This is the start of a brief new series on the current obsession with "fresh revelation" from God. Predictably, a lot of the same people who have decided that Scripture isn't "relevant" have developed an itching after new and different revelation. From the evangelical mainstream to the wildest charismatic fringe, multitudes are convinced God regularly speaks to them directly. Unfortunately, a lot of what's being "heard" is just hooey. This sort of artless divination has done more than anything elseincluding "drunkenness in the Spirit"to propagate lunacy and confusion in the visible church. It is also a serious attack on the authority and sufficiency of Scripture.
I can attest to you on the basis of almost 30 years of experience in Christian publishing that there are a lot of very strange people out there writing an awful lot of books that ought never to have been written.
Of course, the ones who are inevitably the most impervious to critique or correction are the people who claim that what they have written was given to them directly by God.
A few years ago, when I worked as an acquisitions editor for a very conservative evangelical publishing company, I received a manuscript in the mail with a cover letter that said this:
It may surprise you to learn that I am just 22. My work, however, speaks for itself. These truths, indeed these revelations, were given to me by God and they need to be published for the whole world. By the way, I am familiar with your policy of no cash advances. Do you have a "no exceptions" policy as well?
A few days later, before I had time to reply, I received a second letter from the same author:
Stop the presses. My book must not be published in its present form. The material that does not edify must come out, and new material must replace it.
He explained why he was issuing this emergency recall:
My former pastor, Sister B. R. Hicks, in direct disobedience to God, lavished the prophetic gift meant for me on another whom she favored. She has not repented, she will not answer my mail, and she may not even acknowledge that my words are legitimate prophecy. I greatly fear for her and the church which she pastors.
Apparently this fellow's falling out with his pastor involved some moral failure on his part, because he wrote,
Sister Hicks may tell you that I fell from grace, but the heartbreaking truth is that I was pushed. She repeatedly turned me away from my calling.
As a result, all that God has given me in the way of prophecy has come to me in my separated, somewhat backslidden state. But I have been praying, fasting, and studying, and now I have a better understanding of God's message. So help me if you will, and return my manuscript for revision.
You can tell from the way that fellow wrote that he wasn't a drooling idiot. He was inventive, somewhat literate, unusually articulate, and very clever. He was totally serious when he claimed to believe that his writing was inspired by God. Oddly enough, however, his unshakable belief that God had inspired him did not keep him from wanting to make revisions to the text.
That tendency is the very thing that has always puzzled me the most about people who believe God is giving them private revelation. The messages they receive always seem very pliable. The meaning of the message often changes with the circumstances. There is no legitimate hermeneutical approach for interpreting such messages from God. And the meaning of any given message from God is often treated like a clay figure. You can bend it and shape it into any form that pleases you.
That sort of "prophecy" is no better than the deliberately vague and trivial horoscope messages printed every day in the local newspaper. In fact, it's worse, because it claims to be revelation from God, leaving the impression that He speaks indistinctly and unreliably.
"We have . . . a more sure word of prophecy; whereunto ye do well that ye take heed, as unto a light that shineth in a dark place" (2 Peter 1:19).