|Born||Robert Bunger Thieme, Jr.
April 1, 1918
Fort Wayne, Indiana, U.S.
|Died||August 16, 2009
Houston, Texas, U.S.
|Children||Robert "Bobby" Thieme, III|
Robert Bunger Thieme, Jr. (April 1, 1918 – August 16, 2009) was pastor of Berachah Church, a nondenominational Christian church in Houston, Texas, from 1950-2003. Affectionately called "the Colonel" by his congregation, he was a dispensationalist theologian who wrote over a hundred books and conducted over 10,000 sermons on various theological topics during his 55 years as a pastor.
- 1 Biography
- 2 Theology
- 2.1 ICE
- 2.2 Doctrinal emphasis
- 2.3 Distinctive teaching
- 2.4 Criticism
- 3 Ministry
- 4 Financial policy
- 5 Selected publications
- 6 See also
- 7 References
- 8 External links
Thieme was born in Fort Wayne, Indiana to Anna (Cloakey) and Robert Bunger Thieme, and was raised in Beverly Hills, California. He attended Beverly Hills High School which included four years of Latin studies. Thieme's undergraduate work was at the University of Arizona at Tucson where he majored in Greek, and was elected to Phi Beta Kappa after graduating with honors in 1940. While attending university he met and married Betty Beal, the daughter of a Baptist minister.
Thieme's seminary studies at Dallas Theological Seminary (DTS) were interrupted by World War II service. He rose to the rank of lieutenant colonel in the Army Air Corps and was in charge of training all Army Air Corps cadets at Luke Field. After World War II, Thieme resumed his theological studies at DTS where he graduated Magna Cum Laude. His 1949 Master's thesis was entitled Armageddon: An Investigation of the Campaign of the Great Day of God the Almighty. During his time at DTS Thieme held a part-time pastorate at Reinhardt Bible Church in Dallas, Texas.
Thieme became pastor of Berachah Church in Houston, Texas in 1950, interrupting his doctoral work at DTS after Dr. J. Ellwood Evans recommended him to the church. He was pastor at Berachah Church until he retired in 2003 due to Alzheimer's disease. Thieme dedicated his life to intensive study of the Scripture and teaching his congregation. Gifted in intellect and indefatigable in production, Thieme held Bible classes most nights of the week and twice on Sundays. Requiring strict academic discipline from his congregation as well, he earned the genuine respect of those in regular attendance. Those close to him knew him as humble and gentlemanly. Over the years Thieme spoke at numerous Bible conferences and ordained many men to the ministry. His recorded Bible classes and books are available free of charge.
After retiring in 2003, Thieme's only son, Robert "Bobby" Thieme III, was elected by the congregation of Berachah Church to serve as the new pastor. Around this time R. B. Thieme, Jr., Bible Ministries began reformatting and revising existing material into modern formats (e.g. DVD and MP3).
Thieme attended Dallas Theological Seminary and was influenced by its founder, Dr. Lewis Sperry Chafer. He can be described as a dispensationalist, non-denominational Christian who believes in Biblical inerrancy.
Thieme's doctrinal study and unique vocabulary were based on a methodology he called ICE: Isagogics, Categories, and Exegesis. Isagogics is the study of the Bible in its historical context, including the human writer, the recipients, and the time in which they lived. Categories refers to a topical compilation of doctrine, so that one can approach the Bible on a line-by-line-precept-by-precept basis, and cross-reference Scripture effectively. Exegesis involves studying the grammar, syntax, and etymology of the original languages of Scripture, so that one is not relying on intermediate translations which may obscure or lose meanings. Through the ICE method, Thieme sought to accurately communicate the truths of the Bible.
Thieme covered most of the Bible with his congregation, verse by verse from the original languages. He emphasized doctrinal teaching on salvation and the post-salvation spiritual life of the believer in Jesus Christ.
