03 April 2009

Non Sola Scriptura: the Blackaby view of God's will — 2

by Dan Phillips

[Conclusion of yesterday's post]

Now to the most potentially disastrous aspect of this teaching, in pastoral terms: living it out.

Non-moral choices. In their eagerness to downplay the Scriptures' sufficiency, the Blackabys point out that God told many people to do things that were not reasonable nor morally necessary, such as where Abram or Isaac chose to live, or whether Peter or Andrew continued in their employment (p. 46). Remember this: God might lead us to do things that "make us uncomfortable" (p. 44), are not logical, and are "unorthodox" (p. 46; they do not mean doctrinally unorthodox), and may involve "surrender[ing] ... goals and comforts in order to become involved in God's activity" (p. 46).

The terrible threat. In what areas does God tell us what to do? Choice of school, career, church, ministry... even choice of mate. Oh? Does that mean that there is "only one right person"? Yep (p. 79). What if I miss that one right person? God may give us (second-best — or third? seventeenth? four hundred thirtieth?) "marriage and a fulfilled life," but "Failing to walk with God always carries a cost..." (p. 80, emphases added).

Whoa! Pause. Seriously, stop everything and think that one over.

Imagine you are a poor soul, married to a poor soul afflicted with the Blackaby view. Your spouse believes that he missed the "one [that was] best suited" for him (p. 79). He missed "the life partner He has chosen for you" (p. 79), "God's best" (ibid.), "that someone who would have been God's special gift to" him (p. 80). Every time he looks at you, he might be thinking, "second-best." Every time he says he loves you, he might be thinking, "but not like I'd have loved that special someone."

No lie. I am not making this up. I don't have to. I actually knew a girl, decades ago, who lived in fear of just this situation.

Her friend's mother "felt" she was "called" to be a missionary. Ah, but she met and married a man who wasn't so "called." And now this woman would spend the rest of her life knowing that she had missed God's calling, had missed God's will for her life! She had settled for second-best. She had married second-best.

Did you get that? That was the woman's attitude, and she communicated that to her daughter! About her father! (And wouldn't that mean that the daughter was second-best, too? Not "the child who should have been"?)

So the daughter knew, and now her friend knew! Word was really getting around, about this poor sap. Can you count the things Biblically wrong in this picture so far? Even beyond that the whole concept is the precise opposite of what Scripture says on the subject (1 Corinthians 7:39)?

So now her friend lived in fear that she might meet and love the wrong man — or, more to the point, any man other than the one right man — and spend the rest of her life knowing she was out of God's best will for her life.

See? "Train-wreck."

"Ludicrous"? So how far does this go? What does this "will" include? The Blackabys must get that question a lot, and it clearly stings them. Their reaction is as rhetorically strong as it is logically vacant.
One of the most ludicrous questions people ask is: "Should I seek God's will about everything? Must I pray and ask Him what brand of toothpaste I should buy and which breakfast cereal I should eat?" ...Clearly some mundane aspects of our lives are not life-and-death matters; nor will they influence eternity. They simply require wisdom in our decisions (p. 47)
But why is it "ludicrous"? How do we know they "are not life-and-death matters" that will not influence eternity? After all, remember that the Blackabys belabored the point that God had specific directions for "mundane," non-moral matters such as where to live, where to eat dinner, where to sit to eat dinner, whether to stay in a given business. How do we know what God considers "mundane," given that the Blackabys demand that He direct every detail of our lives, just as Jesus did with the apostles?

No eternal consequences? How do we know there are not eternal consequences? The Blackabys ridicule the (broadly and deeply Biblical) "extreme view that everything we do, right down to the smallest detail of our lives, is prescribed by God" (p. 61). Their phrasing is characteristically sloppy here, but they seem to be denying the pan-Biblical truth of providence.

Well then, if God does not actually have a handle on "the smallest detail" of my life, and if He has all sorts of things He wants me, Dan Phillips, to figure out that He wants me to do — without the Bible, by struggling to hear and discern His voice and apply all the complex Blackaby-invented signs and tests — then how can I know where it stops?

Toothpaste and eternity. I'm absolutely serious. Think about it. The Blackabys scoff at toothpaste-selection. Well, how do I know?

If I pick this tube of toothpaste right in front of me, I will get to the check out line a few seconds earlier than if I bend down and reach back to pick the one near the floor, where the front packages are missing. Suppose that means that I will pick checkstand 12, whereas otherwise I would have picked checkstand 8. Suppose God wanted — in the Blackaby-God's weak, whispery, ambiguous way — for me to pick checkstand 8, because He was hoping I would then hear His next little mumbly nudge telling me to witness to that checker, because He had been preparing her heart to hear the Gospel from me.

But alas! I pick the closer toothpaste. I go to checkstand 12. I am now out of God's perfect will. Uh-oh. What happens when I am out of God's perfect, individual will? The Blackabys told me: "The consequences" can be "disastrous" (p. 48)! And so...
  • ...the checker doesn't hear the Gospel from me, and goes to Hell instead of Heaven.
  • ...I walk out into the parking lot 12 seconds early, am killed by a white van! Aigh! Bam! Dead!
  • I never write that commentary on Proverbs that would have changed hermeneutical history, or that book on Calvinistic Dispensationalism that would have brought all Biblical Christians together in the truth, or preach to tens of thousands of others God was preparing to hear the Gospel just from me!
  • ...and they all go to Hell, too!
Now maybe you chuckle, or maybe you're angry. But there are NO OBJECTIVE OR BIBLICAL CONTROLS in the Blackabys' construct to rule any of this out!

That's not a big deal?

Obey/disobey. This is not an exaggeration. The Blackabys constantly speak of divining this whispery, vaporous leading of God in terms of obedience and disobedience (pp. 45, 61, etc.) And well they should! If it is God's will, then I must obey, mustn't I? After all, God is speaking! Does it get more authoritative than that? Can anyone think of a time when God says, "Do A," when it is morally indifferent to obey or disobey? Disobeying God is the very definition of sin (James 4:17).

Yet I am not sure the Blackabys have even thought this through, even though they're famous for advocating this view. They insist that this will of God, this voice, that they want people to pursue may well not involve choices "between right and wrong" (pp. 42, 43). Huh? If God tells me to do A, doesn't that make it a choice between right and wrong? If He says, in that whispery, unsure murmur I'm to pant after, "Dan, do A," and I do B — haven't I done wrong? Even if God is "saying," "Dan, buy a white car," and I stubbornly insist on buying a car with a real color — am I not doing wrong? Am I not sinning?

And this brings us to a question I really would like to ask the Blackabys.
Supposing I was (somehow) born untainted by Adam's sin.
Supposing I never sinned in my entire life. And then...
Supposing God was "telling" me (Blackaby-style) to become a truck-driver, and I became a cook...
...would Jesus have had to die to keep me from going to Hell for being a cook instead of a truck-driver?
Or for picking the wrong seminary? Marrying the wrong person? Buying the wrong toothpaste? Going to the wrong showing of "Fireproof"?

Here is where I would find out how serious they were about their notions. If God directs me to do something, and I do not do that, then I have sinned, and I deserve Hell for it.

It's just not funny anymore, is it?

No telling who picks up a book. Perhaps most readers will assume the Blackabys' work will fall into the hands of basically stable, sober-minded people. They won't go nuts with the Blackabys' theories. In other words, they won't really take them seriously.

But why not? Suppose, instead, a less-stable, less well-taught, more obsessive person comes on their work. He shifts into overdrive at the thought of discerning this uncomfortable, inconveniencing, fantastic guidance from God. Now everything and anything is fraught with numinous overtones! Every "nudge" (their word) or circumstance or random word or even (all possible means of God's guidance, according to the Blackabys; cf. pp. 56-59) might be the voice of God, speaking to him! Miss it, and face terrible consequences!

So this poor wretch flees the job he's trained for, yanks his family across the country, moves them into a cardboard box to pick over scraps while he starts harassing strangers in Christ's name, because of a voice he thinks he's hearing... and where could it end? Do not dismiss this: remember, God might lead us to do things that "make us uncomfortable" (p. 44), are not logical, and are "unorthodox" (p. 46), and may involve "surrender[ing] ... goals and comforts" (p. 46).

If there's a one-for-one carry-on from the Bible, maybe this unstable soul will "feel moved" to have his family live on grasshoppers and honey, like John the Immerser. Or maybe he'll "feel led" to walk around naked, like Isaiah; or cook his food over dung, like Ezekiel. Or maybe he'll tell a ship's captain to throw him overboard, to end a storm, like Jonah.

There are no real, objective, Biblical controls against such behavior in this reckless article.

This is one of the most pastorally-irresponsible articles I've read, from orthodox Christian writers.

Conclusion: worse? Yes. In conclusion, I think this view of God's will is worse bondage than Pharisaism in this regard.

At least in Pharisaism, you knew where you stood. If you threw up a rock on the Sabbath and caught it with the same hand, you’d violated the Sabbath. It may be a silly rule, but it’s discrete, it's distinct, it's there.

With this view, you never know! You might have sinned merely by picking up the rock! Or maybe you picked up the wrong rock! Or maybe you picked it up with the wrong hand! You never know! Since the Blackabys stress that this "will" isn't necessarily about right and wrong, it could be about anything... and so everything becomes a matter of right and wrong!

