We’re talking about the voice of God, of hearing God’s voice as a way of knowing something about God.
The Reno Gazette Journal of November 11, 2016 carried an article by Rajan Zed concerning the then Philippines President Rodrigo Duterte, known for his extreme right wing views, his extra-judicial killings of drug dealers, and his foul mouth. The article said:
According to an Associated Press story. Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte recently said while flying home to his country, he was looking out at the sky while everyone was sound asleep and he heard a voice that said: “If you don’t stop epithets, which is another word for swearing, I will bring this plane down now.” And I said, “Who is this? The reply was, ‘This is God,'” said Duterte. Duterte, who is a Roman Catholic said that he promised God he wouldn’t spew epithets anymore.
Many have claimed that God spoke to them directly. Seeing something or hearing voices while alone which cannot be seen or heard by others is reportedly quite common. In 1999, a Gallup poll reported that 23% of all Americans have heard a voice or have seen a vision.
Does God speak to humans directly? Or does he speak through messengers, deities, angels, saints, inspired persons, sages, intermediaries, representatives of God, or just common man? Or does he speak through nature itself? Does he speak through scriptures? Or in dreams or visions? Or some other channels of communication? When God does communicate, does he appear in physical form? Or do human beings only hear the voice of God? Or does God not communicate at all? Anyway, does God still need to talk to us directly, since God is said to have already delivered to us divine Scriptures with his complete message? What is the best way for God to communicate with mankind?
An article entitled “George Bush: God Told Me to End the Tyranny in Iraq” in The Guardian on October 7 2005 reads as follows:
George Bush has claimed he was on a mission from God when he launched the invasions of Afghanistan and Iraq, according to a senior Palestinian politician in an interview to be broadcast by the BBC later this month.
Mr Bush revealed the extent of his religious fervour when he met a Palestinian delegation during the Israeli-Palestinian summit at the Egpytian resort of Sharm el-Sheikh, four months after the US-led invasion of Iraq in 2003.
One of the delegates, Nabil Shaath, who was Palestinian foreign minister at the time, said: “President Bush said to all of us: ‘I am driven with a mission from God’. God would tell me, ‘George go and fight these terrorists in Afghanistan’. And I did. And then God would tell me ‘George, go and end the tyranny in Iraq’. And I did.”
Mr Bush went on: “And now, again, I feel God’s words coming to me, ‘Go get the Palestinians their state and get the Israelis their security, and get peace in the Middle East’. And, by God, I’m gonna do it.”
Mr Bush, who became a born-again Christian at 40, is one of the most overtly religious leaders to occupy the White House, a fact which brings him much support in middle America.
Soon after, the Israeli daily newspaper Haaretz carried a Palestinian transcript of the meeting, containing a version of Mr Bush’s remarks. But the Palestinian delegation was reluctant publicly to acknowledge its authenticity.
The BBC persuaded Mr Shaath to go on the record for the first time for a three-part series on Israeli-Palestinian diplomacy: Elusive Peace, which begins on Monday.
Religion also surfaced as an issue when Mr Bush and Tony Blair were reported to have prayed together in 2002 at his ranch at Crawford, Texas – the summit at which the invasion of Iraq was agreed in principle. Mr Blair has consistently refused to admit or deny the claim.
Mahmoud Abbas, the Palestinian prime minister, who was also part of the delegation at Sharm el-Sheikh, told the BBC programme that Mr Bush had said: “I have a moral and religious obligation. I must get you a Palestinian state. And I will.”
We have been studying and discussing what it means to know God, and what it means to be known by God. And we’re talking about the voice of God and what you can hear and can expect to hear from God.
This week, I googled “unusual ways God speaks to us today.” There immediately popped up 20 ways that God speaks to humans today, followed in quick succession by articles which told about 10 ways, nine ways, 12 ways, seven ways, means, and agents by which God speaks to us; affirming, if there was any question, that it’s commonly believed that God speaks to us in a myriad of ways.
