Plug that question into your web browser, and you will come up with a dizzying array of differing responses. Near the top of the list, I encountered this one: Does God Speak Directly to Man Today? While I might like to think that it’s a bit on the “extreme” end, it is probably far more mainstream an answer than I could care to admit.
Bottom line: the author states, “If one wishes to know the will of God on a subject, he must search the Holy Scriptures. This is the only source of sacred information relative to things spiritual (see 2 Tim. 3:16-17).”
This is a satisfying answer, I suppose, for those who view Christianity as primarily a religion, a theological system, a set of beliefs. Answers like that are safe. They avoid potential problems, such as:
Finally, there is a very obvious flaw in the assertion that the Lord is speaking directly to people today. Such a view allows anyone to fabricate, out of thin air, any claim he or she wishes, with no demonstrative means available of either confirming or exposing the statement.
However, for those who like to think that, as I’ve frequently been told by fellow Believers over the years, “Christianity is not a religion; it’s a relationship”, the concept that God speaks to us only through the Bible is less than satisfying.
Imagine the following relationship. You never actually see the other person in the relationship. You speak to him on the phone, but he remains completely silent. The good thing is that you have a book he wrote that describes, among other things, how to have a relationship with him. However, even this marvelous book is not exhaustive and there are things it doesn’t cover. You ask him questions. Dead silence. There are parts of the book you don’t understand. You ask more questions. Dead silence. Finally you join a book club with other people, for the sole purpose of studying this person’s book. You form relationships with other book club members, but the person you really want a relationship with remains an enigma outside of the pages of his book, always silent, always distant, never speaking.
I don’t know about you, but I don’t think Jesus is that…well, that bizarre. In fact, call me a raving lunatic or extremely misguided or someone who fabricates stuff out of thin air, but the relationship I have with Jesus Christ is far more immediate, intimate, and real than the non-relationship I described — and I hope it will grow even closer and more real in the days and years to come.
I believe God “speaks” to us today, in a variety of different ways, some very subtle (“the still small voice”) and some more bold. I believe He speaks to different ones of us differently. I believe He “speaks”, perhaps most often, in ways that have nothing to do with actual words. At the same time, I believe that if someone is so fully convinced that God only speaks through the pages of the Bible, he or she will not recognize His voice, even if He were to shout loudly…which, in my limited experience, He tends not to do.
In fact, I’ve never heard an audible voice. Sometimes words and sentences have come to mind in a way that I knew was not my own thinking. Sometimes I’ve just known things. Sometimes God has spoken through other people, through circumstances, through memories, through music, etc. Sometimes I was sure it was Him; other times not.
Jesus told us, “My sheep recognize my voice.” I don’t think He merely meant that His followers in our current age would acknowledge that the red letter parts of the Bible were things He said while on earth, or that we would hold to the doctrine of the inspiration of Scripture. I tend to be somewhat concrete in my thinking (much to my far more symbolically-minded husband’s frustration) and I cling to the fact that Jesus spoke highly of the faith of children, rather than pointing out that they were not yet capable of higher-level, abstract reasoning.
Besides, I like to think that this particular sheep, prone to wander though I may be, has been doing a somewhat better job of following the Shepherd lately, and is becoming far more familiar with His voice.