John Piper today posted a response to the anonymous “My Conversation with God” article that appeared in the March 2007 issue of Christianity Today and was posted on-line. I also responded to the article in a rather different way than Dr. Piper.
John Piper starts out his article telling us that he too has heard the voice of God speaking personally to him and gives a detailed account of the experience. However, the article turns in a different direction at the conclusion. Please read his post: “The Morning I Heard God’s Voice” before going on to my comments.
John Piper is an incredibly gifted and anointed Bible scholar/teacher and his books and articles have blessed and enriched an entire generation of Christians. Some of his books are among my favorites. However, his article made me sad today. Particularly since I always look forward to his writing with a certain expectancy and today I was disappointed.
In the later part of his posting he responds to the earlier article -“My Conversation with God” and he says this about it:
What makes me sad about the article is not that it isn’t true or didn’t happen. What’s sad is that it really does give the impression that extra-biblical communication with God is surpassingly wonderful and faith-deepening. All the while, the supremely glorious communication of the living God that personally and powerfully and transformingly explodes in the receptive heart through the Bible everyday is passed over in silence.
I grieve at what is being communicated here. The great need of our time is for people to experience the living reality of God by hearing his Word personally and transformingly in Scripture. Something is incredibly wrong when the words we hear outside Scripture are more powerful and more affecting to us than the inspired Word of God.
For me, it is wonderful and essential to experience the word of God in a variety of ways. While I am praying and meditating the Holy Spirit reminds me of things to pray about and changes that need to be made. When I am reading the Bible, the words leap out to me and become the word of God for me personally. On a number of occasions I have experienced the ‘voice of God’ speaking literally to me. For me all these experiences of God are Biblical and all are “surpassingly wonderful and faith-deepening”.
What does “extra-biblical” mean? Does it mean that God is now limited to only speak to us through the scriptures? Only the printed and translated words are to be trusted? I have studied under some of the top Bible scholars in the world and yet they were not believers. They knew the words far better than I ever will, and in the original languages. But it wasn’t the Word of God for them.
The words of the Bible become the Word of God for Christians because believers can experience the same Holy Spirit, who inspired the words in the first place. When believers read the words of the Bible today they are inspired by the Holy Spirit all over again.
The same Holy Spirit counsels us in our prayer and meditation. The same Holy Spirit teaches us and may even speak words of prophecy to us or through others. The same Holy Spirit inspires and anoints teachers and writers like John Piper. The same Holy Spirit enlivens the words printed on the pages in our Bibles.
It is his use of the words ‘extra-biblical’ that bothers me the most. It is way too close to ‘un-biblical’ and many will read that meaning into the words. According to the Webster’s Dictionary ‘extra’ used as a prefix means: outside, beyond, or besides (e.g.: the Mormon scriptures and theology are ‘extra-biblical’- outside, beyond, and besides the Bible). Can anything that the Holy Spirit does be characterized as ‘outside’, ‘beyond’ or ‘besides’ the Bible?
The Bible is the Word of God in a special unique way. The scriptures are the foundation of our faith and all other experiences must be tested and understood through His infallible Word. None of the other experiences or ‘words’ that we may receive should ever replace or contradict the Bible.
I believe that this is John Piper’s major concern; that some may see their own experiences and personally received ‘words’ as more important and as a substitute for the Bible. The scriptures should always be the primary source for Christians along with the Holy Spirit which enlivens the Word.
However, as important as the Bible is, the really great need of our time is for people to experience the living reality of God that enlivens the Word, the Holy Spirit who comes into the lives of all those who respond to the call of God, to come and have faith in his Son Jesus.