Derailing the “God Told Me” Train

train-crash

A short while ago, Dan Phillips posted over at the CrippleGate and shared some great thoughts about the idea of God speaking outside Scripture.  It got me thinking and reminded me of a rather startling interaction I recently had with a charismatic fellow online.  Seeing that I’m running out the door in a few minutes and just pounding something out, I’ll copy and past the interaction.  It was quite revealing to see how it played out as I tried a new way of derailing the “God told me” train:

*****

Anonymous Charismatic:

The Bible is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting, etc. as it says it is. The Bible doesn’t talk about living together. The Bible is authoritative, but so is any person God still speaks to.

Me:

“The Bible is authoritative, but so is any person God still speaks to…”  So you think you actually get personal revelation that is on the same level of authority as the words of Scripture?

Anonymous Charismatic:

Yes

Me:

God told me you’re a false teacher who speaks for Satan, and also that every one of your words are lies crafted to deceive me regarding the truth about you.

How in the world could you possibly prove me wrong?

Anonymous Charismatic:

I guess I can’t. That is your opinion of me. But since I am not rejecting Christ I would say I am not working for Satan. I just have a different theology. Some would say it’s wrong to speak for God.

Me:

Ha!
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You “guess” you can’t?
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You’re not sure?
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The best you got is to insinuate that you hear the voice of God but I don’t?
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Wait a minute.  You claim that God still speaks and you hear his voice, but when I claim the exact same thing and tell you what God has said to me, you suddenly change your song and start referring to the “voice of God” that I hear as “your opinion.”  Isn’t that just a little too convenient?  Why are you the judge of whether or not what I hear is the voice of God?  I mean, you don’t seem to understand.
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It’s not my opinion.
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It’s God’s opinion.
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You’re say you’re not rejecting Christ…except that Christ IS the word of God (John 1:1-18), right?  So in rejecting the word of God, you’re sneakily rejecting Christ.  You twist words and hide behind rhetoric, just like a workman of Satan would do.
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Or I could point to your own words and point out how you say that you have “a different theology” and that “Some would say it’s wrong to speak for God…” and point out that we actually do not have a different theology.  I share your theology, and within your theological paradigm, I hear the voice of God.
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When it all comes apart, why do you not believe the very theology you profess?
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God has spoken to me.
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God has told me that you’re a workman of Satan.
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It’s not my opinion.
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It’s God’s opinion.
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So now what?
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What do you do to that?
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Are you going to repent of your falsehood and duplicity or harden your heart against the voice of God?  “Today, if you hear his voice, do not harden your hearts as in the rebellion” – Heb. 3:15.  Brother, I implore you on behalf of Christ to stop your rebellion!
*****
There was no response after that.
 .
Zipper 3
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Now I’ve rarely encountered someone that was that honest, but our interaction illustrates the problem that I always encountered when I was in Charismatic circles.  If God talks to you and to me, what do you do when God tells me something that openly and directly contradicts what he tells you?  By what standard do we judge between “words from the Lord?”  We can appeal to Scripture, but my uniform experience in Charismatic circles was that people generally don’t have an understanding of exegesis or hermeneutics at a level where they can meaningfully sort through conflicting prophecies unless one of them explicitly contradicts scripture (which very rarely happens).
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Next time you’re talking with someone who claims to hear from God, try a less aggressive version of the “Oh dear…God just spoke to me and told me that you’re a workman of Satan” line and see what happens (I admit that, even in reading my own stuff, I may have been unnecessarily confrontational.  I blame my medication…?!?).  Try something like “God told me that he hasn’t spoken to you” or “God said that you’ve been deceived about whether or not you hear his voice.”
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Such comments tend to stop them in their tracks because “words from the Lord” aren’t supposed to be impolite or contrary like that (although that suggests that they’ve missed a large portion of the Old Testament: 1 Kings 18:17-19, 1 Kings 21:17-24, 1 Kings 22:5-8, etc.).  It also provides a conspiracy theory dynamic that can overrule anything they say (“well, that’s what you would say if you were deceived…”) and exposes the implicit paradox in the whole “God told me” line of thinking.
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Paradox
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Don’t be rude, but be firm.  Be cautious and explain that you’re concerned for them, not judging them.  Don’t mock them personally, but ask them to help you make sense of what God told you and possibly help you judge competing words from the Lord with an objective and unchanging standard.
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At the end of the day, they won’t be able to because they’re not basing their evaluation of their own “words from the Lord” on anything objective.  They believe their revelations are from God because they want them to be and the facts of Scripture and reality must bend to their desires.
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At that point, they might be willing to talk sensibly and listen to a little biblical exegesis…if they don’t simply run away or condemn you as unteachable or in need of prayer (or something along those lines).  Sadly, that happens more often than not.  When faced with their own self-contradictory or internally incoherent theology and ideas, far too many people set phasers to “ignore” and…
.

Phaser suicide

Until Next Time,

Lyndon “The RedShirt” Unger

P.S. – The first picture, which is a famous picture of an 1895 train crash in Paris at the Montparnasse terminal (where amazingly only one person was killed, and she wasn’t even on the train), will forever be associated with this.  High school introduced me to the best use of the electric drill ever.

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PaulGilbert

I tend to delude myself into thinking that I’m a little bit of the theological equivalent to Paul Gilbert…or maybe Paul Gilbert.

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15 thoughts on “Derailing the “God Told Me” Train

  1. Thank you for that. You consistently write articles that are more use that you may even realize. That one was great, a very practical guide for dealing with a subject that can be so deep theologically that it is hard for some of us to articulate..thanks.

  2. I’m in complete agreement with Wally. Your post today had good practical advice in answering not only Charismatic error but any cult whose claims ultimately rest on a form of “God told me____” and not Scripture rightly interpreted. I’ve bookmarked this post for future reference.

    • It’s funny you say that burrito, since I used to use a modified version of this line against Mormons. Now I’ve actually shifted to something a little different for derailing them, though this actually still works well. I’ll have to blog that at a future time.

    • Yeah. It’s funny how they react when you turn their own “burning in the bosom” confirmation against them in a rather aggressive way. Like I said to Burrito, I used to exclusively use a version of this argument, but now I’ve modified it to involve a preliminary argument that I find effective. I’ll have to blog about that sometime too.

    • Well in my opinion it is easier to have a Mormon read the Book of Hebrews, that is right after he deciphers the Kinderhook plates.

  3. “The Bible is authoritative, but so is any person God still speaks to.” I don’t know. This sounds more like a description of a troubled family reunion. Tongues are all wagging about “And just who is God not speaking to now?”
    Well I am sure the idea that scripture is trumped by personal revelation in some sense backed up by something written somewhere. I think it must be from that book in the Bible that is between 2nd Hesitations and 1st Hypocrisies. Now if I could only remember the name God told me it was.
    Claiming to be speaking with God without the burning bush nearby shouldn’t count in my opinion.
    Actually having a bona fide experience of speaking to God directly would be far too spooky for me to even think about having, let alone want to experience it. Let someone else have it, like this guy Lyndon is talking about. I am happy enough just to read the Bible. Remember Exodus 3:5?
    “Do not come near here; remove your sandals from your feet, for the place on which you are standing is holy ground.”
    Heck I’d still be running.
    I am more inclined to think of things like.
    James1;14
    But each one is tempted when he is carried away and enticed by his own lust.
    Romans 7:20
    But if I am doing the very thing I do not want, I am no longer the one doing it, but sin which dwells in me.
    And when does that not happen? God didn’t even have to talk to me to reveal that information.

  4. Pingback: Lesley’s Lagniappe ~ 1-27-15 | Michelle Lesley

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