Friday, April 14, 2017

God does NOT speak through the Bible

Have you heard--perhaps very frequently--people praying that God would speak to them through the Bible?  Did you know that God actually does not speak through the Bible?  And no--this statement is not false because atheism is true--the Bible is the infallible, inerrant record sent from heaven, and verbal, plenary inspiration is the true doctrine of Scripture (2 Timothy 3:16; Matthew 4:4; etc.)  (If you are an atheist or skeptic of Scripture who has happened upon this post, please consider the resources available by clicking here that prove the Bible is God's Word.)  God does not speak through the Bible because that is not the teaching of Scripture, of the Son of God, of His Apostles, or of the first century churches.

False, Neo-Orthodox Position:  God speaks THROUGH the Word

Do you know who teaches that God speaks "through" the Word?  The neo-orthodox heretic and adulterer Karl Barth:  "The Bible is God’s Word to the extent that God causes it to be His Word, to the extent that He speaks through it” (Karl Barth, trans. Geoffrey William Bromiley, and Thomas F. Torrance, Church Dogmatics: The Doctrine of the Word of God, Part 1, vol. 1 [London; New York: T&T Clark, 2004], 109).  God does not speak through the Bible because the Bible is His Word--He is always speaking in it, not only some of the time.  Asking God to speak through the Bible is a denial that every single Word of the Bible is His speech, all of the time.

True, Biblical position:  The Bible IS God's Word, His Speech, All the Time

The reason nobody from Moses to Isaiah to Peter ever asked God to speak through His Word is because they knew that the entire Book was His Word.  Every single Word in the Bible is as much God speaking as if one were to hear His audible voice from heaven (2 Peter 1:16-21).

So, what should you do?

Stop Asking God to Speak Through the Bible and Help Others to Stop Asking Him to Do This

When you--or someone else--asks God to speak "through" the Bible, you are really denying that the entire Bible is Him speaking, His speech.  This is a grave insult to God, however unintended it may be.

Instead of Asking God to Speak Through the Word, Pray: "Open thou mine eyes, that I may behold wonderous things out of thy law" (Psalm 119:18).

The problem if you hear very little when you read the Bible, or hear it preached, is not with the Bible or with God failing to speak.  The problem is not Him failing to speak through His Word.  The problem is with you.  The Father, through the Son, must enable you by His Spirit to understand, apply, and obey His Word.  Instead of copying Karl Barth, you would do well to heed the advice (in this matter) of Wilhelmus a Brakel:

For the reading of Scripture to be profitable, there must be preparation, practice, and reflection. . . . Each time when one engages himself to read:(1) He must, with mental concentration, place himself in the presence of God. He must promote a reverent, spiritual frame, being conscious that the Lord shall speak to him. The consciousness of that reality should cause us to tremble with holy reverence. To promote such reverence, reflect upon Isaiah 1:2, “Hear, O heavens, and give ear, O earth: for the Lord hath spoken.”(2) He must lift up his heart to the Lord, beseeching Him who is the Author of this Word for His Spirit, that He may cause us to perceive the truth expressed in God’s Word and apply it to the heart. Our prayer ought to be with Ps 119:18, “Open Thou mine eyes, that I may behold wondrous things out of Thy law.”(3) He must also attentively incline the heart to obedience in order to exercise faith, be receptive to comfort, and comply with all that which the Lord shall proclaim, promise, and command, saying, “speak, Lord; for Thy servant heareth” (1 Samuel 3:9). . . .As you read, it is essential to do so calmly and attentively rather than to do it hastily with the objective of bringing the exercise of this duty to a conclusion. . . . [W]ith a humble, hungry, and submissive spiritual frame, one places himself before the Lord while reading slowly and thoughtfully as if hearing the voice of God, and subjecting himself to the Holy Spirit to operate upon the heart as he reads. . . . Whenever there is a passage which has a special power upon the heart, such a person pauses in order that this Scripture might have its effect in the heart. Then he prays, gives thanks, rejoices, and is filled with amazement—all of which revive the soul and stimulate it to obedience. Upon concluding these exercises he will continue reading. After having read a chapter, he will meditate upon it, time permitting. When he encounters a remarkable text, he will mark or memorize it. In such a fashion both the learned and the unlearned should read the Word of God. In so doing, one will understand its spiritual meaning with increasing clarity and God’s Word will increasingly become more precious to us. “If any man will do His will, he shall know of the doctrine, whether it be of God” (John 7:17); “If ye continue in My Word, then are ye My disciples indeed; and ye shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free” (John 8:31-32). . . .[R]eflection upon reading Scripture consists in[:]
(1) joyfully giving thanks that the Lord has permitted His Word to be recorded, that we may have it in our homes, that we can and were privileged to read it, and that it was applied to our heart;(2) painstakingly striving to preserve this good spiritual frame which is obtained by reading God’s Word;(3) meditating while engaged in one’s occupation upon that which one has read, repeatedly seeking to focus his thoughts upon it;(4) sharing with others what was read, whenever possible, and discussing it;(5) especially striving to comply with what was read by bringing it into practice.If the Holy Scriptures were used in such a fashion, what wondrous progress we would make in both knowledge and godliness! Children would soon become young men, and young men would soon become men in Christ Jesus. (Pgs. 72-81, The Christian’s Reasonable Service, by Wilhelmus á Brakel, Vol. 1.)

