Ernest Goodman Is Confused, Pt. 2

This is the second part of my response to Jason Bolt, who wrote that I am confused about cessationism and mission. For Part 1, see: Ernest Goodman Is Confused, Pt. 1

However, he immediately contradicts himself by saying, “Even if someone meets all the criteria for service, we cannot assume it is good to send him out.” Let me get this strait. The calling is secretly and mystically received by an individual, and then the calling is affirmed by the local church. However, the local church does not send the person based upon whether or not he meets all the criteria. Exactly what, then, is the role of the local church? Goodman does not say. What is clear is that Goodman believes the local church should send missionaries based upon something other than what is written in the pages of the Bible.

That’s me, a walking contradiction.

My point here is that our criteria for sending is not only some checklist of qualities and qualifications, but also a spiritual unity of the sending church. This is reached through prayer (and sometimes fasting), as the Spirit of God brings the opinions of the pastors in line with Christ (who is the head of the church). Paul and Barnabas weren’t sent out simply because they were good missionary candidates, they were sent because the Spirit “set them apart” and showed that to the church as they worshipped.

If a person meets all the criteria and wants to go, the local church should send him. It’s that simple. We don’t need mystic revelation to reach these wise and good conclusions.

What are the criteria for “missionary?” Where do these come from? What is the candidate is qualified, yet doesn’t want to go? What if he’s both qualified and willing to be sent, but he is needed in his local church? Why should we “pray earnestly to the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into his harvest” (Matthew 9:38) if God has nothing to do with the calling and sending of his people?

Scripture very clearly tells us that the mission of the Church is to teach all the nations to obey what Christ has commanded.

It sounds like Pastor Bolt is equating “the mission of the church” to the “Great Commission.” I’d encourage him to read more of the Bible (and not just the classic “sending” passages) in light of the Sending. In his book, The Mission Of God’s People, C. Wright points out that if the Great Commission is the totality of the church’s motivation for mission, why isn’t it mentioned again in the New Testament? I’m not saying that it isn’t a very succinct and central commissioning of God’s people on His mission, but the mission of the church is founded on more than one passage of scripture. We know from the whole counsel of Scripture that we serve a God who has always sent His people. With that in mind, the mission of God’s people is to obey Him in His mission to glorify Himself through the redemption of His creation.

Using statistics and ethnography to figure out where those nations are located is wise and good. Why do we need the Holy Spirit to secretly tell us to minister among a certain people when God has already told us to minister among all people?

I’m a little less trustful of human wisdom than the Pastor seems to be. Human wisdom was reflected in the number of men Gideon brought to battle before God reduced their numbers from 32,000 to 300 (Judges 7). Human wisdom values efficiency and effectiveness, neither of which are necessarily Kingdom values. We’ve all seen as much damage done by “It just makes sense” as by “God told me to.”

God has indeed told us to make disciples of all nations. Not to nitpick, but a single ministry to “all people” is not possible. You can’t reach out in every direction at once. With which tribe, language, or nation will you begin? How does a church determine where to allocate resources and where to pass up perfectly good opportunities? When is the work in a particular place finished? Like Paul, we rely on the Spirit to show us where to engage.

As I’ve explained here on the blog before, equating the biblical terminology “nations” to the modernistic concept of “ethnolinguistic people groups” is a relatively new thing. It makes perfect sense to define mission from this anthropological perspective if you believe that God no longer interacts with His people in real-time.

Evangelism: Goodman argues that the evangelist is supposed to say different things to different people and that the only way he can know what to say to specific people is for the Holy Spirit to mystically and secretly tell him what to say to specific people.

The great thing about the gospel is that you can communicate it in any number of ways. When He was questioned, Jesus would sometimes answer plainly, sometimes with a story or a question. Paul did the same, quoting local poets and citing cultural traditions in his presentations of the gospel. Some preach it from a pulpit, others share it one-on-one. Some start with our hope in Christ, others begin with “all have sinned.” How you present the gospel is a huge factor in how it’s received. The work of the missionary is to translate the universal, unchanging Good News into dynamic, ever-changing, sinful culture. This work is never finished (this side of heaven), and it takes a certain amount of skill to do well.

Fortunately, the eternal destiny of the nations does not depend on my speaking ability. I’m sure Pastor Bolt is pretty skilled at interpersonal communication, but I sometimes struggle. I depend on God to speak through me– to use the inadequate words of an inadequate man to communicate a universal, divine Truth.

However, orthodox Christianity teaches that the evangelist is to proclaim the gospel. He is to proclaim the gospel to man, woman, Jew, Greek, slave, and freeman alike. The Bible very clearly reveals what the gospel is, so there is no reason for the evangelist to seek extra-biblical guidance as to what to say to any specific person.

Which clear biblical presentation is Pastor Bolt referring to here? 1 Corinthians 15:1-8? John 3:16? Romans 3:23? There isn’t one single way to communicate that God sent His Son to die in place of sinful, undeserving people and rose again to the glory of the Father. This is why we ask God to give us the words (mystically or otherwise) that will clearly communicate the message to our audience.

Hopefully, all of this is beneficial to our readers.

Next: Ernest Goodman Is Confused, Pt. 3

About E. Goodman

Ernest Goodman is a missiologist, writer, teacher, and communications strategist.

49 comments

  1. So much can be said in reply here.

    One thing sticks out to me. The word “mystical” or “mystic.” Someone recently applied that word to me – and I felt sad.

    Is that a label we put on people who hear (and act on) something from the Holy Spirit?

    It’s an easy way to label, categorize and move on. A way of projecting “otherness” on someone.

    I don’t know the tradition and history of the word mystic and mysticism. But I feel it’s a word we play with fire with, if we truly don’t know.

  2. I rarely offer comments of practicality, but let me say this in addition:

    The Mission of God’s People by Christopher Wright is available on audio via Amazon. I am taking considerable time to listen through it on my iPhone. A tremendous book, indeed, and very helpful for interpreting so-called Great Commission passages in light of the whole of Scriptures and Christian history.

  3. Johanna,

    I used “mystical” to describe the way in which some people hear God speaking to them. I could have just as easily used “private” or “secret” or any other word that communicates the personal and non-public nature of this communication between God and the person listening to him. I define a “mystic” as someone who believes that God speaks to him mystically or privately or secretly. It is not a derogatory term but rather a descriptive term.

    You ask, “Is that a label we put on people who hear (and act on) something from the Holy Spirit?” It is a descriptive term that I use to describe people to whom the Holy Spirit speaks. Is there a different way in which you would prefer me to describe these people and their practice of conducting private conversations with God through the Holy Spirit?

  4. Jason,
    Thanks for engaging Johanna with your questions. The attitude you demonstrate here is exactly why I’ve chosen to respond to your post– though we may disagree, you remain thoughtful and respectful. Thank you. I look forward to hearing your thoughts on what I’ve written in these posts.

  5. Jason – first, agreed with E. and thanks for your respectful dialogue. No worries at all.

    This is something our culture really hurts on: the distinction – split and fried – between private and public.

    A wonderful lesson I strap to my heart as though I could not live without: God speaks in private chiefly for the reason of the public.

    When I cling to what he says in private – as though like the creature Gollum (“my prrrecious…”) his word in me springs up and dies.

    Think of it a little like Abraham – God’s chosen individual. He chose Abraham for the purpose of blessing the nations. He spoke to Abraham in private (remember that uber cool conversation where God asks if he should reveal to Abraham what he is thinking…) for the blessing of the whole community.

    I suppose God speaks in private at times for the benefit of that one person. We certainly can’t box God in, can we?

