax of Greek and Hebrew, but didn’t get to the nitty-gritty on what exactly was meant by the text. In his book ad, questions like “what did Eve think when the snake spoke to her”. Well, it would be nice to see what he is driving at….symbolic? which is what I would say. Or does he actually think snakes talked? Or angels actually appeared? If so, why then, but not now? I’d put out money for his book, if he indicates exactly where he is going with this. But if he is going down the road that I think he may, I might as well believe Joseph Smith, then. And then not worth the money. I guess I could go to Barnes and Noble and check it out. But I am not that motivated to test drive before I buy, since Heiser is more apologetic than scholar (certainly of physics)!

  2. After looking at some comments for Heiser’s two books, it would seem that he has an obsession with Deuteronomy 32, and Psalms Divine Council, reading everything and anything in the bible in relation to that. He seems to fail to recognize that the bible is a diverse, disparate, group of texts, with no single author, and no single theme revolving around Divine Council. I’ll pass on his book.

    • This started with bringing quantum mechanics into the mix. I would suggest a book more physics based, than evil demons fighting good Angels, based upon a few random mentions of a divine council, which more indicates Judaism evolving from early polytheism to monotheism. Not real multiple evil demons still kicking around today, hiding in a supernatural world.

      I’d read “Parallel World”, by Michio Kaku. As an example, on H.G. Wells “The Invisible Man”:
      “As with the best science fiction novels, there is a term of science in many of H. G. Wells’ stales. Anyone who can tap into the fourth spatial dimension (or what is today called the fifth dimension, with time being the fourth dimension) can indeed become invisible, and can even assume the powers normally ascribed to ghosts and gods. Imagine, for the moment, that a race of mythical beings can inhabit the two-dimensional world of a tabletop, as in Edwin Abbot’s 1884 novel “Flatworld”. They conduct their affairs unaware that an entire universe, the third dimension, surrounds them. But if a Flatland scientist could perform an experiment that allows him to hover inches off the table, he would become invisible, because light would pass below him as if he didn’t exist…. Hovering in hyperspace has decided advantages, for anyone looking down from hyperspace would have the powers of a god.”

      Some more interesting discussions of Wells’s 1895 novel “The Wonderful Visit”, where a vicar’s gun accidentally hits an angel passing through our dimension. Misner space, multi universes, and a host of mathematically generated worlds. Math is easier to understand than Balaam’s donkey. And Ezekiel won last night!

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