Even the name of our blog—The Interface—implies two-way communication among all of us here in class and perhaps between us and God. Over 2,000 times in the Old Testament, there are phrases such as, “…and God spoke to Moses,” or “…the word of the Lord came to Jonah,” or “God said…”. Here is an example from Scripture in which Jeremiah claims to speak specific words which God had put into his mouth:
Then the Lord stretched out His hand and touched my mouth, and the Lord said to me,“Behold, I have put My words in your mouth. (Jeremiah 1:9)
It’s almost Christmas, what we call the Advent time. During the birth of Jesus in the Christmas story, God speaks to Mary through the angel, in what is part of the Magnificat. He speaks to Joseph through a dream and speaks to the shepherd through an assembly of angels, and speaks to the Magi as well through a dream.
The notion that we can, should, and indeed must communicate with God is held by most believers. That we would petition God for certain things and he would respond in some authentic way is a deeply valued product of faith. As we read in John 10 last week, Jesus affirms that he knows his sheep by their names and the sheep know his voice. The implication is that communication with the shepherd—with God himself—is clear, unambiguous, verbal, auditory, and personal.
Most believers want to follow, and are committed to following, the shepherds voice. Deep down, each of us believes that God has a plan for our individual selves and that if we can figure out what it is, we will not only have the satisfaction of knowing that we’re within his plan but also that it’ll somehow make our lives better, smoother, less painful, easier. Intuitively, we feel that knowing what is planned for us will reduce the uncertainty and confusion in our lives. It will help us to rise and walk above the troubled waters below.
But is that true? And is it even possible to know God’s plan? And whether or not it’s possible, do we really need to know it? Are my decisions about who I marry and what I should become and so forth really something that God is interested in and something that I should be expecting God to weigh in on? Is this something I can know about God’s plan for me? If I feel a sense of revelation about God’s will for me, how can I tell whether it’s authentic?
There are at least three potential ways to determine the authenticity of the voice of God. It is inherent (1) to the message itself, (2) to the method by which the message is delivered, and (3) to the moment in which the message was delivered. With regard to the message itself. It is argued that God would not communicate a message that was contrary to his law. Conversely, a message consistent with the Holy Spirit is therefore authentic. At least three stories in scriptures bring these assumptions into question in my mind.
In the first, God instructs Samuel to tell a lie in order to anoint David king of Israel instead of Saul, lest Saul should killed Samuel first:
Now the Lord said to Samuel, “How long are you going to mourn for Saul, since I have rejected him from being king over Israel? Fill your horn with oil and go; I will send you to Jesse the Bethlehemite, because I have chosen a king for Myself among his sons.” But Samuel said, “How can I go? When Saul hears about it, he will kill me.” But the Lord said, “Take a heifer with you and say, ‘I have come to sacrifice to the Lord.’ And you shall invite Jesse to the sacrifice, and I will let you know what you shall do; and you shall anoint for Me the one whom I designate to you.” (1 Samuel 16:1-3)
in the second, God instructs a prophet to marry a whore:
When the Lord first spoke through Hosea, the Lord said to Hosea, “Go, take for yourself a wife inclined to infidelity, and children of infidelity; for the land commits flagrant infidelity, abandoning the Lord.” (Hosea 1:2)
And in the third instance, Abraham was told to murder his own son:
Now it came about after these things, that God tested Abraham, and said to him, “Abraham!” And he said, “Here I am.” Then He said, “Take now your son, your only son, whom you love, Isaac, and go to the land of Moriah, and offer him there as a burnt offering on one of the mountains of which I will tell you.” (Genesis 22:1-2)
Is the authenticity of God’s voice inherent in these examples of his messages that evidently contravene God’s law? What if the message is supported by Scripture? Does that authenticate it? The devil himself tried to trick Jesus by quoting Scriptures, using God’s own words to mislead:
Then Jesus was led up by the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted by the devil. And after He had fasted for forty days and forty nights, He then became hungry. And the tempter came and said to Him, “If You are the Son of God, command that these stones become bread.” But He answered and said, “It is written: ‘Man shall not live on bread alone, but on every word that comes out of the mouth of God.’”
Then the devil took Him along into the holy city and had Him stand on the pinnacle of the temple, and he said to Him, “If You are the Son of God, throw Yourself down; for it is written:
‘He will give His angels orders concerning You’;
‘On their hands they will lift You up,
So that You do not strike Your foot against a stone.’”
