Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Copycat Church

In preparing a series on the book of Daniel, I took notice (again) as to how many Christian preachers, writers and popular speakers simply copy their theology from others. Rather than studying Scripture for themselves, they act more like Masons and are able to only repeat by rote what the initiated tell them the book means. God calls us preachers to be "workmen who rightly divide the word of truth," not copycats who pass on the creed. The Bible was not given as some secret code only understood by the initiated. When the wise men came "from the east" searching for "The King of the Jews," they were neither Jewish nor wise - they were Persians who had read the scroll of Daniel and knew the time had come for the Anointed One to appear (see Daniel 9:24-27). There's profound benefit from reading and studying the Bible for ourselves.

Unfortunately, it seems modern evangelicalism has created a climate in churches where we preachers get our theology by copycatting what others say about the Scriptures in question. I never found this more true than during my study of Daniel when I realized that the phrase "at that time Michael... will arise" (Daniel 12:1) is most naturally understood through reading the text as a prophecy of the first coming of Jesus Christ.  It was only after my personal study of Daniel that I learned that John Gill, John Calvin, John Wesley, Adam Clarke and a host of other 18th century theologians also believed that the Michael of Daniel 12 is an Old Covenant reference to the future Messiah. A couple of Christians emailed me after reading my post and expressed great consternation over what I had written about Michael. They'd been taught something different by their pastors, and what I taught "was something the Jehovah Witnesses believed." Rather than engage in a discussion with me based upon their own personal study of Scriptures, the plumb line of truth for them was what others had told them Scriptures meant.

It's a given that since the early part of the 20th century, most Christians have been taught something totally different about the Michael of Daniel 12 than what the 18th century theologians I mentioned above believed about Him. Evangelicals of today project the appearing of the archangel Michael to a future and mystical tribulation period of a yet-to-be built restored covenantal Israel. Where do most evangelical preachers get their theology? From copycatting what they hear others teach. It seems to be a novel approach today to teach something based upon your own personal study.

What I believe about Daniel runs counter to what most modern evangelicals are saying today about the book. However, I came to my understanding on my own. Were I to believe that the Michael of Daniel 12 is Jesus Christ because Gill, Calvin, Wesley or the others believed it, I would be committing the same error of my contemporaries. What strengthens my belief in the correctness of my view is that the men who agree with me are those from a generation that studied the Bible for themselves. The copycat church has lost that art.

If there's anything worse than copycat theology it is copycat methodology. At least people who spout what others say about a text are attempting to deal with Scripture. Cutting edge, contemporary speakers and preachers all cut their hair the same, wear the same brand shirts and jeans, and design worship their worship services to all look and sound the same. Very few of them seem to even attempt to teach the Bible and disciple believers. You ask a modern copycat church about Daniel and they'll think you are asking about a new jean designer. That's an observation as well as a criticism. It's true our parents' churches also copycatted methodology, but at least they were also attempting to copycat theology, something of substance.

I anticipate the day is coming when modern copycat churches will go belly up. There's something awful ugly about preachers in designer jeans and shirts, living in sprawling houses, and congregating people in glow-in-the-dark worship centers during days of dark depression and civil anarchy. The only thing that holds up during times of persecution--when church buildings are destroyed by political forces, when God's people are persecuted by pagans who care nothing for the Divine, and when the future seems as grim and dark as the midnight hour--is the Prince who reigns over an everlasting Kingdom that He inaugurated at His first coming and who will one day consummate the kingdom by His second coming when the meek shall inherit the earth.

Ask Daniel.


ScottShaver said...

Loved reading this article Wade.

When the theater lights go dark from power grid failure, what fire will we have for the altars of our worship then?

Anonymous said...

Amen and amen!

Taking my study back to before Finney and before dispensationalism has been simply eye opening.

Can't say I always agree with what the old timers taught, but it is refreshing to find so much of what we "know has always been taught" hasn't.


Melody said...

