What do Christians mean when they say ‘God spoke to me?’

by J Warner Wallace

I must confess that I empathized with Joy Behar, co-host of ABC’s The View, when she recently expressed concern about a claim that Vice President (and Christian believer) Mike Pence has heard the voice of Jesus on occasion.

I didn’t become a Christian until the age of thirty-five, and prior to that time, I also found it disturbing when Christians said, “God spoke to me last night,” or, “Jesus told me I should do this (or that).” Behar expressed a similar concern when she told her co-hosts, “It’s one thing to talk to Jesus. It’s another thing when Jesus talks to you. That’s called mental illness if I’m not correct. Hearing voices.”

I can honestly remember saying something similar to a Christian co-worker back when I was a committed atheist. He claimed that God told him something, and I thought he was, well… crazy. But years later, after becoming a Christian myself, I began to understand exactly what believers mean when they use expressions like this, and it’s not necessarily what Joy Behar may think.

I pressed my Christian friend, all those years ago, and asked him if he actually heard the audible voice of God, and if God sounded like George Burns (the movie, Oh, God!, was my only point of reference prior to Morgan Freeman’s role in Bruce Almighty). My friend laughed and explained that the expression, “God spoke to me,” didn’t necessarily mean that God spoke audibly. Christians, he said, believe the Bible is the “word of God,” and by reading it, gain access to the mind of God.

As I began to study the New Testament a few years later, I discovered this truth for myself. If the Bible is, indeed, “breathed out by God” (2 Timothy 3:16), and “the word of God is living and active” (Hebrews 4:12), there might be many ways someone could legitimately say, “God spoke to me.” Here, for example, are four…

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