Pastor John Piper has placed on record, on his Desiring God website, his experience of hearing God speak to him.
‘Let me tell you about a most wonderful experience I had early Monday morning, March 19, 2007, a little after six o’clock. God actually spoke to me. There is no doubt that it was God. I heard the words in my head just as clearly as when a memory of a conversation passes across your consciousness. The words were in English, but they had about them an absolutely self-authenticating ring of truth. I know beyond the shadow of a doubt that God still speaks today.’
‘The Morning I heard God’s Voice’ by John Piper
Piper claims God spoke to him, audibly, from Psalm 66:5–7. Below, is a comparison between what Piper claims God said to him and Scripture (ESV). Piper claims that God actually audibly read some verses from Scripture to him. And to identify himself to Piper, God adapted Scripture by using the first person personal pronoun ‘I’.
1. What Piper claims he heard God say
Piper heard: “Come and see what I have done.”
Scripture: Come and see what God has done: (v5)
Piper heard: “I am awesome in my deeds toward the children of man.”
Scripture: He is awesome in his deeds toward the children of man. (v5)
Piper heard: “I turned the sea into dry land; they passed through the river on foot. There they rejoiced in me—who rules by my might forever.”
Scripture: He turned the sea into dry land; they passed through the river on foot. There did we rejoice in him, who rules by his might forever, (v6-7)
Piper heard: “I keep watch over the nations—let not the rebellious exalt themselves.”
Scripture: whose eyes keep watch on the nations—let not the rebellious exalt themselves. (v7)
2. What Piper thinks God may have wanted to say
Piper tells us what he thinks God may have wanted to say that is not in Scripture. Piper writes: ‘He [God] may as well have taken me by the collar of my shirt, lifted me off the ground with one hand, and said, with an incomparable mixture of fierceness and love, “Never, never, never exalt yourself. Never rebel against me.” ’ In effect, Piper is putting words in God’s mouth that are not in Scripture.
Quotes from ‘The Morning I heard God’s Voice’ by John Piper
Piper claims that he audibly heard the voice of God speaking to him, as the following quotes show:
‘God actually spoke to me’
‘The words were in English’, and had ‘an absolutely self-authenticating ring of truth’
‘God said, “Come and see what I have done.”’
‘These were the very words of God’
‘God was speaking to me with absolute authority and self-evidencing reality’
‘Would he take me somewhere, like he did Paul into heaven to see what can’t be spoken?’
‘The God of the universe was speaking to me’
‘Then he said, as clearly as any words have ever come into my mind’
‘The words came again’
‘God himself was narrating the mighty works of God. He was doing it for me’
‘God Almighty had come down and was giving me the stillness and the openness and the willingness to hear his very voice’
‘He spoke again’
‘He had said this to me’
‘The very words of God were in my head’
‘I heard his very words. He spoke personally to me’
‘This is the very voice of God’
‘By this voice, he speaks’
‘The voice of God in the Bible’
‘Still hearing his voice in the Bible’
The danger of Piper’s claim is that he encourages others, especially young people, to enjoy the same type of ecstatic experience. After all, it’s only logical that if God reads the Scriptures to someone personally, they must be a very special Christian. And so if you haven’t heard God’s voice reading Scripture to you personally, you can’t be much of a Christian. God speaks only through Scripture, the written Word of God.
Here we need to interpret what John Piper is asking us to believe. He says that he heard a clearly audible voice in his head, and he has no doubt that it was the voice of God speaking to him – John Piper – in English. Yet the revelation of God is complete in Jesus Christ, and the canon of Scripture is complete. We are therefore commanded to contend for the Faith once for all delivered to the saints, as recorded in Holy Scripture. The warning of Scripture is that we are not to add to, nor take away from, God’s Word (Revelation 22.18). The message of Scripture is that God does not speak audibly to individuals in our day and age. If God continued to speak to special people, to give them special knowledge, just think of the confusion that would result among God’s people.
There are three possible explanations for Piper’s unique experience:
1. The most plausible explanation is that Piper, hearing a voice which he identified as the authentic voice of God, may be experiencing auditory hallucinations. Auditory hallucinations (also known as paracusia) are the perception of sound without outside stimulus. It is well-known that people claim to hear voices that are not the product of mental illness or any other obvious cause like drugs or alcohol. Some people in states of heightened emotion, ecstasy or suggestibility experience auditory or other types of hallucinations. Usually, such hallucinations fit in with their fantasy life or cultural background. And if this is the explanation, Piper is not alone in hearing voices in his head. Indeed, to help those who hear voices, the Hearing Voices Network, which is a self-help user-run organization for people who experience auditory hallucinations (‘hear voices’), has been established. Although members may have a psychiatric diagnosis, the network promotes an alternative approach, where voices are not necessarily seen as signs of mental illness.
2. A second, but unlikely, explanation is that Piper has simply made up the story in order to boost his image as a holy man of God, specially selected by God to hear the divine voice from heaven. This makes Piper appear to be like a latter day Apostle Paul.
3. A third explanation is that Piper heard demonic voices in his head. But no man can diagnose with certainty demonic possession or influence, for only God knows what happens in the spirit world. While Scripture is clear that demons do exist and are active servants of Satan, carrying out his nefarious plots against God and mankind, a believer, who is in dwelt by the Holy Spirit and adopted into the family of God, cannot be possessed by demons. So this explanation is unlikely, as Piper claims to be a born again believer.
The Sufficiency of Scripture
It is surprising that an eminent theologian like John Piper has placed on public record his experience of ‘hearing God’s voice’. The inference behind Piper’s experience is that he does not believe in the sufficiency of Scripture. That is, because God’s Word is not sufficient he still speaks to us today.
But Scripture teaches that God’s Word is sufficient to meet every need of the human soul. The historic Protestant position affirms ‘that the Word God spoke through apostles and prophets and intended for the direction of his church is now found only in sacred Scripture’.
Surely, as a reformed Calvinist, he must understand the confusion that has been caused by the excesses of the charismatic movement. Surely, as an experienced pastor, he must be aware of how ‘words of prophecy’ have misled many in the Church. Surely, as a church leader, he must realise the danger of encouraging others, especially young Christians, to seek after similar ecstatic experiences. This can only cause confusion in the Church. It would have been wise for Piper to have kept his ‘hearing God’s voice’ experience to himself.
You can learn more about Dr Tim Keller, Pastor Mark Driscoll’s and Pastor John Piper in the book, The New Calvinists (2014), published by The Wakeman Trust and Belmont House Publishing.