Tag Archive: Hearing the Voice of God

Hearing the “Voice of God”

hearing the voice of god

Spend enough time around Evangelicals and you will learn that not only do they talk to God, they also hear God talk to them. In any other setting “hearing” voices will land you in the hospital on a 72-hour psych hold, but if the voice being heard is GOD, then hearers of this silent utterance are considered sane, rational beings. Evangelicals believe God not only speaks to them through the words in the Bible, he also audibly, yet silently, speaks to them during prayer and meditation and at random moments throughout the day. Evidently, the Christian God is able to carry on millions of silent conversations with his followers at the same time. Awesome, right? Too bad, this same God is not very good at making sure everyone he is talking to is hearing the same message.

Evangelicals say they hear the voice of God, but often different Christians hear different things, often wildly contrary to what God told someone else. I noticed this particularly during church business meetings. Members were expected to pray and seek the will of God on the matter of business before the church. After, “hearing” from God, members were expected to be of one mind — Greek for “agreeing with the pastor.” As anyone who has ever attended a Baptist business meeting will tell you, unity of mind is rarely on display. If everyone is supposedly “hearing” the voice of God, why are there so many competing viewpoints? What color should we paint the auditorium, the pastor asks? Let’s seek God’s mind on the matter! You would think that God would tell everyone BLUE. Nope. God, ever the jokester, whispers to various members different colors, sowing discord among the brethren.

Years ago, I started the Somerset Baptist Church — an Independent Fundamentalist Baptist (IFB) congregation in southeast Ohio. The congregation first met in an empty storefront. After a few months, we moved to what was then called the Landmark Building. We rented the entire second floor for $200 a month. One day, I was out and about and stumbled upon an old abandoned Methodist church building — five miles east of Somerset, on top of Sego Hill. I made some inquiries about the building, and found out that it was for sale. I told the congregation about my exciting find, asking that they would pray about us buying the building. After a week or so, I held a business meeting, thinking God had told congregants the same thing he told me: buy the building! Imagine my surprise when it became clear to me that the church was NOT in favor of buying the building. I was so depressed. How could they NOT hear God’s voice? I thought. Yes, the building was $20,000, a large sum for a fledgling church, but I believed God never ordered anything he didn’t pay for. Dejected, I called the Methodists and told them we wouldn’t be buying the building.

Several weeks later, the Methodists called me and asked me if the church had changed its mind about buying the building. Before I could respond, the man said, make us an offer, Bruce. I shot a quick prayer to Jesus, asking him what I should do. As sure as I am sitting here today, I heard him say, offer them $5,000. I thought, $5,000? The Methodists will never accept such a low offer. But, not wanting to disappoint Jesus, I made the $5,000 offer. The man said, we will talk it over. Sure enough, a few days later, the Methodists called to tell me that they accepted my offer! I thought, PRAISE JESUS, we are going to have our own building. All I had to do is convince the congregation that the voice they thought they heard at the business meeting was not God’s; either that, or in the intervening weeks God had changed his mind. Fortunately, the church heard MY voice, and we bought the building.

Silly story, I know, but I think it aptly illustrates the idea that God speaks to people. I wanted something — a church building — and I got my way. I heard the voice of God countless times during the twenty-five years I spent in the ministry, and, without exception, what God was saying perfectly aligned with what I wanted, needed, or desired. God’s will be done, as Evangelicals are wont to say, was actually Bruce’s will be done. 

In late 1993, Pastor Pat Horner and Community Baptist Church in Elmendorf, Texas, extended to me an invitation to become their co-pastor. I prayed about the matter, deciding that God wanted me to stay as pastor of Somerset Baptist Church. I “wanted” to move to Texas, but God said NO, or so I told myself anyway. Several weeks later, I was pondering the future of Somerset Baptist, and all of a sudden, I started crying. In that moment God spoke to me, telling me he wanted me to move my family to San Antonio, Texas so I could become the co-pastor of Community Baptist. Wait a minute, didn’t God “tell” you several weeks before that he wanted me to stay in Ohio? Yes, he did, but evidently, he changed his mind. Never mind the fact that the Bible says, I am the Lord thy God and I changeth not and Jesus is the same yesterday, today, and forever. I called Pat Horner and asked if the offer was still open. It was. You see, God had told them that I was going to be their co-pastor, so me — uh, I mean God — changing his mind was just confirmation to them of what he said to them. Two months later, I packed up family and worldly goods and moved to Texas. My tenure at Community lasted all of seven months — an unmitigated disaster.

