Damaging doctrine: “If you can’t hear God speak, it must be your fault”

Interesting article about the idea that somehow our young people must hear an audible word from God. This is a very damaging teaching, and someone I love very much had his entire faith shaken down to the core by this. If you’ve ever talked to a young person about the panic and doubt over whether God really loves him or her or is even really there, this testimony from Amanda Bowers at Hears His Voice blog might sound familiar. What is behind this teaching? Read on:

Can’t Hear God Speak? Repent, says Henry Blackaby

I received the following comment from a reader on my recent Note of Repentance:

“At the Passion 2012 conference, Beth Moore, John Piper, Louie Giglio and company taught/led an entire sports arena (45,000 college aged students) in (attempting to ‘hear’ God’s voice). My son’s friends in attendance of this conference told of a young girl standing outside the arena crying her eyes out because she had not heard the audible voice of God as they had instructed. Others tried to comfort her but were also distraught at not hearing a thing.

This is what Louie Giglio announced during a session that had them upset:

“How many of you heard the voice of God speak specifically, clearly, directly, and personally, to you? Can you just put a hand up? I’d like you to share it. Can you put a hand up for a minute?
Just want you to look around; that’s people saying, “God Almighty (pause) the Maker of heaven (pause) the one Who’s sitting on the only throne (pause) that’s not under threat (long pause, audience cheers)—He spoke to me. He spoke to me.”
“God spoke to me.” (long pause) Don’t let the voice of the darkness, tell you that you are not (pause) worth (pause) that God would not speak to you. (pause) Don’t let him tell you, you don’t matter. (pause) God spoke to you.”

They felt they must not be “good enough Christians” for God to speak to them. Thank you for warning others of this heresy. These children are diligently opening themselves to a potentially demonic spirit to hear God’s audible voice. Please pray for them and for all the others who raised their hands…”

The issue at hand with the current push to “hear God speak” outside of His already revealed, complete, and written Word is that it creates confusion, hurt, and sets up a system of pietism within the body of Christ. This idea that Christians can and should hear “audible words from God” is a dangerous teaching that has become deeply rooted in evangelicalism. And unfortunately, it is through books like Experiencing God and Hearing God’s Voice, authored by widely respected Southern Baptist pastor Henry Blackaby, that these false and dangerous teachings have entered into the church. Please understand this is precisely why I am repenting from endorsing the teachings of Beth Moore and Henry Blackaby. As well intentioned as they might be, they are leading people down a dangerous path of subjectivity and confusion.  When in fact, in the gospel of Luke we read:

“Inasmuch as many have undertaken to compile a narrative of the things that have been accomplished among us, just as those who from the beginning were eyewitnesses and ministers of the word have delivered them to us, it seemed good to me also, having followed all things closely for some time past, to write an orderly account for you, most excellent Theophilus, that you may have certainty concerning the things you have been taught.” (Luke 1: 1-2, my emphasis)

Clearly, Luke is telling Theophilus, it seemed good to him, just as the patriarchs wrote down the eyewitness accounts of the events from the beginning of time, and just as they were ministers of the word and delivered them to the Israelites, that he also desired to write down the things they witnessed about Christ in an orderly account. Why? So that Theophilus may have certainty concerning the things that he was taught. Doesn’t it seem to you, that God has done a most gracious thing in giving us the Holy Scriptures? Giving us a more sure account of His progressive revelation that was final and complete in His Son, Jesus Christ, as it plainly states in Hebrews 1:1-2:

“Long ago, at many times and in many ways, God spoke to our fathers by the prophets, but in these last days he has spoken to us by his Son, whom he appointed the heir of all things, through whom also he created the world.” (my emphasis)

Peter admonishes us to understand that the things they have written are not mere men’s thoughts or cleverly devised fables when he sates:

“And we have the prophetic word more fully confirmed, to which you will do well to pay attention as to a lamp shining in a dark place, until the day dawns and the morning star rises in your hearts, knowing this first of all, that no prophecy of Scripture comes from someone’s own interpretation. For no prophecy was ever produced by the will of man, but men spoke from God as they were carried along by the Holy Spirit.” 2 Peter 1:19-21

This begs the question, if the prophecies of Scripture that the apostles wrote and spoke about were not “produced by the will of man” but were spoken “from God as they were carried along by the Holy Spirit”, what exactly is it that we are listening for from God today? Are we listening for prophecy? If so, are we claiming to be on the same ground as the apostles and are these prophecies occurring as we are carried along by the Spirit? Shouldn’t someone be writing them down in the back of their Bibles? Wouldn’t God want the entire body of Christ to know when He speaks? Are there things missing from the Word that we must have in order to live a godly life?  The Scriptures answer that question too:

“All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, equipped for every good work.” 2 Timothy 3:16-17

More specifically, I want to know how Mr. Giglio, et al. would counsel this young lady and her friends? What are your answers to her distraught feeling that she is, in fact, not worthy of hearing God’s voice? What Biblical ground and by what authority do you make the claims to these young people that God will speak to them in such a fashion?

Here is what Mr. Blackaby’s says to those who do not hear God’s voice:

“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 to 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? Are you clinging to sin or holding out against what you already know of his will? No matter what the reason for the silence, there is a remedy: repent and return to God. Allow God to soften your heart so you are ready to hear his voice and to respond in obedience. Continue seeking and listening until you have heard him speak to you in his unmistakable voice. When he does, it will change your life.” Henry T. Blackaby; Richard Blackaby. Hearing God’s Voice (Kindle Locations 3100-3104). Kindle Edition, (my emphasis)

Mr. Blackaby, the question one has to ask is this: does this mean that you are sinless? Does this now mean that since you are regularly and actively hearing God speak, you have special access to God that His other children don’t have because of sin in their life? I understand that Scripture does teach that sin and rebellion will bring chastisement to God’s children. We all understand that. Scripture says that God doesn’t hear our prayers when we sin and rebel, but where does it “indicate conclusively” that we won’t “hear God speak”? A true child of God abhors sin in their life and will respond under the heavy burden of conviction and chastisement. Torturing God’s little ones by teaching them that if they aren’t “hearing Gods voice” it is because their “heart is not ready to respond” and that they need to “repent and return to God” is not Biblical.