There is no basis for knowing, no objective control, as long as it is not directly against Scripture.

Summary. After pro forma niceties about Scripture, the Blackabys assure Christians that what they really need for a dynamic, personal, God-pleasing relationship is not to be found there. They would send them on a lifelong rabbit chase for which Scripture can offer no guidance, because it envisions no such pursuit.

Among the products are irrational, unstable, irresponsible and/or chaotic lives. Unbelievers (and believers) who are wronged, hurt, or simply appalled at reckless behavior by the "I-just-felt-led" set will not glorify God for it. Just "play the God-card," and you're off the hook.

What glorifies God is not a bunch of people acting like fools in His name. I have this notion that God knows best what will really glorify Him. Hear Him:
See, I have taught you statutes and rules, as the LORD my God commanded me, that you should do them in the land that you are entering to take possession of it. 6 Keep them and do them, for that will be your wisdom and your understanding in the sight of the peoples, who, when they hear all these statutes, will say, ‘Surely this great nation is a wise and understanding people.’ 7 For what great nation is there that has a god so near to it as the LORD our God is to us, whenever we call upon him? 8 And what great nation is there, that has statutes and rules so righteous as all this law that I set before you today?
(Deuteronomy 4:5-8)
A better way. Thank God Scripture points us in no such direction! Thank God that Scripture is wholly sufficient for teaching, correcting and directing us, so that we may be fully equipped to serve God (2 Timothy 3:15-17)! God does talk to us. He talks to us through His living, truly-sufficient Word (Psalm 119:24; Proverbs 6:20-23; Hebrews 3:7-11; 4:12).

And thank God that He does in fact exhaustively control everything that comes to pass, so that His children can never put themselves out of the sphere of His love and blessing and good will (Psalm 115:3; Proverbs 16:1, 4, 9, 33; Romans 8:28-39; Ephesians 1:11).

PS — I did ask God to guide me in writing this review. If you agree with the Blackaby position... how do you know He didn't?

addendum after yesterday's post, a reader offered a word of testimony, which I've shared here.

Dan Phillips's signature


Sheldon said...

I hope God wants me to write this comment..............

I could not agree with you more. How can hearing from God, regardless of the content of the message, and then choosing to do something other than what God has commanded, be anything other than sin.

How do the Blackaby's account for people with mental illness or diminished capacities...how do these people hear from God and how do others discern whether or not what they have "heard" is really from God? Obviously we have to take everyone at their word since there is no objective standard to determine what God might say or do (according to the Blackaby view, anyway).

All I can really say is Wow. Hey, can I just make something up and tell people it is truth, too?

mKhulu said...

I have been told by some that God still leads them with dreams and "hunches" and "nudges", BUT they always confirm the validity of such impressions by examining the Word for verification. My response is always, "well what good was the 'notion' if it required validation. Why not rather simply read the Book"?
By the way, my word verification on this post is "zqdzhqju"- I'd need a prophet to sort that message out for me.

timb said...

I appreciate these reviews of Blackaby. In college I had an experience in a church that was teaching 'Experiencing God' and I took a stand on the sufficiency of Scripture. I was told it was disappointing that I didn't believe God could "speak" to me (especially since I was a Bible college student). I was in a sense less mature because I resisted it and spoke against it at some of these points.

You know with your toothpaste analogy I was thinking: maybe if you prayed about what toothpaste to buy, you'd go to the right store at the right time and "bump" into the "one" you are supposed to marry but if you don't, well there they go...

It is disheartening how pastorally irresponsible this is and how hermeneutically terrible: "it happened to Abraham (et al) and so it must happen in your life". Blackaby's view has been extremely frustrating and to confront it you have to go back a do hermeneutics 101 and redemptive-history 102...which isn't as dynamic and exciting.

Thanks Dan.

Gary said...

Thanks Dan,
I grew up with the idea of God's "1-shot at it" perfect will for my life - but thankfully rejected it in college.
It reminds me of Doc Brown's explanation of potential futures in Back to the Future 2 - one choice rifts the future that could've (should've?) been - what a screwed up timeline we would live if the B's were correct.
And why wouldn't I just give up - so many choices have put me so far away from the missed "perfect" will version of my life - that anything I could try to do would be so far from what it could've been - God wouldn't be pleased with such a far off failure.
It makes me nuts - and so diminishes our understanding of God.
Anyhow, thanks again for these articles (even though my buttons got pushed!).

Matt said...

Great follow-up Dan, thanks.

Just to clarify, though, could you answer in one word whether or not you agree with the Blackaby position?

DJP said...

Sheldon ClowdusHow do the Blackaby's account for people with mental illness or diminished capacities....

Yes, and add the fact that, in a very real way, ALL OF US are mentally ill and have diminished capacities!

Jeremiah 17:9 — "The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately sick; who can understand it?"

Proverbs 28:26 — "Whoever trusts in his own mind is a fool, but he who walks in wisdom will be delivered."

DJP said...

PS - to anyone groaning at the length of the post: sorry; but it very easily could have been much longer.

Sheldon said...

Yes, and add the fact that, in a very real way, ALL OF US are mentally ill and have diminished capacities!

Makes you wonder what Blackaby's views are on the state of man concerning depravity and original sin. Are we to use our fallen human capacities to discern the will of God? What methods are available to test our discerning?

Dr. Paul W. Foltz said...

The Christian life is the exchanged life; it is Christ's life for yours. You can't live it, but you can have it, through the power of the Holy Spririt, reproducing it in you.

The Squirrel said...

Great. Now I'll be worried every time I buy toothpaste...



NoLongerBlind said...


Please use lane #8, and watch out for the white van; I for one, am looking forward to your commentary on Proverbs, and especially to the unifying work your Calvinistic Dispensationalism book will one day do.

BTW, my wife drives a white van.

DJP said...


Run away! Run away!

DJP said...

Bobby Grow — maybe now you can understand why my jaw literally dropped when I read the opening sentence of Friesen's response/critique:

"I was impressed with the biblical and effective argument for the specific-will view" (p. 85).

Phil Johnson said...

Bingo. Thank you.

You should get a pay raise for this. I'm thinking of doubling your salary.

And that's SO much better than my critique of Experiencing God would have been. You have a thousand times more patience than I do with that kind of teaching.

Scot said...


What if God doesn't want you to buy toothpaste at all? Add that to your worry...

Dan- Another great post. I'm beginning to realize why you are so forceful about exposing this kind of teaching. It's not heretical, but it can shipwreck the lives of brothers and sisters. They have to somehow rebuilt their lives, while in the back of their mind thinking, "God what did I do wrong? I followed your voice." Add to that a faulty of God purposes in bringing hardship and suffering into our lives and destruction abounds.

DJP said...

That's right, Scott. I'm reading yet another testimony of yet another life ruined by this teaching, and it's all I can do not to groan aloud at work.

It's not tea and crumpets.

Thanks, Phil, but on my best day I don't match you for patience or clarity.

The Squirrel said...

What if God doesn't want you to buy toothpaste at all? Add that to your worry...

Oh, no! AAAAAAAaaaaaaaaaaaaa!


Reminds me of a cartoon my mother-in-law has on her frig: “You’re just jealous, because the voices only talk to me!”

As I said yesterday, I know people who have bought into this. In addition to the sincere person who really wants to be in the will of God, and therefore follows that “little voice,” I believe that this view of God’s guidance is often used as an excuse to just do what you want. I know one couple who move from church to church to church, because “God is leading them to change churches.” It’s pretty obvious that what is really leading them to church-hop is a desire to avoid accountability.


Phil said...

I read a book by Tim LaHaye before I left the seeker sens. movement called "Finding the Will of God in a crazy mixed-up world" that is much like this book reviewed here. This is a low view of God's providence.

DJP said...

You know, one of the big challenges of writing this is that it was a bit like writing a critical review of a plate of spaghetti.

It's such a tangled mess, you don't know where to begin, or how to shape it.

That contributed to the delay.

Sir Brass said...

Dan, I'm posting this link onto FB.

The only college ministry at my alma mater was AoG's college outreach: Chi Alpha. Because it was the only one, it was moderately sane b/c there were some serious reformed influences on it (more than a few calvinists too in student leadership). However, there was that chaotic charismatic undertone and the blackaby view would've easilly taken up residence in there.

Thankfully I never slipped into that trap. The Lord was gracious in putting me into a biblically discerning church where the pastor took an interest in me, so he acted as a sanity safeguard. That, and James MacDonald's teaching on the will of God (which I do highly recommend) was another safeguard.

Another angle that you only briefly touched upon was that of the second-best husband. I'm not married yet, but I want to be. I'd be arrogant if I was to try and say that I was God's best for some sweet girl. So if the blackaby's view is correct, how could I ever measure up? There'd always be that better man who I should yield to. Always turned down, always rejected, b/c I wasn't God's best. Talk about sucking. I nearly fell for that trap. Wiser heads (such as my pastor then, and his wife) prevailed, thankfully.

I've seen and felt the effects of this teaching upon stable minds before, and while they may not do the insane and asinine things you described, it is still a train wreck waiting to happen.

People need to read this article!

Aric said...

Great part 2 Dan.

