BOOK REVIEW: When God talks

As a pastor with a Pentecostal persuasion, I cannot tell you how many times I get asked the question, does God speak to us today? I have been asked in a variety of different ways. Whether it is being asked the question directly or when people ask me to speak in tongues on command, people are curious about crazy Evangelicals who believe in an active and living God.

Tanya Luhrmann, in her book When God Talks Back: Understanding the American Evangelical Relationship with God, tries to understand how people that are seemingly normal believe in the miraculous and supernatural. While Luhrmann who is a trained social scientist tries to describe this phenomenon and I applaud her approach, I do feel she tries to paint with a very broad brush. First, she attempts to lump all Evangelicals in the same category. However, not all Evangelicals are created equal. Not all Pentecostal/charismatics are the same as well, so her work is expansive. While I could critique much of her work, I do think there is much value to gain from her as a pastor.

Many of the questions I get regarding these issues are generally coming from a pure place. A friend of mine ask these questions quite a bit. As I have patiently answered his questions, I have realized that he has been spiritually abused, and it has left him doubting which troubles me greatly. As a pastor, we are to shepherd the people of God and not abuse them. Ezekiel had a strong warning for the religious rulers during his day, and I am afraid we could use another warning.

Now, please do not get me wrong, I believe that God speaks to us today. Whether it is a nudging, a prompting, or at times even in dreams, the reality is our God is supernatural. He is not within nature and does not necessarily operate within the confines of that nature. In other words, he is transcendent. However, that being said, he does confine himself within the revealed word of God. Therefore, I believe every word, dream, nudging or prompting needs to be viewed in light of the Holy Scriptures. When we fail to do this and fail to teach our congregants to do this, then we open Pandora ’s Box within our church. This seems to be what Paul is trying to address in Corinthians which was running wild.

While I am someone who believes that God can and will speak, I also believe that we have a responsibility to steward those moments. We also should be careful never to elevate experiences over the Word. It is often a delicate balance. Often times, it can be messy and cumbersome. We should not be afraid of these moments, but ask God to help us navigate the moment. We serve a supernatural and living God. He is never fully understood nor embraced by those who do not believe in Him, and neither are those that follow Him. Therefore, I believe we should lean into the supernatural but have clear lines that we do not cross.