Did you know that every time God speaks in Scripture it is through an audible voice, never through an inner voice, impressions or feelings, and that includes Elijah’s still small voice? So contends Gary Gilley, in his review of the book, Hearing God, by Dallas Willard. Willard believes that Christians should hear God’s voice apart from Scripture.
Willard has been a favorite of the Contemplative Prayer movement, and in fact is one of its biggest proponents and teachers. First, you’ll need to know that Dallas Willard, Richard Foster and others have taken the word Contemplative and re-defined it. It no longer means reflecting thoughtfully on Scripture verses and meditating on God’s Word, but thanks to the CP trendsetters it now means emptying your mind to hear your soul, and emptying your soul to hear God’s voice.
But there is a big problem with going “into the silence.” Let’s pick up the review of the book by Gilley over on Ken Silva’s Apprising Ministries site:
…At the heart of both spiritual formation and mysticism is God speaking beyond the pages of Scripture.
For this reason Hearing God is an important book, written by one of the premiere leaders within the movement. That Willard is merely updating the same message he delivered nearly 30 years ago shows that the spiritual formation movement has not changed its basic teachings. And what are they? In essence, that we can live “the kind of life where hearing God is not an uncommon occurrence” (p. 12), for “hearing God is but one dimension of a richly interactive relationship and obtaining guidance is but one facet of hearing God” (p. 13). In other words, the maturing Christian should expect to hear the voice of God, independent from Scripture, on a regular basis and that voice will reveal God’s individual, specific will for his life. Such individual communication from the Lord, we are told, is absolutely essential because without it there can be no personal walk with God (pp. 26, 31, 67). And it is those who are hearing from God today who will redefine “Christian spirituality for our time” (p. 15).
This premise leads to a very practical problem, however, one Willard will address throughout the book in many ways. The problem is, how does one know that he has really heard from God? Could he not be confusing his own thoughts, or even implanted thoughts from Satan (pp. 235-237), with the voice of God? This is even more problematic because Willard believes that while God can speak audibly or use dreams and visions, normally His voice will come as a “still small voice” heard only within our own hearts and minds. In fact, so vital is this “still small voice” that the author devotes his largest chapter to exploring what it means (chapter 5, pp. 114-153). Yet in all of his discussion on the topic, it never seems to dawn on Willard that the original “still small voice” to Elijah (1 Kings 19:12-18) was in fact an audible voice, not an inward impression or thought.
Since Willard believes that God normally speaks to us through an inner, inaudible, subjective voice (p. 130) and that it is possible that God is speaking and we do not even know it (pp. 118-120), how can we be certain when God is speaking to us? In answer Willard boldly informs us that we can only learn the voice of God through experience (pp. 9, 19, 21, 63, 143). He clearly states, “The only answer to the question, how do we know whether this is from God? is By experience” (p. 218) (emphasis his).
- Gary Gilley Reviews “Hearing God” by Dallas Willard (christianresearchnetwork.org)
- Steven Furtick, Hillsong Conference, and ‘Fresh Wind, Fresh Fire’ (donotbesurprised.com)
- Contemplative Prayer (christianresearchnetwork.org)
- Is Deception Calling? A review of Jesus Calling by Sarah Young (steakandabible.com)
- “Spiritual Disciplines Handbook” – Christian Organizations, Seminaries, and Ministry Leaders Incorporate This Mystical Primer into Christian Education (lighthousetrailsresearch.com)