With family members mired in the Word of Faith goop (Wommack, Copeland, et al.), I often wonder (and occasionally ask them) what about the times people obey the "voice" and it really isn't God. Surely that is blatant sin, to follow after another god, right? So then, how can I ever know with 100% certainty I am following the voice of my Father 100% of the time!

Well I am off to debate whether to stir the hornets' nest by sending my family the links to your 2 posts . . . if only I could get a word . . .

NoLongerBlind said...

"What if... I hadn't moved to California after college; what if I had'nt married my current wife - who I met in CA - but stayed with that other girl from college; etc., etc., ad nauseum.....

Well, for one, I may not have come to the saving knowledge of the Truth (/sarcasm). My wife - who was born in Hong Kong, and immigrated to the U.S. with her family in the late 60's - and I married as unbelievers - God was not consciously part of our lives. My wife had a stroke 13 years ago; the Lord has Sovereignly and providentially worked in and through the ensuing circumstances to bring us both into His Kingdom of light.

Looking back, with Biblical-lensed hindsight, we see that His hand was in ALL of the details; until He miraculously opened our born-blind eyes, we just weren't aware of His presence.

We now praise Him that "He chose us in Him before the foundation of the world, that we would be holy and blameless before Him.."

DJP said...

Very good point, Sir Brass.

Yes, one of my early pastoral challenges was a dear brother and a dear sister (both in their 50s) who were dating. He eventually told me his story. Very sad story. He'd been married, was tragically made a widower, remarried - but almost immediately realized that this second wife was not God's will for him.

So he left her.

Sometimes it's hard being a pastor, and sometimes it's awfully hard being a pastor.

J♥Yce Burrows said...

No no, the length and breadth and depth are spot on, Dan. When I do the 20/20 hindsight evaluating I come up short unto grumbling and complaining and fear rather than thanksgiving/praise and joy and peace concerning where God has taken me from, through, to, and toward as His workmanship. If I'd welcomed a different suitor, if parents had allowed me to pursue that scholarship or if their faith had been different, if I'd gone to a different doctor, been the perfect daughter, wife, mother, or had different everything and everyone....I may be better off financially or in the eyes of someone...maybe not...but would I trade where God's brought me and this family and all others spiritually in His holiness? Not in a million or for a million. Besides, isn't Blackaby's shift of focus to me and mine rather than He and His sovereignty and glory and grace and mercy ~ as if the Potter doesn't know perfectly well what to do with His clay. He doesn't need to ask "Where art [thou], who told thee that, and what [is] this [that] thou hast done, Joyce?". And then some.

Mentally ill and diminished capacities? Yes. Ecclesiastes 9:3♥

Fred Butler said...

Is it just me or does the Blackaby view of God, guidance, and the Bible scream Arminianism?

Maybe I am reading too much in to it.

Sheldon said...

"So he left her."

And that is what happens when you elevate personal revelation to a lever equal to or greater than the clearly revealed Word of God.

Tragic is what that is.

Unknown said...

First of all, thank you for these posts. I am in full agreement.

However, what do you say to the person who felt a "nudge" from God to do something a little strange to them and it turned out that something good came out of it like a deliverance from an accident or a meeting with an old friend that allowed the person to share the gospel?

I have not experienced that, but know people who claim that it has happened to them. I believe that most of these folks would affirm the sufficiency of scripture and not see the experience as normative, but still believe that the "word" they received was from the Lord.

And then, for me, I'm not sure what to make of this book that my wife is reading about Brother Yun called "The Heavenly Man." In it, the man claims to witnessed first hand all sorts of miracles as God used him to spread the gospel. He also claims to have received direction from the Lord at various times. I had never heard of the man before and have no way to verify if any of it ever happened. Some of it sounded suspiciously like miracles recorded in the NT.

I believe that everything we need for a godly life can be discerned from scripture. It is sufficient. I also believe that miracles and such aren't normative. However, do you believe that there are rare instances in our time where God directs someone with a word that does not come directly from Scripture, though not contradicting it?

This is a sincere question. I too know of numerous stories where someone thought they were hearing from the Lord only to make a major mess of things. I'm happy to stick with the Word.

Eric said...


As I read your commentary and think about all the ramifications of this teaching, I am reminded of the following passage.

1Cr 14:33 "For God is not the author of confusion but of peace, as in all the churches of the saints."

Unknown said...

Wow. Another great, mind bending post. I feel a personal paradigm shift coming on, and its making my brain hurt :-). The Blackaby approach is the main way I have been taught to "hear" from God. "My sheep hear my voice" and all that. And I have felt like a spiritual loser for not "getting it." Almost like the Emperor's New Clothes, I have never felt that kind of leading, but assumed it was me. So now you're telling me he's in his underwear!?

I have a million questions now. But, obviously this is something I'll need to look into on my own. So, would you recommend the rest of the book that this review came from? Is there a perspective that you think is more Biblical covered there?

Daniel said...

Excellent follow up DJP - I will surely have to direct people to these posts in days, months, and maybe years to come.

J♥Yce Burrows said...

Fred, with you on that thought. Remember being involved in an Experiencing God conference and mentioning to a pastor that concerning salvation past, present, future it was/is all of God initiating and all of me responding. Raised eyebrows and quiet and then free will blather around the mulberry bush.

Maybe not the most perfect wording and understanding on my part back then.

DJP said...

Lisa — thing is, I read that article and the very start of Friesen's response, and I stopped reading, because I HAD TO write this review!

So now I'll go back and read the rest of it, Lord willing.

The best I've read was Friesen's own original Decision-Making and the Will of God. It wasn't perfect, but it was helpful. I haven't yet read the new edition.

This book I part-reviewed has a bibliography at the end that lists dozens of publications on God's will, and categorizes them.

The Squirrel said...

(D)oes the Blackaby view... scream Arminianism?

Maybe I am reading too much in to it.

No, Fred, I think that you're spot on, brother! Clearly, the Blackaby view is a denial of God's sovereign providence in the ordering of His world. God's purposes are advanced, even when He allows our disobey.


The Squirrel said...

"Disobedience" not "disobey". Golly, Squirrel! When you edit a sentence, edit the whole thing, will ya!


Learning Grace said...

I nearly fell to this teaching myself. I was over-extended teaching kids church every sunday for 2 years. Word starved, and semi-newly saved, I was totally out of touch with the day to day aspects of a living relationship with Christ. I went to a class on "Experiencing God" and it was the most phenomenal teaching I'd heard. It was (or at least sounded like) THE dynamic inter-personal relationship I was after.

And right in the middle of the class, I 'felt' that God was telling me to quit my job. I had 2 kids at the time and I was the only money-earner. My wife was absolutely awesome. She was so happy to see that I was seeking an actual relationship with God that she was willing to follow me to the dumpster if that's what God wanted (or at least get a job)... BUT, she suggested that maybe I should talk to a more mature Christian first. You know, just in case.

Thank God, he has surrounded me with such wise people.

My question, though, is how does one minister to these Brothers and Sisters who are looking for the "more". I run into them all over the place, and I never seem to be able to talk to them. I'm always less spiritual or something. I understand that happens, but what have you found to be helpful in these situations?

donsands said...

"Now maybe you chuckle"

Yep. I did.

But it is sad, that Christians love to live this way. I used to as a Pentecostal.
I remember telling my wife after church way back when, "I think the Lord said He wants us to go visit my brother in Ocean City this weekend."
My wife says, "It's my Mom's birthday, and we are invited to her house."
Me: "No, we better do what God says."
Her: "Fine, you do what God says, and I'm going to my Mom's!"

That weekend my wife went without me to her Mom's. I sat and read ny Bible. I was a young Christian. Funny how i opened to Ephesians, but I read, "Husbands love your wives, as Christ loves the Church."

I then went over my mother-in-law's to be with my wife.

The Lord was bringing me out of this bondage. And I thank Him so much.

This post was excellente mundo!
I pray many will read it and share it with others. I have a lot of Christian friends who like to live this way. "Happenstance meets circumstance and a voice in my mind" kind of Christianity is simply superstition, and can be great bondage.

Phil Johnson said...


This post from a couple of years ago dealt with some of the questions you have.

John said...

Can/does God ever direct our paths by "nudges" or hunches? I think that He can, and does, ON OCCASSION. But that is not normative. Also, unless we are grounded in His Word, we will not even recognize these as the leading of Holy Spirit. As DJP has pointed out, Proverbs (and the rest of the Bible) teaches wisdom, which we choose to make those "mundane" choices.

Scot said...

This series of posts reminds me of quote from Spurgeon, recorded in The Forgotten Spurgeon

"Some say that they live very near to Jesus. It is an evil sign when men speak of their own attainments...I like to be with God's people of the poorer class, and of the more struggling and afflicted sort. I like to be with God's people who wrestle hard with sins, and doubts, and fears. If I get spoken to by my superior brethern, I find I have very little pleasant fellowship with them, for I know nothing about their wonderful experience of freedom from conflict, and complete deliverance from every evil tendency. I have never lived a day but I have had to sorrow over my imperfections."

Spurgeon was referring to the Keswick movement in this quote, but I find it very applicable. A personal word from God movement seems awfully similar at times to the "higher life, freedom from sin and struggle life."

Chris said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Chris said...

....looking for Phil's 5-cd series on such heresies....

