AGR: With Chris Gordon On “Still, Small Voices”

It is widely thought among Christians that God is still revealing himself to believers apart from Scripture. It is not at all uncommon for a Christian to say, “I believe in Scripture alone” (sola Scriptura) in one breath and “The Lord told me”—meaning to claim that he received a direct revelation from the Spirit apart from Scripture— in the next. Chris Gordon and I discuss this question today on Abounding Grace Radio.

Here is the episode.

AGR is online and on the air:

Daily Broadcast Schedule
7:00 AM and 7 PM on GraceRadio 107.9 FM (Modesto,CA),
4:00 PM on KPRZ 1210 AM (San Diego, CA),
4:00 PM on KPDQ 800 AM (Portland/Salem, OR)
4:00 PM on KRDU 1130 AM (Fresno, CA),
4:30 PM on KARI 550 AM (Northwest WA and Lower Mainland of B.C.)
KVOH out of Zambia into the larger African continent.

7:30 PM (Sundays) on CJFW 103.1 FM Terrace B.C.
8:30 AM and 9:30 PM (Sundays) on CFIS 93.1 FM (Prince George, B.C.)

Subscribe to the Heidelblog today!


  1. Excellent. With most exaggeration, one of the greatest days in my life was finding out that the “still small voice” in my head was just me.

    • Great episode! However, what does all this mean for God (supernaturally) directing us in His providence? If the devil can put a thought in my mind (and I believe he can), can’t God? For example, I once lost my car keys, looked everywhere, including the washing machine. The next day, I got a strong prompting to look in the washing machine, and I was almost annoyed with the thought. Yet I looked there, and lo and behold there it was, stuck in the rubber seal of the door opening…
      In a Venn diagram, I would put this outside of circles labelled ‘extra-canonical revelation,’ ‘private interpretation of prophecy,’ or ‘a private receiving of revelation with the authority of inspiration.’ Yet it has to be put somewhere: how would we label this category of thought?

      • Wim,

        Let’s start with the premise of your question. Traditionally “supernatural” was the category we used to understand and talk about the miraculous, e.g., the flood, the Red Sea, Christ’s miracles, and the resurrection.

        The Reformed theologians wrote about the ordinary and extraordinary providence of God. Most of life, including answers to prayer, come under God’s ordinary providence. The problem comes when we try to turn the ordinary into the extraordinary. When I lose my keys (which happens far too often) that is the ordinary course of things in this life. If I find them, that’s a blessing and a happy answer to prayer. If I should not find them, that too is God’s ordinary providence and I must submit to his will and also learn to be more attentive to where I put I keys. Perhaps I need to get one of those things that let’s my phone find them? Indeed, one of my children gave me such a device. That too is an answer to prayer. When a person is ill and we pray for mercy and a physician is able to help. That’s an answer to prayer. We do not expect the Lord to remove the illness without any medical help. That would be extraordinary and, though the Lord is entirely capable of doing extraordinary things, we have no clear promise in Scripture that he will do it.

        This distinction helps us to be careful in how we interpret the ordinary providence of God. If I find my keys, that’s not a miracle or a wonder. It is a blessing. If I do not find my keys, that is a hard providence but it is also an answer to prayer. You speak of a “prompting.” That is an interesting word. This seems like the case we discussed in the broadcast. It seems like an attempt to turn the ordinary into the extraordinary, or even into the apostolic.

        Intuitions, guesses, and hunches are all part of the way we are wired. We need not re-describe them in supernatural, apostolic terms. It’s gratuitous to do so. Let’s allow the ordinary to be good. Let’s give thanks for the ordinary (regular) and ordained providence of God without turning it into the the spectacular or the miraculous.

        On this see Mike Horton’s book, Ordinary.

    • Dear Dr. Clark,
      You are probably my most valued ‘online teacher’ and I’m immensely grateful to the Lord for the Heidelblog. It is therefore with a measure of ‘fear and trembling’ that I respond. However, I think you’re slightly misinterpreting my anecdote. Let me explain.

