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#1 Tyler

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Posted 09 April 2012 - 11:11 AM

NPR:


Poll numbers show that more Americans are experiencing God through personal relationships. The Pew Foundation found that nearly a quarter of Americans are what they call "renewalist" Christians, which means they have an interactive sense of God's presence. Another study cited by Luhrmann found that 26 percent of all Americans say they have been given a direct revelation from God.
"I would go to churches that were not explicitly experientially oriented, and those were churches where people were telling me that I should be having coffee with God," she says. "So I think this style of encountering God has become much more a part of the American experience."


Luhrmann has hypothesized that people going to services and prayer groups at evangelical churches have trained their minds to perceive God's voice. In the prayer classes she attended, she observed people experiencing what she calls a new "theory of mind."


Edited by Tyler, 09 April 2012 - 11:12 AM.


#2 J.A.A. Purves

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Posted 09 April 2012 - 11:59 AM

As I understand it, charismatics and evangelicals have been saying "God told me this" or "God told me that" since the 1970s. It's a product of church teaching that God will personally tell you which college to go to, which person to marry, which house to buy, which car to drive, which cell phone to use, and what shirt to wear in the morning.

I think, at an even more basic level, it has to do with the theological basics of what is considered to be God's will. It seems like a lot of churches encourage the "if it happens then it was God" mentality. This sort of thinking is to be distinguished from the classic plain old orthodox views on both General Revelation and Special Revelation. The problem, as I see it, is that declaring that God willed, did or said something to me about my daily life looks suspect to anyone else who makes all the exact same decisions without needing God to tell them what to do.

Btw, there's a film that this topic reminds me of, but I can't remember what it is. I'll post again when I remember.

#3 Anders

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Posted 09 April 2012 - 12:05 PM

Btw, there's a film that this topic reminds me of, but I can't remember what it is. I'll post again when I remember.


I always think about the underrated Bill Paxton film, FRAILTY. I mean, if God told you to kill those people because they were really demons in disguise, who am I to argue with God?

#4 jfutral

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Posted 09 April 2012 - 12:21 PM

...God will personally tell you ...what shirt to wear in the morning.

This is what I tell my daughter every time she complains about how I dress, then she has to take it up with God.

Joe

#5 Andy Whitman

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Posted 09 April 2012 - 01:03 PM

As I understand it, charismatics and evangelicals have been saying "God told me this" or "God told me that" since the 1970s. It's a product of church teaching that God will personally tell you which college to go to, which person to marry, which house to buy, which car to drive, which cell phone to use, and what shirt to wear in the morning.

I think, at an even more basic level, it has to do with the theological basics of what is considered to be God's will. It seems like a lot of churches encourage the "if it happens then it was God" mentality. This sort of thinking is to be distinguished from the classic plain old orthodox views on both General Revelation and Special Revelation. The problem, as I see it, is that declaring that God willed, did or said something to me about my daily life looks suspect to anyone else who makes all the exact same decisions without needing God to tell them what to do.

Btw, there's a film that this topic reminds me of, but I can't remember what it is. I'll post again when I remember.

Well, another way to look at this is that God has been personally communicating with people since Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden, and ever after. People have been trying to explain it away since about that time as well, so it's not surprising that the idea continues to be discounted or dismissed.

Like everyone else, I've seen plenty of bizarre examples of God's personal communication, and I've seen well-intentioned people burned by these so-called revelations. In spite of that, I remain 100% convinced of the reality of that communication. It can't be managed, predicted, or manipulated, but sometimes it happens. It's one of the things God does. It's one of the things he's always done, and he's never stopped doing it because it's not in his character to stop doing it. He's a personal God. He can be known. And sometimes God has a very specific will for a very specific person, and sometimes he lets him or her know what it is. I've seen that abused. And I've seen it not abused. But I'm not going to deny it because it's been abused.

God has a big bag of tricks. He works through the reaping and sowing of the choices we make. He works through the revelation of his Word in the scriptures. He works through the sacraments. He works through the wisdom and counsel of others. But he also works through the Holy Spirit. And often that looks like some discernible leading at a specific moment in time in a specific area of life. It probably has nothing to do with cell phones or clothing. It might have to do with the conviction of sin, or a prompting to step out on faith and do something that is atypical and unnatural. These are very personal communications. You won't find then in Scripture or credal statements. But it's one of the ways God can be known. And yes, there is a difference between hunches, intuition, and God's voice. Some people mis-hear the voice, or mistake their own thoughts and desires for that voice. But that doesn't mean the voice doesn't exist.

