Want to know the secret to hearing God? Here goes: Open your Bible and start reading.
Pro Tip: To hear God audibly, try reading aloud.
I’m sorry, was that not what you were hoping to find when you clicked the link? I see. Then you must have fallen prey to the “God still speaks to us” scam. Well allow me to enlighten you.
Framing the Discussion
One of the most popular lies being spread in Christian circles today is that God still speaks to us. Now before you go picking up stones, allow me to explain a few things:
- I’m not saying that God doesn’t speak at all.
- I’m not saying that God can’t speak audibly to us.
- I’m not saying that God doesn’t communicate outside of the Bible.
What I’m saying is that the Bible is the only source of communication that we know with 100% certainty comes from God. I’m also saying that we should never expect to hear God through any other means besides the Bible.
It’s extremely difficult to combat the lie that God still speaks to us because no one teaches it the same way. For example, here are just some of the phrases I’ve heard pastors and Bible teachers use when speaking on this topic:
- direct revelation
- prophecy or prophesying
- “God told me” or “God spoke to my spirit” or “I heard God say”
- “God laid it on my heart” or “God put it on my heart”
- “I felt led by the Spirit” or “God wanted me to…”
- whisper, impression, prompting, or “a still, small voice”
- spiritual discernment
Arguments Used to Support This Lie
This lie is being perpetuated by some of the most popular Bible teachers and celebrity pastors including Charles Stanley, Beth Moore, Rick Warren, Bill Hybels, Priscilla Shirer, Joel Osteen, Joyce Meyer, and Robert Morris. Although they each tend to put their own spin on it, here are some of the common arguments they all seem to use.
Argument #1 – Logical Syllogisms
Teaching on this topic generally begins with a philosophical argument. For example:
God loves you and desires a close, personal relationship with you. The most important part of any relationship is communication. Therefore, if God loves you then He must communicate with you.
My response is that God has already spoken to us, first through the prophets and second through His Son, Jesus Christ (Hebrews 1:1-2). Both of those forms of communication are found in the Bible. Without the Bible, we wouldn’t even be able to prove the first premise that God loves us (John 3:16).
Here’s another popular example:
All throughout the Bible we read about God speaking to people directly. Are we to believe that after thousands of years God suddenly has laryngitis?
My response is to go back and read your Bible. The number of people who actually heard directly from God was about one in a million, and even those people often had to wait for years in between conversations with God. Besides, just because God used to speak to people directly, doesn’t mean that He will continue to do so.
Sometimes these teachers might throw in an analogy for good measure. For example:
You’re surrounded by a constant barrage of radio and television signals, but you won’t be able to tap into them unless you have a receiver tuned to the proper channel. In much the same way, God is constantly speaking to you, but you have to have the Holy Spirit and align yourself to God in order to hear Him.
While analogies are helpful in communicating complex ideas, they cannot form the basis for theological doctrines that are not taught in Scripture.
Argument #2 – Personal Experiences
Those teaching on this topic will generally cite several examples as evidence. For example:
One time I got offered a job at another company that would have meant a promotion and a bigger salary. Even though we really needed the extra money, God told me not to take that job. And you know what? The other company went out of business a month later, and a month after that my current employer actually gave me a promotion and an even bigger raise.
As believers, we want to believe that these stories are true, but there’s no way to prove that this person actually heard from God. Besides, even if we could prove that this person heard from God, that in no way guarantees that God will speak to anyone else. What they don’t want to tell you is how many times they thought they heard from God only to find out later that it wasn’t God after all.
Also, notice that many of the stories they tell are misleading. They’ll claim that they’ve never heard audibly from God, but only received premonitions, impressions, or promptings in their spirit. However, the experience they describe sounds exactly like an audible voice. Beth Moore is one of the chief offenders in this category. Just listen to her description of what she claims God sent her forth to say to the audience at a Believing God conference:
“What God began to say to me about five years ago, I’m telling you it sent me on such a trek with him that my head is still whirling over it. He began to say to me, ‘I’m gonna tell you something right now Beth, and boy you write this one down and you say it as often as I give you utterance to say it. My bride is paralyzed by unbelief. My bride is paralyzed by unbelief,’ and He said, ‘starting with you.'”
