Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Did God really say that? “I Hear God’s voice” and other claims

strI am subscribed to Stand To Reason’s Solid Ground newsletter. Each time when this newsletter is distributed (via email) it is packed with good apologetics and theology. I enjoy reading the material in this newsletter, as it is very edifying and educational!

This month, Greg Koukl is starting a series on  the phenomenon of “hearing God’s voice” or “being led by the Spirit.” In the newsletter he writes:


“The notion that each Christian can receive personal revelation from the Almighty was novel in times past. Nowadays, though, listening to Christians talk about it, the experience appears to be ubiquitous.

“Virtually everyone seems to be "hearing from God" in some fashion these days—pastors, writers, worship leaders, even the regular folks at our weekly Bible studies—so the basic idea must be right.

“But is it? Must I "hear the voice of God" in order to know what He wants from me, as the author above suggested? Is this what Jesus meant by, "My sheep hear My voice," or what Paul meant by being "led by the Spirit"?

“And what if I hear nothing but silence when I listen? Does this say something about my spiritual well-being? Am I living a substandard Christian life if I don’t have a hot-line to God? Addressing those concerns and more like them is so important that I am making them the focus of the next three issues of Solid Ground. And much rides on the answers.

“In my mind, there’s only one way to address such questions. They cannot be answered by appealing to personal experiences, but only by appealing carefully to the text. What does Scripture teach. That’s the question I will begin to answer in this month’s Solid Ground.”

In this series of newsletters Greg will answer questions like:

“Are these claims [of hearing directly from God] sound? Which is to ask, "Are these claims biblical?" What is the scriptural answer to the following smaller questions?

  • Does the Bible teach God is "trying" to speak to each one of us? Can His efforts be thwarted by inattention, excessive activity, or sin, as some suggest?
  • Is having a conversational relationship with God taught in the text?
  • According to Scripture, does prayer involve two-way communication? Do we talk to God, then listen as God talks to us?
  • When Paul uses the phrase "led by the Spirit," does he mean "sensing" subtle hints from God that He uses to prompt and push us in the direction of His will?
  • Does God’s promised guidance mean He reveals to each of us individually what He wants us to do? • Does the Bible give us reason to expect the same interaction with God as Moses, Samuel, and Paul had with Him, 9 or were their experiences unique?
  • For Jesus, did "hearing" His voice mean that all His true sheep receive regular personal messages from Him?
  • Is it true this was modeled by the Savior, the apostles, and the early church? And if we don’t currently possess this skill, does the divine record suggest it can be taught as Eli taught young Samuel?”

This whole series ties up with Decision Making and the Will of God, a book by Garry Friesen, which I read and blogged about back in 2007. In it Friesen takes Scripture to show that the Bible is full of passages teaching us to follow the way of wisdom.  In this multi-part book review I wrote:

The second chapter presents us with an outline of what is called the Traditional View. This is the view that God has a Perfect Will for each of us, and when we do not hear Him correctly, we may miss that will and land up either in His Permissive Will or completely out of His will. Friesen felt that the Traditional View is so well known that it wasn't necessary to reproduce the lengthy "seminar" account that was initially in the first edition of his book.

In this outline Friesen shows how the Traditional View believes in an individual will for each of us, and if we do not discern and follow that will in our lives we will not have the peace of God, but rather experience anxiety and end up being frustrated in our lives. So, it is incumbent upon us to discover that will for our lives or end up being discouraged.

Finally, Friesen gives a summary of the Traditional View's principles of decision making:

”A. Premise: or each of our decisions God has a perfect plan or will.

B. Purpose: Our goal is to discover God's individual will and make decisions in accordance with it.

C. Process: We interpret the inner impressions and outward signs through which the Holy Spirit communicates His leading.

D. Proof: the confirmation that we have correctly discerned the individual will of God comes from an inner sense of peace and outward (successful) results of the decision.”

I have to admit, this is exactly what I have been taught at church over the years. This is what I was taught at Bible school.

However, I have started drifting away from this stance, since several of the Biblical passages used by the Traditional View to bolster their case, have started looking weak. Just recently I tackled a sermon that was preached at our church based on John 10. It was a typical Traditional View of this passage. Yet, the passage has nothing to do with finding God's perfect will for our lives!

Greg Koukl’s Solid Ground newsletter can be found here (PDF). Download it and read it!

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