Not too long ago, I wrote a post to counter the increasingly popular myth that God still speaks to us. At best this lie is a huge distraction, and at worst it’s a trojan horse that allows false teachers to gain access to your local church congregation.
One of the biggest peddlers of this scam is Priscilla Shirer. Although it’s been over a decade since she first published her book Discerning the Voice of God, she and her husband Jerry were recently on TBN’s Praise program discussing it with hosts Matt and Laurie Crouch.
Of course it’s not surprising to see TBN air this false teaching. After all, they regularly feature veteran heretics like Kenneth Copeland, Jesse Duplantis, and T.D. Jakes. However, in this case they had Priscilla on to promote her book as a gift offer for people who donate to TBN. That’s right, they’re “teaching for shameful gain that which they ought not to teach.” (Titus 1:11 ESV) For that reason, I thought now would be a good time to rebut her arguments from the television interview as well as a few from the book itself.
Error #1 – She thinks that conversation is the main focus of Christianity.
Matt began the interview by asking Priscilla why this subject matter is so important, and she answered:
“It is important because this facet of our faith is what separates our faith from every other so-called faith on the Earth: that our God lives. He’s alive, and He speaks to us. We have an actual relationship with Him, and that’s so casually thrown around, this whole relationship thing, but what good is any relationship if nobody’s talking to each other, if there’s no communication, if there’s not a connectedness that is ongoing and continual?”
- So the most important difference between Christianity and other religions is that our God speaks to us? That’s strange, because I would have ranked salvation by faith, not works as the key difference.
- Notice how she immediately appeals to a logical syllogism about how relationships work? That’s because she can’t appeal to a Biblical text to make her case.
- Jesus said, “There is no greater love than to lay down one’s life for one’s friends” (John 15:13 NLT), but apparently Priscilla considers conversation to be a higher form of love.
Error #2 – She thinks that the Bible is about us rather than about Christ.
Priscilla admitted that she’s never heard God audibly, but Jerry described hearing from God as an experience where you feel God’s presence and then your feeling lines up with Scripture to confirm that it was God speaking to you. Priscilla added:
“That’s right, so the Holy Spirit of God illumines Scripture. The book is alive, and He causes the old precepts of Scripture to have a nowness and a newness that applies and intersects with our personal experience. So as Jerry mentioned, the Holy Spirit in us confirms and corroborates and connects with the Word of God and causes it to intersect with our experience. So that verse that has something to do with David and Goliath all of a sudden it’s not about David and Goliath. It actually applies to what you’re facing right then in your life, and you understand it as a directive straight from God.”
- Oh man, she started off so well. It’s true that the Holy Spirit illuminates Scripture, but He does so to point us to Jesus (John 15:26). The passage on David and Goliath is a historical account detailing an actual event, and in it David’s victory over a seemingly invincible adversary prefigured Christ’s victory over sin, death, and the devil (Isaiah 27:1 and Hebrews 2:14-15).
- God did not intend for us to mine these descriptive texts for prescriptive principles on how to overcome giants in our own lives. She is leading people astray by putting their focus on themselves and what they have to do rather than on Christ and what He’s already accomplished on our behalf.
Error #3 – She appeals to personal experience as evidence rather than the Bible.
Matt said that he’s never heard God audibly either, but the experiences he described sound exactly like audible voices. Priscilla said that she and Jerry have had similar experiences, and Jerry described one of them:
“We were at a family reunion on my father’s side of the family, and I remember one of my cousins said, ‘Jerry, do you realize that if you don’t have any boys that the Shirer name will die with you.’ And I looked around, and I’m like, wow! And at that moment, I felt like the Lord said to me, ‘Jerry, you’ll have nothing but boys.’ And so I looked at Priscilla, and I told her what He said.”
Priscilla then added:
“And so in that moment where he felt like the Lord said that to him, he really felt like the Lord was saying, ‘I’m doing this on purpose. I’m going to change what it means to be a Shirer man through this legacy.'”
- She claims that she’s never heard God speak audibly, and that she’s only felt impressions. Yet somehow she’s able to feel God’s will in complete sentences.
