The voice of God from the Bush?


Great photo on the front page of today’s Guardian, illustrating a slightly alarming story: “George Bush: ‘God told me to end the tyranny in Iraq'”.

I’m hoping that Bush has been misquoted or misunderstood here. This is, after all, a hearsay report from a former Palestinian foreign minister, and whatever the truth or otherwise of this report (and the White House is unequivocally denying it), this does highlight the general point of how people from outside the evangelical subculture can misinterpret what Christians with “charismatic” tendencies mean when they talk about how God “told them” to do such-and-such a thing.

Usually (speaking from my own experience of having spent some time in charismatic circles), such Christians don’t actually mean they heard a voice in their heads telling them to do this. Rather, they mean they felt a “deep sense of peace” about a proposed course of action, or that some unlikely event occurred (such as being elected President on a minority of the popular vote? [j/k]) that they interpreted as a “sign” of God’s favour for what they had in mind, perhaps after they “laid out a fleece” to give God an opportunity to provide the said sign.

Talking of the “deep sense of peace” approach to guidance, there’s an amusing story in Alistair Brown’s book “Near Christianity” about a theological college at which at least half a dozen men all felt a “deep sense of peace” about the idea that God might want them to marry the same startlingly attractive female student. (None of them did.)

Personally, I’m in the same benighted condition as the Boar’s Head Tavern’s Bill Mackinnon, who once confessed in an essay on the Internet Monk site that he had “No voices in my head”.

In this essay, Mackinnon describes the various forms in which God is alleged to speak to us – “ham radio”, “walkie talkie”, “Easter bunny”, “bull ring” (“I just felt led”), “Paxil” and “back to school” (“you just need to learn how to hear God’s voice”) – before concluding:

A lousy Christian I may be, for many reasons. But my inability to hear God’s voice isn’t one of them. I have a Bible, and God speaks to me whenever I open it.

Another aspect of this approach of “listening for God’s voice” is that the only voice that people seem to expect (or even want?) to hear is that of God’s Law: “Do this, don’t do that”.

The Bible – and, in particular, the proclamation of the Bible’s message in the church’s ministry of Word and Sacrament, which is truly the living voice of God for us today – gives us something so much better: the promises of the Gospel, promises which are for each and every one of us, regardless of how well we tune the ham radio of our hearts, and without any of us needing to wait for a voice in our heads.

Advertisements
This entry was posted in Uncategorized. Bookmark the permalink.

48 Responses to The voice of God from the Bush?

  1. Nick Jones says:

    ‘The ham radio of our hearts’: I hope you’re not developing a dodgy ticker! I can see how it could happen; one too many bacon sandwiches, a minor coronary ‘incident’, the pacemaker gets fitted and suddenly test match special’s being conducted through your ribcage.

  2. Nick Jones says:

    ‘The ham radio of our hearts’: I hope you’re not developing a dodgy ticker! I can see how it could happen; one too many bacon sandwiches, a minor coronary ‘incident’, the pacemaker gets fitted and suddenly test match special’s being conducted through your ribcage.

  3. Nick Jones says:

    ‘The ham radio of our hearts’: I hope you’re not developing a dodgy ticker! I can see how it could happen; one too many bacon sandwiches, a minor coronary ‘incident’, the pacemaker gets fitted and suddenly test match special’s being conducted through your ribcage.

  4. Nick Jones says:

    ‘The ham radio of our hearts’: I hope you’re not developing a dodgy ticker! I can see how it could happen; one too many bacon sandwiches, a minor coronary ‘incident’, the pacemaker gets fitted and suddenly test match special’s being conducted through your ribcage.

  5. John H says:

    If we have any more test match series like this year’s Ashes, receiving TMS through your pacemaker would probably finish you off.
    And I’m glad you took that phrase with the same earnest seriousness with which I wrote it. πŸ˜‰

  6. John H says:

    If we have any more test match series like this year’s Ashes, receiving TMS through your pacemaker would probably finish you off.
    And I’m glad you took that phrase with the same earnest seriousness with which I wrote it. πŸ˜‰

  7. John H says:

    If we have any more test match series like this year’s Ashes, receiving TMS through your pacemaker would probably finish you off.
    And I’m glad you took that phrase with the same earnest seriousness with which I wrote it. πŸ˜‰

  8. John H says:

    If we have any more test match series like this year’s Ashes, receiving TMS through your pacemaker would probably finish you off.
    And I’m glad you took that phrase with the same earnest seriousness with which I wrote it. πŸ˜‰

  9. Rick Ritchie says:

    I think this is likely. That if Bush did use such language, he meant what many others meant by it, which didn’t involve voices.
    But it still points out the danger of people using such confusing language. As a child, I thought that when other people used such language, they DID mean that they heard voices. So, perhaps like Internet Monk, I felt left out. People learn to talk like this from convention when they find others do so. But this is one that should be broken. The costs are too high, as the White House is finding out.

