I Don’t Hear God Either [Questions That Haunt]

Questions That Haunt Christianity

This week’s Question That Haunts Christianity, Andrew challenged us with a question not so much theological, biblical, or historical in nature. Instead, his question is spiritual and, ultimately, existential:

Why do I not experience God like I have been taught I should? Why don’t I hear his “voice?” … If Christianity is for real, why am I not able to have experiences of God?

Ayayay. In many ways, Andrew’s question is the toughest one we’ve tackled yet. When it comes to issues of Heaven or the inclusion/exclusion of the Gnostic Gospels, I can reiterate long-standing arguments, even if I argue with aspects of them. Not so much with this one. For Andrew’s question, I need to answer from the heart.

Andrew, I don’t hear God’s voice either.

Like you, I was promised that I would hear God. I can’t tell you how many talks and sermons I heard in my youth that said I could hear from God, if I just listened hard enough, asked the right way, and kept a “pure heart.”

The problem with those answers, of course, is that the audibility of God’s voice depends on me, and that can’t possibly be right. If the God of the Universe is intent on communicating with me, then S/He can surely break through all of the chatter that surrounds my everyday life. Some readers will disagree with me on this, but I do not think it’s reasonable to believe that the ability of God to communicate is somehow contingent on our ability to hear.

If God does communicate with human beings, then God is entirely able to do that with no help from us. I realize that there are biblical examples of God coming in the “still, small voice,” but generally God shows up in much bigger ways: pillars of cloud fire, descending clouds and doves, loud voices, and a presence that splits rocks and lights shrubs on fire. In other words, the Bible portrays a God who cannot be ignored or overlooked.

Some commenters to your question posited that God speaks primarily in silence, as stated most eloquently by St. John of the Cross:

I think that’s beautiful, but I also think it’s a cop-out. It’s a way that Christians get to say, “The more quiet God is, the more I can prove God’s existence.” That’s what we call a circular argument, and one that cannot be argued against.

However, Andrew, you and I have another problem. A lot of people around us do claim to experience God’s presence — even to hear God’s voice — and our lack of that experience does not negate their experience. In fact, as you’ve probably encountered, it’s very difficult to argue with someone’s experience. The Four Atheists of the Apocalypse do that all the time: they write off human experience of the Divine as psychological weakness and self-fulfilling prophecy. You might think it’s God, they argue, but you’re nothing more than a meat puppet who’s abiding by an old mythology.

I have a much harder time negating the experience of my fellow believers. This summer, I asked readers why they do and don’t pray, and, while a lot wrote about God’s silence and absence, many also wrote about their own personal experiences of God. No matter how rational my version of Christianity, I cannot bring myself to the point of thinking that someone else’s claim of a God-experience is invalid.

In fact, my non-experience of God these days could just as easily be questioned by them. They could say that God is tapping my shoulder every day, trying to get my attention, but I am so wrapped up in my non-experience of God that I cannot feel the tap or hear the voice.

That gets us back to the point I made above: If God does communicate directly with us, isn’t it most likely that the communication would be un-ignorable? I think the answer to that question is yes.

So you and I have a choice. We can have faith in our fellow human beings, that their experiences of God are real and authentic. Or we can write them off as delusional kooks. At least to this point, I’ve chosen the former (although I remain deeply skeptical of some experiences of the divine, like, for instance Joseph Smith and glossolalia – so I guess I pick and choose: I appreciate the experiences of the divine that seem rational and in keeping with my view of how the world works, and I am dubious of the ones that seem out-of-step with that).

I also take comfort in the fact that I am not alone. You don’t hear God either, and neither did some of my heroes of the faith:

The lesson of Mother Teresa is that, even if God does not speak to someone, that fact alone does not rule out faith. Therefore, like Mother Teresa, I continue to believe in God and Jesus, even in the face of no personal evidence of their existence.

In fact, these days I’m even praying again, hoping for an answer…

  • http://shawnsmucker.com Shawn Smucker

    Great post, Tony. I like the openness with which you address both responses.

  • http://www.rjaypearson.com R. Jay Pearson

    Tony, excellent response. Two things I want to focus on presently . . .

