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Daniel of Doulogos Name:Daniel
Home: Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada
About Me: I used to believe that evolution was reasonable, that homosexuality was genetic, and that people became Christians because they couldn't deal with the 'reality' that this life was all there was. I used to believe, that if there was a heaven - I could get there by being good - and I used to think I was more or less a good person. I was wrong on all counts. One day I finally had my eyes opened and I saw that I was not going to go to heaven, but that I was certainly going to suffer the wrath of God for all my sin. I saw myself as a treasonous rebel at heart - I hated God for creating me just to send me to Hell - and I was wretched beyond my own comprehension. Into this spiritual vacuum Jesus Christ came and he opened my understanding - delivering me from God's wrath into God's grace. I was "saved" as an adult, and now my life is hid in Christ. I am by no means sinless, but by God's grace I am a repenting believer - a born again Christian.
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Monday, April 26, 2010
OT Prophets vs. NT Flakery.
"God, after He spoke long ago to the fathers in the prophets in many portions and in many ways, in these last days has spoken to us in His Son, whom He appointed heir of all things, through whom also He made the world." - Hebrews 1:1-2 [NASB]


One of the things very first problems that the new believer has to contend with, is the supernatural record of the Bible, and the less than supernatural experience of modern day Christianity.

We read of God speaking to men like Abraham and Moses, or any of the Old Testament prophets, and we see the miraculous performed by these men, and marvel that God gave such authority to men on earth. Then we see, in the New Testament, Christ and the Apostles performing the miraculous, and receiving instruction by and through the Holy Spirit, and we read Luke's account of the acts of the Apostles, well, primarily Peter and Paul - and we come away with an image of first century Christianity as being awash with, and even underscored by the miraculous, and the naive presumption we make is that this is what "normal" Christianity is supposed to look like.

We honestly believe that if we are genuine and legitimate Christians, or alternately, if God is genuine, and the bible legitimate, that we too should be able to hear God speak to us in some way, and that we should be able to do the miraculous, at least to some degree.

Of course, the moment we realize that we still cannot do the miraculous, we come to the first "failed" spiritual expectation, and it is a major crisis in our faith. Didn't Jesus say in Matthew 17 that the reason the Apostles failed to cast out a particularly nasty demon, was because they didn't have enough faith? Didn't Christ say, and I quote, "for truly I say to you, if you have faith the size of a mustard seed, you will say to this mountain, 'Move from here to there,' and it will move; and nothing will be impossible to you"?

We read that and reason that if nothing is impossible to the one with faith, and if we have failed to summon forth the miraculous, it must mean that we simply lack the faith. Who amongst us hasn't read Salinger's, "The Catcher in the Rye"? Remember Holden's conclusion, as he muses over the text of Matthew 17, that no one ever has "enough" faith; as evidenced by the fact that no mountain has ever picked itself up and thrown itself into the sea. We wince at the naivity of that, and perhaps pity Salinger, given that this sentiment is a reflection of his own thinking at the time - but that sentiment is not unlike the sentiment of the immature believer - I will never have enough faith to do that.

We come out of that crisis of faith with the conviction that we could, in an ideal world, with an ideal faith, peform the miraculous, and though we loathe ourselves for not being possessed of this ideally adequate faith and though it's lack may cause us to ponder the legitimacy of our claim to being a Christian, yet we typically come out of it with our faith intact, if a little bruised.

The experience we have with our failure to perform the miraculous, often comes in concert with another failure: the failure to receive direct revelation from God.

This particular failure is both is not helped by the sort of inflated, religious jargon that has become common amongst many Christians. "God led me to...", "God spoke to me about....", "The Holy Spirit impressed upon me the thought that...." etc. etc. To listen to some Christian's talk, you would think that God was micomanaging the minutia of their existence through direct, revelatory (and apparently precise) instructions. Of course these are actually talking about the way in which they are interacting with their (hopefully biblically informed) conscience, whether they know it or not (and sadly, more and more fall into the "not" category).

So that when it comes to "hearing God speak" - some are led to believe that God speaks through the vague and iffy language of personal feelings, intuitive proddings, and mystical hunches - and that the more spiritual you are, the better you are at interpreting what God intends for you to do when you get that "Holy Spirit" feeling. These are (typically) sincere believers who, because of their own immaturity, lack of discernment, or unbiblical expectations, have reimagined their own intuition as the voice of God, and are zealous to obey whatever they imagine (and I mean that literally) God wants them to do.