Unknown said...


Thank you for the link. I've been following the blog from the beginning, but must that one or at least forgot about it.

I certainly trust in God's providence. However, I'm not always the best at explaining what I mean by that to folks stuck in the "God told me such and such" mud.

One of the most frustrating things that I have faced since leaving the penticostal background of my youth is trying to get people to understand that just because I don't believe that supernatural experiences are normative, doesn't mean that I don't belive that God does miraculous things at all anymore.

I'm also not sure what to make of accounts of certain people like Brother Yun where miraculous events seem somewhat frequent (at least from what I can tell from my wife's recounting of her reading). I have no way to tell if the dude is telling the truth or making things up.

All that said, I am intimately aware of the problems that arise when always seeking a "word from the Lord" apart from simply seeking to read, understand and apply Scripture. I know of people who have been or are now completely terrified to make a decision about where to work or live because they are waiting for some word from the Lord that isn't coming. I know of another person who acted on one of these "words from the Lord" and whose family situation is getting worse by the day. It is all very tragic and breaks my heart.

I often struggle to know how and when to share with those either enslaved by this thinking or being tempted to go in that direction. In many cases, the response I get when sharing about the multiple stories of "God told me to do this" going bad, they say "yeah, but what about this missionary who did claim to have a word and then people got saved?"

Do you see where I'm coming from?

Betsy Markman said...

Hi there,
I was just sent to "Pyro" by a link from Challies.com, and I'm glad I came. I did "Experiencing God" a couple of decades ago, when I was in my early 20's, and I loved it...but even then I could see some of the errors in it. I didn't see just how dangerous it could be if carried to its extremes. But I do seem to recall becoming rather hopeless about my own ability to totally mess up my life if I didn't hear God's guidance in every little "toothpaste" decision.

It is wonderful to be freed from that, and to rest in the sovereign grace of God.

That said, I must add that I have no doubt that God sometimes leads and directs me in unmistakable and very personal ways. I am not charismatic, I don't speak in tongues, I don't believe in WOF or any of that nonsense, and I don't want to be standing within lightning-strike distance of most of today's "big-name Christians" on Judgment Day. Nor do I seek God's guidance on toothpaste.

BUT...I do know the Spirit's prompting when it happens. And I would be unfaithful to Him if I denied that it happens. When the Spirit leads, it is always in conformity with Scripture, but specific to my situation. He leads with power and assuredness, and my heart is moved to grateful reverence when He does. He actively convicts me of sin, righteousness, and judgment. And He does these things on His timing, on His initiative, and not under my control at all. I'm not struggling or searching or exercising any manipulative power over The Almighty. When He is silent, He is silent.

But when He leads, He leads. I can't deny it.

I don't think that it's the point of your article to deny it, either. But I did want to clarify in my own mind what you believe about specific guidance by the Spirit. Do you believe it ever happens for Christians, or not?

Thank you for your very strongly God-honoring, Biblical article. I will be back to read more.

DJP said...

"A link from Challies."

An historic day at Pyro.

Will lightning strike in two places?

I'm thinking Nahhh.

Herding Grasshoppers said...

Like Lisa I've felt like the "loser" who just isn't getting it. I don't have an exciting conversion story, and don't get the emotional "highs" some folks claim.

Years ago my husband and I were in a small group that went through "Experiencing God". Though I felt guilty about it at the time, I was distracted by babies and toddlers and didn't give much attention to the study. But I do remember the insistent pressure to somehow intuit where God is leading and go join him.

And, oh, the whole "my sheep hear my voice" caused me no end of doubt. Why wasn't I hearing his voice?

My dad, on the other hand, pointed me back to God's Word. His take being that 90% (or 99%, or whatever he said), of God's Will is the same for everybody. And if you're obeying what you already know then the rest will sort itself out.

Thanks, Dan, for your thorough (!) review.

DJP said...

Betsy, to answer as plainly as I can, I think that God works all things according to the counsel of His will (Psalm 115:3; Proverbs 16:1, 4, 9, 33; Ephesians 1:11, etc.). If it is God's sovereign will for me to talk to ___ about Christ, I absolutely will do so, however He moves me to do so. It is 100% God's responsibility to see to it that this will is done, and He will, unerringly.

The (only) other Biblically-taught aspect of His will is His moral or revealed will. This is contained only in Scripture. It is my responsibility to seek His grace to carry this will out (cf. Deuteronomy 29:29).

Everything else is made-up.

Hope that helps.

donsands said...

"I have no way to tell if the dude is telling the truth or making things up."

There are tons of made up stuff out there. And then it gets repeated, and the next thing you know it's all over the place.

There are thousands of deceivers, we know this for sure. And God can certainly work miracles if He so desires.
And the Gospel is the power, the only power, whereby a human soul can be saved from God's wrath.

I just try to keep it right there.

I spoke with a lady who heard from god, and even got knocked down in church that day, or slain in the spirit.
I asked her, "What do you get out of falling on the floor?"

She said, "Joy, great joy. And I don't see the joy in you brother."

I told her I had great joy in my church a while ago, but know my joy has turned to sorrow to see how there are false teachers and spirits in the Church deceiveing many.

Unknown said...


I agree that there is a ton of stuff out there that is made up or at least grossly exaggerated.

However, there is a big difference with saying that there is a lot of made up stuff out there and all of those stories are made up.

Regarding your story about the lady in your church. I wish that I had the mind to respond the way you did when I faced the same thing in my childhood church.

~Mark said...

Great post Dan, I do see where this line of teaching could really mess up someone's walk for a while. It must be because God had me under good teaching that even though I took and enjoyed an "Experiencing God" Sundays School class as a young Christian, I never started judging everything by feeling.

I did however, spend some time looking for specific answers when I didn't need to, and looking back I can see how that hampered me. So I agree with you that their style of teaching this topic is dangerous.

My question though comes from the fact that while it seems the Blackaby's teach all the time in everything, every critic of their (not just here but each one I've read) teaching seems to believe never in anything regarding God "speaking to an individual in any way.

Does Scripture rule out God ever today communicating directly to an individual regarding anything other than His direct action in salvation? (I tried to phrase that specifically to show I wasn't trying to catch anybody in a slick answer trap or anything.)

~Mark said...

Yes, one of my early pastoral challenges was a dear brother and a dear sister (both in their 50s) who were dating. He eventually told me his story. Very sad story. He'd been married, was tragically made a widower, remarried - but almost immediately realized that this second wife was not God's will for him.

So he left her.

That's the painful result of not being submitted to Scripture. A very real place where rampant "feelings" can lead.

SolaMommy said...

Spectacular post, Dan. I have been waiting for years for someone online to flesh out the ramifications of the Blackaby view, and here it is.! SDG

greglong said...

DJP wrote:

Betsy, to answer as plainly as I can, I think that God works all things according to the counsel of His will (Psalm 115:3; Proverbs 16:1, 4, 9, 33; Ephesians 1:11, etc.). If it is God's sovereign will for me to talk to ___ about Christ, I absolutely will do so, however He moves me to do so. It is 100% God's responsibility to see to it that this will is done, and He will, unerringly.

The (only) other Biblically-taught aspect of His will is His moral or revealed will. This is contained only in Scripture. It is my responsibility to seek His grace to carry this will out (cf. Deuteronomy 29:29).

Dan, this is helpful.

But how would you answer someone who says:

IF God works all things according to the counsel of His will (Psalm 115:3; Proverbs 16:1, 4, 9, 33; Ephesians 1:11, etc.) and has ordered every detail of my life...

THEN shouldn't I seek to know God's will for every detail of my life, especially the major things like choice of spouse and career?

I think the answer is partly not in whether or not I should seek God's will, but rather in HOW I should do so. By the Word and prayer and God-given, Holy Spirit-led wisdom, OR by waiting for God to speak to me (whatever that means)?

Anonymous said...


I certainly don't mean to step on Dan's toes here...

But I see a couple things. First, who's to say, really , what a major decision is? That is, lots of people meet their spouse at the mall. So, be extension, the decision to go to the mall becomes a pretty major decision. So I think classifying everything as major or not major becomes problematic.

The other things is that as long as Scripture says (and it does) that God orders all things according to his will, we should be wise and moral in our decisions and then just let him do what he says he'll do. Notice that it doesn't say, "He tells you how to order all things according to the counsel of his will".
Just like I don't have to tell my kids what I'm up to in their lives, I just direct them how I want to.

It's about providence and trust methinks.

greglong said...

Also, I think part of the problem with the Blackabys' view of God's will is a lack of understanding of two things:

1. The fact that God ordains everything that comes to pass, good OR BAD.

2. The difference between the hidden (aka secret or decretive) will of God and the revealed will of God (Deut. 29:29).

Pastoral example: lady comes to you and says she made a mistake because she married an unbeliever. Yes, according to God's revealed will, she did make a mistake. In fact, she sinned.

But how, then, should she live? Is her marriage and life ruined? Should she continue to stew and rue and fret and regret? Should she look upon her husband as a mistake?

No, she should accept that God works all things, even evil, according to the counsel of his will. She should accept that God works all things, even human "mistakes", together for good to those who love Him. After repenting of the sin of marrying an unbeliever, she should trust that her sin is wiped clean by the blood of Christ. She should understand that in some sense, it was God's will for her to marry an unbeliever, BECAUSE SHE DID. God isn't wringing His hands wondering what in the world He will do now.