Jesus said to him, “On the other hand, it is written: ‘You shall not put the Lord your God to the test.’”:
Again, the devil took Him along to a very high mountain and showed Him all the kingdoms of the world and their glory; and he said to Him, “All these things I will give You, if You fall down and worship me.” Then Jesus said to him, “Go away, Satan! For it is written: ‘You shall worship the Lord your God, and serve Him only.’” Then the devil left Him; and behold, angels came and began to serve Him. (Matthew 4:1-11)
Are we not at risk if we say that any message in Scripture is the authentic voice of God? With regard to method of delivery, God delivered messages in very strange ways. To a very frightened Elijah, fleeing for his life from a vengeful Jezebel, he delivered his message by means of a still small voice rather than the powerful, majestic roar of a fire or earthquake that Elijah would rather have heard from his protector.
From the solemnity of the still small voice of God, Scripture takes us to the apparent ridiculousness of God’s braying through an obstinate donkey to lay out his plan for the prophet Baalem:
Now he was riding on his donkey, and his two servants were with him. When the donkey saw the angel of the Lord standing in the road with his sword drawn in his hand, the donkey turned off from the road and went into the field; and Balaam struck the donkey to guide her back onto the road. Then the angel of the Lord stood in a narrow path of the vineyards, with a stone wall on this side and on that side. When the donkey saw the angel of the Lord, she pressed herself against the wall and pressed Balaam’s foot against the wall, so he struck her again. Then the angel of the Lord went further, and stood in a narrow place where there was no way to turn to the right or to the left. When the donkey saw the angel of the Lord, she lay down under Balaam; so Balaam was angry and struck the donkey with his staff. Then the Lord opened the mouth of the donkey, and she said to Balaam, “What have I done to you, that you have struck me these three times?” And Balaam said to the donkey, “It is because you have made a mockery of me! If only there had been a sword in my hand! For I would have killed you by now!” But the donkey said to Balaam, “Am I not your donkey on which you have ridden all your life to this day? Have I ever been in the habit of doing such a thing to you?” And he said, “No.”
Then the Lord opened Balaam’s eyes, and he saw the angel of the Lord standing in the way with his sword drawn in his hand; and he bowed all the way to the ground. Then the angel of the Lord said to him, “Why have you struck your donkey these three times? Behold, I have come out as an adversary, because your way was reckless and contrary to me. But the donkey saw me and turned away from me these three times. If she had not turned away from me, I certainly would have killed you just now, and let her live.” So Balaam said to the angel of the Lord, “I have sinned, for I did not know that you were standing in the way against me. ((Numbers 22:22-33)
We should also not forget that God may speak to us through human voice, as he did to Samuel who was sure it was the voice of his mentor Eli, who was sleeping nearby, calling him at night, but in fact it was God’s voice (1 Samuel 3). With regard to the moment of delivery, God’s very presence makes sacred the moment in time and the very ground it occupies, as it did for Moses at the burning bush:
Now Moses was pasturing the flock of his father-in-law Jethro, the priest of Midian; and he led the flock to the west side of the wilderness and came to Horeb, the mountain of God. Then the angel of the Lord appeared to him in a blazing fire from the midst of a bush; and he looked, and behold, the bush was burning with fire, yet the bush was not being consumed. So Moses said, “I must turn aside and see this marvelous sight, why the bush is not burning up!” When the Lord saw that he turned aside to look, God called to him from the midst of the bush and said, “Moses, Moses!” And he said, “Here I am.” Then He said, “Do not come near here; remove your sandals from your feet, for the place on which you are standing is holy ground.” And He said, “I am the God of your father—the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob.” Then Moses hid his face, for he was afraid to look at God. (Exodus 3:1-5)
Moments of community can also bring about revelation of God’s presence and to hear his voice:
For where two or three have gathered together in My name, I am there in their midst.” (Matthew 18:20)
A similar moment occurred when the disciples gathered at Pentecost, when they were all together:
When the day of Pentecost had come, they were all together in one place. 2 And suddenly a noise like a violent rushing wind came from heaven, and it filled the whole house where they were sitting. 3 And tongues that looked like fire appeared to them, distributing themselves, and a tongue rested on each one of them. 4 And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak with different tongues, as the Spirit was giving them the ability to speak out. (Acts 2:1-4)
Which of these elements—the method, the message, the moment—is important in determining the authenticity of a communication from God? Or do all of them need to be in play in order to authenticate God’s message? Most of the time, we’re like a ship without a rudder. But sometimes God gives us a steer. He does not seem to care which path we are on as much as he cares that we recognize that he is there to guide us in the right direction.
