Theology Please Stop Saying " God Told Me "

In the article, Buice offers up seven important questions to ask when someone says "God told me" and six appeals to the preacher. Is Buice on...
By Ask Mr. Religion · Feb 18, 2017 · ·
  1. Ask Mr. Religion
    At Delivered By Grace a piece by Josh Buice calls attention to the frequently used "God Told Me" by some: http://www.deliveredbygrace.com/stop-saying-god-told-me/

    Buice begins...

    It happened again recently. I was listening to a sermon online and the preacher said, “God told me.” Apparently everyone in the congregation enjoyed it from the response I heard, but I immediately turned it off. This type of communication is becoming more prevalent in Christian circles. It’s showing up in conversations because people are hearing it from the pulpit and reading it in books they purchased from the local Christian bookstore. Perhaps it sounds spiritual or is emotionally stirring to the congregation.

    Although the “God told me” method of communicating makes for interesting, suspenseful, and entertaining stories, what people need most is to hear from God. I would like to make a simple request. Please stop saying “God told me” unless the phrase is immediately followed up with a text of Scripture. Have you considered the connection between the “God told me” language and the sufficiency of Scripture? What connection does the “God told me” phrase have with the third of the Ten Commandments?​

    In the article, Buice offers up seven important questions to ask when someone says "God told me" and six appeals to the preacher.

    Is Buice on target? What has he missed, if anything? To respond, use the comments section or, if you think the topic requires some extended discussion, feel free to start a separate discussion thread.

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    About Author

    Ask Mr. Religion
    Patrick's primary theology interest areas are in the Reformed theological tradition including: theology proper, philosophical theology, soteriology, translating Byzantine tradition New Testament manuscripts and various ecclesial Latin manuscripts.

    Patrick holds degrees in engineering (PhD, BS), Adult Education (MS), and theology (MDiv, STL) and is a faculty mentor at the Puritan Reformed Biblical Seminary. He, his wife of over thirty-five years, and son, reside in sunny Chandler, AZ.
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  1. Cromwell&Providence
    God's Word is undoubtedly sufficient, but what of unbelievers who have never been acquainted with His works before? I indeed understand that it is a very delicate task to try and interpret Providence, but what of spiritual regeneration? When you experience God's marvellous light in the Personhood of the Spirit, it is that calling. I can only speak for myself, but I indeed describe my journey of gradual conversion to being that of "God told me", for I had no prior knowledge of any of this.

    As always, discernment is key, and in this case the context matters. The concerns that people made in regards to self-idolatry and to use the Lord's name in vain are valid. But I for one would rejoice in a zealous preacher who used the words "God told me" to describe his own personal journey, and I believe the phrase should be encouraged, as it is an exaltation of God's glory rather than a rebuttal of it.

    I understand the natural temptation to mince words when a preacher may rely on their listeners to use inference, especially at a time when the Church has been in such rampant decline. And indeed having been disappointed with the Anglican clergymen I experienced growing up, I too have a natural scepticism to what some ministers may say. Especially when all too often these days they seem more concerned about being appealing and inclusive, than they do about teaching the primacy of the Bible, hence why I'd welcome a more charismatic trend. But all it takes is a God-given common sense to discern between genuine heresies and idle superstitions.
  2. Christian Teegardin
    The Bible is a closed canon so anyone saying 'God told me' would theoretically have to add it to the Bible since the Bible is composed of what God spoke, and since the Bible is the ultimate authority to everything Christian, and that the fact is that the Bible hasn't been added onto since the addition of Revelation, I can safely assume that people are not hearing from God when they say that 'God told me.'

    My two nickels.
  3. Pilgrim
    Since Buice is a Southern Baptist, my guess is that the preacher he heard was one too.

    I've been struck by the extent to which elements of charismatic spirituality have seeped into the SBC in recent years, whether among those who are Calvinistic or those who are not. Henry Blackaby and Beth Moore are very popular among them and both of them are big on "God told me." (Among those who are Calvinistic and perhaps of a certain age, the test may be whether their main influence was MacArthur or Sproul on the one hand or Piper or Grudem on the other.)

    There is a lot more to charismaticism than tongues. Some who would tell you that they are not charismatic are nevertheless into Third Wave type "spiritual warfare" with prayer walks and so on. Those who were heavily into the church growth movement may have been influenced as much by the likes of C. Peter Wagner as they were by Hybels or Warren. By contrast, 30-40 years ago, charismatics knew that their brand of spirituality wasn't welcome in the vast majority of Southern Baptist churches. (If it had remained unwelcome, I wonder how much more of a decline we would have seen in the SBC's membership numbers.) About a decade ago, my alma mater (a SBC affiliated college) got rid of the liberals on the faculty and claimed to be bringing back historic Baptist teaching. Instead, the administration and some of the faculty were essentially bapticostals who engaged in various outrageous antics, with "God" telling them what to along the way.