    First is where you wrote:

    I do not think it’s reasonable to believe that the ability of God to communicate is somehow contingent on our ability to hear.

    Why do you think it’s unreasonable to think that for God to communicate with us doesn’t require our ability to hear? At least inasmuch as we imagine communication with God to be akin to a dialog, which requires ability of both parties to appropriately hear. Or perhaps the word I should use instead of “hear” is “discern.” And “communion” instead of “communication.”

    If Andrew’s original question touches on the spiritual/existential, then perhaps it’s reasonable to suppose that communication/communion with God is experienced in a spiritual/existential fashion that’s quite different than the kind of two-way style of conversation/communication that is customary to the human-to-human experience.

    Secondly, you then wrote:

    If God does communicate with human beings, then God is entirely able to do that with no help from us.

    How is it that you arrive at this conclusion? Another way of putting it might be, “How do you know?”

  • http://http://winter60.blogspot.com/ Lausten North

    I think you misinterpret atheists, AGAIN! It is not that hearing the voice of God indicates delusion, the problem is that it is evidence that can’t be verified independently. It does not fit the criteria for evidence according to the scientific definition. Many atheists, the 4 horsemen included, have offered many explanations for why people claim these experiences. Mental health issues is only one of many of those explanations and not one of the most popular. But that’s just my personal experience, so take it for what it’s worth.

    • http://www.rjaypearson.com R. Jay Pearson

      Very true Lausten. In my own case, when I described my “God-experience” on the initial posting of this question on Tuesday, I acknowledged that experience to be subjective. My conclusions as to what that experience was, and what its implications are/were, are valid only for me.

      Now, if I were to have asserted that my experience demonstrated a fact/truth that was singularly valid and therefore universally applicable, then I’d be in quite the evidentiary quandary.

      Of course, the scientific criteria for evidence applies strictly to those things that are measurable (either through human observation, technology, etc). The criteria, however, does not apply to the realm of the spiritual. But that does not mean that experiences of a spiritual nature — even those that are shared — are not valid, or ought to be characterized as delusional, simply because they cannot be measured scientifically.

      • http://http://winter60.blogspot.com/ Lausten North

        Thanks R. Jay. I’m not going to get into a discussion of “spiritual” or “things that are measurable”. You can find me on atheist chats for that. I like the word “valid”. An individual’s experience is valid. I have heard the voice of my dead father and been out of my body, in my experience. In my attempts to understand those experiences, I have concluded that those are not valid descriptions of what really happened. I am left living in a wonderful world of mysterious experiences with an unknown future. I’m perfectly happy with that.

        • http://www.rjaypearson.com R. Jay Pearson

          “Spiritual” is a tough one for me actually. I use it in a similar way as I use the term “God” (which, in my perception, is less a “who” than a “what,” though not necessarily devoid of consciousness). It’s the most adequate term for general discussion, but terribly inadequate for capturing the true flavor and essence of that “resonant unseen-ness” in and by which I have experienced “aliveness” throughout my life.

  • Jonathon Edwards

    Great reflection. I just have one quibble. Which is: the problem in many of these discussions is that we assume God “speaking” to us is necessarily going to be verbal. Using “language”. That God will “speak” to us the way we speak to a friend over coffee, even if mystically, in our hearts or minds or ‘spirits’. While I suppose that’s one way God “speaks” – I had a very powerful experience like that when I felt called to ordained ministry – I think far more frequently God “speaks” to us in signs and symbols. Through the world around us. The other day I was walking to my office and reflecting on my poverty. I had run out of money and was looking at three days of ramen noodles and leftovers from the previous Sunday’s potluck and was frankly feeling sorry for myself. But had a few quarters, enought to stop at a coffee shop and buy an overpriced latte and on my way in, a young man living on the streets asked me if I had any change he could have so he could get something to eat. I gave him my quarters and went on to my office, converted. My leftovers were delicious and didn’t taste like the ashes I expected them to taste like.

    Do I think God stuck his finger into creation and manipulated the universe just to snap me out of my self-pity? No. But did God take an everyday encounter (in my neighborhood its an everyday encounter) and open my eyes, thereby speaking a word about gratitude, blessing, plenty, etc to me? I believe that to be the case and in this encounter, God spoke, though I heard no voice, no words.