In so doing, you would greatly honor and please the holy Triune God whose Word the Bible is, rather than displeasing Him by an implicit denial of His revelation by asking God to speak "through" the Scriptures.


Jeff Voegtlin said...


This was very helpful. I intend to read it again and add this to my practice. Thank you.

Jeff Voegtlin

Jon Gleason said...

Presumably it is acceptable to speak of God speaking to us "by" His Word?

I Samuel 3:21, I Kings 13:9 & 17 & 32.

Or "by" books (referring to Scripture)?

Daniel 9:2

One of the dictionary definitions of "through" is "by".

Are we at risk of arguing about words to no profit here?

Since God can speak via other means, such as the heavens (Psalm 19), is not looking to Him to speak by or through His Word an expression of dependence on that Word as the mode of communication from Him which is most powerful and direct for salvation and godliness?

Sure, if someone means "through" the way Barth meant it, they are wrong to use it that way. But just because Barth misused "through" to mean something corrupt and wicked doesn't mean we have to cede it to him. The word does not have to mean what he used it to mean. Satan, and his neo-orthodox servants, have always mis-defined words and terms to spread error.

I firmly believe we should be careful about what we say about God and His Word. You'll know this, Brother Ross, because of our shared position on carefully defining "inspiration" not by what modern theologians say, but by what Scripture says. So I appreciate the emphasis on understanding what the Word of God truly is, it is indeed His inspired Word, and when it speaks, He speaks.

But "through" has a range of meaning which encompasses exactly that. So perhaps, rather than saying, "Don't say that," we need to challenge people to be clear in what they mean if they do say it.

Kent Brandenburg said...

Hello everyone,

I think Thomas is writing an important point here. He never checked in with me first here, but as I read it, I recognized that this is a common idea among professing Christians, including independent Baptists. They pray, "God speak to me through thy word," something like that. The idea is that God might not speak through His Word, but that is how He speaks. This is an idea that is untrue, false, and deceptive to people. They very often today look for a message from God through His word, like some divining rod. You hear men say, God gave me this, and the "this" isn't what the passage says, but God used the Word to do that. This also very often how people today approach the will of God. It's very subjective, which is what Barth was likely doing, taking away from the authority of scripture itself.

I think the phrase, the idea, needs to be taken out of play instead of being kept in play. Scripture is God speaking. It is how He speaks today, the only way.

I would ask if during certain ages, that scripture was not the only way God spoke. He spoke through the prophets or through the apostles, so that you could differentiate the word as another means by which God speaks.

In Daniel 9, Daniel could say that he got the idea of the 70 years through Jeremiah, not directly. He was reading in Jeremiah, which does validate Jeremiah. That seems to be different. Someone can tell me how I'm wrong, but it seems right to me.

KJB1611 said...

Dear Pastor Voegtlin,

Thanks--I'm glad it was a blessing.

KJB1611 said...

Dear Bro Gleason,

The Samuel and Kings texts are different, e. g., God spoke to Samuel by His Word, rather than by a vision, etc.

Dan 9:2, we understand by the books of the Bible the way Daniel understood by reading Jeremiah. That is also not the same thing.

Nor does Ps 19 employ the phrase in question, although that Psalm subordinates general revelation to Scripture, which it teaches is better.

Would it have been appropriate when Peter and James and John heard the Father speak directly from heaven and say "This is my beloved Son," to reply in response, "Please speak to us, God, through the words that you just said," or would them asking God to speak through what He said actually be a denial that He said what He said? And, of course, Scripture is more sure that even God audibly speaking from heaven, 2 Peter 1.

Thanks for the comment.

Anonymous said...

Brother Ross,

Does God encourage us through the Bible? When He does, is He speaking to us?

Does God communicate anything to man? Does He do this through Words? Are those Words collectively called the Bible?

Not sure I agree with you, but perhaps you’re right. Going to check Gordon Clark.

Paul Teague

PS Always got irritated by songs that said SPEAK TO ME. HE's spoken, right?

PPS Was Barth writing in English?

KJB1611 said...

Dear Paul,

Thanks for the question.

Does God encourage us through the Bible? When He does, is He speaking to us?

Yes, certainly. Whenever we read the Bible, God is speaking to us.

Does God communicate anything to man? Does He do this through Words? Are those Words collectively called the Bible?

Yes to all of the above.

Finally, Gordon Clark has some interesting things to say, but I do not believe his epistemology is Biblical and he is not especially clear on the need for conscious supernatural conversion. Also, Barth was speaking in German.


Anonymous said...

Do you care to explain regarding Clark's epistemology (which is called "Scripturalism" - basing all knowledge on Scripture)? I think the assertion (which you seem to making) "Scripturalism is not Biblical" COULD use a bit of elaboration. If you're so led.


KJB1611 said...

Dear PT,

The idea of a philosophy called "Scripturalism" sounds great, no doubt about it. However, I wish I saw more exposition of Scripture in Clark's writings. I also do not think that Scripture takes the extreme view of the unreliability of our senses espoused by Dr. Clark. I am not an expert in the theology of Gordon Clark, however.