    To me, “mystic” is not descriptive in a culture that wholly misunderstands mysticism. Maybe I should start a blog, Mystics, Misunderstood. ;)

  6. Apologies, Jason – I forgot to answer your practical question, so interested was I in my own train of thought.

    You asked: “Is there a different way in which you would prefer me to describe these people and their practice of conducting private conversations with God through the Holy Spirit?”

    Good question, ha. I guess my answer today for you would be: call those people, people who care for the widows and orphans. More generically, those who care for their neighbors. True religion practitioners?

    I’m thinking of Amos 8.

    “Listen to this, you who rob the poor
    and trample down the needy!
    You can’t wait for the Sabbath day to be over
    and the religious festivals to end
    so you can get back to cheating the
    helpless.

    “The time is surely coming,” says the
    Sovereign LORD,
    “when I will send a famine on the land–
    not a famine of bread or water
    but of hearing the words of the LORD.”

  7. Johanna,

    I have to admit, I don’t really understand anything of what you are saying regarding mysticism. You are using words and phrases that simply have no meaning to me. I assume that people in your world know exactly what you are talking about, but I am not one of those people.

    Concerning your answer to my question, I have to follow up with another question. I asked if you would like me to use a term other than “mystic” to describe people who communicate privately with the Holy Spirit. You answered by saying, “call those people, people who care for the widows and orphans. More generically, those who care for their neighbors. True religion practitioners?” Are you saying that people who do not communicate privately with the Holy Spirit cannot be described as “true religion practitioners”?

  8. Folks,
    I just came across this blog and there is a lot that can be talked about. In your dialogue about mysticism and God speaking to His people you have a question posed as to what those folks should be called that experience extra Biblical practice of hearing God privately through Holy Spirit or whatever they choose to call it. What I have observed is that there is a fundamental difference and disagreement of the doctrine of the Scriptures. As all Christians should know, the orthodox Christian view of God communicating to His people is via the Scriptures alone. The example that Johanna is trying to use in her post dated March 14, 2014 at 7:27AM has left me speechless, mostly because I have no idea what she is saying no matter how many times I read it. I am sorry Johanna, but I truly have no clue what you are trying to say in your explanation of private communication of God. However, I did find myself agreeing with Mr. Bolt’s points. I have been trying to understand these so called “mystics” in their position on the doctrine of revelation, and I found myself unable to wrap my mind around that approach of communication with God. Then, I realized something… I do not think, Mr. Bolt, that they are mystics. It is not the correct term to use. They are not mystics at all. I think what best describes their behavior and claim of hearing god’s voice is a known disorder in the medical field called schizophrenia. Once I understood that these poor folks most likely are suffering from it and are more likely schizophrenics, then I could see how their claims of hearing god speaking to them fit perfectly into the mold of that disorder. Mr. Bolt, you should not call them mystics. This is incorrect; but you should be gentle with them, as these poor folks are struggling with a terrible medical condition. Mr. Goodman you most likely monitor these posts and do not allow immediate posting, this is my true opinion of this subject, and I am simply sharing my findings.

  9. KGBguy,
    Thank you for perfectly illustrating the sentiment in my recent post, The Art of the Dive. You have jumped to absurd conclusions, deliberately painting those who differ from your perspective as mentally ill. When you don’t understand someone, calling them disturbed is a cheap and easy way to dismiss them without having to put forth any effort.

    Secondly, was the entire church at Antioch schizophrenic when they heard the Spirit speak regarding Saul and Barnabas? Was Paul schizophrenic when Jesus spoke to him, or when he was “prevented by the Spirit” from entering Asia? Why do the scriptures exhort us to “be led by the Spirit” and not “be led by the scriptures?” I’m not saying that everyone who claims to have heard from God is correct. I’m not saying that the Holy Spirit directs us about which socks to put on in the morning. But if you believe the scriptures, you must believe that God can and has spoken to His people in personal direction.

    If you believe He doesn’t to that anymore, that’s fine. But calling others crazy isn’t a very good argument for your opinion.

  10. Goodman,

    I disagree with your conclusion that KGBguy has “taken a dive.” He is not “deliberately painting those who differ from [his] perspective as mentally ill.” What he is saying is that people who hear voices in their heads might be schizophrenic. According to wikipedia (from which all good things come), “Individuals with schizophrenia may experience hallucinations (most reported are hearing voices), delusions (often bizarre or persecutory in nature), and disorganized thinking and speech.” When KGBguy hears people say that they hear a secret voice, he wonders if those people are showing symptoms of schizophrenia. This, to me, sounds like a legitimate argument.

    The difference between the church in Antioch (and all the other instances you referenced) and schizophrenics is that the Spirit spoke audibly to the whole church in Antioch while schizophrenics hear secret voices that no one else hears. Many people today claim to hear a still, small voice inside their head or heart, a voice that the person sitting next to them cannot hear. However, I have never heard of a modern example of the Spirit speaking audibly to an entire congregation. If you know of an example, I would love to hear it. Is that how your church operates? Does your entire congregation hear the Spirit speaking audibly and corporately to them? If so, that is something completely different from schizophrenia. However, hearing a voice or voices in your head is a sign of schizophrenia.

  11. Jason, I’ll respond to your question.

    “Are you saying that people who do not communicate privately with the Holy Spirit cannot be described as ‘true religion practitioners’?”

    No.

    But it is good food for thought, eh?

    On a serious note, there are things we can do to make ourselves available to hearing God. We can obey. Care for the widows and orphans. Do justice and love mercy.

    God is free. We can’t do certain things to make Him act the way we want him to.

    But he gives us guidance through His Scriptures on ways we can obey Him.

    And if you’re in doubt whether I place authority on the Scriptures… I have served for over a decade in the ministry of translating the Scriptures for people who don’t have the complete Scriptures in their own languages. I feel deep compassion for these folks – and there are lots of them.

    Finally, the reason I come here to Missions, Misunderstood, is to learn about new perspectives in missiology. E. Goodman’s posts have helped me explore topics I didn’t even know exist. Plus, he is a gracious, discerning host… not easy to find! So please, grant me kindness.

    The perspective I shared on this post is a minority perspective in the context we share.

    If, however, you were to explore perspectives of Christians around the world, you would find that my perspective is not so strange or minor.

  12. Johanna,

    If the people who communicate privately with the Holy Spirit and people who don’t communicate privately with the Holy Spirit can both be described as “true religion practitioners,” how does describing those who communicate privately with the Holy Spirit as “true religion practitioners” differentiate them from those who do not communicate privately with the Holy Spirit? As I said before, I use the term “mystic” in order to describe people who communicate privately with the Holy Spirit. Then, I asked if there is a different descriptive term that you would like me to use. You then gave me a term/phrase that describes lots of people. So, I am still looking for a descriptive term other than “mystic” to describe people who communicate privately with the Holy Spirit.

    Is what good food for thought, eh?

    What is the basis of your doctrine that we can do certain things to make us available to hearing God?

    You say that God gives us guidance through the Bible on ways that we can obey him. This is not exactly true. He tells us in the Bible precisely how we must obey him. He does not give us suggestions on things that we can choose to do or not do. His commands are very clear, and we must obey them.

    I do wonder about your doctrine of the authority of Scripture based upon the things you have said, but you have not said enough for me to judge whether or not you accept the authority of Scripture. However, the fact that you “have served for over a decade in the ministry of translating the Scriptures for people who don’t have the complete Scriptures in their own languages” does not determine in any way whether or not you have an orthodox view of the authority of Scripture. It tells me that you probably think the Bible is important, but Muslims and Mormons think the Bible is important. So, what else can you tell me about your orthodox belief in the authority of Scripture?

