Non-Religious Christian Spirituality

inspired people, inspired writing

Been thinking on revelation lately. Teaching a class on the origin of scripture has made it inevitable. There’s the kind of revelation you can get from observing nature–general revelation–and then there’s the kind you can only get downloaded directly from God–special revelation. This direct communication with God comes in the form of dreams, visions, prophetic utterances, words of knowledge, prayer, etc. Some folks don’t believe in special revelation anymore. They say it ended with the prophet Malachi, and from then on, we have only the Scriptures to guide us. All we need is there in the book. Sola scriptura, scripture alone, as the Reformers cried 500 years ago.

I don’t think most of us Christians would agree with that today. Don’t we believe that direct communication with God is possible? If not, what’s all this worship time and prayer time and gifts of the spirit all about? Of course, some folks don’t believe in the gifts anymore either. Those stopped with the Apostles. But the church all the way up through the Enlightenment had a rich mystical tradition. Now, there’s that word again. Mystical. Mystic. Mysticism. It’s gotten a bad rap, being now intertwined with New Age elements, but a mystic is simply someone who believes in and practices direct experience and communication with God here and now. Seems to be pretty descriptive of any of us sitting this side of Deism.

But at the same time, we place so much emphasis on the Scriptures alone, that the other forms of special revelation are atrophying in our own lives. Before there were Scriptures, there was special revelation alone: direct communication with God, mystical experiences such as dreams, visions, prophecies, and miracles–it was from these experiences that God-inspired, God-breathed people wrote…scripture. And they saw that scripture as living and active–containing the ability to create more special revelation, direct communication, mystical dreams and visions and words of knowledge in the people who read them and took them to heart.

Everything we can’t know about God from simple observation of nature can only come from God himself in the direct communication that is possible between us. Once communicated, once breathed into us, we now have something to talk about, to write about ourselves. And once we are God-breathed, then we are inspired and our writings and talkings will be inspired. Just as inspired as Scripture? I believe so. Without the authority, certainly. And subject to the checks and balances that Scripture provides. Absolutely. But inspired? Yes.

We need to vigorously pursue a full life of special revelation. To look in all the directions from which God speaks. The Bible, the reading of Scripture, is only a third person experience until we make it second and eventually first person in the exercise of our own mystical prayer life. That’s the goal: to hear God’s voice daily. The scriptures are one tool God uses. There are many more.


3 responses

  1. Grendal

    This is an interesting issue to deal with. I hear so many people say, “The Lord told me this and such,” and, “God showed me that and so…” and when I compare the effectiveness of their way of living and “listening to God” to the conditions in that person’s life I often wonder if our God is evil and a trickster as my fellow believers usually live in the extremes of life, full of drama, full of fear, just hoping that somehow God will answer their prayer with some donation or last minute miracle or direction.

    So, here comes one of those “how could a God of love…” questions we secretly wonder but nearly always suppress, lest we be thought to be disobedient by our fellow Christians…

    How could a God of power and love be so ineffective in communicating to us when we ask for clear direction and revelation about the next step in a career, who to love, where to live, what car to buy, what to do to close the next sale… how about what to say that will help a loved one or neighbor believe in Jesus? Aren’t those things God cares about, especially the last one?!

    Perhaps it’s because we approach our relationship with God & other people as if it’s an automated process like clicking on a link in a website (aren’t you ALWAYS supposed to be clearly taken to the next thing?!)

    We live in a post-modern era, where the mechanistic approach to life & theology are(thankfully) being deconstructed and weighed against the major themes found in the stories of other believers (the Bible) and we repeatedly see a more organic and agrarian feel to how God interacts with us. it’s nothing like an owner’s manual of clear revelational instructions of process like some type of assembly manual from Ikea (most of life’s pegs don’t fit into our freshly drilled holes).

    As modern era Christians we were taught to think, reason and be wary of how we feel. As Post-modern Christians our challenge is to look at our assumptions as to how we interact with God and call the overly systemitized ways into critical review.

    Chuck Smith Jr. challenged me and a group of 200 other men at a recent retreat to walk with God without seeking to formulate or box in the Holy Spirit’s activity or presence in our lives. What a liberating and challenging idea! When the Holy Spirit “shows up” (as we pentecostals like to say) aren’t we supposed to feel something? Of so then aren’t we just seeking to duplicate the feeling through the formula of prayer & worship? If we study the Bible and the concepts fall together, we say we understand, yet aren’t we then seeking *the understanding*? The theme of that retreat was called “Spirit to Spirit” it was about communing with The Spirit **by faith**, which means beyond feeling, beyond understanding, beyond experience, into faith that The Spirit is faithful to love us, protect us, guide us, and empower us mostly to love and serve Him and our fellow humans.

    So, where I am with this idea of revelation and authority is that it’s not just about The Book, or The Worship, or the Serving, or The Living, it’s beyond each of those in a way that I’m just starting to enjoy as an adventure. God is not a trickster. God is not evil or wishing to elude me, I am too often seeking “the lesser” when I could be seeking “the greater” (Jesus Himself).

    October 17, 2005 at 9:57 am

  2. Amen, G. You’ve sparked a new blog entry I’ll get to ASAP…

    October 17, 2005 at 2:01 pm

  3. Anonymous

    Cool post.

    May 7, 2006 at 6:54 am

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