13 September 2011

Non Sola Scriptura: the Blackaby view of God's will — 1

by Dan Phillips
Seemed timely in April of 2009; seems timely now.
The book. I am currently reading How Then Should We Choose?, edited by Douglas S. Huffman (Kregel: 2009), with a view to reviewing it ultimately. This a pre-review of one part of it. (Translation: I can't hold this back.)

The book allows advocates of three distinct approaches to the will of God to set forth their views, after which each is critiqued by the others. I will focus on the first only, which is called the "Specific-Will" view. It is written by Henry and Richard Blackaby, who are father and son.

I only barely began reading Garry Friesen's response and, frankly, was sharply provoked by its tepid tone. If the Blackabys' view is un-Biblical (and it is), a lot of people — and the cause of Christ — will be harmed by it. I find it hard to be chatty and blasé about that.

My plan. In this first part, I will set forth the Blackabys' view, offering some critique as we go. In the second part, I plan to delve more thoroughly into the nightmarish practical implications of this position, offer more critique, and a conclusion.

First, many of you have been looking forward to Phil writing on the Blackaby view. This is obviously not that.

Second, what I am about to write is not about the Blackabys, but about the view they advocate in this book. It is not about anything else they've ever written or done, nor is it about them as Christians or men. I know next to nothing about them.

This post is just about this one chapter.

Clear enough?
Bottom line
This chapter is just about the single most appalling trainwreck I've read in recent memory, whether viewed exegetically, hermeneutically, theologically, or pastorally. The implications, if taken and followed out seriously by anyone (—God forbid!), are absolutely catastrophic.

I find it impossible to be bland about it. As you will see.

More fully
Continuation with a vengeance. Foundationally, the Blackabys argue that there is a one-for-one continuation between all Biblical narratives and our lives today; we should expect no change. "...[N]owhere in the Bible are readers cautioned that they should not expect their walk with God to be like that of believers in biblical times" (p. 35). " In fact, "the only way for us to have a relationship with Christ" is if He directs our everyday lives by telling us specifically what to do in a detailed way, exactly as He did with the apostles (pp. 45-46, emphasis added). Because today "the Holy Spirit is to function in us in the same way that Jesus led his disciples," which involves very specific instructions not provided in the Bible (p. 52, emphasis added).

You may ask, "So, wait — you mean, every aspect of what God did for Abraham, Moses, Isaiah... I should expect all that?" Yes.

So forget Hebrews 1:1-2, with its portrayal of a purposeful revelation that is unfolded in differing portions and differing manners, coming to climactic fulfillment in Jesus Christ. Forget intra-canonical indications of purposeful ebbs and flows in the revelatory activity of God (1 Corinthians 13:8-10 [see here]; Ephesians 2:20; Hebrews 2:1-4). Forget the Biblical pattern of miraculous event, divine interpretation, verbal rehearsal of that interpretation (i.e. Exodus 10:1-2; 13:8, 14-6; Deuteronomy 6:20-25; Psalm 145:4-7, etc.). Forget even the successive covenants (Jeremiah 31:31-40 [old covenant, new covenant, hel-lo-o?]; Romans 9:4; Hebrews 8, etc.). All is leveled and flattened to make way for their theory.

Though Yahweh repeatedly points His people back to the given Word, even during the unfolding of revelation, the Blackabys would have believers keep looking for new words. In their hands, redemptive history becomes a block of cheese, with no distinct parts or movements. Each bit of cheese is the same.

Bad? It gets worse.

Non sola Scriptura. The insufficiency of Scripture is a major pillar to the Blackaby position. About this they are emphatic — in all but the use of that phrase. They do say many nice things about the Bible, allowing (for instance) that it is "the primary way God communicates with His people" (p. 55). "Primary," but not nearly the sole way.

Language that the Bible reserves for binding, inerrant, verbal prophetic revelation is repeatedly applied indiscriminately to normal Christian living. There is constant mention of God "speaking clearly" to people today (p. 33), of "His voice" (p. 39), of His issuing "divine directives" we are obliged to obey (p. 40), of Him having "told" people today to do things, expecting their "obedience" (p. 45), of Him "speaking" to us and our "hearing" Him (p. 53), of our "struggle to hear God's voice" (p. 54), of the Holy Spirit "speaking" to us through prayer (p. 56), of his sending us "a message through other people" just as He did through the prophets (p. 58), specifically of Henry Blackaby being "God's mouthpiece to someone desperately seeking a divine word" (p. 59; cf. Exodus 4:14-16; 7:1, to see what a reckless expression this is) — and on and on.

Note well: every one of these is in reference to revelation that is not in the Bible, yet is crucial for us obeying, knowing, and having a relationship with God.

Whatever nice things the Blackabys say about the Bible, then, it is clearly not nearly sufficient for Christian living — no matter what passages such as 2 Timothy 3:15-17 say.

Bible in 2D. In order to get here, a fundamental, grave and pervasive hermeneutical error is essential to the Blackabys' position. There must be a great and violent flattening of revealed, redemptive history. Pivotal moments in the Bible are pounded down, mashed and flattened into illustrations of daily Christian living. Direct, binding, inerrant prophetic revelations are radically down-sized into illustrations of God nudging us today towards a particular spouse or church ministry or university course major. Prophets who speak for God are shriveled into everyday Christians listening for that still, small murmur that the Bible never calls us to seek.

So Moses — a prophet without parallel until the coming of Christ (Numbers 12:6-8; Deuteronomy 18:15; 34:10; Acts 3:22ff.) — becomes merely another illustration for how we should expect God to speak to us (pp. 46, 64).

Having made a chaotic and hermeneutically irresponsible mish-mash of Scripture and its claims for itself, the Blackabys bear down on individual Christians. And what their theory does is terrible to behold.

How to divine the Divine? Say you are convinced that you must hear God's voice, must receive this flow of extra-canonical revelation that the Blackabys say is essential for a relationship with God. How do you do it? How do you hear God's voice?

I won't attempt to reproduce the Byzantine, convoluted — with less legitimate Biblical support than a Gummi Bear has hair — series of tests and checks and methods they lay out. I'll just say this: they are very much like Charismatics "explaining" to Christians how to get the gift of tongues, or how to speak prophecy, or why prophecy may be fallible. Similar in what way? In that they have cast aside Scripture in all but the eggshells — sometimes not even attempting a Biblical grounding (cf. much of pp. 57-59) — and so they have to make up what goes inside the shells.

Was it a "struggle"? For instance, recall their phrase, the "struggle to hear God's voice" (p. 54). But if we are to expect our experience to line up exactly with that of Biblical characters, we must ask: what "struggle"? God's voice in the Bible was always absolutely loud, clear, unmistakable, binding, arresting, and quotable.

"What about Samuel?" someone might ask. "Didn't he fail to recognize God's voice at first?" But note: (A) the voice Samuel heard was so audible, loud, clear, and quotably verbal that the lad thought it was Eli calling to him; and (B) the text does specifically say that Samuel did not yet know Yahweh (1 Samuel 3:7). Not that Samuel was a believer who just hadn't yet read the Blackabys' book on picking out God's whispery, shadowy, well-nigh indecipherable voice.

Hence the parallel with tongues. If you had to have someone explain how to get them, and if they aren't supernaturally-acquired human languages, they weren't Bible tongues. And if the voice wasn't unmistakable, (usually) unsought, audible, quotable, and absolutely binding, it wasn't God's voice.

And so I ask: does Scripture ever use the Blackabys' expressions — God's voice, God speaking, God talking to someone — in a sense other than revelatory, verbal, quotable, and utterly binding to believers? Is there an instance of "God speaking" in a manner that is 45% inspired, 62% inerrant, or only 39% binding? Are the Blackabys sending us off in search of 100% inspired, inerrant, binding extra-Biblical revelation from God? If not, if they're sending us after lower-octane revelation, whence do they invent this category? Not from Scripture.

Prophet-schmophet? Next I ask: if we're to hear God's voice constantly, then how is the office of prophet distinct? Biblically, what marks a prophet is that he receives direct revelation, and speaks it inerrantly (cf. Exodus 4:15-16; 7:1-2; Deuteronomy 18:15-22). If every believer hears God's voice and words, and receives individual non-Biblical guidance, what distinguishes each from a prophet? Is it the inerrant speaking of the message? But why, if "the only way for us to have a relationship with Christ" is to be directed by Christ exactly as He did with the apostles (pp. 45-46), and if we are to assume a one-for-one correspondence between their experience and ours?

Do you suspect I am caricaturing their view? But it is the Blackabys themselves who again and again indiscriminately cite the experience of prophets, seers and apostles as the patterns for our experience (cf. pp. 39, 45, 46, 52, 53, 54, 58). Are they our pattern, or aren't they? If they are, there is no "struggle" to ferret out God's voice, nor need of confirmation to follow a labyrinthine, slapdash path.

I'm with Peter, who says that
we have something more sure [than the loftiest experience], the prophetic word, to which you will do well to pay attention as to a lamp shining in a dark place, until the day dawns and the morning star rises in your hearts, 20 knowing this first of all, that no prophecy of Scripture comes from someone's own interpretation. 21 For no prophecy was ever produced by the will of man, but men spoke from God as they were carried along by the Holy Spirit.
(2 Peter 1:19-21)
Amen, Peter. That is the voice of God, speaking to us. And it is enough.