#6 Attica

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Posted 09 April 2012 - 01:37 PM


As I understand it, charismatics and evangelicals have been saying "God told me this" or "God told me that" since the 1970s. It's a product of church teaching that God will personally tell you which college to go to, which person to marry, which house to buy, which car to drive, which cell phone to use, and what shirt to wear in the morning.

I think, at an even more basic level, it has to do with the theological basics of what is considered to be God's will. It seems like a lot of churches encourage the "if it happens then it was God" mentality. This sort of thinking is to be distinguished from the classic plain old orthodox views on both General Revelation and Special Revelation. The problem, as I see it, is that declaring that God willed, did or said something to me about my daily life looks suspect to anyone else who makes all the exact same decisions without needing God to tell them what to do.

Btw, there's a film that this topic reminds me of, but I can't remember what it is. I'll post again when I remember.

Well, another way to look at this is that God has been personally communicating with people since Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden, and ever after. People have been trying to explain it away since about that time as well, so it's not surprising that the idea continues to be discounted or dismissed.

Like everyone else, I've seen plenty of bizarre examples of God's personal communication, and I've seen well-intentioned people burned by these so-called revelations. In spite of that, I remain 100% convinced of the reality of that communication. It can't be managed, predicted, or manipulated, but sometimes it happens. It's one of the things God does. It's one of the things he's always done, and he's never stopped doing it because it's not in his character to stop doing it. He's a personal God. He can be known. And sometimes God has a very specific will for a very specific person, and sometimes he lets him or her know what it is. I've seen that abused. And I've seen it not abused. But I'm not going to deny it because it's been abused.

God has a big bag of tricks. He works through the reaping and sowing of the choices we make. He works through the revelation of his Word in the scriptures. He works through the sacraments. He works through the wisdom and counsel of others. But he also works through the Holy Spirit. And often that looks like some discernible leading at a specific moment in time in a specific area of life. It probably has nothing to do with cell phones or clothing. It might have to do with the conviction of sin, or a prompting to step out on faith and do something that is atypical and unnatural. These are very personal communications. You won't find then in Scripture or credal statements. But it's one of the ways God can be known. And yes, there is a difference between hunches, intuition, and God's voice. Some people mis-hear the voice, or mistake their own thoughts and desires for that voice. But that doesn't mean the voice doesn't exist.



Yep.

I'll add that while I agree that God can't be manipulated as such, I'd say that we, as Christians, can learn how to "hear" him better, and can ask him to help and guide us with his communications, meaning I guess, prayerfully invite him to speak to us, to which he will possibly respond.


Link to a really good book. This guy spent years studying the subject.

Edited by Attica, 09 April 2012 - 01:55 PM.


#7 J.A.A. Purves

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Posted 09 April 2012 - 02:46 PM

Well, another way to look at this is that God has been personally communicating with people since Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden, and ever after. People have been trying to explain it away since about that time as well, so it's not surprising that the idea continues to be discounted or dismissed.

... I remain 100% convinced of the reality of that communication. It can't be managed, predicted, or manipulated, but sometimes it happens. It's one of the things God does.

I agree with you. My problem is that the majority of church teaching on the subject leads to more abuse than not. And, the result is a poor witness for Christianity. I can find no basis for "training your mind" to sort between the collection of your thoughts which are yours and the collection of your thoughts which are God's. Neither can I find any reasonable basis for teaching that it is ever a good idea to pretend God is having coffee with us so that we can have conversations with Him. We ought to be very careful when making claims to others as to what God has said - a caution that the majority of evangelical churches seem to discard.

We already do have a reasonable basis for claiming that God speaks to us through His Creation (general revelation), that God speaks to us through Scripture (special revelation), and that God speaks to us through the Spirit (for specific purposes). All three of these can be abused, but a large amount of teaching on the third one encourages American Christians to make up their own version of Pat Robertson's imaginary friend. The reason this is worth criticizing is not to mock or belittle other believers, neither is it to question whether God speaks to us, instead, it's to work against portraying Christianity to nonbelievers as an arrogant and anti-intellectual version of something that it is not

FYI, here's the link to the book, which does look like it's worth a read. A part of me just shudders to think what fuel it will provide for Dawkins, Harris, Nagel, et al.

