The Man Who Dared: A Tribute to Dr. Michael S. Heiser

Mar 14, 2023 | Blog, Divine Council

In the last few years, there’s been potentially no greater human influence in my spiritual and academic walks with the Lord than Dr. Michael S. Heiser.

No doubt, many of my readers are fans of his, many are not, and some of you may not even know who he is. That’s okay.

Building “his kingdom” was never, in my estimation, his goal.

But he meant a lot to me.

Dr. Heiser recently passed away after an extended battle with pancreatic cancer…

And if I may, I’d like to take this issue to simply express my thanks, recount a bit of my experience with his work, and share why I think you—yes, you—should be engaging with it.

How I Discovered Dr. Heiser

A few short years ago, I began to Dr. Heiser’s name pop up consistently on my Facebook feed.

I was very unacquainted with what he taught—I just knew that a lot of trusted friends were beginning to engage with his work and even embrace it.

I filed that away mentally but did not take action on it for a while.

Then, it happened. You know… a YouTube rabbit hole.

I had a few hours to kill and was looking for what I could watch on YouTube, and I found this presentation from Celebration Church in Jacksonville, Fl.

I watch things at double speed, so the length didn’t scare me too bad 🙂

Within moments of beginning to watch, dots were beginning to connect. Things that had never made sense before almost instantly started to click.

All the weird stuff that I had filed away as “normal” yet without a clue what was really going on for well over two decades as a Christian… I was seeing in a whole new light.

And I was hooked.

From there, I began to engage with Dr. Heiser’s material quite a bit. I read his books, binged his podcasts, watched his videos, and started writing on these concepts for myself.

Now if you’re not familiar with his work, we’re going to dive into it a bit below just to give you a feel for it.

He’s not without controversy and dissenters, that is for sure.

For me—a very conservative Christian and young-age creationist—my thoughts on this subject were validated even more concretely after reading Tim Chaffey’s book, Fallen.

If you’re not familiar, Chaffey is the content manager for the attractions at Answers in Genesis. Suffice it to say, he’s a sound, conservative biblical scholar. And he gives convincing biblical and historical arguments for Heiser’s core thesis.

So although some of these ideas may sound weird, it’s important you know that it’s not some liberal contrivance.

Mike was quite conservative and always took a balanced approach to his work, although there were certainly times he was perhaps a bit brasher than I’d prefer.

So—what did Dr. Heiser teach?

Dr. Heiser’s Core Thesis: The Divine Council Worldview

Have you ever wondered why there was an obsession with land in biblical times, to the point of fighting to the death?

Have you ever wondered why, with seemingly no mention in the Old Testament, Jesus busts onto the scene casting out demons?

Have you ever wondered why, in the Bible times, the debate was not between atheists and religious people but between people who worshipped various gods?

Have you ever wondered why the Bible talks about giants and what they have to do with sin and salvation?

Have you ever wondered why the Bible talks about angels being in prison and chains and how Jesus descended to hell to preach to them?

Have you ever wondered why Yahweh is cast as the Lord of lords or the Most High?

All of these questions—and so, so many more—are answered with mind-boggling specificity and detail by Dr. Heiser’s core thesis, which he called The Divine Council Worldview. He also often referred to this as the Deuteronomy 32 Worldview.

In brief, the thesis maintains that the God of the Bible is not the only “god” that exists.

Now—he is “species unique” in that—as the Bible clearly affirms—he is the one and only creator God. The Most High. The Creator of all things seen and unseen.

Just as God has a human family, so he has a divine (meaning, heavenly/spiritual) family. And so he works alongside them to bring about his purposes in the world.

But so as his human family rebelled, so did certain of his divine family. Led, of course, by the figure who became known as Satan—the lord of the dead.

If you’re thinking, “Oh, right, this is ‘angels and demons’ stuff.”

The answer is…… kinda. But not really.

In fact, Heiser wrote two books titled “Angels” and Demons” to help dispel some myths and bring clarity to the biblical picture. Traditional angelology and demonology ironically do not take ancient thinking around this subject into account, which changes much of the way we’re influenced to think about them.

It is not the purpose of this post to accomplish what multiple 300+ page books require. I simply want to introduce you to this man’s important thinking.

If you’re the nerdier type, check out The Unseen Realm. And if you prefer lighter reading that’s more focused on practical application, check out Supernatural.