    Some have reported that more than once they've seen someone from a Board of Trustees come out and announce they've found "God's man" to lead a denominational agency only for his tenure to end in some kind of controversy or scandal shortly thereafter. "God told me" is generally also just a convenient way for some to try shut down a conversation and squelch dissent so that they can do what they've decided they need to do.

    In my more mischievous moments, I imagine myself saying "Oh, you say God told you that? Well, he told me the opposite. Are you sure you weren't hearing from the devil instead?"

    Something that isn't emphasized enough is the connection (or common root) of liberalism and this type of pietism (along with Catholicism, etc.) It opens you up to extra-biblical teaching. Thus, the society is against biblical marriage, (or for manstealing or some other unbiblical practice) so it becomes convenient for "God" to tell you that the bigoted fundys are wrong about it.
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  4. TheologiaCrucis
    When God is speaking in scripture he is addressing the universal terms of His covenant and Salvific plan. He is not inspiring your day today. How God acts with David is not a prototype for your life.
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  5. TheologiaCrucis
    No one was stronger on this topic than Luther who, in his battles with the enthusiasts, made it clear that one should render any supposed "word" other than that revealed in Scripture as if it could just as easily be the word of the devil as the word of God.

    The same thing happens here as in spiritual gift inventories. We make God say what we want him to say. We convince ourselves that our inner desires are God's own voice. It is self idolatry.
  6. Stope
    I know we were already having this chat, but for me its clear in scripture:

    1. God has spoken all we need for living in the closed Canon
    2. God is still speaking today, not "new" doctrine or scripture, but He speaks to us, or better said he "Directs us". Formally lots were cast, but now we have the Spirit
    3. But, it most be said, I will always maintain that when I think I have heard God direct me, I will say I "think" God has said/directed/placed in me the desire to...
  7. Ask Mr. Religion
    I become very worried when people start saying, "the Lord spoke to me today" or "I don't do anything unless the Lord tells me to do it", etc., as if God is actually directly speaking to someone (Murray speaks to this directly). God does not provide special revelation outside of his Word now that the foundation of our faith is laid in it by the prophets and apostles in His Word.

    History suggests that the greatest errors and atrocities of any age have often been done under the mantra of “God told (or led) me,” independent of Scripture. Signs, feelings, "Bible dipping" for random verses, and perceptions are often mistaken, or overstated.

    One does not divine God's will. One lives God's will as one comes to know Him through His Word. God never calls us in the New Testament to "seek His will," but rather to seek His kingdom and do His will. We ought to stamp out of our vocabulary the non-biblical and misleading expression "finding God's will."

    Murray writes in The Guidance of the Holy Spirit:

    “The moment we desire or expect or think that a state of our consciousness is the effect of a direct intimation of us of the Holy Spirit’s will, or consists in such an intimation and is therefore in the category of special direction from him, then we have given way to the notion of special, direct, detached communication from the Holy Spirit. And this, in respect of its nature, belongs to the same category as belief in special revelation”​
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    1. Christian Teegardin
      Amen brother. Great way of saying things.
  8. Taylor Sexton
    I think he is right on the money.

    It's funny that you post this, because I was listening to Dr. John Gerstner's "Handout Church History" lectures the other day, and he harped on this same issue. I think it is important to recognize, as Gerstner did, that many times when someone says, "God told me, etc.," what they mean is, "I believe God is giving me the sense that he is leading me in a certain direction." Dr. Gerstner told of a student he had in his class that claimed that "God told him" to go to seminary. Dr. Gerstner pressed him for about half an hour before he could get him to admit that what he really was saying is what I just said above.

    So, I think we do need to have some grace for people who say God told them something, when what they really mean is that they sense possibly some sort of a leading, although they can't be certain. However, there are those, as the Buice pointed out, that do use "God told me" language for evil purposes. Discernment is necessary to know how to deal with either. While, indeed, "God told me" language is dangerous and has horrifying theological implications, grace is needed for the former, while stern rebuke for the latter, I would gather.
    1. Ask Mr. Religion
      Indeed. I believe that determining the will of God begins by fully integrating God's will into every aspect of our lives. This comes from a thorough understanding of the Scriptures, so we can obey what God has already commanded us to do and how to live (praxis), see Proverbs 6:22. This walk of sanctification increases our God-given common sense, too, so that we should not be calling upon the Lord for every little decision in our lives. Studying the Scriptures helps us to know what God thinks about a myriad of topics, so we should have the answers to many important questions in front of us.

      This way God's will is often so clear that only obedience, and not guidance is necessary.
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