I totally agree for the most on this. I became a Christian when I was 14 but it wasnt til I was 19 and going through a real wilderness period that I intently sought God in scripture. I was reading studying and getting revelations about scripture I had never had my whole all from just one bible and pen and paper. I shared these thoughts with a few people but they were kind of waved away maybe because of my age and lack of maturity in the faith. I kept it all written down anyway. A few years later I heard someone preach on one of the things I studied EXACTLY the way I had understood it which was quite nice because it told me the holy spirit WAS genuinely teaching me stuff.
On the other hand I do read commentaries and sermons but only AFTER Ive done my own study and prayer and I read ONLY by theologians and teachers I trust.. The whole issue calls for discernment not blindly forgoing everything but patiently and prayerfully seperating the chaff from the wheat

Melody said...

And at the end of the day that Daniel verse is a very secondary issue really. I hope to God that my pastor continues to copycat good solid bible teachers in saying that Jesus is God, born of a virgin, sinless, died as a ransom for me and ressurected and gives me the Holy Spirit. I will gladly keep going to church in faith if I keep hearing that copycat message :)

Wade Burleson said...


"I hope to God that my pastor continues to copycat good solid bible teachers in saying that Jesus is God, born of a virgin, sinless, died as a ransom for me and resurrected and gives me the Holy Spirit."

Good point. I think, though, that those essentials are also easily learned by your pastor (and you and me) through reading the gospels and Acts.

Aussie John said...


So good to read these eminently wise words. Rote teachers!

The same applies to those who hear these people, and believe what they say without carefully checking things out for themselves. Rote Christians!

Attending a conference in the North of your country, when I had opportunity, I asked members of the congregation why they believed what they did. Their answer was invariably,"That's what pastor ..... said".

No wonder cults flourish.

Headless Unicorn Guy said...

That is the first picture I have ever seen of Perry Noble preaching where he doesn't look red-faced and screaming and terminally constipated.

"And stop screaming. Nobody likes a religion with people screaming."
-- Internet Monk

Tom said...

Continuation of previous part 1: -

To be able to break away from the traditions of the English translations requires due diligence on your part when doing your research and may require hours of work to be able to sift through the occurrences of one Hebrew or Greek word and its variances that influence its translation. There may only be two or three other occurrences of the particular word that you are interested in to form your conclusion from as to how it should be understood. Just looking up the Strong’s Concordance to seek its meaning may not be adequate.

The brevity of the outline of the gaps in time that I have expressed above does not do justice to the topic matter presented and as such it may frighten many people as it confronts the understanding that they have accepted as it radically changes the “traditional” understanding of God’s time line, in the Book of Daniel, for the eventual Salvation of all of mankind who are recorded in the Book of Life.

For me to thump the table/podium and claim that I alone am right with my expressed views and that the audience should unconditionally accept them as being God’s truth as well, only make me a “bully” and will do more harm than good. If on the other hand I show how I reached my understanding and recommend that the audience goes away and verifies what I had presented from the podium, then I would be inviting them to study God’s word to reach their own conclusion. Sadly, many people do not have adequate laughing matter to be able to do the due diligence to reach that conclusion as to the truthfulness of what I may be presenting.

I for one would not be as critical of a “Copy Cat preacher” if they are effectively bringing God’s message to the masses, because in truth we also are one as we attempt to copy Christ’s example as recorded in the scriptures. Sadly our example often falls far short of what we espouse.

It is for this reason that I take seriously God’s standard for teachers of His Word. “Do not lead any astray with what you present as God’s word as the consequences for you are dire and the second death is a possibility.”


Via the Black Stump Outback

Tom said...

New here sorry, I should have posted this first.


I too have spent years studying the Book of Daniel, and I perceive a different interpretation to what was understood by scholars around 200 years ago, like James Farquharson L.L.D. F.R.S Minister of the Parish of Alford. I am luckier in that I have a further 200 years of history to colour my understanding of the prophecies of the Book of Daniel.

I am happy to go out on a limb with my views. I would also suggest that many people who study the Book of Daniel miss the gaps in time embedded in the prophecies themselves for them to be able to come to the same conclusions. From my skimming of your blog articles, I would humbly suggest that you are a member of that group.