    Goodman is certainly more gracious than most bloggers because he actually allows these discussions to take place. For that, I respect him.

    To what perspective are you referring that “is a minority perspective in the context we share”? If you are referring to the perspective that God speaks privately to individuals in mystical ways, that is by far the majority perspective in evangelicalism in general and most certainly in missions in particular. So again, I am not really sure what you are talking about.

    I have explored perspectives of Christians around the world. If you were to not make assumptions about the people with whom you speak, you might find your communication to be more effective.

  13. Jason,
    You’re assuming that the Holy Spirit spoke audibly in Acts 13 and 16. (We know He spoke in an audible voice in Acts 9, because the scriptures plainly say that Paul’s traveling companions also heard Jesus’ voice.) The Scripture doesn’t say that the Spirit spoke audibly.

    You’re also assuming that anyone here is claiming to have heard the audible voice of God. I understand that Christianity in the West often uses terms like “God is leading me to” or “God told me to.” We often refer to “God’s calling” and don’t mean that we heard God’s audible voice. I get it, lots of people today claim to have heard from God, and you (and KGBguy) aren’t buying it. But it’s easy to write people off as being mentally ill rather than addressing the theological question.

    Conversations take effort. Understanding people who see things differently than we do can be hard. But I’m very interested in a discussion of how God directs His church on mission. We all read the same Bible, yet some of us, upon reading one of the commissions, conclude that we are to sell everything and move to faraway lands to make disciples. It’s not simply an aspiration, interest, or preference, but the spiritual work of God as He changes our minds and influences our behavior. You may disregard this as mental illness, but it can reasonably be read in scripture, so I find it to be a worthy discussion.

  14. Acts 13:2: While they were ministering to the Lord and fasting, the Holy Spirit said, “Set apart for Me Barnabas and Saul for the work to which I have called them” (NASB).

    How can you interpret this as anything other than God speaking corporately to people who heard him with their ears? This is not a rhetorical question. I really want to know how you could interpret it any other way. The text says that the Spirit “said.” It does not say that the Holy Spirit mystically aligned the opinions of the church leaders.

    You have not answered my question yet. Does your congregation operate that way? Do you all hear him, audibly or mystically, at the same time saying the exact same thing?

    You are right that I assume that people who say they hear God’s voice are claiming to have actually heard God’s voice. If they haven’t heard God’s voice but have only had their internal feelings and desires mystically swayed by some mysterious movement of the Spirit, they should say so. All I have to work with is what people say, and I take people at their word. If they say they hear God’s voice, I have to accept that they are telling me what they intend to communicate. Why would I assume that they are trying to communicate something other than what they are saying? It may very well be true that what they say is not what they intend to communicate, but I have no way of knowing that. So, I will continue to operate based upon the notion that people say what they intend to communicate.

  15. As I’ve written before, I’m no expert in ancient Greek. Nevertheless, we can look up the word used in Acts 13 that’s translated as “said” and see that it may also be translated as “to call, organize, or mean.” Of course we can interpret “the Holy Spirit said,” as being non-verbal communication.

    In churches who rely on democratic process to make decisions, the “majority vote” is often interpreted as “God said (by way of the church).” Our church depends on the leadership of elders who make decisions by praying and reasoning together. When the elders are divided, they pray until they aren’t anymore. Sometimes, it’s pure reason that leads them to change their minds so that they’re all in agreement. Other times, it’s something spiritual that we would attribute to the work of the Holy Spirit. There are times we’ve had to wrestle through difficult decisions and it was only after a process and some time that we all agree. This rarely happens all at once, and is often only clearly seen in retrospect. At any rate, we consider the end result to be God’s guidance for our church.

    For example of this, we can look at Acts 16, when Paul was “forbidden by the Holy Spirit” and “prevented by the Spirit of Jesus,” He seemed to have understood that it was God who was speaking to Him. But then he had a vision of the man from Macedonia. This was, in retrospect, also the clear direct of God. But the scriptures say that Paul was left to “conclude” that God was calling him to preach in Macedonia– implying that it was less clear to Paul at the time.

    I appreciate your literalism in trying to understand people who see things differently than you. Surely you can see how intelligent, non-schizophrenic, regenerate people might use the word “said” in a non-verbal way. My mom “said” she loved me with a hug. My friend “said” goodbye in an email. My cat “said” hello by brushing up against my leg. My readers said “don’t engage in endless debates” by not commenting on my blog.

    So let’s say that you were to give me the benefit of the doubt. Let’s say that, from the beginning, my opinions about the God leading His church on mission did not entail mental illness or hearing audible voices. What would you say to a Christian man who was struggling with the decision about moving around the world to be a missionary? What spiritual factors, if any, should he consider?

  16. So even though you are not an expert in Greek, your position is that Acts 13:2 should be translated, “The Holy Spirit said by organizing the opinions of the leaders, ‘Set apart for Me Barnabas and Saul for the work to which I have called them;’” and your explanation as to how you can interpret Acts 13:2 as non-verbal communication is, “Of course we can interpret “the Holy Spirit said,” as being non-verbal communication”? You are not making an argument. You are simply restating your case.

    I have never heard of an orthodox church that interprets a majority vote of the congregation as “God said.” I have never heard of an orthodox church that interprets the unity of the opinions of the elders as “God speaking.” I am going to assume that you are not intending to communicate what you have said. You have said that God reveals his will about an issue to the elders at your church by bringing them to agreement on that issue. Surely this is not what you mean. Surely your elders don’t claim to speak on behalf of God. The Pope does that when he sits on his throne, but surely your elders would run far away from such a practice. So, in this instance, I am going to assume that you mean something completely different than what you have said.

    When you say that your mom said she loves you with hug, you are communicating that she communicated to you through a hug. You are qualifying what you mean by “said.” If you simply say that she said that she loves you, I would have to conclude that she said she loves you. If someone were to say that God spoke to him by aligning the circumstances of his life in a certain way, he would be communicating that God did not speak audibly. He would have qualified what he means by “spoke.” If he just says that God spoke to him, I have to conclude that God spoke to him.

    Regarding your hypothetical situation, what do you mean by “struggling with the decision to move around the world to be a missionary”? With what aspect of this decision is he struggling? If he doesn’t want to go, I would encourage him to not go. If he does want to go, I would tell this man to express his interest in missions to the elders at his church. They will help determine whether or not he is qualified. If he is and they are able to send him and he still wants to go, they will commission him. It’s not a complicated process. I don’t know what you mean by “spiritual factors.” What is a spiritual factor?

  17. Even though you are no expert in Greek, it is your position that Acts 13:2 should be translated, “While they were ministering to the Lord and fasting, the Holy Spirit said by organizing the opinions of the leaders, ‘Set apart for Me Barnabas and Saul for the work to which I have called them’”? Has any translator in the history of the church rendered a translation like this?

    I don’t know of any orthodox church that interprets a majority vote as “God said,” nor I do I know of any orthodox church that believes God reveals his will about a particular matter by bringing the elders of the church into unanimous agreement on that matter. In fact, I don’t know of any orthodox church or person who claims to speak on behalf of God. The Pope does that when he speaks from his throne. I am going to assume that you did not intend to communicate what you actually said. I am going to assume that you don’t actually believe that God reveals his will to your elders by bringing them into agreement.

    When you say that your mom said she loves you by giving you a hug, you qualify what you mean by “said.” If someone says that God spoke to him by manipulating certain circumstances, he has qualified what he means by “spoke,” and I know that he is not claiming that God spoke audibly to him. When someone says that God told him to go to India, I have no choice but to assume that God told him to go to India.

