The following is the seventh post in a series looking closely at the teachings of Robert Henderson found in his book Operating in the Courts of Heaven. I first suggest some theological questions that require answers before the teaching is embraced whole-heartedly, then evaluate the biblical passages used to back-up the teaching.
Does Operating in the Courts of Heaven imply a theological method that prioritises personal experiences over biblical revelation?
The Weslayan Quadrangle of sources and norms for theological beliefs includes experiences such as; personal revelation through what one believes to be the voice of God, a revelation from nature (Romans 1:20) and from conscience (Romans 2:11) through a common grace. However, the trustworthiness of these beliefs, collectively and individually, need to be tested by other more reliable members of the quadrangle; tradition, reason, and in the tradition of the reformers and Church fathers, none more so than the scripture, rightly interpreted.
This is for a very simple reason; whereas personal experiences can yield truths and confirm falsehoods, they can also yield falsehoods and disconfirm truths already firmly established. Beliefs formed from personal experience also often contradict other people’s beliefs formed from their experiences. Therefore, there is a need for something else, such as reason or the historic tradition, to moderate experientially gained theological beliefs. And the source and norm that Christians should turn to above all others, is the clearest and most authoritative revelation of God available, found in the written word of God, the Bible.
Ostensibly, Henderson seeks to justify his novel theological beliefs about prayer on scriptural grounds. In the posts that follow that look at the exegetical challenges to Henderson’s interpretations however, it becomes clear that he has failed to do so. The ease to which his interpretations is dismantled argues for the reliance upon and elevation of his other source of justification; personal experiences; his own and others.
A further demonstration is his general practice of how he argues for a point. This is to quote a scripture, provide the idea he thinks said scripture teaches, give it a sense of legitimacy with incomplete exegesis, poor reasoning and repetition, then go on to support said idea with an illustration from personal experience. Illustrations are good tools to explain a concept, but dull indeed when used to demonstrate how an argument is valid and sound, or an idea is true.
Henderson’s general theological method then is to give an inordinate weight to experiences over scripture.
In “The Courtroom on Trial?” series of posts, some theological problems with the Courtroom model of intercessory prayer are discussed. These include;
- Is the nature of the Courts of Heaven obscured by the limitations of human language?
- Does the courtroom model suggest God is not the ultimate?
- Does the courtroom model suggest either God is not all-knowing or heaven is imperfect?
- Does the courtroom model suggest Christ’s atoning death on the cross was inadequate?
- Does the courtroom model suggest a theology of works?
- Does Operating in the Courts of Heaven imply a theological method that prioritises personal experiences over biblical revelation?
Following these the exegetical problems are discussed. These include;
- The persistent widow (Luke 18:1-8)
- The heavenly books
- Heaven’s council
- The five stage process (Romans 8:29-30)
- Simon Peter’s courtroom trial (Luke 22:31-32)
Finally, I provide my own conclusion and recommendations.