My emphasis is upon what has become so common today in evangelicalism. What I am referring to is this constant reference to God communicating with people through what seems like every way imaginable with the exception of the Scripture. Often times folks speak of being ‘led’ to do this or that or that God has ‘told’ them not to do this or that. I have been told by well meaning evangelicals that I have to listen to the “still-small voice” of God.
1. Erik said: “What I am referring to is this constant reference to God communicating with people through what seems like every way imaginable with the exception of the Scripture.” That is, he is against these “every way imaginables” because they are leading people away from Bible study. What are they? Impressions, dreams, God’s voice, and circumstances in life. But these are still valid ways for God try and speak to you! Are you going to turn a deaf ear to His communications in these areas? Will you muffle your spirit’s ears, and only read the Bible? However, I have to sympathize somewhat with Erik. Too many Charismatic Christians do turn away from Bible study after they get into dreams, visions, and the voice of God. That is not only dangerous, deceiving, and foolish, but it is also sinful, since we need to remind ourselves to keep Christ’s commandments (John 14:15). Charismatics must continue to study their Bibles. I recommend the NIV Study Bible.
2. Erik said: “Often times folks speak of being ‘led’ to do this or that or that God has ‘told’ them not to do this or that. I have been told by well meaning evangelicals that I have to listen to the ‘still-small voice’ of God.” This is Reformed Cessationist talk. I’ve heard this anti-Charismatic kind of rhetoric before. I’m not saying that Charismatics are free from anti-Cessationist rhetoric, but I think the opposition is stronger from Cessationists, because they are more educated and literary most of the time. There is nothing illegal, illegitimate, sinful, or anti-Biblical about a Christian feeling led by God to do something, or being convinced that God has told them to do something. The entire Book of Acts is full of prophetic experiences; and the lives of saints throughout church history as well (see Jeff Doles’ Miracles and Manifestations of the Holy Spirit in the History of the Church). And, those well meaning Evangelicals who told Erik to listen to the still small voice of God, were referring to a Bible verse: “After the earthquake a fire; but the Lord was not in the fire: and after the fire a still small voice” (1 Kings 19:12, KJV). And as far as being led by God to do something: “Those who are led by the Spirit of God are sons of God” (Romans 8:14).
The problem with this is that the Scriptures never command me to look inward for direction but rather to look to the revealed Word of God. Believers are given the Scripture to be equipped and instructed for every good work (2 Timothy 3:16-17); we are told to meditate upon it (Psalm 1) so that we me have knowledge, wisdom and understanding cultivated (Proverbs 3:3-5; 4:5-8).
1. Erik said: “The Scriptures never command me to look inward for direction but rather to look to the revealed Word of God.” This is half true. He’s right about the Scriptures commanding him to look to the revealed Word of God: the Scriptures themselves. Every Christian is bound to look to the Bible for direction. But when he said, “the Scriptures never command me to look inward for direction”–he is mistaken: “Were not our hearts burning within us while He talked with us on the road and opened the Scriptures to us?” (Luke 24:32); “The kingdom of God is within you” (Luke 17:21); “The Lord opened her heart to respond to Paul’s message” (Acts 16:14); “A man is a Jew if he is one inwardly; and circumcision is circumcision of the heart, by the Spirit, not by the written code” (Romans 2:29); “It is with your heart that you believe and are justified, and it is with your mouth that you confess and are saved” (Romans 10:10); “Do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit, who is in you, whom you have received from God?” (1 Corinthians 6:19); “Inwardly we are being renewed day by day” (2 Corinthians 4:16); “I thank God, who put into the heart of Titus the same concern I have for you” (2 Corinthians 8:16); “I pray also that the eyes of your heart may be enlightened in order that you may know” (Ephesians 1:18); “Because you are sons, God sent the Spirit of His Son into our hearts, the Spirit who calls out, ‘Abba, Father’” (Galatians 4:6); “The goal of this command is love, which comes from a pure heart and a good conscience and a sincere faith” (1 Timothy 1:5); “See to it, brothers, that none of you has a sinful, unbelieving heart that turns away from the living God” (Hebrews 3:12); “Anyone who believes in the Son of God has this testimony in his heart” (1 John 5:10).
2. Erik said: “Believers are given the Scripture to be equipped and instructed for every good work (2 Timothy 3:16-17); we are told to meditate upon it (Psalm 1) so that we me have knowledge, wisdom and understanding cultivated (Proverbs 3:3-5; 4:5-8).” Amen! I agree with this 100%. I just don’t think that Bible study should replace inward leadings of the Holy Spirit.
Ironically, a new breed of self-appointed prophets has arisen. These religious quacks tout their own dreams and visions with a different phrase, ‘The Lord told me.’ That is mysticism, and it preys on people looking for some secret truth that will add to the simplicity of God’s all-sufficient, once-for-all delivered Word” (MacArthur, Our Sufficiency in Christ).
