Why Some Christians Deny That God Still Speaks, Part 1
Before we explore the biblical basis for believing God still speaks today, let me address a few objections. Some Christians reject the view because it doesn’t match their personal experience: “I’ve never heard God’s voice, so I don’t think He’s still speaking.”
First of all, the fact that I have not experienced something certainly doesn’t mean it’s not possible. If there is a discrepancy between my personal experience and the clear teaching of the Bible, I need to try to raise the level of my experience to match the standard revealed in scripture. It’s a mistake to make my experience normative and dismiss huge portions of the Bible as irrelevant on that basis.
There might be a number of reasons why certain believers haven’t heard the voice of God:
- They may have heard it and not recognized it.
After all, God often speaks in subtle ways that we can easily overlook if we’re not paying close attention. If God sometimes speaks through impressions, for example, those subjective feelings can be attributed to any number of sources besides God. If He sometimes speaks through circumstances, it can easily be dismissed as mere coincidence.
Furthermore, some suppose God would only “speak” in an audible voice. And since they’ve never heard that, they assume they’ve never heard God’s voice. They’re simply unaware of the different ways God communicates with us as demonstrated in scripture (a point we’ll come back to later).
- They may have embraced a theology that disallows it.
Some of God’s blessings are reserved for those who ask for them. Listen to Jesus’ own words:
Ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives, and he who seeks finds, and to him who knocks it will be opened. (Matthew 7:7-8)
Therefore I say to you, all things for which you pray and ask, believe that you have received them, and they will be granted you. (Mark 11:24)
Whatever you ask in My name, that will I do, so that the Father may be glorified in the Son. (John 14:13)
James notes—as does Jesus in the second text above—the importance of not only asking, but asking in faith (James 1:5-8). When I ask I must actually expect God to answer, for the one who doubts is like the surf of the sea, driven and tossed by the wind. For that man ought not to expect that he will receive anything from the Lord, being a double-minded man, unstable in all his ways.
This is one reason good theology is so important. A wrong understanding (in this case, of how God works and the kind of relationship He wants to have with you) can keep you from making certain requests. And the unfortunate result is you forfeit the blessing (cf. James 4:2c). This reflects my own experience—of not hearing God–until my study of scripture led me to change my view.
There are of course exceptions, but this is God’s usual M.O.—it shall be done for you as you have believed (Matthew 8:13). If you don’t ask and expect God to speak to you, He probably won’t.
- Others are open to the idea that God still speaks, but they don’t ask Him to because they’re afraid of what He might say.
In his book Forgotten God, Francis Chan says,
“I honestly believe that most of us—while we might say we want to be led by the Spirit—are actually scared of this reality. I know I am. What would it mean? What if He asks you to give up something you’re not ready to give up? What if He leads you where you don’t want to go? What if He tells you to change jobs? To move? Are you willing to surrender to Him, no matter where He wants to take you?”1
Those are good questions. They take us back not only to the issue of surrender, but also trust. Because you won’t surrender yourself completely to someone you don’t trust categorically. You have to believe God is truly good—that even if He leads you to do something hard or unpleasant, He’s not out to ruin you. He has your best interest at heart.
As I mentioned before, my old theology was a lot safer. I thought God only spoke through the Bible. Accepting that He can show up at any time and mess with my plans, give me a special assignment, require me to do whatever He deems appropriate? That’s a challenging way to live. It also happens to be far more rewarding.
1 Francis Chan, Forgotten God: Reversing Our Tragic Neglect of the Holy Spirit (Colorado Springs: David C. Cook, 2009), p. 90.