See what I mean? She’s a regular prophet the way she has conversations with God.
Argument #3 – Biblical Support
Teachers of this lie cannot point to a clear Biblical passage where God promises to give all Christians fresh, extra-Biblical revelation. Instead what they’ll do is cite a couple of verses out of context:
- Christians can hear the voice of God because “My sheep hear my voice.” (John 10:27)
- They are quoting this verse out of context. This is a reference to a parable that Jesus told the Pharisees at the beginning of the same chapter. In this verse, Jesus is basically saying that only the elect will recognize Him as the Messiah.
- Some Christians don’t hear the voice of God because He often speaks in a gentle whisper or “a still, small voice.” (1 Kings 19:12)
- They are quoting this verse out of context. Read the entire chapter yourself and see if you find any promises that God will speak in soft whispers to your heart. Elijah was distraught because he had assumed that there would be a nationwide revival after God’s mighty miracle on Mount Carmel. When that didn’t happen, he assumed that he had failed or that God’s plans weren’t working out. God was making a point that He’s often accomplishing His will behind the scenes in ways that we can’t see rather than in majestic displays of divine power.
- The apostle Peter promised that our sons and daughters would prophesy, that young men would see visions, and that old men would dream dreams (Acts 2:17-18).
- They’re quoting the apostle Peter on the day of Pentecost where he references a prophecy from Joel 2. The problem is that this prophecy was only partially fulfilled on that day, and it won’t be completely fulfilled until the Great Tribulation. Do you see wonders in the heavens: the sun turned to darkness and the moon to blood? Peter realized that the gift of tongues was a sign that the countdown to the Day of the Lord had begun, and he was warning the Jews to repent before the rest of the prophecy is fulfilled and God’s wrath is unleashed upon the Earth. He wasn’t giving them good news that suddenly everyone could hear directly from God.
- Jesus promised that the Holy Spirit would teach us all things and guide us into all truth. (John 14:26 and John 16:13)
- Notice that Jesus says in the first quote that the Holy Spirit “will remind you of everything I have said to you.” He’s not making a blanket promise that all Christians will hear direct revelation from God. Instead, He’s speaking to His apostles, warning them that He’s about to be taken away and encouraging them with the good news that they will receive the Holy Spirit, who will give them the supernatural ability to perfectly remember all of His words and deeds. How else could the apostles, who probably never recorded a single event during Jesus’ earthly ministry, produce four Gospel accounts? Each account was written at least a decade after the actual events, yet each one contains amazingly accurate details as well as a unique perspective that proves they were not simply plagiarizing each other.
- Jesus is explaining that the Holy Spirit would speak His words out of the mouths of the disciples when they went out preaching and evangelizing (Luke 10:16, Mark 13:11, and John 17:20). This is confirmed by the fact that all Scripture is God-breathed (2 Timothy 3:16) and that all human authors were writing under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit (2 Peter 1:19-21).
- The apostle Paul promised that all can prophesy (1 Corinthians 14:31). He also explained how God promises to share secret truths with us that we cannot possibly know based on human wisdom and understanding, but only through spiritual discernment (1 Corinthians 2:6-16).
- They are twisting the first verse. When Paul says you can “all” prophesy, he’s not referring to all Christians, but only to the two or three in the preceding verses (those who have the spiritual gift of prophecy). Furthermore, in both 1 Corinthians 12 and also Romans 12:3-8, Paul specifically says that not all have the gift of prophesying.
- The spiritual discernment Paul refers to in the second verse is the supernatural wisdom granted by the Holy Spirit which allows us to understand the Scriptures. Many atheists know the Bible backwards and forwards, but without the Holy Spirit to guide them, the Gospel never penetrates their hard hearts. Therefore, the message of the cross is foolishness to them (1 Corinthians 1:18).
- “For God does speak—now one way, now another—though no one perceives it. In a dream, in a vision of the night, when deep sleep falls on people as they slumber in their beds, he may speak in their ears and terrify them with warnings.” (Job 33:14-16)
- You have to be super careful when quoting from the Book of Job, because it’s full of bad theology. Notice that the person speaking is Elihu, one of Job’s comforters. He’s a little arrogant, claiming to have perfect knowledge (Job 36:4), but he wrongly assumes that Job has done something sinful to deserve his misfortune (Job 33:8-12). Therefore, we cannot just accept what he says as truth without further evidence from Scripture.