#8 Attica

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Posted 09 April 2012 - 03:28 PM


Well, another way to look at this is that God has been personally communicating with people since Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden, and ever after. People have been trying to explain it away since about that time as well, so it's not surprising that the idea continues to be discounted or dismissed.

... I remain 100% convinced of the reality of that communication. It can't be managed, predicted, or manipulated, but sometimes it happens. It's one of the things God does.

I agree with you. My problem is that the majority of church teaching on the subject leads to more abuse than not. And, the result is a poor witness for Christianity. I can find no basis for "training your mind" to sort between the collection of your thoughts which are yours and the collection of your thoughts which are God's. Neither can I find any reasonable basis for teaching that it is ever a good idea to pretend God is having coffee with us so that we can have conversations with Him. We ought to be very careful when making claims to others as to what God has said - a caution that the majority of evangelical churches seem to discard.

We already do have a reasonable basis for claiming that God speaks to us through His Creation (general revelation), that God speaks to us through Scripture (special revelation), and that God speaks to us through the Spirit (for specific purposes). All three of these can be abused, but a large amount of teaching on the third one encourages American Christians to make up their own version of Pat Robertson's imaginary friend. The reason this is worth criticizing is not to mock or belittle other believers, neither is it to question whether God speaks to us, instead, it's to work against portraying Christianity to nonbelievers as an arrogant and anti-intellectual version of something that it is not

FYI, here's the link to the book, which does look like it's worth a read. A part of me just shudders to think what fuel it will provide for Dawkins, Harris, Nagel, et al.



Persiflage. I agree with your sentiment as well. The book I had mentioned touches specifically on the idea of discerning what is one's own thoughts, that we might think (or want to think) are from God, but really aren't. The book, in part, attempts to deal with some of the issues you've mentioned.

Edited by Attica, 09 April 2012 - 03:42 PM.


#9 Greg P

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Posted 10 April 2012 - 06:51 AM

I heard this NPR piece talked about on the radio yesterday and need to listen to the whole thing. It's a fascinating topic.

My own christian journey started in 1984, thru the testimony of a pair of Keith Green disciples who lived in a van and heard the "Spirit's" voice on everything from what to eat for lunch to the type of demons afflicting someone. When I left the tutelage of that duo and started attending a middle of the road evangelical church with "balanced" charismatic leadings ala Calvary Chapel in 1988, i found people who loudly derided the notion of praying about what God wanted them to eat for lunch, but who still consulted the Spirit's voice on things like where to go to college, what charity to give to, who to speak with about Christ, what job to take, WHO to marry, etc... Essentially it was the exact same principal, just with a more respectable, family-friendly veneer.

As I understand it, charismatics and evangelicals have been saying "God told me this" or "God told me that" since the 1970s.


This practice predates the 70's, at least in Protestantism, and was rampant among the Wesley-era Moravians who used to do things like "consult the oracle" (open the Bible randomly, like casting lots, and point to a passage). Wesley himself practiced this for a few years and so did many of his disciples. "God's leading" on mundane matters was also common during the first great awakening, but it wasn't until Charles Finney's era and then later the Welsh revival at the turn of the century, that it became prevalent. If you read any biography of that revival's leader, Evan Roberts, you know two things right away: the guy heard the Spirit speak to him about almost every detail of life and he was very likely mentally ill.(particularly post-revival, when he entered a severely depressive state and became a virtual recluse) It was Robert's movement that directly spawned modern Pentacostalism and Charismatic streams. The influence of those movements is so deep, that today even conservative non-charismatic denominations use Robert's language and model about God speaking to them about minute details and future decisions. Blackaby's "Experiencing God" program in the mid-90's, did much to encourage this posture within conservative churches who did not believe in the extant, supernatural gifts of the spirit, yet were now encouraged to hear god speaking to them about where to go and what to do with their life.

I think the whole practice is incredibly dangerous, to put it nicely. To be blunt, it's a real mindf*ck. I've felt its destructive effects in my own life to this very day-- guilt about possibly "doing my own thing in the flesh" and forfeiting some subjective blessing, anxiety about not doing EXACTLY what God wanted me to, real timidity/passivity about decision-making, excessive introspection and self-flagellation... and on and on the debilitating phobias go. Do I blame this teaching about hearing God's voice for all this? You bet.

