Why Some Christians Deny That God Still Speaks, Part 2
A second possible objection is this: The idea that God still speaks should be rejected because it’s just plain dangerous.
My response is twofold: (1) Yes, it is dangerous. (2) That’s no reason to reject it.
If you believe God still speaks and are listening for His voice, there is the risk of mistaking someone else’s voice for God’s. You might be listening to your flesh (your sinful nature). It’s possible to want something so badly you convince yourself the Lord is telling you to do it. Many a misguided husband has in this way believed himself justified in divorcing his wife to marry someone else.
In addition, the enemy also has a voice. And it doesn’t always sound evil. Satan specializes in deception. Since he often masquerades as an angel of light (2 Corinthians 11:14), it’s possible to mistake his voice for God’s. And I have.
Certainly there is risk. And this doctrine has been abused countless times. We’ve all heard of people doing ridiculous and sometimes horrific things on the basis that “God told me to.” Surely the simplest and most effective way to forestall such disasters is to hold that God no longer speaks.
The only problem with that is…it’s not biblical.
Think about it: What gift of God has not been abused? Take spiritual gifts, for example. They were distributed to Christians by the Holy Spirit (1 Corinthians 12:11) for the good of the church (v. 7), yet the saints in Corinth managed to abuse them (see 1 Corinthians 12-14). What was Paul’s solution? No more gifts? Since these gifts create the potential for arrogance, envy, and disorder, let’s get rid of them altogether? No. Paul’s answer to abuse was proper use, not disuse.
To counter abuse by rejecting a divine gift altogether is an unhealthy overreaction. The reality of risk simply means the gift must be used with caution—which is exactly what scripture teaches.
And two more thoughts. First, if the idea that God speaks to people personally and directly should be rejected because it’s dangerous, why did God ever do it? Everyone concedes that He spoke in this way often in the Bible. If it’s dangerous for Him to do it today, it would have been dangerous for Him to do it back then. Yet He did it anyway! So the argument has no validity.
Second, accepting that the Bible is from God is also dangerous. How many unwise and even immoral things have been done on the basis that “the Bible says so.” Scripture itself, as we all know too well, is often mishandled and abused. But we know equally well that the correct response is not to deny that God really speaks through the Bible. No, the answer is to approach scripture with great care and discernment, interpreting it as honestly and accurately as we can.
The same holds true, I argue, for hearing God’s voice today. (Later we’ll get to the crucial subject of how to listen with discernment.)
Yes, there is danger in believing God still speaks. But there’s greater danger in believing that He doesn’t. Dallas Willard says it well:
“Hearing God? A daring idea, some would say—presumptuous and even dangerous. But what if we are made for it? What if the human system simply will not function properly without it? There are good reasons to think it will not. The fine texture as well as the grand movements of life show our need to hear God. Isn’t it more presumptuous and dangerous, in fact, to undertake human existence without hearing God?”1
A good question, indeed.
1 Dallas Willard, Hearing God: Developing a Conversational Relationship with God (Downers Grove IL: InterVarsity Press, 2012), p. 11.