Long, long ago on some far gone day,
God spoke to his people in a mysterious way.
Secular Groups for People Who Hear Voices
There are groups, I learned from a Ted Talk, whose mission is to help people who hear voices. Intervoice and The Hearing Voices Network are two such secular groups. These groups try to engage those who may have already entered the mental health system and have received therapies or psychiatric remedies. They also try to engage those who hear voices but are afraid to tell anyone for fear that they will be diagnosed and treated as schizophrenic or labeled with some other terrible malady. The help these groups give is secular information and education, not medication.
From these types of hearing voices sites, I have learned that those affected, as well as those offering help, have many explanations for the voices people hear and that people hear voices in many different ways. I have learned that sometimes these voices coincide with visions, dreams, or other physical sensations. I have also learned that it is estimated that as many as ten percent of the world’s population hears voices. Have you ever heard someone speak your name when no one did?
Questions About Hearing Voices
Of course this idea of hearing voices raises all kinds of questions?
- What does “hearing” mean? Is the voice perceived as audible or in some other way?
- What is the origin of the voice? Is it God? The Spirit of God? An angel? A good or evil spirit? Inner thoughts? A brain malfunction? Your subconscious?
Questions About Hearing God’s Voice
Perhaps the hearing voices phenomenon is more acceptable among Christians. Who hasn’t been among Believers where someone acknowledged they “had a word from the Lord” or they “heard God say …”? Sometimes Christians say, “God calls.” Other times they acknowledge that he “leads.” Fellowship with God through prayer and Bible reading implies “listening” to the voice of God. Jesus said my sheep “hear my voice,” (John 10:27, ESV).
Of course this raises all kinds of questions too:
- What does it mean to hear God’s voice? Does it mean hearing God’s voice apart from God’s written word? Does hearing God’s voice imply audible hearing of something God is presently saying, or does it imply understanding of what he has already said in his written word? Can it imply both?
- How can I be sure the voice I hear is the voice of God? How can I distinguish the voice I hear from a concoction of my own imagination or from an evil spirit trying to make me believe he is good?
Christians Who Hear God’s Voice Do Not Create New Scripture
At this point, I think it is important to emphasize that even for those Christians who claim in one way or another to hear God’s voice, they are not claiming to create new Scripture – or at least it is commonly understood that they should not be making that claim. The understanding, that the canon of Scripture is closed, is generally accepted in mainstream Christian denominations and is expressed succinctly in the exposition of Authority: Christ and the Bible in the 1986 Chicago Statement on Biblical Inerrancy:
It appears that the Old Testament canon had been fixed by the time of Jesus. The New Testament canon is likewise now closed inasmuch as no new apostolic witness to the historical Christ can now be borne. No new revelation (as distinct from Spirit-given understanding of existing revelation) will be given until Christ comes again. The canon was created in principle by divine inspiration. The Church’s part was to discern the canon which God had created, not to devise one of its own.
The Connection Between God’s Spoken Word and God’s Written Word
I’m not going to try to answer any of the questions I’ve posed, but I am going to provide Scripture references that give us some examples of God speaking to men. Of course there are many more passages that illustrate men encountering the spoken word of God (2 Corinthians 12:3-4; Revelation 10:3-5; Isaiah 6:8-9; Numbers 12:6-8 for instance), but the examples below show an obvious connection between God’s spoken word and God’s written word. Perhaps these references will help guide your thinking as you consider the idea of hearing God’s voice. Perhaps they will reveal a taste of the glory these men must have felt as God’s very word fell on them.
The references in the graphic along with some others are listed in Part 1 of Unit 3: God, the Spirit; Lesson 6: The Divine Author are in the Creating Art from Theology small group study. You may be interested in checking out the rest of the lesson.
The Chicago Statement on Biblical Inerrancy with Exposition, 1986, available from Bible Research: Internet Resources for Students of Scripture was accessed 03/07/2014.