    In your hypothetical scenario, with what exactly is the person struggling? Does he not know which airline to fly or how much clothing to take with him? My counsel for him would be to go if wants to go but to not go if he does not want to go. It is a pretty simple process. I don’t know what you mean by “spiritual factors.” What is a spiritual factor?

  18. Jason,
    No, I’m not proposing any changes to the English translation of the ancient Greek of Acts 13:2. My point was that many Christians use the word “said” when referring to Spiritual guidance and consider that to be consistent with what happened in Acts 13.

    You must not have much experience with Southern Baptist Churches. Most are democratic or congregational, and determine God’s will for the church regarding a particular decision by majority vote.

    Surely you’re away that many pastors and missionaries feel “called,” or “led” by God into the ministry, and communicate that as, “God told me,” or “God said.” Check out this post over at SBC Voices and read through the comments: http://sbcvoices.com/would-god-ask-you-to-take-a-mustard-bath/

    Perhaps your lack of familiarity with this terminology is due to your unwillingness to read outside your preferences (C. Wright, Bosch, per our previous exchange)?

    Your point about qualifying the word “said” is a good one. And it’s exactly why I included Acts 9 in my comment. There, the Bible clearly includes the detail that the voice Saul heard was also heard by those who were with him. This qualification is not made in Acts 13 or in Acts 16.

    It may surprise you that the decision to move to a new land as an international missionary isn’t always an easy one. Many of us struggle through that decision-makeing process. As I wrote in my comment, it’s not a question of qualification, it’s more a battle of the will. Many of us would prefer not to leave all that we know in order to be missionaries. But we do it because we “feel led” to by the Spirit. These are the “spiritual factors” I’m referring to.

  19. So you are not saying that “said” in Acts 13:2 should be rendered as something other than “said,” but you are saying that “said” doesn’t actually mean “said”? This is really confusing to me. You have successfully dizzied me with your logic to the point where I no longer know how to respond.

    I am actually quite familiar with the SBC. I was a member of an SBC church for 7 years prior to my arrival at Truth Reformed Bible Church, and I still have great respect for what the International Mission Board does around the world. You are wrong about the SBC view of God revealing his will. The SBC does not believe that God reveals his will through the voting process. It is true that SBC churches will make decisions through the voting process, but nowhere is it stated that God reveals his secret will through a congregational ballot. What you are saying is simply not true. If you have any evidence to support your claim, please provide it, but don’t tell me about a baptist who uses the “God said” language. I am not talking about individual SBC members. I am talking about the SBC as a whole. Please show me where it is written in any confession of faith or in any by-laws of any SBC congregation that God reveals his secret will through the congregational vote.

    I am very familiar with this terminology. Nearly all evangelicals use this terminology. And simply because I am not interested in reading your recommendations does not mean that I am unwilling to read anything outside of my preferences.

    Acts 9 states specifically that Jesus spoke audibly to Paul because Luke was pointing out that those with Paul heard the voice but did not see anything while Paul heard the voice and saw something. This has nothing to do with the meaning of “said” in Acts 13 or the nature of Paul’s vision in Acts 16.

    Why do you assume that I am not familiar with the decision to move to a new land as an international missionary? Where I live is none of your business, but I will say that I am not speaking from ignorance. If you would prefer to not leave everything you know, I would encourage you not to. If you would prefer to leave everything you know, I would encourage you to do so. I don’t understand what is complicated about this.

    Are you saying that “feeling led” is the spiritual factor to which you are referring? Are you saying that God communicates to you through your emotions? I am just trying to figure out how a feeling can be a spiritual factor.

  20. To your first question, my point was that many Christians who claim to have “heard” from the Holy Spirit (perhaps verbally, perhaps otherwise) find this interaction with God to be consistent with how God has communicated with His people in history. God “said” in times past (audibly and otherwise), and they “hear” Him today (apparently, audibly and otherwise).

    You write that you’re familiar with the common use of “God told me.” It’s that sentiment that I’ve been trying to discuss- that “sense,” “emotion,” or “conclusion,” based on scripture, that missionary people tend to wrestle with. I was curious as to how you might counsel them. Your answer has been “if you want to go, go. If you don’t, don’t.” That is very straightforward. I do interact with many missionaries, though, and they often struggle with the decision to move overseas. Some call it “feeling led.” Others refer to it as “God’s call.” This is the spiritual factor I’m referring to. Not many see it in the clear terms you seem to.

    I do not know anyone who would say that this “direction from God” is “revelation.” I think many of them would be surprised to hear that there are Christian people who don’t seek (at least maybe when selecting a spouse, buying a home, or considering missionary service) some sort of insight from the Holy Spirit.

    I did not and would not presume to know anything about you, your calling, or where you live. I apologize if anything I’ve written communicated otherwise. Please do not take offense!

    I appreciate your perspective here, and I have found our interaction to be enlightening. Thank you!

  21. I am not offended.

    If you meant to say that “many Christians who claim to have ‘heard’ from the Holy Spirit (perhaps verbally, perhaps otherwise) find this interaction with God to be consistent with how God has communicated with His people in history,” why didn’t you say that instead of saying “said” in Acts 13:2 means something other than “said.” I understand that Christians today use “said” to mean something else; but I thought we were talking about the biblical text, not people’s opinions.

    I take the fact that you ignore my request for evidence in support of your claim about the SBC to mean that you don’t actually have any evidence in support of your claim about the SBC. If I am wrong about this, please provide the evidence.

    I would counsel a potential missionary and everyone else who ever comes to me for counsel to never make any decision based upon emotion. I will ask again, do you believe that God communicates to us through our emotions?

    Can you explain to me how insight from the Holy Spirit does not constitute revelation? We have had this discussion before, and you said that revelation is about God and that illumination (possibly the same as insight?) is about us. I then provided you with biblical examples of revelation being about us, with which you agreed. So, please tell me how insight is different from revelation.

    How can you say that you did not and would not presume to know anything about me when you use the following phrases in reference to me?

    “You must not have much experience with . . . ”

    “Surely you’re away that . . . ”

    “Perhaps your lack of familiarity with . . . ”

    “It may surprise you that . . . ”

    That wasn’t a rhetorical question. I really want to know how you can honestly claim to not make presumptions about me while using this kind of language.

  22. One more question. What do you mean by, “I have found our interaction to be enlightening”? What exactly has our interaction enlightened for you?

  23. Jason,
    Again, my comments about the Acts 13 passage were intended to show that people, even speakers of ancient Greek, use the word “said” to mean things other than “spoke audibly.” So when people do that today (by using “God told me”), they can reasonably see their personal experience as being consistent with what they read in the scriptures.

    I’m not sure what sort of “evidence” you’re asking for regarding the SBC. All Southern Baptist churches are autonomous, but many churches operate democratically and determine how they should respond to what they read in scripture by holding a vote.

    For more Southern Baptist perspectives on the leadership of the Holy Spirit, I would point you to Henry Blackaby’s influential book, Experiencing God, in which he teaches that “God speaks by the Holy Spirit through the Bible, prayer, circumstances, and the church to reveal Himself, His purposes, and His ways.” This same philosophy is also endorsed by Avery Willis in the book he co-authored with Willis, “On Mission With God.” Influential SBC pastor Charles Stanley has often taught that the the Holy Spirit guides Christians by “speaking” to them.

    By the way, my assertion that all Christians participate in God’s mission is Southern Baptist Missiology. See Article 11 of the Baptist Faith and Message (2000 edition) for the exact wording.

    Personally, I believe that Scripture is God’s revelation of Himself to man. But I believe He guides our obedience (helps us make choices that align with His will) through the Holy Spirit. This is done in accordance with scripture, but by various means, including the hearing of the Word, prayer, circumstances, and the church. I have come to these conclusions based on my reading of scripture.