    Similarly, when I encourage my congregants to listen for God’s voice in their lives, that latter interpretation is what I mean. Some may have a Joan of Arc type of experience. Others – most – will more likely just need to be sensitive to the lessons God wants us to see in the ordinary. The everyday circumstances of our lives. which is to say that God “speaks” through creation in diverse ways. Consistent with what I teach; that we are the hands, feet, eyes,ears and voices of God in the world. So why wouldn’t God “speak” to us in the same way he “speaks” through us?

  • http://feralpastor.blogspot.com Tim Thompson

    Such an important topic.

    It seems to me that most of the examples we point to for God “speaking” are outliers in the overall sweep of things. The pillar of fire/smoke was unique to a short historical episode. Jesus’ encounter with Saul on the road was unique to him, though partially perceivable by the others with him. If we start off with a set of rare or spectacular instances and use them to define what “God speaking” looks like, it can be no surprise that most people “don’t hear God.”

    Put another way, if you remove the extraordinary occasions and persons from the story and look at the huge number of “ordinary believers” over the ages, are we willing to believe that God was *not* speaking to them, or that “hearing God” is really just inherently a fantastically rare occurrence? If we’re not willing to believe that, then the question becomes “what does it look like when God is doing normal, everyday speaking to normal, everyday people?”

    What if God’s normal mode of communicating is so ubiquitous and mundane that we simply don’t notice it, or when noticing it, don’t attribute it to God? Like the classic struggle of fish to be aware of the water.

  • http://robopa.blogspot.com Rob

    So you trust people’s experience of hearing God, but those who find God in the silence are copping out?

  • Jim Armstrong

    This definitely is a haunting question. I’m in my 70′s and have been a churchman virtually all my live, and at this point, I find myself wondering more about my expectation than my experience. What am I wanting, hoping for, expecting God to say. We have been given a place in a wonderful creation, with remarkable abilities, and a set of relatively simple (if challenging) instructions. Is it direction, or affirmation that we seek in the harder segments of the journey? Do we feel a need for confirmation of God’s presence, or existence? Or inspiration? Or perhaps do we want the operating rules for the universe to be temporarily suspended for a particularly dire or painful situation?

    If I put this in a framework of a steward, I have my marching orders, my responsibilities, my resources, and I would expect to (as my previous work environment put it) work with initiative and minimal direction. So perhaps the question asked has more to do with what need(s) I feel than what is needed to be about the Kingdom work.

    I do not intent to minimize in any way the wrestlings of others with this question. I just offer this for consideration. It is also pretty descriptive of my landing place after a lot of years of intermittantly touching this hot potato. Blessings!

  • MarkE

    @Rob – nice
    @Jim – nice

    Here is what I am hearing you say, Tony.

    God is capable of communicate with us directly and clearly – regardless of what we are capable of. You do not hear God’s voice, but you are willing to give those that say they do the benefit of the doubt.

    By this logic, seems that God talks to some directly and clearly and does not talk directly and clearly to others, and the reasons why this is the case is not dependent on the person or any other discernable factor.

    If this is the case, the enterprise of trying to hear God’s voice is like banging your head against the wall.

  • Tom Estes

    This post takes the cake. Your belief in the possibility of experiencing God lies with how much faith you have in others who claim to have experienced God.

    Tony, you like many others who read this blog know nothing of the God of the Bible, therefore you don’t know God, therefore you have never to date experienced God. Like I commented on your prequel to this post, if you want to experience God, go to God. But you don’t tell Andrew that because I guess you don’t where God is.

    Let me help all of you, God is found in the Bible and on your knees in prayer.

    Not that I’ll be missed, but I’m done with this place, and the blasphemous nonsense that is written here.

    • andy

      if it is so simple for you, why are you so angry?

    • http://tonyj.net Tony Jones

      Tom,

      God bless you.

    • Evelyn

      I try to put my God in a box but he always manages to break out of it – He’s kind of like Houdini that way. I’m glad you’ve found a way to contain your God. It must be nice to know that you’ve got him right where you want him.