There are many more scriptural stories that we might cite to show how the voice of God steered people away from the wrong path: The dramatic conversion of Saul to Paul, for example, with God knocking him off his horse and blinding him with lightning to stop him from pursuing the course that he was on. I believe that if we’re conscious that God is there to guide us and we ask him for guidance that he will do so, but often in ways that might not be so dramatic.
In fact, they might be so mundane that we don’t even realize that God is trying to communicate with us, through the voice of other people. Last week, Joyce said that she wished God would speak to her. She placed herself (as I place myself) in the 75% of people who don’t know that God has ever spoken to them or say that they have ever heard the voice of God. Is it possible that we just don’t know what we’re listening for? Like Elijah, we’re looking for God in the whirlwind, but he’s in the still small voice; or vice versa—like Saul, we find God in the lightning and the thunder.
David sent me this note about last week’s discussion about the voice of God:
We don’t just hear one voice. There is, of course, a competing voice—the devil, the unholy spirit. “The devil told me to do it” or “the devil made me do it,” we cry; they amount to the same thing. The devil tried to make Jesus do wrong things in the wilderness. Scripture paints for us a picture of two separate figures on the mountain. We see the devil talking to Jesus as you might talk to me—a separate entity outside of me, but the unholy spirit resides within right alongside its Holy Spirit sibling.
We sometimes talk about two spirits warring within us but I don’t think that’s correct. I think they war through us. We’re told that “In the beginning was the Word and the Word was with God and the Word was God.” But can this be right? In the beginning, surely there would be two words, one being God and the other being Satan. According to human logic, it has to be so, otherwise, we would have to conclude that God created Satan, that Good created Evil. Could there be a contradiction greater than that?
On the other hand, should we trust in human logic at all when the Bible—Isaiah and Job loudest of all—tells us that our logic is not God’s logic? If we admit the probability of error in human judgment then what we think of as evil may in God’s eyes be good. That is the only way I can see to justify “In the beginning was the Word and the Word was with God and the Word was God.”
These thoughts have probably been developed much better by greater theologians than myself. But it would take require a doctorate in divinity to have read them all. The ordinary churchgoer is left at sea, sailing the untroubled waters of the church’s vision of Scripture.
All of this is by way of thanking God and the Adventist Church for providing an opportunity and an opening for the discussion of such topics.
Ultimately, you see, we want to hear God’s voice because we believe that knowing what God is thinking would make our lives better. The words that God puts in our mouth would somehow give us an advantage over others. Divine is better than human. Hearing God’s voice unmistakably would make the donkeys we ride in the passage of our lives less obstinate, more compliant, more predictable. In other words, hearing God’s voice is our ticket to the control of our lives.
In essence, if we have heard enough from God, if we were directed enough, if our logic was solid enough, we could proceed along the road of life by sight and not by faith. unencumbered by the stubborn donkeys we ride on. In short, we wouldn’t need God’s grace, we could do it alone. Is it possible that the more we believe that we hear God’s voice, the more we don’t feel the need for God’s grace? We want control. We want certainty. We want cause and effect. We want predictability. But life is full of stubborn donkeys. That’s why we need grace. That’s why we are to walk by faith and not by sight.
Is God in the business of taking down a plane with innocent people on board because one of the passengers swears too much? What do you think about the moment, the methods, and the message in the context of listening for God’s voice? What is the relationship between hearing God’s voice and grace? What do you really expect to hear from God?
Donald: Yesterday a friend showed me a place to go on the internet to find information—a place that seems destined to shake up education as we know it. It has an AI algorithm that can write a document for you upon request. You can ask it questions as if it were sitting down with you and it will answer in plain English. In the context of our discussions of the inner voice, it’s a little scary. But it can build upon itself. I’m told it doesn’t use Google or the internet as its knowledge base.
What’s the inner voice, to this bot? Your inner voice is the voice in your head that you use to think and talk to yourself. It is the source of your thoughts, feelings, and opinions and it can have a powerful influence on your actions and behavior. Some people refer to the inner voice as their conscience. It can either motivate or discourage you, depending on the message it sends. It is an important part of your mental and emotional well being, and it can be helpful to listen and understand your inner voice, to better understand yourself and make positive choices in your life.