    Guidance from Spirit is not extra biblical revelation because it doesn’t add to what’s be revealed about God in the scriptures. It does, however, show us how we ought to respond to Him. The response isn’t universal– we see that we are all gifted differently and “called” to different functions, roles, and ministries in the church. I believe God uses spiritual means beyond our logic or personal preferences to show us how and where to obey Him.

    I did and do apologize for my statements that sounded as though I knew anything about you. I was attempting to respond to your comments in a kind, or even silly way (“You don’t know of any churches that consider majority vote to be God’s guidance? You must not know any Southern Baptists!). That was not meant to assume that you did or did not, in fact, posses any familiarity with the Southern Baptist Convention.

    “Surely you’re aware…” was me not trying to sounds condescending while stating something that seemed rather obvious.

    “Perhaps your lack of familiarity with…” was my response to your comment “I am not aware of any church that…” And “your unwillingness to read” was based on your statement that you would not read Wright, Bosch, etc.

  24. I have found our interaction enlightening in that I am learning how the cessationist views Christianity. As I mentioned, I rarely have the opportunity to interact with someone like you (even in our reformed circles, most tend to be more of a “charismatic reformed.”

    Here’s what I’ve learned from our interaction:
    –You believe that the Bible is God’s complete revelation for man, and that there is no further revelation.
    –You believe that claims of “guidance from the Spirit” amount to “secret, mystical knowledge.”
    – You believe Christians should rely on logic to interpret the scriptures.
    – You are extremely literal in your communication and understanding. If I’m going to communicate with you, I probably need to put more effort into clarifying what I’m not saying.

  25. Goodman,

    I can no longer follow what you are saying in regards to Acts 13:2. First, you claimed to be talking about “said” in Acts 13:2. Then, you claimed to be talking about the way some people today use “said.” Now, you are saying that you are talking about “said” in Acts 13:2 again. I don’t know what you are talking about anymore. We might just have to accept that we are unable to communicate effectively with each other on this issue.

    I was explicit in the kind of evidence I was asking for. In fact, I don’t know how I could be more explicit. I said, “Please show me where it is written in any confession of faith or in any by-laws of any SBC congregation that God reveals his secret will through the congregational vote.” The sort of evidence I am looking for is a statement made by any SBC congregation that it believes God reveals his secret will through a congregational vote. My request cannot be any more clear.

    I know that congregational churches make decisions based upon a congregational vote. That is not what I am questioning. I am questioning your assertion that these churches believe God is revealing his will to them through the vote.

    Did I not say, “Don’t tell me about a baptist who uses the “God said” language. I am not talking about individual SBC members. I am talking about the SBC as a whole.”? Yet, you have told me about three individual baptists who use “God said” language. Why do you do this?

    I am well aware that the SBC and many other churches believe that “It is the duty and privilege of every follower of Christ and of every church of the Lord Jesus Christ to endeavor to make disciples of all nations.” They are free to hold this opinion. You, however, have taken it a step further by saying that someone who is not involved with what you define as “God’s mission” is not a real Christian.

    I asked you to explain to me how receiving insight from the Holy Spirit does not constitute revelation. You responded by saying, “Guidance from Spirit is not extra biblical revelation because it doesn’t add to what’s been revealed about God in the scriptures.” Why do you argue in circles like this? We have already covered this issue, and you agreed that revelation is not always about God. Now, you are back to saying that it is always about God. I don’t know how to communicate with people who say different things at different times.

    You keep saying things that you have to go back and say that you didn’t really say. It would be really helpful for me if you would just say what you mean instead of saying that I must not know anything about SBC churches when what you really mean is that you don’t know whether or not I know anything about SBC churches. Can you see how your use of language can be confusing for those of us trying to understand what you are communicating?

    I am really interested in the answer, so I will ask this question for the third time. Do you believe that God communicates to us through our emotions?

  26. Goodman,

    What you say you have learned from our interaction is true. I have said all of those things, except for maybe the last one. I see myself as precise, not literal.

    You don’t need to put more effort into clarifying what you are not saying. All you have to do is not say what you are not saying.

  27. Jason,
    Are you trying to understand me, or are you trying to pick apart my “argument?” I’ve said a great many things throughout this conversation, and no single comment reflects the entirety of my perspective.

    We were talking about Christians seeking guidance from the Holy Spirit (originally, I brought it up in the context of mission). Through our interaction, I tried to show that 1) God spoke to individuals in history, and 2) that people today who seek the guidance of the Holy Spirit see this behavior as consistent with what we read in Scripture. I specifically gave the examples of Acts 9, 13, and 16 because those are often mentioned in discussions of God’s leadership in mission.

    From there, I came to realize your literal use and interpretation of the words we were using in our discussion. I tried to show that few people who say, “God told me” really mean “I heard God’s audible voice.” I attempted to show that the word “said” can mean communication by any number of means, and that this was true in modern English (both your version of it and mine) and in ancient Greek. The reason I pointed this out was to explain how someone can say, “God told me” and not mean “though an audible voice” but still in accordance with the scriptures. I’m not sure this summary of my side of the conversation will provide any more clarity on what I mean, but I’ve given it a try. Now, you can read back through all of my comments thus far looking for inconsistencies in my use of English or you can believe me that what I’m writing here is what I meant to say.

    Because Southern Baptist Churches are autonomous, there is no good way to talk about what he SBC as a whole believes apart from the Baptist Faith and Message. It says that “Each congregation operates under the Lordship of Christ through democratic processes.” My experience is that (usually in hindsight), a church would consider the majority vote to be God’s will for that church. I do not have any documentation in support of that. Instead, even though you told me not to, I gave what I thought were three good examples of Southern Baptist philosophies regarding the leadership of the Holy Spirit. I find these to be both reflective of and influential upon many SBC churches’ beliefs and actions.

    I have indeed gone a step further than the Southern Baptist statement on mission. In the absence of a comprehensive Southern Baptist missiology, I’m attempting to pull compile one through my study of scripture and reading of influential missiologists. It is my conclusion that any disciple who thinks he can sit out the mission of God misunderstands his place in this world. I think he is a bad Christian if he is one at all.

    I’m not trying to argue in circles. I’m trying to restate in other words what I’ve already said in hopes that I might somehow succeed in communicating with you. Here, I’ll try again: Revelation is what God wants us to know about Him, and we have, in the canon of scripture, all that we need. In the Bible, some revelation is about what He wanted specific people to do. Today, He spiritually illuminates the Scripture (“makes the scriptures make sense”) to us. The Spirit “guides us” in life (and mission) by showing us how what He’s said should affect our lives.

    I can see how my use of language can be confusing for people like you. One would think that, after all this time writing and talking about these things, I would be better at it. I’m sorry that

    I do not believe that God communicates to us strictly through our emotions. I do believe He may use our emotions (passion, desire, “seeming,” “feeling,” compassion, love, joy) to help us understand what the Bible means and what we are to do about it.

  28. Goodman,

    Thank you for using more precise language. This is very helpful for me. I am trying to understand what you are saying. I can’t pick apart your argument without understanding what you are saying; so even if that is what I wanted to do, I would first have to understand what you are saying.

    I got confused when you linked Acts 13:2 with the way God communicates non-audibly today and also said that Acts 13:2 wasn’t necessarily non-audible communication. Thanks for clarifying. I think I have a better idea of your position now.

    Since there is no evidence that any SBC church believes that God reveals his secret will through the congregational vote, I am going to continue to operate under the assumption that no SBC church believes that God reveals his secret will through the congregational vote.

