Hearing from God, I would argue (and probably have argued), is the backbone of the Christian life. Not only is the fact that we are able to hear and follow the voice of Jesus a squarely Biblical idea (John 10:27, 1 Corinthians 2:16, 1 John 2:27), the Christian life does not actually work without it. Without God personally speaking to us, we are not able to follow Him. And without following Him, we are left following a Book and the dictates of the religious community in which we live. The problem is: The Book points to Him, and in Him alone do we find eternal life (John 5:39).
Still, we moderns often have difficulty with the whole idea of hearing from God. Hearing from God sounds like hearing voices, and hearing voices is delusional — and nowadays, dangerous. If someone thinks they are hearing from God, there is no telling what they might do to act upon what they are hearing. This is the basic sentiment.
The other difficulty we have (and this applies to believers) is knowing the difference between what God is saying and what we are saying. That is, if I have a thought, how can I know whether it is God or just myself? Or if I have a dream, was it God talking to me or just my imagination? The proverbial, “Maybe it was just the pizza I ate before bedtime” argument surfaces regularly. For this reason, many retreat to the safe regions of just hearing from their peers. It becomes easier to follow others than follow Jesus.
All of this, however, rests on a presupposition that the human mind is first of all not capable of hearing from God and secondly that in its default state it is not, in fact, hearing things all the time. We have been led to believe that the human mind is the product of millions of years of random molecular interaction in a purely physical world. The natural conclusion to that belief (among other things) is that the mind is self-contained: That the thoughts it thinks are its own. We assume, therefore, that hearing from God is something foreign to it.
But is this necessarily true? The simple answer is no. More importantly, whether we believe it is true or not will depend entirely upon how we see the world. If we see the world and purely physical and our minds no more than a physical reality and self-contained, we will believe it to be true. (But we must, by necessity, also believe our minds are illusions and life is meaningless as well.) But if we see the world as more than physical, and our minds dwelling in the non-physical, then hearing and being influenced by the non-physical world is not only natural but inevitable.
My personal belief is that we need to hear from God more than ever. It is important to point out that more atrocities were committed by those who did not believe in God than those who did in the twentieth century. So what we must fear is not God but ourselves. Paraphrasing C.S. Lewis, the worst devil is the one we do not believe exists.
58 thoughts on “Hearing Voices”
As the great anti-psychiatry psychiatrist Prof. Thomas Szasz said, “Talk to god and it’s call prayer. God talks to you, and it’s called schizophrenia.”
Thanks spawneedave. Yes by logical deduction mankind is most sane when he is most free of God is the sentiment. That nicely captures the modern mindset.
Are you alluding to the atrocities by Hitler and others with regards to final comments in you post? He was truly evil!
Atrocities by communist regimes mainly. One could argue Hitler was a Christian (a stretch mind you) so I would leave him out if the statistic.
Well said, Patrick. You made so many good points that I could comment on. 🙂
I totally agree that Scripture tells us that hearing God is the foundation to our faith, and required if we’re going to follow Jesus. Besides being thought a kook (in our Deistic/humanistic culture), I think the biggest objection people have is when they have seen religious nut-jobs doing evil things saying that God told them to do it. So, they are afraid they will be “one of them.”
But I believe the simplest and safest way to counteract this fear and know we’re hearing God’s voice and not our own is to ask ourselves, “Does it sound like Jesus?” Would our acting on this word be how Jesus acted toward people? Is it full of grace and truth? I think this one qualifier would’ve disprove all the crazy things people have claimed to hear from God.
Also, your points on the human mind simply being physical. That’s a dog that will never hunt (why materialists called it “the HARD PROBLEM of consciousness.” It’s only a hard problem when you refuse to accept anything outside of your materialistic box. There’s too much about our minds (intuition, etc.) that refute this mind-brain notion. It’s simply a desperate attempt to deny anything outside of the physical realm (which science can neither prove or disprove for methodological reasons).
I also totally agree that there has never been a time when we needed to hear from God (accurately) more than now! People need to see Jesus in and through us, not our religious projections.
Thanks Mel for the perfect addendum to my post. I like the “sound like Jesus?” criterion especially. Blessings 🙂
“But I believe the simplest and safest way to counteract this fear and know we’re hearing God’s voice and not our own is to ask ourselves, “Does it sound like Jesus?” Would our acting on this word be how Jesus acted toward people? Is it full of grace and truth? I think this one qualifier would’ve disprove all the crazy things people have claimed to hear from God.”
