Greg’s on a timer and answers questions about Experiencing God, personality types, and sinning in dreams.
- My church is thinking of offering a Sunday school class on “Experiencing God.” As a $1 apologist, how should I respond?
- How do I became more winsome and use tactical questions more when my instinct and personality are to be direct and shoot from the hip?
- Are we held responsible for immoral thoughts that occur in non-waking states of consciousness? For example, in a dream state.
Melinda: Hello there, Melinda the Enforcer. I’m here with Greg Koukl and we’re with Stand to Reason and this is the #STRask Podcast, our short podcast. Send us your question on Twitter, use #STRask, and I pose them to Greg, and we put them on a timer, and he’s got four minutes or less to answer. I’ll just say up front I apologize for being hoarse and coughing; I have a cold and we don’t have cough buttons in here, but I’m hopped up on cough syrup and cough drops, so hopefully I won’t choke while we’re doing this.
Greg Koukl: She’s hopped up.
Melinda: Uh huh. Do you have anything else to say before we jump in?
Greg Koukl: I’m hopped down.
Melinda: That’s okay, we’ll meet in between. Let’s get going. First question comes from inkling43, “my church is thinking of offering a Sunday school class on ’Experiencing God.’ As a one dollar apologist, how should I respond?” A one dollar apologist comes from Jim Wallace talking about the church doesn’t need a bunch of professionals, just needs a lot of Christians just to be apologists in that place where they are.
Greg Koukl: Yeah, what’s this -in a sense - this simple thing he could do where he’s at in his Christian community. Well, there’s a huge problem in my view, with the material “Experiencing God.” There’s a huge theological problem, I do not think, and this would be an understatement for me to put it this way, let me put it differently. I am convinced that the view that is advanced there is not a biblical view. Mr. Blackaby is a wonderful Christian man. I’m not questioning his integrity. I’m questioning the legitimacy of his biblical points in which he develops ideas about how to experience God and get God’s direction on particulars in life. I’ve actually written a piece on this that I wrote many years ago just for “Experiencing God” and then I re-released it in a more expansive form and you can find it on the internet in three issues, Does God Whisper, but we also have a booklet, maybe that’s the better way of getting it, which is The Ambassador’s Guide to the Voice of God.
Melinda: That’s not just Blackaby, that’s like the whole issue of hearing from God, but we included the evaluation of the “Experiencing God” material.
Greg Koukl: It started out with Blackaby and then I reissued that and expanded it to include others that made a similar kind of claim. The main point that I deal with in that passage is taking the proof texts that have been used to advanced the views of Blackaby and those like him that we make our decisions based on getting messages in one or another from God or messages that aren’t necessarily clear, but we have to decipher in some way. What Blackaby calls this is getting our assignments from God. I think the way it’s presented is not biblical in the least, but not that God doesn’t sometimes give assignments, but this is not the way the Christian life is meant to be lived. The way I deal with that is I take his proof texts for the view and demonstrate biblically and in context that these verses do not teach what he claims they teach. Now if the verses that you use to justify a point of view turn out not to teach your point of view, then you have to ask yourself whether your point of view is biblically legitimate, if there are no verses to support it, then it’s not biblically legitimate and it should not be taught as the biblical way.
Melinda: Because the verses, while obviously God did speak to Moses through the bush and these other things, these aren’t relative examples of things that God was doing. Blackaby tries to make these normative for every Christian.
Greg Koukl: Yes, Blackaby’s perspective is that whatever happened to Moses can happen to us. The irony is that in Moses’ own lifetime there were two individuals who had that same attitude and one was Miriam and the other one was...You know his brother.
Greg Koukl: Aaron, and they got chastised by God because Moses was unique and so there’s just a problem of how you approach these texts in general but my emphases is more on the specific proof text from the New Testament. John chapter ten, “my sheep are my voice”, John chapter five, “I always do what I hear the Father doing” or see the Father doing and the like, and there are many others too. I take these individually and I show these don’t teach what Mr. Blackaby claims they teach and if they don’t, then this should draw into question the methodology that he builds on them. For our person who is raising the question, I think two things. One of them is get a hold of the booklet and then encourage the leadership to take a look at some of these passages, or if they won’t read the booklet, go to the passages themselves and work through them based on the information you got from the booklet. It’s not that hard, these passages, and it’s almost universally my experience, Melinda, when I take people to the passage and work with it in context, never read a Bible verse, they virtually, universally, surrender the view that they had brought to this text and adopt the view that the text actually teaches, which is not Mr. Blackaby’s view. That would be my suggestion on that.