- In addition, Job is probably the oldest book in the Bible, so at the time it was written, most if not all of the Bible didn’t exist. Therefore, direct revelation may have been more prevalent at that time than it is today. Now that we have the complete canon of Scripture, God has no need to give direct revelation.
Argument #4 – Imaginary Tips, Filters and Checklists
Peddlers of this scam cannot point to a clear passage about how to hear from God, so instead, they’ll try to pull principles out of a descriptive text. For example, in Robert Morris’ sermon series “Frequency” he gives the following steps to hear from God:
- Set an appointment because God comes to a prepared atmosphere (Exodus 19:10-11).
- Be still and worship (Psalm 46:10, Exodus 14:13, and 2 Chronicles 20:17).
- Pray and read the Bible (Mark 1:35 and Psalm 119:147).
- Listen and write (Psalm 45:1, 1 Chronicles 28:19, and Habakkuk 2:2).
Go back and read all of these verses in context, and you won’t find any promises that believers can hear from God by following these steps. If the Old Testament clearly taught a formula for receiving direct revelation, then why did the Jews believe that prophecy had ceased during the intertestamental period (1 Maccabees 9:27)? Why didn’t they just apply the formula and get some fresh prophecy?
Proponents of this lie often present checklists to confirm whether a thought you had actually came from God, but they never point to a clear passage. For example, in Charles Stanley’s sermon “Recognizing the Voice of God” he somehow discovers this checklist hidden in Matthew 16:
- God never contradicts His written Word, so make sure your impression lines up with the Bible.
- Sometimes an impression from God may contradict human reason.
- More than likely an impression from God will clash with your fleshly desires.
- An impression from God will probably challenge your faith.
- It’s probably God speaking to you if it’s something that calls for courage.
- When God speaks to you, it will require you to consider how the consequences affect others.
- When God speaks to you, it will require you to have patience.
- God will never say go ahead and forget the consequences.
- Typically the voice from God will tell you something that will grow you spiritually.
- When your impression is from God, it will bring you peace.
That passage is a historical narrative detailing actual events in history, and it certainly doesn’t contain any hidden principles on how to determine whether an impression came from God. Also, if anyone claims that God’s Word always brings peace, they’re lying (Matthew 10:34-36 and Jeremiah 6:10).
By the way, other pastors give shorter lists, just in case you think Charles Stanley’s list is too long. For example, in Bill Hybels interview about book The Power of a Whisper: Hearing God, Having the Guts to Respond, he gave a checklist of five questions to help you verify whether an idea came from God:
- Do I really believe this is from God? Is it aligned with His attributes and consistent with His character?
- Does it square with Scripture?
- Is it wise?
- Is it consistent with my wiring, my spiritual giftedness, and my experience?
- Do trusted people in and around my life, people who love God and love my, would they green light this? Would they affirm it?
Rick Warren’s checklist is similar to Bill Hybels’, although it’s not quite as short. However, Rick Warren claims that if you can answer yes to all seven of his questions, then it’s 100% certain that your impression came from God! Wow, he must have some seriously strong Biblical support to make a bold claim like that, right? Wrong, all he can point to is Habakkuk 2:1-2 and Psalm 23, neither of which mentions filters, grids, or checklists.
If you actually think that you’ve heard a clear message from God, and it doesn’t conflict with the Bible, then I recommend that you follow Gideon’s example rather than dubious checklists. Gideon asked God for multiple unmistakable supernatural confirmations (Judges 6:17-22 and Judges 6:36-40). If God has a new message for you, then I’m sure that He wouldn’t mind proving Himself so there’s no doubt.
Now that you’re familiar with the techniques used to support this myth, let’s see what the Bible has to say about it.
