Does He Still Speak?
It is either the height of arrogance or the depth of deception or both for the professed Christian to insist he is directly and personally hearing from God when God spoke directly to less than 100 people during the first 4,000 years of recorded human history, and when, for the last 1900+ years, we have had God’s complete revelation to mankind—the Bible.
That was posted online. (I haven’t cited the source, because I don’t want to point a finger at an individual; but I do want to address the ideas expressed.) I read it over a couple of times. I am fairly sure that the person who posted it (and the person who was responsible for the re-post that I saw) was sincere and felt the sentiment was Biblical and God-honoring. But the more I reflected on it, the more it troubled me.
The author is dismissive of the idea that Christians might directly and personally hear from God because (reportedly) “God spoke directly to less than 100 people during the first 400 years of recorded human history.” But this reasoning is flawed.
In the early days of the church, this argument also could have been made. “No one should expect to actually hear God, seeing as God spoke to so few in the Old Testament days.” This would mean:
Peter should have ignored what the Lord revealed to him (Acts 5:8–9)
The apostles should have not listened when God sought to release them from prison (Acts 5:19–20)
Stephen should have dismissed what God personally showed him (Acts 7:55–56)
Philip should not have listened to the Spirit when sent to meet the Ethiopian eunuch (Acts 8:29)
Saul should have rebuked the voice speaking to him on the road to Damascus (Acts 9:3–9)
Ananias should have stayed at home and not gone to pray for Saul (Acts 9:10–19)
Cornelius should not have listened when told to send for Peter (Acts 10:1–8)
Peter should have dismissed the dream and voice and words he heard and not gone to Cornelius’ house (Acts 10:20-20)
Peter should have gone back to sleep and remained in prison rather than getting up at the direction of the Lord (Acts 12:7–8)
The church in Antioch should have ignored what the Spirit said and refrained from sending Paul and Barnabas out into ministry (Acts 13:1–4)
It is startling to me that seeing the record of God speaking to people—in both the Old Testament and the New Testament—the author insists that the only reasonable conclusion is that God does not speak to people.
The author is dismissive of the idea that Christians might directly and personally hear from God because “we . . . have God’s complete revelation to mankind—the Bible.” But this reasoning is flawed.
I’ll assume the author understands that God is interested in having a personal relationship with those brought into intimacy through the work of the Son and the presence and power of the Spirit. If the author’s argument were true, then we would have to conclude that those in relationship with God could only hear from him in impersonal and indirect ways. As if the experience of a personal relationship with the living God is now limited to what one reads in the Scriptures.
I am irrevocably convinced of the primacy, inspiration, infallibility, superiority, and irreplaceable character of God’s Word. The Scriptures are the foundation for our life with God. All that we experience with Him must be anchored and rooted in, supported by, and in conformity to that revelation. But from start to finish the Scriptures display for us people enjoying personal and direct experiences and encounters with God.
It is startling to me that the author can conclude that the Bible itself somehow now supplants the very kind of life pictured in the Bible.
Although I would agree with the author that there is a sense in which the Bible is “God’s complete revelation to mankind,” he must be overlooking the truth that the Bible itself points to “revelation” that is personal, direct, and not a threat to or in competition with the canonical revelation. If we grant the author’s insistence that the “completeness” of the canon means that there can be no other revelation from God (in a non-canonical sense), this would mean:
Paul was wrong in asking God to give the Ephesians “revelation” to know Him better (Ephesians 1:17).
That the apostle misled the Philippians in suggesting that God might “reveal” to them what they needed to understand (Philippians 3:15)
That it was misguided for Paul to suggest to the Corinthians that one or more of them might come to a gathering with some “revelation” (1 Corinthians 14:26–31)
It is starling to me that the author—in affirming the “completeness” of God’s revelation in the canon of Scripture—can conclude God’s revelation in Scripture is exhaustive when the Scriptures themselves point to the possibility of additional (non-canonical) revelation.
As Christians live in and anchor all their thinking about and experience with God in finality of His inscripturated revelation, I would suggest:
It is either simple ignorance or a dismissive anti-supernatural world view for any professed Christian to maintain that no Christian could or should ever anticipate directly and personally hearing from God seeing as God has shown Himself as a communicating, relational God having spoken to close to 100 different people and presenting Himself as the God who does speak as pictured in His foundational revelation—the Bible.