Christians differ wildly on what they want to claim that Jesus sounds like. Now, the common Christian claim is that only their version is the “true” Chrisianity, but none of you can show their version is any better than the next.
Welcome to the conversation clubschadenfreunde. I think Mel’s point is that we can look to the life and behavior of Jesus as captured in the Gospels, not religious doctrines. Cheers
“Welcome to the conversation clubschadenfreunde. I think Mel’s point is that we can look to the life and behavior of Jesus as captured in the Gospels, not religious doctrines. Cheers”
again, d, we have Christians varying wildly on how they interpret the gospels. For example, many Christians I’ve interacted with want to ignore the parts where JC says to abandon your family and that you have to hate people to follow him. They try to claim that he didn’t “really” mean that. We also have Luke 19 where the Jesus figure in the parable says to believers that they need to bring everyone who doesn’t want to worship him before him and murder them. Then we have JC sayign that *all* of the laws in the bible are to be followed, something that most Christians want no part of.
Add to this the behavior ascribed to Jesus in Revelation and we have quite a variation of “what would Jesus do” being quite a lot of different things.
clubschadenfreunde, what Mel is describing is what I meant. But your point is taken: One could draw all sorts of conclusions about who Jesus was and is. One things I found when I became a Christian is how much Christian denominations actually agree, doctrinally. The examples you cite are not, to my knowledge, differences held among Christians. They seem to be opinions held by those that are not. Cheers
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d, how do you define Christian? It seems that you define it as those who agree with your version. . . . You seem very ignorant of other Christian beliefs . . . or you are simply trying to pretend that these differences don’t exist. . .
clubschadenfreude, please see rules for commenting at this site. The comments are not a place for open debate about Christianity in general but should be focused on the article presented. This provides the best reader experience.
Also, we try to not read into each other’s motives on this site or go ad hominem. Instead we address the topic and present our arguments. Your comment was not edited however for this reason 🙂
No, it’s pretty simple, actually. Just read the stories about how Jesus interacted with people, what He taught about His Father. How He loved people.
The differences aren’t here. It’s when people go beyond this, to their own private projections about what they think God is like where the differences lie.
Perhaps atheism can help you out with this predicament that you alluded to.
You cannot “hear” from an entity that does not exist. If you think you are hearing actual voices (male? female? Commanding in tone, or whispering?) in your head (outside of dreams? In full awake mode?), then by all means truck on down to the nearest shrink to get those “voices” checked out. Perhaps the shrink can be of some help!
Welcome to the conversation, notabilia. Which predicament are you alluding to?
Your second paragraph neatly describes the predicament you face.
Ah! I am afraid I did not make myself clear. Paragraph 2 describes the problem for the modern skeptic, not me. Most Christians are comfortable with the idea of hearing from God. Cheers.
“If someone thinks they are hearing from God, there is no telling what they might do to act upon what they are hearing. This is the basic sentiment.”
Yes, it is and for good reason. Christians themselves do not agree on what this god supposedly wants, so there is no reason to think you have the right answer or any one who has claimed that this god has commanded that they murder their children has the right answer. We have no reason to believe any of you.
“We have been led to believe that the human mind is the product of millions of years of random molecular interaction in a purely physical world. The natural conclusion to that belief (among other things) is that the mind is self-contained: That the thoughts it thinks are its own. We assume, therefore, that hearing from God is something foreign to it.”
We have no evidence that the mind isn’t self-contained or that the brain doesn’t produce the mind. That injury and unbalanced chemistry affect the mind shows that it isn’t some magical thing. If, as some theists claim, the mind is some magical thing, how does it interact with the physical? And if it does interact with the physical, then we should be able to sense it with meters as a separate thing no where near the brain.
“If we see the world and purely physical and our minds no more than a physical reality and self-contained, we will believe it to be true. (But we must, by necessity, also believe our minds are illusions and life is meaningless as well.)”
Nope, we don’t have to believe that life is meaningless because we are physical beings that work thanks to chemistry and physics. You’ve made a baseless claim to try to make believe we need you and your god for some reason. No reason to believe our mind is an illusion either since it is made by the brain and we have plenty of evidence for it.
And finally we have the common Christian lie:
“It is important to point out that more atrocities were committed by those who did not believe in God than those who did in the twentieth century.”
