Posted in theology

When scripture becomes insufficient

By Elizabeth Prata

Why are there so many female teachers and preachers running around saying they have received a word from God or a prophecy from Jesus? Why is scripture suddenly INsufficient? Why do people seek after ‘a fresh word’? Did the Bible go stale? When was its expiration date?

These are the things I ponder as I see what is being taught or tweeted by so-called women teachers.

In truth, people have always wanted to exalt themselves within their spiritual circles by claiming to have heard from Jesus. It’s not a totally new phenomenon, because sin is not totally new. Neither are false teachers who want to cement their credibility with women who are undiscerning, to get their money. (2 Peter 2:3). However, the wider church’s reaction to such claims is what has changed.

In 1637 female preacher Anne Hutchinson had caused a ruckus that nearly split the nascent colony in two. She was holding meetings in her home where she preached, refused correction, taught that sin had no bearing on one’s attainment to heaven, and more. She held her own against the meetings she was called to with her deep knowledge of scripture and her articulate deftness of warding off opposers in her scripture war. However what did her in was her final argument at her trial, where she claimed God had directly told her she was to continue preaching and teaching. THAT was the final straw, and was a hook her adversaries could hang their hats on. Hutchinson’s fate was sealed.

“Anne was proclaimed a heretic. She and her family were banished from the colony and any supporters in positions of authority were removed. All supporters were forced to surrender arms.”

History.com

We don’t hear of people much since the mid-1600s, 1700s, and 1800s who claimed direct revelation- at least, none who were taken seriously by mainstream Christians. Hutchinson was exiled. Joseph Smith (Mormonism) Mary Baker Eddy (Scientology), Ellen G. White (Seventh Day Adventist) all claimed direct revelation and founded false sects of Christianity upon these alleged revelations from on high.

It wasn’t until 1906 when a “weird babel of tongues” as the LA Times put it, broke out at a local mission on Azusa Street.

‘New sect of fanatics is breaking loose’, ‘Wild scene last night on Azusa Street’, ‘Gurgle of wordless talk’

This new approach to Christianity, with the Holy Spirit allegedly speaking through people (and its twin soon arrived, prophecies) was not embraced widely- at first:

Christians from many traditions were critical, saying the movement was hyper-emotional, misused Scripture and lost focus on Christ by overemphasizing the Holy Spirit. Within a short time ministers were warning their congregations to stay away from the Azusa Street Mission

Washington Post

However, discontent with God’s word in the 20th century had arrived. More and more people claimed to have heard directly from God or Jesus or were prompted by the Holy Spirit…and the more that such alleged events were accepted, the more that other women and men clamored for similar experiences. Babbling in tongues and people claiming direct revelation were still marginalized throughout the early part of the 20th century. Everyone seemed to understand that the canon was closed.

Of Interest: What was the process of deciding on the New Testament canon?

Even when Henry Blackaby and Claude King published their book Experiencing God in 1976, it didn’t get a lot of traction at first. Inside the book, they taught that you can and should be hearing directly from God. The 2021 version states:

Earlier versions of the book promote a similar theological warning, for example: “If you have trouble hearing God speak, you are in trouble at the very heart of your Christian experience.” ~Henry Blackaby

When the 1976 book was revised and expanded and re-issued in 1990, THEN it took off. People were entranced with the idea that they could and should be hearing straight from God.

Blackaby was a conservative Southern Baptist, a denomination of adherents known back then as ‘People of the Book’, because people in the Southern Baptist Convention were strict about following the inerrant word of God. So they thought, if HE is saying this…and if Lifeway is promoting it…then it must have legs.