(This does not diminish the consequences of sin, however. And no one should use God's hidden will as an excuse to justify sin.)

Stefan Ewing said...

My 2-cents' worth—and I can't claim to speak for Dave, ~Mark, or Betsy—but so far, it seems that Dan answered their (and my) questions in his 9:23 a.m. response to Betsy, and Phil in his 8:32 a.m. response to Dave, in a way that would be satisfactory to most of the commentors here.

And again, I'll repeat what I wrote yesterday (in response to myself...) that those "God moments" that we avowed cessationists have can probably be attributed to a combination of:

* Divine providence;
* Prayerfulness and/or answered prayer;
* Obedience to Christ; and
* Studying (so being ready to apply) the counsels and precepts of Scripture.

And through all of these, the Holy Spirit may be said to work (especially the last three).

Does this make sense?

NoLongerBlind said...

If you love Him, keep His commandments; seek first His kingdom and His righteousness; whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God; delight yourself in the Lord, and He will give you the desires of your heart.

(The desires themselves will come from the Lord, not "He'll give me whatever I want")

Kimberly said...

“Here is where I would find out how serious they were about their notions. If God directs me to do something, and I do not do that, then I have sinned, and I deserve Hell for it.
It's just not funny anymore, is it?”

DJP - No it isn’t. Seriously. I wasn’t aware of the name of this viewpoint until these posts, but my current church, which I’m having some challenges with right now but that’s another subject, is saturated with this view. I can give 2 different experiences to illustrate the genuine just...bad, bad, badness of this view:

1. When I began reading my Bible and going to Bible studies I began to grow spiritually. But, as I felt a desire to do things like serve in the church in some area I was discouraged from certain areas, which I happened to have the most interest in such as the music or other media, because “the Lord wasn’t letting me” and “it wasn’t His will.” So, I didn’t understand all this and I inquired about what they were talking about. That’s when I was informed of the ideas that Blackaby apparently advocates, though his name was never mentioned. I really did try to apply the “teachings” to my life in the beginning, but it got crazy. I actually got to the point where I was wondering about the very same types of questions Dan asked in illustrating how ridiculous this view is. Then when I heard others talk about how they were waiting to be told when to eat dinner I knew that I was in crazytown. And the thing about this is that when you are in this type of thinking you end up not being able to do anything, doing some things and then getting ulcers and high blood pressure from all the stress you’re putting on yourself to “try” and hear from God, or you leave the church and do whatever you want. You just can’t continue that thinking forever. It will not sustain.

2. This one is worse in my opinion. When my husband, who was then my boyfriend and we were living together, and I felt like we were being lead to get married rather than stay as we were the first thing that “friends,” began to do was imply that he was not my “perfect” mate and that I was settling. I got pretty upset about this because there are actual ways to test whether someone is unequally yolked with you, one being to ask them what they believed. Obviously in my 6 years of prior history with him I had done that and understood clearly what he believed. I also gave him an opportunity to decide what he wanted to do on his own by moving in with a friend and her family. We even went to pre-marriage counseling. I did everything that I was “supposed” to do except obey them. And that’s the thing about it. Much of this nonsense has to do with what other people want and not what God wants. I feel certain that God was happy that I’d decided to quite living out of wedlock with my boyfriend and do things right. But, never once did anyone ever say a positive word of encouragement about that. In fact, after that happened my “friends” started treating me like a had cooties and eventually left the church and aren’t my friends anymore.

Sorry to get off on a rant but this thing really does make me angry.


Unknown said...

Sardonic wit alert...

you're buying toothpaste??? You'll forever be out of God's all-perfect will for you to be a denture wearer. Oh... the consequences of your amoral yet ungodly decision to regularly brush.

Thank you for taking the time to share your insights. Writing like this is not easy nor quick. I thank the Lord for his providence in allowing you to publish this.

Strong Tower said...

"Failing to walk with God always carries a cost..."

Isn't this backwards?

"If anyone comes to me and does not hate his own father and mother and wife and children and brothers and sisters, yes, and even his own life, he cannot be my disciple. Whoever does not bear his own cross and come after me cannot be my disciple. For which of you, desiring to build a tower, does not first sit down and count the cost, whether he has enough to complete it? Otherwise, when he has laid a foundation and is not able to finish, all who see it begin to mock him, saying, ‘This man began to build and was not able to finish.’ Or what king, going out to encounter another king in war, will not sit down first and deliberate whether he is able with ten thousand to meet him who comes against him with twenty thousand? And if not, while the other is yet a great way off, he sends a delegation and asks for terms of peace. So therefore, any one of you who does not renounce all that he has cannot be my disciple."

I think with the economic down-turn the Blackaby's retirement funds might have been hit and this was a good way to get fresh revenues from stupid SBC'ers. If they bought their first ravings and they buy Townes, Land, Osteen, as well as racks of other personal prosperity narcisism guides, they'll surely buy this.

As to Calvinistic Dispensationalism. I am praying that God speaks more clearly to Dan ;)

Jeanine M. said...

Very interesting article. The Blackaby's view of God's will can only lead to anxiety and constant second guessing. It also seems to place a higher emphasis on our actions. God's sovereign will can't be changed because I choose the wrong toothpaste or pick one school over another. If something really is God's sovereign will He will ensure that it happens. The other problem I have with the Blackaby viewpoint is that it puts a huge focus on figuring out "a hidden message". That's a dangerous path to walk. God doesn't hide what He wants us to know.

Stefan Ewing said...

As others here have attested, it strikes me that this view of God's will is pervasive in the contemporary church. Like KM said, I didn't know it had a specific name, or had been clearly (if erroneously) delineated.

Regarding others' remarks about the echoes of Arminianism, that struck me, too. Make a wrong decision, and God's plans won't be carried out—that's what it seems to boil down to.

The partial overlap with Charismaticism, then, may not be accidental, either. Apparently, the modern Charismatic movement claims Wesley as its spiritual heir, just as cessationistic Arminians do.

(And this is not in any way meant to knock Wesleyan Evangelical Arminians.)

___________________________ said...

One doesn't even need to argue God's sovereignty to argue against this kind of view.

1) We do not know what kind of message we'd be getting, we are sinful(Jer 17:9), and the devil misleads people.(2 Cor 11:14) So, it is not bad to distrust these feelings.

2) God should not just be a source of our guilt(1 John 3:19-21, 1 John 4:17-18).

3) God's standard is perfection(Matt 5:48), which man cannot reach. This isn't to bring up antinomian attitudes, but Jesus saves sinners(Rom 5:8, Matt 9:12-13). So, if one says anything about not doing what God would ideally have them do, then yes, they aren't, but possible sin lies in all directions, so one has to go with the best knowledge they have.

4) God improves the people He saves(Rom 12:2), so even though people fail, helps them get better. So, even if you make a mistake once, God will improve you such to help you get better, just pay attention to His scriptures. (2 Tim 3:16-17)

DJP said...

I can't really keep up with comments that are 300-770+ words long on both meta's. To deal with a number of them, I'm posting this to both.

Here's a summary-response.

1. We should be very careful in what we say about Christian living, and keep our language as rigorously Biblical as we can.

2. Since Scripture does not lead Christians to expect, seek for, depend on, look to, or give credence to God speaking to them apart from inerrant, God-breathed Scripture, neither should we.

3. God can get anybody to do anything He wants, any way He wants. That's His business.

4. Our sole responsibility is to learn His will from His Word and do it (John 14:15; 15:14; 1 John 5:1-3).

5. If a decision or choice we must make is not spelled out in the Word, we should think it through rationally and responsibly (Proverbs 16:1, 9).

6. It is wildly irresponsible and un-Biblical to try to guess or divine God's sovereign will (which is 100% His responsibility) and do it as if it were His moral will (cf. Deuteronomy 29:29).

7. We should avoid "story theology" like the plague that it is, and strictly stick to the Word (cf. 2 Peter 1:16-21).

DJP said...

___________________________ — would it be all right if I just called you "_____," for short?

DL said...

Dan wrote, "Suppose, instead, a less-stable, less well-taught, more obsessive person comes on their work."

If said less-stable, less well-taught, more obsessive person comes on Blackaby's work, wouldn't that poor soul be settling for less than God's best in the area of God's will books? Clearly God's best in this area would be "Step by Step" by James Petty.

Solameanie said...

I am wondering when someone will publish a book about discerning God's will by means of a divining rod.

Hmm. Probably shouldn't have even speculated about that. Someone will likely do it now, make a million dollars and top the CBD best sellers list.

Michael Bates said...

Thanks for this, Dan. You've done an excellent job of setting out the problems with this view.

Friesen's book also does a good job of taking apart what he calls the "traditional view" or "the dot." When Friesen writes, "I was impressed with the biblical and effective argument for the specific-will view," he's talking (if I recall correctly) about his reaction as a young Christian to a presentation of that view, which he sets out in detail before taking it apart with the Biblical view.