For example if we read Daniel 2 in conjunction with Jeremiah 50-51 we will see a time gap of some 2,000 or so years between the belly and thighs of bronze and the legs of iron which means that the prophecy of the legs and the feet, the fourth and fifth segments of the statue are unfolding today with the conclusion of that prophecy to occur in our near future when God establishes the everlasting Messianic Kingdom.

I also understand that there is a gap of 1,000 or so years in the Beast prophecies of Daniel 7 between verse 12 and verse 19 which can only be discerned by the reading of the Book of Revelation in tandem with reading Daniel 7. Daniel 7 also suggests that there is a time span of around 3,500 or so years from the time of Daniel and when the saints inherit the kingdom and the dominion as their inheritance.

Daniel 8 also has a gap of 2,300 years which is dependent on the manner in which we understand/interpret the 2,300 days and nights. It also points to when the Temple Sanctuary will be restored along with the Nation of Priests that will serve in that sanctuary before the end will come.

In Daniel 9:24-27 we have hidden a time span of around 2,000 years embedded in verse 26b plus a gap of around 1,000 years before the prophetic fulfillment of verse 27 begins.

It is my view that in Daniel 11 there is also an embedded time gap of around 1,800 or so years between verse 32 a and verse 32 b. It is my view that the king of the North in verse 26 is visible during this present time and that there is an element of a near future fulfillment which will be followed by an embedded gap again of around 1,000 years.

For me, Daniel 12 deals with a time around 3,500 years after Daniel received this prophecy when the great Prince, Michael, who has charge of your people will arise to deliver the people after an intense period of great trouble before the book is opened to determine who the righteous are.

The above view has not been influenced by tradition nor have I relied on the English translations which uphold even today the traditions of the translations and the associated embedded theology. It was slowly revealed over a period of twelve plus years as I meditated on what is written in the scriptures.

A good book to read where the influence of tradition on the translating of the Hebrew and Greek texts into English is better explained than what I can expound, on is titled Ten Ways to Improve New Testament Translations - The Results of a Linguistic Evaluation by Randall D. McGirr. The views express in this book only deal with the traditions of translating the New Testament but it is my view that they can also be applied to the Old Testament as well. {This book I was recently able to download as a free PDF file from the internet.}
End of part 1.


Via the Black Stump Outback

Wade Burleson said...


Thanks for the comment. In response:

(1). Gill, the premiere Hebrew linguist of all time, points out why he believes Michael is the pre-incarnate, increated (existing without creation) second Person of the Trinity - no angel, but God Himself - here. Read it. It's excellent.

(2). On Daniel 10:13 he writes: "but, lo, Michael one of the chief Princes, came to help me;" Gil writes,

"called in the New Testament an Archangel, the Prince of angels, the Head of all principality and power; and is no other than Christ the Son of God, an uncreated Angel; who is "one", or "the first (primus) of the chief Princes" {Note from Wade: See Gill's footnote X - The word translated 'one" is the word better translated in Latin "primus" or in English "chief" - so it is literally "chief" of the princes}, superior to angels, in nature, name, and office; he came to "help" Gabriel, not as a fellow creature, but as the Lord of hosts; not as a fellow soldier, but as General of the armies in heaven and earth, as superior to him in wisdom and strength; and he helped him by giving him fresh counsels, orders, and instructions, which he following succeeded: "and I remained there with the kings of Persia;"
with the king of Persia and his nobles, putting into execution the orders Michael had given him, and so baffled the designs of the evil spirit; and this retarded him from being with the prophet one and twenty days. The Septuagint and Arabic versions very wrongly render the words, "and I left him there with the kings of Persia"; as if Michael was left there by Gabriel, whereas it was just the reverse.

(3). If one believes (as I do) that Daniel is all about foretelling the coming of the Prince to end the covenant with the Jews and establish an everlasting and eternal Kingdom (not of this world) for BOTH Jews and Gentiles who will rest in Him, then with the history of Daniel 11 pointing to the coming of Jesus Christ, it makes absolute perfect contextual, logical, and grammatical sense to say Daniel 12:1 "And at that time, Michael shall arise" is a reference to the coming of the Messiah.