      When I prayed that I would find the keys, I did not plead on any ‘clear promise in Scripture’ that He would show me—that’s not the issue. I also fail to see that if God put a thought into my mind in His providential care, that this may have anything to do with ‘apostolic,’ as you suggest. I’m merely saying that, though indeed ‘intuitions, guesses, and hunches are all part of the way we are wired,’ the thought of checking the washing machine a second time struck me as rather COUNTER-intuitive. It was a hunch to check the first time but not the second. Though the incident happened years ago, I still remember arguing annoyedly with this alien thought, telling myself on the way to the tumbler that I didn’t need to do this because I had already checked.

      I’ll leave it to the theologians to demarcate the boundaries between the miraculous, supernatural, and extraordinary. I grant that ‘supernatural’ was not the happiest term I could have come up with—I was merely thinking of something extraordinary coming from God, not suspending gravity law, but suspending the way my psyche ordinarily works. We agree that one should allow the ordinary to be good—yet I also allow the good to be extraordinary if the evidence leads in that direction. Was I really trying ‘to turn the ordinary into the extraordinary’? Reformed theology is robust enough to deal with the extraordinary, and to explain my answer to prayer as ordinary providence seems to me theologically unnecessary and pastorally unhelpful. Perhaps we need to do some more thinking in order to find a place in my Venn diagram that has nothing to do with canonical, apostolic, inspired, etc., but that does fully take into account the unusual nature of some experiences. I’m a Calvinist missionary in SE Asia, and in our zeal to avoid unhealthy pietism we can cause people to flee from the Reformed to the Charismatic/ Pentecostal camp. This is a pity—generally our Reformed view of God is not too small, but some facets of our theology might be.

      As an aside, when I was 21 I was renting a room and one day, as I was leaving the house, my landlady asked me to show her my hand. I did, and before I knew why, she had ‘read’ my palm and said I would have a long life and would marry at the age of 38. And the latter I did (and I assure you I didn’t stage that)! Why should the devil have all the extraordinary? Our God is an awesome God.

      Thank you, Dr. Clark, for taking the time to write your response. I think both our responses help clarify the issue a bit more for the reader.

  2. Such a helpful discussion about the sufficiency of Scripture in all our Christian life. The Word is a lamp to my feet, a light to my path. Psalm 119:105 When we go beyond the Word, we are walking in spiritual darkness.

  3. Sorry Wim, but if some people need Reformed theology to be accommodating to accept extra biblical revelation and divination, which is clearly condemned in Scripture, or they will flee to the Charismatic\Pentacostal camp, I say, let them go!

    • Dear Angela,
      I wasn’t making a case for divination… It was an argument a fortiori: if the devil can do extraordinary things, how much more can God!

      • Wim,

        The question is not what God can do.

        The question is whether an impression about where one’s keys are is “supernatural.” What is in question is the interpretation of our experience and the attempt to correlate it to the apostolic phenomena or even to make it supernatural.

        The mystery of Christ feeding us on his body & blood by the Spirit through faith. That’s a biblical promise of supernatural work. Regeneration by the Holy Spirit operating through the preaching of the gospel, that’s a divine promise of supernatural work. The moment by moment preservation of all things, that’s a wonderful work.

        Let’s rest in what he has actually promised. Let’s not go looking for more.

    • Actually Satan can do nothing that God does not allow. Satan was only allowed to go so far as God permitted in testing Job. All things are under God’s control.

      One of the main doctrines of Reformed theology is that God uses the ordinary means that He has established in the created world in normal providence. The extraordinary and the supernatural signs and wonders are reserved to authenticate God’s Word. By attributing supernatural and extraordinary intervention from God to our thoughts, we blur the distinction between the divine revelation of the Word and our own thoughts. That is why the Pietists, mocked the Reformers for depending on the dead letter of the written Word. They felt they had personal, direct revelation from God through their own thoughts. We see how this also leads to cult leaders like David Koresh attributing divine revelation to their own thoughts. Do you see how this leads us away from depending on the Word of God, the Scriptures, for our revelation from God? If we are open to interpreting our thoughts as extraordinary, direct revelations from God, do you see how misleading this can be?

Comments are closed.