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