Dan Phillips's signature


Ron Van Brenk said...

Thanks Dan,

So this is just a re-hash of his old Experiencing God book?

Did you ever hear what Jay Adams had to say of that book?

"an open elevator shaft..."


Merrilee Stevenson said...

This certainly is a classic post worthy of re-posting, and part 2 as well! When I went through Experiencing God in my college years, I struggled with some of it, but wasn't sure exactly why. Those were the muzzy mystical years of my life. Years later I wanted to go back and study it again to see if it actually did line up with Scripture, given that I felt I was more grounded in it's sufficiency. These posts have been helpful to pass along to others I've known who have been influenced in their thinking by the subtleties of the "Blackaby view."

Thomas Louw said...

And Dan back in a big way.
I would group Wilkinson’s “The Dream Giver” and the Blackaby’s together.

I wonder if we could say that their error is also rooted in the subtle humanistic jargon that has entered the church “what does it say to ME”.

The focus has moved away from God and towards man, in such a way that it almost seems piety.

We are fooled into thinking we are looking for God’s will for God’s glory but, we are really looking for what will be our “Best life now”.

Am I right if, I would say the main focus of all the narrative in the Bible is the “Story of God redeeming the world” and not “How men have experienced God in the past?”

The Bible reveals to us how we are to be saved and how we should live after that fact.

It does not aim to tell us who we should marry or what we should choose as our occupation. God also doesn’t add to His revelation but, through providence and through His sovereign rule over the world He teaches us practical stuff of the Christian life what we read in the Scriptures.

Some might carelessly say that God has revealed him this truth, by his providence. While it is God displaying Himself at work in a practical manner what has already been revealed in scripture.

“The Dream Giver” concept of you being able to fall into God’s secondary plan for your life has always bothered me a lot. I wouldn’t defend it the same way Bruce W. does.
Sometimes I wonder(bad days)if it can be true and other days I think “The fall of man happened so the cross could happen.”

Fred Butler said...

Just so that every knows: This post and the one following are two of the absolute best of Dan Phillips. I have linked dozens and dozens of people to them.

Anonymous said...

Hello Dan,
I've been thinking much on this debate lately, and I'm open to what you're saying. I do believe that God's full revelation is laid out in scripture. I guess my question to you would be - "How do we know what scripture to apply in different situations?" The answer, I think, is that the Holy Spirit must bring this scripture to mind.
I say that to make this point: I believe it's just as dangerous to ignore, or "quench" the Spirit, as it is to claim divine revelation. Surely the Spirit communicates to us in SOME way, and certainly it's not always through our logical minds making the logical assumption about which scripture fits where in our lives. Surely the Spirit communicates to us in day to day life - maybe you can elaborate on this?
Just a thought. I'm very open to correction.

Joshua said...

Wow, this is a bad refutation.

Matt Burke said...

About a year ago, this post was instrumental in shifting my thinking about these issues.

Thank you, sir.

dle said...

Now there was a disciple at Damascus named Ananias. The Lord said to him in a vision, "Ananias." And he said, "Here I am, Lord." And the Lord said to him, "Rise and go to the street called Straight, and at the house of Judas look for a man of Tarsus named Saul, for behold, he is praying, and he has seen in a vision a man named Ananias come in and lay his hands on him so that he might regain his sight." But Ananias answered, "Lord, I have heard from many about this man, how much evil he has done to your saints at Jerusalem. And here he has authority from the chief priests to bind all who call on your name." But the Lord said to him, "Go, for he is a chosen instrument of mine to carry my name before the Gentiles and kings and the children of Israel. For I will show him how much he must suffer for the sake of my name." So Ananias departed and entered the house. And laying his hands on him he said, "Brother Saul, the Lord Jesus who appeared to you on the road by which you came has sent me so that you may regain your sight and be filled with the Holy Spirit." And immediately something like scales fell from his eyes, and he regained his sight. Then he rose and was baptized; and taking food, he was strengthened. For some days he was with the disciples at Damascus. And immediately he proclaimed Jesus in the synagogues, saying, "He is the Son of God." And all who heard him were amazed and said, "Is not this the man who made havoc in Jerusalem of those who called upon this name? And has he not come here for this purpose, to bring them bound before the chief priests?" But Saul increased all the more in strength, and confounded the Jews who lived in Damascus by proving that Jesus was the Christ.
—Acts 9:10-22

Ananias was no prophet or anyone special. He is identified merely as a disciple, someone filled with the Holy Spirit, no different from you or me.

And yet, because He listened to a vision—the kind of vision the prophet Joel stated would be available to all those filled with the Spirit in the Last Days (which we are still in)—he was used by God in the salvation and restoration story of the Apostle Paul. He didn't read the Books of Moses to glean which street to go to so as to meet Paul, or even that such a man needed his help. No, Ananias got that information extrabiblically.

There's something odd in insisting that God cannot speak this way any longer, especially since every day yields many situations similar to those of Ananias and Paul. Certainly, the kind of event that requires the specifics that Ananias needed to know to be used as he was exists on a daily basis for those believers who seek to be used in miraculous ways in the lives of other people, those divine appointments we hear about regularly.

But since Dan says that can't happen anymore, I guess it can't.

Mike said...

Good scripture knowledge and application. Sarcasm doesn't go with loving criticism.

Noah said...

Thanks, Dan, for the re-post. Praise God for his providence!

Eric said...

"There's something odd in insisting that God cannot speak this way any longer, especially since every day yields many situations similar to those of Ananias and Paul."

No need to parody the Blackaby view (and its adherents) as it tends to parody itself. Yes, yes indeed, I can't count how many times in my life I've seen someone's eyesight miraculously restored by the laying on of hands after God had directed the person in an audible voice to go to a certain address and heal a former persecutor of the church - yep, happens every day (or at least similar situations).

Eric said...


Care to expound on your criticism of Dan's refutation? Any specifics you can offer (as Dan did), or do you just have general dismissive criticism?

Anonymous said...

Dan, Good to read this sort of analysis again. My pastor, Greg Mazak, did a wonderful sermon series that counters this mystical approach to God's Will. In reaction my pastor oesn't slide all the way over to the Freisen approach either.
a good series:

Noah said...

Was Acts 9:10-22 written so that we could recognize the voice of God speaking to us (which would be the flattening that Dan talked about in the post), or is it the account of how Paul was commissioned as the apostle to the Gentiles? If it were such a big deal for us to practice this, wouldn't it have been important for Paul to remind the Ephesian elders to follow the same practice in order to shepherd the church of God in Ephesus and repel the attacks of savage wolves, both internal and external (Acts 20:25-32)? He doesn't though. Instead, he commends them to God and the word of his grace (v. 32), and to say that Luke intends this "word of his grace" to mean a still, small voice or an active, loud voice would be to say something that Luke does not say or intend to say (cf. the phrase's use in context at Acts 14:3).

If you want to stick to your position, you also have to engage Paul's lack of teaching on this subject. If the intention was for this kind of leading to be normative for the church throughout history, then we would expect it to be explicitly taught for our instruction. But it's not even implicitly taught, even to Timothy and Titus who would need it the most in being young pastors. What they're told instead are things like 2 Tim. 3:16-17 and Titus 2:1.

In other words, don't turn a narrative account into a normative and binding imperative when the rest of Scripture is so clear on what is sufficient.

James Scott Bell said...

Indeed, Scripture is the voice of God.

God does direct our hearts (2Thess. 3:5) toward greater love and perseverance. And He imparts wisdom (James 1:5). Love and wisdom, applied to Scripture and illumined by it, seem to be the means of guidance for believers. I don't see Scripture telling us to attend to audible voices.

Are we "prompted" by the Spirit? Might the Spirit bring Scripture to mind, for example? cf. Mark 13:11.

This is a much different approach than Blackaby's specific will view.

Matt Aznoe said...

In a letter written to believers:

"Listen! I am standing at the door and knocking! If anyone hears my voice and opens the door I will come into his home and share a meal with him, and he with me."
(Revelation 3:20 NET)

"But you refuse to believe because you are not my sheep. My sheep listen to my voice, and I know them, and they follow me."
(John 10:26-27 NET)

It should be noted that a large percentage of the times that the word "word" is used in the New Testament it is a translation of the word "rhema" which means "an utterance" (examples: Matthew 4:4, John 8:47, Romans 10:8, Ephesians 6:17, Hebrews 6:5). These passages should give one at least a little pause.

I have not read Blackaby, so I cannot defend their writings which may very well stray from sound doctrine. Anytime we try to force the workings of the Holy Spirit we are attempting to usurp the sovereignty of God, but to ignore the fact that God can and does speak to His people (and to encourage others to ignore it should it happen to them) is just as damaging to the Church.

Pastor Jody said...

"and if they aren't supernaturally-acquired human languages, they weren't Bible tongues."

