by Lisa RobinsonAugust 9th, 2012 38 Comments
In my first semester of seminary, I had to read Surprised by the Voice of God by Jack Deere to complete a theological method paper for my Intro to Theology class. I’ve been re-reading it in preparation to grade the same assignment. If you are not familiar with the book, Deere writes about the need to hear the voice of God beyond the Bible, namely through dreams, visions and prophetic utterances. He is a former DTS professor turned Charismatic and encourages a vibrant relationship with the Lord through the empowering ministry of the Holy Spirit.
I don’t intend to do a review of the book here. I can only recommend that you read it for yourself to make up your own mind about his proposals. But there’s a few things that bother me that I have issues with, especially as it relates to the ministry of the Holy Spirit in relation to the Bible and our Christian walk.
Deere proposes that in order to have a vibrant walk with the Lord, we need to model the way in which God spoke to the people in the Bible, namely the prophets, apostles and even Jesus himself. He uses a plethora of examples, including his own, that portrays a staid and rather lifeless Christian existence by relying on the Bible alone and the inability to really hear from God. This is contrasted with an energized Christian walk that relies on the ability to hear God speak beyond the Bible. The thrust of his proposal is that if you want to really experience the Holy Spirit then the Bible is not enough.
Now I’m not going to quibble about the continuation of gifts vs cessationism. Michael and Sam Storms have a pretty extensive exchange on the that subject. But Deere’s proposal exposes a festering concern that I’ve had and that I hear frequently from many believers. To varying degrees, it is the idea that the Holy Spirit is only partially present in Bible and that if we really want to experience the Holy Spirit it requires going beyond the bible to “hear the voice of God”.
I propose that this position undermines the work and presence of the Holy Spirit in relation to the Biblical text. It presumes that the Holy Spirit cannot be fully active with just bible reading alone. Now Deere does not dismiss the power of scripture, since he does have a chapter entitled God Speaks Through the Bible. But the thrust of his proposal is that it is insufficient. I think many Christians have adopted this view. But I don’t think it adequately relates the Holy Spirit’s involvement revelation, which is how God made Himself known.
Deere’s premise rest on the fact that the Holy Spirit began the age of revelation in the book of Acts, which gives us a prescription for how we should hear from God  Well, if we see that scripture is a product of revelation, that is how God made himself known, that prompts us to go back to Genesis and follow along as His story progresses. The covenant promises and acts of God in relation to his people unveil a progressive revelation, in which he provides the Law and to which the prophets testify. The people and miracles that he used were for the purpose of revelation, which unrolls progressively through Israel’s history with the expectation of fulfillment of covenant promises. The progressive revelation culminates in the Son so that the fullness of the Godhead is revealed in the Son (Colossians.2:9; Ephesians 1:9-19). The Son fulfills the Law and the Prophets (Matthew 5:17-18).
So looking at Hebrews 1:1-3, it makes that all things done prior to the Son’s unveiling were for the purpose of that unveiling and there is a shift in how God spoke, which is the word of the Lord. The Old Testament foretold, the gospels unveil, the apostolic letters explain and Revelation finalizes. Prophecy of scripture is equated to the word of the Lord; God the Father speaking in His Son through the prophetic and apostolic witness through the written word concerning the Son – “the testimony of Jesus is the spirit of prophecy” (Revelation 19:10). Prophecy relates to the word of the Lord about Himself.
But I think what is significant to see is the Holy Spirit’s involvement in this, especially concerning God’s Trinitarian outworking. Peter said that that the prophecy of scripture did not come from men but from God “as they were moved along by the Holy Spirit” (2 Peter 1:20-21). In prophecy, the Holy Spirit communicates the will, heart and mind of the Father and he is the one influencing them concerning what God wants to communicate. So if the men who were moved by the Spirit also wrote down the prophecy concerning the Son, then Scripture is a product of the Holy Spirit. In fact, 2 Timothy 3:16 indicates that Scripture is breathed out by God. So the words we read are spiritual because they are from the Spirit of God who testifies concerning the Son. All scripture concerns prophecy of the Son, the word of the Lord.
I have even heard some go so far to say that Holy Spirit cannot be found when reading through written pages. But just as the Holy Spirit was actively involved in prophecy, he is actively involved in scripture because he is the means by which men wrote scripture. This doesn’t mean the words become spiritual. They are not turned into magic bullets that become whatever we want them to mean, but trying to understand as best as possible what the author meant them to mean in whatever setting he was addressing. So when we read scripture, it is the vibrant ministry of the Holy Spirit. That means the Holy Spirit is fully involved.
Ironically, I’ve also been reading an older gem of a book The Witness of the Spirit, by Bernard Ramm. Ramm builds his case for the testamonium (testimony of the Spirit) from the work of the Reformers. I love the explanation of the Trinitarian outworking concerning revelation;
In the course of divine revelation, the revelation reveals its own structure. The speaker is God the Father, whom revelation exhibits as the Sovereign One of the Trinity, the author, originator, and Lord of all. What the speaker says, he says through the Son, for the Son is the mediator of the Trinity. In the Son the Godhead steps out into the open. It is the Son who is the Logos – the uttered speech of God. It is the Son who is the incarnate God. His person is the mirror of the divine knowledge. He is the mediator and content of revelation. What the Son mediates is realized within the creature by the executive of the Trinity, the Holy Spirit. He touches the creature so that revelation may come into his orbit, into his consciousness and into his hands. 
So when we read Scripture, according to how the author intended, aligned with the progressive revelation of God and the full unveiling in His Son, we can expect for the Holy Spirit to be fully active. God is there. We should then ourselves be aligned with the Spirit and open to hear what God is saying through his word. He will move us, woo us, convict us and energize us. If we read it piecemeal, detached from the metanarrative or as a book of moral principles, then we probably will experience the same lifeless existence of Deere’s examples and certainly look for other ways to hear from God.
I’m continuing to work through this material with the hopes of producing a very user friendly book on the subject and for development of my thesis topic. If you’re interested, I started my own site here in which you can check out personal updates and writing that I might not do on this site.
 Deere, Surprised by the Voice of God (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1996), 53
 Ramm, The Witness of the Spirit (Grand Rapids: Eerdman’s Publishing, 1959), 31
- The Voice That Binds
- If God Has Stopped Speaking Then Why Do I Still Hear Him?
- Does Scripture Interpret Scripture?: A Case for Reading the Bible as Divine Revelation
- Why I Do Not Teach Christian Living Principles
- Why Jesus is Greater than the Holy Spirit