    When you say that a real Christian must participate in God’s mission, would you consider tithing to be participation in God’s mission? The tithe is what pays the salary of evangelists and missionaries. So in that sense, everyone would be participating in some way. If that is what you mean by participating, then you and I are in agreement.

    It seems to me that you are arguing in circles because you are defending your position by restating your position in different words. I understand that you believe God telling a person (audibly or otherwise) to move to India does not constitute new revelation. I want to know why this does not constitute new revelation. You even said in your last comment, “In the Bible, some revelation is about what He wanted specific people to do.” Now, though, you are saying that when God tells specific people what he wants them to do, it does not constitute revelation. Why do you believe it is revelation in once instance and not revelation in another instance?

    I did not ask if you believe God communicates strictly through our emotions. Does he, at times, communicate to us through the emotions we experience? This was my question. You say that he uses our emotions “to help us understand what the Bible means and what we are to do about it.” We can use “uses” instead of “communicates through” if you like. Does God use all of our emotions all the time? If not, how does a person know whether or not God is using the emotions he is currently experiencing?

  29. Jason,
    Assuming that the church uses some of that tithe to overcome barriers with the gospel, I would indeed consider tithing as participation on mission. That puts us in agreement? Even with the strongly-worded-yet-not-condemning-anyone-to-hell statement: “This is the mission of the church, and if you’re not involved, you’re not a true disciple of Jesus?”

    The reason “God telling a person to go to India” isn’t “new revelation” is that Scripture is complete. It is the standard for what is normative today; what happens today is not the standard for, well, anything. In other words, God’s interaction with humans in the Bible was “revelation” because it shows all people everywhere who He is and what He expects of us. His interaction with humans today won’t reveal anything new about God (that hasn’t already been revealed in scripture), but may provide insight into how what he’s already said in scripture applies to the life of an individual or church. That interaction is not binding (and may not even be applicable) to other believers. At any rate, Scripture is our standard and serves as the lens through which all experience must be interpreted.

    In this way, the scriptures help us interpret our emotions. To answer your question, yes, God can use our emotions to guide us. If someone is, say, “feeling led” to do something that contradicts or is discordant with scripture, those emotions are not from God. It helps that we are in community (the church) which holds us accountable to Scripture.

  30. We are in agreement that all Christians should be involved with the mission of the Church so long as tithing qualifies as involvement in the mission of the Church. I believe all Christians should tithe. Therefore, I believe all Christians should be involved in the mission of the Church. However, I recognize that some people disagree with my on the issue of tithing, and I won’t call someone a not-true disciple or a not-real Christian for doing so.

    You have again stated that God’s interaction with humans in the Bible constitutes revelation and that his interaction with humans today does not constitute revelation. I understand that this is your position. What I want to know is why it is revelation when God tells Jonah to go to Nineveh but not revelation when God tells me to go to India. What God said to Jonah is not binding or applicable to anyone but Jonah. What God said to me is not binding or applicable to anyone but me. The only difference between the two instances is the date on the calendar. Is it the date that makes one thing revelation and the other thing not revelation?

    Are all emotions that don’t contradict Scripture from God?

  31. The canon of Scripture is closed (after the Apostolic Age), so our experience should not be regarded as part of God’s revelation. I think specifically of the multiple uses in Hebrews of the idea, “In time past, God spoke in various ways, but now He has spoken through His Son.” The writings of the Apostles’ was revelation about Jesus. After they died, the revelation was complete.

    God’s instruction to Jonah to go to Nineveh was specific to Jonah, but it is applicable to us today. It is revelation in that accounts like those are how we, God’s people, learn how God interacts with us. Those encounters with God set the standard for all the experiences that were to come. So when I feel called by the Spirit to move to Western Europe to implore people to turn to God, I can see the parallels between my story and Jonah’s. Hopefully, I will have learned from Jonah’s experience that God is sovereign, that I should listen and obey from the start, and that God doesn’t always do what we expect Him to.

    I don’t think all of our emotions are “from God.” We can feel happy, sad, or content all by ourselves. I do think that he uses emotions and feelings as tools to lead us, though. Conviction of sin, for example, is often accompanied by contrition– an emotion– that God uses to call us to turn from that sin. I would say that emotions, (or logic, for that matter) should not be trusted by themselves. But I believe God uses them to compel us to obedience and to godliness (as defined in Scripture).

  32. So, your position is that the instances of God speaking to people that are recorded in the Bible constitute revelation while the instances of God speaking to people today don’t constitute revelation. The reason that the former constitutes revelation is because it is in the Bible, and the reason the latter does not constitute revelation is because it is not in the Bible? That is not an argument I would be willing to stand on, but you are certainly welcome to if you want.

    If some of our emotions are from God and some of them are not, how can we know which ones are from God and which one aren’t?

  33. Jason,
    I think you almost get my meaning. Except that I would say that the Biblical accounts of God speaking to people qualifies as revelation because the Apostles were around to tell us what Jesus taught about those things. Their endorsement of the writings we now call Scripture make them revelation.

    We can know which emotions are being used by God when we repent of sin and “delight ourselves in Him.” When those emotions point us to scripture, and our community of faith can help us interpret the emotions.

  34. Goodman,

    Maybe you can help me. I am a missionary, and I really feel like I should stay in the field in obedience to the Great Commission. Proclaiming the gospel has to the ends of the earth has been a great passion of mine for years. I love it here, and I feel like I have been called here. However, I also really feel like I should return to my homeland because my children are not safe here and because they are at an age when I can no longer effectively homeschool them. I feel like I need to make their safety and education a priority in order to be a responsible father. Is God telling me to both remain in the field and return home? Is he telling me to remain in the field? Is he telling me to move home? How do I know which feeling is from him?

  35. Jason,
    This is a good case study for discussion, mainly because it is very realistic. Many missionaries find themselves in these sorts of predicaments.

    To start, I would encourage you to pray. You’d probably already be praying, but I’d hate to assume. Spending time alone with Jesus can reveal where sin in our lives may stand in the way of our mental and emotional clarity.

    Then, I’d take you to scripture. There are clear scriptural bases for serving as a missionary. There are clear biblical expectations that we manage our households well. At any rate, we would revisit these because Scripture is our authority for any decisions we make and serve as the filter through which we interpret priorities, values, and feelings.

    Then I’d talk about wise counsel. Have you spoken with your pastor about this? What did he say? What about your missionary team? Are they recommending that you return to the States? This shores up the system of “checks and balances” that God prescribes for His people (the church). Oftentimes, God guides us through our spiritual leaders and community of faith.

    Next, we’d revisit your “calling.” How did you initially make the decision to come to the field? What did your church affirm about your gifting? What did they send you to do? What commitments have you made (to God, sending church, team, nationals, etc.)? These help us understand the ramifications of this decision. Sometimes, remembering what God has done in our lives helps give us clarity.

    Then we’d talk about what has changed about your circumstances that would cause you to question what you’ve been doing up to this point. It sounds like the children are growing up, and your safety is being challenged. But God would have known about that when he called you to the field, right? Getting the circumstances (which usually are the source of the stress) in perspective can be helpful. God sometimes uses our circumstances to lead us from one thing to another. If local authorities, for example, are kicking you out of the country, we would trust that God is allowing this to happen and take it as His leadership that it’s time for a change.

    As you prayerfully weighed the decision, we would ask God for help in making the decision. We’d consider the factors I’ve mentioned, and ask God for peace (the emotion), unity (if you’re married) between spouses and family members, and courage to act (even if it’s unpopular or uncomfortable) in determining the best option.

    I think all of these factors are how God leads his people in decisions like the one you pose.