How do you maintain such a narrow definition of bilbical tongues when I Corinthians 14:2 states, "For anyone who speaks in a tongue does not speak to men but to God." If the purpose of tongues is mainly (if not soley) to enable an "evangelist" to proclaim the Gospel in a human language that he has not learned, then this verse makes no since. If tongues is a supernatural ability for me to speak let's say Chinese to Chinese people so they can understand the Gospel, then why would an interpretation be necessary as Paul states in v. 27? They wouldn't need and interpretation! They would understand! Would they not?!?

Anonymous said...

"So Moses — a prophet without parallel until the coming of Christ (Numbers 12:6-8; Deuteronomy 18:15; 34:10; Acts 3:22ff.) — becomes merely another illustration for how we should expect God to speak to us."

This single sentence says it all.

dle said...


What if I'm NOT saying that such an experience is "normative"?

Unless I'm missing some subtlety in his argument, Dan is saying that God NEVER speaks to New Covenant believers except through the printed words in the Bible. NEVER.

For the sake of your argument, let's say that such an extrabiblical revelation is not normative but instead exceedingly rare.

Still, this is not the same as Dan's argument. If even one such post-canon-completion revelation occurs, then Dan is wrong. Not only that, but Dan must rethink his entire stance on the Holy Spirit and the nature of revelation.

Just one occurrence. That's all it takes.

Do you think it is possible that God can still choose to speak to a disciple of His in the way that He spoke to Ananias, even once, since the canon closed?

As I noted, Joel states that the kind of vision that Ananias had will be operative in the Last Days in the lives of New Covenant believers. We are still in the Last Days, right? Would it not stand to reason then that perhaps such visions occur more regularly than just on or two every hundred years? Perhaps, for the sake of argument, a believer gets only one Ananias-like revelation in his or her life. Isn't that enough to say that Dan's argument has no merit?

Jugulum said...


No one questions that God speaks to believers today. The question is where we go to find his words & his voice--does the Spirit speak individual messages to each disciple, or does the Spirit speak to each of us through the living, written Word?

Note that in both John 10 and Rev 3, Jesus has been speaking literal words--by sound-waves in John 10, and through a vision to John recorded in inspired Scripture.

The closest thing to individualized speech in either passage is John 10:3, "he calls his own sheep by name". But I don't think anyone here doubts that God is actively, individually calling each of us through the preached Gospel and Scripture in general. And there's nothing in the context of John 10 that has to do with daily decision-making. John 10:24-28 clearly applies to our basic response to Jesus' message--who he is, and the gospel. But Jesus doesn't say anything to suggest that he's also talking about daily decision-making.

Also, note that Jesus is saying this before his disciples even had the Spirit indwelling them--the Spirit was with them, but not yet in them. John 10 has more to do with the regenerating work of the Spirit than the indwelling work.

Matt Aznoe said...


Why does it have to be an either/or proposition? Why is it impossible to believe that God speaks to us by the living scriptures by the working of the Holy Spirit and He speaks to each of us individually as He wills?

Dan is asserting that the second cannot ever happen, but I know that that is simply not true. Why? Because of the testimony of the scriptures, because of the testimony of other godly men and women throughout the centuries, and because God has spoken to me -- only a couple times, but each time was confirmed by what followed. My obedience brought me blessing and encouraged others. Do I look for God's audible voice in every decision? No. I go to the scriptures, but I try to keep myself open to hearing from God should He decide to speak again.

Jugulum said...

Pastor Jody,

I absolutely agree with you that the gift of tongues was not given to allow us to evangelize people whose language we don't know--but that's also true in Acts 2, where the tongues-speakers were "telling the mighty works of God" in other human languages, and Peter is the one who preached the Gospel.

"Telling the mighty works of God" could include speaking the gospel, but not according to the verse you cited--1 Corinthians 14:2. That verse tells us who the content of a tongue is directed at. It's prayer, not preaching. Vertical, not horizontal--even though the audience can be edified by hearing it and being able to say "Amen" (1 Cor 14:16).

Yes, 1 Cor 14:10-11 indicates that Paul is talking about a situation where someone is speaking in a tongue that the audience doesn't understand. But that doesn't require that it's not a human language, and v.11 suggests exactly the opposite. (Or if you think "suggests" is too strong, at least say that v. 11 contextually allows for Paul to be talking about human languages.) And if it wasn't a human language, how could anyone know before they spoke in a tongue that there was anyone present who could interpret (v. 28)?

Eric said...


"What if I'm NOT saying that such an experience is "normative"?"

Wasn't it you that also said "every day yields many situations" and "the kind of event that requires the specifics that Ananias needed to know to be used as he was exists on a daily basis for those believers who seek to be used in miraculous ways in the lives of other people, those divine appointments we hear about regularly".

You seem to be arguing out of both sides of your mouth.

Also, can you point out for me where Dan argues that God cannot work in any way that He pleases?

Jugulum said...


>> Why does it have to be an either/or proposition? Why is it impossible to believe that God speaks to us by the living scriptures by the working of the Holy Spirit and He speaks to each of us individually as He wills? <<

It doesn't, and it isn't. I'm talking about what we can get from the passages you cited. What the rest of the Bible teaches is another question.

I'm saying that John 10 and Rev 3 specifically don't teach us to expect God to give us words that are extra-scripturally-individualized; I'm not offering a biblical argument that He doesn't.

Now, Dan already has given his biblical argument that God doesn't give new, extra-scriptural revelation. You can argue with his exegesis, or accept it and be persuaded. And you can offer other passages that you think teach us to expect extra-scripturally-individualized words.

What I'm telling you is, John 10 and Rev 3 don't count. They aren't a counter-argument to Dan's post.

They tell us that God does speak, and tell us something about how the Body of Christ responds to Him when He does. They don't tell us that we can find new Words from God outside the Bible.

Mark said...

If God were to speak audibly to anyone today is there some reason He could not do so clearly, loudly and unmistakably? Do we hinder God's ability to audibly communicate with us?

Jugulum said...


P.S. As far as I'm aware, John 14:26 and 16:13 are going to be your best bet. They're the clearest reference to extra-scriptural, direct, verbal communication from God.

The question there is, who's the audience? All believers, or is Jesus talking specifically to the apostles, about empowering their authoritative teaching ministry, including oral preaching and the Scripture they wrote? (If so, the verses would still have a secondary fulfillment in us, when the Spirit works in us and speaks to us as we read the Scripture that the apostles produced.)

theinscrutableone said...

As a former-Charismatic-now-cessationist, I would wholeheartedly concur with the notion that a believer ought to treat the kind of revelatory experience that were had by Moses, the prophets, and the apostles, as being just as authoritative as Scripture. If God were to speak to me through voice, dream, or vision in such a way that His message came through without error and with complete clarity, I ought to obey that word unquestioningly and wholeheartedly.

On the other hand, if a voice, dream or vision were to come to me that was lacking in clarity, authority, etc., a mixture of truth and error at best, I fail to see the wisdom of putting any kind of trust in it. None of the examples we have in Scripture for extraordinary guidance involve this kind of semi-hemi-demi-low-octane revelation, and neither does Scripture give us any guidance on how we ought to figure out which part of the guidance is to be obeyed and which part is to be ignored.

Thus, if the kind of guidance that can be had today is fully reliable, authoritative, etc., we have no choice but to obey it, but if it's a mixed bag of truth and error, sorting out what to heed and what to ignore seems to be an impossible task. Therefore, while I wait for God to speak to me as He did to the prophets and apostles, I'll just stick to the Scriptures, thank you!


Stephen said...

Great job breaking this down. Have to say that one of my favorite books on the will of God is "Just Do Something" by Kevin Deyoung. http://www.amazon.com/Just-Do-Something-Decision-Without/dp/0802458386

Unknown said...

What in essence separates the holders of this view with someone like, say, Joseph Smith? Obviously they manifest themselves in different ways, but isn’t the root belief pretty much the same - that belief being that further direct revelation from God is not only expected but required in order to properly and more effectively know him and do his will? One may go through the front and the other through the back, but they both ultimately lead to the alter of legalism.

But we already have a full, accurate, complete and God breathed revelation in the very Word of God that adequately encompasses everything from first to last things and most importantly bears witness about the one who has reconciled us to himself at his own expense and for his own glory. As Dan has already stated much better than I, this revelation was given to us first from the prophets of old and then in the flesh from the very Son himself having been accurately recorded by the apostles. (Heb 1:1-2)

What could possibly compete with that? What need do we have of further revelation about him? Why do I need to be told what to have for breakfast or how to spend my time? Isn’t that kind of thing for children? (Heb 5:12)

The short answer is that we don’t need or require any further revelation from God for he’s already revealed all of himself to us that we need to know. What we do need is to bask in that already perfectly revealed wisdom and revelation in the knowledge of him so that we may know as Paul prayed what is the hope to which we’ve been called, what are the riches of his glorious inheritance in the saints, and what is the immeasurable greatness of his power toward us who believe. (Eph 1:15-23)

All three of those things, by the way, point us to Christ and what he has accomplished on our behalf, which, by the way, is a glorious thing to spend one's time thinking about or mulling about over breakfast.

Thank you, Dan, for being one whom God has used to further sanctify my thinking in this arena. And lest you get a big head please also know that you are by no means the only one, but you definitely have been used.

