Thoughts on Dallas Willard’s Hearing God – Chapter 1

As always, all truth comes from the grace of God.  All errors come from me.

To help me out with an issue I have been having, a brother gave me two books that he found helpful.  The question I have been searching for an answer on is “can all believers hear from God outside of Scripture?”  The first book I started to read was Dallas Willard’s Hearing God.

In order to keep notes, I decided to write them down here.  I hope that this is helpful for saints who may have the same question.

Chapter 1

p. 17 “They (Christian writers) also assured me that the same Spirit who delivered the Scriptures to holy men of old speaks today in hearts of those who gather around the written Word to minister and be ministered to.” – The question is how is He speaking, and what is He speaking about?  Hebrews 1 perhaps?

“our most sacred experiences often blind us…” – What is a sacred experience?  What is the other experience believers in Christ have?  Does Scripture mention anything about sacred experiences vs. non-sacred experiences?

p. 18 – “God’s visit to Adam and Eve in the garden, Enoch’s walk with God, and face-to-face conversations between Moses and Jehovah… are not meant to be exceptional at all.  Rather they are examples of the normal human life God intended for us.” – The claim of conversations between these men and God being examples of what God intends needs to be backed with Scripture.  Aren’t all of these examples showing God getting His sovereign will done through His creation?

“Given who we are by basic nature, we…really live-only through God’s regular speaking in our souls and thus “by every word that comes from of the mouth of God.” – by basic nature we are dead in our trespasses and sins.  We only live if we believe on Him whom God has sent, and obey His commandments.

“Many might be surprised to discover what a high percentage of serious Christians-and even non-Christians-can tell of specific experiences in which they are sure God spoke to them.” – This is crucial.  If believers and non-believers are certain of their experiences, shouldn’t that give us more reason to go to that which is Truth – the Word of God?

p. 20 – states that God has spoken to our Christian leaders.  He then says that Ken Taylor stated that “God revealed” to him the idea of the Living Bible translation.  Is “God revealed” the same as “God spoke?”  Also, why couldn’t God reveal to Dr. Taylor what books his company Tyndale publishing shouldn’t put out because it is not sound doctrine?

George Fox, founder of the Quaker movement, is mentioned next.  Willard says that Fox was “seeking someone who could show him the way to peace with God.”  – Why wasn’t Romans 5:1 consulted?  Was it not available?  There is no surprise that the Quakers are mentioned.  First, their practice of waiting for God to speak to them when meeting aligns itself with the book.  Secondly, it is well known that Willard has a working relationship with Quaker mystic Richard Foster, and Willard was an editor of the Renovare Bible.  I could add more links, but you can do the research for yourself.  The paperback of this book has an endorsement from Foster – “The best book on divine guidance I have ever read.  I recommend it highly.”

In the next example, Willard describes a pastor who was given “a bold vision by our Lord.”  Willard never explains if the vision came true, which is a test to if it really came from God or not.

p. 21 – As Christians, we stand in a millennia-long tradition of humans who have been addressed by God.  The ancient Israelites heard the voice of their God speaking to them out of the midst of fire (Deut 4:33)– What about 1 Samuel 3?  What about the approximate 400 years between the Old and New Testament where there is no Israelites hearing from God?  Why are most of the individuals who do hear from God testifying of Christ’s coming, the wickedness of the Israelites and their need to repent, or the second return of Christ?  In this first chapter, I see Willard saying nothing along those lines.  In my understanding, anyone who personally heard from God was called a prophet.

I could go on with the issues I have from assumptions with small, out-of-context Scripture references that Willard proposes here.  To sum up, here is probably one of the thesis statements of the book: I believe we, as disciples of Jesus Christ, cannot abandon faith in our ability to hear from God. 

I believe that the Spirit is speaking through the living Word of God!  This is why it is bad to assume that we can compare our relationship with God as equal to any other human relationship.  When we say the Christian walk is a continual conversation with God, us speaking to Him and Him to us, we are relying on our human experiences on how relationships work, applying them to our relationship with God, and saying it is the same thing.  But is it really the same?  What about these differences:

– we haven’t seen Him whom we have a relationship with (John 1:18, 1 John 4:12)

– He abides in us (John 14:17)

– He is conforming us to the likeness of His son, and we want Him to do that (Romans 8:29)

-He intercedes to God for us (Rom. 8:26,) He is the mediator between us and God (1Tim. 2:5,) and He has made us a new creation (2 Cor. 5:17.)

-The book which we learn about Him is living (Heb. 4:12), and we are supposed to live off of every word He has said (Matt. 4:4)

There are many more differences.

I don’t know if I’ll make it through this book.  The big problem of it, is that I don’t see a solid biblical case from Willard as to why I should hear from God outside of Scripture.  Perhaps there will be some clarity as to how I can hear from God, or what isn’t from God.  Right now I read someone putting more value in experiences than over what God has said.

To say that any saint can hear from God, when Jesus or any of the other Scriptures never affirmed this is dangerous.  At one time, I asked myself “what am I doing wrong in this walk that I am not hearing from God the way others are?”  Praise be to God that His Spirit is still teaching me through Scripture!  Truth is there are some people who have desperately tried to hear from God and tried pagan methods that are not found in Scripture.  That could have been me, and God delivered me from Satan’s tricks.  When I said God delivered me, that is not the same as God speaking to me.  Jesus told us to pray that God would not lead us in certain ways, but deliver us from evil.

What I am learning about books is this.  Some authors, while meaning well, use little Scripture or take it out of context in order to form pages of an idea (which may have applied to a few people, but not the majority.)  Some authors, mean to make money and gain popularity, and use little Scripture or take Scripture out of context in order to form pages of an idea. Some authors encourage saints to read the Scripture, try to clarify difficult passages, seek to show God’s purpose for writing and rarely tell the readers to repent.  Unfortunately, seems like these books aren’t the best-sellers in the Christian bookstores today.

Only one book contains nothing but the Truth.  Only one book is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart.  Only one book will make you complete, and thoroughly equipped for every good work.

Please read, meditate (but not Lectio Divina style,) and pray on the Word.  Hear Him speak through His living Word.

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