21 February 2013

Leaky canon = lazy disciple: a story

by Dan Phillips

Valerie was preparing some dish for our church pot luck, and needed lime-flavored tortilla chips.

I looked and looked among the chips, the tortilla chips. Nothing. Up, down, back and forth. Nothing. I mean, yes: there were chips of all kinds; there were even tortilla chips of all kinds.

Just no lime-flavored tortilla chips.

But I really wanted to please and serve Valerie, and I tend to be very tenacious in situations like this. So I kept looking, back and forth, up and down, back and forth, up and down.

Then I looked in a totally different area from where all the tortilla chips were — and there it was.

If I didn't care, I would have quit earlier. If I didn't have the conviction that Walmart had to carry this kind of chip, I would have quit earlier.

Moral: The effect of these "God whispered in my ear and it worked out" stories is to encourage and validate giving up, and thus to encourage laziness.

After all, if you have the conviction that Scripture doesn't have every word you need from God, you'll look a bit... then you'll quit. If you don't see it on the shelf after a couple of glances, and your theology tells you that not everything you need is in fact on the shelf, and that there is in fact an entirely different way to get what you're looking for... done!

What's more, if you have a choice between close, hard, focused, disciplined study, and maybe the humbling experience of asking for help, on the one hand — and having God just murmur the answer directly into your ear, on the other (thus giving you the unchallengeable G-card) ... who'd choose study?

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Nash Equilibrium said...

Not only that, but the thing "God" whispers in your ear is so much more pleasing than the truth!

Robert said...

"and maybe the humbling experience of asking for help"

I have found that when I take the time to listen to others who have poured years into study of Scripture, it helps me get past points where I get stuck. Or it fills in the gaps where I have not sunk into the depths of certain passages. I would think that if we don't seek this, we might be missing what Paul is speaking about here:

"And He gave some as apostles, and some as prophets, and some as evangelists, and some as pastors and teachers, for the equipping of the saints for the work of service, to the building up of the body of Christ; until we attain to the unity of the faith, and to the knowledge of the Son of God, to a mature man, to the measure of the stature which belongs to the fullness of Christ." (Ephesians 4:11-13)

If we are not seekign to learn from the teachers and pastors, then we are actually working against becoming equipped for serving the body and promoting unity. Of course, it makes sense that if we are trying to be an island that we are not promoting unity, right? And the note from God really is promoting being out on an island in a sense.

Anonymous said...

My experience almost exactly.

Thankfully I learned stuff...and was able to walk away from the whole Charismatic scene.

Also thankfully, people are inconsistent in their theology. My brother is a student of the Word. Yet is (in my view) over-the-top Charismatic.

Lynda O said...

Thanks, Dan -- a great example of the problem of laziness. And little wonder that the charismatic "God card" trend continues unabated, since even believers still have too much of the old nature of laziness (and short attention span) and not wanting to make the extra effort to learn and grow in the knowledge of the Lord.

DJP said...

Today's shocker: one-star haters hate a robust doctrine of sufficiency.

Jay Beerley said...

I recently decided to take a new position and resigned from my church. In talking to church members about it, I would say that at least 90% of them used the language of "Well, you got to do what God told you to do." I gently tried to steer the conversation towards what I believe were the actual factors in my decision: wisdom from the Lord that comes from His Word about ministry, life choices and family, prayer for peace and wisdom, advice from people who are wise with ministry experience that I love, etc. It has been alarming to me how many people are looking for God's "voice" to tell them what to do. So, along with laziness, I might add a weakness that comes from not wanting to take ownership of your own actions. I fully believe my decision is in God's will (I wouldn't be able to go if it wasn't) but I did not arrive to that conclusion based on a new Word from the Lord but the application of what He has already said.
After all, there are some people who are genuinely upset that I'm leaving, and don't think I should leave. If one of them pulls out the "God told me" card, am I supposed to then immediately submit to that?

I often feel like I want to respond to these people as God addressed Job: dress for action like a man! Take responsibility. Show some confidence in the work the Lord has already done. You can't screw up God's will. Paul tried several times to do what he thought was right, and God wouldn't let him. Use the Word as your guide. Like you've said, Dan, it is sufficient.

DJP said...

"weakness that comes from not wanting to take ownership of your own actions"

Hear, hear.

Cathy said...

The Charismatic's moral to the story:
God whispered in your ear telling you where the chips were (experienced as an inner prompting), and voila- you found the chips.
Conclusion- Clearly, you got a word from God.
Further application- if you deny this truth, you will be denying the work of the Holy Spirit, and future treks to find obscure items in WalMart will be futile.

DJP said...

...and I don't have a full Gospel ministry!

I see it!

canewbie said...

Okay. Suppose you're not not actively searching for anything.
You're just driving down the freeway and "something" tells you to take a particular action which, on the surface, seems totally irrational.
Upon taking said action, you have the opportunity to lead several people to Christ.
What was that "something" if not God?

DJP said...

Theology-by-anecdote makes its first appearance in the meta.

FX Turk said...


So now we worship the unknown god in Athens?

I learned something today, and it's not pretty.

Rob said...