Melinda: Go to our website and write “Experiencing God” in the search box, the first one that comes up won’t apply but then the next do. There’s a “Solid Ground:” Henry Blackaby’s “Experiencing God-A critique,” there’s a quick thought “Experiencing God Frequently Asked Questions” which is follow up because a lot of people had asked questions. This was like 20 years ago when this stuff-
Greg Koukl: Very controversial when I wrote this piece.
Melinda: Then another quick thought “Objections to Experiencing God in Matthew 18” because then you had people saying oh, did you go to him privately because you’re criticizing him publicly, but of course he’s a public teacher. Anyways, plug in “Experiencing God,” find those few things specifically about analyzing and you do a text roll analysis, not just disagreeing with him, on authority you’re going to the texts, it’s showing his exegesis is poor.
Okay, next question. Oh, there that is, it was marked ahead of time. Enabled by Him asks, “how do I become more winsome?” See, I thought this would be a good question for you because of your personality type. “How do I become more winsome and use tactics questions more when my instinct and personality’s to be direct and shoot from the hip?” Your natural personality-
Greg Koukl: That’s my instinct and personality-
Melinda: That was your nickname early on because you caused more fire than actual-
Greg Koukl: Spreading more heat than light. Yeah, that’s right.
Melinda: Which is something you’ve worked on a lot in your life.
Greg Koukl: It is. This is I think the other way out here. This is probably not something that an experience with the Holy Spirit is going to transform overnight. This is probably something...yes, it’s a long process of sanctification. I would say pray about it, make it an issue of prayer, and make it an issue of alert self-discipline. I guess the simple way in terms of practical application of doing this is to try to discipline yourself not to make statements but rather to ask questions and you only ask the question after you’ve listened to what the other person has to say. Now there are a lot of Proverbs on this and I know them because I’ve read them and I reflect on them. “He who guides his lips preserves his lips. He who opens wide his mouth, comes to ruin.” There’s one of many that remind us as James says, “to be quick to listen and slow to speak.” This is exactly the opposite of my nature and many listening and certainly the questioner’s, it sounds like.
The way to deal with a weakness is to simply work to do the opposite of your weakness. If you talk too much and you declare yourself too much, you’re declaring your ideas, maybe the best thing to do is to take a deep breath and ask another person’s view and then listen. When they’re done, ask another question. Asking questions and listening is itself a demonstration of a winsome and attractive manner. It’s not that hard if you practice a little bit, to get used to it. It is hard at first because your natural inclination and impulse is to do otherwise but just alert yourself, take a breath, in other words slow yourself down internally and ask a question and listen. Don’t be listening to your own thoughts about the next question you’re going to ask, listen to the answer to the question that you just did ask. That would be my best advice for somebody in a circumstance like that.
Melinda: Something else you’ve practiced from early in your Christian life, ask others close around you to give you feedback. If you’re married or if you’ve got friends that might be with you, they can kick you under the table or talk to you afterward just to remind you. That’s something you’re very good at, is practicing feedback. Just to remind you, you were a little aggressive.
Greg Koukl: Oops.
Melinda: Okay, next question comes from Charles Kelton. “Are we held responsible for immoral thoughts that occur in non-waking states of consciousness, like dreams?”
Greg Koukl: You know, that’s an interesting question, and I posed it to J.P. Moreland many years ago when I was a new student under him. He seemed to be a little bit surprised by the question. Apparently he doesn’t have dreams like that. I do. As I recall, he was a little bit curt with me and said something about having a corrupt mind, which is obviously the case but I think his idea was that there’s a certain - maybe he wouldn’t answer it this way now and, like I said, this was a long time ago, but he was dismissive about it, and it wasn’t much help, let’s put it that way. I think that there are things - I have given quite a bit of thought to this - and I think there are things that we do in our dreams that we are more like spectators of. If you think about your dreams, and for many people this is the bulk of their dreaming, is that they are simply watching things happen. They don’t have a sense that they’re choosing to do these things.
