This is a response to Steve Camp’s post “Worship Wars.” While I greatly respect Steve’s teachings in general, I believe there is a problem with his limited view of God’s speaking to people today. The underlying idea he expresses is that God ceased to speak to us once the canon of Scripture was closed. This perspective is very common and I hear it all the time in the Christian blogosphere, but I contend it makes Christianity into a dead religion that was codified in a book by a God who once spoke, but does so no longer.
At issue is this quote from Steve’s article:
Worship cannot be about my feelings or personal moorings based on what I think God is mystically communicating to me in a supernatural way.
While it is true that feelings cannot be the basis for worship, what God is communicating to us when we are communing with Him is critically important, especially if that communication is “supernatural,” as Steve puts it. Steve limits what God can say only to what He has chosen to have written down in the Bible.
I start my response with a man who intimately knew God in a way that few do today:
In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God—John 1:1
An intelligent, plain man, untaught in the truths of Christianity, coming upon this text, would likely conclude that John meant to teach that it is the nature of God to speak, to communicate His thoughts to others. And he would be right. A word is a medium by which thoughts are expressed, and the application of the term to the eternal Son leads us to believe that self-expression is inherent in the Godhead, that God is forever seeking to speak Himself out to His creation. The whole Bible supports this idea. God is speaking. Not God spoke, but God is speaking. He is, by His nature, continuously articulate. He fills the world with His speaking voice. One of the great realities with which we have to deal is the voice of God in His world. The briefest and only cosmogony is this: “He spake, and it was done” (Psalm 33:9). The why of natural law is the loving voice of God immanent in His creation. And this word of God which brought all worlds into being cannot be understood to mean the Bible, for it is not a written or printed word at all, but the expression of the will of God is the breath of God filling the world with living potentiality. The voice of God is the most powerful force in nature, indeed the only force in nature, for all energy is here only because the power-filled Word is being spoken.
The Bible is the written word of God, and because it is written it is confined and limited by the necessities of ink and paper and leather. The voice of God, however, is alive and free as the sovereign God is free. “The words that I speak unto you, they are spirit and they are life” (John 6:63). The life is in the speaking words. God’s word in the Bible can have power only because it corresponds to God’s word in the universe. It is the present Voice which makes the written Word all-powerful. Otherwise it would lie locked in slumber within the covers of a book.
—A.W. Tozer, excerpt from the chapter “The Speaking Voice” from The Pursuit of God
Agree or disagree?
Does God not still speak to us? If He does not, then what is the purpose of having the Holy Spirit placed in us if God did not intend to continue to speak through His Spirit? The Spirit is more than a stamp of salvific approval on the Christian. If He were only that, then there would be no reason for Him to be a living Person. Stamps do not speak, only persons do.
And what of inspiration or the words of a preacher like Whitefield brought to life by the unction of the Spirit? If God does not still speak, then there is no sense for us to be Christians any longer, for all inspiration is lost. It may have been codified once, but there is nothing more to say, therefore there would be no reason for us to speak a single word to anyone, preaching going the way of the dodo. Anyone here believe that to be true?
While I greatly respect Mr. Camp, he may one day come up against a person who meets the very criteria Camp himself sets forth, someone who is delivering the voice of God. What then?
Why are we so very afraid that God may still be speaking? Why should we be afraid of the Voice today? The Spirit blows where He wills; does He do so no longer? If He still does, would He come without a message? By no means! Because it is the very nature of God to always be speaking.
