Remember the disciple named Thomas? He wasn’t with the others when Jesus appeared after the resurrection and when the disciples told him Jesus had risen from the grave, Thomas doubted. And now for all history people have (and will) refer to him as “doubting Thomas” even though he later believed. Thomas believed, but only after Jesus appeared to him and offered his nail pierced hands and his wounded side as proof.
Jesus told Thomas in John 20:29 “Thomas, because thou hast seen me, thou hast believed: blessed are they that have not seen, and yet have believed.”
Hebrews 11:1 also praises faith, defining it as “the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen.” We Christians are supposed to have faith, not sight.
I am troubled by the chasing of “experiences” with God that seems to mark so much of modern-day Christianity. Whether it be seeking an emotional high while singing at a church service or needing God to speak to you through some means other than the Bible.
Claims of visions and words from God abound. Many obviously contradict scripture or the nature of God and must be labeled false. Yet, there are even books in which people write words they claim to have gotten from Jesus, and they are published as if Jesus was actually speaking them! How has Protestantism come so far? How has it drifted from the knowledge that the Bible alone is to be our authority and that it is truly sufficient for the lives of every believer?
I’m reading a book right now in the hopes of understanding how this happened. T. M. Luhrmann, an anthropologist, recently published “When God Talks Back: Understanding the American Evangelical Relationship with God.” Excerpts appeared in many publications, including the Wall Street Journal (where I first heard of it). I’m 72 pages into the book so far and the modern church history she details is fascinating. But I am extremely concerned about this trend of people claiming God spoke to them directly in their minds.
One person told Luhrmann that “God’s voice must be mingled with the flow of his own stream of consciousness.” Where is the Biblical support for this? Based on my view of Scripture (esp. 2 Tim. 3:16-17) and my confidence that the canon of scripture is closed I think such personal revelations generally fall into two categories: self-deception or external deception from evil spirits. But even if the Bible supported the idea of personal revelation, they would still have to be tested by Scripture.
I will have much more to say on this subject going forward, but for now I will close with this warning and reminder from 2 Timothy.
2 Timothy Chapter 3
But understand this, that in the last days there will come times of difficulty. 2 For people will belovers of self, lovers of money, proud, arrogant, abusive, disobedient to their parents, ungrateful, unholy, 3 heartless, unappeasable, slanderous, without self-control, brutal, not loving good,4 treacherous, reckless, swollen with conceit, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God, 5 having the appearance of godliness, but denying its power. Avoid such people. 6 For among them are those who creep into households and capture weak women, burdened with sins and led astray by various passions, 7 always learning and never able to arrive at a knowledge of the truth. 8 Just as Jannes and Jambres opposed Moses, so these men also oppose the truth, men corrupted in mind and disqualified regarding the faith. 9 But they will not get very far, for their folly will be plain to all, as was that of those two men. 10 You, however, have followed my teaching, my conduct, my aim in life, my faith, my patience, my love, my steadfastness, 11 my persecutions and sufferings that happened to me at Antioch, at Iconium, and at Lystra—which persecutions I endured; yet from them all the Lord rescued me.12 Indeed, all who desire to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted, 13 while evil people and impostors will go on from bad to worse, deceiving and being deceived. 14 But as for you, continue in what you have learned and have firmly believed, knowing from whom you learned it 15 and howfrom childhood you have been acquainted with the sacred writings, which are able to make you wise for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus. 16 All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, 17 that the man of God may be complete, equipped for every good work.
The Problems with Personal Words from God – Bob DeWaay CIC