In 1992, I was accepted to a Bible College and was about a month from leaving. At that time, well-meaning elders and brothers in the faith warned me about doing the will of God and "making sure" this was what God wanted from me. Mind you, this was in a conservative evangelical church. As the time drew nigh for my departure, so did the warnings about "really hearing from the Lord" about this decision. If going to school wasn't what God really wanted, I could botch up my life and end up shipwrecked, they said. Taking their advice, I drove to the west coast of Florida, got a hotel room and locked myself in there for days, praying and fasting-- wrestling with the Lord for an "answer". I was there for three days in darkness. Deafening silence. When I left, I went to Hardees and had a double bacon cheeseburger, fries and chocolate milk shake. I never went to that Bible College as a result of my non-encounter with God. And in retrospect, what a godsend! I drove back home across alligator alley with the tiny, new idea firmly planted in my brain-- something was seriously wrong with the evangelical Kool Aid I'd been guzzling.

I could go on and on. Over 20+ years in the evangelical church, I experienced this type of thing more times then i could count.

I would never argue about God speaking mysteriously to people, in a general sense. I still feel His presence at times and occasionally sense emotionally the music and sounds of that other world, yet to come. Those longings and surprising experiences are much sweeter and meaningful to me now in middle age than they were in my youth. But the idea of receiving specific, "personal communication" in any kind of normative sense, should be troubling to anyone. And that is what much of the evangelical church teaches. Not only that, but the individual is also responsible and expected(required?) to hear God this way and make decisions in their life accordingly.

Edited by Greg P, 10 April 2012 - 07:39 AM.


#10 Darren H

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Posted 10 April 2012 - 07:22 AM

Terry Gross interviewed Luhrmann yesterday on Fresh Air.

#11 Andy Whitman

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Posted 10 April 2012 - 09:01 AM

I heard this NPR piece talked about on the radio yesterday and need to listen to the whole thing. It's a fascinating topic.

My own christian journey started in 1984, thru the testimony of a pair of Keith Green disciples who lived in a van and heard the "Spirit's" voice on everything from what to eat for lunch to the type of demons afflicting someone. When I left the tutelage of that duo and started attending a middle of the road evangelical church with "balanced" charismatic leadings ala Calvary Chapel in 1988, i found people who loudly derided the notion of praying about what God wanted them to eat for lunch, but who still consulted the Spirit's voice on things like where to go to college, what charity to give to, who to speak with about Christ, what job to take, WHO to marry, etc... Essentially it was the exact same principal, just with a more respectable, family-friendly veneer.


As I understand it, charismatics and evangelicals have been saying "God told me this" or "God told me that" since the 1970s.


This practice predates the 70's, at least in Protestantism, and was rampant among the Wesley-era Moravians who used to do things like "consult the oracle" (open the Bible randomly, like casting lots, and point to a passage). Wesley himself practiced this for a few years and so did many of his disciples. "God's leading" on mundane matters was also common during the first great awakening, but it wasn't until Charles Finney's era and then later the Welsh revival at the turn of the century, that it became prevalent. If you read any biography of that revival's leader, Evan Roberts, you know two things right away: the guy heard the Spirit speak to him about almost every detail of life and he was very likely mentally ill.(particularly post-revival, when he entered a severely depressive state and became a virtual recluse) It was Robert's movement that directly spawned modern Pentacostalism and Charismatic streams. The influence of those movements is so deep, that today even conservative non-charismatic denominations use Robert's language and model about God speaking to them about minute details and future decisions. Blackaby's "Experiencing God" program in the mid-90's, did much to encourage this posture within conservative churches who did not believe in the extant, supernatural gifts of the spirit, yet were now encouraged to hear god speaking to them about where to go and what to do with their life.

I think the whole practice is incredibly dangerous, to put it nicely. To be blunt, it's a real mindf*ck. I've felt its destructive effects in my own life to this very day-- guilt about possibly "doing my own thing in the flesh" and forfeiting some subjective blessing, anxiety about not doing EXACTLY what God wanted me to, real timidity/passivity about decision-making, excessive introspection and self-flagellation... and on and on the debilitating phobias go. Do I blame this teaching about hearing God's voice for all this? You bet.