  • MarkE

    Tony, I thought Andrew wanted to know “why” God does or does not speak directly and clearly (voice-like) to some. If God is capable of getting through to many of us directly and dramatically, but does not, why not? What might be your theological or metaphysical reasons why he doesn’t?

    • http://tonyj.net Tony Jones

      Damn. Good question. Let me ponder that.

      • Ric Shewell

        Hope it’s okay that I get in on this. Doesn’t Jesus say in a parable something like “They didn’t believe the prophets, even if the dead were raised they still wouldn’t believe”? The biblical narrative testifies that even pillars of fire and split Red Seas didn’t change many people’s hearts. So I suppose God could still today coerce our senses of realities to get our attentions, but are we sure the outcomes would be to God’s purposes?

        However, God has chosen an overtly way of communicating with us, through Christ, testified through Scripture and the people of God.

        I grew up in a Wesleyan denomination, where we touted the quadrilateral for our epsitemology: Scripture, Tradition, Reason, and Experience. I was somewhat relieved when I was in an Episcopal church recently that left out experience. There is something in Scripture, Tradition, and Reason that can give us a surer footing for our faith than experience.

        • http://coachsusan@quixnet.net susan frederick

          When you speak of scripture, tradition, and reason–doesn’t that constitute an experience? I experience scripture (and my interpretation of it), and I experience tradition, and even reason is my particular version of logic. So isn’t it (ultimately) all experience?

          • Ric Shewell

            You’re right, I do interpret scripture, tradition, and reason through my own experiences because I have no other choice. However, what I am trying to say is that Scripture, Tradition, and Reason are things that exist outside of my experience, and whatever they are without my experiences, they are more trust worthy than my experiences, even of them.

    • Pax

      I think about this one too. My speculation is that there is something about our pursuit of God that He likes or that helps our formation. I think of it sort of like the difference between casual sex with a stranger versus the sex culminating from a long romance. Or, kind of like how when my kids have questions, I don’t always tell them the answer, I help them figure it out themselves. They’re better off because of the process.

      I think we’ll be better in heaven because of the romance we had with God on earth.

  • http://www.christylambertson.com Christy

    “We can have faith in our fellow human beings, that their experiences of God are real and authentic. Or we can write them off as delusional kooks.”

    I don’t think those are the only two options. One thing that I have observed in my conversations with my Evangelical friends is that frequently, I think we are actually experiencing very similar things, but we will use very different language to describe it and interpret it differently. For example, one friend will talk about what God is teaching her, whereas I might talk about something I’m learning in my life without attributing it to direct divine intervention. I’ve had moments of epiphany where I came to a sudden revelation about something. I think if I were still an evangelical, then I would likely label that as God speaking to me. It’s not that people aren’t experiencing what they say they are – it’s that the same type of experience will be interpreted differently by different people, depending on their framework. I’ve had people give me a “word from the Lord” before and they were genuinely convinced that God had spoken to them. 90% of these statements were not particularly helpful or germane to my life, so God’s track record was not terribly good. Still, I don’t think they were crazy – they had just been taught in their context to interpret a thought or sudden insight as God speaking.

    My experience was that the the evangelical subculture (not the hard-core Calvinists, but other branches) tends to put a fair amount of emphasis on sudden, dramatic moments of conversion and healing and emotional experiences, rather than the slow and undramatic work of incremental change – so the dramatic is what you hear about, rather than the slow changes you’ve seen in your life as a result of several years of practicing meditation or centering prayer. I think the expectation that communicating with the Divine looks a very specific way causes a lot of unintentional suffering, unfortunately, as Andrew’s question indicates.

    • MarkE

      Christy:
      I think you are right that many people use different language to describe the same underlying phenomenon. Do you think some have experiences that are different in kind, and more dramatic than those? Those seem to be the type that Andrew is wondering why he doesn’t have and for which Tony is praying. If you concede that some have such experiences, why is it that some have them and others don’t? Tony suggests that it should not depend on the person. If it is up to God, why does s/he not give it to some?

      Ric:
      It may be that supernatural experiences are not that beneficial for God’s purposes. Why do some long for them?