Kurt said...

This is my favorite post of all time from you Dan.

I wish you had included it verbatim in your book.

The train wreck imagery, and the shrivelling bit were my favorites.

I routinely run into what I call "compromisers" in the reformed camp, who believe for example they can take a decision to prayer and receive guidance from God as to what decision they should make.

They stop there, and go no further into mysticism, and even preach against it, but I can't get them to simply close the door to experience and be content with scripture.

Such phrases as these are common:
"I prayed until I had a peace about it".
"God laid this burden on my heart"
"I felt led of God to do this"

These are reformed people who publically subscribe to John MacArthur's doctrinal statement.

Since I lived the train-wreck once, I get seriously worried when I hear such things, because I know where that stretch of bad road leads.

Such posts as these are my only real help in dealing with such people.

Matt Aznoe said...

I'm sensing a new Christian meme at play here similar to the Nazi-meme and that is the Mormon-meme, only this new meme is even more nonsensical.

Noah said...

Since Eric already addressed part of your comment, I refer you to his comment regarding what you are or are not doing in your argument.

Regarding what God has the ability to do and not do: Nothing is impossible for God, except doing what goes against who he is and what he has said. But the possibility of him choosing to speak is not the same as him actually speaking. Of course, he can speak. But he doesn't. For him to speak in the same way today that he did then would mean that what we have today are individuals who are prophets (assuming we agree that the office of apostle ceased, if we don't agree on that then we might as well just stop now and converse over email instead) functioning in the exact same way that the prophets functioned in the Bible, that is, speaking inerrant and binding revelation. We don't have that, instead we have those who claim to function in that way but are often wrong and what they say is not binding, so they have to redefine what a prophet is so that it matches their experience rather than what Scripture teaches.

With that said, you're right, "If even one such post-canon-completion revelation occurs, then Dan is wrong. Not only that, but Dan must rethink his entire stance on the Holy Spirit and the nature of revelation.

Just one occurrence. That's all it takes."

Dan has readily admitted that if anyone can produce the kind of gifts from the NT, then he will recant and repent (at least I think that's how I remember reading him). I would too.

But seeking that one occurrence is vain because it contradicts what Scripture so plainly teaches.

And what I think God can do is irrelevant. My opinions about what God can or cannot do don't measure to a nostril hair's worth of value compared to what God has revealed in Scripture. Therefore, by the illuminating power of the Holy Spirit and utter dependency upon him and his ministry in my life, my opinions (if I can still call them that) will increasingly be fashioned after what has been revealed for our instruction and training in righteousness.

Lastly, regarding Joel, there are many continuationists that see Peter's quotation of Joel 2 as bookends to the last days because there simply were not and are not any of the things spoken of in Acts 2:19-20 going on then or now. So I'm not alone in saying that what Peter quotes and what Joel prophesies are the beginning bookend to the last days, which we are in as they were just beginning to be in at Pentecost. The dreams, visions, and prophecy were terribly necessary for the beginning of the last days and praise God that he is faithful to his word! But what the rest of Scripture teaches does not put any emphasis on these things continuing in believers throughout the church until the end of the last days. For the interpretation you put forward on how Peter is quoting Joel, it seems to me that you also ought to point to these wonders going on in the sky above and signs on the earth below that began at Pentecost and continue until Christ's return. If you can do that, I will repent of what will be shown to be false teaching (seriously, no sarcasm). If you cannot, I encourage you to at the very least look into these things further so as to gain a better understanding of what Scripture teaches and what it says about the ministry of our beautiful Counselor and Helper, the Holy Spirit (again, seriously, no sarcasm).

Thank you for your time and interaction with me.

Robert Warren said...

There's something kind of Gnostic about the whole stream of theology that stresses individual, Divine communication and individualized miracles over the ordinary life and work of reading the Bible and seeking guidance from church Elders, the means that God has provided for us, etc. (I know, I know..."Duh!") Think of the song "In the Garden": "And He walks with ME and He talks with ME...and the joy we share as we tarry there NONE OTHER HAS EVER KNOWN."

It's the same impulse behind these seeker-driven sermons that speak of doing larger-than-life things, while deprecating the ordinary quiet life of serving the Lord with your vocation ("working with your hands" as Paul puts it).

What make these folks believe there is something lacking in an ordinary, quiet Christian life? (Yeah, I know I'm not always quiet, but work with me here; I'm always ordinary.)

Unknown said...

What makes it nonsensical Matt?

Take Joseph Smith - he purportedly received some new direct revelation from God that drove him to found a new religious cult that is obviously grounded in legalism.

In the Blackaby view one is supposed to ask, wait, pray, and listen for God to directly and specifically tell you which way to go and what to do at all times. Then, if you do not follow through on this it could only fall under the category of sin. This too, then, is a form of legalism.

Christ, however, has already abolished the law of commandments contained in ordinances through whom we can have both peace with God and unity with others who also call on his hame (Eph 2:14 - 22) - and herein is found true liberty.

Lorne said...

My wife just finished a book my Kevin DeYoung titled "Just do Something: a liberating approach to finding God's will" or "How to make a decision without dreams, visions, fleeces, impressions, open doors, random Bible verses, casting lots, liver shivers, writing in the sky, etc." Stuff that she wished she knew years ago so she wouldn't of had to learn the hard way. It would flatten the Blackaby perspective completely.
Also a quote from J.C. Ryle "Ignorance of Scripture is the root of every error in religion, and the source of every heresy. To be allowed to remove a few grains of ignorance, and to throw a few rays of light on God's precious word, is, in my opinion, the greatest honor that can be put on a Christian."

Lorne said...

By the way Dan, we bought 10 copies of TWTG for our congregation to hand out. Sobering and encouraging in all aspects.

Anonymous said...

I think much of this also comes down to trust and a deficient view of God's sovereignty.

The way I was taught (growing up Charismatic) was that God has a will for my life, that I must discover in order to live obediently and within his will.

Because of that I never trusted God to carry me through without first telling me what he was up to, I never imagined that he could get his will done in me without my cooperation.

Yet Scripture teaches the exact opposite in both those areas. Trust in God has to do with believing him and knowing him, not knowing what he knows.
And Scripture is equally clear that no matter how I plan, his will gets done. Every time.

So the net of that is, all this kerfluffle over the speaking of God beyond Scripture becomes absolutely moot when we believe that God works in the way Scripture says he does.

Because I trust God, I trust his word and I trust him to get me to whatever town he wants me to get to without making it "our little secret."

dle said...


I will share a story. Please then tell me whether God still speaks or not.

I was reading in a chair when a voice in my head told me to get up and walk down to the end of my driveway (which is long, as I live in the country).

There's nothing down there but the road. None of the houses, few as they are, are visible from the road that time of year.

A few moments after I got to the end of my driveway, a pickup crested the top of the small hill to my right and came to a stop in a dangerous spot. I walked a few feet down the road and found a woman and her young children. She'd run out of gas and was in tears.

I walked back to my pole barn, got some gas, filled up her truck, and told her my story. I shared the Lord with her and told her how blessed she was that God was looking out for her in this way. She shared how hard things had been for her family. I told her that God was looking out for her and that she needed to reach out to Him. I prayed for her and then sent her on her way.

Moments later a large truck crested the hill. As the road is 55 mph and often driven too fast, the big truck would have undoubtedly crashed into the pickup if it had still been there. At that speed, it probably would have killed the woman and her children.

So who spoke to me and told me to go down to the end of my driveway and stand there? Who looked out for that woman? Who averted a disaster?

We live in a very sad and small world if the answer to those questions is not the Lord.

His sheep hear and know His voice. Similar stories happen every day because God is still speaking to His people by His Holy Spirit in specific situations not covered by the Scriptures.

There's an example of God speaking. If Dan or anyone else chooses to ascribe it to someone or something besides the Lord, then all the proof in the world is not going to convince him or them otherwise.

dle said...


I DO believe that revelation for specific situations not addressed by the Scriptures is normative to the Christian life. The Bible is filled both with examples and with guidance for how to handle those revelations. Frankly, I don't understand how anyone can read otherwise.

I went opposite my original statement for the benefit of your argument and to show how even if we allow that such revelation might be a non-normative experience, we can't (as Dan does) rule out ALL extrabiblical revelation, given as examples exist and persist. Even one occurrence invalidates Dan's argument.

Noah said...


dle said...


The argument that Joel's prophecy somehow bookends things so as to exclude contemporary times does not hold up from a simple reading:

"'And in the last days it shall be, God declares, that I will pour out my Spirit on all flesh, and your sons and your daughters shall prophesy, and your young men shall see visions, and your old men shall dream dreams; even on my male servants and female servants in those days I will pour out my Spirit, and they shall prophesy. And I will show wonders in the heavens above and signs on the earth below, blood, and fire, and vapor of smoke; the sun shall be turned to darkness and the moon to blood, before the day of the Lord comes, the great and magnificent day. And it shall come to pass that everyone who calls upon the name of the Lord shall be saved.'
—Acts 2:17-21

We are still in the time of visions and revelations because:

1. The moon and sun have not yet been turned to blood.

2. The Day of the Lord has not yet come.

3. Men and women can still call on the name of the Lord and be saved.

When it is indeed the end of all things, then there will be no need for visions and revelations, as we shall see Him face to face.