Salvation through faith alone in Christ alone
Thieme taught the biblical definition of faith as a non-meritorious system of perception, wherein the merit lies with the object of faith, Jesus Christ. The status of the subject, the one believing, is irrelevant, as one need only express positive volition toward Jesus Christ to receive eternal salvation. All sins, past, present, and future, were imputed to Christ on the cross and judged, thus completing the work of salvation. Therefore salvation is available to anyone who believes in Christ. Thieme said an individual has the option of expressing positive volition privately, forming the sentences in thought, telling God the Father he is trusting in Christ for salvation. Nothing more is required.
Thieme believed contemporary Christianity has superimposed a number of false actions on the Gospel message. Consequently, at least every Sunday, he would emphasize what did not need to be done for salvation:
- Invite Christ into your heart
- Feel sorry for, or repent from personal sins
- Walk down an aisle
- Be baptized with water
- Join a church
- Give money to a church
- Give up something you enjoy
Thieme held that these actions, while some of them might be commendable from the human viewpoint, are an intrusion on faith. Faith will not be efficacious for salvation unless it is simple faith alone in Christ alone. Faith is the absence of merit, and no human good of any form is acceptable to God for salvation. Jesus Christ extends the invitation to salvation, and the Greek verb translated "repent" in the Bible, metanoeo, when used in connection with salvation, means to change one's mind about Christ and believe in him. The only personal sin that results in eternal condemnation is to die without having personally believed in Jesus Christ as Savior.
Thieme categorized the Christian's life into three phases: the moment of salvation, the post-salvation life of the believer on Earth, and the believer in eternity. These distinctions allow the proper interpretation of verses pertaining to salvation (e.g. Acts 16:31), and verses pertaining to the post-salvation function of the believer (e.g. James 2:17), so as not to obscure the simplicity of faith alone in Christ alone for salvation.
Thieme taught that believers in Jesus Christ grow spiritually through the daily intake of Bible doctrine under the authority of their right pastor. He believed that a pastor is equipped to grow by personal Bible study, but that a congregation can only grow through the consistent assimilation of accurate doctrinal teaching from a prepared pastor. Furthermore, both pastor and congregation are dependent on the filling ministry of God the Holy Spirit. The filling of the Holy Spirit, mandated in the Scripture, provides the ability to understand and metabolize Bible doctrine into the mentality of the believer's soul, and enables the objectivity and good manners necessary for order in the assembly. Apart from the power of the Holy Spirit, even accurate Bible teaching is of no spiritual benefit to the believer. Thus the preparation and communication of the pastor, the concentration and objectivity of the believer in the congregation, and the filling of the Holy Spirit are the essential elements of post-salvation epistemology. Thieme referred to the learning process as the Grace Apparatus Perception (GAP) and as Operation Z, the latter a teaching aid for the stages of comprehension. He maintained that perception and application of Bible doctrine is the means by which believers fulfill their responsibility to God of growing in grace to spiritual maturity, and that without it believers will retrogress in their spiritual lives.
Thieme would hasten to add that a pastor is under authority too, a far more demanding authority from God, and that a pastor can not fulfill his primary responsibility of teaching apart from a life of intensive study. Thieme frequently referred to himself as a slave of his Lord, a relationship he said he enjoyed. Thieme also believed individuals under his authority must have the freedom and privacy to accept or reject what is taught, and that pastoral authority did not give the right to interfere with the lives of others through individual counseling. He wanted individual believers to become self-sustaining through their own spiritual growth, and he frequently discouraged programs and personality gimmicks that distracted from this objective. If ever there was doubt about attendance in his congregation, Thieme would encourage believers to find their right pastor. He made an issue of the message, not the communicator, recognizing the tendency of many to become subjective to authoritative Bible teaching.
Mechanics for the spiritual life
Having established the perception and application of Bible doctrine as the basis for spiritual growth, Thieme focused much of his ministry on teaching the protocol and mechanics for the spiritual life of the believer in Jesus Christ. Thieme sought to answer the question "after salvation, what?" His intent was to delineate, from the Scripture, God’s plan for the Church-Age believer, and the numerous grace assets God provided in eternity past for believers to fulfill his plan. God provides equal privilege and equal opportunity for all believers in Jesus Christ to execute his plan and receive his highest and best for them. Thieme compiled a list of forty assets God gives to every Church-Age believer at the point of salvation. Among these assets is the system God designed for the execution of his plan.
