What’s wrong with believing that God speaks to us outside of scripture?

April 22, 2016

Roger Olson has been reading my blog! Just kidding, but he has a post this week on a topic that I wrote about a couple of months ago. He asks, “Does God still speak to us today—outside of the ways God speaks to us through scripture?” Olson believes that he does and gives a recent personal anecdote to illustrate one way that God has spoken to him.

In my recent response to a post by blogger Anne Kennedy, I wrote the following:

Having said all that, while Kennedy’s (and Cary’s) words serve as a helpful warning, I don’t buy in to their argument completely. For one thing, I’ve had those strong intuitions that God is “speaking” to me. Maybe that’s an understatement: I’ve felt as if God has zapped me with lightning sometimes. Maybe that’s not God’s “voice,” but it’s something! So perhaps the language we use to describe these intuitions is imprecise or inaccurate, but that doesn’t mean the Holy Spirit isn’t guiding us in some way through them.

Besides, God foreknew that we would have these strong intuitions, including how we would interpret and respond to them. Therefore, it’s no stretch to imagine that he uses them—as he does everything else—for our good. If we’re wrong, he’ll redeem this mistake too.

In my comment on Dr. Olson’s blog (awaiting moderation), I said that we evangelicals believe in God’s providence—that God guides us through external events in our lives. Why would it be difficult to believe that God guides us through internal events, such as our thoughts, intuitions, and even dreams? God is sovereign over those things, too, isn’t he?

But I share Olson’s word of caution: To say God speaks to us outside of scripture does not mean “with the same inspiration and authority as in Scripture.” I would also add—for the sake of many United Methodists who get confused about this—that what God tells us can’t contradict what God has told us through scripture, either.

What do you think? Does God speak to us outside of scripture?

One Response to “What’s wrong with believing that God speaks to us outside of scripture?”

  1. Tom Harkins Says:

    I think the view you take about “zapping” and “intuitions” and the like is correct. Get a little more nervous with “carrying on a conversation” (both my parents have recounted such things–not always sure I would have expected God to say what they say they “heard” [internally]!). Even more skeptical as to “out loud.”

    One instance of mine where arguably God “spoke” in a sense was when my parents were trying to get me to “believe again.” My Dad was going through the “plan of salvation” with me. I said, “I know all that.” But for some reason I opened my Bible (still had it after all those years of “practical atheism”) and saw these words: “Saul, Saul, why persecutest thou me? It is hard for you to kick against the pricks.” This made such a dramatic impression that I prayed that if I was not saved, please save me. (Nothing dramatic happened–perhaps because I was, in fact, still saved? And I still didn’t quite move back to total devotion even as of then–took a few more steps.) Of course, it was “speaking through the Bible” in a sense–but, still.

    Another similar thing was when I was visiting my parents earlier in this saga, and my Mom opened to the daily devotional (Open Windows, I think). She started crying, so my Dad took it and read the title–“Doubting Thomas.”

    Anyway, enough things like that have happened every once in a great while for me to subscribe to “God still speaks.” I just hesitate and sometimes cringe when it gets “too dramatic.” And, as you say, check it against scripture. “Test the spirits,” John says.

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