A long time ago I attended a theological school. One of the first courses every student had to take was Prolegomena – “the first things.” It was a critical introduction to our theological education. Much of it concerned general revelation – what can be known of God through Creation – and special revelation – how God spoke and the Bible came to be.
That ‘s pretty much where it ended it seems to me. The canon – not the thing you shoot with – was closed. Period.
There was such a high view of Scripture that there was no room for God to speak to individuals except through the Word He had already given.
This is a big issue for many well-intended Evangelical Christians. What to do with a God who speaks? Are the words on par with Scripture? God already speaks. What more does He need to say?
The fear of not knowing what to do with the words God speaks to His children overrides the beauty of this relationship. It’s like a slippery slope. Once we allow for this, where does it stop? What do we do with prophetic words for which we have no category? If general revelation encompasses what can generally be known about God through Creation and special revelation entails that which is written down in the Bible, what do we do with everyday prophetic words? It is extra-biblical. It does not fit the categories we have established. God fits neatly in our boxes, or does He?
I am not saying I agree with this, but this is the world in which I grew up. I understand it. I have lived it. I understand the theology. What happens when God breaks in and it doesn’t fit our neatly defined boxes? That’s what happened to me. God started speaking to me. Because it didn’t fit the theological boxes, the unwritten rule was that we don’t talk about such things. Until it starts affecting your program of study. The Lord reordered a well-ordered program. Because I wasn’t following the prescribed order, I needed to discuss it with someone in authority.
Let me explain. My theological education was prescribed as follows: one year of study, a summer in a church, another year of study, a year of internship, and a final year of study – four years in total. God directed me not to serve for a summer in a church after my first year, a deviation from the normal pattern, although exceptions were permitted.
My mentor could not level with me as to whether God had ever spoken to him, so he wisely left the choice to me, allowing me to honor the voice of God in my life. We explored the options and concluded that the program was not lost if I changed the order of things, which I did. That was the first time God radically reordered my life through His voice. More to come.
By Ralph Veenstra