Argument #1 – Scripture is Sufficient
My primary reason for not believing in direct revelation is that the Bible doesn’t tell us to expect it. A close second would be the fact that the written Word is consistently praised throughout Scripture. Here are a couple of examples:
- “All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, so that the servant of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work.” (2 Timothy 3:16-17)
- All sola scriptura enthusiasts are familiar with these verses, but we typically only focus on the inerrancy of Scripture as confirmed in first half of the sentence. Notice that the second half of the sentence confirms the sufficiency of Scripture, which is paramount to today’s topic. If the completed canon of Scripture is sufficient for every good work, then that means there’s nothing I could do which would require new revelation from God.
- All 66 books (1,189 chapters or 31,173 verses) were breathed out by God, even down to the smallest stroke of the smallest letter (Matthew 5:18). God inspired at least 40 different writers over 1,500 years to record His words, with the full knowledge that they were writing not just for themselves but for our benefit as well (1 Peter 1:10-12). Why would God exert that much control over the recording of Holy Scripture unless it was important? If He was planning to give direct revelation to everyone, then He could have just skipped all of that.
- “We also have the prophetic message as something completely reliable, and you will do well to pay attention to it, as to a light shining in a dark place, until the day dawns and the morning star rises in your hearts. Above all, you must understand that no prophecy of Scripture came about by the prophet’s own interpretation of things. For prophecy never had its origin in the human will, but prophets, though human, spoke from God as they were carried along by the Holy Spirit.” (2 Peter 1:19-21)
Argument #2 – Scripture is Complete
God is sovereign over all creation (Psalm 147:5 and Colossians 1:15-20), which means that His Word is Law (Psalm 119:43 and Psalm 119:160). God’s Word is supremely powerful (Hebrews 4:12 and Isaiah 55:10-11), it cannot be broken (John 10:35), it is truth (John 17:17), and by it He created and maintains the universe (Psalm 33:6, 2 Peter 3:5, and Hebrews 1:3).
Therefore, there will never be a time when God says something insignificant. When God speaks, it is for the edification of the Body of Christ (1 Corinthians 14:1-5), and we shouldn’t take it lightly. If that’s the case, then anytime someone receives direct revelation, we should be stapling it to the back of our Bibles because it’s as authoritative as the rest of Scripture.
However, by all indications, the canon of Scripture is closed and we shouldn’t be adding anything to the written Word:
- “In the past God spoke to our ancestors through the prophets at many times and in various ways, but in these last days he has spoken to us by his Son, whom he appointed heir of all things, and through whom also he made the universe.”(Hebrews 1:1-2)
- Notice that it says prophets were in the past. In 2 Peter 2:1 it says something similar: “But there were also false prophets among the people, just as there will be false teachers among you.” Notice how it that there were false prophets, but now there are false teachers.
- “Dear friends, although I was very eager to write to you about the salvation we share, I felt compelled to write and urge you to contend for the faith that was once for all entrusted to God’s holy people.” (Jude 1:3)
- Jude writes using a definite article (the faith), so he’s not referring to the saving faith each individual must have to be a Christian. Instead he’s referring to the entire body of doctrine, the whole counsel of God (Acts 20:27).
- He also writes that it was once delivered to the saints, meaning that God’s not still delivering additional appendices to supplement the Bible.
- “I warn everyone who hears the words of the prophecy of this scroll: If anyone adds anything to them, God will add to that person the plagues described in this scroll. And if anyone takes words away from this scroll of prophecy, God will take away from that person any share in the tree of life and in the Holy City, which are described in this scroll.” (Revelation 22:18-19)
- I don’t know about you, but I wouldn’t want to test God on this point. In fact, this language is reminiscent of God’s command to the theocratic nation of Israel regarding false prophets (Deuteronomy 18:17-22). At that time, anyone who claimed to have a prediction from God which did not come true was to be put to death for speaking presumptuously. No one is under the Mosaic Covenant today, so we shouldn’t execute people for false prophecy. However, the gravity of that command should cause you to be extremely skeptical whenever someone claims to have received direct revelation.
- “Consequently, you are no longer foreigners and strangers, but fellow citizens with God’s people and also members of his household, built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, with Christ Jesus himself as the chief cornerstone.” (Ephesians 2:19-20)
- Notice that the apostles and prophets are the foundation of the Church. You only need to dig the foundation once when constructing a building. Therefore, the offices of apostle and prophet were a one-time thing until God finished delivering through them the complete canon of Scripture. Now that we have the finished Bible, we no longer need apostles and prophets. By inference, we should no longer expect to receive direct revelation.
