The Atlanta-Journal Constitution recently ran an interesting piece called “Hearing From God,” which talks about the increasing frequency of preachers who claim to have a hotline to God regarding very specific things.
A couple of gems from that article:
“That practice trivializes God, some scholars and preachers say. It also contradicts what history’s greatest prophets and mystics say about hearing from God.Take the Hebrew prophets, for example. They don’t describe having casual conversations with God. They recall being terrified by God. Isaiah called himself a “ruined” man after he heard God’s voice. Ezekiel was “stunned” and immobilized for seven days after his encounter. Ancient Hebrews thought they would die if they even saw God’s face or said his name aloud.”
A preacher who claims to hear often from God can use that to manipulate their congregation.The Rev. James Merritt, the former president of the Southern Baptist Convention, says the claim, which he calls the “God trump card,” can squelch debate. It’s easier to criticize someone’s reasoning than their experience. “If God told you to do something, what can I do? I can’t contradict God,” says Merritt, pastor of Cross Pointe Church in Duluth. “You played the ‘God trump card.’ “
Clearly God leads His followers, but I must confess I tend to find it dubious at best when a preacher just says, “God told me to.” It does smack of an attempt to justify a decision or desire in a way that can’t be challenged or refuted. I think it is sometimes used to try to put oneself beyond the reach of accountability, and that’s a dangerous place to be. By use of this claim the preacher may also be trying to lay claim to a level of authority and spirituality that he may not deserve. I think that kind of language may also be discouraging to those hearing the preacher, because in all liklihood many of them are struggling with various questions and issues and are seeking God’s guidance but not having the kind of conversational encounter the preacher claims to have.
God’s guidance does come to us through the Spirit and does affect our desires, but if we don’t have confirmation through Scripture and the wise counsel (yea, accountability) of others, than we must be very careful.
ht: Tim Ellsworth