While we Evangelicals want to preserve the Bibles integrity and maintain sane spiritualities, we dont want to hyper-react in the opposite direction, and so Willard begins: The goal is not hearing an audible voice from heaven, but cultivating a relationship that rests upon divine guidance. And for the most part, Willard does not think God will speak audibly to us (and so cessationists can start breathing again!), and certainly not in a way that will add to the Bible, whatever that (non)argument means. This is so because the thought-word-content passes from one speaking Subject to a receiving Object. The object, if obedient and listening, internalizes the content and in the re-speaking, will act as a new subject. c) Sown in the ministry of Christ (Mt. 13) d) That which prevailed in Acts (12:24) All of the above is the Word of God, but none of it is equated with the Bible. Superstition is belief in magick, but Willard then points out: magick relies on alleged causal influences that are not mediated through nature. Again, Willards wisdom: The effects are produced from the realm of mind or spirit in a social context where a certain set of beliefs about voodoo or magical rituals are shared...The power involved is not the power of the ritual itself. It is the power of personal force...and perhaps the Satanic dimension of the spiritual realm (138).
Filled with wise counsel and deep reflection, he begins with what should be obvious to all Christians: God wants to have an intimate daily relationship with us, one characterized by conversational communication.
I simply did not enjoy Hearing God. At the risk of belaboring the point, here are a few reasons: Philosophical/theological incoherence Willard is writing to a mainly evangelical audience, which seems to limit where he wants to go. Individualistic assumptions Connected to the previous problem, Willard has no cogent response for how to determine whether the voice we hear is actually God because, as required by his evangelical audience and assumptions, he does not do more than pay lip service to the notion of community as a primary lens through which to filter your beliefs (as opposed to solitary Bible reading and prayer). Failure to acknowledge doubt With the exception of the epilogue, which, um, isn't exactly a sign of taking it seriously, Willard simply assumes that hearing God is a thing that can and should happen.
Willard also shares his personal experiences in this area, and debunks many myths as to why people think they do not hear God. He also shows some false notions of how to hear Gods voice. I still have a long way to go in this area, however now I have some direction and a firm foundation on which to peruse my own conversational relationship with God. Some of the concepts that Willard covered I disagree with, however if you can show enough grace to look past the things that you disagree with, I am sure you will, as I did, get a lot out of this book. 4. Why do some people seem not to hear Gods voice? 7. What sort of Bible reading helps us become the kind of people who are better able to hear God?
I just think He speaks to us first and foremost through His Word. Willard is quick to argue that surely this amazing God didn't just speak at one time in history and then just stop. After all, non-Christians read the Bible all the time, but is God speaking to them? In this sense, I think we can say God continues to speak, today, through the Word He spoke in the past. I cannot agree with those who say that God never speaks apart from the Bible--I think He does. But more often than not, I think we are free to choose for ourselves, using the wisdom He has given us and being guided by the principles of His Word. And since there seems to be some evidence that the vast bulk of heavenly communication takes place either through the Word or through the Holy Spirit working in us in ways we cannot always perceive, I think teaching people that constant extrabiblical communication from God is a prerequisite for a healthy relationship with Him is a recipe for disaster, anxiety, and doubt. However, assuming we maintain a high view of Scripture and don't spend our lives being paralyzed by fear that God has some secret will He is hiding from us or that we're not really Christians (or 'good' Christians) if God doesn't talk to us every day, I don't have a problem with allowing for the possibility that He may speak to us. He doesn't sit and wait and listen so hard his ears bleed, but he simply goes about his day, being careful not to be so distracted by activity that he effectively drowns out the voice of God. Then if nothing happens in that hour or so, he just . This is, I think, great advice, and it was by far the high point of the book. I'm just a little leery of his views on how God speaks to His people. One final note: I listened to the audiobook edition, narrated by Grover Gardner--who did a fine job, though I found it a little distracting to hear Louis Wu talking about the voice of God. I realize the world of audiobook narration is a small one, and folks are bound to narrate a wide variety of books over the course of their careers.
I knew from the outset that reading this book wasn't going to answer all my questions or give me some sort of formula that if followed would yield instructions on exactly what steps to take next. When making big life decisions, I consistently go to God asking for directional answers, specific instructions as to what to do. No Hey, Barbara, go back to South Africa messages came during this time in my life or through my reading of this book.
What I found most important in reading this book was the chapter in which the author leads us to examine our motives in wanting to speak to God. He warns against trying to "use" God so that we can exalt ourselves to a place of spiritual authority; approaching God with fear and insisting that he direct every aspect of our lives so that we can feel "safe;" and treating God as a kind of "cosmic butler" that should be at our beck and call to clean up our messes.