- We don’t build our doctrine on personal experiences, because those are subjective. Instead we build our doctrine on “the prophetic word more fully confirmed” (2 Peter 1:19 ESV).
Error #4 – She claims that we can make mistakes when we hear God.
Laurie asks Priscilla how can we trust that it’s really God’s voice speaking to us rather than our own thoughts? Here’s Priscilla’s response:
“Well, let me just start by putting a little grace over this entire situation. The reality is that sometimes you do not know until hindsight that what you heard was the voice of God. And the reality is that there is grace and mercy to cover our missteps, and that the Lord in His graciousness toward us, His knowledge of our frailty and our humanity, for the willing heart who desires to do His will, even when we make mistakes, He allows them to become our greatest teachers for hearing Him correctly in the future. He does not hold it against us because we’ve misstepped along the way so just grace for those of us who have ever heard God wrong and wish we could get it right.”
Later on during the interview, she adds:
“Discerning the voice of God is never something you’re going to arrive at, it is never something you’re going to be successful at…You will be on your deathbed still wanting to know whether or not you have clearly heard the voice of God.”
- During one of the breaks, a voice-over claims that God speaks special words of destiny to us which will impact the course of our lives. Of course that’s not true since the Bible alone is sufficient for all our good works (2 Timothy 3:16-17), but if it were true then it would be unacceptable not to be able to hear the voice of God. Think about it: God has something in mind that He wants to accomplish in your life, but you haven’t mastered the skill of hearing Him correctly? That must make Him very angry with you.
- If we need God to give us grace and mercy rather than holding it against us, then that must mean that we’re sinning when we don’t hear God correctly. Should I repent of that sin?
- Her false god isn’t the omnipotent God of the Bible. When God wants someone to know something, He doesn’t have to wait until they learn to hear Him.
- If we don’t know until hindsight that it was God speaking, then how are we supposed to know which voices to listen to until it’s too late? And if I don’t do what the voice is telling me to do and then I find out later that it was God giving me instructions, then that means I just defied a direct commandment from the Lord. That’s a big deal! It seems like I’d be better off just listening to every voice just to make sure I don’t ignore God.
- If I’m never going to know with 100% certainty that I’ve clearly heard the voice of God, then why should I buy your book?
Error #5 – She’s making it much easier for false teachers to enter into the Church.
Priscilla shares one of her tips for hearing from God, something called the Ministry of Eli:
“Do you remember the little boy Samuel? He had an older, wiser guy in his life named Eli who was the one who pointed out to him that the voice you’re hearing is the voice of God. You need to have a wiser, more mature believer in your life who you admire. You go to them and you say here’s what I think the Lord is saying. Would you pray through this with me? The majority of the things that we have done in ministry as a couple, we have not done before we have called people that we are submitted to their authority, asked them would they pray through and give us their wise counsel before we took a step. So we’ve submitted ourselves to the Ministry of Eli, we’ve got Elis in our life.”
- The Bible is clear that we ought to seek godly counsel when making a big decision (Proverbs 11:14, Proverbs 15:22, Proverbs 20:18, and Proverbs 24:6), however there’s a difference between getting advice and getting permission. Frankly, I’m a little worried about the language Priscilla uses when she says that she’s submitted herself to the authority of mature believers whom she admires. The New Apostolic Reformation has a very similar teaching that you have to submit yourself to the authority of the modern-day apostles and prophets that God has raised up to govern the Church. Unfortunately, Priscilla’s teaching lowers Christians’ guard against the NAR, and makes it easier for them to gain control over believers’ lives.
- Instead of submitting to the authority of “Elis” in her life, why doesn’t Priscilla just submit to the authority of the written Word of God which says that women are not permitted to preach during a church worship service (1 Corinthians 14:34-35 and 1 Timothy 2:11-12)? I’ve seen her disobey this clear and direct commandment on several occasions. Don’t you think that if she was actually hearing from God that He would tell her to stop preaching in church? In fact, the apostle Paul makes that very argument: “If anyone thinks they are a prophet or otherwise gifted by the Spirit, let them acknowledge that what I am writing to you is the Lord’s command. But if anyone ignores this, they will themselves be ignored.” (1 Corinthians 14:37-38)
Bonus: Errors From the Book
I would be remiss if I didn’t at least point out a few problems with the book itself, so here goes:
- PRISCILLA – “You can distinguish God’s voice by pressing into Him.”
