Hip and Thigh: Smiting Theological Philistines with a Great Slaughter. Judges 15:8

Friday, September 17, 2010

Some Questions about Gut Check Spirituality

I have been mulling over an excellent post from Dan from earlier this week that generated almost 200 comments worth of discussion.

The basics of the post had to do with how the Koran burning preacher down in Florida claimed God was telling him to do it, and his claim that he was being led by God is really no different from the charismatic's view of the gift of prophecy being a means for God to lead the average Christians today by their "gut feelings."

Specifically, Dan addresses the "Reformed" charismatics among us who are suppose to have a high view of Scripture and at the same time believe the gift of prophecy leads the "guts" of your average Christian on a daily basis; yet recoil from the nonsensical applications the "gut feelings" version of prophecy may have among crackpot publicity seekers. However, when we get down to the brass tacks of the discussion, there really isn't much difference between the "Reformed" charismatics saying God speaks to them through their "gut feelings" and crackpot preachers saying God speaks to them through the same "gut" method.

But it has been my experience these 20 plus years of walking with the Lord that this "gut check" view of God's leading is not limited to charismatics and wack-a-doodle preachers burning Korans. I have encountered many, many Christians of all denominational stripes who frequently employ the gut check view of God's leading on a regular basis in their lives. Either for making insane, disastrous decisions like marrying a person who is a full blown idiot because he or she "feels" God is leading in the decision, or remaining lazy and apathetic in helping around their local church because they don't "feel" God leading them to cut the grass in the cemetery out back.

Additionally, if the gut check view of spiritual leading turns out beneficial for the person, even though everyone pretty much agrees in the back of their minds it was the most stupid and foolishly risky thing they have ever seen anyone do, the person is heralded as having a close walk with Jesus and depending upon the Lord.

If, on the other hand, the person's gut check spiritual leading led him down a path to ridiculing folly that only resulted in him having boos and hisses heaped upon his head, the person is said to have been NOT walking with Jesus, being out of God's will, and acting selfishly.

A case in point from my college days: I recall coming to church one Wednesday evening to attend our mid-week Bible study. There hanging around the church was some young guy no one had ever seen before. As we make our introductions, he begins to tell us this glory bump raising story of why he was at our church.

He was originally from North Carolina. He had listened to Michael W. Smith's song "Go West, Young Man," and couldn't get it out of his head. So. Believing in his gut his constant humming of this song was God prompting him to "Go West," he began to pray and fast as to where in the west he was to go. I mean, think about it: Pretty much everywhere in America is west of North Carolina. Then one day he happens upon a satellite broadcast of one of our church services, which were televised for the ACTS network in those days. He watches our service for the entire 30 minutes and his gut tells him this is God giving him the key to unlock the next level in his journey.

So. He packs what meager things he owned into his run down Escort and headed west to our church in Arkansas. And after a harrowing three day journey of fixing flat tires, over heating engines, a broken air conditioner, sleeping in his car at rest stops, and battling other attempts by Satanic forces to hinder him for accomplishing God's will for his life, he pulls up to our church maybe an hour before services started. And can you believe it?! It just so happened we were having a pot-luck that evening right before church started, so he got a free, warm meal for being faithful in his gut check adventure.

Everyone marveled at his story. A few folks even let loose some "praise the Lords" and "amens." It was such a powerful testimony to taking steps of faith and trusting the Lord when you don't know what may happen the next day. Everyone secretly wished God would lead them in such dramatic, awesome ways.


I imagine some are reading this thinking I am going to reveal how he turned out to be a wacko who either left on some other weird adventure to Alaska or was found out to be a criminal fleeing the law, but such was not the case. He moved in with some guys who needed a roommate, worked at a local restaurant for a while as I recall, and then got a job as a counselor/teacher at a Christian camp for troubled youth. I'm not sure what happened to him after that.

"But Fred," you ask, "Isn't the fact that everything turned up roses for this guy clear confirmation God was leading him?" No. But it is confirmation that God can be gracious to us in spite of our stupidity. Believe me, for every story I could tell where some spiritual naif quit his job as a high paid CPA on the whim of "feelings" and yet fell backwards into all sorts of blessings, I can recall a dozen or more with individuals who made just as equally appalling decisions that led to their ruin.

The greater question, however, is how can these divine gut feelings be so right in one instance, yet so wrong in another? If a person is "feeling" God is telling him to do such and such, I would think there would be some sort of infallible authority attached to the feeling, right? Meaning a couple of things: It's from God, so it can't be wrong and it's from God, so it will be clear. But apparently, with all the dumb decisions that result from people following their guts, I get the picture that God mumbles a whole lot and tends to be vague.