Argument #3 – Role of the Holy Spirit
Most people who teach on how to hear from God will tell you that it’s the Holy Spirit living inside Christians that gives us the ability to receive direct revelation. Let’s see what the Bible has to say regarding the role of the Holy Spirit:
- He convicts people of sin (John 16:8) so they can experience godly sorrow that leads to repentance (2 Corinthians 7:10).
- It’s interesting that most people who push the false teaching of fresh revelation are the same ones who constantly talk about how super special you are: God has a wonderful plan for your life, you have all power and authority, etc. Very little time is spent warning people of the dangers of sin, and the reality of Hell, judgement, and God’s wrath.
- He glorifies God by pointing people to Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of their sins (John 15:26 and 1 Corinthians 12:3).
- Again, most of the people teaching that you can hear God’s voice barely spend any time explaining the full beauty of the Gospel. Instead, they treat it as a means to an end. For example, they might say something like this: “Of course Jesus died for your sins, and that’s great and all, but that’s not all He did. He promises to help you decide whether to take a new job or not. How cool is that?”
- Quite often you learn more about these teachers than you learn about Jesus. Their whole sermon is story after story about their own life so you can learn about how great they are. They’re so busy telling you about their direct revelation that there’s no time to mention Jesus.
- He teaches us all things and guides us into all truth (John 14:26 and John 16:13).
- This doesn’t mean that the Holy Spirit will help you find your car keys or explain quantum mechanics. The context implies spiritual wisdom and understanding so we can know the will of God (Colossians 1:9). Paul describes this as spiritual discernment, which we need to understand the Scriptures (1 Corinthians 2:6-16).
- This can also refer to the fact that He guides us when we don’t know how to pray (Romans 8:26-27, Ephesians 6:18, and Jude 1:20).
- He sanctifies us and helps us to grow in holiness (1 Corinthians 6:11, 2 Corinthians 3:18, 2 Thessalonians 2:13, and 1 Peter 1:2) so that we begin to exhibit the fruit of the Spirit in our lives (Galatians 5:22-23).
- The primary method that the Holy Spirit uses to sanctify us is the written Word, whether we read it or hear it preached (John 17:17 and Ephesians 5:26).
- As we grow in holiness, the Holy Spirit continues to align our conscience with God’s will so it becomes a better guide for us (Psalm 143:10, Isaiah 30:21, and Ezekiel 36:26-27).
- Another way that He guides us is through godly counsel from mature Christians (Proverbs 11:14, Proverbs 12:15, Proverbs 15:22, Proverbs 19:20-21, Proverbs 27:17). This loving form of guidance can sometimes come in the form of church discipline that seeks restoration (Matthew 18:15-17 and Galatians 6:1).
As you can see, the Holy Spirit works behind the scenes (like a still, small voice) to guide us and grow us in holiness. There’s nothing in the Bible to indicate that we’ll be aware of it when it happens, nor does the Bible contain instructions for identifying the true voice of God. We do find some examples in the Bible where God influences someone’s heart to accomplish His will (Exodus 4:21 & Exodus 9:12, Deuteronomy 2:30, Joshua 11:20, John 12:40, Revelation 17:17, 2 Chronicles 36:22, and Ezra 1:5). However, nothing indicates that the people are aware in advance that it is the voice of God speaking to them. In hindsight, it’s easier to see when God’s hand has been moving in our lives, but even then we can’t be dogmatic about it.
On a side note, you may have had your own personal experience in which you believe that God spoke to you, either audibly, in a dream, or in your spirit. That experience may have felt very real, and you may have even received knowledge that you couldn’t possibly have known through natural means. If I experienced that, then I would probably believe that it came from God, too. However, since you cannot prove to anyone else that it actually happened and that it came from God, then you cannot use it as evidence for direct revelation.