And—whether or not you agree it is true—it cannot be ignored that it is important. Dr. Heiser’s work is taken very seriously in academia and should be very seriously considered by everyone.

Of course, Dr. Heiser always said the “big secret” of his work is that “Mike never had an original thought.”

While a scholar through and through, he thought his most important contribution was to take scholarly material and make it accessible to people in the pew. That was his heart.

So while he’s conducted plenty of original research, his “core thesis” is a result of decades of consuming, sifting, engaging with, and synthesizing material that is well-known in the academic literature.

And in terms of his view, he is quite balanced.

Many who believe the things Mike taught use these as excuses to throw the Bible out or pretend it’s “just another book” from the ancient Near East.

Mike believed that was hogwash.

Mike was also a “postmodern apologist” (his term). He knew all the arguments for the truth of the biblical worldview. And believed them.

He knew the biblical worldview was different. He also knew the truth about what scholars talk about that does not get taught in church.

Instead of falling into one ditch or the other, Mike dared. He dared to take the Bible for what it said even when it looked scary, different, or unfamiliar. He dared to believe it when others threw it out.

And he dared to teach it at great personal cost to himself—lost friendships, severed academic ties, etc.

When he was first introduced to this thinking for himself via a friend who asked him to read Psalm 82 in Hebrew (which places God (Elohim) in the midst of the gods (Elohim), he recounts thinking, “You know, I bet Jesus knew about this verse. I bet Paul knew about this verse. And it didn’t scare them.”

My friends, may we take away—if nothing else—that attitude.

Mike taught me that I didn’t need to be scared of my Bible. And after encountering his work, I have a deeper love for it than I ever have.

The Future of Heiser’s Work

So, Mike is now gone. He passed away a few weeks ago from pancreatic cancer.

I am heartbroken as are his family, friends, and many followers.

In times like these, it’d be easy to ask something like:

“WHAT was God thinking!!! Look at the great work Dr. Heiser was doing! Look at how many years he should have had! Look at the opportunities and platform he was given to make an impact! Why would God take him so early if he was doing such great work?!”

That’s natural to wonder. And those are good questions.

I’m not God, and I’ll not pretend to be.

However, in my observation of what has taken place since his cancer announcement and subsequent death, I have a speculation as to the Lord’s reasoning: Impact.

In business, we talk about the idea of bottlenecks.

I am a business owner, and for a time, I was managing all of our projects. I now have a project manager who works for me, because I became a “bottleneck” in project management.

I slowed things down.

Now—Mike was more productive than almost anyone I can think of. He did not slow things down.

However, he was seemingly so omnipresent that it’s possible his sickness and death will serve as an accelerant.

I have seen so many rise up already and say they plan to continue Dr. Heiser’s work in their own local congregations, on their blogs, their podcasts, and on their YouTube channels.

Everyone—myself included—feels a weight of responsibility that was not there as long as Dr. Heiser was around to pump out content for himself.

We will so miss that content. He was passionate about it—because, as he rightly observed, many churchgoers are starved for it.

No more of his content is coming (except for some things that will, no doubt, be published posthumously). It’s now our turn.

Not to herald “Dr. Heiser”—he wouldn’t want that anyway.

But to herald the truth of the Bible.

It’s the same mission it’s always been! Just with a bit more color and a little more context thanks to Mike’s work.

I miss Dr. Heiser greatly. But I’m excited about the future of his podcast (which will continue) and the future of Divine Council-related content produced by those who feel compelled to create and share it.

I am thankful for his contribution, and thankful—most of all—for him. I had a request to him for a podcast interview, which he responded to and needed to defer due to his (at the time) upcoming relocation to Jacksonville.

I failed to follow up with my request, and thus, never got to interact with Mike directly. But I feel like I know him. And I will miss him dearly.

For now, onward! There is much, much work to do. I plan to start, Lord willing, with a series on his book Supernatural during our May-June small group classes.

I hope and pray you will engage with some of his content and, at the very least, form an educated opinion of it.

Be blessed my friends, and please do remember to keep Mike’s wife Drenna, and their family in your prayers during this difficult season.

Meet Steve

Meet Steve

Hi, I’m Steve, an author, speaker, and Bible teacher with a heart for exploring God’s Word and God’s world.

I’m interested in the surprising connection between creation, theology, business, and storytelling. We explore those themes and more on this blog.

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