Just as a broken clock is right twice every day, so also well meaning, and zealous believers will have be subjectively prompted by their own feelings to do what is right on occasion. That is, so long as the prodding is from their conscience, they will likely respond in a way consistant with their profession, at least insofar as their conscience is biblically informed.

But such as these can go decades, or even their whole lives, imagining that this is how God speaks to His children - and in the fervor of this error, they will imagine themselves as being obedient servants of God when they follow some heartburn or other into what can only be described as flakery.

I know that a lot of believers really buy into this hokey-pokey. They want/need something spiritually tangible to hang their faith on. They want a personal relationship with Jesus, but not one that is brokered through His word, but rather one that is brokered through personal, spiritual experiences. Let a man call this stuff quackery, and he will hear from them that he is probably not a real™ believer, because he doesn't assent to the idea that God speaks to people today.

Listen: I posted the opening verses from the book of Hebrews because I believe them with all my heart. God did speak in all kinds of ways to various messengers in times past - and these messengers passed along that message to the peoples of their day; but in these last days, that message is not being delivered to prophets and dreamers - but was delivered once and for all to Christ, who has delivered it in full to us. There is no more new revelation. No bedside talks. No voices. No revaltory spiritual impressions or proddings. Nothing. Christ's message is sufficient for all my life. I don't have to guess what the Lord wants from me, for Christ's message tells me in full exactly what He wants for me.

Which is all to say that I don't have a lot of respect for personal decisions that are made in accord with personal intuition, which itself is being mistaken for divine instruction and all because of a flawed theological understanding of how God speaks to people today. There I said it.

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posted by Daniel @ 12:03 PM  
7 Comments:
  • At 12:18 PM, April 26, 2010, Blogger David Kjos said…

    Oh, Daniel, if only you had more faith, and ceased quenching the spirit ...

    You will notice that I didn't capitalize "spirit."

     
  • At 12:26 PM, April 26, 2010, Blogger Daniel said…

    David,

    I both confirm and encourage the use of the lower case for this particular letter in this particular setting.

    Notwithstanding, faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the word of God. No man with a bible, and eyes to read, has any good excuse for a small faith, myself included.

     
  • At 9:41 PM, April 26, 2010, Blogger JIBBS said…

    Mark Driscoll has spoken of a time when God audibly spoke to him. I'm not sure of the details or if it was a one-time thing, though. Thought it was interesting.

    Word verification: acting

    coincidence??

     
  • At 9:49 PM, April 26, 2010, Blogger Daniel said…

    I hope he didn't tell him to swear like a sailor in the pulpit. That would just be dumb.

     
  • At 11:01 PM, April 26, 2010, Blogger JIBBS said…

    MD is growing on me. Been listening to a lot of Mars Hill podcasts lately.

    Surely I have backslidden.

     
  • At 11:18 AM, April 27, 2010, Blogger Jim said…

    All that God has chosen to reveal about Himself is found in the canon of scripture. In that sense there is no new revelation about God or any new direction from Him. We consider the scriptures to be a completed revelation of God through Christ to His Church.

    But God is still speaking today, in and through the Rhema's of His word. He will never contradict His written word and we are told to test every spirit.

    When the Holy Spirit brings light and conviction to our spirit we many times say "God spoke to me". I think this should be distinguished from the vague and abstract speakings that usually emanate from our soulish desires.

     
  • At 1:59 PM, April 27, 2010, Blogger Daniel said…

    Jim,

    I agree, for some the problem is that they are using what I like to refer to as: unspeakably sloppy Christian jargon.

    The person who providentially recalls (in the very moment of decision) a particular passage in scripture that "coincidentally" happens to pertain to what exactly their conduct ought to be in that moment, may (in the wake of that sudden remembrance of God's stated will), after having acted in accord with the scripture that was called to mind, later narrate the event in the language of "God told me" or "God showed me" etc..

    They speak like that, not because they heard voices, or had a vision, but because [1] that's the way they hear others in the church talk, and [2] people who share their experience, "know what they mean".

    That's all fine and dandy, until some immature person hears this kind of language, and not only takes them literally, but having been impressed by the idea that God is supposed to be speaking to believers, they then begin to interpret every stray thought as a possible "leading" from God.

    God does speak today, through the revealed word.

     
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