1. Erik is quoting from John MacArthur, the leading Reformed Cessationist theologian of today–author of Charismatic Chaos. MacArthur said: “A new breed of self-appointed prophets has arisen.” Just what he means by “self-appointed,” I don’t know. I’m assuming that he’s implying they are not God-appointed, but self-appointed. That modern-day prophets don’t see God’s visions, but their own visions; they don’t hear God’s voice, but their own voice. Or, he may look at it like this: they presume to appoint themselves to the high status of prophets and apostles in the modern church, when God has made no such public announcement of this to the church at large–hence these prophets are merely given to delusions of grandeur. But my response to both of these notions would be: it is completely in keeping with Protestant Christianity to believe that God can directly speak to every Christian, because Peter said, “You are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people belonging to God, that you may declare the praises of Him who called you out of darkness into His wonderful light” (1 Peter 2:9). It seems to me that MacArthur is contradicting the Protestant conviction in both the priesthood and prophethood of all believers. The same apostle Peter who wrote that all Christians are priests, also said, “In the last days, God says, I will pour out My Spirit on all people. Your sons and daughters will prophesy, your young men will see visions, your old men will dream dreams” (Acts 2:17).
2. Erik quotes MacArthur: “These religious quacks tout their own dreams and visions with a different phrase, ‘The Lord told me.’” Modern apostles and prophets are “religious quacks,” to Erik and MacArthur’s mind, simply because they don’t think God speaks in dreams and visions anymore, like He did in the Bible times. So, in their worldview, all modern day dreams and visions, and all dreams and visions ever experienced throughout the 1,900 year history of the church, were not from God or angels. They’re either from self or satan. I don’t think that is likely. But Erik and MacArthur are free to believe what they believe–even if they have no reason to believe it! Although there are a great many pretenders to dreams and visions, and liars, and false prophets–this does not mean true prophets do not exist.
3. Erik quotes MacArthur: “That is mysticism…” MacArthur is correct to say that believing in modern-day prophets, dreams, and visions is mysticism; he is absolutely right about that–it is Christian mysticism in fact; and there is nothing wrong with it if guided by good theology. But do you see what MacArthur is trying to do here? Rhetoric. He’s trying to use his literary skill to insult modern prophets by stigmatizing them with the label of mysticism. Much like how Bible-believers are often stigmatized as “Fundamentalists.” Most of the time when people think of the word “mysticism,” they don’t think about Moses, Elijah, Jesus, and the apostles. No! Americans and other Westerners use the word “mysticism” almost exclusively in application to gypsies, psychics, fortune tellers, witches, wizards, Hindu gurus, and Buddhist monks. Hence, this is slanted rhetoric.
4. Erik quotes MacArthur: “…and it preys on people looking for some secret truth that will add to the simplicity of God’s all-sufficient, once-for-all delivered Word.” Notice how he uses the expression: “and it preys on people…” This is total rhetoric. He is treating God’s gifts of dreams and visions as if they were PREDATORS! I don’t know about you, but to me, that comes pretty close to blasphemy against the Holy Spirit (Luke 12:10), which is the attitude the Pharisees had to Jesus’ powers. But how can such a learned and educated Bible scholar like MacArthur make such a confident judgment against modern dreams and visions? How? Because, he is persuaded in the Reformed interpretation of 1 Corinthians 13:8-10: he genuinely does not believe prophecy is for today. And for that, I think he is deceived at least; or at the very worst, an unbeliever pretending to be a Christian! MacArthur also said: “people looking for some secret truth that will add to the simplicity of God’s all-sufficient, once-for-all delivered Word.” Is that really what these people are looking for? That sounds pretty far-fetched. I am one of “these people”: and I can speak for others like me. While most of us accept the Holy Bible as the supremely authoritative and inspired Word of God, and the theological Scriptural canon rule for testing and learning all things about God–we still maintain that God has never quit directly speaking to Christians through dreams, visions, voices, etc. It’s just that most Christians ignore His revelatory speech. And that God’s voice in dreams and visions becomes especially helpful, when He shows us clearer interpretations of the Bible, confirms us in a theological position, or directs us in our lives in a specific ways that the Bible cannot do, because its revelations are general in nature. But what MacArthur seems to imply by his rhetoric is that Charismatic Christians are seeking out “secret truths,” so they can write their own bibles, their own cult scriptures, and presume to have as much AUTHORITY as the apostles of the New Testament. No! We’re not seeking to be like the Mormon founder Joseph Smith, who presumed to write: The Book of Mormon: Another Testament of Jesus Christ (1830)! That is pure heresy and blasphemy! It qualifies as CULTISM! But I put some of my own dreams, visions, and revelations into my Book of Dreams, yet was careful to explain in the introduction that people are free to doubt my revelations, and never even come close to putting them on the same level of authority as the Bible! Never in their LIFE! MacArthur gets the wrong idea about Charismatic Christians, if he thinks we’re all on our way to writing our own kind of “Books of Mormon.”
The reason for the mysticism label is because that is precisely what this is. B. B. Warfield used to distinguish Christianity from all pagan religions in that it was a religion that was revealed from the outside in, whereas, pagan mysticism is revealed from the inside out. Bible believers understand that their hearts are “more deceitful than all else and is desperately sick” (Jeremiah 17:9) and unable to be understood. As a result not only the source of the ‘revelation’ is to be questioned but also the interpretation.
1. Erik is reiterating his former statement against “inward direction.” It was his second statement that I commented on above in this article, when he said, “The Scriptures never command me to look inward for direction but rather to look to the revealed Word of God.” He maintains that Christians cannot have inner leadings from the Holy Spirit. Only the Bible is to be our source of knowledge and direction from God. To him, the heart has virtually nothing to do with it. BUT–hopefully my ample Bible references above to the inner “heart” dimension of Christian life have demonstrated that Erik is wrong about this, and so was B. B. Warfield. While it is true that pagans experience inner leadings from the gods and devils they follow, it is also true that Christians experience inner leadings from the God of the Bible.