No, those atrocities were committed by megalomaniacs, who might have been atheist and some who were self-described Christians (read Mein Kampf to see how Hitler talks about the Christian god). That I, an atheist, have no desire to commit genocide, shows that this is a lie since atheism doesn’t automatically lead to being genocidal. So many christians are so terrified of atheists they show they don’t follow their bible in their need to gin up fear.
Thanks clubschadenfreund. I usually make it my point to address a single point in comments, just so they do not get out of hand. I will do my best to address three of yours briefly.
First of all, I would like to suggest that the war we are fighting in this life is not with each other. I have no beef with atheists. I realize maybe your experience with Christians is different. But there is a whole segment of the Christian population who are genuinely interested in meaningful dialogue.
Second, I do not know what “the common Christian lie” is supposed to mean, but I was citing atrocities by regimes that were ideologically commited to atheism. (see comment above where I exclude Hitler). But my point was not some wild “all atheists are evil” or some such nonsense. It was to establish that God or belief thereof is not the thing to be feared but ourselves: With or without God, we are clearly capable of great atrocities. Ironically, you also make that point.
Lastly, I would see my claim “if the world is purely physical, then our minds are an illusion” is not baseless but a logical deduction. But let me expound: If the world is only comprised of physical entities (atoms), then what we call the mind is no more than a chemical phenomena. It cannot be, because a purely physical reality does not allow it. The whole idea then that we think or feel or are “us” is not real because it is not physical. I would however challenge you to show us how it is. Cheers.
Thank you, thank you. The evidence I see is the ability you have ( as a bearer of the Life) to speak kindly and wisely to those who are not yet alive to this world of which you speak.
I look forward to reading more from you.
Thanks Randy! Really appreciate the encouragement
Mere Belief in something is not evidence of something.
Also, are there any incidents of individuals who had no prior knowledge of the character Jesus of Nazareth/Yahweh who have claimed he has spoken to them?
Indigenous people of the Amazon for example?
Welcome to the conversation Arkenaten.
“Mere belief in something is not evidence of something”
Totally agree. Just because I believe in dragons does not make it so. Just because I believe I am a woman does not make it so, either.
“Are there any incidents of individuals who had no prior knowledge of Jesus who have claimed he has spoken to them.”
Yes. But I will be first to admit this has not been my area of study.
Ergo, just because you believe the character Jesus of Nazareth talks to you does not make it so either.
Claims without evidence remain claims.
“just because [one believes] the character Jesus of Nazareth talks to [them] does not make it so either”
Correct. Belief alone is not evidence, whether it is belief in dragons, gender, or the voice of God. Cheers.
Therefore, you acknowledge that all claims of hearing Jesus/Yahweh are simply unsubstantiated claims.
“Therefore, you acknowledge that all claims of hearing Jesus/Yahweh are simply unsubstantiated claims.”
No. I am pretty sure all we have established is that belief is not evidence. Let me elaborate in case this is unclear: If I come to believe something, it is because of the evidence. If I believe in dragons or that God exists or for that matter has spoken to me without evidence, it is baseless and perhaps even preposterous: It is more of an act of imagination. The childhood term here is apt: make-believe. I am making myself believe something without evidence. But if a dragon appears in my living room and becomes my pet, or God speaks to me personally, that is evidence. All belief works in this manner.
The very fact someone says God has spoken to them is evidence. It may be evidence you like or do not like, believe or do not believe, feel is sufficient or insufficient. But it is still evidence. So it ceases to to exist in the realm of mere belief. The question then turns on the sufficiency of the evidence.
I believe God speaks to me because God has spoken to me countless times. I believe in the reality of the Holy Spirit as described in the Bible because I actually experience Him. We are in agreement that it would be preposterous for me to say God speaks to me or the Holy Spirit is real if these things had not happened and do not continue to happen.
My question to you is: What evidence would be sufficient? For example, if a lunatic (or me) claims I hear from God, you may be like “Whatever.” But if a friend you deeply trust tells you he had a dramatic experience where God spoke to him and now believes in the God of the Bible, what would you say? Or let’s say Jesus Christ appeared to you in bodily form and said, “It is all true,” would you believe then? What, in other words, is your standard for sufficient evidence?
I would treat such a claim exactly the same as the way I have approached it with you.
However, if this was a dear friend, as you suggest, I would no doubt be fully aware of his or her circumstances and because such an experience would in all likelihood be because of emotional trauma of some kind I would recommend as gently as possible that he or she seek professional counselling and/or medical help.