Hope this helps you understand my position.

Wade Burleson said...


"I perceive a different interpretation to what was understood by scholars around 200 years ago ... In Daniel 9:24-27 we have hidden a time span of around 2,000 years..."

Tom, your dispensational views are quite popular today. Thanks for the comment. I reject the idea that there are "hidden" gaps in Daniel's prophetic timelines. The logical, casual, grammatical, textual, contextual, and historical, and casual reading of the text tells me that the time period of Daniel's vision is a continuing time period with no sudden interruption - much less "hidden" - gaps.

Again, thanks for the comment. If the hidden gap is hidden from me, then so be it. I freely confess I nowhere see it, and neither do a great many others.

Headless Unicorn Guy said...

(1). Gill, the premiere Hebrew linguist of all time, points out why he believes Michael is the pre-incarnate, increated (existing without creation) second Person of the Trinity - no angel, but God Himself - here. Read it. It's excellent.

Sounds like Gill's taking the Jehovah's Witnesses' doctrine and flipping it one-eighty. JWs teach Christ was originally the Archangel Michael, Gill's taking it back an iteration and saying the Archangel Michael was originally God.

Headless Unicorn Guy said...

"I perceive a different interpretation to what was understood by scholars around 200 years ago ... In Daniel 9:24-27 we have hidden a time span of around 2,000 years..."

I don't think that's just Dispy, Wade. That sounds like how Seventh Day Adventists get their numerology theories re Daniel to work out; originating with Miller in 1844.

Calculating The End through numerology; an old if hardly noble tradition.

Tom said...

Thank you for your kind response. Although you may thing that what I presented may fit within the dispensational camp, I am by no means hold too many of the “precepts” of that “tradition.” My study has directed me away from the “traditional” views expressed/held by the various theories concerning the “End Times” towards a different understanding. It is radical for some because it flies in the face of what many “traditionalists” believe is God’s Truth. You also in today’s climate would possibly be considered to hold a radical view with respect to your published views concerning the Book of Daniel.
On a different matter,–
On Thursday I went to a “Christian Bookstore” close by my place, be it 40 kms, where they were selling a book at less than half price which caught my eye. The book was by Mike Kai and the title was The pound for pound principle. I opened it up to see if it was worth buying and began to see that his understanding of the parable did not match mine. I put the book down and moved away. The parable of the “Talents” was presented as being about ability and not about “money” which was the original meaning of the Greek word “t├ílanta,” which is a variation of NT:5007 “talanton.” {Note that NT:5007 is only found in Matthew 18:24 and in the Parable of the Talents in Matthew 25.} This understanding is confirmed in Matt 25:27 where the Master berates the Servant for not putting the money with the exchangers and at least earn usury on his behalf.
The accepted “traditional” understand of the Parable of the Talents is all about “working hard” to help bring in the Kingdom but if we couple that with the question answered in John 6: 29 about what we as people need to do doing the works of God is simple expressed as “believe.”
My radical view is that this parable is about what will be happening between the Wedding Feast and when Christ comes to sit on His glorious Throne when all of the nations will be gathered before Him. Be that as it may be, I know that many “traditionalist” will reject that view outright because it does not conform to their “traditional theological understandings” from what they have been taught from the “pulpit” and their “inspired written reading matter.”
The blurb on the author was that he was on the way to building a “Mega” church and I wondered if his book was a tool for him to use to control his congregation.

Via the Black Stump Outback

Tom said...

Headless Unicorn Guy said...

“I don't think that's just Dispy, Wade. That sounds like how Seventh Day Adventists get their numerology theories re Daniel to work out; originating with Miller in 1844.

Calculating The End through numerology; an old if hardly noble tradition.”

I too do not hold to the SDA understanding of the End Times and enjoy the discussions that they bring when they visit. Sadly though it is based on their “translation” of the ancient Biblical texts.

