Thursday, 17 June 2010

The still small voice

Many Christians place a great emphasis on 'the still small voice' of God when looking for direction in life.  When someone says that God spoke to them they are not generally referring to an audible voice but to a particular sense of inspiration.  In Hearing God Dallas Willard sees the still small voice as God's primary subjective means of communicating to us.

Some caution must be sounded, given that the phrase 'still small voice' is directly referred to in only one passage (1 Kings 19:11-12, KJV).  This text is narrative rather than a didactic (teaching).  It may be that this 'still small voice' was an audible voice rather than an impression.  Although one commentator writes, ‘The soft voice of God speaking to the conscience, illuminating the mind and stirring the resolve in individual and nation may follow and is often preferable to the loud roaring of thunder of cosmic events at Sinai and Carmel.’ Willard does criticise the 'message-a-minute view’ that thinks that ‘either God is telling you what to do at every turn of the road or he is at least willing and available to tell you if you would only ask him.’

John 10:27 refers to Christ’s voice.  Elliff states that this is ‘a metaphor of the assumed communion between the believer and Christ that leads the believer into a lifestyle of obedience … he is speaking of the normal experience of all sheep who have genuine fellowship with him … If we say, therefore, that every real Christian is led by God in this way … we are certainly not requiring anything mystical in that leadership at all.’

I don't want to write off impressions and feelings.  At times I have felt guided by a thought that has entered my mind.  But I would caution against being naive about such things and advise that we examine such thoughts in light of all the factors available to us in making decisions.


Graham Veale said...


I've started reading this book -

- and it may have something to say about the importance of emotion in making judgements. Which obviously would have a bearing on the issue of "impressions" etc.

Basically (you probably already know this, but I like waffling about it) there has been a shift in philosophy and psychology to from viewing emotions as non-rational reactions to rational "judgements" or "evaluations" of a situation.

(The technical term is "propositional attitudes".)

But, obviously, fear is a smart thing to feel if you're staring at an angry and hungry looking Rottweiler. Not so much if you're facing an angry Parakeet. (Although they can give you a nasty nip).

So the "fear of God" would be rational, the "fear of man" irrational.

We should develop a character that produces the correct emotions in the correct circumstances. We do this by following the correct role models. And these "role models" can be drawn from literature. (People tend to waffle about Dickens and Austen to illustrate this point.) Christians would obviously want to turn to characters in the Bible.

This would have implications for guidance. We shape our characters in the correct way. This produces the correct emotions. If we are "keeping in step with the Spirit" we might even find that we have 'impulses'.

We can check these against stories in Scripture, and the lives of Godly people.

Let me know if you think this is of any use.

To whom it may concern said...

That's very interesting. I found this book really hard to engage with. My eyes glazed over at times.

graham said...

You mean Willard's book or my post. (-:

Willard's into Christian mystical practice. He's more quaker than evangelical.

Difficult to concentrate here. Nikki is talking to me. Women don't realise that men can't type and talk! We can't multitask!!!

I think that was part of the Fall that Genesis 3 doesn't mention!

To whom it may concern said...

Dear Graham
It was Willard's book that I could not keep hold on.

As for the need to multitask ... Angus Wilson claims he can. He says that he can watch TV and ignore Joy at the same time!