07 March 2013

Charles Stanley Advises Christians to 'Simply Listen for God's Voice'

photo: ky_olsen via photopin cc
In two articles appearing this week in the Christian Post (CP), Charles Stanley, pastor of First Baptist Church Atlanta, discusses the mystic concept of waiting in silence and listening for the voice of God, seemingly independent of hearing God speak through His written Word.

In a 5 March 2013 article entitled, "Listening to God," Stanley discusses prayer by appealing to the Old Testament figure of David. Stanley offers that David approached prayer by reviewing the past, reflecting upon the Lord's character, recalling God's promises and finally by making requests of God. This article curiously concludes, however, with Charles Stanley stating the following:
Stop for a minute and think about how you typically interact with God. If prayer time is dominated by your own talking, some adjustments may be in order. Just as the Lord spoke to David, God also has many things to say to you, if you'll simply let Him speak. (Source)
Stanley's language here seems vague, though his instruction appears to allude to the idea of listening for outside guidance from the Almighty, whether via an audible voice or impression or some other subjective means. This mirrors the practice of Eastern meditation and is mystical in its origins and unbiblical in nature.

A complementary article written by Stanley and appearing at CP on 6 March 2013 is entitled, "Meditation: The Key to Listening." In this short piece, Stanley further reveals his true beliefs regarding this topic. He writes:
In our normal everyday lives, we are surrounded by countless voices in need of our attention. Our children cry for it, our employers demand it, and our loved ones yearn for it. With all of these bidding for our attention, no wonder God's voice at times seems so muffled or distant.

Effective meditation requires seclusion. Unless we make an effort to escape our daily demands for at least a few moments, our ability to hear God's voice will be weakened.(Source)
To be sure, the Christian should pursue a time and place free of distractions to commune with God through the study of Scripture and through prayer. Silence should not be sought, however, in order that one may audibly hear from God. Yet, such a practice seems to be precisely what Charles Stanley is advocating as he concludes:
At some point today, turn off the TV, cell phone, and computer, and simply listen for God's voice. Your schedule won't surrender easily, so make a decision to claim a block of time for the Lord. Then quiet your extraneous thoughts, and focus on Him. (Source)
The words of Charles Stanley seem to prescribe a so-called Christianized form of contemplative prayer, one of the most esteemed spiritual disciplines taught in spiritual formation. In both practice and purpose, contemplative prayer stands in contrast with what Scripture teaches about prayer. Practitioners believe that one must clear the mind of outside concerns so that God’s voice may more easily be heard. Advocates of contemplative prayer believe and teach that it is a necessary practice if one desires to become more like Christ. This latter point is especially interesting considering Charles Stanley's appeal to Matthew 6:6 in his most recent article:
Our Lord was well aware of this need for isolation. In teaching about prayer, Jesus told the disciples to go into their rooms and close the door behind them. He knew it was vital to take a break from the pressures of life in order to truly commune with the Father. (Source)
In the passage to which Stanley alludes, the Lord is condemning the hypocritical, self-centered prayers of those who deliberately sought to be noticed by men while praying in public. When Jesus urges his followers to "go into your inner room, close your door and pray to your Father who is in secret" (Matt. 6:6, NASB), He is teaching His followers that the attitude of their heart in prayer should be to be heard by God, not men.

When Jesus was asked by His followers to teach them to pray, He instructed them in what is known as the Lord's Prayer, as found in Matthew 6:9–13 and Luke 11:2–4. Noticeably absent from these passages is Jesus instructing believers to sit in silence and solitude listening for the audible voice of God or waiting for an impression that might be divinely sent.

When the Christian prays, he speaks to God. When the Christian desires to hear from God, he opens his Bible and reads. True, biblical prayer is talking to God the Father (Phil. 4:6) through Jesus Christ the Son (John 16:23) in the power of the Holy Spirit, understanding that what God has revealed in His Word is sufficient and that new revelation is unnecessary (2 Tim. 3:16–17).

The ground being tread by Charles Stanley is perilous, as those who seek and desire mystical experiences open themselves up to potentially dangerous deception. This is not the first time that Stanley's thoughts on the matter have been exposed, however. As previously reported, in a November 2012 interview with Mark Galli of Christianity Today (CT), Stanley is referred to as a "mystic Baptist," and, when directly asked about his claims that God speaks to him, Stanley responded by saying,
For me, I get this strong sense of feeling that’s so clear, so direct to me. Like this week, something happened and I thought, Well, I could do thus and such, and God said, “Don’t do that.” I don’t hear a voice, but it’s so crystal sharp and clear to me, I know not to disobey that.

I think that comes from early in life as you learn to listen. You make mistakes; after a while, you realize as you obey him, it turns out right, and whatever your reason was for not obeying him, it doesn’t turn out right. (Source)
Stanley also stated in this CT interview that he wanted “the Holy Spirit to interpret the truth” for him. Surely this is the desire of every Christian. How, then, can one know that he is being guided by the Holy Spirit into the truth of God? Should one rely upon subjective feelings and impressions, or upon the clear, unambiguous and objective Word of God? How can one know what is true? It seems prudent to turn to the words of the Lord on the matter:
Sanctify them in the truth; Your word is truth. (John 17:17, NASB)
To engage in mystic meditation as taught and encouraged by Charles Stanley in these articles is to wander down dangerous and deceptive paths outside the boundaries of God's perfect and holy Word. One of the battle cries of the Reformation was that of sola scriptura, Scripture alone, and truly it is sufficient for the Christian's needs (2 Tim. 3:16–17), especially as one seeks to know God and to grow in faith. Scripture itself, as inspired by the Holy Spirit and as penned by David, attests to its own sufficiency:
The law of the LORD is perfect, reviving the soul; the testimony of the LORD is sure, making wise the simple; the precepts of the LORD are right, rejoicing the heart; the commandment of the LORD is pure, enlightening the eyes; the fear of the LORD is clean, enduring forever; the rules of the LORD are true, and righteous altogether. (Ps. 19:7–9, ESV)
May the Christian be satisfied with the true and perfect Word of God as found in Scripture.

