God Still Speaks Today
This post is a sort of callback to one of my previous posts, Divided. And it also goes handy with the previous “Why I Am/Not a Charismatic” blog post. Again, inspiration comes from a book review from Tim Challies. He just keeps on reading the right books and then commenting on them, I guess.
So why does this fit in to those two earlier blog posts? Well, one of the things you’ll often hear in charismatic circles today is this statement: “God is still speaking to us today.” On the surface, nearly every Christian would ponder a moment, and then respond, “Yes, amen!” Often times the wording may be a slightly different, and you’ll hear different people give a testimony or insight along the lines of “God was speaking to me earlier this week and told me…”, which normally doesn’t get too much of a rise out of people.
But words have power, and words have meaning. So while on the surface “God is still speaking to us today” sounds all well and good, when you dig a little deep it starts to mean something else entirely that the majority of Christians cannot agree with (which is fine to those who initially set the statement, it just means you need prayer and aren’t really a Christian).
Tim Challies reviewed Sarah Young’s Jesus Calling: 365 Devotions For Kids. Kids devotionals! Good things, right? I was a big fan of Keys for Kids from Uncle Charlie growing up, and then when I hit my early teens, being so mature at the time, I graduated to Our Daily Bread devotionals. I think devotionals definitely have a place in the lives of believers.
But here is what Tim Challies picked up on while reading and reviewing the book:
My main critique of Jesus Calling is that Young positions her book as a collection of devotionals given to her by God. God has spoken to her (she calls herself a “Listener”) and now she is sharing the words God has given her. This raises an all-important question related to the authority her words carry. If they are truly given by God, aren’t they authoritative and binding on us? She does not answer well. Though she says that her writings must be subservient to the Bible, she does not actually tell us what they are or how we are to regard them. Are they authoritative? Are they in any way binding on her or on us? If they are not inspired and not inerrant, what exactly are they? It is one thing to say that God has spoken to you, and another entirely to set these words within a context that continues to honor the authority and uniqueness of Scripture. These are not unreasonable questions, and especially so now that Young is modelling her form of listening to not only adults but to children and encouraging them to participate in it.
Challies has even included screenshots of the introduction of the book as well, and they are even more telling to those with eyes to see and ears to hear. It’s a dangerous notion to believe that God is speaking directly to you, especially as you still your mind and then start trusting whatever impressions or thoughts come to you as being from him. It’s a practice that can’t really be found in Scripture without perverting the Word of God. Nearly every time God spoke to someone, it was epic, thundering, disturbing, terrifying…but that was just the Old Testament, right? He speaks in an sweet tender never angry whisper in the New Testament, right? Yet this type of prayer that the kids’ devotional author talks about is more in line with Eastern mysticism or even the Catholic mystics; it’s an accessing of secret knowledge that not everyone can access until you give them the key to unlock it. It’s dangerous, often scary stuff.
Look, I get it. The Bible is sufficient, but we don’t like that. We want more. And in God’s wisdom, he HAS given us more! He wants us to live in community, reading church history and church fathers, learning from our elders and those who have gone before. Christianity is not a faith divorced from community, whether that is local or global. That is why I cannot respect the pastor who sits by himself and thinks he can perfectly interpret the Bible. It’s why you shouldn’t trust yourself to understand scripture fully by just emptying your mind and praying. You need others to have a complete faith.
Again, as always, be discerning in what you read, and especially in what you let your children read. Don’t let foolish ideas crop in. And don’t believe every thought you have in a quiet moment is from God. God still speaks today, but not like that; he will speak first through his Word and interpreted through the Holy Spirit (who is God, don’t forget), second through the authorities in your life (again through the Holy Spirit), and a distant third through other influences (through the Holy Spirit). Don’t cut off any avenue of communication in your life, and don’t put them out of order, for that way lies madness.
(You know, one of the biggest problems I have with posting things like this blog, or reading wise counsel like Tim Challies, is that many who like those things that are dangerous will just get angry at us for taking something they like away from them. It’s like removing the bottle of poison out of reach of the baby, and the baby hates you for it. The only hope I have at times is that, one day, someone will be grateful and in maturity realize how they have been protected and helped…because I have been, and I try to do the same for others.)