Thoughts to Ponder

Experiencing God

Review of the book Experiencing God by Henry T. Blackaby and Claude V. King.

All quotes are from Experiencing God paperback edition copyright 1994 with study questions (1998) by Henry T. Blackaby and Claude V. King

I have many problems with the book Experiencing God by Blackaby and King. I will tell you that there is some very good teaching in the book, but I feel that the bad teaching makes the book unacceptable to the Christian community. I am appalled that so many Christians are promoting this book and have apparently read it and not found anything wrong in it. My problems with the book focus on 3 areas which I have listed below.

Promotes a low view of the person of Jesus Christ:

The Father had been working up until Jesus' earthly time, and was still working. (Ibid page 188) Would tend to make people who do not understand Jesus, think that Jesus was not involved in anything until His earthly ministry. The Gospel of John clearly teaches us differently.

When the Son saw the Father's activity, that was the invitation for the Son to join Him. God used circumstances to reveal to Jesus what He was doing. There are some things that only the Father can do. (Ibid page 188) God used circumstances to reveal things to Jesus? Was Jesus some poor dumb carpenter who did not know what His purpose in life was or even have communication with God the Father?

The first thing Jesus recognized is that His Father was always at His work. (Ibid page 67) I guess Jesus did not know that before He came to earth. This repeats the theme that Jesus was learning new revelations about God all the time.

Jesus always looked for where the Father was at work and then joined Him. (Ibid page 188)

God used circumstances to reveal to Jesus what He was to do. Jesus watched circumstances to know where the Father wanted to involve Him in His work. (Ibid page 200) This clearly gives a low view of Jesus Christ our Lord and our Savior.

He pursues a love relationship and invites Jesus to be involved with Him by revealing what He is doing. Jesus then makes the adjustment to do what His Father is doing. (Ibid page 68) Jesus makes adjustments to do what His Father is doing? Where is that in the Bible? What kind of adjustments, attitude, lifestyle, what?

Jesus realized that He could do nothing by Himself. (Ibid page 69) I think I have covered this already from the point that Jesus was God and did understand what His life's purpose was as a human. However, this whole argument comes because of misuse of scripture. Blackaby tries to say that since Jesus said things like the following He was saying that He could do nothing, meaning that Jesus had no power: (John 5:19 NIV) Jesus gave them this answer: "I tell you the truth, the Son can do nothing by himself; he can do only what he sees his Father doing, because whatever the Father does the Son also does. I believe what Jesus is saying is that He is acting in and with the Will and authority of the Father. I believe He was saying that it was impossible for Him not to act along with the Father or in unison, not that He was powerless and the Father was all powerful. Jesus also said: (John 10:28-30 NIV) I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish; no one can snatch them out of my hand. {29} My Father, who has given them to me, is greater than all ; no one can snatch them out of my Father's hand. {30} I and the Father are one." If Jesus and the Father are one then that statement that Jesus realized that He could do nothing by Himself is ridiculous. Maybe it is just poor wording, but immature Christians are going to look at that and think less of Christ then they do of God the Father, yet the two are One; God.

For example, when Jesus passed through a crowd, He always looked for where the Father was at work. .... In Jericho, Jesus saw Zacchaeus in a tree. Jesus may have said to Himself, "Nobody can seek after Me with that kind of earnestness unless My Father is at work in his heart." (Ibid page 70) Once again it would seem that Jesus stumbled upon a situation and had to figure out what God the Father wanted Him to know.

The key way Jesus knew how to do the Father's will was to watch to see what the Father was doing. Jesus watched to see where the Father was at work. When He saw, He did what He saw the Father doing. For Jesus the revelation of where the Father was working was His invitation to join in the work. (Ibid page 119) At least he is consistent with his low view of the deity of Christ.

Am I being too picky, or would these types of statements which as you can see are throughout the book tend to mislead a new believer about the nature of our Lord Jesus Christ?

You may be thinking: But God will not ask me to make major adjustments. If you look to Scripture for your understanding of God, you will see that God most certainly will require adjustments of His people. He even required major adjustments of His own Son: "You know the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, that though He was rich, yet for your sakes He became poor, that you though His poverty might become rich" (2 Cor. 8:9) (Ibid page 235) At the least this is a very poor use of scripture to try to make a point not addressed in the passage. Again it shows a low view of Jesus. He and the Father are One, yet Blackaby says Jesus had to make adjustments to do God's will.