Add to your list of disasters this one: A man became a Christian through a parachurch campus ministry while earning a Ph.D. in polymer chemistry. He believed God called him to discard all of his training and go on staff with that ministry. He was assigned to MIT, where he exerted his influence to dissuade Christian students there from exercising their God-given scientific and engineering skills for His glory, but rather to have a "kingdom mentality" and go into "full-time Christian work."

C. S. Lewis's lecture, "Learning in Wartime" is another antidote to this way of thinking, at least as it applies to vocation. You can apply his apologetic for continuing to study literature and history in the midst of a global conflict to a rationale for pursuing "secular" vocations in the midst of spiritual war.

Strong Tower said...

___________________________ — would it be all right if I just called you "_____," for short?

Tooooo funnnnny!

Is ... a last name?

Strong Tower said...

Clearly God's best in this area would be "Step by Step" by James Petty.

I thought this exellent, too, Darby.

DJP said...

Thanks for those good illustrations, Michael. Very apropos.

As to Friesen, I admire your desire to "save" him ( < g > ), but that is the first sentence of what is supposed to be his critique of the Blackabys' chapter.

He goes on to say:

"The Blackabys' disussion on 'Foundational Truths' would make a good introduction to what all our presentations should be. They have a genuine faith commitment to Scripture and see its authority above tradition, experience, and our faulty reason, which is demonstrated by dozens of passages used to support their view."

It goes on in the same vein.

I would call it "praising by faint damn."

Strong Tower said...

Sola- I thought the divine rod was one way of knowing God's will.

And if you want to collaborate on that, I could use a mill...

Tom Austin said...

Funny thing is, I have the opposite problem from the lady described in this post (and the friend I mentioned in yesterday's meta). I was "led" to propose to my wife. I was trying to pick out a Christmas present for her, ( I hadn't fully decided to pop the question yet) and I could have sworn that there was an angel nudging me and saying "Buy the ring, dummy!" I related this story to her a couple of years after we got married.

Fast-forward a decade and change (which included a major Geneva-ward shift in my theology) . She's dealing with a choir director at church who "wasn't feeling led" to give her a solo. I gave her a wonderful little discussion about sovereignty and cessation and the difference between revelation and Providence, and how the director's "leading" was awfully convenient.

It was very helpful to her, and I was very proud of myself...until about an hour later, when she said, "Hey! That means that story about "buy the ring" was bunk, too!"

I think I recovered by explaining that God had sovereignly used providence to mold me into the kind of man that would have that urge at that specific time, and that our marriage was, therefore, ordained before the Dawn of Time. But she still gave me that look...you know the one.

DJP said...

I don't know Petty; it is in the extensive bibliography at the end of the book I'm talking about, categorized as of the "Wisdom" (Friesen) school.

DL said...

Petty works with CCEF.

Michael Bates said...

Sorry. I hadn't yet read the earlier post that explains the reference to Friesen was from an essay in the same book as the Blackaby essay, rather than to his own book.

DJP said...

No harm, no foul, MB. Thousands of words, between these two posts!


DJP said...

RespectabiggleBut she still gave me that look...you know the one

Not from your wife, but yes, I do know it.


Stuart Brogden said...

You posted:

The terrible threat. In what areas does God tell us what to do? Choice of school, career, church, ministry... even choice of mate. Oh? Does that mean that there is "only one right person"? Yep (p. 79). What if I miss that one right person? God may give us (second-best — or third? seventeenth? four hundred thirtieth?) "marriage and a fulfilled life," but "Failing to walk with God always carries a cost..." (p. 80, emphases added).

Whoa! Pause. Seriously, stop everything and think that one over.

Imagine you are a poor soul, married to a poor soul afflicted with the Blackaby view. Your spouse believes that he missed the "one [that was] best suited" for him (p. 79). He missed "the life partner He has chosen for you" (p. 79), "God's best" (ibid.), "that someone who would have been God's special gift to" him (p. 80). Every time he looks at you, he might be thinking, "second-best." Every time he says he loves you, he might be thinking, "but not like I'd have loved that special someone."

The horror is that a man with whom I served as a deacon years ago told me God wants him to divorce his wife BECAUSE SHE IS NOT THE ONE HE WANTED HIM TO MARRY!

I asked him where that view was found in Scripture and told his wife that he had been victimized by Blackaby's teachings - not knowing of this new book. I had "Experiencing God" in mind.

This man's teaching is cancer within the church.

John said...

"This is one of the most pastorally-irresponsible articles I've read, from orthodox Christian writers."

A bit generous, aren't we?

Anonymous said...

You're seriously funny.

And I, too, hope you live long enough to write that book on Calvinistic Dispensationalism.

DJP said...

sbrogden and all:

I want to be fair. I feel certain that the Blackabys would tell folks like your deacon that they needed to repent and obey the Word of God. They are very clear and emphatic that Scripture comes first, and God will not guide us contrary to Scripture.

However, that does not let them off the hook for the damage and pressure caused within the marriages of folks who decided that they are not married to "the right one."

Stuart Brogden said...

DJP - You said, "I feel certain that the Blackabys would tell folks like your deacon that they needed to repent and obey the Word of God."

That illustrates a major part of the problem we're discussing: making decisions and other assessments based on feelings rather than on understanding.

I feel creepy when I read many of the things Blackaby has written. I think many of them are horribly wrong.

Strong Tower said...

Petty has a doctorate from Westminster Theological Seminary and directs a reconcilliation ministry.

We studied Step By Step in adult class at the PCA I attend. A well balanced approach and easily digested. If you can trust endorsements it is endorsed by J.M. Boice, J.I. Packer, J. Frame, S. Estes, A. Miller, B. Walke.

Petty's main emphasis is upon Scripture, first and foremost. He recognizes other spheres of influence: talents, resources, counselors, circumstance, desire et cetera... But everything is subjugated under Scripture. He groups three kinds of guidance under: God's law, wisdom and discernment, and personal choice. He further discribes them as prohibitions, prescriptions (positive commandments), and liberty.

What I dint find in Petty was any "spooky" spirituality.

Adam Omelianchuk said...


I usually don't read your posts and rarely agree with you to the point where I feel compelled to comment about it. But seriously, thanks for posting this. I cannot believe how utterly worthless this teaching is and how damaging it could be to other believers. File this one away as one of your best (2 part) posts ever.


Adam O

Anonymous said...


With your understanding of the sufficiency of scripture and view of prayer as a one-side conversation, how do you deal with a pastor discerning which church to serve? Does God not lead a pastor in making such a decision?

Brad said...

Good stuff, Dan. Magic 8 Ball Theology simply collapses in on itself. All those jumbled emotions swimming around that are supposed to just be God tugging me here or there just do not wash up and sick against plain reason. That’s just you playing God while you’re busy convincing yourself you’re not. And where did sin and the “god of this world” go? Did they just suddenly just vanish? Am I untouchable now that I say so, or because I signed that card when I was six or because I sent in my $79.95 to guy with the big hair and plastic smile who said he would pray for me?

Oh, and Dan. You’re such a “bibliolater.” Wear that badge with pride.


DJP said...

blue — I try to get my definition of prayer from Scripture: prayer is anything we say to God. Scripture never describes it as, much less enjoins us to make it, a conversation or dialogue.

Is there a verse that says God cracks the Canon back open to tell individual pastors which churches to pastor? I wish!

The short answer is: you make it like you make any other decision, categorically. See my 11:42 AM, April 03, 2009 comment, above.

Strong Tower said...

"They are very clear and emphatic that Scripture comes first..."

I just caught this. And you see, this is just what I said of Petty. In that is a real trap. I often have people equivocate in the "yah but, there's some good there, too-oo!" mode. It is not the good that is the problem. A deacon friend from my old SBC haunts discovered this about Blackaby after being a facilitator of EG classes. As he has grown in Reformed teaching he has learned that many of those he thought "spiritually guided" bros and sisses were really trusting in some shaky spiritual practices. It has been a hard lesson to learn knowing that many we went to church with and who were in leadership had imbibed this kind of stuff for up to fifty years.

$79.95- That's cheep when you think about how many Christian self-help spiritual growth books there are on the market. And just think- it used to cost a buck to buy a pill and see God.

Strong Tower said...

DJP- Did you hear that voice say go to Cheyenne and plant a church, yet?

DJP said...

Here's the thing, ST. Their formal affirmation of the priority of Scripture is pretty much undone by the "but" part. A great deal of our life is not spent facing decisions like "Hm, should I commit adultery? Or no?", but "What church should I attend?" and such, for where there is no single specific Bible verse.

DJP said...

I didn't hear the voice that said ten committed families were ready to support a Calvidispiebaptoglical pastor and his family yet. So no.

Brad said...

$79.95- That's cheep when you think about how many Christian self-help spiritual growth books there are on the market. And just think- it used to cost a buck to buy a pill and see God.

Yes, indeed. but back then no one had "received the calling" to evangelize by learjet either.

Strong Tower said...

Learjet- back then I believed I could fly...

DJP- you're just not spiritual. I am sure if you tried vision casting, that pretty soon you'd hear the call.

trogdor said...

Great couple of posts. It's been tough to read, though. Fourteen years ago when I was a wee baby believer, Experiencing God was the first study I went through, and at the time it didn't seem entirely right, but I couldn't quite put my finger on why (although since we started calling it "experiencing Moses", that shoulda tipped me off). Now, a bit more discerning, I think I'd have a much different opinion. The good thing is, it was what got me into the habit of regular Bible study, so that was nice. It's hard to look back at something that was such a big part of my early Christian life and see that it was pretty wacky. Praise God that its effect wore off and I barely remembered any of it, I guess.