Thieme identified the scriptural mandates and objectives of the spiritual life as belonging to a single system of power and love. The power system was designed by God for Church-Age believers to become winners in human history. The system, or dynasphere, unifies God’s grace provisions and mandates for believers, enabling them to keep his mandates, grow spiritually, and share the inner strength, virtue, and happiness of Jesus Christ. It is the same system used by the humanity of Christ to fulfill his mission during the First Advent. After his resurrection and ascension, Jesus Christ provided the operational system to his royal family for them to glorify him.
Through use of the rebound technique, the spiritual recovery procedure of 1 John 1:9, the believer is restored to fellowship with God, becomes filled with the Holy Spirit, and enters into the divine system. Inside the system, the believer learns Bible doctrine and orients to the divine viewpoint and thinking of Jesus Christ. Bible doctrine in the soul of the believer and the filling of the Holy Spirit are the power options for the spiritual life. They underscore the importance of consistent exposure to expository Bible teaching throughout the believer’s life on Earth. As the believer grows from metabolized Bible doctrine, and combines his perception of doctrine with the application of doctrine through the problem-solving devices of the spiritual life, his spiritual growth accelerates. The growing believer advances to spiritual adulthood where he shares the motivational and functional virtues of Jesus Christ, and acquires the spiritual skills necessary for advanced problem solving. As the spiritual adult continues his advance to maturity and applies the problem-solving devices in undeserved suffering, he glorifies God to the maximum and fulfills his destiny in Christ. For growing and mature believers, God works all things together for divine good.
In his book Christian Integrity, Thieme covers the divine system in great detail, with its priority, purpose, policy, objectives, and authority. In the Scripture the system is also referred to as the sphere of love, since it emphasizes love as the supreme virtue of the Christian life. As the believer advances within God’s plan and develops capacity for love, God is free to impute maximum blessings to him. To this end, Thieme created numerous teaching aids and contemporary metaphors for communicating the mechanics of the spiritual life.
Supergrace and spiritual maturity
Thieme coined the term supergrace from James 4:6 (Gk. meizona charin), which says "he [God] gives greater grace." Thieme used supergrace as a synonym for spiritual maturity, with emphasis on the special blessings above and beyond salvation that God conveys to each believer who attains spiritual maturity. Supergace is God’s objective for the believer in time, and is the means of glorifying God in the prehistoric angelic conflict.
Thieme considered it his job as a pastor-teacher to study and teach Bible doctrine daily, in order for positive believers to grow to spiritual maturity and receive their supergace blessings. He identified biblical passages where God is said to be waiting to provide supergrace blessings to believers. In one such passage in Ephesians 1:3, Thieme concluded that supergrace blessings were placed on deposit for every believer before the creation of mankind, but are conveyed to the believer only at spiritual maturity. Though no believer can ever lose salvation, the believer who fails to advance to spiritual maturity forfeits his supergrace blessings, and receives discipline from God in time. What is lacking in the immature or reversionistic believer is capacity of soul, and that capacity is acquired only through persistent spiritual growth and exercise of the mechanics for the spiritual life.
Since supergace blessings are unique to each believer, Thieme outlined them categorically as follows:
- Temporal blessings - wealth, promotion, success, social prosperity, sexual prosperity, technical prosperity, leadership dynamics.
- Spiritual blessings - capacity of soul, love for God, occupation with Jesus Christ, sharing the happiness of God.
- Blessings by association - friends and loved ones are blessed through their association with the mature believer.
- Historical impact - mature believer becomes the basis for blessing in his geographical periphery (i.e., salt of the Earth).
- Dying blessings - sting of death removed, great tranquility of soul in dying, anticipation of greater rewards for all eternity.
In addition to the above categories of blessings, Thieme explained from Romans 5, Philippians 3, Hebrews 11, and Revelation 2-3 that supergrace believers receive even greater blessings in eternity. Thieme called these rewards surpassing grace based on Ephesians 2:7. Surpassing grace rewards serve as an eternal memorial to God’s grace.