I want to give a couple of closing thoughts on Jesus before I go onto the next subject. Mr. Blackaby over and over again states how Jesus looked at the circumstances around Him to figure our what God's will was, or that He looked at what the Father was doing and then joined Him.

This is my major problem with this book. It gives a low view of Jesus Christ. I have had people tell me that I just don't understand because Jesus was fully human He would have to learn, He would not know everything as He did before and after His incarnation. These people are not trying to say Jesus did not remain God while a human, but they claim, as Mr. Blackaby seems to claim that Jesus gave all His Devine knowledge up to be human. I want to examine that thought in the light of Scripture. I will not disagree that Jesus limited Himself and His foreknowledge while on this earth, but was He walking around trying to figure things out at Mr. Blackaby tries to say?

First I want to look at a Messianic promise given to Moses: (Deuteronomy 18:18 NIV) I will raise up for them a prophet like you from among their brothers; I will put my words in his mouth, and he will tell them everything I command him.

God told Moses that He would raise up a prophet "like you" when describing the Messiah. So we need to know what kind of prophet Moses was. (Exodus 33:11 NIV) The LORD would speak to Moses face to face, as a man speaks with his friend. Then Moses would return to the camp, but his young aide Joshua son of Nun did not leave the tent. The Lord spoke 'face to face' to Moses, so we can assume that He would speak face to face with Messiah also.

In yet another Messianic prophecy, this one is Psalm 16 we see again that the Lord was to counsel the Messiah. (Psalm 16:7 NIV) I will praise the LORD, who counsels me; even at night my heart instructs me. So we know that the Father was counseling Jesus. So why would He have to try to figure out what God the Father was up to, or what His will was?

One last prophecy I want to examine is in Isaiah. Isaiah is full of Messianic prophecies but this one is central to our discussion: (Isaiah 50:4-5 NIV) The Sovereign LORD has given me an instructed tongue, to know the word that sustains the weary. He wakens me morning by morning, wakens my ear to listen like one being taught. {5} The Sovereign LORD has opened my ears, and I have not been rebellious; I have not drawn back. We see here too that God the Father was teaching Jesus. Jesus is given an instructed tongue. The Father wakes His Son every morning and teaches Him what He needs to know.

This would explain a lot when viewed with this passage of Scripture: (Luke 2:45-50 NIV) When they did not find him, they went back to Jerusalem to look for him. {46} After three days they found him in the temple courts, sitting among the teachers, listening to them and asking them questions. {47} Everyone who heard him was amazed at his understanding and his answers. {48} When his parents saw him, they were astonished. His mother said to him, "Son, why have you treated us like this? Your father and I have been anxiously searching for you." {49} "Why were you searching for me?" he asked. "Didn't you know I had to be in my Father's house?" {50} But they did not understand what he was saying to them. People were amazed by His understanding, but when we look at the other passages we see why, God the Father had been teaching Him.

With all of this evidence that God the Father was instructing His Son, teaching Him day by day, how can Mr. Blackaby claim this? God used circumstances to reveal to Jesus what He was to do. Jesus watched circumstances to know where the Father wanted to involve Him in His work. (Ibid page 200)

Promotes a low view of Scripture:

I have copied many, probably too many, examples, but I wanted to make sure you did not think that these were misquoted or out of context or just nitpicking. There are too many places this is said to be an accident. According to this book the Bible is not the ultimate Word of God, it is just one more thing with which God speaks to His people today:

God speaks by the Holy Spirit through the Bible, prayer, circumstances, and the church to reveal Himself, His purposes, and His ways. (Ibid page 50) Notice circumstances, that is the same way Blackaby claims God spoke to Jesus.

He uses the Bible, prayer, circumstances, and the church (other believers). No one of these methods of God's speaking is, by itself, a clear indicator of God's directions. But when God says the same thing through each of these ways, you can have confidence to proceed. (Ibid page 56)

God speaks by the Holy Spirit through the Bible, prayer, circumstances, and the church to reveal Himself, His purposes, and His ways. (Ibid page 63)

If anything is clear from a reading of the Bible, this fact is clear: God speaks to His people. He spoke to Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden in Genesis. He spoke to Abraham and the other patriarchs. God spoke to the judges, kings, and prophets. God was in Christ Jesus speaking to the disciples. God spoke to the early church, and God spoke to John on the Isle of Patmos in Revelation. God does speak to His people, and you can anticipate that He will be speaking to you also. (Ibid page 132) Notice he uses Bible personalities to show that God will speak to us today, yet we know about God speaking to these individuals how? Through His Word! They did not have God's revelation (His Word) to read like we do. Although you will not see the words "direct revelation" in this book it is clearly what he is teaching.