  • Mary

    Sometimes the harder we look; the harder it is to find that which we seek.
    Chill and It begins to unfold.
    I have experienced God. Then I have not experienced God. When I prayed as a child I knew God was there. Then God was silent. Then I had what I call the Jesus experience and knew “salvation”, in the traditional sense. There have been no lighting bolts, firey bushes, or deep voices speaking with a Yiddish accent. I used to see God in people doing his work and sometimes even in “sinners”, at times- still do.
    I know God when I see It. God is NOT the Bible, even though he shows up on the pages. Jesus is a portal for me, still.
    But nowadays, when folks around me are so freaked out about this or that I just see and experience God everywhere. No; I’m not on drugs or bi-polar. I just think it is ALL God, because I do not see God as separate from but infused in my existence and the world, every day. I also do not worry much about those that think my method/ideas are wrong or unorhtodox. I just feel for their confusion.
    I guess that’s what the old folks called “the peace that passes understanding”… I’m old now so that makes sense….
    I just wish the same peace of mind for you all.

  • A Medrano

    I don’t audibly hear from God. And I’m fine with that. When people ask “you never heard from God?” I get a little irritated. The thing is, just like any good ol’ Protestant, I look to sacred scripture as “God’s Word”. I understand that it’s all up for interpretation, and so, this might actually be a problem…

    Am I listening to a self-created voice to navigate my life and determine my view of the space I inhabit and attributing it to God?

  • Joe Carson

    In pondering this existential question, humans today have much more knowledge of “what is” in the physical universe than ever before. God is either a product of our imaginations, useful in multi-level group selection, so we evolved a moral matrix with a tendency to deify it, or, to “God-fearing” Christians/others: 1) God exists, 2) God has a plan for us personally, and 3) we ought to spend significant time and energy ascertaining and advancing God’s plan for us.

    There is no time in previous human history remotely like today in many respects. For instance. I was born in 1954, when earth’s population was less than 3 billion, now it is over 7 billion – never before in any human lifetime, such a change in human population, nor such a number. My Mom had 5 children – over 50 years later, we are all alive and healthy – and that is almost commonplace for Boomers. Never before in human history was such group and individual health not near miraculous. I could go on. But I’m not optimistic, given present facts and trends on planet earth that mankind makes it to year 2100 with desirable societies or such a population. So where, if at all, in God’s will in that?

    Speaking for self, I perceive God’s existence via being persecuted for righteousness’ sake. But that may be a rationalization to justify such foolhardy individual behavior.

  • Marshall

    … contingent on our ability to hear …

    Don’t you think your ability to communicate with your children and other important beings in your life is contingent on your ability and willingness to shut up and listen to what they actually have to say without imposing your own personal presuppositions, desires, fears? Even if they come on with a loud booming voice and a pillar of fire?

  • ME

    Great post.

    I think our ability or readiness to hear definitely is a factor. If I was around in Jesus’ day and listening to him in synagogue, would I have really heard him? Probably not, and I think the risk is still present for me right now.

    I also believe what Jesus told Nicodemus is true. “You must be born again.” That implies some thing, some event (even if the event is a slow process years in the making), will happen in each of our lives. There will be a before and after. Who knows when that will happen? Maybe you won’t really hear God until that happens? Maybe it hasn’t happened yet for some of the people who want to hear God?

    Didn’t Mother Theresa experience God before the long silence? There’s a big difference in never hearing God and having heard him and then falling silent.

  • Evelyn

    ‘Why do I not experience God like I have been taught I should? Why don’t I hear his “voice?” … If Christianity is for real, why am I not able to have experiences of God?’

    Christianity and organized religions are stand-ins for direct experience of God. Instead of interacting directly with God, you interact with the God of the religion that you follow. If Christianity is for real and that is the only God that you know, you don’t need to have experiences of God. Jesus heard God, he told you what God said, and that is how you know God. If you want to have direct experiences of God, you have to leave behind the Christian God and all it’s preconceptions and decide what God is, who you are, and how you might experience God outside of the church. Religions provide communal experiences of God whereas direct experiences are personal.

