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By Mike Edwards

Those who didn’t grow up with the Bible maybe aren’t familiar with the Holy Spirit. Some Bible translations refer to the Holy Ghost which may bring Casper the friendly ghost to mind. We can think of the Holy Spirit as God’s Spirit or Presence. Even the Bible suggests to look for God’s guidance through a Spirit than a Book (Jn. 14:16-17; 16:13). The context of these passages though suggests guidance in spiritual or moral truth as opposed to future, specific, individual decisions.

A word of caution when advocating God’s Spirit or the Holy Spirit speaks to us today.

Christians often encourage being still and listening so you can hear the Spirit’s voice. Such statements without explanation leave others feeling spiritually inferior or confused. You aren’t less spiritual if you can’t distinguish a supposed voice from inner impressions. At least I can’t. We can’t really know when personal desires impact our understanding of God’s voice. This doesn’t mean God can’t guide us through intuitions and the influence of others.

How might God speak to us morally?

A Book such as the Bible can’t be our only moral guide. Biblical scholars who respect the authority of Scriptures interpret differently what God guides morally regarding divorce, gender roles, homosexuality, etc. One possibility for a universal compulsion to treat others like we want to be treated is an external force communicating through our moral intuitions. Common moral sense isn’t the enemy when making moral decisions. Be careful though because rational folks often don’t agree what is our moral obligation when it comes to important matters.

How might God speak when we disagree what is moral?

Rational people don’t always agree morally concerning immigration, climate change, abortion, health care, taxes, or responding to evil dictators that murder their own people. Truth often exists on both sides of the fence. Certainty has led to justifying verbal or physical violence in the name of God or morality. Calm, open dialogue allows evaluating the most loving approach to complicated challenges we face. Certainty isn’t always less chaotic than uncertainty. See here.

God isn’t hiding an unknown future in non-moral decision-making.  

A predetermined future makes freedom nonsensical. God can’t know an undetermined future. God isn’t keeping secrets. God can’t tell you if your partner will end up betraying you or the job you take won’t be phased out. Many who speak of an “inner voice” assume God knows the future. God took risks creating us free; we must take risk making decisions. Stay connected with God choosing the wisest path at the time based on past experiences, current circumstances, and future aspirations. Do all the good, in all the places, to all the people you can.

What about biblical examples of clear guidance?

There are biblical examples where God communicated clearly. It was infrequent but if God speaks to you through a burning bush like Moses (Ex. 3), through a donkey (Numbers 22:28), or a voice from heaven that others heard like Paul (Acts 9), you might want to take notice. This just isn’t my personal experience or most I come in contact with. Inner impressions, often thought of as God’s voice, are not the same as clear communications.

Maybe the Spirit speaks or guides us through an indescribable, quiet influence.

Don’t we recognize the Spirit’s influence when we have wronged someone, we quickly confess and make amends? Maybe all we have to do is be open to the Spirit’s influence. Humans inspire by their example without speaking. When I am trying to discern the Spirit’s influence, and often it is about relationships, I aim to make a wise decision if to take the risk. If it works out, I don’t know if coincidental or not. In an unknown future God doesn’t know if it’s going to work out either.

I admit I have minimized God speaking clearly to us but if God was more demonstrative, we might use it as a club to beat the Truth out of people like we have with the Bible. If God communicates in less demonstrative ways, this may allow the road traveled of learning and reflecting leading to lasting convictions. Much of moral knowledge isn’t hidden. Honest open dialogue, not claiming certainty, best leads to loving decisions when there is disagreement. Future decisions are open. One is surely guided by the Spirit of Truth when following Jesus’ example and not demonizing others when there is genuine disagreement.

For another view consider Woodland Hills sermon series beginning January 26, 2020. See here.

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