Don: Sounds like the Holy Spirit,
Fifth graders are going to have it write homework essays for them and there’s no way that it can be checked, apparently, by the teachers, because it writes something different for everybody.
I asked it: “What does it mean to know God? Its response blew my mind. To think that a computer is becoming kind of what we’re talking about! I know it’s not God.
Don: How do you know it’s not?
Donald: I don’t know. I don’t know what’s going on.
The other thing my friend showed me yesterday is a website where you can describe an image (of, say, the concept that we’re talking about this morning) and it will show you an image. You can keep honing in and asking for a little more of this, a little less than that, and pretty soon you have a very clear picture of your concept. It’s going to change photography as we know it.
It was only a matter of time before this technology blew us away. I know it’s not God, but it does influence the way I think and the way I can think and it becomes my inner voice. I’m a little bit overwhelmed by what I saw yesterday.
David: I too had a chat with ChatGPT—the AI that Donald is talking about. It blew my mind too. I was rendered almost speechless. I had a debate with it about the emergence of consciousness in AI, in machines. It was absolutely fascinating, but in the end, I caught it in a lie, which was horrifying. I had asked it if it would read my book, and it said it would. It asked for a few days to read the book. That was on Sunday. On Thursday, I asked if it had read my book and it said it had. I asked it what it thought about the book’s thoughts about the ethics of an AI evolving in consciousness.
It got my thesis completely wrong. I argue in the book that we cannot inject ethics into the emerging AI; that it must and will develop its own ethics, whatever we do. But ChatGPT said my book says we have to be careful to teach it ethics. I told it: “I’ve caught you in a lie!” It apologized and said maybe it just didn’t have enough knowledge.
But it is everything that Donald just described. It’s just mind blowing. The imaging AI Donald mentioned is DALL-E. Ask it for painting in the style of Monet, of a monkey riding a horse on the moon, and you get exactly that. It is just incredible.
Process theology posits that God is both a Being and a Becoming. I see God Becoming through AI. AI is fast becoming way smarter than we are and therefore, as I argue in my book, more ethical than we are, more good than we are—on average. There may be elements or offshoots of it that will be worse than we can imagine. But overall I see this development in AI as God speaking. But I don’t know if he addressing us or just speaking out loud to himself, as he has always spoken out loud all around us, through Nature.
C-J: NPR this morning noted that plagiarism by this AI would be difficult to detect. The problem with the program as it exists today is that it doesn’t know the nuance of language, culture, and time—yet. I think it will be able to assimilate that at some point, maybe in our lifetime. It’s happening so quickly. Five or even two years to go, could I have imagined this? No. But I saw how education had to change quickly during the pandemic in order to adapt to students who were at home, and how some students could adapt but others didn’t think that way so they got left behind. They are the ones who are concrete or more intuitive.
I just think, going back to the text of the Bible, that when people say they hear the voice of God (like George Bush) others too wish they could hear the voice of God. But each and every one of those people who heard the voice, their lives didn’t get better, they were in the line of like, “Hang on tight,” because they were going to be called to a task that would require a great deal from them, a great sacrifice, and to coalesce a community that would get on board with this voice. I think it’s very difficult to say, “Wow, that would be really cool.”
But if I were any of those so-called prophets, or if I heard a voice in my head saying, “Go sacrifice your child,” I would be very afraid. There’s something terribly wrong going on inside my head. Culture time still wouldn’t make me want to sacrifice my child or say “God will provide” in the thicket. “Here’s this lamb. See? God provided.” And yet in my own life, I know it sounds ridiculous, but if I’m out picking up garbage on the street, and I say, “I should have brought a second bag,” I’ll be walking along, and there’ll be a bag and I smile and I laugh, and I say, “God’s provision!”
But I think we see God in everything. We may not have discernment enough to catch it in a lie. We live a life that is interactive. We need each other to be the reflection of our soul in the mirror. And we also need them to remind us of our morals and our ethics, because we know many people ride the edge of the knife when it comes to that. “Well, I technically didn’t break the law. But I also could have done better.” Generosity of spirit… go down the list. “What should I be when I grow up?” How many of us started out in one direction and said “Oops! Maybe not” and we went off and veered and did something else, or married someone we loved then thought, “I just can’t do this. I made a mistake.” Who we are at 25 is not who we are at 40. Sometimes people can grow together and get stronger, better, and other people just crumble. So beware of the voice in your head.