  • Luke Allison

    Tony,

    I still think you’re not acknowledging the materialistic nature of Christianity, or the “hidden” component that seems to permeate the Scriptures. Jesus is sneaky in some cases, not overt. Remember that the two people on the road to Emmaus recognized Jesus, and then he disappeared. Kind of a dick move, if you ask me….but seems to match my experience.

    Two nights ago after a crazy night of mega-sized youth ministry, my team of ministers and I went out to a cozy local pub called TGI Fridays (I’m a sucker for these hole-in-the-wall places). While we were sitting there, laughing, drinking, trying to blow off some steam, generally facing inward, I saw a former member of our church come in with her daughter.
    This is a situation with baggage: this girl was born addicted to crack cocaine and consequently has some developmental disabilities, and the mother has worked very hard to raise her and get her everything she needs. Because of the mistakes of her youth, there is obviously some guilt involved in the way her mom interacts with her. This has led to the mother burning bridges with just about every church she comes into contact with, because she fights very hard for her daughter and sees any conflict as being an attack against her.

    So I saw her, and instantly my heart was filled with compassion (Jesus had this experience too, as I recall), and I had to break away from my fun-huddle and go be with her. I didn’t know what I was going to say or do, because as far as I knew she was still very angry at us, but I just knew I was supposed to.

    I went over to her and simply put my arm around her (I’m wired in such a way that physical touch is largely unneeded, so this was out of my comfort zone), and she started weeping, and I found out that her mother recently died and that she had just been diagnosed with emphesema, and that her oldest daughter is getting a divorce, but her middle daughter just got married (she showed me about two hundred photos), and that her youngest daughter (the one with her) was doing well in a school for the first time in about ten years. And I got to speak words of hope and life to her (which stemmed from the Scripture I had been studying that week for school), and encourage her to mend relationships that she longed to see restored.

    Then I felt prompted to tell her to get whatever they wanted to eat, that it was already taken care of (sort of a no-brainer), and prayed with her a little bit, and then went back to my table of fun.

    All that said…..was that an experience of God, or was that just people being people? Prayer may seem pointless when we do it alone. But to a person going through what she was, it seems like the very words of God to her.

    I’m more and more convinced that Jesus is best seen in the Body, which means Jesus is best seen in bodies. The story of God is not the story of God until it is embodied. The logos became flesh and dwelt among us. When our flesh shows up, Jesus shows up. Nothing mystical about it, although mystical stuff may happen. I’m hopeful, but never hanging my belief on it.

    • Mary

      Luke… Awesome. Thanks for showing up for that lady and sharing it with us …
      the hands and feet , baby.

  • Jim Armstrong

    Luke – That was indeed an excellent post, I guess maybe because the footprints look familiar. But I’m disposed now to go a bit further. It pretty much falls into the bailiwick of that old hymn, “Christ Has No Hands But Our Hands”.

    If the living Jesus expected the post crucifixion Jesus to be able to coach us (or the disciples), then one has to ask why there was such urgency manifest in Jesus’ trying to make sure the disciples understood his teachings/instructions prior to his departure.

    The simplest (and admittedly extreme answer) is that he didn’t have that expectation. Instead, he was teaching and coaching his followers how to “see” (be more aware of) their world and respond to it in a better Way that Jesus saw so clearly. Again – given the pattern of teacher/pupil in the day, where some pupils were in time expected step into the shoes of the teacher/master – one has to ask, why all that teaching if it the capacity for the pupil to eventually develop in the pattern and perspectives of the master was absent?

    That pretty strongly suggests that we ARE those hands of the post-crucifixion Jesus, and that Jesus left enough “instructions” for succeeding generations to both learn and subsequently teach that same Way.

    If this picture is incorrect, then one would likely conclude that the disciples/pupils were expected to remain always learners, never quite “getting it”, unable to function autonomously as we mature – which is also in conflict with our human capacity for virtually all other aspects of life and learning and maturing.

    So I would interpret* the lovely scenario you described as a manifesting the teachings and hopes of Jesus having taken root in you as a maturing follower, having learned to see (at least in this moment) some things things with awareness and compassion not (yet?) developed (or perhaps just not yet triggered) in others in this particular circumstance.