- PRISCILLA – “When God speaks, your response is to obey, not to think.”
- ME – Danger, danger! Watch out when a Bible teacher tells you to turn your brain off. It means that they recognize that what they’re saying is nonsense, and they need you to suspend your disbelief so they can get away with it.
- PRISCILLA – “I mean, come on, do you really think He loved you enough to die for you, but not enough to talk to you?”
- ME – “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)
- PRISCILLA – “Matthew 6:6 promises that ‘your Father who sees what is done in secret’⸺the praying, listening, and seeking⸺’will reward you’ with His presence, His guidance, and the gripping sound of His voice.”
- ME – The gripping sound of His voice? I thought that God doesn’t speak to us audibly. This lady is full of contradictions. Note too that Jesus didn’t say that last part; she added it. Also, the rewards that Jesus is referring to in this passage are not earthly rewards, but heavenly ones (Matthew 6:1 and Matthew 6:19-21).
Those errors are bad enough, but listen to this last one:
“Jesus speaking to His disciples in John 10:27, assured them⸺and us⸺of this promise: ‘My sheep hear My voice.’ No ifs. No buts. No exceptions. No escape clauses. If you’re His child⸺if you’re one of His sheep⸺the certainty of God speaking to you is as sure as the chair you’re sitting in…So let me interject some questions to you at this point: Who do you belong to? Is Jesus Christ your true Shepherd? Have you received Him as your Lord and Savior? Do you belong to Him? I ask because the Bible makes plain that those who have not bowed their knee to Jesus⸺accepting His sacrifice on the cross for our sins and committing our lives to Him, thus receiving God’s Spirit⸺should not expect to hear the voice of the one true God in any ongoing way. All the listening in the world cannot tune the ears of the flesh to hear the holy. ‘People who aren’t spiritual can’t receive these truth’s from God’s Spirit. It all sounds foolish to them and they can’t understand it, for only those who are spiritual can understand what the Spirit means’ (1 Corinthians 2:14 NLT).”
WOW! So in other words, if you’re not hearing God’s voice then you’re probably not even a Christian. This is the same type of demonic doctrine that’s taught in some Pentecostal/Charismatic churches when they claim that you must speak in tongues to demonstrate that you’ve received the Holy Spirit. These lies end up scaring people to the point where they either fake spiritual gifts to fit in or else they give up and leave the faith. Priscilla must have realized how awful she sounded, because later she adds, “However, if you have placed your faith in Jesus Christ, yet you’re discouraged right now because you’re struggling to discern His voice, please don’t doubt your salvation.”
Reviewing the Reviews
It’s a sad commentary on the state of Christianity when such an obvious false teacher like Priscilla Shirer gets an Amazon rating of 4.8 out of 5 stars based on 318 reviews. I took the time to read through a few of the 5-star reviews, and the rampant ignorance among self-proclaimed Christians is appalling:
- “The writer has lived through everything of which she speaks and backs up all instructions with Scripture.”
- Yeah, Scripture taken out of context and twisted to fit her agenda. Mature Christians who have diligently studied the Bible would recognize Priscilla’s Bible twisting.
- “My small group is reading this book together and discuss it weekly.”
- See, this is the sort of Christianity-lite that pervades most evangelical megachurches today. The pastors are so busy trying to boost their attendance numbers that they don’t have time to actually shepherd the sheep (John 21:17 and 1 Peter 5:2-3). Instead, people are encouraged to become self-feeders by attending small groups led by untrained laypeople, and they end up studying whatever’s popular rather than the Bible itself.
- “Priscilla Shirer really explain things in ways I’ve never heard it before.”
- Beware of anyone who has a new teaching. That’s a sure sign that what they’re teaching you is not Biblical.
- “I will recommend this book to anyone wanting to hear from God.”
- Why not recommend the Bible? It’s God’s written Word to us and not full of errors like Priscilla’s book.