“There is nothing more important in life than understanding when God is speaking to you. If you are disoriented to God’s voice, your life is dangerously vulnerable. The Bible indicates conclusively that God does speak to people and that he does guide them in his will. The problem of not hearing from God never lies with God. He does communicate his will. It is not a matter of us searching in vain for God’s hidden will. He readily reveals it to those who show themselves obedient to do it. If you do not hear God’s voice, could it be your heart is not ready to respond to what he says?” ~Henry Blackaby

Wow. A lot of scare tactics there. ‘important’ ‘dangerous’, ‘vulnerable’, ‘problem’…

Removing the trustworthy word of God from its position from heaven outside our sinful minds and instilling a notion of God’s word emitting from a position of subjectivity and internal impressions and whispers only leads to confusion. Worse, was Blackaby blaming the believer when he or she doesn’t “hear”.

Beth Moore was also in the SBC and was considered conservative at the time she founded Living Proof ministries in 1994. She picked up on the Blackaby concepts and began to repeat them, that of hearing from God is an everyday occurrence, claiming she has direct revelations from on high, and teaching from these extra-biblical revelations.

Of course at the time there were others doing the same, claiming to hear directly from God, but those people were fringe and not taken seriously. But when Blackaby and Moore started with it, it took root.

The idea that Christians can and should hear audible words from God or rely on subjective impressions or respond to whispers, is a dangerous teaching that by nowadays has become deeply rooted in evangelicalism. 

Joanna Gaines of Magnolia industry and HGTV Fixer Upper TV show, Jennie Allen, founder of wildly popular IF:Gathering, Sarah Young of the books Jesus Calling, Lysa TerKeurst of Proverbs 31 ministry, Priscilla Shirer and others not only believe you should be hearing ‘a fresh word from God,’ but for years, these women have been actively using their ministries to teach women how.

The other day I wrote “A History of Quiet Time” that attempted to show when or where the idea of hearing God’s whispers during our Bible Study time originated. Of course, it goes all the way back to the Garden when the serpent whispered to Eve, but in modern times we can say that one place that the notion took traction was in 1898 when FB Meyer’s book The Secret of Guidance taught that we wrongly go about initiating things for ourselves “instead of ascertaining what God was doing, and where He required our presence.” If that sounds exactly like the 1990 Blackaby’s tenet, “Find out where God is at work and join Him there” well, Solomon said there is nothing new under the sun…

The Azusa Street babble, the various books through the decades promoting direct revelation from God, and the reissue of Experiencing God, combined with various women who consistently and persuasively teach and promote direct revelation has caused the unbiblical concept to become normalized. To be in the club now you have to say you’ve heard a fresh word from God and here it is…

This is sad. This causes confusion, jealousy, pietism, and ill-will.

Please rely only on the word of God. It is trustworthy, while whispers and impressions are not! The Word is Jesus and He gave us His word. It is pure, rich, truthful and dependable. Our subjective impressions are not.

Further Reading:

How Pietism Deceives Christians: The Errors of Elitist Teachings in the Church by Bob DeWaay

False prophets and lying wonders: Similar ideas 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.

Blackaby’s Experiencing God: if we’re to find out where God is at work and join Him there, then where is God NOT working?

A History of Quiet Time

Posted in theology

The History of “Quiet Time”

By Elizabeth Prata

This essay is about how the personal Bible reading time of the previous generations changed from prayers to God into personal communication with an expected back and forth between the believer – with God delivering individual revelations to the believer for daily living. A Disclaimer: The Holy Spirit does guide us. But we can’t ‘feel’ it at the time. Aside from knowing it as promised in the Bible, we can’t intuit what He is doing moment by moment. He certainly doesn’t whisper His daily directions to us. So how did this situation come about?

Continue reading “The History of “Quiet Time””
Posted in theology

If you think direct revelation isn’t still an issue, it is

By Elizabeth Prata

PODCAST LINK HERE

Ever since the Henry Blackaby and Claude King book “Experiencing God” was published in 1976, and swept conservative churches in the late 1980s and 1990s, people, especially women, especially have been told that it is normal to experience God in various ways – including Him speaking to us.

