I want to think that all Christians would answer "Yes." Formally, surely Christians would answer "Yes." But I am coming to see that the rubber meets the road just at the point where practice parts from theory.
Charismatic leader Pat Robertson answered "No," for instance. On page 114 of his book The Plan (Nashville: Nelson, 1989), Robertson writes: “Probably 95 per cent of all the guidance we need as Christians is found in the clearly understood principles of the Holy Bible.” I have no doubt Robertson thought that he was exalting God's Word by according it such a large number: ninety-five per cent. Why, that's almost 100%!
Almost, but not quite. Math isn't my best subject, but I'm pretty sure that if you take away 95 from 100, you're left with 5. So five per cent of "all the guidance we need as Christians" is not "found in the clearly understood principles of the Holy Bible." Now, notice: Robertson says "clearly understood principles." So even legitimate extrapolation won't get us there. We simply must look someplace else for the guidance we "need as Christians."
Turning from what some might try to style extremist Charismaticism to doctrine accepted broadly within the good ol' Southern Baptist Convention, we have the Blackaby doctrine.
Once I attended an SB church where the pastor suddenly paused in his sermon, announced that the Holy Spirit had "told" him to stop preaching, and if he continued it would be in his own power — so he stopped. One wonders why the Spirit had not told him where to stop when he prepared his sermon. It leaves the impression that the Spirit changed His mind, which I'm confident this good brother would not affirm. Why would he do such a thing? On a hunch prompted by a thought from my dear wife, I asked him if he were an admirer of Blackaby's teaching.
A newcomer might well wonder, "What's the problem with the Blackabys?" I went into that at great length in a pair of posts titled "Non Sola Scriptura: the Blackaby view of God's will." The Blackabys sound very like Robertson when père et fils write that the Bible is "the primary way God communicates with His people" (How Then Should We Choose? [Grand Rapids: Kregel, 2009; 55). There it is again: "the primary way" — 95%? more? less? — but far from the only way.
Of course, the whole unique contribution of the Blackabys is devoted to filling that gap. As I argue in the posts to which I linked, it is a massive chasm. Most of what we do (viewed one way) is not directly touched on by Scripture. Should I read Pyromaniacs? Using which browser? Which version of that browser? On what brand computer? What size monitor? At what resolution? With which OS? Accepting which security patches? Using which antivirus software — or should I "trust God" to protect my pc? And on and on and on and on.
That being the case, the Blackabys helpfully tell us how to listen to that non-inscripturated never-promised voice of God, to fill in the immense, continental gaps their view finds in Scripture. Since the Bible is absolutely silent on the subject, they must be (and are) very creative. Clearly what they are selling has resonated broadly within evangelicalism.
critiqued the language and thinking in Francis Chan's note about his decision to leave the church he pastors. The critique was very upsetting to a couple of Tim Challies' readers. Yet here is maybe the central issue of my critique: I am simply asking the question, "Are you really saying that you are experiencing the inerrant prophetic revelation we see in the Bible as your language implies, or are you saying something else? If something else, where is the Biblical authority for it?"
As to Chan himself, I do not pretend to know. Perhaps he is "saying something else." If so, he is one in a vast company. Many Christians today are "saying something else." Not only are many Christians "saying something else," but they are passionately and insistently "saying something else." Touch that sacred cow, and you might as well have caught a rock with the same hand on the Sabbath in Jesus' day.
You will note in all the discussion that, like a modern Charismatic trying to instruct someone in how to get tongues (against the complete silence of the NT), the absence of data doesn't even slow the view's advocates. They'll appeal to Biblical stories of direct, verbal, inerrant revelation as analogous to their feelings and hunches and leadings. But they're not analogous. Are they saying that they're experiencing the same thing, or not? I observe that they will appeal to the Biblical story, then back off from it when confronted — but still insistently cling to it as analogous.
If they are claiming the exact same experience we see in Scripture, then they must be called to say so explicitly. They need to tell Christians: "I hear God speaking to me in inerrant, binding, prophetic words."
For instance, a fellow on FreeRepublic (I don't want to send traffic to his blog) regularly posts words written in the personna of Jesus Christ. Written words of Jesus. Inerrant? Universally-binding on the conscience? I don't know if he thinks so. He should say so.
If they are not claiming the exact same experience we see in Scripture, they need to tell Christians: "I have a model of spirituality whose core premises I cannot directly demonstrate from the Bible. I do not see the Bible as fully-sufficient for all we need to know as Christians."
Believe it or not, all that was introductory. I plan to develop what I mean and make my point more specifically, in the next post.