Another silly story, I know, but it again illustrates how crazy it is to think God “speaks” to anyone. God didn’t tell me not to move, nor did he tell me to move. There is no God, so the only voice I was hearing was my own. The NO and YES were in my mind and reflected the struggle I was having about whether I wanted to continue pastoring Somerset Baptist Church. I spent eleven years at Somerset Baptist, living in poverty the whole time. For five years, my family and I — all eight of us — lived in a 12×60 mobile home fifty feet from the church building. I was worn out, burned out, and tired of being poor, yet I loved the congregation. What was it then that caused me to change my mind?

We heated our mobile home with coal and wood. We also heated the church and school building the same way.  We were running out of wood, so I asked a man in the church if he could get some wood for us to burn, He said, sure. Several days later, the man dumped a pickup load of wood in the parking lot and quickly left. I thought, it would have been nice if he had stacked it, but okay, he at least got the wood for us. I gathered up some of the wood, took it inside and put it in our Warm Morning stove. I quickly found out that wood was unusable — too wet and green to burn. At first, I was angry over the wet wood, but then I began to cry. This one event — not a big deal in and of itself — pushed me over the proverbial edge. I was done. Is it any surprise, then, that God changed his mind and told me he wanted me to move to Texas? A good salary and a new 14×70 mobile home awaited me. A congregation thrilled over the prospect of me being their co-pastor awaited me. A young, fast growing congregation awaited me. New challenges and opportunities awaited me. I said NO to all of this because I had a sense of loyalty to the people at Somerset Baptist. Most of them had been members for years and walked beside me as we built the church. I felt guilty over thinking about leaving them so I could have a better life; so my family would no longer have to live in poverty. But when the wet, green wood was dumped in the parking lot, my thinking changed. Enough, I thought, and God agreed with me.

Now, I am sure that my critics will pick these stories apart, suggesting that I was the problem, not God; that the voice I was hearing was self, and that if I had been more spiritual, I would have heard God’s voice and he was would have directed me in paths of righteousness for his name’s sake. I don’t believe that for a moment. There is no God, so I couldn’t have heard his voice. All my decisions reflected were the struggles I was having over life and the ministry. The voice I heard was my own, giving life to my wants, needs, and desires.

Bruce, I don’t care what happened in your life, I KNOW God speaks to me. How do you KNOW it is God’s voice you are hearing? What evidence can you give for such a claim? Why do God’s silent utterances to you almost always match your own wants, needs, and desires? Have you ever stopped to think that maybe, just maybe the voice you are hearing is your own? Yes, the Bible contains stories about God speaking to people — from God speaking to Moses from a burning bush, to God telling Abraham to murder his son Isaac, to God speaking to the crowd at Jesus’ baptism. Jesus told his disciples: my sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me. How can any of us know that it is God speaking? There’s absolutely zero evidence for God speaking to anyone. Evangelicals are free to believe that they have heard the voice of God, but they can’t expect non-believers to accept their stories as true without some sort of verifiable proof.

Believing God speaks to you is a matter of faith, a faith I do not have. Most often, hearing the voice of God is harmless, but there are times when hearing his voice leads to dangerous, harmful behavior — including murdering your children and taking a twelve-year-old girl as your virgin bride. Evangelical missionaries John Allen Chau and Charles Wesco lost their lives because they believed that they had heard the voice of God commanding them to go reach the lost for Jesus. Why would God tell these men to leave their houses and lands and go to the mission field only to kill them days later? What a cruel, schizophrenic God. Or, perhaps God has nothing to do with this; perhaps the only voices these men heard were their own; perhaps their deaths rest on the shoulders of the myriad of pastors, professors, and parents who whispered in their ears about the wonders of serving God in a foreign land and the rewards that would await them if they became missionaries.

Think I am wrong? Just ask God to tell me.

About Bruce Gerencser

Bruce Gerencser, 61, lives in rural Northwest Ohio with his wife of 40 years. He and his wife have six grown children and twelve grandchildren. Bruce pastored Evangelical churches for twenty-five years in Ohio, Texas, and Michigan. Bruce left the ministry in 2005, and in 2008 he left Christianity. Bruce is now a humanist and an atheist. For more information about Bruce, please read the About page.

Bruce is a local photography business owner, operating Defiance County Photo out of his home. If you live in Northwest Ohio and would like to hire Bruce, please email him.

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God’s Voice or Paranoid, Delusional, Conspiratorial Thinking?

abraham

Evangelicals are fond of saying that prayer is “me talking to God and God talking to me. ” Some Evangelicals believe that God audibly talks to them, while others believe he speaks to their hearts with an inaudible, still small voice. Some Evangelicals — particularly Calvinists — believe that God speaks to them through the words of the Bible. Regardless of how God speaks to me is described or explained, Evangelicals of every stripe believe God speaks to them.