In 1992, I was accepted to a Bible College and was about a month from leaving. At that time, well-meaning elders and brothers in the faith warned me about doing the will of God and "making sure" this was what God wanted from me. Mind you, this was in a conservative evangelical church. As the time drew nigh for my departure, so did the warnings about "really hearing from the Lord" about this decision. If going to school wasn't what God really wanted, I could botch up my life and end up shipwrecked, they said. Taking their advice, I drove to the west coast of Florida, got a hotel room and locked myself in there for days, praying and fasting-- wrestling with the Lord for an "answer". I was there for three days in darkness. Deafening silence. When I left, I went to Hardees and had a double bacon cheeseburger, fries and chocolate milk shake. I never went to that Bible College as a result of my non-encounter with God. And in retrospect, what a godsend! I drove back home across alligator alley with the tiny, new idea firmly planted in my brain-- something was seriously wrong with the evangelical Kool Aid I'd been guzzling.

I could go on and on. Over 20+ years in the evangelical church, I experienced this type of thing more times then i could count.

I would never argue about God speaking mysteriously to people, in a general sense. I still feel His presence at times and occasionally sense emotionally the music and sounds of that other world, yet to come. Those longings and surprising experiences are much sweeter and meaningful to me now in middle age than they were in my youth. But the idea of receiving specific, "personal communication" in any kind of normative sense, should be troubling to anyone. And that is what much of the evangelical church teaches. Not only that, but the individual is also responsible and expected(required?) to hear God this way and make decisions in their life accordingly.

The teaching can be and has been abused, of course. But I wouldn't characterize it as an exclusively evangelical or charismatic perspective. It's the way God sometimes (with heavy emphasis on sometimes) operates in human history. It can lead to all kinds of strange and tragic places. I had a college roommate who used to literally pray about whether God wanted him to eat peanut butter or tuna fish for lunch. This is nuts (well, technically only one of the options), and he was nuts. Not surprisingly, he was paralyzed by inaction. He wouldn't do anything unless he experienced a clear leading from God. And consequently he didn't do much.

But sometimes God works that way, and I don't want to discount those times. In the Scriptures, God operates this way time and time again. He takes an old man who ought to be enjoying his retirement years and personally tells him to hit the road for parts unknown. He tells an old dude living in a landlocked country to build a big boat. He tells Philip to take a hike in the desert, where he encounters, of all people, a eunuch in the court of the queen of Ethiopia. Bizarre, bizarre, bizarre. And there are hundreds of such examples.

There are three possible responses. One, this is just weird. Maybe God operated that way for special people long ago, but he doesn't work that way now. Now we have the Bible, and 2,000 years of church history, and we don't need that kind of special revelation. Two, this is the way God always operates. God cares about whether you eat peanut butter or tuna fish. Three, this is weird, but it's part of God's character. He reveals himself to human beings in all kinds of ways.

I would suggest that the third option is the only viable option. That third option doesn't preclude the importance of the Church, or the sacraments, or God's word, or wise counsel, or any of the other ways that God can and does speak to human beings. But it leaves open the option that sometimes God communicates directly to human beings. Why? Because it's what he does. It's what he's done throughout human history, and it's what he's done throughout the history of the Church.

Two quick stories, and then I'll shut up. About seven years ago God told me not to take a job, and it was weird. It was weird because I needed a job, one that paid real money so I could pay my bills, and this one promised to be a good gig that paid lots of money and that would look good on my resume, etc. How do I know that God told me? Because I felt, or intuited, or grokked, that I wasn't supposed to take it when I prayed about it. I didn't hear an audible voice or anything of the kind. I just felt supremely uncomfortable about this job, and it was far beyond the normal nervousness or jitters that accompany a new job. I shut up about it, didn't tell anyone, and took the job. It was a disaster from Day 1. I had the boss from hell who took credit for the work I did, blamed me for things I didn't do, lied to his superiors about me, and got me canned within a few short months. It was one of the worst experiences of my life. Am I reading back into those pre-job days because of my lousy experience? Nope. I knew, and I mean I KNEW, that I wasn't supposed to take that job. I knew it before I took the job. And obviously I wish, in retrospect, that I had listened.

