Monday, October 24, 2022

Anonymous Asks (220)

“Are people who claim God talks to them insane?”

In the pages of scripture, God talks to men all the time. The closer we go back to the beginning of human history, the more it happened. He conversed with Adam and Eve in the garden. He even had multiple conversations with Cain, who became our world’s first murderer. He spoke to Abraham audibly at least seven times.

Of course, we have to remember that was over a thirty year period, and Abraham lived to be 175. God was speaking less and less as time went by, even to men he considered friends.

Diminishing Returns

Centuries later, God spoke to Solomon only three times, though he was arguably the most splendid king in Israel’s history. Most of the time, God spoke only to prophets, who passed on his messages to those with whom God wished to communicate and wrote them down for future generations, and for us. He also spoke at times through the priestly ephod, though he did not generally do so in words, but through something similar to the results of rolling dice.

Finally, God spoke to mankind most clearly and fully in the person of Christ. Hebrews tells us his life and ministry was the culmination of centuries of revelation. Then, after his death, resurrection and ascension to heaven, God spoke to the apostles and writers of the New Testament through his Holy Spirit about his Son, about the implications of his visit to our planet, and about what we should expect to happen until he brings his kingdom to earth. Even so, these writers repeatedly told their readers to test and prove these New Testament prophecies rather than simply accepting them at face value, just as the word of the Old Testament prophets had been tested and proved over time.

This continued until some time near the end of the first century. Then God stopped talking. He had said everything he needed to say. As Jude puts it, the faith was “once for all delivered to the saints”. Nothing needed to be added to it. So, as Paul himself predicted, the prophets stopped prophesying. With the completion of the written word of God, they had become redundant.

Insane? Hmm …

A person who claims God talks to them today might well be insane, but that is not usually my first assumption. When somebody tells me “God spoke to me”, I usually politely inquire how he did it. Most people will answer something like this: “Through his word. I was reading my Bible this morning and I found a verse that answered a question I had been praying about.” That’s not the least bit nutty. It happens to me all the time.

Or they might answer, “He sent another Christian to me to explain something I never understood before.” Fair enough. I’ve had that happen too, and nothing about it is inconsistent with the teaching of scripture.

Occasionally I hear someone say God spoke to them through circumstances. “A door opened,” they say, or “a door closed”. Something happened in their lives, and they conclude God did it. That’s a little dodgier. Circumstances can be interpreted any number of ways. One man’s “God-given opportunity” is another man’s “temptation of the devil”. Still, I wouldn’t call such a person crazy. He might be wrong, but the possibility certainly exists that God was acting in response to his prayers. I wouldn’t be his judge unless he tells me that the “opportunity” God opened up requires him to sin in some way, or otherwise contradicts scripture.

A friend of mine says God speaks to her through nature. She gets a peaceful, easy feeling from a cardinal or a sparrow, and is thankful to God for it. But she does not claim to hear words or get specific instructions, for which I am greatly relieved. Again, not nuts, just maybe a little too mystical for my taste.

Drawing the Line

On rare occasions, I have experienced strong feelings about things I believe God wants me to do or not do. These are not words, just very vivid emotional impressions. One could hardly call them “God talking”. I act on them if and when they are consistent with the commands of the Bible. When they are not, I attribute them to some spirit other than the Spirit of God, either my own spirit or something even less trustworthy.

When a man claims to have new verbal or written revelation from God, however, I draw the line, especially when he insists on sharing that revelation with the world or trying to impose it on you. He might not be insane by the standards of the psychiatric profession, but he’s almost surely either wicked or deluded. If you’re interested, I cover the options at length in the post “Seven Reasons I Don’t Believe You’re a Prophet”.

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