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FIRST-PERSON: Does God speak outside the Bible today?

JACKSON, Tenn. (BP)–Does God speak through tree stumps? The tornadoes that recently ripped through West Tennessee left not only widespread destruction, but also an oddly shaped tree stump that has residents of the Huron community speculating about its spiritual significance. Believing its image to be akin to that of an angel, one citizen testified, “I believe this could be God reminding us through this tree stump that He is still watching over us.” She also thinks its shape is just too good to be anything less than a spiritual message. It makes one think — might God really be trying to say something?

People have always seen and experienced things on earth that provide reflections on the supernatural. Statues have supposedly cried. Clouds have resembled divine beings. Tortillas have been burnt in ways seeming to depict the face of Jesus. In fact, just last week someone manipulated a $20 bill into the shape of an airplane, causing the folds to portray what appeared to be two twin towers as well as the Pentagon building on fire. Are spiritual messages encoded in such oddities?

Certainly God can and will do whatever He wants. It is His divine prerogative. Theologians call this God’s sovereignty. He has been known to flood the earth, speak through burning bushes, cause donkeys to talk, send fires and earthquakes, and the list goes on. In light of His past work, a spiritually significant tree stump placed perfectly among those who have experienced such storms would be a piece of cake for God. Of course God could have caused the tree stump to be shaped like an angel. However, the real question is, “Would God be speaking in this manner today?”

Christians see everything through the framework of faith. Having provided eternal meaning and significance, the person of God and the redeeming work of His Son, Jesus Christ serve as the philosophical fulcrum for all of life. Therefore literally everything on earth can serve as some sort of reminder of God and His working in the world. That being said, it is no surprise that the angelic shape of a tree stump might cause some to think of God.

An understanding of how God communicates with His people provides helpful clarification. God has revealed himself fully and finally in two ways — through His Son and through His Word. Jesus Christ is the image of God, (Colossians 1:15) and the Gospel writer John says that He became flesh, came to the earth, revealed who God is, and provided for the redemption of humanity. (John 1:14, 3:16, 5:24, 6:29, 17:3-4) It is through the life and work of Jesus Christ that humanity understands who God is.

The Bible is God’s communication to mankind. He has spoken clearly and powerfully through it, (2 Timothy 3:16, Hebrews 4:12) and people across history have come to know him through this record of revelation. Speaking about salvation, the apostle Paul underscores God’s means of revelation when he states, “faith comes from hearing the message, and the message is heard through the word of Christ.” (Romans 10:17)

Because of God’s Son and God’s Word, Christians understand that while He can do whatever He wishes, God has already communicated Himself in an adequate and complete fashion. His power and sovereignty affirm His ability to speak through tree stumps, but an understanding of His means of revelation shows that He probably would not go about things in this way. After all, with promises like, “And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age” (Matthew 28:20) and “Never will I leave you; never will I forsake you,” (Hebrews 13:5, Deuteronomy 31:6) why would additional signs be needed? Even in the middle of tornadoes, God’s Word is sufficient.

During difficult times, people always look toward spiritual things. It is a fact of life. However, trust is strengthened and faith is clarified by understanding that God continues to speak today through those words that He has already spoken. If God-honoring people try to listen to God’s voice in places other than Scripture, they only will end up being religiously confused — or worse yet, spiritually “stumped.”

For this reason, may the church continue singing with confidence, “How firm a foundation, ye saints of the Lord, Is laid for your faith in His excellent Word! What more can He say than to you He hath said, To you who for refuge to Jesus have fled?”
Todd E. Brady is minister to the university at Union University in Jackson, Tenn.

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  • Todd Brady