Friday, 5 November 2010

God is always talking to people in the Bible?

We're looking at the moment at whether the Bible teaches the idea that God will regularly communicate to us directly outside of his written word. Christians who believe the Bible does teach this often claim that we should "listen to the Spirit", or wait for that "still small voice". They might teach that "prayer is like a telephone" and so we should not only talk to God, but wait for him to talk back. All of these methods usually amount to waiting for a strong inner "impression" of something. Sometimes they might say that we need to read our circumstances correctly so as to ascertain God's will. I contend that this is a mistaken belief about the Bible's teachings and I want to have a look at some of the arguments Christians sometimes put forward to support it.

Just read your Bible man; God is always giving direct communication to people!

One of these arguments is that it is just readily apparent that because the Bible includes lots of accounts of God giving direct 'supernatural' communication to people, we should expect to have that too. But this is a rather superficial reading of the Bible as the historical narratives contained within span thousands of years and are not random insights into the every day life of a believer - they are recollections of special events within the history of God's people.

Most of the time period that the Bible covers takes part in the Old Testament and we have good reason to think that in this time God's people didn't expect regular communication to every believer. Unlike their surrounding pagan nations the Iraelites didn't believe that God's will was discerned through "deductive divination" which involved interpreting circumstances and omens to discern God's will. Rather "in Israelite thinking that which is in the category of inspired divination is allowed - God speaks; but that which is in the category of deductive divination is forbidden (John Walton - Ancient Near Eastern Thought and the Old Testament, 2007: 249)." As Walton explains, inspired divination came specifically through prophets - and not everyone was a prophet! 

A case for God's regular special communication to all believers cannot be made on the observation that God communicates directly a large number of times in the Bible.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I think what you wrote is very interesting. I am in fact one of those people who believes that God is talking to people even to this day!
In the New Testament, He told Mary she was going to have Jesus by sending an angel. He told Joseph about Jesus in a dream. He told the shepherds through angels as well. John had the whole vision of the book of Revelation, and God was pretty much talking to Him through the whole thing as well. But I know that God is still talking today because He talk to me!
I've had a couple of dreams that have changed my life, and I know they were from God because they would NOT have come from my own imagination. I have had many people tell me things they thought God wanted to tell me, and many of them have happened!
There is no way that all that was not God :)