Argument #4 – Real Examples
When someone tries to give you 9 steps on how to hear the voice of God or 4 filters to confirm that God’s speaking to you, you can easily dismantle their arguments by looking at examples of actual prophets in the Bible:
- He wasn’t seeking after God, but simply tending sheep when God interrupted him (Exodus 3:1-2). In fact, he wanted nothing to do with the whole situation (Exodus 4:13).
- God didn’t speak to him by laying something on his heart, but by engaging in an audible two-way conversation accompanied by miraculous signs and wonders (Exodus 4:1-4).
- Moses did not have to interpret what God had said, because it wasn’t in any way unclear. He didn’t need to filter it through a checklist to make sure that it wasn’t a demon or his own inner monologue.
- He wasn’t seeking after God, but after wealth (2 Peter 2:15 and Jude 1:11).
- He engaged in wicked and sinful practices, and he defied the clear Word of the Lord by tempting God’s people into sin (Numbers 24:1, Joshua 13:22, Numbers 31:16 and Revelation 2:14).
- God spoke to him audibly using miraculous signs and wonders (Numbers 22:12, Numbers 22:28, and Numbers 23:5).
- Balaam clearly knew that it was God speaking to him (Numbers 22:31), and he didn’t need to run down a checklist to make sure.
- He was wrongly seeking after God by persecuting Christians (Acts 9:1-2, Acts 26:11, and 1 Corinthians 15:9).
- He was not praying to hear from the Lord, but God spoke audibly to him anyway (Acts 9:4-5, Acts 18:9-10, and Acts 23:11). He had a two-way conversation with God, indicating that he knew it was God speaking.
- Jesus is God incarnate, so anything He says is automatically Scripture. Therefore, when Satan tempted Him in the wilderness, Jesus could have answered with fresh revelation. Instead, He quoted from the written Word of God (Matthew 4:4, Matthew 4:7, and Matthew 4:10), indicating how important He considers Scripture to be.
- Jesus wanted specific things written down for us so that we might believe and have eternal life (John 20:31). Why would He do that if He was just going to give each us direct revelation?
- Jesus repeatedly upheld the authority and importance of Scripture (Matthew 5:17-18 and John 10:35), yet He said no such thing about fresh personal revelations from God.
- Jesus explained that the entire purpose of God’s direct revelation to humans was to point people back to Him (Luke 24:27, Luke 24:44, and John 5:39).
Hopefully you can see by now that God can speak to us anytime He wants. He doesn’t have to wait for us to follow a sequence of steps first, and He’s not required to answer us when we follow a certain procedure. Also, God has no problems communicating clearly; He doesn’t have to wait for us to get in a quiet place so we can hear His whispers. Finally, we don’t have to be sinless and perfectly seeking after God in order to hear Him. We just have to read the Bible, which God has made clear is His preferred method of communication to us.
What’s the Big Deal?
The myth that we all receive direct revelation is dangerous for a number of reasons.
De-emphasizes the Bible
I’ve just demonstrated that this false teaching is not taught anywhere in the Bible, so anyone who’s promoting it is automatically guilty of twisting the Scriptures. By encouraging the audience to abandon the clear meaning of the text, they’re actually leading people away from the Gospel. If any of these charlatans were actually receiving direct revelations, the Holy Spirit would be saying, “Open your Bible and stop abusing the written Word.”
These false teachers might give lip service to the Bible, by telling you how important it is to know the Scriptures so that you can make sure that your fresh revelation doesn’t contradict God’s written Word. However, in practice it always seems like the Bible takes a backseat to direct revelation. For example, listen to how Priscilla Shirer denigrates the Bible in her sermon “Hearing the Voice of God”:
“There ought to come a time in our relationship with Jesus Christ where hand-me-down revelation about God, spoon-fed to us from someone else is no longer enough. We celebrate that God has given us leaders, teachers, and speakers who help us to rightly discern the Word of God. But there ought to be an unsettledness in your spirit where at some point you say, ‘I appreciate God’s general Word, but what I want is a box to come with my name on it. I want a specific word straight from God for me. I want to know what job He wants me to take, I want to know what person He wants me to marry, I want to know what part of the city he wants me to live in, I want God’s specific revelation for me…The privilege that we have as Christians is not to be handicapped as believers to where we can only hear God’s Word when someone else is spoon-feeding it to us. But because the Holy Spirit lives inside each of us, our spiritual ears are tuned in and hearing the voice of God.”