There’s always a track-back, or a ground zero for false notions to sweep the visible church, and Experiencing God was seminal in opening the door to hearing from God. The book instructs readers to “listen for God in your quiet time, and immediately write down what He said.” There are similar instructions throughout the book. The book’s instructions for decision-making is faulty and leads to notions of God and our relationship with Him that are errant.

Continue reading “If you think direct revelation isn’t still an issue, it is”
Posted in theology

God told me: part 5, Conclusion

By Elizabeth Prata

For the last week I’ve been presenting different essays examining from a biblical perspective whether direct revelation is happening today. There were 4 previous parts to the series. Today is the conclusion. It was sparked from a conversation I’d had with Jennifer Ross of Confidently Called Homemakers on her podcast. Please go take a listen to the wonderful material Jennifer has for you over at her site.

Part 1 here
Part 2 here

Part 3 here
Part 4 here

Over the course of the series, I looked at what is the ‘God told me’ religion? We also examined whether God speaks audibly today. In part 2 we learned how we can we confirm a voice we hear. And if it’s not God, then who is speaking? In part 3 I asked what is the difference between hearing audible voices and claims that God “spoke to my heart?” In part 4 I asked if we should we avoid ministries where the person says they receive direct revelation.

Here is my final question: Why is all of this important knowledge for the average Christian mom and wife?

Continue reading “God told me: part 5, Conclusion”
Posted in theology

‘God told me’: part 4- Should we avoid ministries where the person says they receive direct revelation?

By Elizabeth Prata

Part 1 here
Part 2 here

Part 3 here
Part 5 conclusion

Question: I’ve heard Christian women claim “voices from God” promised them a large following, or popular ministry, or a specific calling. How does this go against what’s written in God’s word? And should we avoid their “ministries?”

Answer: Because that is what satan promises. The first time we hear satan speak in the Bible he is making false promises that raise up sin in Eve; sins of the pride of life, sin of the flesh, covetousness of the world. That is what satan promises. When God speaks in His word, is it about Himself (see Job) it is about His redemptive Plan or about sin & holiness (see the Prophets) it is of His law (see Moses), it is about His Son (see John the Baptist). And so on. He doesn’t speak to us about our daily needs and wants. He just says trust me to give you clothes and food, and as for the rest, He says in Proverbs 3:6 in all your ways acknowledge Him, and He will make your paths straight.

Peter did have a large following but what Jesus told Peter was that he would be crucified. Paul became renowned not only in his time but ever after, but what God told Paul was that he must suffer for the sake of His name in every city, first, without telling him of the fame and adulation to come in succeeding epochs. Job was restored double what he lost but God didn’t tell him that ahead of time, instead the communication Job received was a majestic rebuke starting in chapter 38. John & James asked for fame/exaltation, but what they received was a warning that the first shall be last and the last shall be first.

When God spoke to His people or Jesus to His disciples, it was not to tell Mary Magdalene that she’d marry Aaron down the street or revealed to Peter his career prospects or the woman at the well to go on a play date with him at the zoo (as Beth Moore Claims Jesus said to her). Even saying this sounds silly when we substitute the names of the biblical characters but many women go around saying these stupid things and more. Avoid all ministers that are founded on, teach, or accept direct revelation.

In fact, Charles Spurgeon, the noted preacher from the 1800s, called people who claim direct revelation variously, hypocrites or maniacs, Semi-lunatics, madcaps, idiots, and their messages stupid.

I don’t advise being as harsh or direct as Spurgeon, but we can refer ladies to two verses in the Bible that show that the Lord takes seriously adding to His words. One is from the Old Testament in Deuteronomy 4:2, “You shall not add to the word which I am commanding you, nor take away from it, that you may keep the commandments of the Lord your God which I command you.” And we read in the New Testament in Revelation 22:18-19 where the Bible is closed out with this warning,

I testify to everyone who hears the words of the prophecy of this book: if anyone adds to them, God will add to him the plagues which are written in this book; 19 and if anyone takes away from the words of the book of this prophecy, God will take away his part from the tree of life and from the holy city, which are written in this book.”