Noah said...

dle, sorry I put the wrong name down.
btw, my dad has a similar story concerning his heart attack. but his story nor yours carries weight against the scriptures, therefore I don't have to explain what you heard inside your head.

dle said...

I'll add one more comment.

Has anyone here ever felt compelled to pray for a certain person, often someone who has NOT been on your mind previously or whom you had forgotten about?

What is that? Just a sudden spark of synapses? Or is it God bringing that person to your mind? And if it is God, is He somehow speaking to you extrabiblically? It would seem He is, otherwise that person would have remained forgotten and no prayer for them would have happened.

I don't know about you, but that happens to me often. The even greater blessing is that I often hear that in that moment that person needed prayer—and they received it.

Again, it would be a much less wonderful world if those kinds of occurrences were not part and parcel of the normal Christian life.

Noah said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
dle said...


Some would say that they know that men do not rise from the dead because they have read otherwise. We have testimony to the contrary, and that testimony also says that God speaks to His people by both the written Word and the voice of His Spirit within us.

trogdor said...

theradicaljourney.com axed:

"How do we know what scripture to apply in different situations?"

Simple enough: all of it, in every situation.

Scripture is not a fragmented series of fortune cookie sayings, soundbites, or unrelated commands. The Christian life is not a flowchart of "which which command should I obey now?" or "what fruit of the Spirit do I put forth in that situation" or "which piece of the armor of God should should I be wearing at 7:36 PM next Wednesday?".

The answers to those would be all of them, all of them, and all of them, respectively.

Understand the whole gospel (Gen 1:1-Rev 22:21), be transformed to Christlikeness, and act accordingly, all the time. All of scripture is always binding on everyone at all times in all circumstances. There's no such thing as a grace situation vs a truth situation, a time to use discernment vs mercy, to preach the gospel vs loving your wife, etc. Do all of them, all the time, with all your heart, soul, mind, and strength.

Be holy as He is holy. Know what God commands, and do it.

Matt Aznoe said...

"his story nor yours carries weight against the scriptures"

Who says that they are against the scriptures? Again, why does this have to be an either/or proposition? (Jugulum, I do recognize and appreciate what you said)

Is it so hard to believe that someone can honestly and humbly read the scriptures and come to the conclusion that God can speak to His people today in a way that is complementary (not contrary) to scripture?

Instead of dividing the church on this issue, perhaps we should strive for the unity of living according to the fruit of the Spirit by the power of the Spirit working in and through our lives. Let us each resolve to do so according to the faith that God has given us in His Son, Jesus Christ.

St. Lee said...

Matt, in your 8:04 comment, you quote:

"Listen! I am standing at the door and knocking! If anyone hears my voice and opens the door I will come into his home and share a meal with him, and he with me."
(Revelation 3:20 NET)

Since it is a down right beautiful day here in Minnesota, my shop door was already open, so I went to check to see if Jesus was standing outside knocking (a little embarrassed that I had already eaten most of my lunch, but I still had desert left that I could share). I found no one standing there. Do you think there is any chance that this verse could have been meant figuratively? Or is only the "hear my voice" part literal and the rest figurative?

I am also somewhat concerned that I may not be one of the sheep mentioned in John 10:26-27 because even though my hair is getting white, it is not curly like wool.

Anonymous said...

Doesn't anyone find it a bit amuzing that everyone defending a personal clear revelation from God has appealed to Scripture for clarity?

Seems to me that if it were the case that God gave them personal clear revelation they would simply say: Thus says the Lord...

Strong Tower

trogdor said...


Things like your story are addressed here as well as pretty much any decent treatment on Providence.

Regardless, there is a huge difference between those types of stories and what the Blackabys are putting forth - that God has a specific command for you at each and every moment of your life, that you must decode and obey or else suffer dire consequences.

Strong Tower said...


You don't have a magic decoder ring yet?

I got my from the Lifeway, reasonable price... free shipping.

trogdor said...

Strong Tower,

That's closely related to this argument. If you can do miracles, why try to argue that you can, even from scripture? Why not just do miracles?

Anonymous said...


It all sounds so nice. But there's a big problem.

If we knew all of Scripture (as we're supposed to), God speaking Scripture to us (as a new "word") becomes redundant, right? I mean assuming we know our bibles.

So test this against Scripture if you would.

"God told me to move to Santa Fe."

Assume that I have family and good friends in both places, good church options both places, good work options etc etc. Ie, no clear winner.

You can't do it. It might (by your means of understanding God) be God, it might be Satan, it might be last nights pizza. But you can't tell.

Since there is no new revelation (contra Joe Smith and Pope Whoever-you'd-like-to-name) anything God might say, except the kind of thing I just mentioned can be found in Scripture making it of no value as extra revelation.

If I'd do my homework I wouldn't need to ask for that stuff.

Which leaves the other.

And even if everything turns out nice like dle's car-on-the-hill story, since we don't know God's ultimate plan for an individual; without a solid view of God's sovereignty (which makes this whole thing of no real value) we are not in a position to even say "See! A life was saved, it must have been God."

Because if God's will sometimes isn't done (like he tells me to move and I don't) perhaps he wanted that lady dead, and now she isn't.
Sounds cold, but Scripture is plain that it's God who decides all of these things.

There's a lot more explaining to be done beyond "God told me this and hey! Look what happened!"

And "God spoke to people in Scripture" of course proves nothing. He created a new world in there too. And flooded it too. And created a nation-state with a shepherd for a king.

No one would claim "It happened in the Bible" as a reason to claim to have seen any of those things happen.
But we could see those things, an we can't see what you're claiming, which is, I think, why you feel free to continue claiming them.
You can't prove it, I can't disprove it, so people carry on claiming "God said" when he hasn't.

My point is, that even when you step outside of Scripture (which, in my opinion, you do constantly to defend your position, as have the others here) your position remains incoherent unless we downgrade God so that he needs us to make sure his will actually happens.

J.M.Deutsch said...

Why would anyone want an Extra Biblical experience/revelation? Maybe the BIBLE,containing God's breathed words are not enough,so we must crave MORE than is necessary!?! Hmm, this sounds familiar,from the Father of lies.In the garden, the serpent appealed to man's desire for autonomy, and to have knowledge "like" God.

Present fad appeal: "God speaks to ME, I have divine revelation."(For whatever reason.) It rings the same.Just my observation.
Did God actually say,"I warn everyone who hears the words of the prophecy of this book:if anyone adds to them, God will add to him the plagues described in this book..." (Rev.22:18) Extra-Biblical revelation is it authorized by God?
Thanks for posting about this timely topic!

Matt Aznoe said...


That simply reveals your misunderstanding of the argument. If God speaks to me, it will not be contradictory to His revealed word.

Look at it this way. Put yourself in ancient Israel. You have the very law of God, handed down in physical form directly to Moses. You have everything that you need to know how to live and function in the world. Then along comes a prophet. Why should I listen to him? I have the law; I have everything that I need. What can he possibly add to what God has already given us?

Further, these "prophets" keep appealing to the commandments of the law. Why would they do that if they have a direct revelation from God?

Until we stand face-to-face with God with our resurrected and perfect bodies, our view of God and of scriptures will be less than perfect. This is why God continues to speak to us today to help guide us and direct us in life. We do not have perfect vision, but God does. Why would we not seek for guidance and wisdom from our all-knowing, loving and powerful Father in Heaven? Most of the time he does this through scripture, but why is it so impossible to believe He wouldn't do it directly from time to time as well?

Again, as I said in my first post, I am not defending Blackaby. I do not know his position. But to say that "anyone who listens or even seeks to hear from God directly is misguided and wrong" flies in the face of reason and the heart of God revealed in scripture.

Matt Aznoe said...

The same argument could be made for prayer: why do we pray at all if God is sovereign and will do what He will do? Because we are commanded to, but is that the only reason? God has told us that He hears our prayers, and that our prayers actually do make a difference. How that works in the context of the sovereignty of God, I do not know or understand, but that is what Jesus taught. Therefore, I pray in faith that God finds delight in the prayers of his children and may, by His grace, grant my request.

The miracle of our adoption is far beyond comprehension. It should fill us with wonder and joy as we bask in our communion with God.

trogdor said...

OK, one more, then it's back to work. From Matt:

"Instead of dividing the church on this issue, perhaps we should strive for the unity of living according to the fruit of the Spirit by the power of the Spirit working in and through our lives." (emphasis mine)

More than anything, I'm surprised the church is not more divided over this issue, when you consider how significant it is.

What is being claimed when something is labeled a 'word from God'? (1) The message is absolutely true. (2) The message is absolutely binding on all creation - all men everywhere. [If it's a command to a specific individual, that person must obey, and all others must not question or oppose in any way.] (3) Even if the rest of God's Word was obeyed perfectly, to disobey on this one point would, by itself, render the disobedient one worthy of eternal torment in the fires of hell. (4) In light of point 3, the penalty for disobedience is paid either by the offender or by Jesus Christ on his behalf - that is to say, if it's an actual word of God, that Jesus went to the cross in part because someone disobeyed.