You could open your Bible anywhere and find God speaking to His human creations, but the one I choose here is God speaking to His wayward prophet Elijah. After God’s trouncing of the prophets of Baal through Elijah and the subsequent destruction of the Baalites, Elijah fears for his life and takes off into the wilderness, hiding from King Ahab and his wicked wife Jezebel:
Then Jezebel sent a messenger to Elijah, saying, “So may the gods do to me and more also, if I do not make your life as the life of one of them by this time tomorrow.” (3) Then he was afraid, and he arose and ran for his life and came to Beersheba, which belongs to Judah, and left his servant there. (4) But he himself went a day’s journey into the wilderness and came and sat down under a broom tree. And he asked that he might die, saying, “It is enough; now, O LORD, take away my life, for I am no better than my fathers.” (5) And he lay down and slept under a broom tree. And behold, an angel touched him and said to him, “Arise and eat.” (6) And he looked, and behold, there was at his head a cake baked on hot stones and a jar of water. And he ate and drank and lay down again. (7) And the angel of the LORD came again a second time and touched him and said, “Arise and eat, for the journey is too great for you.” (8) And he arose and ate and drank, and went in the strength of that food forty days and forty nights to Horeb, the mount of God. (9) There he came to a cave and lodged in it. And behold, the word of the LORD came to him, and he said to him, “What are you doing here, Elijah?” (10) He said, “I have been very jealous for the LORD, the God of hosts. For the people of Israel have forsaken your covenant, thrown down your altars, and killed your prophets with the sword, and I, even I only, am left, and they seek my life, to take it away.” (11) And he said, “Go out and stand on the mount before the LORD.” And behold, the LORD passed by, and a great and strong wind tore the mountains and broke in pieces the rocks before the LORD, but the LORD was not in the wind. And after the wind an earthquake, but the LORD was not in the earthquake. (12) And after the earthquake a fire, but the LORD was not in the fire. And after the fire the sound of a low whisper. (13) And when Elijah heard it, he wrapped his face in his cloak and went out and stood at the entrance of the cave. And behold, there came a voice to him and said, “What are you doing here, Elijah?” (14) He said, “I have been very jealous for the LORD, the God of hosts. For the people of Israel have forsaken your covenant, thrown down your altars, and killed your prophets with the sword, and I, even I only, am left, and they seek my life, to take it away.” (15) And the LORD said to him, “Go, return on your way to the wilderness of Damascus. And when you arrive, you shall anoint Hazael to be king over Syria. (16) And Jehu the son of Nimshi you shall anoint to be king over Israel, and Elisha the son of Shaphat of Abel-meholah you shall anoint to be prophet in your place. (17) And the one who escapes from the sword of Hazael shall Jehu put to death, and the one who escapes from the sword of Jehu shall Elisha put to death. (18) Yet I will leave seven thousand in Israel, all the knees that have not bowed to Baal, and every mouth that has not kissed him.”
—1 Kings 19:2-18 ESV
Notice a few things concerning Elijah and the Lord here:
1. Elijah was consecrated to God in the same way as we read in Romans 12:1 (“I appeal to you therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship.) He was a true worshiper of God.
2. Even though Elijah trusted God, he was afraid and depressed enough to die. While we don’t associate fear and depression with faithfulness, there was no doubt that God still considered Elijah faithful and still spoke to Him in a personal way.
3. God spoke to Elijah through the exact means needed to reach him. God’s tenderness is shown to the prophet. And while we are not to base our worship on feelings, God is mindful of the emotional state of His prophet and takes this into account in the way that He deals with His servant.
In light of this encounter, should any of us believe that God does not speak to us in the same way that He spoke to Elijah? As true worshipers, is the depth of relationship we have with God somehow capped so we can never experience the level of intimacy that Elijah experienced when God spoke to him in the whisper? Are we somehow perpetually lesser servants of God? I see nothing in the Bible that says that God cannot speak to me in the same way that He spoke to Elijah, even when I am afraid or depressed, just like the prophet. Why should we limit God? In fact, with the Spirit of God actually indwelling us, I believe that our potential for intimacy with God, to have amazing conversations with Him, are even greater than in the days of the Old Testament when God would periodically dwell on people rather than remaining in them.
Therefore, not only does God speak, but He speaks personally. He speaks to each one of us. His intimacy is with each one of His children, those who bear the Holy Spirit within. And not only does He still speak, but He speaks to our need, our place in Him, and in measure to our ability to respond. If Steve Camp has any fair remark it’s that too many self-appointed and highly immature “mouthpieces for God” want to talk when they should be listening, allowing God to mature them to the point where He will truly use them to speak if He wills. However, that fair criticism is used in a blanket way to establish a rule by which no one can ever relay the voice of God for an individual or group in the moment. By Steve’s rule, God would never speak in the way that He does here:
While they were worshiping the Lord and fasting, the Holy Spirit said, “Set apart for me Barnabas and Saul for the work to which I have called them.”
—Acts 13:2 ESV
If that kind of speaking is out today, then how are we to function as a Church?
Lastly, as the bearers of His Light, that Light speaks out from us to those in the darkness. Even our lives can be the words of God to mankind. Because God is still speaking, we should not be surprised when the person sitting next to us on the bus hears the Lord’s voice in our very countenance.
So if God is still speaking, the only question that remains is, Are we listening?
20 thoughts on “God Is Still Speaking”
I, admitedly, once thought along the lines of “God only spoke in Scripture”. But a friend once said what you have just said, and I became embarrassed about that thinking. Why? Because if God no longer speaks, then He is silent. And if He is silent then there is no faith.
Faith is the belief in things unseen, not unheard.
Oh yes, God still speaks. And thank you for putting this out there. It’s such a simple concept yet there is so much discussion of it, why? Wouldn’t you think this is one thing every faithful Christian could agree on?
And I say that, not to say that Christians who think He no longer speaks is faithless. I simply mean that they are faithful and therefore I would imagine they would understand.
But maybe they’re all like Hezekiah, they hear Him but they just don’t like what He’s saying.
Thank you for re-affirming my belief that we have a Father who is loving and HEAR; SEE and SPEAK to us!