  10. Rick Ritchie says:

    I think this is likely. That if Bush did use such language, he meant what many others meant by it, which didn’t involve voices.
    But it still points out the danger of people using such confusing language. As a child, I thought that when other people used such language, they DID mean that they heard voices. So, perhaps like Internet Monk, I felt left out. People learn to talk like this from convention when they find others do so. But this is one that should be broken. The costs are too high, as the White House is finding out.

  11. Rick Ritchie says:

    I think this is likely. That if Bush did use such language, he meant what many others meant by it, which didn’t involve voices.
    But it still points out the danger of people using such confusing language. As a child, I thought that when other people used such language, they DID mean that they heard voices. So, perhaps like Internet Monk, I felt left out. People learn to talk like this from convention when they find others do so. But this is one that should be broken. The costs are too high, as the White House is finding out.

  12. Rick Ritchie says:

    I think this is likely. That if Bush did use such language, he meant what many others meant by it, which didn’t involve voices.
    But it still points out the danger of people using such confusing language. As a child, I thought that when other people used such language, they DID mean that they heard voices. So, perhaps like Internet Monk, I felt left out. People learn to talk like this from convention when they find others do so. But this is one that should be broken. The costs are too high, as the White House is finding out.

  13. Theresa K. says:

    Well done! I want to comment on this, but couldn’t pull thoughts together very well. You’ve said what I would have said, only better…as usual πŸ™‚

  14. Theresa K. says:

    Well done! I want to comment on this, but couldn’t pull thoughts together very well. You’ve said what I would have said, only better…as usual πŸ™‚

  15. Theresa K. says:

    Well done! I want to comment on this, but couldn’t pull thoughts together very well. You’ve said what I would have said, only better…as usual πŸ™‚

  16. Theresa K. says:

    Well done! I want to comment on this, but couldn’t pull thoughts together very well. You’ve said what I would have said, only better…as usual πŸ™‚

  17. D.S. Ketelby says:

    I’m with Rick on this one… isn’t clear accurate speech a form of true witness?
    One personal pet peeve of mine at the moment is a praise and worship number (which I keep hearing in and around the office) about maybe it’d be better if we just closed our eyes, the better to tune into what God wants, I suppose… and I hear it and think, fair enough but not while driving or operating heavy machinery, okay?

  18. D.S. Ketelby says:

    I’m with Rick on this one… isn’t clear accurate speech a form of true witness?
    One personal pet peeve of mine at the moment is a praise and worship number (which I keep hearing in and around the office) about maybe it’d be better if we just closed our eyes, the better to tune into what God wants, I suppose… and I hear it and think, fair enough but not while driving or operating heavy machinery, okay?

  19. D.S. Ketelby says:

    I’m with Rick on this one… isn’t clear accurate speech a form of true witness?
    One personal pet peeve of mine at the moment is a praise and worship number (which I keep hearing in and around the office) about maybe it’d be better if we just closed our eyes, the better to tune into what God wants, I suppose… and I hear it and think, fair enough but not while driving or operating heavy machinery, okay?

  20. D.S. Ketelby says:

    I’m with Rick on this one… isn’t clear accurate speech a form of true witness?
    One personal pet peeve of mine at the moment is a praise and worship number (which I keep hearing in and around the office) about maybe it’d be better if we just closed our eyes, the better to tune into what God wants, I suppose… and I hear it and think, fair enough but not while driving or operating heavy machinery, okay?

  21. CPA says:

    I seem to remember about a year ago, we had the exact same story: some Palestinian figure said Bush said he was ordered by God to start the Iraq war. The White House denied it categorically, no one could confirm it, and the story died.
    Why is it suddenly popping up again now? It’s still a “he-said, she-said” thing.