Reversionism and national degeneration
Thieme’s Doctrine of Reversionism detailed the consequences of the believer’s neglect of the spiritual life. He outlined eight stages of spiritual degeneration in which believers make self-destructive decisions that reverse their spiritual growth. Through any number of distractions, or reaction to some person or circumstance, believers at any stage of spiritual growth may neglect Bible doctrine and enter into a frantic search for happiness. As self-directed efforts to obtain happiness prove futile, believers develop aberrations in their emotional pattern, and their attitude toward Bible doctrine becomes increasingly negative. If negative volition remains unchecked by spiritual recovery, believers accept substitutes for Bible doctrine, the only source of spiritual growth, and they enter into the advanced stages of reversionism. As the darkness of human viewpoint is drawn into the soul, the believer accumulates scar tissue of the soul (i.e., hardness of heart), and becomes characterized by perpetual mental attitude sins, unhappiness, a reversal of affections, and sometimes mental illness. The reversionistic believer has ignored warning discipline, has repeatedly failed to avail himself of his spiritual assets, and is liable for intensive discipline from God. When a maximum number of believers are in reversionism, there is an adverse impact on the nation in which they reside.
Thieme asserted that "as goes the believer, so goes the nation." He emphasized that while there is no such thing as a Christian nation, God blesses or curses a nation based on the attitude of its believers toward Bible doctrine. Just as individual believers in reversionism are liable for divine discipline, so a nation with a maximum number of reversionistic believers is liable for national discipline. Thieme enumerated five cycles of national discipline, from Leviticus 26, that God administers to the apostate nation. The cycles of discipline begin with a loss of individual freedom and economic recession, and if unchecked by the spiritual recovery of enough believers, they continue with the breakdown of law and order, military defeat, and culminate in the destruction of the nation. Thieme developed this extensively in his Doctrine of Historical Trends. Though his scriptural references were many, he frequently quoted Hosea 4:6. Thieme believed the United States is currently in the cycles of discipline.
Thieme held to some distinctive teaching on the following subjects.
Christianity versus religion
Thieme taught that Christianity is not religion, but a relationship. He explained how religion is a system of human works in which man seeks to gain the approbation of God through his own morality, intellect, and achievements, including participation in liturgy and observance of taboos. In contrast to religion, Thieme explained how Christianity is a relationship, established by God in grace, with those who express positive, non-meritorious volition to Jesus Christ at the point of gospel hearing. Thieme regarded the question of "those who have never heard" to be a false issue. He stressed that infinite, eternal God is omniscient and omnipresent, and as such God is not constrained by geographical isolation or linguistic barrier in his dissemination of the gospel of grace to those who desire a relationship with him. Thus Thieme taught Christianity and religion as antithetical systems.
Thieme identified biblical passages from both Old and New Testaments where the God of the Bible rejects all religion as the product of fallen mankind, incompatible with divine essence, and condemns it as a part of Cosmos Diabolicus. Thieme frequently referred to religion as "the Devil's ace trump," underscoring that Satan invented religion as a counterfeit system to obscure the grace of God and deceive mankind. Thieme’s lessons on Revelation 18 expound on God's destruction of ecumenical religion during the eschatological period known as the Tribulation, and God's monumentalization of its destruction throughout the millennial reign of Jesus Christ.
Blood of Christ
Thieme held that it was the substitutionary spiritual death of Jesus Christ on the cross, rather than his physical death, that makes eternal salvation available to anyone who believes in Christ. He asserted the biblical phrase "Blood of Christ" was used as a representative analogy for the work of Christ in salvation. Citing multiple lexicographical sources supporting this position, Thieme explained how the phrase relates the animal sacrifices, authorized in the Old Testament, to the work of Christ on the cross. Since the life of the animal is in its blood, ritual animal sacrifices were used in the Old Testament to teach soteriological doctrine prior to the historical event of the crucifixion. While the animal blood of the ritual was literal, the "blood of Christ" is figurative, setting up a representative analogy between the animal death in the ritual, and the reality of the efficacious substitutionary spiritual death of Christ on the cross. Once the cross became an historical reality, animal sacrifices were no longer needed, and the phrase "blood of Christ" became a verbal symbol for Christ's saving work. Though Christ endured tremendous physical torture prior to being judged for sin, so excruciating was the pain as God the Father imputed all sins to him and judged them in substitutionary spiritual death, that only then did he scream into the darkness on Golgotha.
