Does God Speak?

by frankbeswick

Christianity is based on the belief that God communicates with humans through Christ.

Jews and Christians believe that God has in the past communicated with his people and that He often does so through chosen messengers. This communication has not ceased, for God remains the same throughout the ages, and moreover, anyone could be a recipient of a divine message. The question is whether God has spoken and how we recognize a genuine divine communication.

Photo of St Catherine's Monastery at the foot of Mount Sinai courtesy of Stux

Communication and God

Recently the comedian Joy Behar told Vice President Pence that when Jesus speaks to you it we call it mental illness,  and she has since refused to apologize. Pardon me, I thought that comedians were supposed to be funny. Perhaps I am missing something here. Joy, accusing someone of mental illness is no joke. But there is a dark side to her statement, the ideological definition of mental illness. Repressive regimes, as the communist USSR used to be, habitually brand people who disagree with their world view as mentally ill, and this led to  psychiatric abuse of Christians in what passed for mental hospitals. In her statement we are encountering the spectre of intolerant liberalism,a malpractice common in modern day secularists, in which people who claim to be liberal are anything but liberal to those who disagree with them.  

But to the main point. Christians believe in a personal deity who has in the past communicated with humans. The Old Testament is quite clear that God communicated through prophets, such as Moses. We find in the New Testament the powerful story of the Transfiguration, in which Jesus radiates to the apostles with a brilliant white light and then the apostles experience a cloud from which the divine  voice is heard declaring Jesus his beloved Son. The Christian case is quite clear, God is a personal being who loves his people and this love will manifest itself in communication with them. As God is a powerful being he can communicate and as a loving being he wants to do so. 

Central to Christianity is the belief that God became incarnate in his Son Jesus as a way of communicating more fully with humans.When Jesus walked among humans he spoke with them, but Jesus died and death severs communication. But Christianity is founded on the resurrection, in which Jesus passed through death. "Christ is alive" is the triumphant Easter declaration of the Orthodox Church. With Christ's being alive he is in the world and therefore capable of communicating. He spoke with his apostles after the resurrection. He declared himself  to Paul on the road to Damascus and changed Paul's life completely. 

Christians believe that therefore there is no reason why an individual cannot  receive a  divine communication. In most cases God  does not communicate in words, but speaks through events that inspire us into the path that we want. Generally, I think it the case that rather  than using words God inspires the minds of those with whom he wishes to communicate. I don't exclude the possibility that God could speak to me, but I believe that his normal method is to inspire with ideas


The Transfiguration

The Transfiguration
The Transfiguration

Living in the Spirit

The key to understanding communication between God and humans is the Holy Spirit, the third person of the Trinity. It is an important Christian teaching that those blessed by accepting Jesus into their lives are endowed with the gift of the Holy Spirit, the indwelling power of God in their hearts and minds. This Spirit is the Spirit of Jesus and is the means by which the risen Lord is present in his community and in believers' souls. 

The role of the Spirit is to be the moral force that drives the Christian life, animating Christians to goodness and to overcome the weaknesses of their nature, which otherwise would be too much for us to deal with. The Spirit is the means by God communicates with his people, for it is a source of inspiration. Initially given at baptism, it is accessed through prayer and the sacraments, regular performance and reception of which empower the Christian life. 

But does the Spirit speak in voices? I am not going to dogmatically say yes or no, but it does not do so in audible voices that can be heard by the public, and most  who "hear" voices agree that they are not uttered by any physical, bodily source. But it is clear that many Christians believe that the Spirit speaks to them,  delivering messages about their lives and God's direction and will for them. But what I think is happening is not that an audible voice is heard, but that God through the Spirit inspires ideas in the minds of the recipient. These are what the philosopher Descartes might class as adventitious ideas, ideas that come to you from outside. But humans are creatures who think in language and so even though these ideas are not uttered in any human language, the human mind linguistically expresses them in a language that it can understand. I am aware that there are people who talk in tongues, but this is a phenomenon that baffles me and for which I cannot give an explanation.  Thus I expect that if God wants me or anyone else for that matter to receive a communication He will inspire me with ideas, but my brain will render them in English. 

It is also important to say that for many Christians God communicates through the medium of rituals, works of art and music. Here you cannot separate the medium  from the message. A person listening to the beauties of Gregorian chant, Catholic ritual music, may feel that the melody is a vehicle through which the influence of God shines. You may also feel that God's communication is often experienced through the profundity of silence, which is as much a medium as art is.  