God often commanded Jeremiah to warn against false and lying prophets. He says here in Jeremiah 29:23,

because they acted foolishly in Israel, and committed adultery with their neighbors’ wives, and falsely spoke words in My name which I did not command them. I am He who knows, and a witness,” declares the LORD.’”

God is holy and guards His holiness. When people attribute words to Him He did not say, these are lies, and the false revelator is including the Trinitarian God in his lie. Spurgeon said,

"If you feel your tongue itch to talk nonsense, trace it to the devil, not to the Spirit of God. Whatever is to be revealed by the Spirit to any of us is in the word of God already— he adds nothing to the Bible, and never will. Let persons who have revelations of this, that, and the other, go to bed and wake up in their senses. I only wish they would follow the advice, and no longer insult the Holy Ghost by laying their nonsense at his door.”

Yes, avoid any ministry from any man or woman who claims to have heard directly from God. He or she is leading you away from the word of God as written in the Bible, and bringing you down a primrose path of lies, and eventually judgment. The Jeremiah verse above promises death to false prophets and their example of judgment a curse on those tho tread in their direction. Commentator Matthew Henry says of the Jeremiah verse,

"Jeremiah foretells judgments upon the false prophets, who deceived the Jews in Babylon. Lying was bad; lying to the people of the Lord, to delude them into a false hope, was worse; but pretending to rest their own lies upon the God of truth, was worst of all." 

God took the time to reveal to us what He wants us to know, and took the care to preserve that word for all time. He sent His Son Jesus to speak that word as THE WORD to His sinful people. 1 John 5 says

I have written these things to you who believe in the name of the Son of God, so that you may know that you have eternal life.

You can trust the written word of God as all sufficient. It should be enough.

Posted in theology

God Told me, part 3: What’s the difference between hearing audible voices and claims that God “spoke to my heart?”

By Elizabeth Prata

I’m presenting a series of essays and podcasts that scripturally rebut the notion that God is still speaking to people individually today. Despite the glut of people, many of them women Bible teachers, who claim He speaks to them, dispenses life advice, or just whispers sweet assurances all day long, He is not speaking now.

Part 1 here
Part 2 here

Part 4 here
Part 5 conclusion

Now, for the past two parts in this series, I have been firm on the notion that God is not speaking to individuals today. I looked at where the Bible says He is not, at why He is not, and if this voice is not from God, then who is speaking? Today I want to look at the difference between God speaking audibly to people versus the Spirit’s inner work of sanctification, versus intuition and promptings.

4. What is the difference between hearing audible voices and claims that God “spoke to your heart?”

God speaking to my heart, or as often heard, “God laid it on my heart” is another shorthand like “God told me.” But it’s often an unwitting shorthand for a true doctrine- the doctrine of Providence. Just because God is not speaking directly to us today, does not mean He isn’t working in our lives. He is. How? Providentially. God is at work personally and intimately in each and every thing that happens on earth and in each person’s life, even if He isn’t telling us His business directly and even when He isn’t personally answering life questions like where to get a job or who to marry. God speaking today is not a question of His voice and how to hear it, but a question of HOW He works in our lives. We can read the definition of providence from Phil Johnson,

Providence is God’s continuous involvement with his creation whereby he preserves and governs all his creatures (from the greatest to the least)—so that in accord with his perfect will and design, he sovereignly orders everything he has made to accomplish everything he intends for his own glory. (Source)

Phil Johnson then goes on to speak about our intuition. It’s a tricky business to attribute our hunches and intuitions to God speaking to us directly, He doesn’t, but it IS true that He is working in our lives. We just cannot say that since an intuition turned out to be correct that it was direct revelation that prompted us. Phil Johnson goes on to explain.