  36. How does “spending time alone with Jesus reveal where sin in our lives may stand in the way of our mental and emotional clarity”? Will he communicate to me again through my emotions? If so, how will I know which emotions he is using to communicate which emotions he is using to communicate to me?

    How does my pastor know which of my emotions God is using? How does my missionary team know which of my emotions God is using? Does God communicate to them through their emotions? If so, how do they know which emotions God is using to communicate to them which of my emotions he is using to communicate to me?

    My calling consisted of me feeling like I should go and then discussing it with my elders. They observed the proper gifts in me and commissioned me and sent me. I made a four year commitment, which has just been completed.

    There are two circumstances that have changed. One is that my children are older and have different needs. The other is that my language ability has advanced significantly leading to many opportunities to share the gospel.

    As I pray for help in making the decision, how will I know that the peace I have about a certain decision is from God? Furthermore, how will I know when I experience this emotion of peace? I thought peace was the freedom from or cessation of war or violence. How does this become an emotion that I feel?

    One of my children wants to go. One wants to stay. My wife has a peace about staying and about going. My elders at home believe I should return. My missionary team believes I should stay.

  37. Ah! I missed out on this dynamic thread…until now. I would agree – referring to a past comment – this conversation has been enlightening. I, too, rarely (if ever?!) get to converse with others in a way that doesn’t lead to “the dive” very quickly. I’m glad that didn’t ultimately happen here, though it was “enlightening” to be the subject of a dive earlier. Truly!

    I’m realizing in your discussion – between you two – how my perspective differs. But I’m working that out in my mind now, and am not able to comment fully. Just to say I do believe “revelation” still happens, but not in the sense of adding or detracting from the Scriptures. And by revelation I’m not talking about emotions or what other people confirm.

    Thanks again, both of you, for letting me be a third party. What’s the phrase? Third wheel?

  38. I suppose by “spending time alone with God,” I mean an intentional “shutting the door” (as in Matthew 6). This would include confessing sin, and it is during these times the God often brings to mind unrepentant sin. Confession and repentance bring us closer in our relationship to God.

    The accountability you have from pastors and the mission team may relate to their own emotions, but it’s just as likely to be based on experience, insight, perspective, or differences in gifting. One might say, “Your emotions are in line with this passage of scripture.” Another might say, “We went through something similar, and here’s what we learned…”

    Furthermore, this community of faith may help you think through creative solutions to your problem. Perhaps a short return to the States to get a break and consult with an education consultant would help? Maybe the church needs to send a teacher to support the team. If safety is a concern, perhaps a move to another city is in order. God can guide the team through the ideas of team members.

    Scripture is full of examples of God using our emotions in His interactions with us.

    We know from Scripture that some emotions are never from God. Anxiety, for example, worry, and fear, are not from God. The fruit of the Spirit, though includes emotions like love, joy, peace, and patience that affect our behavior. The Holy Spirit Himself is referred to as “Comforter.” Of course, His role has little to do with our physical comfort; the Spirit brings spiritual and emotional comfort, even in the face of trials and difficulties.

    2 Corinthians 7:8-11 refers to a “godly grief” which “produces repentance.” It doesn’t provide insight in how we might distinguish it from “worldly grief” other than that one leads to salvation and the other to death.

    You received your calling through “feeling like you should go” and your elders sending you. Now, you’re whether you should be there anymore, and it sounds as though your elders have changed their minds about you being there.

    Your definition of peace seems to differ from the “peace of God” we read about in Philippians 4:6-7  that will “guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.” This is clearly not a reference to an absence of war or violence, but rather an internal sort of peace. Anyone who has experienced struggle recognizes peace.

    The division in your household would make the decision that much more difficult. The differences between the opinions of your team and elders would also complicate the situation. In such a case, everyone involved should defer to the authority of the elders.

    I want to stress that I’m not talking about relying on our emotions. I read an article once that put it this way: our emotions are a gauge– not a guide– when it comes to following the leadership of the Spirit.

  39. Jason,
    Yes, but probably not in the way many people might think.

    I believe He has a will that He be glorified among the nations (Psalm 46:10). In this sense, God is orchestrating the means He has ordained (the Church) to accomplish His purposes (His glory) among the peoples of the earth. This “will” does not depend on our obedience. It will be accomplished.

    So when we talk about “seeking God’s guidance” or “following the Spirit on mission,” we’re essentially looking for God to show us how to act on what He’s already said in Scripture as we engage in His mission.

    As I’ve written before, God’s people are on mission. Once we’ve been obediently joined Him in the mission through our conversion, we have freedom to participate in various ways. In one sense, we can just do what we like. But because He goes with us, and because He knows the hearts of men, we seek His leadership every step of the way (as we’ve already discussed).

    These aren’t questions of personal holiness; it may not necessarily be sin for you to stay on the mission field or to leave it. But I think there are consequences to our actions. We often miss out on what God is doing in His mission (by failing to seek guidance, for example, or by acting in our own power).

    Philip was led by God’s messenger to Gaza. He obeyed, and there found the Ethiopian reading Isaiah. God was expanding His Kingdom to include the Ethiopians, and Philip had the privilege of taking the gospel to the first convert (that we know of) among them.

    Likewise, the Apostle Paul, abandoned his plans to preach the gospel in Asia when God showed him a vision of the Macedonian man. Might God have used Paul in Asia? Yes. Paul certainly saw great need and opportunity to be on mission there. But God gave Paul and opportunity to be on the front lines of what He was doing to bring a gentile nation to saving knowledge of Himself.

    The vast majority of Christian mission is done in a handful of places. Are these efforts sin? I don’t think so. Are they in vain? Not as long as they’re proclaiming the gospel in efforts to make disciples. But we may be missing out on what God is doing among the peoples of other places. We suffer consequences (dependence, apathy, cultural “christianity”) when we don’t follow the Spirit on His mission.

  40. Goodman,

    You say that “God is orchestrating the means He has ordained (the Church) to accomplish His purposes (His glory) among the peoples of the earth.” In English, to ordain something is to order or decree it. So what you have said is that God has ordered or decreed the means by which he will be glorified among the nations. If he has decreed something, that something is his will. The will of God is that which he has decreed will take place. When he reveals that which he has decreed will take place, what we have is the orthodox definition of revelation. The vast majority of Scripture is the revelation of God’s will. Whenever God reveals his will, it constitutes revelation whether it is written in the Bible or not.

    So when you said in the your original article, The Spirit Incognito, that you don’t know whether God as a specific will for us as believers, what you meant was that God has decreed the means by which he will be glorified among the nations? I am starting to get used to you something something other than what you mean.

    When we seek God’s leadership, is it this decree to which he leads us? If so, then we are seeking the revelation of his decree or his will. If this decree is not that to which he leads us, why not? If he has decreed the best decision for me to make, I want to know what it is.

    If it really is just a choice between two good things, going home or staying, how can there be consequences for doing a good thing? Why do I become dependent if I go home, and on what would I become dependent? How would I become apathetic as a result of my decision? Doesn’t cultural Christianity exist in both locations? Won’t I experience it regardless of whether I go or stay? What do these things have to do with my decision? They seem totally unrelated.

    You say that “Scripture is full of examples of God using our emotions in His interactions with us.” Can you provide one biblical example of God using a person’s emotions to communicate an objective truth, a truth such as God wanting me to go or to stay?

    Do you really believe that the fruit of the Spirit is an emotion? When Scripture tells me to love my wife, do you really believe that it is telling me to experience an emotion for her?