Thieme further explained from the Scripture that the penalty for sin was spiritual death not physical death (e.g. Adam did not physically die immediately after sinning), and that Christ declared his work on the cross "finished" while he was still alive, which precludes his bleeding to death for salvation. Christ's subsequent physical death was an act of his own volition, dismissing his spirit because his work had been completed. In short, Christ's literal blood had nothing to do with salvation. The majority of his blood was still in his body after his physical death, when a Roman soldier thrust a spear into his chest.
During the Passover meal the night before his death, Jesus instituted a new ritual with another symbolic use of his blood. In this ritual, known as the Eucharist or Communion, Jesus said bread represented his body, and the cup represented the new covenant in his blood, and he commanded believers to partake of these elements often, in memory of him. In his book The Blood of Christ, Thieme traces the origin of the Communion elements to the ancient Passover, and explains how eating and drinking, both non-meritorious acts, illustrate the non-meritorious nature of faith in salvation. The bread and the cup of the Communion are symbolic, and the emphasis of the ritual is on remembering Christ. Just as animal sacrifices allowed Old Testament believers to anticipate the First Advent and future work of Christ on their behalf, so Communion provides a memorial ceremony for believers in the Church to look back to the completed work of Christ on their behalf. Thieme stressed that ritual without reality is meaningless. In order for believers to fulfill the command from Jesus to do this in memory of him, the Communion ritual demands cognizance of doctrine related to the unique person and saving work of Jesus Christ.
Origin of human life and abortion
In his book The Origin of Human Life, Thieme argued that the Bible teaches human life begins at birth, not conception. Through his analysis of Greek and Hebrew grammar, direct statements of Scripture, and use of doctrinal rationales, Thieme taught that there is no human life in a fetus, and that it doesn't become a living human being until the point of birth. Thieme asserted that a fetus has biological life, including reflex motility, and what he termed a "format soul", but it does not become a living human being until God imputes soul life as the fetus emerges from the womb in birth.
Thieme called Roe v. Wade "one of the wisest and most brilliant decisions that the Supreme Court has made in many years," and that "abortion is a decision between a patient and her doctor." Regardless of how they felt about this emotionally charged issue, Thieme taught his congregation to never engage in civil disobedience against those associated with the practice of abortion.
Thieme's teachings have been the topic of critical articles and books by Miles J. Stanford, Dr. Stewart Custer, Rev. Robert Walter, J. Ellwood Evans, Ron Enroth, Daniel Wallace, Dr. R. L. Hymers, Jr., Joe Layton Wall, Todd Campo, George King, and Philip Mitchell.
Thieme was aware of his critics, but chose not to defend himself, preferring to put the matter in God's hands. Knowing the opposition received by faithful Bible teachers of the past, he believed that no pastor who handled the Word of God with accuracy would be popular.
Thieme's ministry was primarily for believers in Jesus Christ who attended regularly, since classes typically involved verse-by-verse analysis, building upon previous lessons. Thieme would continue with the current series through Sundays and holidays, excepting New Year's Eve when he held a military communion service and gave a special message related to the upcoming year. The objective of his ministry was to lead positive believers to spiritual maturity. He had little interest in believers who were inconsistent or attended for some reason other than the teaching.
Thieme's style of teaching and vocabulary reflected his military background. He would frequently acknowledge members of the U.S. Armed Forces in attendance, expressing gratitude for the tremendous sacrifices made to preserve the freedom of assembly enjoyed at Berachah Church. Thieme wrote a number of books which focused on the Christian's military responsibilities, such as War: Moral or Immoral, and Freedom through Military Victory. Thieme also likened the Christian spiritual life to military service, using military metaphors in his books Follow the Colors, Christian, at Ease!, and The Christian Warrior. Thieme's teachings have attracted a number of military personnel.