We will examine ways God speaks through the Bible, prayer, circumstances, and the church or other believers. (Ibid page 132)

After giving a list of ways God spoke to people in the Old Testament (angels, burning bush, dreams, etc..) He will speak to His people today, and how He speaks will not be nearly as important as the fact that He does speak. (Ibid page 134) I contend how God speaks is important. How do we know when God is speaking and when a fallen angel who is pretending to be an 'angel of light' is speaking?

When God speaks to you by the Holy Spirit through the Bible, prayer, circumstances, and the church, you will know it is God; and you will know what He is saying. When God speaks to you, that is an encounter with God. (Ibid page 135) How will we know what He is saying and for that matter how do we know for sure it is God?

When God speaks to you through the Bible, prayer, circumstances, the church, or in some other way,... (Ibid page 144)

The Holy Spirit will use the Bible, prayer, circumstances, and other believers to speak to you. (Ibid page 151)

God may choose to speak to you in a way that is unique to you. You can be assured, though, that He will be able to convince you that you have heard a word from Him. (Ibid page 151) A demon could convince you that he is either God or speaking for God too! How do you test these direct revelations? He never says, he just says you will know.

In our time, God primarily speaks by the Holy Spirit through the Bible, prayer, circumstances, and the church. These four means are hard to separate. (Ibid page 163)

How do you know what the Holy Spirit is saying? I cannot give you a formula. (Ibid page 176) Take a good look at this. He admits he can't tell someone how to know what the Holy Spirit is saying. Nor can he give you a formula for how to know for sure it is even the Holy Spirit speaking. This is why this kind of teaching is so dangerous.

Sometimes you may find yourself in difficult or confusing circumstances. To understand bad or difficult circumstances, God's perspective is vital. Never, ever determine the truth of a situation by looking at the circumstances. You cannot know the truth of any circumstance until you have heard from God. (Ibid page 200) I must admit I love this one. After telling us that God used circumstances to show Jesus what to do and after many statements about how God speaks to us through circumstances, he then goes and tells us that we can't judge anything by circumstances. This is just one example of confusing statements in this book.

If you are not keeping a spiritual journal or diary, you need to. If the God of the universe tells you something, you should write it down. When God speaks to you in your quiet time, immediately write down what He said before you have time to forget. (Ibid page 172) This is a popular teaching today, often just called Journaling. It is very close to and I think can be as dangerous as New Age meditation. A person who is open to and even waiting for a word from God in this manner, very well might get one, but again is it from the True God of the universe or is it from a demon pretending to be an angel of light? New Age meditation is so dangerous because once people open their minds to the spiritual world and try to get messages they will hear from demons. This stuff scares me, and I don't think it should be taught.

If you want the God of the universe to speak to you, you need to be ready for Him to reveal to you what He is doing where you are. (Ibid page 144)

Not open and closed doors. Some people try to hear God's voice and know His will only through circumstances. I hear many people say something like this: "Lord, I really want to know Your will. Stop me if I am wrong and bless me if I am right." Another version of this is: "Lord, I will proceed in this direction. Close the door if it is not Your will." The only problem is I don't see this as a pattern anywhere in Scripture. God does use circumstances to speak to us. But we will often be led astray if that is our only means of determining God's directions. (Ibid page 140) This is the same type of confusing statement. So I guess at this point in the book he does not feel that circumstances are a valid word from God.

But only the Holy Spirit of God can reveal to you which truth of Scripture is a word from God in a particular circumstance. Even if the circumstance is similar to yours, only God can reveal His word for your circumstance. (Ibid page 139) This comes pretty close to Neo-Orthodoxy which is linked to Swiss theologian Karl Barth. Barth accepts the Higher Criticism approach to the Biblical documents. This means that the Bible, as it stands written, abounds in errors, historical, scientific and religious. It is only a human witness to a divine experience, and as such it has no more authority for us than any other human witness, such as preaching. Only when God meets us does the witness become a divine revelation and fully authoritative for us.

Barth believed furthermore that the Bible can have no authority at all for those who have had no such encounter with God. We cannot put it into the hands of an outsider and say: Read this for it is all God's truth. All we can say is: This is the word of men like yourselves - but it may become the Word of God if you are lifted up to meet with God.

