Monday, December 6, 2010

Living By Every Word That Proceeds From the Mouth of God - Part 1

Introduction: The Fundamental Question - How Does God Speak to His People Today?

There is a popular theology which advocates that God’s word comes to us personally, he speaks to us directly and reveals his will in a new revelation. The individual prays to God for wisdom or direction, and God gives him the answer. We must not apply the scriptures to our situation in an effort to hear God’s word and gain wisdom, for we cannot hear God in the scriptures. To apply the scriptures to our situation is to lean on our own insight. Rather than hearing directly from God, we apply our own human skill and intellect in an attempt to make the scriptures speak to us. One such advocate of this view is Justice Boshoff whose many YouTube videos teach this. Two have been selected as exemplary of his position. These are titled, According to the Bible - You Won’t Make It and Breaking Through the Bible Barrier. I have transcribed these for reference. A perusal of Mr. Boshoff’s Facebook page reveals that many find his opinions a guide for their own Christian practice.

Mr. Boshoff is not the only advocate of God’s speaking directly to his people today. Mark Virkler has taught this for over twenty-five years in speaking engagements and seminars. His view is that prayer is a two-way communication between you and God, and that “God’s voice in our hearts sounds like a flow of spontaneous thoughts,” [DWG, p 29]. Dr. Virkler’s teaching has influenced thousands. He cites other notables who claim experience of the hearing of God’s voice: Oral Roberts, Douglas Wead (Hear His Voice, All the President’s Children), Larry Tomczak, John Patrick Grace (Hearing His Voice), Francis MacNutt, Ben Kinchlow (Christian Broadcasting Network), Glen Clark (The Soul’s Sincerest Desire), [DWG, pp 119-122].

Dr. Virkler has developed a method designed to facilitate the hearing of God’s voice within. His views are systematically formulated, whereas Mr. Boshoff speaks off the cuff. There is an important difference between Boshoff and Virkler: Boshoff allows little room for the scriptures to have any influence on the believer in hearing God’s voice whereas Virkler accepts that at times it is through the words of scripture that the Spirit speaks, and that it is necessary to test the ‘word’ in the light of scripture. I think also that Virkler fundamentally confuses the illumination and enlightenment of the Spirit with that peculiar revelatory phenomenon of a direct personal word from God that only a few in redemptive history have experienced, such as the Old Testament prophets and New Testament apostles.

Out of the Reformation came the principle of sola scriptura, that the scriptures alone are the only infallible rule of faith and practice, opposing the Roman Catholic inclusion of ecclesiastical tradition as part of that rule. The Reformation was a rediscovery of salvation by grace alone, through faith alone, in Christ alone, fostered by a study of the scriptures in their original languages. It is through the scriptures alone that one comes to a saving knowledge of Jesus Christ, and it is through the scriptures that the saint is sanctified. This is the legacy of the Protestant Reformation, and if Mr. Boshoff’s teaching were taken to its logical conclusion, the scriptures would be viewed as having nothing to do with our sanctification for it has no application to us in our situation today.

Whether Mr. Boshoff would acknowledge it or not, we may identify three presuppositions that underlie his assertion that it is wrong to apply the scriptures to our own situation:

(1) The scriptures were applicable only for those to whom it was written.
(2) To apply scripture to our situation is to rely on our own insight, and not on God’s word.
(3) The scriptures are not completely sufficient for our situation making new revelation necessary.

The fundamental question is Does God speak to his people today, and, if so, in what manner? Does God speak directly to the heart in a recognizable voice, bringing new revelation? Or, does he speak in a more external way, through a word that came to his people in ages past, recorded in human language, preserved over the centuries by his providential care?

I am writing a series of articles entitled, Living By Every Word That Proceeds From the Mouth of God, that will examine Boshoff’s position in terms of its own logical coherency as well as its biblical validity. Though I do not expect to convince Mr. Boshoff of the error of his position, or those who follow his teaching with implicit faith, I do hope that the discussions I present will not only help the reader to see the fallacy of Mr. Boshoff’s position (and others like it) but also become more deeply committed to the scriptures as the final written word of God to his people in this age. It is through the scriptures that we hear God’s voice today; it is a clear word that comes to us in language that we can understand and is meaningful for us now in our situation.

DWG: Dialogue With God by Mark Virkler. Published by Bridge-Logos, Orlando, Florida, 1986.

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