All of that is a necessary consequence if God has truly spoken.

Looking at it from either side, this issue is hugely important. One side claims that this kind of command occurs outside of scripture, the other claims it comes only through scripture. Scripture, or Scripture-Plus Something.

Looking at it as a cessationist, the other side is claiming messages that are clearly not God's Word are morally binding on all men, and must be obeyed under penalty of God's eternal wrath.

Looking at it as a continuationist, the other side is denying God's Word! God is providing these new commands and revelations which are essential and must be obeyed without question, and the others are wickedly encouraging rebellion by claiming they're false.

Whichever side one falls on, the only option which is not possible is to pretend it's not important. If God is sending new, extra-Biblical revelation, we absolutely must know and obey it. If not, it's a hideous offense to claim that He is. Either way, one side is blatantly sinning and must repent immediately.

Anonymous said...


Get comment. That last paragraph really gets to the issue.

I'll hang on to that one.

Tom said...

Blackaby's teaching is very troubling. But, the Sensei's absolutism is also troubling. He (and Phil) admit to God speaking to individuals and prompting them to do things, but they call that "extraordinary providence." Sorry, guys, you can't have your cake and eat it too.

I am a cessationist, but after reading Dan's and Phil's treatment and explanation of "extraordinary providence," I have to call myself a progressive cessationist. While there is much to their arguments that is valid and corrective, they can't explain away God's direct dealings with people today by either renaming it (if they're a fanboy of the individuals) or dismissing it completely (if they don't have a particular interest in the individuals). When they do these things, they lose all credibility on this issue.

That being said, the arguments made against God dealing directly with individuals and speaking to them about particular situations are tired. They often boil down to, either Scripture is sufficient or God is still speaking to people today. This is simply a logical fallacy. There can be a both / and situation.

In conclusion, I applaud what Phil and Dan have attempted to do. They are right to expose Blackaby's crazy view of God's will and Driscoll's unverifiable porn-visions.


Mary Elizabeth Tyler said...

I agree, trogdor, great comment!!!

Solameanie said...

In reading through this, I am reminded (and I hope this doesn't throw the meta into a bunny trail) of the so-called "shepherding movement" that involved men like Derek Prince, Bob Mumford etc. It seems like the Blackaby position on being led by God could be used to breathe new life into a movement that was hugely destructive to a great many people. I think Mumford and some of the other leaders came to realize this back in the early 1980s or so, but the memory of the controversy is still clear in my mind. Wow!

Anonymous said...

Trogdor...Excellent comment, especially your last paragraph.

Matt...you exhaust me.

P. Trey Rhodes said...

So, the choice is God speaks to us and we respond Or we awake everyday and allow God to engineer every circumstance. Why are both not possible? Can we not respond to circumstances as God engineers them? Food for my thoughts.

Anonymous said...

P. Trey,

Why not, is, I think the wrong question.

It's a bit like asking if God could have used evolution to create the world.

In both cases the question is speculative. And in both cases speculation is a bit silly since God answers those questions in Scripture.

Melinda said...

Ahh, this is so good!

I remember reading it back when you first published it and thinking the same thing. I am getting bombarded with these very teachings from a few fronts, so it is good to hear the truth. Is it just me or is this line of thinking becoming more and more prevalent?

Randy Talley said...

I *knew* I should have popped some popcorn and grabbed a Coke before reading the comments!

Scot said...

I've only read Blackaby's Experiencing God book. There are some shades of receiving assignments from God that one, but the theology isn't unpacked as the book Dan read. But from what I remember and from what Dan reviews, they seem to do a great and violent flatting of the "in many times and in many ways God spoke to us" birthright that they claims all Christians have. In Experiencing God, it was basically, "God said do this, and I/my ministry/my family/a loved one was blessed/everything went well/church growth/ministry got more money. There were no ministries of Ezekiel and Jeremiah, no adversaries like Paul and Peter had. Just everything works out, Lifetime TV ending.

Anonymous said...

I have a few questions for continuationists:

What do you make of other religions who have similar experiences?

If God (allegedly) tells you something and (allegedly) tells someone else the exact opposite of what you were (allegedly) told, who is right? Does God speak with a forked tongue?

Why does God make so many errors these days in delivering prophecy?

The Damer said...

What I find to be most interesting is that the Calvinists are pushing freedom to make decisions within the bounds of what is outlined in Scripture while the Arminians are teaching that there is a specific will of God for individuals that we are to know.

On first thought you'd think that it would just be the opposite.

I read Friesen's work in college and it solidly pushed me into the Reformed camp based on this one issue alone.

Matt Aznoe said...


You raise a very good point. You are right; this is a critical issue.

But you make a key error when you said:

"God is providing these new commands and revelations which are essential and must be obeyed without question"

Scripture is very clear on this point:

"Do not despise prophesies, but test everything; hold fast what is good." (1 Thess 5:20-21)

We must practice discernment as with all things. This is where Bible study and prayer are absolutely vital: we need to abide in Christ so that we can approach such things with discernment and understanding, so that we will recognize the voice of God.

A continuationist recognizes the absolute importance of discernment and the knowledge of God and His character. It is the lack of discernment that has destroyed the charismatic movement.

However, a cessationist (as you have laid out the ground rules) has to prove, beyond all doubt, that God cannot and will not ever speak to any of His children any words that are not explicitly contained in scripture this side of the seconding coming. That is the only way you can justify ignoring even audibly spoken words He may send your way.

As a continuationist, I do not have to accept and obey every so-called prophetic message that comes my way by anyone claiming to be a man of God. Do you blindly accept any preacher who comes along as long as he quotes some scripture? The Bible tells us that there will be false prophets and preachers. Should we then stop listening to all preachers altogether and simply read our Bibles entirely on our own in isolation? While God can teach us through His Holy Spirit without the help of others (1 John 2:27), we are called to live as a body and listen to other men of God.

As with any preacher, we need to practice discernment. What is his character? Does he use the Bible properly? Does he exhibit the characteristics of a man of God? It is no different for a prophet.

Now, if it is possible for God to speak to His people, then you are right: we are to obey His word, or we will be in sin. The key, therefore, is to walk with God in such a way so that when He speaks, we recognize it for what it is. As Hebrews says, "O, that today you would listen as he speaks! Do not harden your hearts."

I find it much harder to believe, from scripture, that God can no longer speak at all than it is to believe that God can and does continue to speak to those who walk in humility, faith and obedience with Him in accordance with the scriptures.

FX Turk said...


I am DEEPLY sorry that there has been no moderation of this thread as both Dan and I have been working (and Phil never moderates, hardly ever anyways) because there are so many immoderate comments here so far.

My favorite of the bunch: Joshua's limp "no it isn't". THAT is convincing and convicting, bro! In your weakness, may God be shown MIGHTY!

Second favorite: "dle"'s assumption that God's use of Ananias to finish calling an Apostle is somehow analogous to the normal Christian life -- and then blaming Dan for saying otherwise. Superb! Absolutely no sense in replying when we have that kind of firepower in-play. I'd shocked he didn't just dive for Balaam and the Ass -- because of the Ass could speak the word of God to the Prophet, surely God can speak through anyone -- and does/must!

And no sense contesting with Anzoe as we have witnessed the fruits of that.

Maybe moderation is actually unneeded here.

C'mon all your God-hearers! Regale us with your best "I heard it from God" stories! that'll learn Dan for being thoughtful and thorough!

Kevin said...


"There's an example of God speaking. If Dan or anyone else chooses to ascribe it to someone or something besides the Lord, then all the proof in the world is not going to convince him or them otherwise."

I believe you and give glory to God for his speaking and your listening.

Most of us want to be confirmed in our own views. Jesus could walk into a church and speak and many of us wouldn't recognize him. It's no different than with the religious crowd of his day.

Jesus is the Word, and he is alive today. What he said then is no less true today.

"You search the Scriptures because you think that in them you have eternal life; and it is they that bear witness about me, yet you refuse to come to me that you may have life."

I'll take Sola Jesus. And when I am wrong in my understanding of Scripture, I'll fall back on the mercy and grace found in a living relationship with the living word.

- Kevin

Kevin said...

"Blackaby's teaching is very troubling. But, the Sensei's absolutism is also troubling. He (and Phil) admit to God speaking to individuals and prompting them to do things, but they call that "extraordinary providence."

Sorry, guys, you can't have your cake and eat it too.

I love it. I haven't read their treatment. Is "extraordinary providence" a biblical doctrine? Is that something they came up with or did God reveal it to them in the Scriptures? :-)

Be careful, a progressive cessationist is an awfully slippery slope.

- Kevin

St. Lee said...

Matt, as someone famous once said, "Well, there you go again..."

You said: As Hebrews says, "O, that today you would listen as he speaks! Do not harden your hearts."

Which of course as we all know, means we are to listen to the audible voice of God and be careful to guard ourselves from health issues that will cause hardening of the arteries!

In Russet Shadows said...