That Evangelicals believe God speaks to them should not come as a surprise to non-Evangelicals. Evangelicals believe that the third part of the Trinity — the Holy Ghost/Spirit — lives somewhere inside their mind/body. If God lives inside people, it is not too far a stretch to assume that the indwelling Holy Spirit “talks” to Evangelicals.

Consider the lyrics of the hymn, In the Garden:

I come to the garden alone
while the dew is still on the roses,
and the voice I hear falling on my ear,
the Son of God discloses.

Refrain:

And he walks with me, and he talks with me,
and he tells me I am his own;
and the joy we share as we tarry there,
none other has ever known.

He speaks, and the sound of his voice
is so sweet the birds hush their singing,
and the melody that he gave to me
within my heart is ringing.

(Refrain)

I’d stay in the garden with him
though the night around me be falling,
but he bids me go; thru the voice of woe
his voice to me is calling.

(Refrain)

Jesus Speaks to Me, a song by contemporary Christian group FFH, perhaps states it best:

Can I talk to You a while
Can I lay my weary head
On Your shoulder again
Can I rest beneath Your smile
Will You whisper to me
As I kneel beside my bed

I’ve been walkin’ in the desert
I need to hear from You

I need Your touch, I need Your love
Oh Jesus, speak to me, yeah
I need to hold You, oh, so close
Oh Jesus, speak to me, yeah
Oh Jesus, speak to me

It feels like I’ve walked a thousand miles
Just to see the mountaintop
To be above the clouds
But it only takes a while
Until my feet just seem to stop
And I make my way back down

I’ve been so long in the valley
I need to hear from You

I need Your touch, I need Your love
Oh Jesus, speak to me, yeah
I need to hold You, oh, so close
Oh Jesus, speak to me, yeah
Oh Jesus, speak to me

Feels like I’m losing my mind
Going crazy
Feels like I’m running out of time
Come and save me
Just wipe the tears from my eyes
Say it’s alright, alright

I need Your touch, I need Your love
Oh Jesus, speak to me, yeah
I need to hold You, oh, so close
Oh Jesus, speak to me, yeah
Oh Jesus, speak to me, yeah
Oh Jesus, speak to me, yeah
Oh Jesus, speak to me

FFH opines that they are going crazy as they desperately seek to hear the voice of God. I suspect many Evangelicals have similar sentiments. I know Polly and I did.  Sadly, Evangelicals will rarely consider that perhaps the reason they are going crazy is that the voice they are seeking to hear doesn’t exist.

Evangelicals who hear the voice of God are certain that what they are hearing is from the Christian God. Attempts to challenge such assertions are almost always rejected. I know what I know, Evangelicals say. I KNOW God speaks to me! How do they KNOW for sure God speaks to them? Why, they heard his voice! Suggesting that such an argument is circular reason will also be rejected. God’s ways are not our ways, Evangelicals say. As with most discussions with Evangelicals, attempts to appeal to reason and objectivity will be turned away with statements such as, by FAITH, I believe God speaks to me. Once Evangelicals appeal to faith, there’s not much more skeptics and rationalists can say or do. Subjective metaphysical claims are beyond the realm of reason. Facts, evidence, and science don’t matter when Evangelicals appeal to faith. As the old Evangelical canard goes, God said it, I believe it, and that settles it for me.

hearing gods voice

Comic by Ted Rall

Recently, a woman who calls herself Bible Believer had this to say about listening to the voice of God:

We are entering the days where things are getting more and more spiritually darker. Every Christian here feels it. We are seeing massive changes even within the last few years. We have to learn to listen to God in prayer. More and more it is important to listen to God’s warnings for protection. Some time ago, I had met a new person and on my second meeting with them where I was not in a larger group of people. I had this thought flash across my mind, “This person is wicked and an insider.”  This came out of nowhere. I did listen but I proceeded with caution but still erred on the side of not taking actions sooner. My warning about this seared person are so intense, I will leave a room or other place if I ever see them in it.

I am learning to listen to warnings like that faster and more immediately. Yes as a human being, I can err but I believe we all need to be listening when God is warning us of something. This may sound odd, but I had the thought too this person had some involvement with occultism. On the surface they are in a false church, and I met them in a community context.

I found out via public information on the internet someone closely related to this person is basically a Satanist. And I am not talking teen “Goth” or “Wicca” dabbler or a few bouts of yoga or rekki [sic] but a well into adulthood HARD CORE Satanist. Think “OTO” temple one with Silver in the name and interest in esoteric “magic”, some with names I am sure no one ever heard of but I have from my younger days. And it went even further then that. Some may say it is unfair to judge a relative on what another relative is doing. And on that they would be right. Many good Christians come out of wicked families, but this specific person on a public Facebook page, drew pictures of themselves surrounded by demons. They praised their Satanic family member to me when I first met them.