There is only evidence. If it cannot be substantiated it remains a claim.
For example. The bible claims that the character Jesus of Nazareth rose from the dead.
There is no evidence to support the text thus it remains an unsubstantiated claim.
How do you propose a 2000 year old corpse would appear to anyone?
I believe you have failed to answer my question: What is your standard for sufficient evidence?
Simply saying “There has to be evidence” or “if I come to believe something it is because of the evidence” or “it has be substantiated” “or you have to demonstrate the veracity of your claim” does not answer the question. All examples I have given are examples of evidence. Eyewitness testimony is evidence. Historical documents are evidence. Criminal investigators and scholars use these all the time. They are all used to substantiate claims or theories; they are all used to demonstrate the veracity of a claim. So it does no good to say “They aren’t evidence.” So again: What is your standard for sufficient evidence?
Sorry, Patrick I thought I was clear on this issue.
If a claim cannot be substantiated/verified then it is merely a claim and not evidence.
Thank you Arkenaten. Our comments are ultimately for my readers, so I want to make clear what I find worthwhile about our exchange: It is the question of what constitutes evidence. When it comes to any form of truth, all of us have evidence to back our claims: No one wakes up and says, “I am just going to believe this.” Everyone has a basis for their beliefs.
Now you have taken the strong position that evidence can only be that which is sufficient to support a belief. (See comments above where you have said “That is not evidence”). But to the question, “What do you consider evidence?” Your only answer so far as been, “It must be substantiated.” I have asked you twice to elaborate on what that means and you have only repeated yourself, so either I am not making myself clear, you do not understand the question, or something else. Alas, the imperfect nature of communication 🙂
But the reason this matters is because if you are making the claim, “All claims about hearing God’s voice are baseless,” my readers deserve to know how you are coming to that conclusion. It is quite simple, really: What would make such a claim substantiated? Now there are only a couple possibilities here: Either evidence sufficient for your belief in such a claim could be produced but is lacking, or no amount of evidence sufficient for your belief could ever be produced. This is what I mean by “what is your standard for sufficient belief?”
Because we have been unable to determine what your standard is, the best we can do is assume the latter: That no amount of evidence about someone hearing God’s voice would ever be sufficient for you. Not even you hearing from God directly. I will not bother you by asking for clarification a third time, but I do appreciate the exchange. I think it is really helpful for all of us to see how others arrive at belief. Thank you for this.
Ark is right; a claim – any claim anyone makes about anything – remains claim that may or may not be the case unless it meets the requirement of being substantiated by facts or independent information. Claims are not evidence. You have conflated the meaning to be the same for both and this is not true. I presume the basis of any conversation between people rests on both parties granting what’s true to be more important than any single position. A position is not strengthened with more claims; a position IS strengthened by evidence in its favor.
LOL! Welcome to the conversation tildeb. This is the part that made me chuckle:
“Claims are not evidence. You have conflated the meaning . . . ”
You clearly did not read through the thread. If you had, you would have read the following:
Ark: Mere belief in something is not evidence for something.
Me: Totally agree.
Ark: Ergo, Just because you believe Jesus talks to you does not make it so either.
Me: Correct. Belief alone is not evidence.
Ark: Therefore all claims of hearing Jesus are unsubstaintiated.
Me: No, all we have established is belief is not evidence.
I don’t know what your dictionary says for the word conflate but I am pretty sure this is the exact opposite 🙂
Regarding evidence, you say above What would make such a claim substantiated?
That’s quite easy to answer: if the ‘speaker’ provided information not already known to the ‘hearer.’ Naturally, to demonstrate that the ‘hearer’ hasn’t simply made a lucky guess at something, a one-off so to say, the test would have to be repeated many times. A self-generated delusion (a pot plant talking to you, for example) cannot contain information you don’t already have because you are generating it. However, if the ‘hearer’ can repeatedly provide information he/she could never possibly have known, verifiable things outside their experience, then we can go a long way to ruling out a self-generated delusion.
Welcome to the conversation John. Also kudos: You have managed to move the ball farther forward that Arkenaten and I were able.
Interesting. So you are specifically addressing what would substantiate a claim on the part of the part of the hearer— that is, God speaks to someone, then that someone tells someone else, “God just spoke to me.” I make this distinction because, well, Arkenaten did not. I mean, I did not get the vibe Arkenaten was saying, “I do not know for certain whether you are hearing from God or not based on the information provided.” In fact, quite the opposite, Arkenaten said even if a dear friend whom he trusted were to tell him they heard from God, he would not reserve judgment either way but instead conclude they were mentally unhealthy and experiencing emotional pain from trauma, presumably in the absence of any evidence to support those claims.