Second, a few years ago I was strolling the streets of downtown Columbus on my lunch hour, a normal, middle-aged corporate American on a normal work day. God told me to speak to a young woman walking toward me. Now, this is something I don't do. I don't approach random strangers and strike up conversations. I'm a quiet, bookish introvert who would rather eat Drano than speak to someone I don't know. I particularly don't approach random young women, possibly because of fear of arrest. But I KNEW, unmistakably, that I was supposed to speak to that young woman. So I did. And on a busy street corner I heard this woman's sobbing life story, heard about her divorce that had been finalized the day before, and, upon asking her if I could pray for her, did just that. She thanked me and told me that I'd made her day a little more bearable. She went north and I went south and I've never seen her again. Weird? Oh, weird as hell. But I'm totally convinced that God personally told me to do it.

This stuff is utterly unpredictable. I have no idea why it happens, why it happens when it does, and why I might be singled out for these bizarre little dispatches from the supernatural realm. But I'm convinced that they happen. And I'm convinced that they happen to many people, and that they've been happening throughout human history. There's no way I would ever discount them. And there's no way I would deny that people (including myself) have mis-heard the voice of God, have manipulated the voice of
God to their own ends, and have ignored or downplayed the more usual ways that God communicates to his people in favor of these more bizarre if more spectacular revelations. Everybody loves fireworks, me included. It's just that sometimes those are Molotov cocktails, not fireworks.

Take it for what it's worth.

#12 Greg P

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Posted 10 April 2012 - 11:43 AM

But sometimes God works that way, and I don't want to discount those times. In the Scriptures, God operates this way time and time again. He takes an old man who ought to be enjoying his retirement years and personally tells him to hit the road for parts unknown. He tells an old dude living in a landlocked country to build a big boat. He tells Philip to take a hike in the desert, where he encounters, of all people, a eunuch in the court of the queen of Ethiopia. Bizarre, bizarre, bizarre. And there are hundreds of such examples.

Right... Only in the Bible,... and to figures we would generally agree are of remarkable historical importance.

The extrapolation that God is wanting to speak to us in similar fashion today, is a hard sell for me. Especially considering the sheer terror that generally accompanied those messages from God in ancient history and the discomforts and burdens that individuals had to carry as a result of being chosen to hear those words. I see almost zero correspondence between that and the more modern "hearing from God" phenomena.

As I read it, God spoke to men and women about fairly weighty issues that often affected the course of history. People heard those messages and were scared shitless, because I assume God's voice -- if He is in fact Eternal and Infinite and all that-- is a pretty scary sound. Even men getting the message second hand from angels were stricken down, sick with fear, overwhelmed and full of dread. Maybe it's my Eastern Orthodox roots showing, but the concept of a God that majestic and other-worldly still strikes a chord in me. I have watched Discovery Channel shows about the vastness of the universe and distances between stars and galaxies and our relative place in all that and gotten literally dizzy and a bit scared. It seems right that coming in contact with the Architect of all that would yield similar results.

So yeah, Andy, I guess I subscribe to option 1.

It puzzles me that God apparently speaks to many about who to share the gospel with, or where to go to church, or how much money to give, but NEVER, NEVER, NEVER about where that poor missing girl's body is buried in the woods, or something truly revelatory like that. Am I alone in this? Why can't all the Charismatics and sensitive people who hear God speak to them about so many things in the world, get together with the Amber Alert website and listen for what God would say about exactly where some of these kids are? Make it a national focus. Plead with God in prayer to stop sending us personal messages of comfort for one month, and instead redirect attention to the cause of the "least of these" and supernatural insight into where they are. This would be a project near to God's heart, at least one would think... something that would not be for selfish gain or vainglory.

I know many consider it arrogant to question God in this manner, but let's get real here... the "words from God" that I hear people receive are always of the most innocuous, open-ended variety, having to do with personal comfort or spirituality ("my people, my people" etc...) or conversion or church-planting and the like. Impossible to refute because they are so vague and/or general. Either that or like David Wilkerson, bogus predictions about a city or nation's doom which likewise NEVER pan out. Wilkerson (whom I used to follow in my youth) struck out every single time he was at bat-- at least when it came to prophetic ramblings that contained a supposed divine timestamp. And yet the guy has/had legions of followers. That's a whole different discussion.

