In the Gospel reading for this week in the one year series Jesus says “Unless you see signs and wonders you will not believe.” In a parallel passage in Luke 11:29-32 Jesus says “An evil and adulterous generation looks for a sign.”
What does the Bible say about signs from heaven? This is a serious topic of spirituality in this emotional and pietistic generation that we live in. Beth Moore and other evangelicals promote a spirituality of divine hunches that rival the authority of the Word of God.
Beth Moore’s Harmful “Hunch Spirituality”
I like to call it “hunch spirituality.” Beth Moore thinks that she gets hunches from God apart from His Word for her Christian walk and daily decision making. She practices and recommends contemplative prayer in which the believer communes with the reality of God. She claims that God speaks to her by putting pictures in her mind and that He whispers in her heart. For more details and a helpful critique you can click here. (Go down to the section on “Beth Moore Quotes.”)
Beth Moore and the Absence of the Means of Grace
Beth Moore is a Southern Baptist which means that she is also in error on the teachings of faith, conversion, the means of grace, eschatology, and more. It is the denial of the means of grace that leads to the spirituality of hunches. When you do not have a real forgiveness, spoken by real shepherds of God (Holy Absolution) or a real regeneration to new life (Holy Baptism) or a real presence of Christ where he said he would be (Holy Communion) you need to invent a spirituality.
Beth Moore and the LCMS
Sadly, there are thousands of LCMS congregations that are routinely channeling the teaching of the likes of Beth Moore, Rick Warren and Mark Driscoll. Beyond channeling, they are actually showing live webinars of these false teachers. We won’t do a wedding with a heterodox teacher because that is against our LCMS rules but we have no problem bringing a false teacher into our pulpit (teaching a Bible class is on the same level as preaching from the pulpit) for a two hour, live webinar teaching.
Walther in his 8th thesis on the church (Church and Ministry) says “For the sake of your personal salvation, flee all false teachers and heterodox congregations.” He gets this from Romans 16:17 which says “I appeal to you brothers, to watch out for those who cause division and create obstacles contrary to the doctrine that you have been taught; avoid them.” These countless LCMS parishes and pastors who peddle Beth Moore and others to their sheep are living dangerously on the edge of faith shattering false teaching and their District Presidents refuse to do anything about it.
We All Fall Prey to the Temptation of Sign Reading
Even if we do not listen to Beth Moore videos, each of us is susceptible to this false spirituality. So often we want something to be the case and so we think we start to see signs from God. Actually they are coincidences or imagined by us or possibly even tricks from Satan to pull us away from the revealed Word of God to the imagined word of our own invention.
Nowhere in the Bible does it tell us to looks for signs from heaven. As a matter of fact, it says the opposite. We walk by faith. We live under the cross.
God did give signs to a few folks in the Scriptures but it is a false move to extrapolate from them that God is doing the same with us. The few places in Scripture where this happens are indeed in Scripture and are a part of God working out His history of salvation in Christ. Unless you think you are a part of the history of salvation it is best that you ignore these hunches and use the gift of reason (and even intuition – a sort of semi-conscious reason) that God has given you to make the best decisions you can.
The Sign of Jonah
What does the Bible say about signs from heaven? Jesus says the only sign I will give you is the sign of Jonah (Luke 11:29-32). This sign is two-fold. First it is a sign that just as Jonah spent three days in the belly of a great fish, so too Jesus would spend three days in the belly of the earth. Secondly and more to the point, the sign of Jonah is the sign of repentance and preaching. Jonah did no signs for Ninevah. He simply preached the law, they repented and he preached the Gospel and they believed. Jesus says this is the sign we should look to.
In the LCMS today pastors and parishes are looking for the signs and wonders of American Evangelicalism and the false teaching of people like Beth Moore who wrongly direct people to signs and hunches from God for the security of their faith.
As in the case of Jonah however, we have the sign of preaching and that is enough. We have the spirituality of the presence of God in preaching and the sacraments and that is more than enough for a full spirituality.
Can Jesus do a miracle today? Without a doubt. Should we look for a miracle and expect one? No. Instead fix your eyes on the cross for that is where faith comes from. Not faith in a healer and fixer, but faith in a savior from sin. For Jesus sake your sins are forgiven. Be at peace. You don’t need any magic hunches. Live in confidence and trust in the cross of Christ.
(This is an abridged version of the sermon I preached tonight and will preach tomorrow at Bethany Lutheran Church and School, Naperville, Illinois. It is loosely based on the “What Does the Bible Say” series of sermon notes by Bo Giertz for the one year series.)