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Particulars of Christianity:
310 Pentecostalism,
the Charismatic
and Faith Movements

The "Rhema" and "Logos" Word (Part 1)

Specific Doctrines of the Charismatic Movement/Faith Movement
Kenotic Theology
The Anointing and Being Under Authority (Part 1)
The Anointing and Being Under Authority (Part 2)
Sickness and Healing (Part 1)
Sickness and Healing (Part 2)
Prayer, Asking and Receiving (Part 1)
Prayer, Asking and Receiving (Part 2)
Christians and Material Wealth (Part 1)
Christians and Material Wealth (Part 2)
Christians and Material Wealth (Part 3)
The "Rhema" and "Logos" Word (Part 1)
The "Rhema" and "Logos" Word (Part 2)
Those Who Speak in Tongues Necessarily Understand Themselves

Section 1 | Section 2 | Section 3 | Section 4
| Section 5

Some Faith Movement/Charismatic Groups distinguish between the "Logos" as the "written word" of God and the "Rhema" as the "spoken word" of God. Thus, they speak in terms of receiving "words from God" or "words for the now, "which they call Rhema words. In contrast, the Bible itself, the written word of God, is associated with the term Logos. While on the surface Rhema words are said to require conformity to the Logos word (written word), in practical terms, they become more significant to the life of the believer than the Logos (written word) because they provide direct guidance for our current circumstances and choices on a day to day basis.

Ultimately, this effectively results in the Rhema word being superior to the Bible particularly in terms of deciding "what we ought to do in the present situation." But, taking the form of "what the Lord personally reveals or confirms in your spirit," the Rhema word also becomes superior in terms of doctrine. Since the Bible is "long, cumbersome, and complicated" and "no one agrees about what it says," the Rhema word comes in and bypasses all that confusion and arguing and analysis by letting the Holy Spirit reveal to each individual what is right without all that impossible effort of endless Bible analysis.

Over time, our right or authority to do anything becomes vested in the "Rhema" word, and the infinitely debatable meaning of the Logos word reduces the Bible to irrelevance for both day to day living and in terms of doctrine.

To exemplify how those in the Faith Movement apply this doctrine, imagine that you come to speak to a person about doctrine. That person may then respond by asking you, "did God tell you to talk to me about this?" If you say that God did not speak to you directly with a Rhema word, then you will be viewed as acting on your own authority and dismissed. But perhaps you respond by saying, "Yes, in the Bible God instructs us to do such thing." In this case, the other person will dismiss you as arrogant because you claim to know what the Bible teaches in an area where others disagree and have difficulty proving what's correct. Thus, effectively, only a Rhema word from God is sufficient. This in turn makes it necessary that everyone receive personally "words from God" on a fairly regular or at least "as-needed" basis. (However, as we will cover more in depth momentarily, Christians must be very careful to avoid asserting that God has spoken to them directly or given them "a word," when that is not the case.)

And conversely, the Bible is insufficient for doctrine and daily living, because it is inevitably flawed by human disagreement over its meaning. So, while presented merely as a supplement to the Bible, the Rhema word actually functions as a replacement for the Bible.

It should be noted historically speaking that this general notion of being led by personal inward revelations by the Holy Spirit traces all the way back to groups such as the Ranters and the Quakers.

"Ranters - name given to the adherents of an antinomian movement in England about the time of the Commonwealth and Protectorate (1649-59). Its principal teaching was pantheistic, that God is present in nature. The Ranters appealed to the inner experience of Christ and denied the authority of Scripture." (Bartleby.com, The Columbia Encyclopedia, Sixth Edition. 2001. "Ranters.")

"Friends, Religious Society of - religious body originating in England in the middle of the 17th cent. under George Fox. The members are commonly called Quakers, originally a term of derision. 1...Claiming that no theologically trained priest or outward rite is needed to establish communion between the soul and its God, Fox taught that everyone could receive whatever understanding and guidance in divine truth they might need from the "inward light," or "inner light," supplied in their own heart by the Holy Spirit." (Bartleby.com, The Columbia Encyclopedia, Sixth Edition. 2001. "Friends, Religious Society of.")

"The Service - Avoiding liturgies and all elaboration that might interfere with the direct guidance of the Holy Spirit, the Friends often meet for worship without set form and frequently without stated leaders, in services known as "unprogrammed" meetings." (Bartleby.com, The Columbia Encyclopedia, Sixth Edition. 2001. "Friends, Religious Society of.")

"Quaker - byname of Friend, member of a Christian group (the Society of Friends, or Friends church) that stresses the guidance of the Holy Spirit, that rejects outward rites and an ordained ministry, and that has a long tradition of actively working for peace and opposing war. George Fox, founder of the society in England, recorded that in 1650 "Justice Bennet of Derby first called us Quakers because we bid them tremble at the word of God." It is likely that the name, originally derisive, was also used because many early Friends, like other religious enthusiasts, themselves trembled in their religious meetings and showed other physical manifestations of religious emotion." (Britannica.com, "Quaker.")

"Worship and organization: The Inward Light - Trust in the Inward Light is the distinctive theme of Quakerism. The Light should not be confused with conscience or reason; it is rather that of God in everyone, which allows human beings an immediate sense of God's presence and will for them... Sometimes the meeting is too dull or worldly for any message to be heard, and sometimes there are altogether silent meetings. Although these are spiritually beneficial to the participants, ideally someone has reached a new understanding that demands to be proclaimed. He or she-for Friends have always given women equality in worship-speaks or prays and thus ministers to the meeting, which weighs this "testimony" by its own experiences of God." (Britannica.com, "Quaker.")

