I was a baby Christian when the church to which I belonged at the time fell under the hoopla regarding Henry Blackaby’s “Experiencing God” study (published in 1990). Even though the study had been produced and circulating for about many years already, it had taken a bit of a while to get to our small church in rural Georgia.
I remember the promises that were made by the people promoting the book/workbook/study. “It will change lives.” “It will transform the entire church”. “There is nothing like it.”
I like to study and I went along with the flow and participated in it with a small group. Perhaps I am a natural skeptic, but from the outset I was leery of anything that promised life change that was not the Bible. As the study concluded, I decided that it was not for me, there were parts I didn’t understand and it made no change in me at all. The parts I didn’t understand were not because the material was complicated or overly theological or in another language. Even the most difficult or demanding of material I’ve studied in the Bible eventually becomes clear through hard work, proper study, and prayer. The Spirit makes it clear.
All things in Scripture are not alike plain in themselves, nor alike clear unto all (2 Pet. 3:16); yet those things which are necessary to be known, believed, and observed for salvation, are so clearly propounded, and opened in some place of Scripture or other, that not only the learned, but the unlearned, in a due use of the ordinary means, may attain unto a sufficient understanding of them (Ps. 119:105, 130). (Westminster Confession of Faith 1.7)
Experiencing the Experiencing God study caused confusion in me, not clarity. It’s what always happens when something I’m studying goes away from the Bible. The Bible is always clear to me. When things are not based on the truths found in the bible, they are cloudy, unclear, murky, opaque. This is how, through discernment, I know what is edifying and what is not.
It’s been 9 years since I took the Experiencing God study. I have learned quite a lot since then, by the Grace of Jesus and the edifying work of the Holy Spirit. I know that Mr Blackaby and co-author Claude King will have a lot to answer for when they stand before Jesus. Mr Blackaby opened the door to mysticism, (aberrant orthodoxy) and he opened the door to an experiential method of getting to know God and living it. (aberrant orthopraxy). The credentials that he had, of being part of the North American Mission Board, the International Mission Board and LifeWay, opened the door to allowing and encouraging both extremely poor orthodoxy and poor orthopraxy in the most conservative denominations of the faith.
John MacArthur commented on this remarkable and rapid insinuation of the EG study’s main precepts into even conservative sections of the faith in his essay False Prophets and Lying Wonders,
Similar ideas [that God gives extra-biblical persona, revelation] have found sweeping acceptance even among non-charismatic Christians. Southern Baptists have eagerly devoured Experiencing God by Henry Blackaby and Claude King, which suggests that the main way the Holy Spirit leads believers is by speaking to them directly. According to Blackaby, when God gives an individual a message that pertains to the church, it should be shared with the whole body. As a result, extrabiblical “words from the Lord” are now commonplace even in some Southern Baptist circles.
I’m saddened that the Experiencing God study is not only still used, but is still a best seller. According to Amazon.com, Experiencing God is ranked #42 in Books > Christian Books & Bibles > Education > Adult. That is amazing for a religious book/study published in 1990, twenty-five years ago. Many people have reviewed the study and tested it against the Bible. I won’t go into lots of parsing today. I have just a few questions about the book/study.
First, here are a few links to reviewers that have examined the Experiencing God study and why it comes up short when tested against God’s word.
- Stand to Reason has published an extensive review.
- Gary Gilley at Southern View Chapel has a three-part review. Part one begins here
The main point of Experiencing God has been touted again and again as this:
“Experiencing God: Knowing and Doing the Will of God” has a simple -– but challenging -– message: Find out where God is at work and join Him there. (source)
Here is my first question. Where is God NOT working?
Yet the Bible says,
But Jesus answered them, “My Father is working until now, and I am working.” (John 5:17)
The answer of course its that God is working everywhere.
If one digs beyond the motto of the study, there are 7 main points that the study brings up. None are bad on the surface. As a matter of fact, some are good. The trouble with this study is that it combines so much biblical truth with some lies that it makes it past the gate of all but the most discerning. Mixing biblical truth with doses of lies makes for a dense evangelical fog.
Here are the study’s 7 main points, which King and Blackaby call “7 realities”:
So, as number 1 says if God is always at work around us, why does the study always urge us to “Find out where God is at work and join Him there”. Why do we have to ‘find out’? Why do we have to go there to join Him? If I stay here, and don’t go there, am I in a dead zone, a spot where God is not working? Worse, do we obey God by using our visual senses to make a determination as to what God is doing in a particular place? What about the missionary who worked for years and had not one convert? Was God not working there? What happens when we ‘find out’ where God is working because it is a happenin’, exciting church, and then it plateaus, and we scoot off to another happenin’, exciting place, as Rick Warren says, surfing the experience? Have we not covenanted with the people we worship alongside? Do we just abandon them because we see a better prospect somewhere else?
Or is the seed that was planted and then watered by another dead in the ground … or was it simply waiting on God’s timing to grow it? (1 Corinthians 3:6). Do we wander off into where we “see God is working and join him there? Or there? Or how about over there?
Anyway, you can see the inconsistencies in the 7-point bullet list generated by Blackaby and King. Number 7 is particularly troublesome.
Not to mention the most personal experience of God of all. When we repent and believe, He sends the Spirit to dwell IN US. This is the most personal, intimate, wondrous experience on can have with God, His very self dwelling in us making our body His temple. What a poor substitute Blackaby offers, the temporal and fleeting experience of human experience to determine how to know God.
While some things that last are edifying (the Bible, The Valley of Vision, Pilgrim’s Progress), other things that seem like they are lasting (Experiencing God) are not edifying, and indeed, their popularity bespeaks this warning:
Woe to you, when all people speak well of you, for so their fathers did to the false prophets. (Luke 6:26).