The Enemies Within: The Chatterboxers

My focus today is on people who have conversations with God. I allude there to a fad author of some years back named Neale Donald Walsch, who sold millions of copies of books in which he recorded his alleged interactions with divinity. Walsch was a New Age sort of crank, but Christians have cranks of similar tendencies among their own ranks. 

The variations within the ranks are legion. They range from the sublime (Charles Stanley saying that some vague "inner rustling" told him to not hire someone) to the ridiculous (Joyce Meyer saying that God told her to make fruit salad for her husband, smile in the shower, and keep her eyes open during sex). However, they all have this in common: They boldly claim to hear from God without any sort of evidence. Deuteronomy had some strict tests for those who claimed to hear God's voice. The penalty for being wrong was a shower of stones. I have asked whether Meyer would be so quick to claim God was giving her such messages if it meant smiling through a shower of stones rather than a shower of water.

Perhaps the most annoying such chatterboxer is a crank named John Bevere, who rivals Walsch for the length and depth of the "conversations with God" he recorded. As I once noted in a discussion of Bevere, he often lapses to these "conversations" any time some critical point cannot be supported by logic, argument, or Scripture. It is, so to speak, argument from unverified or, dare we say, imagined authority -- which makes it particularly dangerous.


For example, Bevere tells a story of how, as a youth minister, he worked to set up a new aspect of youth ministry at his church. As a new hire, he visited a highly successful youth program with about 1500 attendants, where the teaching was solid and sound. One of the factors in the program's success was the use of "home cell groups" (or, as might be said, parties for the youth). Bevere attended several functions, talked to several church leaders, and got the enthusiastic approval of his senior pastor. Then he spent eight months planning to implement the program.

It should be noted that Bevere indicates that throughout this process, "the Lord spoke" to his "heart" and gave him plans. He even indicates that God specifically told him to choose twenty-four leaders for the program and train them.

Three weeks before launch, however, Bevere's senior pastor called a meeting of all pastors and said: "Gentlemen, the Holy Spirit has shown me that the direction of the church is not to have home cell groups. So I want you to cancel any small groups meetings you are having in members' homes." Bevere, stunned, asked if this included the youth, and the pastor simply repeated what he said. Bevere reminded him also of the success of the program he visited, and again, the pastor repeated the same words -- and did so again and again to Bevere's continued objections.

Can we be realistic here? I'll say it outright: Bevere's pastor was deluded in thinking that the "Spirit" had told him anything. Again, it would have been interesting to see if the pastor would have been willing to subject himself to a "Deuteronomic challenge" and have his supposed communications verified by a test of prophecy like this one:
But if a prophet presumes to speak in my name an oracle that I have not commanded him to speak, or speaks in the name of other gods, he shall die.' "If you say to yourselves, 'How can we recognize an oracle which the LORD has spoken?', know that, even though a prophet speaks in the name of the LORD, if his oracle is not fulfilled or verified, it is an oracle which the LORD did not speak. The prophet has spoken it presumptuously, and you shall have no fear of him.
The pastor's constant repetition signaled a man with no answers, no arguments, no logic, and above all, no Scripture to back his position. Just as sad, however, is the way in which Bevere resolved the matter in his own mind: The "Holy Spirit" -- the same Holy Spirit, we are to suppose, who told him to appoint 24 people and gave him other specific plans, began to "speak to his heart" -- in detailed, complete sentences -- about how Bevere was sent to serve the senior pastor of that church, and said further that he would be judged according to how well he served that pastor -- irrespective of how effective the youth ministry would have been had it proceeded.

Bevere so convinced himself of the Spirit's involvement in this affair that when telling his 24 appointees of the cancellations, he "spun" it into a positive by saying "God has spared us from birthing and building something that is not from Him."  He also says, "I didn't know it was a test, and often God's tests are never recognized until after the fact since they always expose our hearts." 


Note well: The pastor's only proof that this was not the time for home cell groups: The "Spirit". Bevere's only proof that God prevented a disaster from happening when the program was introduced: The "Spirit". The whole idea is hard to see as anything but Bevere's rationalization for a highly irrational situation: Rather than even consider the option that the senior pastor was in error, and not even trying to resolve in a rational way the question of why the same "Spirit" told him to radically alter the lives of 24 potential leaders for months at a time for a program the "Spirit" knew He would urge the senior pastor to cancel 8 months later, Bevere rationalizes the whole thing as an experience he and the others "grew" because of and a "test" he was put through. Nonsense like this is what makes the chatterboxers "enemies within".

Deuteronomy prescribed the testing of prophets precisely to prevent situations just like these. Would Bevere or his former pastor have the temerity to make such pronouncements if their proclamations had to be accompanied by a detailed prophecy -- and they would be killed if it did not come true? Would anyone, indeed, feel so free to claim the authority of the Spirit and to claim to have had detailed conversations with Him?

In close, let me indicate that I am by no means saying God cannot speak to people in the way described. However, I believe that "God spoke to me" is being overused as an epistemological basis by the chatterboxers, who resort to it when more rational avenues fail them.We obviously shouldn't stone them any more -- but we should bust them down to the rank of offering plate passer and stop buying their books and watching their TV programs.

Comments

Joe Hinman said…
there is a big difference in saying "here is a prophesy God wants me to give you,and saying God told me this, for me only I feel I will share it, People are not clear enough about their claims.

Popular posts from this blog

Where did Jesus say "It is better to give than receive?"

More evidence for the Historical Truth of David and Goliath

Martin Luther King, Jr., Jesus, Jonah and U2’s Pride in the Name of Love

On the Significance of Simon of Cyrene, Father of Alexander and Rufus

How Many Children in Bethlehem Did Herod Kill?

A Simple Illustration of the Trinity

Bread and Butter apologetics

Do God's Omniscience and Omnipotence Contradict?

The Meaning of the Manger

The Genre of the Gospel of John (Part 1)