I may be off on this, but it looks like Blackaby/charismaticism and Catholicism have much in common regarding the view of scripture. Both views claim to have a high view of scripture, while also claiming extra-biblical revelation that is authoritative and must be obeyed. The difference being whether it comes to everyone or just the grand poobah, whether the secret messages come only through the magisterium or if each man is his own magisterium. Correct me if I'm wrong.

Strong Tower said...

trog- I don't think you're wrong. Much of the attraction to this kind of stuff is our pride. We have an innate desire to gain hidden spiritual knowledge and to use it to exalt ourselves above others. And I don't think there is much difference. The Prophetic ministries have their prophets, the Catholic Church the Magisterium, and run of the mill evangelicals have their heros and authority figures that are not to be challenged either. When it comes down to it, the defenders of Blackaby will offer the unchallengeable challenge, "Who are you?" The Bentley type pheomenon is easy to denounce. The more subtle the enemy, however, the more dangerous and further he penetrates before he is discovered. In the occult the profane and weak are marked by their foolish display and easily discovered appearance, but the real magic is in stealth.

Kurt said...

Here are two more cents before I crawl back under my rock (note to Frank: I am not a number, I am a free man). :-)

I was a member of an ex-charismatic support group for almost two years after I exited the movement.

As Dan and others pointed out, personality defects are often amplified and justified by following voices in one's head.

From the comical to the abusive, it is not rare at all - it isn't like only a few are vulnerable to this.

I would add that it is emotionally addictive too, with pride-puffing euphoric highs when things go well, and crushing lows when they don't.

All such theologies that (mis)place Divine responsibilities into your hands are punishing to put into practice IMHO - and rightly so.

I like how Jeremiah 23:32-40 puts it in the KJV. How remarkably similar it is to the ever popular "the Lord placed this burden on my heart". I would think people would never use those words again if they read those verses carefully.

My favorite quote (slightly paraphrased) on this subject is from Jonathan Edwards:

"I can think of no better way to surrender control of the church to the Devil than following after mental impressions attributed to God."


Anonymous said...

Get this... my wife is a woman of much, fervent effectual prayer. She prayed for me during a season in my life of very serious 'backsliding'. She read the passage where Jesus tells Peter that Satan is going to sift him through the events that would take place shortly. My wife got an impression at that time that I would, after having fallen into sin and error, come out on the other side of that season as a man set apart for God's use like never before in my life.

Long story short, I was not only delivered of some serious sin in my life that God granted me the grace to confess and forsake, but I came under the full conviction of my sin and God's grace in saving me for what I believe was the very first REAL, genuine time.

All this was NOT, I repeat, NOT because my wife got a 'word' or a 'nudge'. It was because she was FAITHFUL to do what God IN HIS WORD has commanded the believing wives of hard-headed men to do: she PRAYED and STAYED IN THE WORD of God. Her 'impression' concerning my spiritual life came because what happened to me MUST necessarily happen to EVERYONE who is saved by God's grace. It was powerful for her, emotional for her and private to her, because I was in sin. It was NOT, however, some extra-Biblical whispering. The kind of thing that the Blackabys propose as the norm for so-called Christians is Gnosticism and rank heresy. Everything we receive as believers by way of revelation in our lives today comes from the Word as it is understood through the framework of the covenant of grace in Christ. Period. What people will sell these days in order to placate those who refuse sound teaching is astounding.

Stefan Ewing said...


Wow! I hadn't picked up on the applicability of Jeremiah 23 to this general topic, but you make an instructive observation.

It adds another dimension to the signature verse of this blog, too (and the inspiration for its title), coming as it does from that very chapter (verse 29).

Scott McClare said...

Excellent pair of articles, DJP, and I hope there are more to come. I've been mulling over the idea of "knowing the will of God" on my own blog on and off for a number of years, and I like reading others' perspectives on books I haven't yet had the [dis]pleasure to read.

One thing you didn't point out about the "God's second best" nonsense when it comes to marriage: When you marry God's "second best" for you, that means you've just married his best for someone else, and now he's stuck marrying God's "second best" for himself. So he goes off and marries someone else's best. And in only a few iterations, the whole human race is spiritually off the rails.

"Don't settle for God's second best" sounds nice and pious, but I don't think its inventors quite thought through the implications of their arguments.

DJP said...

Yikes. Really excellent point, Ransom. I wonder how many generations it takes for God to wobble things back onto course, in this view? Or, given that we've all got unbelievers in our ancestry who weren't applying all the Blackaby methods to their mate-search, aren't things just hopelessly off-course now?

NoLongerBlind said...

Is this some sort of record, Dan?

Three, count 'em three! posts in-a-row! with 100+ comments-metas......

...it would appear that youz is on a roll!

(You must have your ears finely tuned to that still, small voice...)

WTG! (c:

Mark said...

This is timely in my life, as an old friend and I were writing regarding what God has to say about a topic. She basically said, "I think Scripture says this! But if God is telling you to do otherwise, you better listen!"
I have yet to respond, trying to figure out a way to be gentle, yet honest.
This view permeates the evangelical world, and is so dangerous. Thanks for the encouraging words.

gregorp said...

Excellent stuff, and well-structured in spite of the spaghetti to which you were responding.

Can any conclusions be drawn about our friends who are continuationists but who also reject extra-biblical revelation? They say they are led by God in preaching or spontaneous song to say a certain thing outside of the specific revelation of the scripture, and that this is evidence of a gift of the spirit. These "leadings" are outside the structure of direct revelation, and are not immoral or illegal, and sometimes seem to accomplish God's purposes. They do not make claims about the will of God or authority, but it seems to be somewhat related to this error. Am I way off here?

DFR said...

Thank you for two excellent articles.

I had hoped that you had overstated your case, especially in your characterization of the Blackabys' position as a deliberate denial of the sufficiency of Scripture. So I went to christianbooks.com and read the excerpt of their book, Hearing God's Voice, on which the article you reviewed is clearly based. It is positively alarming. What is more alarming is that it is published by B&H, and that Richard Blackaby is currently President of the Canadian Southern Baptist Seminary.

The Blackabys do indeed directly and explicitly deny the sufficiency of Scripture for daily living and scorn life lived in obedience to the Word of God as legalism. The only caricaturing going on around here is their caricature of those who seek to live Sola Scriptura as being obsessed with principles and commands (which is all they apparently see in the Bible, apart from examples for us to follow), and their caricature of Friesen's concept of wisdom as humans relying on their own understanding. The low view of Scripture held by the Blackabys is unmatched by anything I have ever read from any "evangelical", and is more akin to the view of the RCC as to anything.

They also speak of "God's fresh word" and God's written word". The latter, they say, is supreme. But it is not sufficient.

What more needs to be said?

What else will it take for us pastors to start warning the church of God, which He has purchased with His own blood, against this dangerous teaching, and to stand for the sufficient Word of God, and for the Gospel?

DJP said...

Thanks, DFR. I went over the chapter repeatedly to try to be accurate. And you're right, they caricature the view I think the Bible teaches as rationalistic Deism.

Mike Slone said...

"For certain giddy men have lately appeared, who, while they make a great display of the superiority of the Spirit, reject all reading of the Scriptures themselves, and deride the simplicity of those who only delight in what they call the dead and deadly letter. But I wish they would tell me what spirit it is whose inspiration raises them to such a sublime height that they dare despise the doctrine of Scripture as mean and childish."
-Calvin's Institutes, Book I, Chapter 9

Am I right in thinking the Blackaby view to be similar to that of many 16th and 17th century Anabaptists? I'm guessing that's the crowd Calvin was referring to in the above quote.

Julius Mickel said...

What was Spurgeon's thoughts on such things---Many reformed leaders of the past used such words as impressions (as regards to the call and things they may say without previous thought)
Yet even then it's tested by the word and confirmed. If i'm seeking the Lord and am in His word then my desires, my decisions (some might call impressions others wisdom whatever).
I've seen the dangers of this type of stuff, this extra-biblical emphasis.
No Second bests, but could you balance that will the principle that we still reap what we sow--> Like say marriage, obviously there are many who refused to test their mates by the scriptures and though they can't say "i've married the wrong person, i need to find the ONE" (which i know happens).
I fear there are some aho look at the Sovereignty of God in this way: "well i know he/she isn't REALLY committed to God, but i'll get married anyway since God works out all things..." Just like a child out of wedlock, though the child is a blessing and though the Lord would desire that mother to birth and train up that child, intially there's a call for repentance and the need to move on.
Hope i made sense? bless you, good post to reference

DJP said...

Well, Julius, I am pretty sure Spurgeon did not say what the Blackabys said in the chapter I've critiqued here. If he did, I'd say he was wrong, and for the same reasons.

The Bible's teaching is a tension. On the one hand, I do not believe anyone will ever finally be happy that he sinned. On the other hand, God does sovereignly bring good out of sin. Which is a great glorious good thing, or it all would have been over as of Genesis 3:6, period, end of story except for the eternity-in-Hell part.

Unknown said...