So are you saying If someone told you God had spoken to them and revealed something to them about you that only you knew, and there was absolutely no way for them to know that about you, that would be sufficient for you to know they had heard from God? And just curious, to your “repeated” requirement, how many times would that have to happen till you knew they had heard from God?
So you are specifically addressing what would substantiate a claim on the part of the part of the hearer
It’s critical to both ‘hearer,’ and to anyone the ‘hearer’ wishes to convince. For the ‘hearer’ it’s a way of self-evaluation. For the third person, it is a way of verification.
So are you saying If someone told you God had spoken to them and revealed something to them about you that only you knew, and there was absolutely no way for them to know that about you, that would be sufficient for you to know they had heard from God?
In principle, yes, but you’re describing a parlour trick here. It would be easy for a sufficiently motivated person to find information on me that would, at face value, astonish me. I’m talking real information, something that simply could not come from the person’s own mind/experience. And like I said, it has to be consistent, repeatable, demonstrable.
Ultimately, this is how we know Jesus (if he existed and wasn’t just a composite metafictional character) wasn’t a supernaturally plugged-in being. He said absolutely nothing new or even vaguely useful. He didn’t even correct the days accepted, staggeringly wrong (Hebrew) cosmogony.
In principle, yes, but you’re describing a parlour trick here. It would be easy for a sufficiently motivated person to find information on me that would, at face value, astonish me. I’m talking real information, something that simply could not come from the person’s own mind/experience. And like I said, it has to be consistent, repeatable, demonstrable.
I am simply reiterating the criteria you stated and providing it personal application. Clearly this hinges on its conditions: If all about John can be known, then obviously the criteria could never be met. But if someone told you God had spoken them and revealed something about you that they could absolutely never know otherwise, you would believe it in principle.
(Assuming you’re not censoring comments, which I really hope you’re not, I’ll re-post this Reply)
In principle, yes, I would certainly have cause to seriously look at the claim. But again, a sufficiently motivated person could find information on me that could “blow my mind.”
Now, I understand you’re simply offering an example, but I’d think it rather odd if a god would choose to give the name of the third puppy in my family’s second corgi’s litter over information that was genuinely new/unique. That’s a parlour trick. As mentioned above, Jesus could have easily corrected the ludicrous Hebrew cosmogony without even having to go into any scientific detail, waxing poetic with words like spheres within spheres circling spheres, observable only to a point, but more beyond the boundary. That would have been be impressive as it would indicate he was privy to information that simply was not, broadly speaking, available at that time.
May I ask what information Yhwh has spoken to you? Honestly, has it been genuinely new, or are the words you ‘hear’ more arrangements of information/thoughts/feelings you already have?
Assuming you’re not censoring comments, which I really hope you’re not
Hi John: The term is “moderate” and yes for this site, I moderate all comments. I will also edit them for readability for my readers. I will never misquote or misrepresent you, rest assured. But if you are looking for a more open forum of debate where comments are instant and kept in their original state, I am sure there are other offerings. I believe you already know this however based on your exchange with Arkenaten 🙂
The point of interest for me in this conversation is the criteria one establishes for belief. (Admittedly, this has little to do with the article: It has been more of a reaction by skeptics to the article.) This is not really an issue for me because belief for the believer is an inside job: It is something God Himself has achieved in the heart. The Christian believer, in other words, ultimately does not look to external criteria as the basis for their belief. This is foolish to the skeptic (I will save you the words) because they are looking to something external and objective as that basis. Therefore they often conclude the phenomena of faith is a mere assertion of a claim without evidence, as others in the comments have done. Or they conclude the whole phenomena of faith is a ruse: A convenient, self-serving delusion to insulate oneself from scrutiny. But it is not a ruse: It is a reality. The Holy Spirit lives inside me. I have the mind of Christ. I regularly experience not only His voice but His power. If this were not so, I would find better things to do.