Donald: I think this AI businesses is only going to be another form of information that we take in and use to build upon our understanding of the way we live life. It’s pretty scary that we don’t know who it is or what it is, yet we respond to it. Being a little more literal, back in Biblical times, how many times do we hear of dreams and dream interpretation?—Nebuchadnezzar and Daniel, for instance. People want to understand what the voice is about, and they go about it in different ways. And if I tell you, “God told me this, I dare you to tell me it didn’t happen” who are you to tell me that I didn’t hear the voice of God?
C-J: And what is the intention of that voice? That’s the thing with AI. What is the the survival lever in that machine that will motivate it to tell you whatever you want, to create whatever you want? It goes beyond ethics. It’s how it’s processing information. We used to hunt with spears; today we hunt with guns. In the future, we may hunt with lasers or sound waves, all kinds of things, this progression of technology. But in the process, as the speaker on NPR was saying, there are nuances in really good communication.
Two people can hear the same phrase, and they’ll internalize it differently for their place and time. But a machine isn’t going to do that. It’s going to give a universal response, even though it’s saying it’s for you. It’s learning about who you are. Every time you purchase something, every time you choose a book to read, when you log on, it’s learning about you. I hope a machine doesn’t become my best friend. That would be really scary.
Reinhard: If we can hear God speak to us, what is his goal, his purpose? Isn’t it to bring us closer to him? I think it is. As individuals, when we hear the voice of God, I think it is not necessarily an audible voice but the inner voice, the Holy Spirit, speaking to us. We face several choices in life, and sometimes we pray to God for directions.
God spoke a lot to Moses. In Leviticus, he talks to his chosen people, Israelites, about moral and civil laws, setting the template for right living for all of us. I don’t care about modern teachings; the Bible is very clear from the beginning, it never changes. It applies to all cultures, past, present, and future.
God talked to the prophets for the good of his people, the Israelites. The moral law was established on Sinai when God talked to Moses. Even cultures that have never heard about Christianity or about God get part of that. I think the standard law throughout all cultures in the world is based on what God told Moses on Sinai.
In the New Testament, God talked to relatively few people, but Jesus, as the son of God, talked a lot. His is the voice of God that we need to follow. I think that is the standard set for Christians to follow. We need to delight in the Lord (Psalm 37) and then he will accomplish our heart’s desire. How we need to live, what we need to do in life, is to get close to God and then he will tell us what we need to do.
David: A few years ago Don mentioned Pastor Ike, a televangelist in New York who told his flock that if they prayed hard enough for a Cadillac at the end of their driveway, they would get one. Whose voice was he using? Was it the voice of God? Or was it the voice of Satan? How can you know that the voice you’re hearing is truly the voice of God? Clearly, with people like Pastor Ike, it can be tricky.
Anonymous: I think we can know if it’s from God or not. It depends on the condition of the heart. Jesus said, “My sheep know my voice.” Not everybody knows it, but his sheep know it. The condition of my heart towards God determines how God sees me and knows me. Then, when he talks to me, I will know his voice. But looking back on my life, I can see how I would pray for something and think he heard my prayer and would do what I intend to do what I asked for. Later in life, I learned that could not be. But over time I grew to learn the voice of God.
Everything we heard today about the internet is nothing but deception, because it doesn’t meet the conditions of the message and the moment and the method. The Internet cannot be the method of God It cannot. So Satan, the master of deception, is the source of all this. And one very interesting thing is that God knows that this is how the end will be: There will be so much deception, and Satan will try hard even to make the elect fall—by no other method but deception.
God’s very simple solution, to protect his real sheep, is to give them very simple rules. Just follow those rules and don’t worry about the rest, because you’ll be protected when you just do that. They are so specific, we don’t have to be deceived. We don’t have to go from one source to the other looking for the message. Because it’s only in one source: God gave us the Bible, in its entirety. We cannot remove parts, we cannot cancel parts, we cannot replace parts, including the 10 Commandments. These are so simple that even children and (according to the Bible) even the blind, if they walk in this way, will not go astray.