    *Of course, that is a tad presumptuous of me. And I could be wrong. But in any case, I do love it when some circumstance actually plays out what we’ve been taught by this Jesus of Nazareth. Thank you for sharing the story.

    • Luke Allison

      Jim,

      Yes and yes and yes. Not presumptuous at all.
      Jesus is Messiah, and we are his disciples. And yet Jesus dwells mysteriously IN us as well, which means there is always an aroma of him in ordinary actions. Which leads me to think that there are no ordinary actions.

      This type of thing can happen quite a lot, and I’m convinced that we need to be very open to the real possibility. We then have to interpret that experience through the lens of the Spirit (a good sort of fleshiness), not the lens of the letter or the lens of the negative aspect of fleshiness.

      Love is far more dangerous than theological badassery.

  • Alan K

    Do we or do we not hear anything of God in the cross?

    • http://www.rjaypearson.com R. Jay Pearson

      Many would say yes to your question, Alan. But the core question was an existential/experiential one, not a theological one.

      • Alan K

        My point exactly. Some people experience God. Some people don’t. Andrew raises questions about the reality of God, and that he was taught that the reality is validated by experience. Is experience to be the principle or law by which God’s reality is determined? If so, then for Andrew God is likely unreal.

  • Paul D.

    “We can have faith in our fellow human beings, that their experiences of God are real and authentic.”

    Does that include our fellow Muslims, Hindus, Buddhists, Sikhs, Vodouists, Bahai, etc.? Or do we only have faith in the divine experiences of Christians with similar theology to our own? Because that would be special pleading.

  • Ronald

    I stumbled onto your article and I’m glad. Years ago I would have agreed with you, but one day I met a man who told me something that has changed my life. He said that “God is always speaking, but you can stop yourself from listening.” Of course I could remember the scriptures that say: “he that hath an ear, let him hear what the Spirit saith to the church”, so I knew I should be hearing the voice of God. This man continued to say: “we plug up our ears when we no longer want to hear what God has to say.” This is the part that troubled me. Short story: I reviewed my life and my thinking and realized that there were a few issues in life that I didn’t agree with God on. Things like attitude, money, clergy, church people, world people,salvation, the godhead, homosexuality, abortion, governmental rights, etc. Eventually I decided to take a leap of faith and agree with God regarding some things…that’s when everything start opening up to me. The man said one other thing that impacted me, he said: “God will only go as far as you obey him. Once He says something to you and you decide that that’s not what you want to do, God won’t say anything else. Once God reveals something to you and you decide not to agree, God won’t reveal any more. And when you going to God for more answers, He will take you back to the last thing He told you.” This bit of information has propelled me. I first found it to be true by experience. The bible says that God builds “line upon line, precept upon precept”, so this statement made sense to me. My experience has confirmed it for me.
    I’m grateful for this article because it brought me to the time when I couldn’t hear God. Reading your rational also reminded me when I use to think similiar things. Things are different for me now and I thank God for that. It’s been over 18 years since I talked with that gentleman, but I concur: God is speaking all the time…and He talks a lot.

    • Dustin Brown

      The Bible doesn’t say God builds up “line after line, precept upon precept”. It says that’s how he has to deal with legalistic people because they won’t respond to him otherwise. Isaiah 28, right?

      Sorry to comment so many months afterwards, but this grabbed my attention. Seems the God experience is very much contingent on the state of one’s “heart”. It may seem humble and obedient to follow God’s old testament way, but as Jesus teaches, anyone can follow a set of rules. It’s extrapolation from those rules that he wanted to see. I personally don’t believe in God, but I think Jesus mostly had it right. I don’t ever expect to hear/commune with God but if I do it will be through Jesus.

      • Dustin Brown

        The message version of whatever chapter “line upon line” is from is called “God Will Speak in Baby Talk”.

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  • kathryn

    I too feel somewhat duped especially by Baptists and the Baptist church and they sure had a lot of nerve blaming the individual if God wasn’t doing what they said he would do. I have never heard or seen God, its sad to say I’m unsure God exists. I need the experiences and I have none. I can’t have faith based on 2nd hand info. About the kook part- its the latter the extremists are kooks


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