Should Christians expect to hear God’s voice?

hear, see, speak . . . no evil

Did you know that every time God speaks in Scripture it is through an audible voice, never through an inner voice, impressions or feelings, and that includes Elijah’s still small voice? So contends Gary Gilley, in his review of the book, Hearing God, by Dallas Willard.  Willard believes that Christians should hear God’s voice apart from Scripture.

Willard has been a favorite of the Contemplative Prayer movement, and in fact is one of its biggest proponents and teachers.  First, you’ll need to know that Dallas Willard, Richard Foster and others have taken the word Contemplative and re-defined it. It no longer means reflecting thoughtfully on Scripture verses and meditating on God’s Word, but thanks to the CP trendsetters it now means emptying your mind to hear your soul, and emptying your soul to hear God’s voice.

But there is a big problem with going “into the silence.”  Let’s pick up the review of the book by Gilley over on Ken Silva’s Apprising Ministries site:

…At the heart of both spiritual formation and mysticism is God speaking beyond the pages of Scripture.

For this reason Hearing God is an important book, written by one of the premiere leaders within the movement.   That Willard is merely updating the same message he delivered nearly 30 years ago shows that the spiritual formation movement has not changed its basic teachings.  And what are they?  In essence, that we can live “the kind of life where hearing God is not an uncommon occurrence” (p. 12), for “hearing God is but one dimension of a richly interactive relationship and obtaining guidance is but one facet of hearing God” (p. 13).  In other words, the maturing Christian should expect to hear the voice of God, independent from Scripture, on a regular basis and that voice will reveal God’s individual, specific will for his life.  Such individual communication from the Lord, we are told, is absolutely essential because without it there can be no personal walk with God (pp. 26, 31, 67).  And it is those who are hearing from God today who will redefine “Christian spirituality for our time” (p. 15).

This premise leads to a very practical problem, however, one Willard will address throughout the book in many ways.  The problem is, how does one know that he has really heard from God?  Could he not be confusing his own thoughts, or even implanted thoughts from Satan (pp. 235-237), with the voice of God?  This is even more problematic because Willard believes that while God can speak audibly or use dreams and visions, normally His voice will come as a “still small voice” heard only within our own hearts and minds.  In fact, so vital is this “still small voice” that the author devotes his largest chapter to exploring what it means (chapter 5, pp. 114-153).  Yet in all of his discussion on the topic, it never seems to dawn on Willard that the original “still small voice” to Elijah (1 Kings 19:12-18) was in fact an audible voice, not an inward impression or thought.

Since Willard believes that God normally speaks to us through an inner, inaudible, subjective voice (p. 130) and that it is possible that God is speaking and we do not even know it (pp. 118-120), how can we be certain when God is speaking to us?  In answer Willard boldly informs us that we can only learn the voice of God through experience (pp. 9, 19, 21, 63, 143).  He clearly states, “The only answer to the question, how do we know whether this is from God? is By experience” (p. 218) (emphasis his).

Read the rest here! 


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4 Responses to Should Christians expect to hear God’s voice?


    The word in John 10:27, ' My sheep hear my voice' is not speaking of an audible voice but an inner apprehending. The articles insists that God never speaks outside Scripture except in an audible voice which cannot be proven from Scripture.

    'Even in the biblically recorded instances of God speaking, it is not always clear whether it was an audible voice, an inner voice, or a mental impression.'

    We learn to discern right from wrong through experience, Hebrews 5 makes that clear. Also if a person does not believe the gifts of the Spirit are for today they are much more likely to think the Bible is it, but in fact the Bible is the standard, and the standard says God speaks to us.

    In fact I do not think that spiritual formation is biblical in in broadest sense, but certainly we are to hear God's voice. God did not just hand us a letter filled with instructions and head back off to heaven to see how we would do. He I dwells us through the person of the Holy Spirit. How can one explain the word of knowledge gift described in 1 Cor 12 except as a word to our inds from God. Or did Paul mean God audibly spoke in the midst of the congregation?

    Paul makes a distinction also in 1 Cor 14 between gifted, ungifted, and unbelievers. There is a debate in the churches and among them today between gifted and ungifted believers. The danger to the gifted is to float away into something not grounded in the truth, as the Corinthians were doing. The danger to the ungifted is to think of the Bible as a letter from God and not the premier vehicle by which the Word of God speaks to His own.

    Lutherans and most Baptists do not believe that the gifts of the Holy Spirit are for today, so it stands to reason they would ignore those teachings and deeply question anything that suggests God frequently speaks to His children. I wonder how my children would feel if I just sent them a letter affirming my love for them, but never came close to affirm them in love or guide them in discipline?

    Our heavenly Father disciplines us, Hebrews 12. How is that accomplished if He is not speaking to us through the circumstances of life and the action of the Holy Spirit upon our consciences?


    • Linda Fite says:

      I too am struggeling with what appears to be extreeme leanings in the discernment ministries. I am guided by the Holy Spirit and do find it is mostly when I am reading the Word. However I also have times the Lord nudges me about a situation in my life, and have had dreams I feel are from the Lord.
      Because of my background, Mormon and New Age, I am careful to always test the spirits 1 John 4:1. But, as you noted in John 10:27 we as His sheep do know our shepherds (Jesus) voice.
      I do not see enough comments on the blog sites about this. Most all discernment ministries state we cannot hear from the Lord except through His Word. Do you think they are just not communicating well? That they do mean what we hear should always line up with His Word? It's hard for me to comprehend they may have never personally heard from the Holy Spirit.


  2. Glass House says:

    It is interesting that despite your doctrinal leanings, all Christians (save deists) believe that God has a Will for their lives. So depending on how you think God interacts with His children will determine how that Will will be understood. We rely on an "inner peace," an "answer" coming to us in prayer, or "signs" put in our way to serve as guideposts.

    No matter how your slice it, it is our subjective reality being manipulated by a Transcendent Truth.


  3. Mr Davis says:

    Hearing from God. It cannot be solely the bible. We fail to realize just how many Christians in the world are following after God as moved by the Holy Spirit and have not the word of God to reference let alone the whole council of God.

    It is important to remember God's work isn't established by men or dependant on men but by the Holy Spirit. This is upside down today where we think God is somehow limited by our efforts or obedience. What is impacted is how much God is blasphemed because of us due to our ignorance and neglegence.

    In the case where we do have God's word. He expects us to be obedient to test and prove our behavior/ conversation if it is from God or not. John 3:21 If anyone speaks from Christ as should be the practice 1 Peter 4 of born again believers when we gather together, other believers will recognize it as being from God or if it is not. This is why we are called to judge what is said publically 1 corinthains 14:25-32 and correct or exhort so that all may learn and all be edified. This we do not do.

    Today if something is said that is off or not edifiying to the body to the nessesity of laying asside our wills for the sake of the gospel we make it a private matter due to custom or tradition, even though all may have heard what was said and deceived. In this sense the reformation was incomplete for Catholic practices still prevade our services though they be against God's word.

    As has already been mentioned the gifting of the body by the Holy Spirit wasn't for us to have an elite attitude thinking ourselves something because of what we have received by the grace of God but so we could serve one another and lift up one another. 1 Corinthains 12 and Romans 12. Where people believe the gifts are active today this isn't practiced. They rather magnify their gift taking on a mantle of pride which the Lord finds abhorrent.

    It is amazing to me despite all this abuse and sin management that pervades our worship, God still chooses to use us as His vessles to carry forth the Gospel of Peace whereby we are to call all men everywhere to repentance and faith in the One Lord our Savior Christ Jesus. This too we seem to have forgotten.


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