Yeah, I'm not impressed by saying that God can never instruct an individual believer audibly or through any other means except the Scriptures. That leaves out all experience -- and so what does the Spirit within believers do, exactly? Apparently He can't communicate via emotions, audibly, etc. And points that others have brought up ring true -- there will be prophets (and false prophets); there will be those with gifts (and those who fake having gifts). All I know is that attempting to bound how God can communicate with His children is pretty silly -- watch Him prove you wrong.

... said...

Russet Shadows,

In answer to your question, "so what does the Spirit within believers do, exactly?"

New Birth

Y'know- Stuff like that.

donsands said...

"Having made a chaotic and hermeneutically irresponsible mish-mash of Scripture and its claims for itself, the Blackabys bear down on individual Christians. And what their theory does is terrible to behold."-Dan

Thanks for speaking with boldness and humility Dan. We need more teachers to speak out against this sort of error, which can cause much confusion in the Church of our Lord.

I want to thank our Father for giving us the incarnate Word, and for giving us His Book, the Holy Writ, and for giving us, through His Son, the Holy Spirit, who is in us to help us live for Christ according to the Word.Thank You Father, in the name of Your most Beloved Son, Jesus Christ. Amen.

Anonymous said...


Potato Shade (may I call you Potato Shade?) the whole issue has never been what God can or can't do, or how tight a bond anyone can put on God (which you would know if you understood the post, or anything else written on this blog on this topic).

The issue is now, and has always been, what does Scripture say about how God speaks to his church since the passing of the apostles and the closing of the canon.

See, you're right. If the point being made was ..."God can't do such-and-such", well that would be a very silly post. God is God, he can do as he pleases, and frequently does.

But if the point is "Scripture teaches that God has done such-and-such in the past, but now He does so-and-so.", well now that's a different thing altogether.
Because if God has told us in Scripture what Dan and many others teach, then it doesn't matter what God can do. What matters is what he can't do, and that is he can't lie.

So here's the thing. If Scripture teaches something, then we must believe it, even if it means (maybe even especially if it means) chucking our experience.
Sure, sometimes our experience makes us re-look at Scripture to make sure we've understood it right. But still, it's all about Scripture, because that's the only infallible word of God which we are privileged to have.

So, you're right, no one should be impressed by someone saying "God can't do this, he only does that, on Friday's he does the other thing but only before noon."
Good call, well done. We believe you.

But, your brilliant answer was to a question heretofore not addressed.
Dan's post was chock full of Scripture. And rightly so, because his claim is, Scripture is clear that God communicates in this way, not in that way.

So maybe address that next time? Maybe?

Scott Zbylot said...

I love the issue, how do I live a life that is most pleasing to God and what is the role of the Holy Spirit in that pursuit. I don't have all the answers by a long shot; I do love God's word and hold it as inerrant and the authoritative basis of my life though. But I really don't like the way the arguments and straw men arguments are always portrayed on this blog about this particular issue. I think there are blind spots that get debunked with man created logical constructs that are not scripturally accurate.

The first man created logical construct is that if God interacts with creation in any way then it is a canonical revelation of God and "extra biblical revelation". There is no verse that says every interaction with creation by God is extra-biblical non-canonical revelation. The fallacy is that God can't interject in the lives of men through anything except through scripture. And if scripture is silent on specifics then do whatever you want as long as it doesn't go against any scripture because you would never have a wrong desire.

When asked how do you actually make difficult decisions in areas where scripture is silent the answers fall into study scripture, live according to all of it, then do what it is you desire and trust that God is sovereign. The truth is that this relegates the role of the Holy Spirit to less than man's own desires because He is not allowed to speak or trump my desires. The bible does speak of the deceptiveness of the desires of man's heart though, just not in these cases apparently. What you actually get is men placing their desires over the Holy Spirit. You also fail to even see the clear pattern that God does interact with men's lives in very different and very personal ways all throughout scripture. The WAY is not normative but the reality that He does it is IMPOSSIBLE to miss. Not everything Jesus did got recorded in scripture. God interacted with men and it didn't make it onto the pages of scripture. It doesn't lessen the unrecorded miracles of Christ. It didn't become canonical even though God was revealing himself to those individuals. It is a man created logical construct, not God’s.

Scott Zbylot said...

Dan has said before that because he met the criteria of a pastor and wanted to pastor that was how he made the decision to pastor. That would imply that all that didn’t meet all of the criteria should not become pastors (even though no one believes Timothy met all of the criteria).

Now when Matt says he was sitting in his chair and felt a sudden and strong desire to walk to the end of his driveway only to save a family it is called providence and not a leading or guiding by the Holy Spirit or else it would be extra biblical and we would all have to walk to the end of our driveways. That is foolish. And Matt’s actual desire was to sit in a comfy recliner, not take a long walk to the end of his drive way. He acted contrary to his own desire, because he has learned to be sensitive to the leading of the Holy Spirit. Not simply providence. God can illuminate scripture by giving you clearer understanding of His word through a connection to actual events in your life. That connection doesn't become canonical or extra biblical. God can place a desire in your heart for something/someone like a missionary having a burden to reach a certain people group without it becoming canonical and extra biblical and authoritative to all believers.

To imagine that God cannot/doesn't interact with His children is to totally fail to understand what intimacy with Christ is. It is to fail to understand what it means to abide in Christ. It is to fail to understand that Christ desires to work through you in the context of a deeply connected RELATIONSHIP that is completely based on the unmerited favor that God has for you as He interacts with you through His Holy Spirit.

I can't imagine chalking up every thought and every desire that was often very different than the ones I had before reading scripture, or before spending time in prayer as just being from myself because God doesn't interact with His children today. I believe true submission on my part involves allowing God to interrupt my plans with His, my desires with His, and my thoughts with His, that He would use my life to bring glory to Him in all things!

jeverettk said...

"If not, if they're sending us after lower-octane revelation, whence do they invent this category? Not from Scripture."

This category IS found throughout scripture, though not derided in the manner used here. Neither is it well defined, understood or practiced by Blackaby. There's also NO indication in scripture (certainly none given above) that we are to act like it's ceased. But we are to see it as less desirable than the more excellent way of the outgrowth of the gospel in the life and spirit of a man (1Cor 12::31-13:13), which suggests we might well see it quieting over time.

Acts 21 gives an example of believers fumbling through, but indeed actively taking part in using the gift of prophecy, as Paul expressly teaches believers to do (more on that later). Note this group in Acts 21 and other messages of this category are:
1. Situation-specific
2. Not imparting new doctrine or elaboration thereof.
3. Often received without direction on how to respond - requiring the guidance of faithful, mature leadership
4. For the benefit NOT of the individual, but of the church

Several people come to Paul and rightly prophesy "through the Spirit" that he will meet opposition in Jerusalem and then each group (on this next bit Agabus is notably silent) wrongly conlcudes Paul shouldn't go, as if God were telling to stay. The text is clear that the prophecies themselves are valid:
- Paul meets exactly this opposition
- Agabus, elsewhere confirmed as a prophet (aerlier even Paul and Barnabus had submitted to acting on his prophecy about coming famine which bore true -Acts 11:28-30)
- And Paul said in Acts 20:22-23 that the ONLY thing the Holy Spirit would reveal to him about his trip was this oracle of affliction

So what we have then are believers using their gift in earnest according to their measure of faith, and then urging Paul (from outside the safe bounds of that measure) to ignore what he knew that God was telling him to do.

So, if one were to then apply Blackaby's prescriptions, where would it have left Paul? Probably flustered, a little confused perhaps, but I think still on his way to Jerusalem, after all he would, under Blackaby, still be following the voice of God as he has heard Him and obeying. The primary difference, and most important, is in the relationships within the church.

For by following Blackaby, Paul and his dear friends would part, each thinking the other was obviously wrong and not listening to God, upset and frustrated each with the other and none except Paul having any opportunity to see the supremacy of God in the suffering of Paul as we see presented in the actual text.

Paul teaches in both 1 Cor 12 and Romans 12 that prophecy is a gift to be desired. Being listed as second in Paul's hierarchy of gifts in 1 Cor 12:28, it would be among the "higher", more desirable gifts referenced in 12:31, which point is all the more explicitly elaborated and confirmed in 1 Cor 14.

Here is one thoroughly explored example, others being Agabus' prophecy in Acts 11, the example given above regarding Ananias and Paul (which does little of nothing to support Blackaby). None of these is as thoroughly addressed in narrative, and none have such strong indications for normative application as Acts 21: i.e. the broad use of the gift among so many, broad agreement between the each, the explicit statement of the text that each was from the Holy Spirit, and the way the errors are treated and how those treatments bear up to the apostolic teaching on the same.

I would urge you to follow Paul's teaching in 1 Thess 5:19-21 and "not despise prophecies, but test everything." You shouldn't expect to see lots and lots of actual prophecies. They should be tested thoroughly. The response should be rigorously guided by mature, faithful leaders according to the whole counsel of scripture, no new teaching should arise as a result, and the benefit should be generally for the church and not one or a very few individuals.

Sir Brass said...

I love it that when the Holy Spirit speaks to believers that continuationists of the Blackaby (or their tolerators) stripe assume that it CANNOT mean that God speaks to us today through His completed Word (let's the Spirit use the Word to make application and conviction to a believer's heart).