[W]hat about those rare occasions when our intuition proves correct? Something we dreamed about seems to correspond to something in real life? A sense of foreboding motivates us to change plans, and it turns out to be a good thing?
Most of us have had experiences like that. Everyone has unexplained thoughts that seem to leap from nowhere into the mind. Most people likewise have hunches and instincts. Sometimes you just feel like you know a thing is true, but you can’t give an account for how you arrived at that knowledge rationally.
But how do we understand that inner sense, especially when God seems to use it to prompt us to pray, or witness, or duck and run at precisely the right moment? Because let’s be honest: that kind of thing does happen to most of us from time to time.
Here’s the point: I do believe that God might providentially use a spontaneous thought in my head to accomplish something wonderful. But that’s what it is, and no more. It’s a remarkable providence, not a prophecy. As I have been saying, God ultimately controls and uses everything providentially.
Here’s the problem: that’s as true of my sins as it is of the thoughts in my head. God can and does use them all for His own purposes. The fact that He uses an idea in my mind to achieve some good purpose doesn’t make the idea itself inspired. It also doesn’t make a bad idea good, just because God uses it for good.
Now, think this through with me: Since intuition is fallible—and almost everyone agrees that it is actually far more often wrong than right—we shouldn’t make much of it. Furthermore, since intuition is fallible, it cannot be considered “revelation,” even when it happens to be uncannily right in an instance or two. And if one or two of your guesses happen to prove accurate alongside a gaggle of dozens of failed prognostications, you should still be wary of granting your premonitions the status of a supernatural “spiritual gift.”
People who think moments of intuition are God speaking with a private message invariably become extremely superstitious. They foolishly order their lives by their feelings. They commit the sin of trusting too much in their own hearts.

Now, the ‘God spoke to my heart’ phrase could just be a casual shorthand for someone saying, “I have read the pertinent Bible passages and I now have a settled conviction that my decision to do X is consistent with God’s will.” But usually that is NOT what people mean when they say it.

Usually people mean it as a shorthand way of saying “God spoke to me and this is what He said I must do.” The latter is a way to escape accountability for their decisions.

Assigning to God the catalyst for your personal life decisions is a dangerous thing because it puts words in His mouth He didn’t say and pridefully indicates you know God’s mind at any given moment.

Phil Johnson, Shepherds Conference 2002, “Super Seminar: Private Revelations” said-

Now, does the Spirit of God ever move our hearts and impress us with specific duties or callings? Certainly. But, even in doing that, He works through the Word of God. Experiences like this, impressions and all, are not in any sense prophetic or authoritative except as they echo what the Word already says. They are not revelation. Those sensations, those impressions, those feelings you get are not revelation, but they are the effect of illumination. When the Holy Spirit applies the Word to our hearts, and opens our spiritual eyes to His truth. And, we need to guard carefully against allowing our experiences and our own subjective thoughts and imaginations to eclipse the authority and the certainty of the more sure Word of God. This is a very practical application of the principle of Sola Scriptura. Think about this…to what ever degree you seek private messages from God outside His Word, you have abandoned the principle of Sola Scriptura.

Part of decision making is trust- trusting God, trusting that He is in control of our lives, and trusting providential out-workings from our decisions. You will not ruin His plan if you make a life-decision. So go ahead and turn left instead of right, marry that person, go to the college you want to go to, take the job in another city. As long as you are adhering to the general, biblical principles outlined in the Bible, you can safely fill in the blanks with your own decisions. God knows how to merge our decisions with His fore-ordained plan.

In all your ways acknowledge Him, And He will make your paths straight. (Proverbs 3:6)

Judas decided freely in his own will to steal from the purse, to betray Jesus, to reject His miracles. Yet all was consistent with foreordained scriptures and was fulfilled exactly. God maintains that balance and we don’t have to know how.