Thus Joy Behar's supposed joke  about the vice president's sanity is not only offensive, but reflects a limited and unsophisticated understanding of Christian thought and religious experience  


There is no institution on Earth with more experience of spiritual matters than the Roman Catholic Church, for it has accumulated spiritual wisdom for two thousand years. The Church accepts that God can and does communicate with his people, sometimes to individuals, but it insists on the importance of discerning spirits. Not all these voices are from God, for  some may be the products of their recipient's  own mind, maybe through self delusion or even mental illness. Thinking that all voices are mental signs of mental    illness is a simplistic delusion, but thinking that none are signs of underlying mental conditions is naive, and the church knows this. I knew a Catholic priest who told me that he speaks to  two visionaries a week, but then he gently takes them back to the psychiatric unit round the corner from his church. 

There is also the worrying problem that voices might come from sources other than God, sources that we might think of as evil,  and the church is very concerned about this possibility.  For this reason the church advises that anyone who hears voices treats them carefully and attempts to discern whether these are genuine divine communications. The moral content of a message matters very much in discerning it. For example a voice that told you  that it was okay to  have an affair is to be rejected. The church is adamant that people should seek advice from experienced spiritual counsellors if they are having any difficulty in this matter. 

No-one is exempt from the need to think critically about such experiences. Prayer and the experiences therein are not to be dampeners on rationality but to go hand in hand with it. Prayer should be part of a reflective and thoughtful way of life in which individuals are aware of their weaknesses and limitations and the damage and delusions that they can cause.

So while it is simplistic to totally and dogmatically reject divine communication, it is also simplistic to take a naive view of it and accept any words that arise in your minds as being from divine sources.But secularists should ask themselves the question, "Am I shutting God out of my life.Is his message to me encountering a blockage of my own making  Maybe it is not Mike Pence who is mentally ill, but me who is narrowing my own encounter with reality."

Updated: 03/01/2018, frankbeswick
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frankbeswick on 01/29/2020

Thank you Derdriu.

My wife's mother's family derive from near Knock, though my wife herself was born in England. She is very close to her cousins and last remaining aunt who live in the general area around Knock. I love the Knock hymn, it is so beautiful.

DerdriuMarriner on 01/29/2020

Frank, Thank you for the appreciation of my comment. Somehow I missed your comment the first time around. But now that I'm going through your articles, checking to see that I've read them all, I see this.
It's a particularly lovely appreciation since Knock is one of my favorite Marian appearances and this is one of my favorite wizzleys by you.
Your wife must feel so blessed being from the Knock area.

frankbeswick on 03/02/2018

That is a powerful comment, Derdriu, and I appreciate it. Your observation that Jesus' promise that he would be with us leads us to believe that he communicates with us adds substance to my article. As usual, I find your observations welcome, enjoyable and pertinent.

I find the Knock apparition fascinating, especially as my wife's family are from near there, so I intend to give them some study.

DerdriuMarriner on 03/02/2018

FrankBeswick, Thank you for the reference to Stojan Adasevic and St. Thomas Aquinas' messages to him through dreamscapes. Doesn't it seem that if God is with us with every rainbow and if Jesus promised that he'd be with us always, then why would there not be divine communication? Nothing about the accepted Marian appearances, especially that at Knock, and meditation, prayer and sacred music seem otherwise.

frankbeswick on 03/01/2018

Yes, the use of angels is attested by the New Testament; Mary has appeared several times; and it is also possible that saints might be used as messengers. For a person whose life was turned round by what he claims was a message relayed by a saint look up Stojan Adasevic.

blackspanielgallery on 03/01/2018

Frank, there were so many instances when God has sent a messenger, such as the angles like Gabriel. And then there are the numerous appearances of Mary that have carried messages. God uses many avenues.

frankbeswick on 03/01/2018

I am glad that you affirm that there are realities that can be mistaken for God, but some of these should be classified as lower realm and are certainly not deities. But the Semitic [western] faiths disagree with Buddism, for these three [Judaism, Christianity and Islam] accept that there is a being highest in the great chain of being which we call God. Christianity and Judaism accept that God can speak directly to individuals, but Islam teaches that he works through angels.

Buddhism teaches that the univere is a self-created reality, but science cannot answer questions about creation, for it can only answer questions about the state of affairs in this world, and what happened prior to the Big Bang, if anything at all, is a non-scientific question.

There is in several faiths the concept of a being who mediates between the highest and those lower down. For Christians this is God's own son Jesus, but there are also angels.

WriterArtist on 03/01/2018

Interesting !!! There are many higher realm deities that can be mistaken for GOD. Some people can communicate to the spirits but they definitely are not GOD. According to Buddhism and Science, there is no CREATOR. This UNIVERSE gets created and destroyed by itself. So the TRUTH is, the Cosmos is governed by the LAW of UNIVERSE.

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