I believe God is helping to protect me from future betrayals. I hope people do not think I have lost it or gone “paranoid”. I didn’t act on a lot of warnings that came early when dealing with two major betrayals. I paid for not listening sooner. With one person, who was a deceiver, I had dreams about them for a long time. I “knew inside” but was afraid to act. The dreams told me over and over they were not what they appeared to be. Here is a place where a Christian will want to go with your gut. If all your “instincts” tell you something is wrong, the message is coming from somewhere. Listen to the small voice of the Holy Spirit! I hope with time I have grown stronger. Some will tell you everything you want to hear. Some will even pretend to be Christians. Some will pretend to even be a fellow new world order aware Christians.

Bible Believer’s hearing from God is not, in any way, unique. Every day, I peruse over one hundred Evangelical blogs and websites. Rare is the day that I don’t read articles and blog posts about God speaking to the authors. Those of us raised in the Independent Fundamentalist Baptist (IFB) church movement are quite familiar with phrases such as: God said, God told me, and God is leading me. IFB preachers can easily justify almost anything by speaking these magic words: God spoke to my heart and told me to do ____________. During my preaching days, I often told congregants that God told me that the church needed to do _________________. Believing I was the man of God — one chosen by God to lead the church — churches members believed God and I were on a first name basis.

Of course, God and I weren’t BFF. The “voice” I heard in my “heart” was my own. God’s will always lined up with my own wants, needs, and desires. I wish Evangelical preachers would be honest with congregants, telling them that what they want to do is premised on their wants and not the voice of God.

god in mind

If God really does speak to Evangelicals, why do Christians have conflicting ideas about what God had said? I have participated in countless church business meetings, meetings that were always “bathed” in prayer, with members seeking to hear the voice of God. The goal, of course, was to gather up a majority of yes votes so the preacher’s wants/needs/desires could be fulfilled. Most business meetings are little more than rubber-stamp approvals of whatever tickles pastors’ fancies. Every once in a while, a congregant or two will “hear” a different voice and object to the topic under discussion. What are we to make of such contrary views? Surely, if all Evangelicals have the same Holy Spirit living inside of them, shouldn’t they — as the early church did — be of one mind? Despite all the praying and seeking to hear the voice of God, church business is decided by good old fashioned American majority rules.

Most Evangelicals who have conversations with God are good people. We humans are prone to irrationality, and in the case of people hearing God’s voice, this irrationality is on a massive scale. Where this becomes a problem is when hearing God’s voice causes people to harm to themselves or other people. Countless people have been murdered by Christians who believed that God was telling them to commit homicide. The Bible recounts the story of God telling Abraham to murder his son Isaac. While God was just “testing” Abraham, is there any doubt that the father of Christianity, Judaism, and Islam would have slit his son’s throat had God not intervened? This story is preached as a great example of faith — obediently doing whatever God commands. Why then, should the stories of modern-day Abrahams be discounted or rejected out of hand?

The answer, of course, is that such behavior is a sign of mental illness. Evangelicals who believe God is speaking to them and saying that they should harm or kill other people are mentally disturbed. While I am not suggesting that every Evangelical has a screw loose, many of them do, especially those who are sucked into depths of paranoid, delusional, and conspiratorial thinking. (Perhaps, this is a chicken/egg issue. Do people become mentally ill as a result of Evangelical teachings or are people who are already mentally ill attracted to Evangelical churches?) Most of the Sounds of Fundamentalism videos I have posted are good examples of Evangelical psychological instability.

I am sure Evangelicals will gnash their teeth and wail over the claim that “hearing the voice of God” is often a sign of mental illness. I suggest that such gnashers and wailers attempt to see how this looks from the outside. In any other setting someone hearing voices would be a cause for concern. Numerous mental health problems can give rise to hearing voices in one’s head. Why should voice-hearing Evangelicals be given a pass when it comes to their mental acuity? Does the fact that someone is religious exempt them from normal standards of psychological fitness? I think not.

Nothing I have written in this post will change the minds of people who are convinced that God is their best friend, one who frequently “talks” to them. All we can do is make sure such irrational beliefs don’t harm others. Behind much of the political machinations of the Republican Party are Evangelicals who believe God is telling them to oppose abortion, same-sex marriage, and gun restrictions. God is also telling them to build a wall on our border with Mexico, stop transgenders from using wrong restrooms, and, most of all, take back America. What’s next? Arresting and incarcerating atheists, agnostics, humanists, secularists, along with anyone else that opposes the establishment of a Christian theocracy? Perhaps it is time to put Prozac in Bible Belt water supplies.