Over at Blogotional, John notes some reservations he has with folk who think they have direct revelation. He writes
The are a couple of serious problems I have with this “God told me” approach. The first is that it smacks of legalism. Christ came to transform us so that we made decisions in line with His will, not so that He dictated every decision — that was the problem He had with the Jewish authority.
The other is the utterly coersive nature of the approach. It stifles arguement completely. Imagine a church ruling board meeting. The pastor arrives and declares that God told him to expand the building 300%. Now, the rest of us on the board look at the budget and recent income and decide we couldn’t possibly support the loan. Now what do we do? “Excuse me pastor, but I’m guessing that was the buritto you had for lunch talking, not the Lord”
This has come before in a usenet group I used to post to. How, it was asked, could two people be listening to the Spirit and each hear a different answer to the same question?
The first answer is that, of course, sometimes the answer is situational. There are some basic rules about being a Christian that do not change, but they are very basic. Most of the problems in life are not with what goals or orientation a Christian should have, but instead with how to implement it. Sometimes the choice is among all good options, and sometimes it is among all bad options. A “Sophie’s choice” is a “Sophie’s choice” whether one is a Christian or not. And, in fact, one of the big problems of fundamentalists is trying to figure out which ex cathedra statements by Paul are situational and which are global. For instance, some people believe that the command that women cover their heads a global one. Others believe that Paul was simply concerned that the women at the Church of Ephesus not be mistaken for temple prostitutes. There’s a big difference between “woman should always cover their heads” and “try not to look like a whore.” There is nothing inherent in the teachings of God that gives a good reason that women should always cover their heads; there is a fair amount that suggests that Christians should be a little hesitant of supporting and mimicking prostitutes.
Second, there is no obligation that the Spirit provide the same guidance to everyone even in the same situation. Perhaps it is the tension and/or compromise between two different approaches that is the desired result. In the example that John gives, let’s say that the Spirit really wants an increase of 50%, but the pastor simply is not really open to the voice of the Spirit — we all see through a glass darkly, and his or her glass is smudged with ambition. The Spirit is saying 50%, but the flesh hears 300%. Maybe the Spirit knows this and directs a Deacon to lowball. With prayerful compromise, an adequate solution may be reached.
I keep thinking about Moses and Pharoah. Moses was told by God to take his people out of Egypt. Pharoah was led by God to stop him (it was, after all, *God* who hardened his heart). The result was a drama that God dictated by directing both sides.
None of us know, really, what God’s plan is in the broad sense. All we can do is try to find out what His plan is for us as individuals right now. The message of the Spirit is infallible. Our ability to hear it is not. That is a criticism of how in tune we are with the Spirit, not a statement that we should stop listening altogether.