I've got someone who doesn't seem to share my theology on a certain subject and frequently questions me on it. My theology
is that I believe "hearing the voice of God" is not really a practice taught in the Bible. I think the term "led by the Spirit"
is very misunderstood today and that the rationale for decision making by the apostles and many others even in the OT was
wisdom and God spoke when the path to go on would seem contrary to wisdom.
And I recall being told "Well I'm gonna pray that God speaks to you so that you will believe. What do you think of that?"
Maybe some of you have thought something like this before. Maybe you've thought it would be a great thing to hear God stop
you on your Damascus Road and hear an audible voice. Maybe sometimes you've been in doubt or suffering and you've asked God
to give a sign that he's there and that he is not silent.
Generally, in our times of suffering, we will not have an army of angels personally deliver us a message from God.
I'm not saying such a thing couldn't happen or that God couldn't speak if he wanted to. After all, he is God and he will do
what he wants. I'm saying this isn't the norm but it seems odd. This seems like such a strange request. Why doesn't
God just speak when we think we need him to?
So I got asked the question and I'm thankful I got asked it. It was something that led to some insights that I am going
to take this time to share. When I was given the chance to respond, while I cannot quote exactly I will paraphrase and add
some further insights since then.
My first point is that if such a thing happened I might become dependent on the experience. But what would such a faith
be entirely? My faith is based on this subjective experience. Now I'm not discounting experiences entirely. There can be great
truth to experiences but they are not self-interpreting.
But if this happened in my time of need, what would be the basis for my renewed faith? It would be something other than
the cross and the empty tomb. Even Paul who had the Damascus road experience wrote that he desired to know nothing else except
Jesus Christ and him crucified.
And considering human nature, I would probably be drawn away for more esoteric experiences than objective truth. We've
all seen people who fall into this crowd. You just have to turn on TBN and hear about a Benny Hinn crusade or something like
that. You can hear any number of heretics on TBN. Many of them come from the Oneness Pentecostal Church which denies the orthodox
essential doctrine of the Trinity.
And sometimes some of us wonder how people can fall for that but are we often times any different? Christian apologist
Greg Koukl when giving his testimony tells how he's heard people who hear other people's testimonies and choose to embellish
their testimony after hearing that of others. That just goes to show that we long for the more extraordinary. (In our eyes)
And if God did something stupendous once what would we expect every time we were in need? God would do it again. He did
it once for us. Why shouldn't he do it again? That will tend to make our lives very self-centered instead of Christ-centered.
Nothing must keep us away from the real focus of our faith, the cross and the empty tomb.
And when I think about it now further, I'm thankful God didn't give me a great experience. Why? Because that means when
I am forced to go back to the Scriptures. These are where I can clearly see what God has said. I don't have to place faith
in someone saying "God told me." I can see what he said exactly when I go to the Scripture.
It is my concern that the more and more people chase after experience and subjective intuitions that are believed to
be from God, that we will put Scripture in the background. This new phenomenon however is just that. New. It is less than
a couple of a centuries old. That causes me suspicion already.
I know I've personally debated a lot of people on several theological topics that are Christians. I am often not told
to go to Scripture but "Well you need to talk to God about this." I'm all for prayer but we have a misunderstanding of that
even that causes confusion for a lot of people though I'm sure few admit it. Prayer in the Bible is never described as a dialogue.
If you turn to Matthew 6 you'll see Jesus teaching us the Lord's prayer. He tells us a model for how to pray. You'll
notice he never ends with "And then listen closely for the voice of God." (I find it odd that if God wants to get a message
through he'd be blocked that easily. If God wants to speak, he'll speak. Paul certainly wasn't listening for him on the Damascus
And yet this is what I am told to do by no doubt well-meaning Christians. I'm not saying this about all of them but a
lot of people I've met like this often have some of the worst theology. It's not based on the Scriptures usually but based
on their own feelings and experiences.
My concern is that too often nowadays we have an experience and interpret the Scripture in light of that. What we should
do is go to the Scriptures and use the Scriptures to interpret our experience.
A case in point is the receiving of Christ. I can remember when I received Christ what the experience was like and when
I go to the Bible I see the same type of thing. Now some people respond differently. Some will break down and cry. Some will
start dancing. Some will cheer. As for me, I've always been quiet. I just knew I understood the Bible better and just smiled
then. It was like a huge weight had been lifted.
Ravi Zacharias tells this same kind of story. He says we too often get our views such as being a Calvinist or an Arminian
and then go to the Scriptures to back it. He uses a lesser example where he talked to a girl who believed speaking in tongues
was essential to salvation.
He took her to the end of 1 Cor. 12 where Paul asks rhetorical questions and got her responses. "Are all apostles?" "No."
"Are all prophets?" "No." "Are all teachers?" "No." "Do all work miracles?" "No." "Do all have gifts of healing?" "No." "Do
all speak in tongues?" He says that at this point she paused and said "I don't know." We all know the answer should be obvious
Friends. Today I'm not asking you to give up your experiences. I'm asking for a return to the solid truth we can trust
entirely. I am calling us to return to the Scriptures. This is what Peter talked about in 2 Peter. He spoke of that great
experience called the Transfiguration. He says he was there. He witnessed it. It was astounding and I'm sure you're like me
and would have loved to have been there also. But then he said "But we have the word of the prophets made more certain." The
Scriptures should stand up and be our sole infallable rule of faith and practice. We are Sola Scriptura people after all.
So today, chase after what is infallably true and enjoy life in light of those.