No loving Father would remain silent to his children.
All of God’s children could hear him. Even we believe we could feel Him in Spirit, there is no reason why we could not hear.
Interesting post – I know that God speaks to me all the time – its finding the time to spend with him and to meditate on his word, not only that but sometimes it can be clear and loud when he speaks, when we are driving in the car listening to the radio or talking to a friend….
I wonder what Mr. Camp thinks about prayer? Is it speaking to a God who won’t answer?
I also am troubled by the denigration of emotions I see in viewpoints like his. Yes, of course worship should not be about feelings or cater to our feelings. Yes, of course we should not base our belief or course of action on feelings.
But feelings are not bad. They are good and God-given. And the idea that worship should be devoid of feelings seems completely idiotic to me. The idea that worship should be conducted by self-serious stoics seems a form of gnosticism to me. You know, “feelings” are inherently bad so we must ignore or transcend them.
— Jared, http://www.thinklings.org
Thanks for such a thoughtful response to Steve’s article. Well done!
I was so upset that he was falsely accusing the Vineyard of endorsing “holy vomit” that I couldn’t even formulate a response. Although I did email Steve privately to express my concerns, and he was gracious enough to respond (although he refused to change his story).
Thanks for investing thought into this, and including Tozer was a treat. He’s one of my favourite writers!
Amen to your post. As we read in Acts, the Holy Spirit led the apostles here and there or prohobited them from going to a place. Does that really mean circumstances? Or does it mean an inner sense that the apostles understood to be God speaking to them. I vote for the latter, although at times God could have also thrown in some circumstances to confrim it.
I am interested in your thoughts concerning worship and feelings. I believe I understand the gist of your perspective but it would help me if you would clarify your usage of the word “feelings”. Do you see a difference between “feelings” and “emotions”.
Ironically, I went back and read Camp’s first post on this topic of “Worship Wars” and he quoted Tozer! I guess Tozer cuts both ways—that’s one of the reasons I like him so much. He frustrates the liberals AND the conservatives and yet never veers from the truth of God.
I’m trying to use the words in the same context that Camp did. At least that what I shot for. Only you can be the judge of whether I hit that or not.
Truth encompasses what we want to hear and what we don’t want to hear. Hopefully though, all of us are moving away from the latter and more to the former. A good disciple takes both and praises God for both.
I like Steve Camp and found it hard to reply to him like this. I don’t think that Camp believes he’s praying to a God who won’t answer, but I just wish he would offer a few more options as to HOW God can answer. There’s this stream of thought filling the blogosphere lately that dictates exactly how God can speak to us. While I do agree that some of that speaking we call God may not be God and that discernment is needed, God gave us that discernment! We just need to use it rather than blanket condemn everything that looks a little different than what we are used to. Honestly, God spoke to Moses out of a burning bush. How odd is that? Does Camp allow that God might speak to someone by a similar means that is just as unusual, but still of God? It doesn’t seem that way; I’m not sure he’s even willing to allow that the Holy Spirit inside him can speak to him. He sure doesn’t want to allow that for other people, at least the way he attacked that possibility in his article. Can’t for the life of me figure out how he allows for something like I quoted from Acts 13:2. There would be no way to assure that a word like that had a perfect representative Scripture to go along with it to back it up. I mean, if God decided he wanted to send a woman named Tiffany to Samoa, there’s no explicit mention of a Tiffany or Samoa in the Bible to give me the imprimatur Camp would say is essential. That’s too bad.
I didn’t read Camp’s article so I don’t know how he used “feelings” and “emotions”. I was more interested whether you see a difference between the words with respect to a discussion of worship. It is hard for me to imagine worshipping God without emotion involved. How do you see it?
Dan Edelen: ï¿½Why should we be afraid of the Voice today?ï¿½
I think some of it involves doctrinal ï¿½cessationismï¿½. I also suspect that many pastors are sometimes afraid of something that they cannot totally control. Supposed someone in the congregation had a genuine gift of prophecy (for the edification and comfort of the church). In that case, here is something that cannot be 100% controlled by the pastor. Some pastors are very nervous about such things I think.
Lately, Dan, you have been writing some interesting posts, even uplifting posts, for me at least, which is why I have been coming back. I hope your trees are doing well.
Steve Camp & I have had more email conversations during the day, and he has removed the references to the Vineyard from his online article.
Steve was firm but gracious in our interactions, which I appreciated, but I was really impressed that he would go back and change the article because of new information that I was able to share with him. He told me that it was never his intention to malign the entire Vineyard movement in the first place, which is why he adjusted the article.
We still don’t agree on a lot of things! But I was impressed by Steve’s interaction with me and his willingness to dialogue and make changes where appropriate.
Both parts of your response here are brilliant. Thanks for investing the time in writing them.