Dan, if you're living in north Houston now, you need to find a local Market Street HEB. Those places have about every imaginable form of food, including lime-flavored tortilla chips, which are awesome (although that would have done away with this illustration, I suppose...)

DJP said...

Walmart had them, as I said.

But I hear HEB's great. Only been a time or two, briefly. Valerie likes it.

Anonymous said...

I love this post. Mostly because it uses Walmart to teach sound doctrine...

Scot said...

Just answering the last question gives a sober assessment of one's heart.

Good stuff.

Nash Equilibrium said...

Suppose I'm driving down the highway not going anywhere in particular. Something tells me to swerve into a lamp-post. It's irrational, but hey, could be God telling me to do it. So I do.
As a result, I end up in the hospital and charged with reckless operation.

When I go to trial I tell the judge why I did what I did, he sends me in for psychological evaluation, and the report comes back marked "pentecostal christian."

What is that, if not subjecting Christ to humiliation?

(two can play at the anecdote game)

Michael Coughlin said...

Can you help explain the answer to canewbie's question or explain why it doesn't get an answer for those of us who do not understand?

BFR said...

Using personal subjective experience is more than just immature silliness; it is darkness.

"To the law and to the testimony: if they speak not according to this word, it is because there is no light in them... The secret things belong to the Lord our God, but the things that are revealed belong to us and to our children forever, that we may do all the words of this law."

Larry Geiger said...

Dude, you're rough. "who'd choose study?" Why's it gotta be so hard?

Adam Lambdin said...

Yeah, I've never hear the voice of God speak to me except in His Word.

semijohn said...

God would not tell you to do something "totally irrational." There's a place for people who routinely do "totally irrational" things: the mental health institution. Now, if we take your story at face value for the sake of argument, and change "totally irrational" to "kind of spontaneous", such as you take a long way to drive somewhere, or go a completely odd way, or you stop at a restaurant you've never been to and really had never desired to eat (mind you, none of these things are "totally irrational"). Then, you lead 3 people to Christ. Then God used your sense of spontanaity, or the part of you that wants, to do something different to lead those people to Christ. But that's different than the Spirit "prompting" you, or God "telling" you to do something. Of course, I assume that per the illustration, you would be saying that you led them to Christ a couple of years down the road, after you've seen these 3 people get baptized, plugged into a solid church, and growing in their faith. And not just because they prayed a prayer and you never saw them again. If it were the latter, you would need to use a different description.

Pastor Michael said...


I'm not a charismatic, but trying to understand the issue.
That said, isn't there a role for hard work AND prayer? I can't tell you how many times I've been searching for an answer to a thorny exegetical challenge, and upon prayer found direction to look here, read there, consider that.
FWIW, hard work at proper exegesis plus hard work in prayer doesn't seem like laziness.
Am I misunderstanding your analogy?

Anonymous said...

Good post. If you really want to be disgusted by the "God whispered" card, go start protesting at an abortion clinic or talk to girls who get them or are going to, and count how many times you hear, "I feel God leading me in this direction".

One very important caveat. Just because we're disgusted by all the things people claim God told them, that doesn't mean we should say that God never speaks to anyone. Certainly God speaks to various people throughout the Bible. When we make blanket statements like "God never talks to people nowadays", we're throwing out the baby with the bath-water. An agnostic once told me: "instead of praying, pretend like you're talking to Elvis instead of God. And just have a conversation with Elvis in your head. It's the same thing when you pretend you're talking with Jesus or whoever you think God is. You're just talking to yourself". He's wrong, of course, but it shows what happens when someone goes to extremes on the matter.

Morris Brooks said...

To continue the store analogy, the best thing about God's word being on the shelf, is that no matter how much you take off the shelf, it never runs out.

zamar said...

The Bible says" The mind of man plans his way, But the LORD directs his steps. Prov 16:9
God has control of everything and could orchestrate impulsively taking an exit when your child has to find a restroom and you avoid an accident, getting a flat tire to have oportunity to witness to the AAA guy, or having chips in an odd aisle so you have to ask for assistance finding them and end up inviting a WalMart employee to your church to work His perfect will.
Everything IS in Scripture.
Your conviction about the sufficiency of WalMart is misplaced.

DJP said...

LOL; well, rejoice that it worked out for me this time, Zamar.

trogdor said...

One of my favorite Piper quotes regards diligent study of the Word. "Raking is easy, but you only get leaves. Digging is hard, but you might find gold." And yes, the irony of quoting that on this post is pretty rich, given the recent disaster. But it's still a great quote.

What Robert pointed out way back when is so easy to overlook, it needs to be said yet again - and maybe the humbling experience of asking for help. That part can be the hardest. It takes humility to start to study, admitting that you don't know it all to begin with and need to learn. But it takes an extra-large dose of humility to study diligently and still admit that you just don't get it.

Studying can humble us greatly. Humility is an essential outcome of "participation in the Spirit". By disincentivizing study, Charismatics oppose the work of the Spirit they supposedly revere.

Kerry James Allen said...

Nice follow up, Trog, as always. And to add to your last few lines, maybe we should be calling them "automatics" instead of "charismatics," as in, "What's with all the hard study with you guys? Don't you get that this all happens like a lightning bolt?"

"Study for hours? We get it in a flash!"