The problem we have is that people miss timeframes given in verses like Matthew 24:32 which, depending on how early spring is, suggests a 91 plus year period will pass between when we see the fig Tree being to bud and the beginning of the Summer harvest season or to put it another way, the beginning of the Millennium Age. But the Millennium Age as described in Revelations 20 is 1,000 years plus a period of time which is described as a “little while.”

My issue, even with myself, is the assumptions that we make in drawing forth our conclusions of our expectations as to when and how long the “End Times” will play out. In recent years “The Pre-trib camp” has been setting “movable” dates as to their expectation of when they will be “raptured” and then return to rule over the earth during the Millennium Age.

I am very disappointed with the Harold Campings and his eke of this world as their date setting is not edifying for the masses and leads to disillusionment.

However we are told to meditate on the scriptures and to consider them and what is to happen in the future. If only we all knew the keys to unlocking the mysteries.

Via the Black Stump Outback

Randall Slack said...

"Cutting edge, contemporary speakers and preachers all cut their hair the same, wear the same brand shirts and jeans, and design worship their worship services to all look and sound the same."

And yet they do this to be "different." Ironic.

Tom said...

I wonder how we should describe the twelve apostles? Are they Copycat teachers/preachers by verture of the definition used in the initial blog?

Murf said...

Wade! I cannot seriously believe you wrote this post. Were you sleepy? Overworked? That modern churches are copycats of each other is empirically obvious, however your thesis was that they copy each other's theology. This may or may not be true, you, however, did nothing to support your case other than link to a book review on Amazon which didn't like Beth Moore's approach to Daniel!?! And this proves your point, how, exactly?

In addition, one might argue that all the 18th century preachers were doing the EXACT SAME THING, which might be an explanation for how they all came up with the same interpretation of Michael in Daniel. I am not making that argument, I am simply pointing it out as a possibility which seems to have escaped you.

Your argument was emotional, and perhaps correct, unfortunately you did nothing to prove what you said.

Anonymous said...

There is a huge echo chamber in the Evangelical church. That's probably true in other groups, also, but I don't hang out in those groups.

I preach about once a year at our church. I really enjoy it, but I always face a challenge.

How do I faithfully present the text and what it says in a way that God has gifted me?

I always want to be faithful to the text. So I study and read what great commentators have said about the text. I want to make sure that I am not launching out into space with some interpretation that nearly every Bible scholar would say is whacky.

But in that process it is very easy to find oneself becoming a parrot for some other theologian.

It gets even worse when I think of all the sermons that I have heard over the years on a text or concept. The illustrations and phrases that others have used, which I have found really meaningful, come to my mind and want to find a way into my sermon.

By the time I am through with all of that, preaching a sermon can be an exercise of channeling some great theologian, C.S. Lewis, Spurgeon or Graham etc.

This applies not only to foundational questions about such as the one you wrestled with, but also smaller questions and matters of presentation, style and application.

It is a difficult tightrope to walk. Engaging in original though while making sure one is playing in the right ballpark is tough.

I realize that my point may not be dead on with what you are saying, but as I read your post, this is what came to my mind.


Nick said...

I have to echo what was stated by Murph. Two possibilities ... either the Holy Spirit brought each individual to the same interpretation of scripture, or each pastor recognizes the truth contained within the context of the scripture and repeats the truth. I don't need to research human beings to be able to recognize one when I see one. Did I know this at birth, or was it taught to me ..... if taught to me then am I wrong for restating the truth? Truth is Truth. I also find it alarming that you would post a picture of Perry noble to illustrate the topic at hand. Obviously you do not know Perry Noble, his background, or his heart. God often times uses those that we ourselves would not choose. Perry Noble is a perfect example of this. Through God's Grace and Mercy, Perry Noble has overcome the world and God is using Perry and Newspring Church to bring thousands to Jesus.
The scoffers and self righteous can say and print what they wish .... do they think they will be able to escape The Lord for their back biting comments? Til then God is using an imperfect person with many flaws to reach those persons that need Jesus.
The truth is the truth no matter how it is stated or who says it. I'd rather follow a copycat to Jesus then
someone who lies to hell. I mean that is the goal is it not .... get folks to Jesus and out of hell. ????