Without getting into the entire discussion about the continuation or cessation of the gift of prophecy in the Church, I had a few questions:

If the gift of prophecy is for today, and people having wiggles in their tummy is indication of God nudging people in a particular direction, why is discovering exactly what God wants for the person and where God is leading him or her like trying to figure out how to get to the next level in Super Mario Bros.? "That's when you submit your feelings to Scripture, Fred." Really? Why wasn't Scripture alone sufficient enough to provide some direction in the first place? Why is there first a need for the tummy tickle before one goes to Scripture? What more could God possibly tell you with your guts that He hasn't already told you clearly in His Word?

Labels: , , ,


Blogger College Jay said...


I recently moved to Baltimore and I've been attending a small group of fellow twenty-somethings (and a few unmarried thirty-somethings.) Most are medical students, law students, young professionals or graduate students like myself. They're nice, otherwise normal people and I was pleasantly surprised that many of them are Reformed.

However, last night we got into a discussion about these "gut feelings" and I was pretty darn floored when so many of the medical students said things along the lines of, "I felt God calling me into medicine." It wasn't just that. Many had felt God "calling" them to move to Baltimore (it couldn't be that they had gotten accepted into some of the best law schools or medical schools in the country; No, it was God's call.)

I really had no way to respond to anyone in there. I felt like I would look like a complete jerk if I went, "Really? I guess I'm just a total sap for moving up here simply because I got accepted to a great graduate program and it was a more economical move than my first choice, which was Los Angeles."

Honestly, if I went by my "gut" I'd be in California right now, simply because I wanted to move out there more and I had some great friends there who I wanted to live with. But Baltimore is 1) a better-ranked program and 2) a wiser investment of my money. But by the way the conversation went last night, I feel these pseudo-Charismatics would chastise me for taking those "worldly" things into consideration and not trusting that God would cover my gut's impulses to fly all the way across the country. Unbelievable. I'm still trying to figure out how to respond to such people.

7:09 PM, September 17, 2010  
Blogger Fred Butler said...

Idn't great? No angels singing or anything. Just making wise decisions and trusting God's providence. Amazing how that totally changes how we do life.

8:00 PM, September 17, 2010  
Blogger buddyglass said...

"there really isn't much difference between the "Reformed" charismatics saying God speaks to them through their "gut feelings" and crackpot preachers saying God speaks to them through the same "gut" method."

...unless there is.

The Spirit might lead one man to do a thing, while another man might do a thing of his own volition and claim he was led by the Spirit. There's a fundamental difference, even if its hard for us to differentiate between the two from our position as third-party observers.

Then again maybe its not as hard as all that, given Mat. 7:20, Gal. 5:22.

10:21 AM, September 18, 2010  
Blogger keo said...

I'm not fond of relying on emotion, either, but I think you overestimate Christians' ability to receive direction from God only through the Bible. Most people I know who talk about God speaking to them through the Bible are really talking about either the same kind of "gut feelings" (maybe just the frozen pizza or maybe it really is the Holy Spirit) or their own desires, shellacked with a few vague phrases from a Psalm here, a Proverb there.

Using the Bible Only method, how exactly could that guy have learned that God wanted him to move to California and join your church? Unless, of course, you really mean that God would never tell anyone anything so specific today, and that God only tells us "clearly in His Word" true-for-everyone statements about morality or history or eschatology. Nothing relevant for choosing from among multiple, not-blatantly-evil choices in our lives, or anything that would allow him to help us when we ask for direction ("Sorry. Have you tried looking in Amos for answers to your question about how to minimize child mortality through the placement of new drinking wells there on the mission field?"). Nothing that would allow anyone today to hear something so precise as "Go to the house of Judas on Straight Street and ask for a man from Tarsus named Saul," for example -- the way God speaks throughout the whole Bible.

God and the Bible sound like windup toys in such a paradigm. "Here are my pre-recorded messages. Don't expect anything specific to the details of your own unique lives or cultural contexts in the millenia to come."

Are you saying that the Bible alone TELLS us that this is how God now speaks to us? Or is that an opinion from an extra-biblical source?

2:19 PM, September 22, 2010  
Blogger Sir Aaron said...

Following your gut is a terrible burden. Because if God is telling you to do something, then you are being disobedient if you fail to do it, misread the gut feeling, etc. How miserable it must be to livef life in such a way.

10:45 PM, September 23, 2010  
Blogger keo said...

Sir Aaron,

True, but which alternative is less miserable?

1) Turn off your conscience and do only what someone tells you is the right thing to do?
2) Ignore your gut but insist that whatever pops up in your brain is correct? Sounds equally arbitrary.
3) "Follow the Bible," meaning ... decide from your own interpretation of the Bible (you are the ultimate authority, or use your gut or your own opinions!) which interpreter of the Bible is interpreting the Bible correctly -- and then turn off both your conscience and your brain and do only what that interpreter tells you you must do?
4) ???

More important, which alternative is right, no matter how miserable it makes you?

6:09 AM, September 24, 2010  
Blogger Fred Butler said...

I respond to some of Keo's initial thoughts HERE

12:21 PM, September 25, 2010  

Post a Comment

Links to this post:

Create a Link

<< Home