No, it can't mean something that mundane and, well... ordinary-seeming.

Naaaaaw, b/c, you know, the fact of the Holy Spirit actually indwelling people is just plain-vanilla ordinary. >.>

Monica said...

Of all the seeker-sensitive, Purpose Driven, pre-emergent junk I grew up with in my childhood church, the Blackaby's teaching was, hands down, the most damaging to my faith. The long term repercussions of "Experiencing God" "theology" have been hard to overcome.

It caused me six long years of spiritual depression, questioning my faith, etc. all because I could never "hear" God speak to me. No matter how much I read Scripture or prayed, God never seemed to clearly reveal (in the manner they suggest) himself to me, his plans for my life, or what I should do next. Ironic? Yes. It still effects me.

It's taken years and years of systematic Bible study, sitting under strong, Biblical preachers and lots of good discipling to overcome the damage.

A hearty "AMEN!" and "THANK YOU!" to anyone who discourages others from reading, or experiencing the Blackabys.

Eric said...


Thanks for your testimony. It's always good to hear testimony of real-life effects of damaging theology as it makes things become much less theoretical.

It sounds as if the Blackabys kind of sent you into a black abyss. Sorry, couldn't resist. I pray that God will continue to strengthen you.

Eric said...


dle said the following: "a voice in my head told me to get up and walk down to the end of my driveway". Please test that prophecy against scripture for all of us to see. Perhaps you can explain how "the knowledge of God and His character" would help you determine if you were just eager to get the mail or if there was an angel with a message waiting at the end of your driveway.

Remember, you have been defending this vewipoint and we have a real-life example in this meta of this exact claim. You keep saying that if we just walk real close with God and examine scripture we will be able to discern God's voice when he speaks to us. So, have at it. Please help all of us "prophecy despisers" see how one goes about parsing such revelation.

This is life and death stuff, so your method better be good.

Anonymous said...

Just a clarification. My comment wasn't meant to be a "refutation", Joshua, and if it was poor, then I think simply saying "that was a bad refutation" is clearly a much poorer refutation! Come on, let's engage with each other like believers.

The point of my post is simply that there is some middle ground here. For example, I don't think Dan would say that the Holy Spirit only speaks to us when we are reading our Bibles: He is saying that the Holy Spirit only speaks to us through the word of God set out in scripture.

I agree with this, but I would add for clarification that the Holy Spirit speaks scripture into our lives every moment of every day, bringing all of His teaching to mind. This is how we can "walk in step with the Spirit" - by listening to His guidance in every decision, prayerfully asking Him to apply scripture to our hearts in all things.

Also, to Trogdor's thoughts: of course I agree that scripture isn't a collection of fragmented "fortune cookie" statements. If you refuse to spread the gospel to your neighbor, you will be convicted, not by all of scripture at once, but specific scriptures that apply to your specific sin. For this reason, we must constantly be in prayer, once again, for the Holy Spirit to bring the scripture to mind that we need to hear.

Five Solas said...

Thanks for reposting this. I happened to have read this same article a few days ago. I came across it the other day in my documents on my laptop (as well as others you wrote on related topics). I wish I had better Internet so that I could read Pyro's nuggets of wisdom more often. But God told me in His Word, "Make disciples of all peoples" I had a desire to fulfill this command by going. My church affirmed this. I prepared myself through seminary and doing ministry in my local church. And so now I live in a town without Internet (8 hours away from it), but I do get to tell others about the gospel who have never heard.

Scripture really is sufficient. Though it does take more effort to diligently study and apply the Word than waiting around for some whispy, still, small voice or subjective impression.

Barbara said...

Three of the most powerful, liberating words I ever heard:

"God doesn't mumble."

I had been raised up in this stuff, still wondering how I could discern God's voice from Satan's voice from my own wishful thinking before finally giving up. I struggled with it as an adult after God graciously saved me until I came across those words and they hit me like a rail train and broke those chains. No more straining and wondering ... God doesn't mumble. He works through the Word, it isn't dead, but alive and it pierces and molds and shapes in beautiful ways.

Caleb said...

I'd be interested to learn how you apply absolute cessationism (with maybe a bit of room for "extraordinary providence") to mission.

If the Spirit does not speak to us today, how does He send missionaries?

I understand the Acts 13 account of God's calling of Paul and Barnabas to be normative: in the context of worship (prayer and fasting), God's calling on the lives of individual missionaries is confirmed through the local church, which then sends them out.

Granted that was The Apostle Paul. Certainly that was an extraordinary case. But if there is no missionary calling (as that would be "extra-biblical revelation"), what is the criteria for sending missionaries?

Furthermore, Paul was clearly led by "extra-biblical" "revelation" (Acts 16 refers to it as "the Holy Spirit" and "the Spirit of Jesus") when they were prevented from entering Asia, forbidden to enter Bithynia, and guided, by vision, to Macedonia.

I suppose it comes down to this: either we have all been sent on mission (per Matthew 28:19-20 and Acts 1:8, etc.) or, due to silence on the part of the Holy Spirit and the specific nature of the individual calling of Paul, Barnabas, Silas, etc., none of us are sent.

Matt Burke said...


I think it comes down to wisdom.

Does this person exhibit an interest and passion for missions? Does he demonstrate gifts and graces that fit within the parameters of being a missionary? Will he be able to obey all the specific commands of God in this venture (providing for his family, etc)? If so, then after being approved by his local church, he should by all means go.

Scott Zbylot said...

Is it possible that God might call you to be a missionary somewhere that isn't mentioned anywhere in scripture and doesn't make total sense to you (sense you don't have infinite knowledge yet?) How does God ever get you there if He is unable to lead you with anything but "Your wisdom" and His Holy Words already recorded. I use the word unable only because it would be extra biblical and be normative for all and be in contradiction to a closed canon, as God is able to do all things.

It seems there needs to 2 concepts Revelation from God (recorded, yet still illuminated and direction from God, that is not revelatory, canonical, and normative for all.)

In the same way that God led the people in the desert with his presence, he leads with His presence today. Or are we going to argue that the presence of the Holy Spirit would be revelatory?

Matt Burke said...

Hi Scott,

Is it possible that God might call you to be a missionary somewhere that isn't mentioned anywhere in scripture and doesn't make total sense to you (sense you don't have infinite knowledge yet?) How does God ever get you there if He is unable to lead you with anything but "Your wisdom" and His Holy Words already recorded.

Providence. "The decrees of God are his eternal purpose, according to the counsel of his will, whereby, for his own glory, he hath foreordained whatsoever comes to pass." (WSC7). If God wants you to go to Kyrgyzstan (I can't even begin to pronounce that), then he ordains the means as well as the ends. Perhaps one reads about it on the internet and develops a passion for the country.

It seems there needs to 2 concepts Revelation from God (recorded, yet still illuminated and direction from God, that is not revelatory, canonical, and normative for all.)

If the second is not "revelatory" then by definition it is not "Revelation". So you have to answer, what is it? Where did it come from? What authority does it have?

In the same way that God led the people in the desert with his presence, he leads with His presence today. Or are we going to argue that the presence of the Holy Spirit would be revelatory?

He led the people in the desert through a pillar of fire, did he not? I'm not sure how that is relevant. The Holy Spirit's presence in believers does plenty of things: regeneration, conviction, faith, repentance, etc. None of these are revelatory.

Hope some of this helps orient your thinking some.


Scott Zbylot said...

The point of the pillar of fire and cloud was that it was the spirit of God leading to specific locations. It wasn't just "providence". You think that we have to look for a pillar of fire or else God doesn't lead people. That is the false presumption that leads to what I believe is your hermeneutical blindspot covered with a bandage called providence.

Does god have the ability to shape your desires and passions or would that be revelatory/canonical/extra biblical if God interjected his desires for your life. You used the words "develops a passion" for a people you have never met, but simply read about on the internet. Is that normative or is that the work of God leading His children through something other than scripture.

Does that theory hold up well for people that were missionaries way before they were able to read about people groups? Was it just providence that Paul went to some groups and not others?

Matt Burke said...

Hi Scott,

Does god have the ability to shape your desires and passions or would that be revelatory/canonical/extra biblical if God interjected his desires for your life. You used the words "develops a passion" for a people you have never met, but simply read about on the internet. Is that normative or is that the work of God leading His children through something other than scripture.

God works ALL things according to the counsel of his will (Eph 1.11). Therefore, he can indeed shape desires and passions (often through normal means, though he is free to go beyond them). The problem is that we cannot infallibly interpret providence. Say you develop a desire to do action X. You don't know if that desire is planted by God, or the result of your brains normal neural firings, or a temptation by the devil. We are told often in Scripture to trust God's word and distrust our own hearts (for example, Jer. 17:9). So you have to evaluate the desire by biblical rubric.

Does that theory hold up well for people that were missionaries way before they were able to read about people groups?

Sure, if they wanted to go to a particular place they must have found out about it somehow.

Was it just providence that Paul went to some groups and not others?

Paul received direct revelation. That is not a point under debate. The problem is attempting to make him or Moses or any other Biblical character paradigmatic for modern believers.