I mention all of this because it has bearing on your last question: It seems you have established criteria that says, “If God were real, He would say something new.” I would respectfully question that claim. Granted, I understand that if you are personally attempting to achieve belief externally, you might have no other choice: You will need something to distinguish itself from what might otherwise be a product of mere humanity and the human mind. Otherwise, how will you know it was divine? And let’s be honest, to claim Jesus Christ brought nothing “new” (your words) suggest this criteria for you is extremely high. And if you are using to establish belief in divinity, that totally makes sense why it would be. Nonetheless, the criteria, “If it really is God, then it must be something entirely distinct and original from what could potentially originate from the human mind” is, I am guessing, what Arkenaten would call a baseless claim.
So I am afraid all that Jesus has spoken to me will fail the criteria you have established. It is not that the things He has shared are not precious and beautiful and life-changing. But against the hard criteria of “Is this something that could not possibly originate from the human mind,” I have nothing to offer you. Then again, what He shares with me is not the basis for my belief, and I would argue ultimately would fail to be a solid basis for yours also.
So I am afraid all that Jesus has spoken to me will fail the criteria you have established.
In context of your original question What would make such a claim substantiated? the criteria (the test) is simply a way of establishing the veracity of the claim, which is to say, ruling out a self-generated delusion.
I would hope you, the ‘hearer,’ would be as interested, if not more interested, in this test than any third person. You should want to know the truth.
Thanks for your answer, though. So, to paraphrase, you’re saying everything you’ve ‘heard’ is really just rearrangements of information/thoughts/feelings you already have. You’ve never heard anything actually new. To me, this would denote that you’re simply dressing up your own inner dialogue, chatting with yourself. This doesn’t necessarily mean you’re delusional, rather perhaps just simply prone to embellishing the ideas you *want* to be true.
Thanks John. To be clear, I am not saying everything I have heard is just a rearrangement of information/thoughts/feelings I already have. In fact, I am not even sure how you got to that conclusion. But I think I know: You are projecting your own conclusion based on your own unsatisfied criteria for whether I am hearing God onto me. Which is fine. But it would be better to keep those things in your own mouth and not put them in mine 🙂
I cannot tell whether this “it’s gotta be new” criteria of yours serves as a sufficient or necessary test, meaning: Is it your criteria that, if not met, leaves you in a place of uncertainty as to whether the claim is true, or does it leave you in a place of certainty the claim is not true. There is a big difference between the two. As mentioned, the former makes a lot of sense. But based on your remarks, you seem to be sliding into the latter, i.e. any claim regarding hearing from God that does not pass the “is it new” test cannot be true and therefore must be the product of delusion, wish-fulfillment or dishonestly (I am adding “dishonest” to cover all bases). But again, your own test is a claim that cannot be substantiated. I mean, there is simply no compelling reason why that should serve as the universal standard for determining self-delusion.
There is a possibility, though, that what you are really saying is that if I personally cannot distinguish between my own thoughts and God’s, then the claim I am hearing from God is necessarily false, in the same way that me claiming a jar full of all-blue marbles has some marbles that are “special” but there is no way for anyone to tell. I do not know if that is what you are saying, but assuming it is, my response is simple: I can in fact tell the difference between my thoughts and God’s thoughts. If that weren’t the case, I certainly would not be writing an article about it. Again: My admission that your standard of “new” has not been met was not my admission I cannot tell the difference between God’s voice and my own.
Lastly, I would like to suggest there is a degree of conflation going on between the criteria you have established for yourself to know whether a claim that someone heard from God is true, and whether you, having heard from God yourself, would know it is true. I would like to suggest that if there is a God and that God revealed himself to you, you would not need external validation to substantiate that claim. In fact, I would go so far as to suggest that if there is a God, all forms of external validation would be insufficient to achieve true certainty in God’s existence. That such certainty could only be achieved by God becoming the evidence upon which such belief rests by taking up residence in the human heart. And lastly if there is a God, He would be quite capable of doing so.
At the very least, I would suggest these possibilities cannot be dismissed except by making unsubstantiated assumptions about the human heart and the nature of reality. It has been a pleasure chatting this round and cannot wait for the next.
I would like to suggest there is a degree of conflation going on between the criteria you have established for yourself to know whether a claim that someone heard from God is true.
It’s not *my* criteria, rather a test used by mental health professionals to establish delusional/hallucinatory states. That is to say, is the experience being generated inside the patient’s head, or is something else happening.
10% of the population ‘hear’ voices, but not all are suffering mental illness.
You may well be hearing Yhwh. All I’ve offered here is a test you can perform yourself to *substantiate* the claim.
