The many factors I’ve been surveying all tend to marginalize the Lord’s voice. Because we’ve been trained to think God is distant and not intimate with us, we don’t expect Him to “show up” in His presence and power. Moreover, we have inherited our predecessors’ suspicion of religious experience. Plus, we have God’s complete, special revelation (Scripture). If these are so, why expect God to speak intimately to us now?
I am afraid these factors train us to nearly disregard God’s voice. Yet, there might be a biblical reason not to expect God to “show up” in His presence and power. I am thinking of views about the “miraculous” spiritual gifts like cessationism (miracles, prophecy, and tongues ceased with the apostles’ passing and the canon’s closure). There’s also open-but-cautious: we should be open to miraculous gifts, but they are not the norm, in contrast to gifts of applying truth and works of service.
Cessationism is based on good concerns. The canon of Scripture is closed, so there’s no more Scripture being given by God. Thus, if God still is speaking, those words seem to be Scripture-quality; after all, they’d be spoken by God. But, that adds to Scripture. Plus, such claims to more words from God can create confusion, chaos, and lead people astray. Moreover, Scripture is our final, complete rule and authority for doctrine, faith, and life.
Let’s consider these concerns. If God had something specific to say to someone today, would that add to Scripture? For one, the Spirit superintended the writing of Scripture, but that is not guaranteed with anything else. For another, consider how Scripture itself indicates that God spoke in various situations, yet it does not record what He spoke (e.g., Ex 33:11; Luke 6:12; Mark 2:2, 10:1). So, it seems God can speak other words yet not add to Scripture. Nor would any more words today, for canon is closed. Moreover, God gave Scripture universally, applicable to everyone. But, a given word applicable to an individual in context would not meet that universality criterion.
Consider also these observations. God has given us access to the very mind of Christ (1 Cor 2:16). But, why? It seems like overkill if all we need to know is in Scripture. Moreover, in Jesus are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge (Col 2:3). Yet, so often today Christians do not think of going to Jesus for knowledge. In part, that is due to the “fact-value split,” but also because we don’t expect God would speak to us today.
Now, the Bible is God’s universally applicable, inerrant, infallible word. Where it does teach, it teaches authoritatively. But, it is not intended to be a textbook on many subjects, e.g., science, philosophy, art, political science, etc. So, at least for the aspects of our lives that Scripture does not address directly, what should we do?
Yes, we are to have renewed minds and live in dependence upon Him. We also are to ask Him for wisdom (James 1:5). But, God never intended for us to live out aspects of our lives in which we did not depend upon Him and His mind/knowledge. Jesus is to be Lord of all aspects of our lives. This suggests that God wants us to come to Him, seek and listen, and expect Him to speak into our lives. And, I have seen Him do this several times in my scholarship and service to Him.
In light of these evidences, I appreciate that the “open-but-cautious” people are open to God’s “showing up” in His presence and power. Nonetheless, in practice they may be closed because the position denies the same phenomena from the apostolic period are normative now. Even if “open,” I think expectations of God being intimate and actively, powerfully present in our lives is relatively low on this view.
So, what more might we see from Scripture about its expectations of God’s being intimately and powerfully present in our lives? I will look at Ephesians in my next blog, where I think we will find some amazing reminders for us.