  22. CPA says:

    I seem to remember about a year ago, we had the exact same story: some Palestinian figure said Bush said he was ordered by God to start the Iraq war. The White House denied it categorically, no one could confirm it, and the story died.
    Why is it suddenly popping up again now? It’s still a “he-said, she-said” thing.

  23. CPA says:

    I seem to remember about a year ago, we had the exact same story: some Palestinian figure said Bush said he was ordered by God to start the Iraq war. The White House denied it categorically, no one could confirm it, and the story died.
    Why is it suddenly popping up again now? It’s still a “he-said, she-said” thing.

  24. CPA says:

    I seem to remember about a year ago, we had the exact same story: some Palestinian figure said Bush said he was ordered by God to start the Iraq war. The White House denied it categorically, no one could confirm it, and the story died.
    Why is it suddenly popping up again now? It’s still a “he-said, she-said” thing.

  25. John H says:

    Probably because it’s like the “Clinton crony buried in Arlington Cemetery under false pretenses” story a few years back – which when (as I recall) proven to be untrue, some conservative commentators responded by saying, “Well, it’s the kinda thing that could have happened. Fits a pattern” (a phrase that proceeded to enter the daily lexicon of me and my wife).
    It fits with a particular view of Bush, is therefore perceived (by those who have that view of him) to have a “ring of truth” about it – like when the BBC interviewer Jeremy Paxman asked Tony Blair if he and Bush had prayed together.
    And bear in mind that when I said “people from outside the evangelical subculture…” I didn’t just mean the Palestinian foreign minister – but the Guardian.
    So, I’m sure it’s hogwash, but – well, y’know. Sorta thing that coulda happened. Fits a pattern. πŸ˜‰

  26. John H says:

    Probably because it’s like the “Clinton crony buried in Arlington Cemetery under false pretenses” story a few years back – which when (as I recall) proven to be untrue, some conservative commentators responded by saying, “Well, it’s the kinda thing that could have happened. Fits a pattern” (a phrase that proceeded to enter the daily lexicon of me and my wife).
    It fits with a particular view of Bush, is therefore perceived (by those who have that view of him) to have a “ring of truth” about it – like when the BBC interviewer Jeremy Paxman asked Tony Blair if he and Bush had prayed together.
    And bear in mind that when I said “people from outside the evangelical subculture…” I didn’t just mean the Palestinian foreign minister – but the Guardian.
    So, I’m sure it’s hogwash, but – well, y’know. Sorta thing that coulda happened. Fits a pattern. πŸ˜‰

  27. John H says:

    Probably because it’s like the “Clinton crony buried in Arlington Cemetery under false pretenses” story a few years back – which when (as I recall) proven to be untrue, some conservative commentators responded by saying, “Well, it’s the kinda thing that could have happened. Fits a pattern” (a phrase that proceeded to enter the daily lexicon of me and my wife).
    It fits with a particular view of Bush, is therefore perceived (by those who have that view of him) to have a “ring of truth” about it – like when the BBC interviewer Jeremy Paxman asked Tony Blair if he and Bush had prayed together.
    And bear in mind that when I said “people from outside the evangelical subculture…” I didn’t just mean the Palestinian foreign minister – but the Guardian.
    So, I’m sure it’s hogwash, but – well, y’know. Sorta thing that coulda happened. Fits a pattern. πŸ˜‰

  28. John H says:

    Probably because it’s like the “Clinton crony buried in Arlington Cemetery under false pretenses” story a few years back – which when (as I recall) proven to be untrue, some conservative commentators responded by saying, “Well, it’s the kinda thing that could have happened. Fits a pattern” (a phrase that proceeded to enter the daily lexicon of me and my wife).
    It fits with a particular view of Bush, is therefore perceived (by those who have that view of him) to have a “ring of truth” about it – like when the BBC interviewer Jeremy Paxman asked Tony Blair if he and Bush had prayed together.
    And bear in mind that when I said “people from outside the evangelical subculture…” I didn’t just mean the Palestinian foreign minister – but the Guardian.
    So, I’m sure it’s hogwash, but – well, y’know. Sorta thing that coulda happened. Fits a pattern. πŸ˜‰

  29. Rick Ritchie says:

    We need to do a better job of attacking the sin of hearsay. When it is not attacked, people get trapped in other snares of conscience, imagining they are being complicit in evil, when they’re really just treating someone as innocent until proven guilty.
    What has been funny has been watching one friend drift left. I used to hear scathing stories about the Clintons from this guy. Now I hear scathing stories about right-wingers. What the stories always have in common is a lack of sources.