Thanks John. I’ve really enjoyed this exchange (you can continue to comment but I think we are wrapping things up). I was not aware the criteria you put forth was an established test in the mental healthcare field. I did not necessarily assume you had grabbed it out of thin air, but this is good to know.
So putting bones and flesh on it, if someone working with a counselor mentions that they were at church and Jesus spoke to their heart and told them He hung on a Cross to die for the forgiveness of their sins and is offering them abundant life in this life and into eternity, the mental healthcare establishing would have to conclude the person is delusional. If this is so, that is fine. But for the reasons I have outlined, I would not hold to that position.
To your last point, the only other thing I wish to add here, more for others than yourself, is that the point of difference we have been discussing, which applies to most discussions on this article with skeptics, is not whether a claim is substantiated but how. The skeptic typically insists any claim about Jesus Christ must be externally substantiated to be sufficient; most Christians would argue that belief in Jesus Christ is substantiated by God’s action in the human soul and no amount of external validation would ever be sufficient. It isn’t that external evidence becomes entirely irrelevant (see my apologetic articles on this site) and sometimes can be helpful. But it is never the “substance” of their belief. Whether external or internal validation alone is sufficient to establish belief is, in my opinion, largely a philosophical question.
Hello, Mr. Collins.
I’ve read your post here, and I would have to say one concern of mine is echoed most closely by Mr. Wild. It’s something you might wish to consider more elaboration on. That is: how can a person be sure one is hearing a deity rather than something else?
If I’m reading your post and comments correctly, it’s possible for someone to be mistaken about hearing from a divine source. “Does it sound like Jesus” seems like a sufficient question to ask, except there are multitudes of different faith beliefs within Christianity who feel like they can contradict each other and still answer, “Yes, I think the still small voice urging me to action sounds like Jesus.”
Thanks for your patience, Sirius. I was backlogged and like it or not, I do moderate all comments 🙂
My post is primarily addressed to Christian believers who, if I may be blunt, have the Spirit of God already in them, and so the question is more walking out this reality. There is, however, the broader question of whether there even is a God and whether what I am hearing is all self-delusion, as the majority of comments recently by skeptics have been about. But there is also the in-between aspect which is: I believe in the supernatural and even that God exists, but I do not know who or what I am listening to. If you can give me an idea where you are coming from, it will help me provide a better response than this one 😀
I apologize for the late response and arriving after comments have been closed. It doesn’t matter if my comment is posted, as really your response is what matters most to your target audience.
My background is that I’m a current atheist (or skeptic, or whatever term you like) who used to believe. It’s not entirely relevant, as I understand that your post is directed primarily at people who already profess faith. The answer of how to be spiritually discerning – telling if something is divine or not divine – is important to those in the faith. They could be coming to your post for guidance on how to tell if they’re being led in the spirit or if it’s just some personal wish-fulfillment. Since your position is that a Christian can hear the divine, it normally is prudent to provide some illumination on how to properly listen.
Thank you for your time and consideration.
Thanks Sirius. I will make an exception because you were in long before the deadline and had to wait forever. And thanks for answering the question. It was not a “who are you before I answer”; I just wanted to better understand your question.
No doubt you have probably looked at some of the other comments, so I will dispense with the deeper question of “how can we know”, claims and evidence from arguably a philosophical perspective. For the Christian believer, however, coming to know the difference between God’s voice and their own thoughts is more like walking out a relationship. Sure, one can have a thought like “I do not deserve to live” and fear that is how God feels about them to. But that is where the Holy Spirit kicks in, bringing transformation of our thoughts to his.
And it is not just theoretical. Let me give you one small example. Less that two years ago, my wife passed away. She was relatively young, it was sudden and completely unexpected. I decided to go on a juice fast for seven days. Now God’s presence was resting on me each time I turned to Him and prayed during that time. I would pray, and this inexplicable peace and comfort would fill me. Then on the final day of the fast, while my daughter and I attended a worship night at a local church, a man whom we did not know approached us and said, “Excuse me. Did you experience a loss recently?” We said we did. He proceeded to tell us that he felt God has shown him what He was about to do in our lives, and said some things that were really encouraging. Now I knew this was God speaking to me not because it was encouraging and not because I wanted to believe it and not even because it was too much to be a coincidence, but because deep within me I knew it was true. I knew this by the Spirit within me.
I hope that at least partly answers your question. Cheers
As you are allowing John’s comment through moderation, and in the interest of clearing up any misunderstandings there may be, would you please release the comment I addressed to you, that included the dictionary definition of evidence and also Patrick?