Leads to Unscriptural Prayer Practices
These false teachers tend to encourage people to engage in centering prayer, transcendental meditation, contemplative prayer, or Lectio Divina. For example, they may tell you to read a single verse from the Bible and repeat it over and over until God puts a thought into your mind. Or they may recommend that you empty your mind and silently meditate to figure out what God is trying to say to you through that verse.
Instead, Jesus warned us not to babble like pagans when we pray (Matthew 6:7), which rules out any chants, mantras, or rote repetition. In addition, the Greek word for prayer (proseuchomai) means to humbly petition a deity; it does not imply a two-way conversation. Notice that when the disciples asked Jesus how they should pray, He gave them the template of the Lord’s Prayer and didn’t mention anything about how to listen intently for God’s response.
Creates Religious Caste System
Promoting direct revelation tends to establish a religious caste system. At the top are the teachers and prophets who claim to receive extremely detailed visions or have long conversations with God. They constantly regale the audience with tall tales about angelic visitors, trips to Heaven, and miraculous predictions. Obviously God loves them more than you because He shares so much new revelation with them.
They might claim that God gave them a divine mandate or vision for their specific church congregation, so if you disagree with them, then that means you’re defying a direct commandment from God. If they don’t like you, then they can cut you off from hearing the new revelations from God. This situation (where you have to go through someone else to get to God) is the hallmark of a cult, and it often leads to an abuse of power.
The next tier of people are those who claim to be receiving direct revelations, but they haven’t quite honed their skills yet. They tend to get things wrong because they’re still learning their craft, so they have to remain under the tutelage of a prophet. If they get an impression in their spirit and don’t follow it, they may experience extreme feelings of guilt, thinking that they have defied a command from God.
The scum of the Earth are people like me who’ve never received any new revelation from God. People in this tier are constantly told that all Christians hear from God, so they may conclude that they are not saved and experience a crisis of faith. For example, in Rick Warren’s sermon “Living in the Goodness of God: How to Be Led by God’s Spirit,” he says:
“If you’ve never felt guided by God, that’s a problem, because one of the proofs or one of the evidences that you do have a relationship with God, that you’re in his family is He guides you…Only those people who are led by God’s Spirit are God’s children.” (Romans 8:14 CEV)
People in this bottom tier may even get suicidal because they feel like there’s something wrong with them. They feel guilty because God doesn’t love them the way He seems to love the prophets. Eventually these people may end up faking direct revelation so they can move up into the second tier, only to become atheists later when they realize that everyone else is faking it, too.
You Must Accept Wacky Claims
If you believe in direct revelation, then you must accept any claims that don’t directly contradict the Bible. For example, you may hear a televangelist say that God wants you to sow a $1,000 seed offering into his ministry. How do you disprove his claim that God spoke to him and wants you to write him a check?
Here’s a quick rundown of some other claims of direct revelation that are so bizarre that they couldn’t possibly conflict with anything in the Bible:
- Seth Dahl claims that a giant angel of finance visited Bethel Church in Redding, California.
- Dawn Hill of Charisma Magazine claims that a transformational oil spill is coming.
- Lana Vawser claims that a season of popcorn is here.
- Rhonda Empson claims that the Two Witnesses of Revelation 11 are named Marshall and Russell and that they’ve just been released from hiding in a small U-Haul trailer.
Our default position on direct revelation should be that God no longer speaks to anyone directly—not that He can’t, but that He won’t, since He has already spoken to us through the Bible.
Even if someone is able to know things that aren’t possible through natural means, or even if they make very detailed predictions that come true 100% of the time, that still doesn’t prove that God is speaking to them. After all, Jesus warned us that “false prophets will appear and perform great signs and wonders to deceive, if possible, even the elect.” (Matthew 24:24)
Therefore, we must always perform the work of a Berean (Acts 17:11) and compare this person’s theology against Scripture. If they are a true prophet of God, then not only will they be able to perform miracles to confirm their calling, but their theology will line up perfectly with the Bible.