Thursday, March 1, 2007

Hearing God When He Hasn't Spoken

There is a peril in Christianity: claiming that God has directed us supernaturally when, in fact, he has done no such thing. Now, I'm not against God using unusual or extraordinary means to reveal his will to us. However, we have to be careful lest we allow our imaginations to run wild and we confuse our thoughts with God's direction.

Wesley spoke of such danger in his Sermons, # 37, "The Nature of Enthusiasm":
20. The same sort of enthusiasm, though in a lower degree, is frequently found in men of a private character. They may likewise imagine themselves to be influenced or directed by the Spirit when they are not. I allow, 'if any man have not the Spirit of Christ, he is none of His;' and that if ever we either think, speak, or act aright, it is through the assistance of that blessed Spirit. But how many impute things to Him, or expect things from Him, without any rational or scriptural ground! Such are they who imagine, they either do or shall receive particular directions from God, not only in points of importance, but in things of no moment; in the most trifling circumstances of life. Whereas in these cases God has given us our own reason for a guide; though never excluding the secret assistance of His Spirit.

21. To this kind of enthusiasm they are peculiarly exposed, who expect to be directed of God, either in spiritual things or in common life, in what is justly called an extraordinary manner: I mean, by visions or dreams, by strong impressions or sudden impulses on the mind. I do not deny, that God has, of old times, manifested His will in this manner; or, that He can do so now: nay, I believe He does, in some very rare instances. But how frequently do men mistake herein! How are they misled by pride, and a warm imagination, to ascribe such impulses or impressions, dreams or visions, to God, as are utterly unworthy of Him! Now this is all pure enthusiasm; all as wide of religion, as it is of truth and soberness.
Wesley didn't deny that God might use extraordinary means in revealing his will to his children; however, the English evangelist deemed it rare. Frankly, I don't believe God speaks nearly as much as some of his Christians believe that he does!

Christians can get down-right spooky when they get hyper-mystical. They can do bizarre things and look unhinged. They can get snookered by their own imaginations.

In the next post we will examine Wesley's counsel as to how to discern the will of God. It's a lot less spooky...and it makes a lot more sense!