On Hearing from God: Some Objections (Part One)

November 3, 2011

Does God "whisper"? The idea is not without its sincere doubters. Greg Koukl, the Founder and President of the great apologetics organization, Stand to Reason, gives an excellent presentation of some of its chief objections (Part One, Part Two, Part Three). I appreciate Greg’s eagerness to help people discern truth from error.

Specifically, Greg objects to this claim: "as a matter of course, every believer can expect his or her own private revelations, two-way personalized communications, and custom-tailored guidance from God." Let's call this claim "HG". With this post, I want to begin a mini blog series that considers this issue.

Koukl presents several lines of objection to HG, including what might be called a "practical objection" (i.e. that the risks make it not worth engaging in), and that it seems to assume things of God's communicative ability that are obviously false. The chief objection however is that there's not enough evidence to think it true, and thus, that it's impermissible (or perhaps at least a waste of time) to engage in any practice whose goal is to listen for God's voice.

Now, how should you go about deciding whether HG is true or false? Koukl answers, and rightly so, I think, that we must test the practice itself (and not merely particular instances of purported revelation) with Scripture. But his claim is still stronger than this: it needs to be tested by Scripture and ONLY by Scripture--apparently neither personal experience, reason nor tradition can do so (see Koukl’s Part Two, page 4-5).

The question of HG's truth, in his view, thus needs to be answered only on biblical considerations. How does he do so?

  1. He addresses proof texts commonly given in support of HG, namely, John 10 ("my sheep hear my voice"), Romans 8 and Galatians 5 (on being "led by the Spirit"), and argues that they offer no support.
  2. He considers the issue of precedent--whether the "hearing God"-type experiences of Old Testament individuals, of Jesus, and of the early church can serve as examples upon which contemporary Christians can model their own practices.

My goal in this post was to simply introduce a succinct overview of the objections. Again, I believe that Koukl's criticisms of HG are among the very best out there, they are very thoughtful, and serve as a helpful corrective to those who are cavalier about these matters. It is, then, with the greatest respect for his arguments that I shall continue this series in what follows.

In my next post, I'll start to offer an evaluation. For now, some questions: Do the objections against HG resonate with you? What do you think about the approach to HG? Should HG be tested only by scripture?

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6 Responses to 'On Hearing from God: Some Objections (Part One)'

  1. […] There are several prominent objections to the view that God speaks extra-biblically as part of the ordinary Christian experience (call this view "HG" for "hearing God"). I take Stand To Reason’s Greg Koukl as my main dialogue partner on these matters, because he has thought extensively about these issues and has provided some accessible articles for public consideration (see my post here). […]

  2. […] I want to suggest in this post (related to this series) that there's more to "missing it" than just "not hearing." This isn't an exhaustive list of the […]

  3. Kiel West says:

    FYI: Finding this series of posts has come right on time for me—like all revelation.

  4. Timothy Bayless says:

    Thanks, Kiel. Very happy to hear you’re finding it helpful. If you want to say more, I’d be interested in hearing a bit more of what’s behind your comment. I.e. that this post came right on time.

  5. […] Bayless’ recent blog post series on hearing God is important and good. Moreover, I think Eleonore Stump has something to say about this, though not […]

  6. […] Does God Try (DGT) objection says that if HG claims we can "miss it" when God speaks, then HG is incompatible with the doctrine of divine […]