[display_podcast]A recent interview (well, OK three weeks ago) with Greg Haslam raised again the issue of how God speaks. And given the current interest in the Christian blogosphere in discernment (mainly thanks to Tim), the interview is worth exploring again. I’ve held off commenting earlier, because I wanted to be able to provide a counterpoint example, and until now hadn’t found one. Then, this morning, came the latest Tyndale Bulletin, together with a link to Peter Williams’ interview by Justin Taylor back in August, that provided just what I was looking for.
Both men (Peter and Greg) were describing their change of direction in ministry, and how they had been guided. See if you can spot the difference:
God gave me over fifty personal prophecies that made it clear I would be going there, mostly from men who knew nothing about what was afoot… the Lord had told me that this was ‘For the sake of my wider kingdom purposes in London and beyond.’… I remain officially outside of that movement [New Frontiers], in line with all God told me to do five years ago.
And now Peter Williams:
That job came to an end and I felt compelled to stay in Europe, yet the only job I could find was a temporary post in NT at the University of Aberdeen… I had four wonderful years teaching NT alongside great colleagues in Aberdeen and becoming a Senior Lecturer before sensing that I should apply for the position of Warden of Tyndale House. I would have been perfectly happy to stay in Aberdeen, but I took the offer of the post as guidance that I should accept.
Can you spot the difference? The words that both men use to describe what is essentially the same experience, are poles apart. The words used by Greg would grate severely on most non-charismatics, particularly unqualified phrases such as “the Lord told me” and “God told me”. This is really no different at all from saying “Thus said the Lord”, which (we are told) died out amongst reformed charismatics a generation ago.
Why can’t charismatics be more circumspect in their language? Why not say simply “I felt God was calling me”?
Wayne Grudem has said in his Systematic Theology
prophecies in the church today should be considered merely human words, not God’s words, and not equal to God’s words in authority… If someone really does think God is bringing something to mind which should be reported in the congregation, there is nothing wrong with saying, “I think the Lord is putting on my mind that…” or “It seems to me that the Lord is showing us…” or some similar expression. Of course that does not sound as “forceful” as “Thus says the Lord,” but if the message is really from God, the Holy Spirit will cause it to speak with great power to the hearts of those who need to hear.
Now Grudem is talking about congregational prophecies, whereas Haslam is talking about personal prophecies. Is there a difference? Are we justified is saying “The Lord told me” but not justified in saying “The Lord is telling us“.
Please, can the charismatics explain?