The ways God speaks

Dallas Willard


Now, sometimes God does strange things to get people’s attention, but the fundamental way God speaks to us is by causing thoughts in our mind that we come to learn have a characteristic quality, content, and spirit about them. Think about how we speak to each other. I speak to you by making noises, and little sound waves go into your ears and bounce around on your eardrums in a pattern that your brain converts into language. The ultimate result of that act is that you have a thought. I speak to you by causing thoughts in your mind. Once you have gotten that idea clear, then it can be pretty simple to see that God has many ways of causing thoughts in our mind. (That’s if you have established any basis at all for the idea that there is a God, that he made us, that there is a purpose in human history, and so on.)

You will clearly see God speaking in many ways as you study the scriptures. In Numbers 11 and Exodus 33 we see that God speaks to Moses as one speaks to a friend, face-to-face. In Jeremiah, you will see dreams contrasted with the word of the Lord: “Let the prophet who has a dream tell the dream, but let the one who has my word speak my word faithfully. . . . Is not my word like fire, says the Lord, and like a hammer that breaks a rock in pieces?” (23:28–29). There’s no suggestion that it is audible. Jesus himself seemed to have been one who directly heard God’s voice. Later on people needed things to get their attention, like Saul on the road to Damascus and others in the book of Acts. I don’t think we should rule out any options, but we should understand that God’s preferred mode is to address willing hearers by the thoughts that are given to their minds, the “still small voice” of 1 Kings 19:12 (kjv).

From The Allure of Gentleness: Defending the Faith in the Manner of Jesus. Copyright © 2015 by Dallas Willard. All rights reserved. Used with permission of HarperCollins Publishers.

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