No Voices In My Head
God may or may not have told me to write this.
by Bill MacKinnon
Iím a lousy Christian.
There. Iíve said it. People say that admitting it is the first step. What makes me a lousy Christian you ask? Hidden sin? Lukewarm commitment? Worldliness?
At least if it were one of those, I could do something about it. No, what makes me a lousy Christian is something I donít seem to be able to do anything about. You see, God isnít speaking to me. He wonít give me assignments. He didnít tell me who to marry. He was obstinately silent when I had to decide whether to take my current job. He doesnít give me secret knowledge about other people or situations. In short, He isnít doing for me what seemingly the rest of the evangelical church claims He is doing for them.
Why not me? What have I done wrong? Why this slight? Everyone else has all this extra revelation straight from God. Theyíve got intense feelings, and power, and special instructions and donít have to make any of their own decisions. God tells them what to do and when to do it. In fact, some of them claim they donít do anything until it is clear what God wants them to do. If I waited for God to tell me what to do, I would never get out of bed. All Iíve got is a Bible and the Holy Spirit within me. (at least, I hope Heís there. I canít feel Him moving about, but the Bible says Heís there)
Iíve done quite a bit of study on this issue and Iíve gathered quite a few theories and teachings. God seems to be telling different people different things, but perhaps we can sort them all out and come to some conclusions.
First is what I like to call the Ham Radio teaching. Iím sure youíve seen people fiddling around with the dials on a ham radio. They twist and turn and adjust until the voices become clear. The voices were there all along; they just couldnít hear them until the right adjustments were made. Some people say God is like that. Heís always speaking. He just canít get through to us until we make the right adjustments in our lives. As soon as these adjustments are made, His voice is loud and clear! The adjustments generally involve getting rid of all sin in your life. How lucky for the really good guys in the Bible like Cain and Jonah to get it right the first time. Oh waitÖ
Second is what I call the Walkie Talkie theory. If you have used a walkie talkie, you know that as long as you are speaking, the other party cannot be heard. You can only hear them when you stop speaking and listen. I naively thought that prayer was generally one-way communication with God. But Iím told it is really two-way communication, and that I canít hear God until I stop talking. Then Iím supposed to listen. How long I wait to see if God is going to say anything is directly proportional to my faith. I apparently missed this part when Jesus taught His disciples to pray, but Iíll go back and look.
Next on the list is the Easter Bunny theory. Godís will is mysterious and he hides it carefully and then asks you to find it. People are always saying that they are ďlooking for Godís will for my life.Ē Things like strong feelings and coincidences are clues. God wants you to do things, but He wonít tell you what. But evidently He will hold you responsible if you donít do what He wants you to do but wonít tell you. Hold on, Iím looking up the verses that support that nowÖ.no, no, just a momentÖno, not there. Well anyway, Iíll find them later.
Thereís the Bull Ring theory. Have you ever seen a ring in a bullís nose? Itís not there because heís rebelling against his parents. Itís there for people to pull on. When someone pulls on the ring in a northerly direction, the bull ďfeels ledĒ to walk north. When the person pulling the ring changes direction, quite remarkably the bull does as well. I have probably heard the term ďI feel ledĒ or ďI felt ledĒ from other Christians more than any other phrase. But when I ask them what ďfeeling ledĒ feels like, they are at somewhat of a loss to explain. From what I can gather, itís a kind of strong desire or impression. Well, if you canít trust strong desires what can youÖuh, never mind.
One of my favorites is the Paxil theory. Paxil is a drug that calms you down and gives you a feeling of peace. Iím told that if Iím wavering between a number of options on an important decision, I should kind of semi-decide upon one, and see if I have a ďfeeling of peaceĒ about it. If not, move on. Now the thing is, I donít get stressed or nervous about much of anything. So if ďpeaceĒ is my main decision making criteria, most of the decisions Iíve made in my life have been correct. Woohoo!
Last but certainly not least is the Back to School theory. Put simply, you canít hear Godís voice until you learn how. Somehow, without it being recorded, it is known that all the folks God spoke to in biblical times had learned how to hear Godís voice. How they learned it or what is involved in learning it has never been fully explained to me. If I ever do learn it, I will gladly teach it to others, but only if they call me ďsenseiĒÖ
Well, that was fun. Thereís a whole lotta teaching goiní on out there about God speaking. They all seem to be a bit different but perhaps we can find a common thread among all or most of them. I think Iíve spotted it. Have you? The common theme among most of these (which although Iíve presented them in a tongue and cheek manner, are common and serious teachings) is that God is trying to speak to people and often failing to get His message across.
So now I have a question.
Is that a picture of the God of the Bible?
Does the God of the Bible try?
Does the God of the Bible fail?
Is the God of the Bible limited by the failures and foibles of His creatures?
Did Abraham ďfeel ledĒ to go to the
If you email me and tell me Iím putting God in a box I swear I will hunt you down and kick you in the shin. This isnít about what God can do. This is about what we can teach. And (hopefully) we can agree that our teaching authority and doctrine comes from the Bible, not the voices in our heads. God can do whatever He wants. But we canít teach whatever we want.
What does the Bible teach about God speaking? Well obviously God spoke to people in many ways: the burning bush, angels, a voice, writing on the wall, etc. Notoriously absent are things like impressions, feeling led, and feelings of peace. When God wanted someone to do something, He told them and they heard and understood. Period. They didnít always like it, and they didnít always obey, but they heard. How could they not? Were they more powerful than God? Are you? Is there anything within your power or imagination that can keep God from getting a message to you? Who do we think we are?
God may choose not to speak to you, but if He does speak, you will hear.
Please donít come back and quote me the ďif you have ears to hearĒ verses. Read those in context. To ďhearĒ, as Jesus was employing the term didnít mean to hear, as in perceive with your auditory appendages. It meant to accept and obey. Obviously the crowd ďheardĒ him in the sense that Iím talking about.
It is curious to me that
if someone in a typical evangelical church stood up and said an angel
spoke to him and told him that God wanted him to be a missionary to
So, should we be looking for angels or burning bushes? No. Moses wasnít looking for one. We shouldnít be looking for anything. What we should do is read our Bibles. You want to hear God speak? If you have a Bible, you have thousands of years of God-inspired instructions, messages, exhortations, rebukes and praises right at your fingertips. Why do we think we need more than that? Godís will for your life is written there. Godís instructions for living are there. To want them piped directly into your brain is just foolishness and laziness. Worse, it opens you up to the worst kind of doctrinal errors.
So in conclusion, a lousy Christian I may be, for many reasons. But my inability to hear Godís voice isnít one of them. I have a Bible, and God speaks to me whenever I open it.