Having said that, I am one who believes human instinct can sometimes posses something akin to a sixth sense about situations or the environment-- an unexplainable something that causes it to react in almost supernatural ways in crisis situations. Probably all of us have had experiences like this at some point in our lives. It is mysterious. And it carries with it an air of the Divine. But why is it so sacrilegious to say that such instincts come straight from within our God-given, human machine-- some latent ability in the mind or soul? This seems like a much more plausible explanation for some of the things that people often attribute to the Spirit's voice.

Edited by Greg P, 10 April 2012 - 12:05 PM.


#13 Attica

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Posted 10 April 2012 - 11:58 AM

If going to school wasn't what God really wanted, I could botch up my life and end up shipwrecked, they said.


I don't know, but it seems to me that some of those folks were kind of legalistic about this. Legalism can so often warp something potential good and make it awful.

I've had guidance from Holy Spirit many times in my life (never really, as such a booming voice talking to me, or anything like that), and I've always found it to be of a benefit and welcomed it. I've never thought (or been taught) that if I didn't follow these leadings, or failed to follow properly, that my life would be shipwrecked or any such thing. Certainly following God's promptings is for the better, as Andy touched on above, but failing to follow these wouldn't mean that God still doesn't have good purposes for our lives and that we've screwed it all up. It just means that we are flawed human beings who need to rest in God's grace and get on with life.

That's the key. Some folks don't have a full understanding of God's grace (really do any of us?). One of my friends grew up in a very legalistic Fundamentalist upbringing, and had the belief that if he didn't directly follow God's "voice" not only was his life going to be shipwrecked, but he was also going to experience severe punishment from God. I found this notion to be troubling, and I said to him something like "But when you do hear God's "voice" isn't it full of love and mercy ". To which he replied yes, and then after thinking it through realized that God wasn't going to be so quick to punish him for not getting it right.

I don't believe that God ever gives up on us, and failing to follow God's voice doesn't shipwreck our lives, partially because God's Spirit will never give up on guiding us. So I think we can attempt to hear the Spirit's still small voice and follow his help, yet in doing so very much rest in God's grace, thus without any real negative outcome in the sense that you had mentioned.

FWIF. I wouldn't think that God is going to always speak to someone with guidance about every area of their lives, simply because if he did then they wouldn't ever learn how to think to make decisions for themselves, and God is a wise father. But I do think that God desires to have deep loving communication with us. This also comes with some wisdom on our parts. I wouldn't change my lifes course because I heard a random "voice" in my head, but if I was to pick up on constant "promptings" and guidance from that still small voice, then I'd surely pay attention.

So for me the problem isn't with the idea of God speaking to us, but that so many Christians are prone to legalism, and get all legalistic about it, thus making it into something kooky. If that makes any sense?

Edited by Attica, 10 April 2012 - 12:23 PM.


#14 Attica

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Posted 10 April 2012 - 12:05 PM

It puzzles me that God apparently speaks to many about who to share the gospel with, or where to go to church, or how much money to give, but NEVER, NEVER, NEVER about where that poor missing girl's body is buried in the woods, or something truly revelatory like that. Am I alone in this? Why can't all the Charismatics and sensitive people who hear God speak to them about so many things in the world, get together with the Amber Alert website and listen for what God would say about exactly where some of these kids are? This would be a project near to God's heart, in my mind... something that would not be for selfish gain or vainglory.

I know many consider it arrogant to question God in this manner, but let's get real here... the "words from God" that I hear people receive are always of the most innocuous, open-ended variety, having to do with personal comfort or spirituality



It isn't a scary and awesome sound though. It's meek and gentle coming out of God's gracious heart.

You didn't have an arrogant question. These are great thoughts, to which I don't really have any answers. I question this kind of stuff myself.

Edited by Attica, 10 April 2012 - 12:22 PM.


#15 Christian

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Posted 10 April 2012 - 12:45 PM

So yeah, Andy, I guess I subscribe to option 1.

I do as well.

#16 Greg P

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Posted 10 April 2012 - 12:53 PM

It isn't a scary and awesome sound though. It's meek and gentle coming out of God's gracious heart.

Men in the Old and New Testaments who heard God speak to them, would beg to differ.

#17 Attica

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Posted 10 April 2012 - 01:15 PM

It isn't a scary and awesome sound though. It's meek and gentle coming out of God's gracious heart.

Men in the Old and New Testaments who heard God speak to them, would beg to differ.


