Last week was a bit of a milestone. I picked up the bound copy of my master’s thesis. The following is a modified version of an article I wrote for my church’s newsletter recently explaining my thesis topic:
If you’ve been following this blog for some time, you know that I recently graduated from Dallas Seminary with a ThM Degree. However, graduation was delayed due to delays in my thesis completion and approval. Despite the struggles, it was worth the endeavor because I wrote on a topic that I believe deserves addressing in our contemporary evangelical environment. The title of the thesis is “God Already Spoke: A Response to Extra-Scriptural Divine Speech.” I interact with three books that encourage hearing the voice of God outside of Scripture. These books are Surprised by the Voice of God by Jack Deere, God Told Me by Jim Samra and Jesus Calling by Sarah Young. I refute the premise these authors promote that God needs to tell us more about himself or his requirements for us than what has already been communicated through Scripture.
I have been immersed in this topic for some time. Having spent much of my earlier Christian life in Charismatic type churches, there was always the expectation that God needed to provide additional information through some kind of direct speech, rather through a “prophet” or a voice we hear in our heads. The underlying presumption is that Scripture is insufficient to hear the voice of God and we need something more.
My journey towards discovering God’s voice through Scripture and its sufficiency began in 2006 when a friend challenged me on how I was reading the Bible. Like many today, I read it in a very fragmented fashion, which served as a springboard to hear the voice of God outside of Scripture. But this way also subjects divine speech to inconsistent methodology. I was re-oriented with a framework of how the 66 books should be taken as a whole. Over time, I discovered the beauty and sufficiency of the redemptive-historical narrative of Scripture that provides a wonderful picture of God’s communication to us.
A key text in building my argument for the sufficiency of divine speech in Scripture, Heb. 1:1-3. God has spoken by the Son. I assert in my thesis that popular prescriptions overlook the relationship of divine speech with God’s self-revelation, which was mediated through the select individuals, events related to redemptive history and through Christ. All speech prior to him found its content in his words, as the ultimate revealer of the Father’s will. God did not speak to people in the Bible to give us a model to emulate. Divine speech encompassed both his words and historical acts, which were directly related to his redemptive purposes in Christ. Scripture is written revelation that affirms the testimony of Christ and gives us sufficient words to know and obey God.
So God Has Stopped Speaking?
Whenever this topic emerges, many rebuttals arise. The resistance arises because this premise seems to promote a lack of intimacy that should be ensconced in a vibrant relationship with the Lord. Let’s be clear, we do need to hear God speak. He has placed eternity in our hearts, as the writer of Ecclesiastes says. There is a longing in our soul to receive assurance and comfort from our Creator.
So I sympathize with the rebutters. We don’t have a relationship with a book. When we say, “God no longer speaks outside of his Scripture”, I believe that is what many hear. It sounds cold and impersonal. It drives many to seek experiences to hear from God. Experience is not wrong but we must put it in its proper place. Who has not experienced words or even full sentences forming in their head as if the Lord himself was speaking directly to us?
I contend in my thesis this is not God speaking to us directly, providing more information that we need but affirming what he has already spoken. I contend that the voice we hear in our heads is actually the voice of our own conscience moved upon by the on-going work of the Holy Spirit who reminds us of God’s love and guidance in our lives.
John Calvin puts it nicely,
But what kind of Spirit did the Savior promise to send? One who should not speak of himself (Jn 16:13), but suggest and instill the truths which he himself had delivered through the word. Hence, the office of the Spirit promised to us, is not to form new and unheard of revelations, or to coin a new form of doctrine, by which we may be led away from the received doctrine of the gospel, but to seal on our minds the very doctrine which the gospel commends.
The beauty of Scripture is that it is a product of the Holy Spirit; it is God-breathed. Scripture is inherently supernatural because it is God’s written revelation to us. When we hear the Christ-centered preaching of the Word, we hear God speak to us. When our brothers or sisters encourage us with that right on time passage of Scripture, it is God speaking to us. When we open his Word in our own personal time and let the words of Scripture wash over our soul, it is God speaking to us. Let us hear with open ears and avoid the false attractions of extra-scriptural speech, which sounds attractive but ultimately fails in providing the assurances that we need for Christian life.
 Calvin, Instit. 1.9.1.