“If private revelations agree with Scripture, they are needless, and if they disagree, they are false.” ~John Owen*
This quote was angrily flung in the midst of a heated Facebook theology discussion last week (because, yes, that’s what people in seminary do on Facebook), as a final proof of someone’s argument, the seal of their rightness because they were basing their arguments on the Bible!
Leaving aside the actual topic, leaving aside that person’s attitude as much as I can, I still found this quote coming back to me. Maybe it was just tainted by the vitriolic Facebook context, but the more I thought about it, the more it bothered me.
I am a writer. Sharing private revelations is really what I do. I see God in my life, in the world around me, and in those moments I see God in new and bigger and truer ways, and I share it on this blog, in my published writings, and in my sermons. Is that truly wrong? Self-centered or self-serving? Isn’t the history of Christianity really a history of different people sharing their own understandings of God, shaping them for their own contexts? Isn’t that what we are told to do (“And He said to them, ‘Go into all the world and preach the gospel to all creation‘” [Mark 16:15], for instance)? And isn’t that how we encourage one another, by sharing how we have seen God in our lives and what we’ve learned? Yes, these lessons we’ve learned are probably lessons shared in the Bible as well, but how much more powerful to experience that for yourself, or to hear of it from a friend or fellow church-goer or devotion-writer! Our God is a living God, and our faith is a living faith–share what you’ve learned! Share what God has shown you in your own life! For that is a revelation, and it may not be a new doctrine or understanding of God when viewed in terms of all of Christendom, but that doesn’t make it any less important to you, or me. Speak. Share you experiences.
God is working in all of our lives. Share it!
* I have absolutely no idea what the context of this quote is. I’ve never read anything John Owen wrote, and I’m fully aware that I’m pulling this quote completely out of context and bashing it without having any idea of who John Owen was or if he is, in fact, someone that I disagree with. If anyone does know about John Owen, I’d love to hear about it in the comments!