Friday, February 20, 2009

God speaks

I grew up in the church and was indoctrinated as a Baptist. I do not use [indoctrinated] with a negative connotation. I was taught doctrine -- and taught it well -- in both school and church. I am very thankful for the great men and women who laid a foundation of Biblical truth from which I continue to grow and mature, into which my roots continue to sink.

But my experiences in university have broadened my perspective on Christians and Christianity, and thus on God. There were many things that I assumed growing up that were challenged particularly in my first year away from home. These were not necessarily things I was taught, and I take full responsibility for my own errors in judgment.

Just one example of this was my attitude toward my Roman Catholic brothers and sisters. Growing up the Catholics I knew were at best culturally Christians (judging by the fruit of their lives). Some time after arriving at university I discovered that some of the men who were most instrumental in my spiritual growth here were Roman Catholic. I was shocked. My false preconceptions were shattered.

Recently I was asked to consider how God speaks to his people today, and to support my view with scripture.  And so I had to ask myself, "When is today?"  Is it the age of the Church, everything after Pentecost?  Is God still speaking to us the way he spoke to the early church?  Now growing up I had always believed that what we might call the "miraculous" gifts of the Spirit are no longer available today.  God isn't giving gifts of prophesy or tongues or interpretation.  But in searching the scripture, I could not find any (solid) support for such a view.  Looking around at the (Western) Church, it doesn't seem like God is speaking in those ways (assuming I ignore my brothers and sisters in the charismatic movement -- who at one time I "rationally" (but arrogantly) dismissed as merely emotional).  But we look around the world and see that God is still healing miraculously, he's still giving tongues and calling out prophets.  The Holy Spirit of God is no different in the book of Acts than he is today.
For God does speak—now one way, now another— 
       though man may not perceive it.  ~Job 33:14
I think much of the western church has attempted to understand scripture in light of our experience with the world, rather than understand our world in light of the scriptures (which, by the way, is one of the clear dangers of postmodernism, on an individual level).  And I think we've been wrong.  Jesus couldn't do many miracles in his hometown because of the lack of faith there (Mark 6:1-6).  The Spirit isn't giving miraculous gifts here -- not because He just isn't giving them, but because we lack the faith to accept them as real.

So how does God speak to us?  In visions? in dreams? In our our desires?  By the words of others? In the living pages of Scripture?  In miraculous signs?  In an open door?  A closed one?  In a tongue and interpretation?  By that peace only He provides?  In a fire, an earthquake, a wind?  In a whisper?  In a smile?  Through a sermon?  In a falling star?  Through a song?  In an audible voice?

I think the answer is yes.

Please remember I am no scholar.  There are a lot of very smart people who have studied the Bible twice as long as I've been alive who think I'm wrong. 

Comments? Concerns? Criticisms? Death threats?


DOrtiz said...

Well said about the western church interpreting scripture in light of our world experiences, instead of the other way around. This has also been used in arguments against the Bible's relevance to current issues. I think this stems from the root of all of mankind's sins: we want to be God, to know all, and judge all as we see fit.


Luke Depner said...

Matt, I wholeheartedly agree about your assessment of how God speaks, especially on the point of inclusion of all the spiritual gifts as legitimate and being present today and the explanation of their absence in non-charismatic Western churches due to lack of faith in our hearts. I have been praying for an increase in faith recently, a faith in my heart as opposed to beliefs that I hold with my mind (which I simply took to be faith before). I've been thinking about similar things as I have been studying, funnily enough, the book of Matthew. Looking forward to talking about this stuff with you more!