I think this is the crux that we /skeptics) all find extremely difficult to comprehend, and need clarification on.
How exactly are you able to you determine which thoughts come from Jesus and which thoughts are generated by yourself?
Thanks Arkenaten. I think you are right: The crux of the issue skeptics find extremely difficult. I believe it is for this reason:
The skeptic therefore is looking for external evidence and assumes I, too, require external evidence to know when (or whether) I am hearing from God. But there is no reason why that should be the case. It is quite conceivable (I would even argue necessary) that God Himself would supply that evidence to the human soul. But to the skeptic who is committed to external evidence (as being the only sufficient means to substantiate belief), this is a foul on the play: A violation of how truth is obtained. And so they cry, “baseless claim.”
I say all this to save ourselves some time. I know when I am hearing from God in the same way I know He exists: Because His Holy Spirit lives in me. But if the skeptic is committed to external validation, they will find this insufficient. Which is totally fine. Just as I will find their approach to knowing God through external means alone insufficient. Neither approach to validating truth, however, has any supremacy over the other, for these assumptions concerning how truth is obtained are, in the strictest sense, baseless.
Cheers. Oh FYI: I will be closing out comments for this article. Feel free to catch me on the next post 🙂
For what it’s worth this is the fundamental error in your thinking; the presuppositional view regarding what the skeptic ”wants”.
What you have described concerns something metaphysical which you cannot demonstrate thus your are faced with exactly the same problem – how do you discern that the voice you are hearing is Yahweh?
And in truth you have failed to demonstrate this claim.
I expect that adherents of other religions will claim the same as what you have done here, and this merely demonstrates not only the untenability of this position but also the unfortunate hubris that you all show. ”God,Allah, etc speaks to me!”
You also need to be mindful that most of the skeptics who have commented on this post are former Christians (not me) and some were born again and some strict fundamentalists so they will read your replies and consider them shallow – especially as they would likely have responded just as you have done in this thread.
While you may consider this a ”victory” for ”your side” numerous requests for evidence to support your case have failed to produce a single example, and your arguments have merely been a continual round of apologetics.
Wow. Ark, why do I get the impression that you are always on the verge of picking a fight? LOL! I will most likely delete your comment and my response since I have already told john comments are closed. But as a final gesture . . .
Okay, first of all, you totally misunderstood me. I was not saying, “no amount of external evidence would ever be sufficient” for the skeptic. I was saying I do not think any amount of external evidence would ever be enough for any of us to establish true belief in God. “I would argue” means “this is my opinion,” not my sweeping generalization about who skeptics are. Sheesh.
Correct. All metaphysical propositions by their nature cannot be demonstrated. Here’s one: “For us to know with certainty God exists, it must be externally validated by some means; otherwise, it is delusion.” You cannot demonstrate the truthfulness of that claim either. I am not sure you realize that it is your own metaphysical propositions, about reality and perhaps justice, that are causing you to even show up on my site and demand proof. Double Sheesh!
First of all, I assume they are. Because statistically, the most militant atheists were raised in the church. Secondly, I doubt they would have responded exactly as I have. But more importantly, they are free to draw whatever conclusions they wish. In fact I expect them to. If they see reality, truth, and belief differently, that is their right as human beings.
Wow I definitely do not. In fact, the thought never entered my mind. My goal here is to promote understanding through meaningful dialogue, even if that means we ultimately disagree. I would humbly suggest this assumption of yours about me is actually you projecting your own motives onto me. Because it seems like your goal is actually to win.
Ark, all if this is quite simple. I posted an article on hearing God’s voice, we’ve had a discussion about what constitutes sufficient belief, and in the process I have done my best to faithfully describe what I believe to be the Christian position. If it makes you feel better, you can walk away thinking you’ve won. But if I can lob a dose of unsolicited advice in your court, the whole point of life may not be about who wins.
I’m a bit late to the party, but as I read your post, this stood out to me: … moderns often have difficulty with the whole idea of hearing from God.
I would tend to replace the word “moderns” with “normal people.” Seriously, if you’re truly hearing voices, maybe it’s time to consult your doctor. 👨⚕️💊
Thank you for the advice Nan! Cheers. Oh FYI: I will be closing out comments for this article. Feel free to catch me on the next post 🙂
Congratulations Ark you just got yourself blacklisted! Have a great weekend!