Barth believed it is not the Bible that is inspired, but the man who is enlightened by it. The Bible is inspired only when it is inspiring. Authority is centered in man's illumination rather than in God's revelation.

This view is not consistent with scripture: (2 Timothy 3:16-17 NIV) All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, {17} so that the man of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work. Now I will grant you that maybe this is not what Blackaby meant to say, but that is what he said.

The Word of God is our guide. (Ibid page 141) Okay, if this confuses you I am not surprised. After all that now on page 141 he says the Word of God is our guide.

I challenge you to review what you sense God has been saying to you on a regular basis. (Ibid page 143) Why, I thought he said we would know for sure it was God speaking to us?

Other concerns about this book:

One of the other problems I have with this book is that it is confusing. Blackaby makes statements which I have quoted that say anything God asks you to do will be God-sized, and will require adjustments on your part and will require faith and action: (Comments continued below)

God's invitation for you to work with Him always leads you to a crisis of belief that requires faith and action. (Ibid page 58)

The assignment will have God-sized dimensions. (Ibid page 58)

God's invitation for you to work with Him always leads you to a crisis of belief that requires faith and action. (Ibid page 63)

Some people say, "God will never ask me to do something I can't do." I have come to the place in my life that, if the assignment I sense God is giving me is something that I know I can handle, I know it probably is not from God. The kind of assignments God gives in the Bible are always God-sized. (Ibid page 220)

When God invites you to be involved with Him, He is wanting to reveal Himself to you and to a watching world. Therefore, He will ask you to be involved with Him in a God-sized assignment. (Ibid page 230)

So you see that it appears that he is saying anything that God asks you to do will be God-sized (whatever that means), but now read the little story he tells about a pastor:

Suppose a pastor is waiting for a big church to call him to be pastor. Then a small church calls and says, "Will you come and be bivocational and help us out here on the west side of Wyoming?

"Well, no," the prospective pastor responds. He thinks, I am here waiting for God to give me an assignment. I have done so much training, I can't waste my life by working a secular job when I can serve a church full-time. I think I deserve something much more significant than that I've paid my dues. (Ibid page 146) Continued:

Now, you may ask, "Do I automatically assume that a request like the pastor received to the west side of Wyoming is from God because it is a small assignment?" No. Whether the assignment is large or small in your eyes, you will still have to find out whether it is from God or not. However, you always need to let God tell you that. Do not rule out an assignment, large or small, on the basis of your own preconceived ideas. (Ibid page 147) See he says no matter whether the assignment is large or small do not rule it out. What happened to the God-sized assignments? What is a new believer to believe, are only God-sized assignments really from God or can small ones be too? The book is full of dogmatic statements which are contradicted at other places.

The Bible says we should: (1 Peter 2:12 NIV) Live such good lives among the pagans that, though they accuse you of doing wrong, they may see your good deeds and glorify God on the day he visits us. Blackaby on the other hand seems to think and promote that living a good life is not enough of a witness to those around us. It appears that he thinks we must do miraculous signs and wonders to reach the world.

What the world often sees are devoted, committed Christians serving God. But they are not seeing God. They comment, "Well there's a wonderful dedicated, committed group of people serving God." They, however; do not see anything happening that can only be explained in terms of the activity of God. Why? Because we are not attempting anything that only God can do. (Ibid page 223)

The reason much of the world is not being attracted to Christ and His church is that God's people lack the faith to attempt those things that only God can do. (Ibid page 224)

This is what Jesus said about the generation living while He was on earth: (Matthew 16:4 NIV) A wicked and adulterous generation looks for a miraculous sign, but none will be given it except the sign of Jonah." Jesus then left them and went away.

There is probably more that I could quote from Experiencing God and comment on, but I am weary. If this is not enough to make you realize that this book is full of serious errors, then nothing I say will convince you. Many Christians promote this book and claim how much better their walks with Christ are because they have read it. I don't know what to say, the book speaks for itself. How much error is too much? I think very little it too much.

(1 Timothy 4:16 NIV) Watch your life and doctrine closely. Persevere in them, because if you do, you will save both yourself and your hearers.

I don't know Mr. Blackaby and I can certainly not know his heart, but I do know that there are serious errors in this book. Serious enough errors that I would not recommend any believer read it.

E-Mail Ralph

These devotionals are written by Ralph Dettwiler, and reflect his views.

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