Even after his retirement, Thieme's ministry continued to grow worldwide in a number of ways. By January 2007, many of his books had been translated into several languages, including Spanish, Portuguese, German, Hungarian, Romanian, Korean, Chinese, Thai, and Russian. Currently, his Bible lessons are broadcast on the radio in a number of US states, Africa, and the Philippines. Tape distribution centers have been opened in Australia, England, the Philippines, and Germany.
Berachah Church has and continues to support Christian missions, especially through an organization called Operation Grace: World Missions. OGWN currently supports missionaries in the United States, Mexico, Costa Rica, Brazil, Thailand, Korea, the Philippines, Africa, England, Ukraine, Russia, Belarus, Moldovia, and Kazakhstan.
A key position of Thieme's theology is that the teaching of the Word of God should be based on the same grace shown to believers by God. As a result, his ministry has never charged money for any materials, including books, tapes, and DVDs of his doctrinal teachings. In the cover of all of his booklets, a note appears that states "to place a price on Bible Doctrine is incompatible with grace," and therefore "no price list for tapes or publications is furnished. No money is requested. When the Lord motivates a believer, that individual is free to give."
Most of Thieme's books are compilations of his notes and sermons from his years of teaching. Many are out of print, although R.B. Thieme Ministries does keep many in print as well. The below list is a small subset of his total work.
- Col. Thieme Update
- Bob Thieme's Teachings On Christian Living] by Joe Layton Wall. 1982.
- DTS Online Library Search. Search BIBLOS for "armageddon campaign almighty" to bring up the index entry.
- R. B. Thieme, Jr., memorial service
- For example, Joe Griffin of Grace Doctrine Church, Saint Charles, Missouri and Gary Glenney of Portland Bible Church.
- "Investiture Service: The Charge to the Pastor" GDC Media. Retrieved May 11, 2007.
- Thieme, R.B. The Barrier.
- Thieme lessons every Sunday
- Thieme, R. B. Divine Guidance.
- Thieme 1984 Protocol Plan of God series
- Thieme lesson on 2 Tim. 3
- Thieme, R. B. Reversionism.
- Thieme Spiritual Dynamics series
- Thieme, R. B. Christian Integrity.
- Thieme 1969 Basics series
- Thieme, R. B. The Integrity of God.
- Thieme Revelation series
- Chafer, L. S. Systematic Theology. Vol. 2. pp. 100–101.
- Thieme, R. B. The Blood of Christ.
- Lewis, James R. (2001). The Encyclopedia of Cults, Sects, and New Religions (2nd ed.). Amherst, New York: Prometheus Books. p. 109. ISBN 1-57392-888-7
- Thieme, R. B. Levitical Offerings.
- Thieme lessons on Hebrews 9
- Thieme, R. B. The Origin of Human Life.
- Dissertation: Neshamah: Is There Life In The Womb: A Critical Analysis Of The Teaching Of R.B. Thieme On The Origin Of Life. Todd Campo.
- The Green Letters ~1972.
- What's Wrong With the Teaching of R.B. Thieme, Jr.?. Dr. Stewart Custer, 1972.
- Bible For Today catalog False Teaching of R. B. Thieme, Jr., 1972.
- A Capsule History of Berachah Church, 1976.
- The Power Abusers, Eternity, 1979
- Honest to God: God Is Not A Pitstop.
- 02AM_CultsMcArthurAndTheBlood.html The Cults, Dr. Macarthur, and the Blood of Christ Sermon. September 22, 2002.
- Dissertation: Robert Bunger Thieme's Theory and Practice of Preaching. George King, 1974
- Dissertation: The Soteriological Significance of the Physical Sufferings and Death of Christ. Philip Mitchell, 1978
- Voice of the Soldier Newsletter of SpecialForces.com. December 2006.
- Voice of the Soldier Newsletter of SpecialForces.com. February 2007.
- S2 Company
- RB Thieme Ministries Broadcast messages, retrieved January 2007.
- RB Thieme Ministries Foreign tape distribution, retrieved January 2007.
- R.B. Thieme Minstries
- Berachah Church
- Integrity of God
- Books still in print
- Other ministries claiming Thieme as an influence
- Joe Layton Wall's PhD dissertation investigating Thieme's Doctrines