In 2006 I decided to move to Georgia. I could have decided on Columbus Ohio, Honolulu Hawaii, or Anchorage Alaska, and it would have been the same. He established me in a church, found me a job, knit some friends into my life, gave me a dwelling place, and continued to sanctify me.

The LORD has established His throne in the heavens, And His sovereignty rules over all. (Psalm 103:19)

God does speak to our heart, because the Spirit dwells in us and transforms the evil desires of our heart to holy desires of God. But we can’t and don’t know at any given moment that this particular idea or thought is God’s. What we do know is that Romans 8:28 is true:

And we know that God causes all things to work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose. (Romans 8:28).

Posted in theology

‘God Told Me’ – part 2: How can we confirm a voice we hear? And if it’s not God, then who’s speaking?

By Elizabeth Prata

Part 2 of an ongoing discernment series addressing the issue of women, many of them ‘Bible’ teachers, who are claiming to hear directly from God. Part 1 here. Questions addressed in the previous part were

1. What is the “God told me” religion?
2. Does God talk to us audibly?

Today’s questions are:

3. If we do hear a voice, how do we know it’s from the Lord?
4. And if it’s not from God, then who is speaking?

Part 3 here
Part 4 here
Part 5 conclusion

Continue reading “‘God Told Me’ – part 2: How can we confirm a voice we hear? And if it’s not God, then who’s speaking?”
Posted in theology

‘God Told Me’ , part 1: What is it? And does God speak audibly today?

By Elizabeth Prata

Part 2 here
Part 3 here
Part 4 here
Part 5 conclusion

This month, the gentle and humble Jennifer Ross of Confidently Called Homemakers contacted me to interview about the rampant theological crisis in women’s ministry- expecting audible revelation from Jesus. We had a great discussion about it, weaving our way through the thorny issues of direct revelation. We talked about why so many women think God or Jesus is talking to them, and what to do about it. She posted the interview here on her site. She gave me permission to post my notes after her podcast had been published and propagated. So in this series of discernment lessons, over the next few days I am going to address this issue here on my blog and my own podcast.

It is a true problem. “Bible” teachers such as Beth Moore, Priscilla Shirer, Jennie Allen of IF:Gathering, and others claim that God talks to them, whispers to them, delivers prophecy to them, and directs them to launch ministries, even down to giving them the tagline. Many other women who claim Christianity but aren’t teachers per se, but have a large platform and influence, claim the same- God speaks to them, giving advice on career and daily matters. One example is Joanna Gaines of HGTV’s Fixer Upper and Magnolia Enterprises.

Continue reading “‘God Told Me’ , part 1: What is it? And does God speak audibly today?”
Posted in theology

Another danger of direct revelation: It’s making women who should be lionesses into wet paper tigers

By Elizabeth Prata

Edmonton pastor James Coates was released from jail yesterday. In case you have not heard of this situation, Coates pastors a church in Edmonton Canada. Canada has been making restrictive COVID-19 requirements, and for churches, it meant that severe attendance caps had been enacted, masks required, and much more. Coates decided to continue preaching in his church with no mask requirement and no attendance caps, in violation of said health regulations. He chose not to restrict his gathering, by default, locking out some saints while allowing others in.

He was jailed for his action.

The imprisonment of the pastor was a shock and a surprise to many, since Canada has a charter that protects religious liberty. Others were surprised the restrictions were so severe, because churches have not been spreaders in the province. Others, because we are familiar with the jailing of pastors in the 10/40 window of hostile nations but haven’t seen such activity in First World countries.

Continue reading “Another danger of direct revelation: It’s making women who should be lionesses into wet paper tigers”
Posted in theology

A loud voice told her…She heard a whisper…

By Elizabeth Prata

Ladies, if you hear a disembodied voice talking to you purporting to be God or from God, ignore it and get to your pastor for prayer as soon as possible.

Did you know that most of the cults started in the world were because a voice from the sky directed them or revealed something?

Continue reading “A loud voice told her…She heard a whisper…”