I have aimed to give a biblical and experiential understanding of the theory and practice of that life." (217) "My hope is to leave you with a clear sense of how to live confidently in a personal walk that is complemented by an ongoing conversational relationship with God." (13) "Generally speaking we are in God's will whenever we are leading the kind of life he wants for us. And that leaves a lot of room for initiative on our part, which is essential: our individual initiatives are central to his will for us." (11) "I deal with hearing God as it bears upon a whole life in the will of God - upon the question of who God wants us to be as well as (where appropriate) of what he wants us to do." (12) Ch. 1 - believing we should hear from God but not understanding the practice Ch. 2 - common misunderstandings Ch. 3 - various ways in which God communicates with us Ch. 4 - objections to the idea of God's communicating with individuals Ch. 5 - the various ways God communicates, the centrality of the "still, small voice" Ch. 6,7 - God's speaking - the Word of God at the very heart of all reality Ch. 8 - how we can be sure we are hearing God Ch. 9 - when God is not speaking We have faith in God's personal, guiding communication with us but we are painfully uncertain about how we hear God's voice today. (per Mother Teresa) (45) God is present with us in three forms: when we are not aware of him but trusting him by faith, when there is a strong impression of his presence, and "when he acts in conjunction with our actions to change our surroundings in ways beyond our own powers." (51) "Why, if God is personal, would he not also talk with us?" "God is also with us in a conversational relationship: he speaks with us individually as it is appropriate - which is only to be expected between persons who know one another, care about each other and are engaged in common enterprises." (51) "The primary manner of communication from God to humankind is the Word of God, or God's speaking. We must ask ourselves frequently which role we are fulfilling and constantly return ourselves, if necessary, to the practice of the shepherd." (81) "If you believe God has told you to do something, ask him to confirm it to you three times: through his Word, through circumstances, and through other people who may know nothing of the situation." (quoting Joyce Huggett) (85) "In the still small voice of God we are given a message that bears the stamp of his personality quite clearly and in a way we will learn to recognize. "God usually addresses individually those who walk with him in a mature, personal relationship using this inner voice, proclaiming and showing forth the reality of the kingdom of God as they go." (89) "Generally speaking, God will not compete for our attention." (90) "The reality of God's voice does not make seeking for it unnecessary. But we will be able to seek him only if we honestly believe that he might explicitly address us in ways suitable to his purposes in our lives." (91) "But no means of communication between God and us is more commonly used in the Bible or the history of the church than the voice of definite, individual human beings. It may be that the one spoken to is also the one spoken through." (95) "That is, of all the ways in which a message comes from outside the mind or personality of the person addressed, it most commonly comes through a human being." (96) This "most fully engages the faculties of free, intelligent beings who are socially interacting with agape love in the work of God as his colaborers and friends." (96) God also addresses us through our own spirits, the "still small voice. And we are able to use his knowledge of himself - made available to us in Christ and the Scriptures - to understand in some measure his thoughts and intentions toward us and to help us see his workings in our world." (100) "In this way we are addressed by him, spoken to by him, through our own thoughts." (101) "Therefore we are to be transformed by the renewing of our minds (Rom 12:2). He will help us learn to distinguish when a thought is ours alone and when it is also his." (102) "Although reoccurring thoughts are not always an indication that God is speaking, they are not to be lightly disregarded." "So the thoughts and feelings in the mind and spirit of one who is surrendered to God should be treated as if God were walking through one's personality with a candle, directing one's attention to things one after the other." (102) "But a biblical Christian is not just someone who holds certain beliefs about the Bible. He or she is also someone who leads the kind of life demonstrated in the Bible: a life of personal, intelligent interaction with God." (104) "Often God does not give us what we ask for, but I believe that he will always answer, always respond to us in some way." "God is not impassive toward us like an unresponsive pagan idol; he calls us to grow into a life of personal interchange with him that does justice to the idea of our being his children." (105) "As Bible history proceeds, we notice that in the process of divine communication the greater the maturity of the listener, the greater the clarity of the message and the lesser the role played by dreams, visions and other strange phenomena and altered states." (110) "The more spectacular is the less mature." (111) "God in his mercy often speaks to us in obscure ways in order to allow us the room and time we need to respond." "It is therefore natural and right that God's word comes to us in forms that we must struggle to understand. That is the creative power of the word of God. The word of God - the thought and mind of God - continues its presence in the created universe, upholding it." "What we call natural laws, then, must be regarded as God's thoughts and intentions as to how the world should run." Therefore, "God himself speaks every day and in every place to the eyes of all men." (quoting George Bekeley)(125) "...reality - including the material world - is ultimately a kingdom in which authority, personal relationship and communication are basic to the way things run." (135) "God reigns in his kingdom through his speaking." (142) "Only by showing how to live can we teach how to live. Read with a readiness to surrender all you are - all your plans, opinions, possessions, positions." "Those who wish to hear the word and know the truth are often not prompted by their desire to do it." (161) "It is better in one year to have ten good verses transferred into the substance of our lives than to have every word of the Bible flash before our eyes." (163) "We may mistakenly think that if God spoke to us we would automatically know who is speaking without having to learn, but that is simply a mistake...." "...it seems that at first we must be told that God is speaking to us and possibly even be helped to detect his voice. I have occasionally received insights that, while perhaps of little significance in themselves, were experience by me as literally staggering." (176) "The content of a word that is truly from God will always conform to and be consistent with the truths about God's nature and kingdom that are made clear in the Bible." "In order to qualify as the voice of God, a thought, perception or other experience must conform to the principles - the fundamental truths - of Scripture." (178) "We must be alert to any voice that is in contrast with the weight, spirit and content of God's voice, for that may signify that we are under subtle attack." (181) "Likewise, followers of Christ must be encouraged to believe that they can come to understand and distinguish the voice of God. They need only to look within their thoughts and perceptions for the same kinds of distinctions as they would find in spoken or written communications received from other human beings: a distinctive quality, spirit and content. We must learn to find in them the voice of the god in whom we live and move and have our being." (182) "More of God's speaking to me has come in conjunction with study and teaching of the Bible than with anything else." (183) "We all know what foolishness sometimes follows on the heels of the words 'God told me.'" (186) "We need to know what the voice of God is like, how it comes and what kinds of things it might way if we are to protect ourselves and those around us in the fellowship of the faithful from people who are malicious or who are being carried away with voices contrary to God, which they themselves may not understand." (186-7) "Faith is not opposed to knowledge; it is opposed to sight. Please speak to me through my friends, books, magazines I pick up and read, and through circumstances." (quoting James Dobson) (199) "Personally I find it works best if after I ask for God to speak to me in this way, I devote the next hour or so to some kind of activity that neither engrosses my attention with other things nor allows me to be intensely focused on the matter in question.