"From the beginning, the Quakers emphasized inward spiritual experiences rather than specific creeds." (Worldbook.com, "Quakers.")

Of course, as we covered in greater depth earlier in the history survey section, modern Charismatics need to avoid hints that link their current beliefs to movements like the Quakers and Ranters. The Ranters were known heretics because they were Pantheists and denied the authority of the Bible. So, if the modern Charismatic movement has doctrines that it inherited from the Ranters, then the authenticity of their gifts is disproved by the presence of heretical doctrine and "ancestral" ties to a heretical group.

The Quakers on the other hand, were known for their ecstatic behavior and physical manifestations during their services. So, if modern Charismatics have doctrines that they inherited from the Quakers, then the authenticity of their gifts is disproved by the presence of ecstasy and "ancestral" ties to a group that involved ecstatic behavior. (This is based on the documentation, which we have already established in previous sections, that the early Church identified counterfeit forms of the charismatic gifts by the presence of heresy and ecstatic behavior.)

So, for the purposes of this study, it is important to note the similarity that the Rhema word doctrine of the Faith Movement had to the prominent "inward guidance" doctrines of the Ranters and Quakers. From a historic point of view, it's the first indicator that this doctrine originated somewhere else besides the Bible and historical, orthodox Christianity. This also further evidence that the modern Charismatic Movement truly is an outgrowth of earlier counterfeits and even heretical groups rather than a genuine revival of the authentic charismatic gifts.

Having covered a bit of history, we will now turn our attention to whether or not the Bible substantiates this doctrine regarding Rhema words. We must remember that the basic premise of this Charismatic doctrine is that "rhema" words are words spoken by God to us in the present while "logos" words are the written text of the Bible. Since this Charismatic doctrine is entirely dependent upon making this categorical distinction, we will now examine whether or not sufficient evidence exists to maintain such that distinction.

The first problem with this doctrine is that the Greek words "rhema" and "logos" have overwhelming overlap in their definitions. The Strong's Number for "logos" is 3056 and the Strong's Number for "rhema" is 4487. The following overlaps can be found in their definitions.

1.) Definition No. 1 for "logos" is "of speech." Definition No. 1b for "rhema" is "speech, discourse."

2.) Definitions No. 1a and 1b1 for "logos" are "a word." Definition No. 1 for "rhema" is "a word."

3.) Definitions No. 1a and 1b1 for "logos" also include "uttered by a living voice." Definition No. 1 for "rhema" likewise also includes "that which is or has been uttered by the living voice."

4.) Definitions No. 1c and 1c1 for "logos" are "discourse" and "speech." Definition No. 1b for "rhema" is "speech, discourse."

5.) Definitions No. 1f and 1g for "logos" include "thing spoken of" and "the thing spoken of or talked about." Definitions No. 1 and 2 for "rhema" include "thing spoken" and "thing spoken of."

6.) Definition No. 1b3 for "logos" is "decree, mandate or order." Definitions No. 2b for "rhema" is "so far as it is a matter of command."

7.) Definition No. 1e for "logos" includes "a narration, narrative." Definitions No. 1c2 for "rhema" includes "a narrative."

8.) Definition No. 1b2 for "logos" is "the sayings of God." Definition No. 1c2 for "rhema" is "a saying of any sort as a message."

So, judging simply from the definitions of these two words, there does not appear to be enough distinction between their basic meanings to substantiate the Charismatic distinction that "rhema" words refer to the spoken Words of God while "logos" words are the written text of scripture.

In fact, if any distinction is to be made between the two based upon the difference in their definitions, it would have to be that "logos" is more associated with the "word of God" while "rhema" is not. For, there is nothing in the definition of the word "rhema" that even mentions God specifically. On the other hand, the definition for "logos" includes all of the following detailed statements associating "logos" with the words of God himself. (The following definitions are taken directly from the Lexicon.)

1b2) the sayings of God

1b4) of the moral precepts given by God

1b5) Old Testament prophecy given by the prophets

So, if any doctrine is to be constructed from the differences between the word "rhema" and the word "logos," it would have to be that the definition of "logos" indicates its direct association with words or statements from God, while "rhema words" are not related to words from God at all on a definitional level. At least this would be an accurate doctrine based on the definitional distinctions between the two words. But the Charismatic Movement instead asserts to the contrary that it is the "rhema" words, which are more directly associated with the "words of God for the now" while the "logos" is simply the written text of the Bible.

In other words, this Charismatic doctrine associates definitional qualities to the Greek word "rhema," which it does not possess but which are possessed by the word "logos." Therefore, this Charismatic doctrine seems to be at odds with the very definitions of these words.

And moving away from the definitions of these words, we also see that there is extensive overlap in the translation of these two Greek words. "Logos" occurs 330 times in the New Testament. "Rhema" occurs 70 times in the New Testament. 218 times "logos" occurs it is translated simply as "word." Likewise, 56 times that "rhema" occurs it is also translated simply as "word." 50 times "logos" occurs it is translated as "saying." And 9 times that "rhema" occurs it is also translated as "saying." From this simple survey of translation, we can see that "logos" and "rhema" are both equally associated with "word" and "saying." So, judging from the translation of these two words, we also find insufficient distinction to establish a doctrine that "rhema" words are spoken words from God in the present and "logos" words are the written text of scripture.