Evangelicals are Christians who believe in the centrality of the conversion or “born again” experience in receiving salvation. They believe in the authority of the Bible as God’s revelation to humanity and have a strong commitment to evangelism or sharing the Christian message [Wikipedia].
Evangelicals are also the trans-denominational group that believes that God talks to man; in fact God talks to evangelicals.
It is interesting for me to write about hearing from God since I have been surrounded my whole work life by people who are highly educated, believing in facts and evidence. Some of them do not believe in God.
I believe that God speaks to man, yet there are a lot of doubters out there in the academic community.
T.M. Luhrmann is an academic who took her doubts to the church and explored the phenomenon of God speaking to man “in the field.” She is an anthropological psychologist who was raised outside of the evangelical tradition. She spent long hours interviewing people and observing people in various church settings.*
In her early life, she did have some exposure to church. She was raised in the Unitarian Church and grew up in a neighborhood full of orthodox Jewish people.
Her comments about hearing God are interesting.
When “new Christians” claim to hear from God, there is some doubt, even among receivers of the word. But over time, Christians who continue to say they have this experience have a study of Holy Scripture to back up the experience. Also more experienced Christians feel they have developed what is called “discernment” which means “that you are not to take what could be hurtful to other people or to yourself as a word of God.”
People who reported to Luhrmann that they heard from God also reported that the experience was a feeling, that they did not hear an audible voice. These people were tuned into seeing God in their lives and when God communicated, “they felt the Holy Spirit wash over them at a certain moment.”
It was interesting to read her description of practicing the skill of hearing God. It was almost like reading a guide to meditation. Christians who hear from God are able to focus on God in times of quiet and even in times of turmoil they can parcel out their feelings about God from their turbulent surroundings. This parallels scripture that says that Christians have to be in this world but not of this world.
When asked about bizarre behaviors that Christians exhibited in their efforts to hear from God, Luhrmann’s comments centered on some Christians’ obsession with the demon world. To read the Bible seriously, “you [must] take demons seriously. Jesus spends a lot of time dealing with demons. But it did worry me sometimes when I saw people get very caught up with the experience of spiritual warfare.”
In my experience as a Christian, I have seen many people who are uncomfortable discussing demons and/or Satan. Once I had a Sunday School teacher who wanted to teach from a book on spiritual warfare and he lost some of his class over the book he was going to teach. They just could not cozy up to the idea that evil forces are at work in the world today.
Indeed in the article she relates instances of people feeling the presence of the devil in certain places and dropping to their knees and praying. This type of behavior seems odd but I have seen it and it does not scare me. I don’t even question the motive of the person who does it. I figure it is between them and God.
When Luhrmann was asked about her own experiences with hearing from God she stated “I have certainly had experiences which feel like experiences of God. People do have powerful, vivid, life-transforming moments when everything seems to change and they feel as if they’ve touched the divine directly.”
As she gets to the end of the article, she admits that people in her experience who have strong communication links with God seem to have a more effective, happier and healthier life.
When I was in an educational environment, I joined the evangelical movement by having my own born again experience. And yes, it began with a word from God, a word that was telling me to do something I would never do. That’s what made me think it was God. Everything in my personality said to do many other things that people usually do in my circumstance. God said “No.” Do something else. To this day, I realize that His word that day saved my life, my marriage and my family.
At that time in my life I was working in an environment where I was surrounded by academics and I had my usual ups and down. We all have those in life. I had two agnostics in offices to my left [no help], a serious doubter who had lost his faith to the right [no help] and a wonderful Christian sister across the hall. That “sister” got me through many hard days as she knew I had been born again and she knew what to say to bolster my new relationship with God.
To this day, I think of her as my anchor in my dark days and my sunshine in my bright days.
God placed her there.
The agnostics think that is crazy and the doubter wonders if that is possible.
Not me…she was there for a reason.
To help establish her Christian brother in this world.
I knew God spoke through her…every day.
*from Relevant Magazine, “Does God Really Talk to People”