The Danger Of Placing Experience Over Scripture

by Jack Wellman · Print Print · Email Email

Read about the dangers that many Christians are putting themselves into by inadvertently putting their personal experience over what the Bible says.

Experience versus Truth

One of the most common phrases I hear believers say is “God spoke to me” or “God told me to do such and such.” Others put it this way: “From my experience, I believe God wants me to do this or to do that,” but “God spoke to me” is infinitely removed from, “Thus says the Lord.” I do believe God does speak to us. Sometimes He uses others to speak to us, and sometimes it’s a small, inner voice where the Holy Spirit of God convicts us of something or compels us to do or say something, and it might even be when we read something out of the Bible, because the Word does cut us down to the bone (Heb 4:12-13), but all too often, “God spoke to me” is given priority in a person’s life over what the Bible actually says. What is troublesome is, “God whispered to me” cannot be compared to, “as the Scriptures say.” Don’t get me wrong. God does speak to us in ways we sometimes can’t explain, but when our personal experience has more weight than the Word of God, we can fall into some serious error. Our experience is subjective. The Word of God is objective truth. Human opinion is subjective truth, but because its subjective truth, it is subject to error. Objective truth, on the other hand, is always true and cannot be changed. A few years ago, we had a visitor from another church come to worship with us, and after services, he told me, “God spoke to me and told me that you are not going to be here next year. I think He has other plans that exceed your expectations.” The man was wrong, even though he was 100% certain his statement was true and that he was sure God had spoken to him, but he was in error because he based his beliefs on his experience, and that’s where the problem is. If people insist that they’ve heard from God, they might have…but they might have also heard from another god, and not the God of Heaven (2nd Cor 4:3-4). The man who said “God told me to tell you,” is a mystery to me. Why would God call a 3rd party to talk to me in His place? If we wanted to tell a friend something, would we go to another person to call them for us? That makes no sense, so my answer is always, “God speaks to me too…and He does it most loudly and clearly and accurately in His written Word, the Bible.”

Subjective Truth

While some people hold that there are objective truths, others believe truth is relative, but is truth dependent upon circumstances? Can truth be truth if it is relative? Does the truth change with times? We might say that the sun rose this morning, and it was beautiful. Yes, perhaps it was beautiful, but did the sun really rise? No, it’s just the language that we use to describe it. Most of us know (except for the Flat Earth Society) that the earth moves around the sun, and then this galaxy itself speeds through the universe, so we use language that is sometimes not completely accurate, so to say that the sun rose is subjectively true, but not objectively true, but when we start to make truth subjective, then we might be left with no truth at all. We need truth. You want your brake fluid level reading to be truthful, don’t you? Surely we’d prefer the “Bridge Out” sign over “Bridge Ahead” sign, wouldn’t we? They say the truth hurts, but lying hurts a lot worse because it hurts everyone around the liar. If you omit something out of your story, what you said might be true, but if we leave out vital information, we can be left with a half-truth, but a half-truth is a whole lie. Thankfully, there is truth out there and it’s found in the Word of God, but also in the Son of God, Jesus Christ.

Objective Truth

Is it possible that there are objective truths? Even the question begs an answer because Jesus Himself said, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me” (John 14:6). Jesus as God cannot lie (Num 23:19; Titus 1:2) and when He says that there is no other way to enter the kingdom and to receive eternal life but through Him, it is the truth; objective truth. It is always true and there will never be a time when it is not true. As the Good Shepherd, Jesus indicates that He alone is “the door. If anyone enters by me, he will be saved and will go in and out and find pasture” (John 10:9), and so it is only “Through him we have also obtained access by faith into this grace in which we stand, and we rejoice in hope of the glory of God” (Rom 5:2). It must be through Jesus Christ. He is the door upon which we enter the kingdom. He is the way, the truth, and the life, not a way, a truth, or a life. This is as extreme of vetting that there is. No one can come to the Father except it be through Jesus Christ (John 6:44). No one can, means, not even one. One person told me that there is no objective truth, but then I asked him, “If you have stated that there is no objective truth, how can I believe what you just said is true?” Whether he realized it or not, he was trying to state an objective truth that there are no objective truths, which is an irrational statement to begin with.

Conclusion

Several years ago, a man told his pastor that God spoke to him and said that he’s supposed to divorce his wife and become a missionary to a South America country. The pastor tried to reason with the man that God would not tell him to do something that was contrary to His Word. He is not the God of confusion, but of order (1st Cor 14:33). The pastor told the man had no biblical grounds for divorce and so it would be sin for him to do it, but the man believed, from his own personal experience, that God had told him to do what he did. Sadly, the man died a year later, never having made it to South America. The man did divorce his wife, but then he fell away from the church, and the only thing they ever heard about him again was an obituary in the local newspaper. How many other heartbreaking occurrences like these have happened year after year? I know of several, and what I found out from those who kept insisting, “God spoke to me,” was that they stopped reading their Bibles. They paid more attention to their thoughts. Their experiences and beliefs started to outweigh Scripture, and that always ends badly. The next time someone says to you, “God spoke to me,” tell them, “God speaks to me too, every single day, and it is crystal clear, so I have no doubt what He is saying to me — [then, pointing] — say it’s right there…in the Bible!”

Read more about truth here: Is There Absolute Truth?

Resource – Scripture quotations are from The Holy Bible, English Standard Version® (ESV®), Crossway Bibles. (2007). ESV: Study Bible : English standard version. Wheaton, Ill: Crossway Bibles. Used by permission. All rights reserved.



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