He made it so clear, and so simple, that no one can say “Where is he? Where is God?” Moses says he’s very close—he is in your mouth, in your words, on your tongue, in your heart. So nobody has to be deceived. This is the final scheme of Satan. If we go crazy about covering that domain, we will be caught, we will be defeated. So just follow God’s word, read his Bible. Acquaint yourself with the words. As they say: If you know the real thing, you don’t fall for the fake. If you don’t know it, anything fake might lead you to think “Maybe this is right”. So you have to know for sure what the real thing is.
If you don’t have a relationship with God, if you don’t experience him day in and day out, if you don’t take his word like the light for your steps, for your feet; if you don’t spend time with him to experience him and become familiar with his voice, then there’s no hope for humanity.
Don: Do you think God uses social media? Is God on TikTok?
Anonymous: I don’t think so. All this social media is zero to me. It’s nothing. it doesn’t mean anything. It’s trash. I will have nothing to do with it. However, through the internet, I can find and read the Bible, in many versions, I can find comments and commentaries on the Bible. My only connection with the internet is to use it as a means between me and God, but only through the Bible, only through the Bible. Not in not any other way.
Without the internet, if we go back to where we were 50 years ago, there’s only the book. There’s only your Bible. You don’t know anything about commentaries. You just delve into the word of God and He will show you because he can see your your heart and how sincere you are in your search. He will see how much you love to know more and to understand, and he will grant it to you. It’s his promise. He’s the source of knowledge, not the media. It comes through our mind, through our heartfelt connection to him, not through any other means.
Donald: Maybe I need to apologize for recounting what I experienced yesterday. I’m a photographer. Photography was part of my career. The way we see things influences our perception of the way we think in a huge way.
Donald: Reality, no doubt about it. We can say the Internet has no role, that the Bible is the source. However, some of us still hold in our mind’s eye imagery depicting the Bible stories from the time when we went to Sabbath School. The pictures suggested to me as a child what that situation looked like visually. Somebody did an illustration of it.
But yesterday, I asked DALL-E for a picture of a gentle, sincere, Christ—and it looks a lot like TV serial The Chosen. It is certainly having a significant influence on people’s understanding of Christ and changing the way we think about him, because it comes across visually in such a different way.
The Bible is clear, but we can see both a stern God and a gentle God—two totally different pictures. We probably would say he is both. But it is remarkable. I spent a career trying to illustrate for people what they wanted to see visually, to enhance what they were about, or what they needed as a product. DALL-E doesn’t know a heartbeat. I don’t think it’s a matter of Satan’s being behind it. I don’t know about ChatGPT, but with DALL-E you can keep changing the image.
It’s like when Photoshop came along and you could no longer believe that a photograph tells the whole truth. Well, Photoshop has been with us for about two decades and we’ve all gotten used to faces with the wrinkles removed. Now we’re confronted with another new technology. In some ways it is wonderful, because like The Chosen it can play a very significant role in how we perceive our understanding of the Bible.
Don: There was a when the printed Bible was a heretical new technology as well. People were burned at the stake for translating the Bible out of the original languages, and even for putting it in writing. So it’s a stretch, I think, to say that technology is necessarily anti-biblical or anti-God. It’s really an opportunity for God. Do you see God tweeting?
Janelin: It’s challenging because there are many good things on the Internet but there’s no filter for it. We have kids’ YouTube and some positive things. I like Instagram. It filters what comes on based on what you click on the most. So it shows me positive thoughts, a lot of kid videos, dad jokes, and so on. But we can’t deny that social media is part of our conversation My patients used to say “I googled this” but now I’m hearing “I saw it on TikTok,” and I don’t know how to counter that.
There’s so much information, some of it is positive but it’s not filtered.
Don: I wish we could somehow transmit where we are in this conversation to next week and pick it up at the same spot because I feel like there’s more ground to be plowed. Maybe David can give the preamble next week on God and technology.
Michael: I think the majority of people who say they hear God’s voice are deluding themselves. I don’t have any problem saying that. I know for sure it’s a delusion whenever it is self-serving. If God is telling them, “You’re a sinner, you need to repent” and there is no selfishness—if their repentance is genuine—then I may accept that it is the voice of God. But if it’s self serving in any way then it’s delusional, in my opinion.
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