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Q & R: Prophetic words? Does God "go against God's word?"

Here's the Q:

As one who has walked in charismatic circles, I'm sure you have heard the adage 'God never goes against his word'. This is usually said when teaching people how to discern a 'prophetic word' or inklings that are received in prayer. I have employed this guideline myself, but as I transition from a literal, constitutional reading of Scripture to your suggested 'library' reading, this 'rule' becomes harder to apply.

I don't want to throw out the baby with the bathwater and walk away from the 'prophetic' lifestyle ('prophetic' as in truth from God - not as in fortune-telling) because it's too subjective. But at the same time, I want to work out how to move in this way with integrity. My spiritual life, my relationship with Papa, has been enriched by a more conversational approach to my prayer life. I enjoy writing out my conversations. I do not want to get into such a 'loosey-goosey' habit that I assume everything I 'hear' is from God as long as it's kind and loving. Not that there is anything wrong with kind and loving, but I believe that there needs to be some way -other than a general 'it sounds good' to help me discern if I get something that is challenging or not clear.

In the Gospel accounts, Jesus often challenges the 'law-abiding' teachers with 'you have heard it said....But I say'. In the story of Peter in Acts 10, Peter learned that it is OK to eat what was previously forbidden in the Mosaic law. So, it would seem that God WILL 'go against his word' sometimes. I'm sure there is a lot of exegetical argument out there to show that God wasn't REALLY going against his word, but to me, it seems clear that God was teaching something new through Jesus and with Peter. Peter even argued with God by using God's word to explain his resistance.

Then there's the trouble that even if I stick with the old adage, there are various ways of interpreting 'his word'. And then, of course there is the distinction between the written word of God and Jesus, the living Word of God (Logos).

One strategy that I have employed is to consider any leadings or words in light of the fruit of the Spirit ('will acting on this word, accepting this word produce 'love, joy, peace, patience, etc) in the situation I am praying into? Do you think this is sufficient?
Am I making this harder than it is? Any suggestions? I would like to blog some meditation ideas based on this conversational approach (and utilizing books such as your latest!). But I want to do this responsibly.

Thanks for any thoughts!


Here's my R:


Thanks for this great question. Like you, I want to always be open to the Spirit's guidance for everything I say ... and like you, I want to critically scrutinize "leadings" or "promptings" in the spirit of 1 Thessalonians 5:19-22 - avoiding superficial proof-texting (for exactly the reasons you suggest - Jesus and Peter leading the list) on the one hand, and loosey-goosey-subjectivism on the other.

I would hope that my books would provide an example of how I try to do this. I constantly refer to the Scriptures (especially in my most recent five or six books), but not in a constitutional way. A narrative approach, focused on God's self-revelation in Christ, means that the Scriptures can be brought powerfully to bear, without doing so in a rigid, domineering way.

This is what I find in 1 Thess. 5:19-22, by the way. Don't despise prophetic utterances, but don't accept them uncritically, either. Both in the speaking and in the receiving, we need appropriate humility, knowing that chaff gets mixed with the wheat and that every statement - including inspired ones! - needs to be interpreted with wisdom and critical discernment. Another way to say it - both speaking and interpreting require Spirit-guidance - and the Spirit empowers and employs both wisdom and critical thinking.

I like your "fruit of the Spirit test," by the way. I wouldn't say any formula is "sufficient" in the sense that "nothing more is ever needed and this guarantees that you will always be right," but I would say it is "sufficient" in the sense that it gets you going on a wise and good path - which is always a path open to correction and further learning. James 3:13-18 comes to mind ...

As I tried to explain in New Kind of Christianity, I see inspiration not as dictation, but as God's word emerging even amidst the contrary voices and arguments in the point-counterpoint of the text.

(BTW - Can you see how I'm bringing the Scriptures into our conversation, without shutting down the conversation by quoting them? I hope that models what I experience as most helpful. I like how I heard Doug Pagitt put it: the Scriptures are an honored participant in every conversation.)