**This article originally appeared here at Christian Research Network.


Further Reading
The Bible: the Book, the Miniseries and the Sins of Sodom
The Christian and Non-Christian Contrasted
NoCo90: God Told Me...

9 comments:

  1. Reading Stanley's trite and unlearned comments about "hearing from God" would be laughable if so many did not take his word on the matter as gospel. Stanley has no concept of the Holiness of the God to whom he refers. Stanley likens Him to be just as human as we are and in need of our undivided attention in order for Him to be heard. Pause a minute and consider how utterly ridiculous that sounds.

    My copy of the Word of God is over seventeen hundred pages long. Many verses I have read dozens of times and yet there is almost daily new knowledge to be gleaned from His Word. And yet sola scriptura is insufficient for some, they lust for more than has been granted to us as children of the King. Could it be that the desire of some to have a seemingly "tangible" communication from their Lord is but a symptom of a greater problem, that of the sin of not trusting Him with all their heart in all the matters pretaining to this life and the next?

    It is not my desire to hurt the precious souls who come to this site to learn and discuss. I sometimes struggle with this as well, but always land on Heb. 1:1-4. Does the Lord lead His people? Absolutely, and always in accord with Scripture. This, along with all others matters of doctrine is something that has to be revealed by the Spirit, through the Word. Luke 24:45. May the Lord give all of us wisdom. James 1:5

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    1. Darrel,

      You said, And yet sola scriptura is insufficient for some, they lust for more than has been granted to us as children of the King.

      Darrel when you said that it made me think...When the Word of God is not enough, when it is not sufficient or Christ and him crucifed, the only alternative is deception cause man wants more, more, more. Teresa



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  2. It is not my desire to hurt the precious souls who come to this site to learn and discuss. I sometimes struggle with this as well, but always land on Heb. 1:1-4. Does the Lord lead His people? Absolutely, and always in accord with Scripture. This, along with all others matters of doctrine is something that has to be revealed by the Spirit, through the Word. Luke 24:45. May the Lord give all of us wisdom. James 1:5

    Beautifully said, Darrel.

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  3. If the Lord of Glory was repeatedly affirming His mission and truth by "IT IS WRITTEN..." and to our and His archenemy then that is good enough and should be good enough for His people. Everything that does not come from that defined and presented faith is... Romans 14:23

    ~ Despeville

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  4. I don't agree with what Charles Stanley is doing(if it's true) that he is trying to conjure up the voice of God in some kind of silence while in prayer. Thing is there is a fine line in this.. We don't know for sure since the writer of this article even says it "seems" and it's "vague"- Not picking on anyone but takes a huge leap and says "this mirrors the practice of Eastern meditation and is mystical in its origins and unbiblical in nature."- I just don't see this...

    An example of what our Church has taught for many years. Just before communion, We are to give a moment of silence to bow our heads and ask the Lord to show us any sins so that we would confess them. Is this unbiblical? my Church is very Reformed-The 5 Solas being Presbyterian.

    Again, as I've stated before, I've had rare occasions where God has (according to the experts) given me "providential moments" in my life that were no doubt from God. If I had called it "impression" or some deep "voice" then I would be in error according to them. God's word is ALWAYS final authority. So, I don't rule out that people have these rare moments if God so chooses and He is the initiator. But to conjure up "in the silence" is unbiblical. To sit trying to "hear" God speak is unbiblical. God's WORD is WRITTEN for us to READ. No doubt that the Holy Spirit will apply His word to our lives and in certain circumstances.

    It's the same with creeds or sermons or concordances etc. ALL of it has to agree with God's final WORD. If Sola Scriptura meant Sola Scriptura-Scripture ALONE, then we could not even read the writings of Charles Spurgeon or writings by other Christians throughout history because that would be adding to Scripture. If godly men could not write songs of worship and all these wonderful hymns because there are extra-biblical words added, then we'd be adding to Scripture. If God gave us the Holy Spirit who is a Person, isn't it equally true that He does lead us as Scripture teaches? Romans 8:14, Galatians 5:14? Again God's WORD is always Final Authority and I love God's word. God's word is what led me to Christ and gives me hope, joy, peace, correction, comfort, guidance, protection, etc. God's word is worth more than all the riches of this world. So I don't make it any less authoritative in my life but seek to have a relationship with God which is cultivated by God the Holy Spirit as he applies TRUTH to my life.

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    1. Oops did it again. I apologize not Galatians 5:14 -Galatians 5:18

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  5. http://www.ligonier.org/learn/conferences/no-compromise-2013-national-conference/here-i-stand/

    this is where I stand

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  6. I used to listen to Charles Stanley. For a long time. I still receive his monthly devotionals which I usually just toss now after discovering his support of Celtic spirituality and contemplative prayer.

    I opened up the February devotional and glanced through it. On one day - forget which one - he said some people are saved yet continue to live in rebellion to God.

    But living in rebellion to God is impossible if you are truly saved. Seems he's also supporting the belief system that seems to be so popular - all you have to do is say you believe and you are saved. You can live any way you want. I just heard a Christian entertainer say he's a Christian but then he said life is about doing what you want - no one's going to tell him what to do. This is someone reaching out to kids.

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