Amazingly, I did find a very accurate 1-star review:
“This book is misleading at best, dangerous at worst. A popular but dangerous and false notion today is that God speaks to your heart when you want Him to. This is nothing less than present-day revelation, aka Mormonism. The Holy Spirit does not reveal NEW truth to us. He gives insight into the truth we have already learned from God’s Word.”
However, the comments people gave this review are just as bad as the 5-star reviews:
- “God’s children are supposed to be able to hear His voice. And we are also to have a relationship with Christ. That is repeatedly stated in scripture that we are to hear His voice. This book is about discerning God’s voice personally as He does speak to us. She also advises staying in scripture (being diligent in your study) – not seeking revelation not in scripture like Mormonism.”
- Yes, we are to hear His voice as recorded in Scripture. The apostles and prophets heard God audibly and wrote it down so that we could hear God through them (1 Peter 1:12).
- “One of Priscilla’s key tests as to whether you are hearing God’s voice is confirmation through Scripture. Never did I read anything about God giving you NEW truth that is apart from Scripture.”
- If these voices aren’t telling me anything new that’s not already in the Bible, then why can’t I just read my Bible? The problem is that people who think Priscilla Shirer is so wonderful obviously haven’t studied the Bible or else they would recognize the lies she’s selling.
- “I agree, the Holy Spirit isn’t given to us to do ‘our’ will, but the Father’s will. But, I do believe, the Holy Spirit actually does direct our lives today. Didn’t the Holy Spirit tell Cornelius and Peter where to go and what to say in Acts 10? And didn’t He direct Paul in his missionary journeys by telling him what cities to go to and what cities not to go? I believe the Holy Spirit can still ‘guide’ us like that today.”
- Ugh. This is what happens when you read too many Priscilla Shirer books. If we follow that logic, then shouldn’t we be raising people from the dead like Paul did in Acts 20:7-12? Of course not! Just because something is recorded in the Bible doesn’t automatically mean that it’s a blanket promise for all people. You do have to consider the context.
By the way, the reference to Mormonism in the 1-star rating is completely accurate. When Priscilla claims that God speaks to you through a feeling, it sounds remarkably similar the “burning in your bosom” that Mormons often refer to:
Elder S. Dilworth Young said: “If I am to receive revelation from the Lord, I must be in harmony with him by keeping his commandments. Then as needed, according to his wisdom, his word will come into my mind through my thoughts, accompanied by a feeling in the region of my bosom. It is a feeling which cannot be described, but the nearest word we have is ‘burn’ or ‘burning.’ Accompanying this always is a feeling of peace, a further witness that what one heard is right. Once one recognizes this burning, this feeling, this peace, one need never be drawn astray in his daily life or in the guidance he may receive.” (“The Still Small Voice,” Ensign, May 1976, p. 23.)
Though the principle of studying something out in one’s mind and seeking confirmation through the burning of the bosom or a stupor of thought was given to Oliver Cowdery to use in translating the Book of Mormon, this process of receiving revelation can be of value to all Saints. President Joseph Fielding Smith explained that “a similar privilege is given to any member of the Church who seeks knowledge in the spirit of prayer and faith. The Lord will cause the feeling of security and truth to take hold of the individual and burn within the bosom, and there will be an overwhelming feeling that the thing is right. Missionaries have felt the manifestation of this gift while laboring in the field; when searching the scriptures; when speaking before congregations on the streets and in public gatherings. When you have been listening to some inspired speaker who has presented a new thought to you, have you not felt that burning within and the satisfaction in your heart that this new thought is true? On the other hand, have you experienced the feeling of stupor, gloom, or uneasiness when some thought has been presented which was in conflict with the revealed word of the Lord, and you have felt by this manifestation of the Spirit that what was said is not true? It is a great gift, which all may receive, to have this spirit of discernment, or revelation, for it is the spirit of revelation.” (Church History and Modern Revelation, 1:51.)
Why am I making such a big deal out of this? Because all Christians are commanded “to contend for the faith that was once for all entrusted to God’s holy people.” (Jude 1:3) Priscilla is leading people astray by teaching them the wrong way to interpret Scripture, by encouraging them to focus on themselves rather than on Jesus, and by paving the way for other false teachers to infiltrate the Church.