We're living under the New Covenant of grace though, which would make some sort of a difference. There are places in the Old Testament where the prophets heard the still small voice. It wasn't always scary and thundering. Also a good chunk of the New Testament is relating to people who are still living under the Old Covenant, as the New Covenant didn't really begin until the cross. Jesus said that he would go to the father and his Spirit would come and we would not be alone. It's the Spirit of Christ, and Jesus was not a scary guy, he was meek, gentle, and loving..... and was the full example of God. I don't understand everything that was in the Old Testament, but if Jesus was the full example of God, then I think it's fair to view the Old Testament through a Jesus lense. I don't think the Old Testament God was as scary as the Israelites often perceived him to be (and in the Psalms he wasn't always perceived to be overly scary, there were often some senses of intimacy). They were viewing him as a God similar to the pagan's "gods" around him, but Yahweh was often trying to bring them to the understanding that he wasn't like those pagan "gods". He wanted to have that personal intimate communication but they were often too scared of him to do so. Then when Jesus came he was something different than what they had often perceived God to be.


The writings of Paul allude to that gracious voice of God, and speak a lot of God's grace. As well myself, and many I know, as well as many many Christians living now and throughout history, have "heard" and experience God's gracious communication, and presence..... and it is meek and gentle, and not scary. It's coming from the Spirit of Christ..... and Jesus isn't a scary guy. :)

It's full of love..... and I don't find this to be overly weird, but instead comforting. ::blush:: One of the biblical terms for the Holy Spirit is the "comforter". Which isn't a scary term. :)

Edited by Attica, 10 April 2012 - 02:13 PM.


#18 Darren H

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Posted 10 April 2012 - 01:30 PM

Greg, based on your posts here and the long Fresh Air interview with Luhrmann, I'm guessing you'd really enjoy her book. As an anthropologist, she's interested in understanding the ways that prayer and the relatively-modern phenomenon of "having a relationship with God" function socially and psychologically. In the interview she compares it to talk therapy, self-help, and meditation and is careful to never use those terms in the pejorative. I thought it was especially interesting to hear her talk about the role of imagination as a vehicle for encountering God (an idea that people at an Arts & Faith forum can probably get behind).

#19 Andy Whitman

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Posted 10 April 2012 - 01:53 PM


So yeah, Andy, I guess I subscribe to option 1.

I do as well.

The problem with Option 1 is that you are forced to conclude that God no longer works in the way that he worked for thousands/millions of years (depending on where you fall in the Young Earth/Evolution debate). And I've yet to hear a compelling reason for why this might be so. The existence of the Church? But God personally communicated with individuals after the Church was founded. The completion of the Bible? But God personally communicated with people long after the existence of the Old Testament scriptures. Why and when did he stop?

God didn't always communicate with important people. He communicated with kings and prophets, yes, but he also communicated with widows, social outcasts, drunken vineyard owners, and assholes in sheepskin robes. He communicates with all sorts of folks. And he doesn't always speak with the voice of thunder and terror. Sometimes he speaks with a still, small voice. He even speaks through a donkey, which, I assume, brought its own elements of pathos and humor to the proceedings.

God spoke to a variety of people from every walk of life, to those who were near to himself and those who were far away, in all kinds of ways, over the course of thousands/millions of years. And then he just ... stopped. Okay. Maybe. But the onus is on those who would make that claim. Why?

And I think what we are talking about here is not so much the literal voice of God but the "leading" of God. When the gospels talk about Jesus being led into the wilderness by the Holy Spirit, I'm fairly certain that he wasn't being directed by some sort of supernatural GPS with the voice of Charlton Heston, stating "hang a right at Wadi Al Abyadh." Is the "leading of the Holy Spirit" something that is real? Does it still exist? If so, what do you think that means?

#20 Stephen Lamb

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Posted 10 April 2012 - 03:07 PM

In conversations about the voice of God, the line I usually start with is, "I don't talk to my father ever since God told him to kill me, my mother, and my siblings." So I know something, on a personal level, about the damage done when people claim that God has told them to do something, where "god" is nothing more than a substitute, a justification, for what they want to do.

And yet. I think I agree with you, Andy, that your third option is the only one that makes sense. Unless your first option is amended to say that even those men didn't really hear the voice of God, that it was all in their head. That God didn't interact with humans in that manner then and doesn't now. Claiming that God spoke to them then but not now to us seems to be an even more untenable position.