Thank you for the kind use of the word “brilliant” with response to my postings on this subject. I hear that about as often as I hear myself referred to as “pulchritudinous.” Come to think of it, I don’t ever think I’ve heard either used to describe me in any way before! 😉
Camp’s a gracious guy, even if he can’t be considered subtle. Neither can I. Still, he actually came to my defense on another site when I used one of his articles to make a point. I was defending him there and he defended my defense.
I think he’s just a little short-sighted here.
Thanks for reading!
You know, I read through your article a few times and am still not sure what you mean when you use the word “speak”. Do you mean it in the sense that Diane does when she talks about having an “inner sense”. Or are you talking about some sort of objective revalation(audible voice, angelic visitation) which is what we mostly find in your scripture.
I’m not trying to pick on you(ok, maybe just a little) but I’ve heard so many people say “God told me this” or “God led me here” and what they really mean is that they felt this inner something and have interpreted it as being God trying to communicate with them. And there is absolutely no way to verify if what they felt was really God or last night’s chili.
I mean both.
As for verifying the voice of the Lord, Jesus said this:
“Truly, truly, I say to you, he who does not enter the sheepfold by the door but climbs in by another way, that man is a thief and a robber. But he who enters by the door is the shepherd of the sheep. To him the gatekeeper opens. The sheep hear his voice, and he calls his own sheep by name and leads them out. When he has brought out all his own, he goes before them, and the sheep follow him, for they know his voice. A stranger they will not follow, but they will flee from him, for they do not know the voice of strangers.”
(John 10:1-5 ESV—emphasis added)
That’s either true or not. I believe it is true. What then? We are called to know the Lord’s voice and not confuse it with last night’s chili.
In my post, Elijah was able to discern that God’s voice was not in the wind or the earthquake, but in the small whisper. That’s how it works.
Further proof of this is here:
And your ears shall hear a word behind you, saying, “This is the way, walk in it,” when you turn to the right or when you turn to the left.
(Isaiah 30:21 ESV)
Impression or audible voice, we should know what comes from God and what doesn’t.
Thanks for the clarification. I happen to disagree with your interpretation but I appreciate the manner and spirit with which you write and present what you believe.
If I have time(and I think I will), I’ll try to give my own commentary on the verses you reference above on my blog.
Grace and Peace,
Don’t know if you’ll see this but I finally got around to posting some comments on John 10. You can see them here
Have a good day!
I enjoyed your blog. I am working on a lesson for my youth group on 1 Kings 19 and found your article.
I agree with what you are saying. I think we have lost the point of the Bible being alive. I am currently reading Rob Bell’s book Velvet Elvis, and he spends quiet some time on this. If we don’t teach each other how to see and hear the voice of God…what a loss.
I also think that we need examples of how this is happening within our own lives or others that we meet. Yes, God can still speak to me in the way he did with Elijah, such as a gentle whisper. But has He? How do we identify this? How do we see the scriptures being alive within us to actually see God speaking to us as 1 King 19 becomes alive?
Honestly, when God speaks to us we hardly ever think about scripture and how our experience entertwines with our’s. We see them as seperate identities; just stories told way too long ago. We must challenge and provoke others to open their eyes…be still…and listen (even if they have there coat over there head).
Great challenge. Thanks for sharing. I will stay up-to-date on your blog now. Have a great day!
I’m interested in knowing how the author of this blog discerns when it is God speaking, versus when it is a Christian falsely saying “The Lord Spoke To Me”. Before you answer with “it has to match up with the bible”, let’s say it’s something that can’t be verified biblically. Suppose someone tells you that . . . they have “a word from the Lord” for you – that you should accept a certain one of the two job offers you’ve been given? Or someone who claims that God told them to buy the “Deep Spirit Study Bible” as was the example mentioned in my blog article:
How do you make a judgment of whether they are a true prophet, or whether (as the old testament would say) they should be stoned for saying “thus saith the Lord”?
And if somebody is wrong about one of their “God told me” claims, what should be our attitude? Should we just say “oh it was just a mistake, they had good intentions”, or should we handle the error as though God really cares that people are putting words in His mouth, and using his name in vain?
Lastly, isnt it true that when we claim that “the Lord spoke to me” we’re effectively putting ourselves on par with Scripture? The words of the bible are from God, and “so are mine” (because God told me). This would seem to dilute the sufficiency of scripture.
Tozer has some good things to say, but we dont want to follow him into error, if that’s where he’s gone. Also, he is a “modern” thinker. That’s fine, but perhaps the opinions of men from previous centuries should be consulted as well (ie: Reformers, Puritans, etc.).
As is the case made by James White in his book “Scripture Alone”, nobody is claiming that God doesnt speak, but rather that He’s speaking to us all the time through 66 pages of his book. The Holy Spirit uses the Word constantly to speak to Christians. This is not dead religion at all.