  30. Rick Ritchie says:

    We need to do a better job of attacking the sin of hearsay. When it is not attacked, people get trapped in other snares of conscience, imagining they are being complicit in evil, when they’re really just treating someone as innocent until proven guilty.
    What has been funny has been watching one friend drift left. I used to hear scathing stories about the Clintons from this guy. Now I hear scathing stories about right-wingers. What the stories always have in common is a lack of sources.

  31. Rick Ritchie says:

    We need to do a better job of attacking the sin of hearsay. When it is not attacked, people get trapped in other snares of conscience, imagining they are being complicit in evil, when they’re really just treating someone as innocent until proven guilty.
    What has been funny has been watching one friend drift left. I used to hear scathing stories about the Clintons from this guy. Now I hear scathing stories about right-wingers. What the stories always have in common is a lack of sources.

  32. Rick Ritchie says:

    We need to do a better job of attacking the sin of hearsay. When it is not attacked, people get trapped in other snares of conscience, imagining they are being complicit in evil, when they’re really just treating someone as innocent until proven guilty.
    What has been funny has been watching one friend drift left. I used to hear scathing stories about the Clintons from this guy. Now I hear scathing stories about right-wingers. What the stories always have in common is a lack of sources.

  33. greg bourke says:

    To a certain degree I’m sure he was sensationally misquoted. As a journo who could resist mocking such a statement?
    However, he’s only saying what millions of other fellow bible beleiving Christians assert everyday.
    As to the voice in the head or the ham radio in the heart… it’s my opinion that some people can’t separate their personal opinion from the external truth of the Triune God.
    Personally, I don’t have a voice per se, rather a non-vocal magnetic attraction…
    Afterall, art (visual, aural, kinetic) doesn’t speak to the soul with a linguistic “voice” so I don’t see why God should be limited to English (KJV).
    What I do know is that the more I gracefully scorn sin the stronger the “attraction” to God becomes.

  34. greg bourke says:

    To a certain degree I’m sure he was sensationally misquoted. As a journo who could resist mocking such a statement?
    However, he’s only saying what millions of other fellow bible beleiving Christians assert everyday.
    As to the voice in the head or the ham radio in the heart… it’s my opinion that some people can’t separate their personal opinion from the external truth of the Triune God.
    Personally, I don’t have a voice per se, rather a non-vocal magnetic attraction…
    Afterall, art (visual, aural, kinetic) doesn’t speak to the soul with a linguistic “voice” so I don’t see why God should be limited to English (KJV).
    What I do know is that the more I gracefully scorn sin the stronger the “attraction” to God becomes.

  35. greg bourke says:

    To a certain degree I’m sure he was sensationally misquoted. As a journo who could resist mocking such a statement?
    However, he’s only saying what millions of other fellow bible beleiving Christians assert everyday.
    As to the voice in the head or the ham radio in the heart… it’s my opinion that some people can’t separate their personal opinion from the external truth of the Triune God.
    Personally, I don’t have a voice per se, rather a non-vocal magnetic attraction…
    Afterall, art (visual, aural, kinetic) doesn’t speak to the soul with a linguistic “voice” so I don’t see why God should be limited to English (KJV).
    What I do know is that the more I gracefully scorn sin the stronger the “attraction” to God becomes.

  36. greg bourke says:

    To a certain degree I’m sure he was sensationally misquoted. As a journo who could resist mocking such a statement?
    However, he’s only saying what millions of other fellow bible beleiving Christians assert everyday.
    As to the voice in the head or the ham radio in the heart… it’s my opinion that some people can’t separate their personal opinion from the external truth of the Triune God.
    Personally, I don’t have a voice per se, rather a non-vocal magnetic attraction…
    Afterall, art (visual, aural, kinetic) doesn’t speak to the soul with a linguistic “voice” so I don’t see why God should be limited to English (KJV).
    What I do know is that the more I gracefully scorn sin the stronger the “attraction” to God becomes.

  37. I’ve written a rather damning article about Evangelical leaders who supported the invasion of Iraq.

  38. I’ve written a rather damning article about Evangelical leaders who supported the invasion of Iraq.

  39. I’ve written a rather damning article about Evangelical leaders who supported the invasion of Iraq.

  40. I’ve written a rather damning article about Evangelical leaders who supported the invasion of Iraq.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s