    Love is not an emotion. Peace is not an emotion. It could be the lack of anxiety, but the lack of an emotion is not an emotion. Patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control are not emotions. I don’t even believe that joy is an emotion. I only rejoice when I choose to rejoice, and I can rejoice regardless of the emotions I may be experiencing at the time. Joy is the state of being I am in when I choose to rejoice. Happiness is an emotion. I can feel happy, but that does not mean I will be joyful. I can also feel sad and angry but still be joyful. The fruit of the Spirit is not an emotion.

    Your doctrine of guidance is totally foreign to me and many other Christians not because we don’t seek the leadership of the Holy Spirit. Your doctrine of guidance is totally foreign to us because your understanding of human behavior and God’s interaction with man is totally foreign to us. You and I don’t agree on what human emotions are. We don’t agree on a definition of revelation. We don’t agree on the interpretation of simple things in the Bible such as, “The Holy Spirit said.” Your doctrine of guidance is based on a whole series of presuppositions on which we disagree. Therefore, we will never agree on anything that comes after the presuppositions. If you are convinced by your doctrine of guidance, I would encourage you to live it out to the best of your ability, but I would also encourage you to recognize your doctrine of guidance as a non-essential issue and not expect everyone else to agree with your doctrine of guidance.

  41. Jason,

    You disappoint me.

    Here we were, in the midst of a thought-provoking discussion of missiology, and you simply give up. I was certain that you were more capable than this; it’s why I suffered our interaction thus far.

    Now, rather than engaging with theological substance, you’ve resorted to wasting my time with comments like this one. Besides the arrogance of presuming to give me a lesson in the English language, you deliberately select one (lesser-used) definition of a word I’ve used and assign the most absurdly literal meaning to my entire comment. I would hope this isn’t an attempt on your part to distort my comments.

    In English– we’re being precise, remember?– “ordain” can mean several things. With my use of the word here, I meant the first and most common of definitions, “to appoint or establish.” In the sense I was using the word, the church is the means God has established to accomplish His will among the nations.

    Rather than trying to catch me in some grammatical inconsistency, why not respond to what I’ve said? Do you or do you not believe that God has established the church as the means by which He will be glorified among the nations?

    In my original article, The Spirit Incommunicado, I wrote that I didn’t know whether God has a “specific will” for us. “Specific will” is a theological term that refers to God’s perspective on personal things like who we should marry or where we should live. Saying that God has a “will” for the salvation of men from every nation is something entirely different. God’s will for the nations is that people from every tribe, tongue, and nation would be saved. If you, for whatever reason, don’t serve among the nations, His will for those people groups is not challenged whatsoever.

    Seeking God’s leadership is in accordance with Romans 8:14 (“For all who are being led by the Spirit of God, these are sons of God”). If this offends you, your offense is with Scripture, not me. It’s also in agreement with Galatians 5:8 (“But if you are led by the Spirit, you are not under the law.”). You’re free to choose to remain under the law, but I find the mission to be too important for that.

    You ask me to provide a biblical example of God using a person’s emotions “to communicate an objective truth.” But you’ve ignored my reference to 2 Corinthians 7:8-11, which clearly states that there is a “godly grief which produces repentance.” Or is “grief” not an emotion in your book?

    Luke 10 has a good example of God’s guidance. Jesus told the 72 that they would know to stay in a particular place “if a son of peace is there, your peace will rest upon him. But if not, it will return to you.” This is the sort of “mystical” guidance God gives His people on His mission.

    You may want to argue about whether love, joy, and peace are emotions or not (in English– since we’re giving lessons– they are defined as “feelings”), but I’m not interested in that. I’m interested in talking about how God leads and guides His people on His mission. I thought you were interested in this as well, but I’ve given several biblical examples of God spiritually leading people on mission and you’ve failed to engage in honest discussion about any of them.

    Your comments have proven to me (and to any remaining readers of my blog,) that despite the fact that you frequently brandish the word “orthodox,” you are not willing to discuss Scriptural implications for sending. You talk about my presuppositions, but fail to acknowledge the modernistic rationalism of your perspective. Whether my doctrine of guidance of the Spirit is foreign to “many Christians” is irrelevant; I’m trying to have a conversation with you, pastor, about what you believe.

    I’m genuinely interested in understanding your position, but all I’ve gotten from you is nitpicking. Which is why I’ve written this comment to reflect the tone and voice you’ve used with me from the beginning. Aggressive, condescending, and rhetorical seem to be the dialects that you prefer.

  42. Goodman,

    Sorry to disappoint you.

    I am not giving up. I am simply observing that we are failing to communicate with each other on the most basic level. Are you really suffering through this?

    Sorry to waste your time. I thought I was engaging with theological substance.

    We can use whichever definition of “ordain” that you want. To “appoint” or “establish” means essentially the same thing as to “order” or “decree” something. I was not attempting to distort your comments. I was trying to understand your comments. But I do appreciate the accusation of arrogance. It’s always nice when personal accusations come out during a theological discussion.

    I have responded to what you have said. Of course I believe the Church is the means through which the gospel is preached to the world. You are the one who has not answered my question. I asked you if you believe that God has a will regarding whether I go home or stay on the field, and you answered by saying that the Church is the means that God has ordained to accomplish his purposes. What does that have to do with whether I go or stay? Are you saying that God does have a will or does not have a will regarding whether I go or stay?

    Seeking God’s leadership is clearly biblical. I have said this numerous times. Seeking God’s leadership does not offend me. Scripture does not offend me. Seeking God’s leadership is not the issue. The issue is the way in which we seek God’s leadership. You do it one way. I do it another way.

    Who said anything about wanting to live under the law? I have no idea why you have brought this up. What does this have to do with our discussion?

    I asked you for a biblical example of God using a person’s emotions to communicate an objective truth. You told me that grief leads to repentance. Are you saying that repentance is an objective truth that God is revealing through grief? What is the truth of repentance that is revealed through this grief?

    I have already told you about my understanding of “peace.” You can interpret that passage how you like, but I don’t believe peace is an emotion. This is a good example of how we are failing to communicate on a basic level.

    I am surprised to hear you say that I have failed to engage in honest discussion about the issues you have raised. Does this mean you think my discussion has been dishonest? I mentioned the fruit of the Spirit because you mentioned it in the context of God leading his people on mission through their emotions and claimed that the fruit of the Spirit is emotion. I did not realize that I would be accused of dishonest discussion if I addressed this issue. When you bring up an issue in the future, can you tell me if I am permitted to address that issue? If there are rules of engagement here, I don’t know what they are.

    I don’t understand how you can say that I am not willing to have a discussion after we have had this long discussion. At this point, I am not willing to accept your doctrine of guidance, but that does not mean I am unwilling to have a discussion.

    I did talk about your presuppositions, but did I say anything negative about your presuppositions? Did I say that you shouldn’t have them? No. I simply acknowledged that we disagree on the presuppositions. Everyone has presuppositions. I certainly do. Why do you have to lash out and accuse me of modernistic rationalism simply because I acknowledge that fact that you have presuppositions? The term “modernism” implies the rejection of the supernatural. Are you accusing me of rejecting the supernatural?

    I am surprised to hear you define everything I have said as “nitpicking.” I am trying to be precise. If that is nitpicking to you, so be it.

    I prefer the dialect in which precise communication conveys actual meaning and leads to authentic understanding. Such communication has proven to be difficult. I have been asking you question after question in order to understand your position. You actually articulated your doctrine of guidance more clearly than I have ever heard anyone articulate it before. You have had the opportunity to state your position repeatedly. I decided it was time to state my position in my last comment in order to provide contrast with your position. Then, you start calling me names and making accusations. I am not giving up. I am willing to talk with you as much as you would like, but I am acknowledging that we are failing to communicate on a basic level.

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