Thanks, Dan, for these posts. I've been lurking around here for quite some time, and this is the first time I've felt compelled to comment. (But not in a "still small voice" kind of way :) )

This error, plus some other strands of the spaghetti, had me ultimately doubting my salvation. Everyone else *seemed* to be so much more spiritual than I was, since they all *seemed* to be led by the Spirit in ways that I was not. What else could I conclude but that I wasn't really saved?

Of course, I was an immature Christian, but then the kind of anguish I went through over this stuff was completely unnecessary.

Thank God that He brought me out of all of it.

Chris Poe said...


Thanks for these articles.

Real Truth Matters said...

A running, white van jumped out of gear in the parking lot of my church (long before I was part of the body) and backed over a man who was making trouble and trying to rally members to vote out the pastor. He repented on the spot. And that't not a preacher's story.

Anonymous said...

No groaning over the length of the post. I would like to read more of this sort of commentary as, in my experience with the church, this is THE dominant view. The camp I've found who does not embrace this view is the Reformed camp.

That's why I pitched my tent there.


DJP said...

Me"A link from Challies."

An historic day at Pyro.

Will lightning strike in two places?

I'm thinking Nahhh.

And the "Nahhh" has it.

Erik Hoffman said...

DJP said... "I didn't hear the voice that said ten committed families were ready to support a Calvidispiebaptoglical pastor and his family yet. So no."

My family and I live 50 miles from Cheyenne (Loveland, Colorado). You didn't see our ad in the personals?

"CDBGF seeking CDBGP in Northern Colorado area to grow with and support financially." (CDBGF=Calvidispiebaptoglical Family; CDBGP=Calvidispiebaptoglical Pastor)

Seriously...we're looking. MacArthur said "no", so I guess you'll do.

DJP said...

So then forever, every time you looked at me and said "I love my pastor," I'd know you were thinking, "Second-best!"

Erik Hoffman said...

Oops, I misspelled it, (because I copied and pasted your post, lol)

I meant to say:


Erik Hoffman said...

DJP said...So then forever, every time you looked at me and said "I love my pastor," I'd know you were thinking, "Second-best!"

Whoever said that a pastorship needs to be love at first sight? You'd grow on us, I know you would. ;)

Matthew Lawrence Woodwork said...

Hah! I had to laugh when I read the marriage example. About 15 years or so ago, I was dating a young woman about whom I became absolutely convinced that "she was the ONE God had for me." And she felt likewise (about me - not her). Anyway, we ENDURED each other for almost two miserable years until we finally broke up. I was convinced this was the will of God because her face came to my conscious mind as I was praying one evening, "for my future spouse." (Little did I know that my actual future spouse was in high school at the time - I was in law school.) Also, we were both working through Blackaby's "Experiencing God" workbook/study at the time. It is awful how much that experience set me back in my faith. I mean, the girl would bite me when she got frustrated over my not being the leader she thought I ought to be. Ughh. After that, I didn't want to have anything to do with church, God or any of it. That is my experience. Therefore, it must be true.

Eric Kaminsky said...

This post is extremely timely in life, because I just abandoned an experiencing god study in my own church. The reason I told my group I left was that God had led me to a deeper study of scripture for my sanctification. No questions asked. true story lol

DJP said...

Eric, I've thought of telling Charismatics that "God told me only to listen for His voice in Scripture."

Eric Kaminsky said...

It's funny Dan, but my wife went through the course with a group leader this is saturated with John MacArthur lectures, and she had positive experience. Perhaps her mentor corrected the errors throughout the course. I'm studying MacArthur's booklet Found:God's Will and have ordered an RC Sproul booklet on the same subject and will be teaching on the very subject this week for my
Discipleship group. My seeker sensitive church is so scattered theologically that we have small groups studying John Macarthur's The Tale of Two Sons, and other's studying Experiencing God and Richard Foster's Celebration of Discipline. It seems to me that the younger members in our church are the ones attracted to Reformed theology and good doctrine, and the old guard is stuck in Arminianism and extreme dispensationalism. I imagine that many churches are experiencing this same phenomenon.

DJP said...

Well, Eric, the only way you could do that with this chapter is to say, "Now I'm going to teach you all the good, Biblical stuff about God's will in this chapter," toss it in a fire, and teach the Word.

Eric Kaminsky said...

Just for clarification Dan, are you saying to throw John MacArthur's book in the fire, or Blackaby's book? Also wanted to note that my D-group is not affiliated with Experiencing God. We study the word and allow our members to teach for the purpose of sharpening our doctrine and living and growing in sanctification

DJP said...


"This chapter" = "this chapter, the one the whole two-part post is about."

Eric Kaminsky said...

Nevermind, Dan I missed the nuance of what you were saying. Let the word speak for itself. go through books of the bible. Don't wallow in topical premises but be faithful to the word, or at least I think you were saying that. lol

Eric Kaminsky said...

I'm sorry Dan. I've failed to realize that you weren't attacking all Blackaby material as a whole, but I think you would have at least a basis for teaching strong caution against it. Sorry for any misunderstandings.

Unknown said...

PS — I did ask God to guide me in writing this review. If you agree with the Blackaby position... how do you know He didn't?

Which god did you ask that could smile on such gross caricatures of the Blackabys? Spare me.
1 John 1:10.
As a reformed charismatic who takes both God's Word and Spirit seriously as you clearly do not (e.g. rejecting 1Cor 14:39 just for starters), as I've previously shown, I understand where they're coming from as you never will unless you repent of your sad violation of 1Thess 5:19 you sadly don't even realize you reject; prayerfully being cold instead of lukewarm so there's greater hope. The pathetic caricatures and irrational spleen venting in misrepresentations are of course plentiful as common for Pyromaniacs (heat without light, contrary to 1John 1:5-7), but the serious engagement with the actual position is of course absent (it took me about a minute to scan the sad screed, though reading 1K wpm helps). What irony that you would so greedily grab at the manifestly unstable testimony of someone who allegedly espoused "the view" in order to attack it, so hopeless is your own nonsense, reminiscent of the "James White is a hypercalvinist" John 3:16 synergism conference where a wretched ex-calvinist was similarly highlighted. How grotesquely sad that your manifestly Biblically and historically and theologically illiterate groupies gleefully eat this trash up. Not that charismatics are different; how hard it is to endure the ungodly shots and catcalls of both sides pretending to love God while hating and lording it over their brother but of course pretending not to, like a wesleyan holiness group I was with (compared to whom the Nazarenes are liberals, which they really are for the few who take the Bible seriously) who were so proud of the bogus wesleyan doctrine of "christian perfection" whereby one can arrive at the place of never sinning, like pyromaniacs seem to be. Sadly I still have to own 1 John 1:10. I'm sorry folk here don't, avoiding repentance like the plague; it will come with a price. God save us and grant us repentance. As with Todd Bentley it is clear that our only hope for survival as a nation is if God grants us repentance and your distortions of the Blackabys don't help (you've probably not talked with them first hand as Matthew 18 demands). 1 John 1:10. Mea culpa.

Eric Kaminsky said...

DJP"This chapter" = "this chapter, the one the whole two-part post is about."

I know you've made it clear in your blog that you were writing only about the chapter in said book. However, after reading the chapter in entirety and being very familiar with Experiencing God material from the Blackaby's, it was pretty obviously an attempted theological defense of their life's work and specifically Experiencing God. Most people reading this blog would not be enthralled with the material in EG, because it is written in a repetitive fashion at no greater than a high school reading level. Anyone who enjoy's good Christian authors, even good secular authors will be bored to tears with their material.
"The Chapter in Question" is totally consistent with the things they've said in their other books, especially EG.
Therefore a critique on that particular chapter is a critique on their body of work indirectly, and I would respectfully challenge you to find the exception.

And pardon the messiness of my posts. I'm a little new to blogging.

DJP said...

No problem.

It's important to me to be precise about what I am talking about, both as a matter of integrity and of clarity. Hence my dinning definition of scope.

donsands said...

"..unless you repent of your sad violation of 1Thess 5:19 you sadly don't even realize you reject"

"Do not quench the Spirit. Prophetic utterances do not despise. Test all things; hold fast to what is good. Abstain from every form of evil."

Deep thoughts here by the Apostle.

I think we need to look at Paul's admonishment to the church for the church at that time. The New testament was not put together like we have today.

It's different for us today. You would have to agree to the truth of that.

So if Paul was telling those in the Church then, where the gifts of the Spirit were imparted, to TEST all things, how much more for us today, when these same gifts, are not so readily given. At least there are no more Apsotles. I have not seen any miracle workers, nor healers, save the false variety.

I suppose this would be a whole other thread.
The reason I answered, is because you are accusing not only Dan, but all who agree with him, that we all need to repent.

That's a bold statement to make. I see a lot of danger in the Body of Christ with people hearing God talking to them. Tremendous harm can happen from this kind of teaching, and Dan was wrting abut this, and it was helpful for me. I've been there and done that, and I appreciate his taking on this subject to study and look at in the light of Scripture.

All for the Cross.

Strong Tower said...

Maybe it's a sign!

Eric Kaminsky said...

Classic quote from John Piper. "Divination does not require transformation" 1Samuel 15:23 For rebellion is as the sin of divination, and presumption is as iniquity and idolatry.