However, there are times in my dream that I realize I’m in a dream and I can choose to do things that I will not be held responsible for where I think I’m in a dream, sometimes you’re not entirely sure. Incidentally, if you’re unsure whether you’re dreaming or you’re awake, you’re dreaming because you never have that question when you’re awake, okay. That’s just a test. If you’re ever unsure, am I dreaming or am I awake, then you’re dreaming. Many of that, there are opportunities I think that we have where we can exercise choice in our behavior in our dreams. Then I do think that they take on a moral quality because we are making choices that have moral ramifications even though they have more ramifications for our conscience even though they don’t have moral actual ramifications out in the world. You make choices in the world that are wrong as ramifications for your conscience and it does damage in the world, but that isn’t true of the dream because the dream is not the real world and so there are no consequences outside. If you are an active agent there, I think there’s moral responsibility.
Not everybody has the ability to make choices in their dreams, but some people do and I think that’s when that...
Melinda: You feel as though if somebody can’t or doesn’t exercise choice, they’re just a passive observer in their dreams-
Greg Koukl: Yeah if they were just watching it happen
Melinda: Then you don’t think they’re morally responsible?
Greg Koukl: No, I just think it’s happening. They’re not doing anything, they’re just watching something go on. In fact, usually they’re not even aware of themselves as a self, they are just aware of the things happening, that’s all.
Melinda: I don’t know, there’s probably a lot more fine details to be teased out here but I think even in a lot of those cases we’re probably more responsible because where do those things come from? They come from our corrupt souls. Even though we’re guilty for original sin, so when those things come out, they’re working out in our brains from our corrupt natures. I think we’re even responsible then, maybe not in the same way, like you said in the real world or whatever because you’ve made the point too that there’s different kinds of sin, and variations of sin, but I think those are still sin because they rise up from our natures.
Greg Koukl: They may rise up from-
Melinda: It’s coming from within me still, so there’s something corrupt in me that’s producing that.
Greg Koukl: That may be true but the person asked the question whether one’s morally responsible and I want to read something out of James here because it talks about a process and it says here-
Melinda: Yeah, we had a big argument about this at a staff meeting once.
Greg Koukl: Well it wasn’t particularly about what we’re discussing, but it was a similar kind of thing
Melinda: This verse
Greg Koukl: But the verse seems to apply here. In James 1 it talks about, this is verse 13 and following “when he is tempted, I am being tempted by God, for God cannot be tempted by evil.” That is, there can’t be an inducement to God by evil because there’s nothing in him that it would appeal to. “He himself does not tempt but each one is tempted when he is carried away and enticed by his own lust, then when lust is conceived, it gives birth to sin and when sin is accomplished it brings forth death.” There seems to me two different things going on, a temptation based on lust, and then a conception that gives birth to sin.
In the case of a person who is dreaming and is not deciding, he is not doing anything, he is just simply watching. Yes, the temptation and lust comes from his own nature, which kind of temptation couldn’t come from God’s nature, but if he’s not acting on it, then he’s not morally culpable for it, just like any temptation that comes to us comes from our fallen self, but we are not held morally responsible for that because we choose not to act on the temptation. Jesus had temptation, he experienced temptations, but at the same time he was not sinful because he did not act on the temptation. In the dream if you’re not acting and you’re just watching, then I don’t see how one is morally responsible for that.
Melinda: Well I’m not sure that that’s an accurate distinction in a dream, it’s always that the temptation is just there, in your dream you’re still doing something even if you’re just observing yourself doing something.
Greg Koukl: I’m not doing anything, I’m sleeping.
Melinda: I mean as you know, full doctrines of views about sin or anything else aren’t just taken from one verse, and if this was an adequate explanation for sin, it seems like unless you act on something it’s not a sin, but leaves out the whole category, sins of omission. Something’s not a sin as long as you don’t do something.
Greg Koukl: Alright, well this doesn’t relate at all to sins of omission, this has to do with sins of action and that’s the point-
Melinda: So it’s not a full explanation for the kinds of sins
Greg Koukl: I guess the listeners can decide if I’m misusing this, but I don’t see in any way, shape, or form how this is not adequate to apply to our circumstance here.
Melinda: Okay, so before we wrap up, I want to mention that on Saturday, June 17th, Greg is going to be in Louisville, Kentucky doing the Reveal Truth conference.
Greg Koukl: Right, with Sean McDowell, he’ll be there too.
Melinda: Yup, the two of you. You can go to reveal-truth.com to get information and you get information about all of our speaker’s events by going to our website, str.org/training/events. Send us your questions on Twitter using #STRask and we will pose them to Greg or whoever else wanders here on a Tuesday to do this show, and put them on a timer. I’m Melinda the Enforcer with Greg Koukl for Stand to Reason.