Just to be clear that Mr. Blackaby is not talking only about the illumination of the Word by the Spirit of God, but is actually encouraging us that if we aren’t actually hearing God’s voice speaking to us, then it is perhaps because we are in sin and need to repent, read what he says in response to the following question:

Question: “When you talk about “hearing from God,” I picture God speaking in an audible voice. Does that ever happen?

Answer: When we talk about God speaking in this book, we are referring to any way God communicates with people. Neither of us has ever heard God speak audibly. However, God has clearly communicated his will to us many, many times. God is sovereign. He can choose to speak to us any way he chooses, and that includes speaking audibly. However, God also relates to us in ways that build our faith. If God spoke out loud every time he wanted our attention, we would not need to concentrate on him, nor would we require faith. Just as we are forced to listen carefully when someone speaks softly, so by God speaking to us in many ways, we are forced to pay close attention to what he is communicating. People are usually fascinated by the spectacular. They seek the miraculous. We ought not to seek the spectacular when we listen to God. Rather, we should be pleased that God communicates with us in any way he chooses’. Keep your heart open to all the ways God wants to communicate with you.

Henry T. Blackaby; Richard Blackaby. Hearing God’s Voice (Kindle Locations 3044-3050). Kindle Edition (my emphasis).

Let me clarify that, while I agree with Mr. Blackaby that God is sovereign and He can choose to speak to us “any way he chooses,” it is clear from His Word that in these latter days He has chosen to reveal Himself  through the written Word:

“For whatever was written in former days was written for our instruction, that through endurance and through the encouragement of the Scriptures we might have hope.” Romans 15:4

I’m all for rightly dividing the Word of truth and calling men to repent and receive the grace of God for forgiveness of sins. That is a call that will “change your life.” There is an inner call to repentance that all God’s children hear when the Word of God is rightly preached, but that call is mediated through the preaching and teaching of the Word and it is conviction of sin and the revealing of Christ in a manner that opens the eyes of the blind to understand the Word of truth. This is a miracle of the Spirit. God does mediate His truth to us via the teaching and preaching and study of His Word and we who “hear His voice” understand and respond to His Word.

“But they have not all obeyed the gospel. For Isaiah says, Lord, who has believed what he has heard from us?’ So faith comes from hearing, and hearing through the word of Christ.” Romans 10: 16-17

If that were all that is being taught here, then I could understand it, but it is not. This is going beyond the understanding of Biblical truth and the application of it to our lives. This is the seeking of revelations for specific directions to our lives. This is an encouragement to empty and/or quiet (be still) your mind in order to receive or hear “His voice.”  God gives us wisdom via the study of His Word and He gives us guidelines and principles and He does lead us providentially, but He is not a magic eight ball that we can ask a question, shake, and get an answer if we are “still” and “listen” in “silence.”

Below is the Passion 2012 clip where Louie Giglio is exhorting the audience to “listen” for God’s voice:

And in the clip below, Todd Friel of Wretched Radio does an excellent job helping us better understand why this whole event was, at best, a big confusing mess, and at worst, flat out wrong!

I will note, that he references that Desiring God ministries did have an article with instructions on the practice of Lectio Divina at the Desiring God website, but that article has since been removed and you can read the reason why by going here.

Additional Resources
A Note of Repentance For Those To Whom I Taught or Endorsed Henry Blackaby and Beth Moore
Hello, My Name Is Amanda, and I Was a False Teacher
How Pietism Deceives Christians (The Errors of Elitist Teachings in the Church)
We’re Really Not Out To “Get” John Piper and Beth Moore

Sola Sisters: Can’t Hear God Speak? Repent, says Henry Blackaby

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4 Responses to Damaging doctrine: “If you can’t hear God speak, it must be your fault”

  1. Ted says:

    Beth Moore has always had a glazed, dazed, half smirk demonic look in her eyes. Same look Joel Osteen and Paula White have.


    • Stephen says:

      I read your post only minutes ago, 122 weeks after you'd originally posted it; I fell off my chair, bumped my head, cracked a rib, ruptured my esophagus, swallowed most of my tongue, and lost part of my liver.
      Your post was funny, that's what I mean to say.


    • nonsupernaturalist says:

      Growing up fundamentalist/evangelical, I was told that as a born-again Christian God would “speak to me”, “move me”, and “lead me” so that I would know and could follow his will. I listened to others talk about how God spoke to them, moved them, and led them to do this and to do that…but He never did the same for me. I finally came to the conclusion that there must be something wrong with me because God had decided he didn’t want to talk to me. So I left the Church.

      Many years later I became an orthodox Lutheran and was told that God doesn’t work like that. The evangelicals are wrong. The voice they are listening to is their own. According to “true” Christianity, God speaks to Christians in only one manner: through his Word, the Bible.

      That gave me a lot of peace…until I found out that the “Word” is full of discrepancies, errors, and scribe alterations.

      I was very sad (and angry) to find out—it is ALL nonsense.

      So what about my problem of not hearing the "voice" that other evangelicals were hearing speak, move, and lead them? After deconverting completely from Christianity, I came to realize that it was THEM, not me, that had the problem. They were hearing voices. I was the sane one…who did not.


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