“So that’s the balance that we want to see—honesty, urgency, and joy. Honesty and urgency with no joy gives us a grim determination (read Philippians). Honesty and joy with no urgency gives us a carelessness about time (read 2 Peter). And urgency and joy with no honesty leads us into distorted claims about immediate benefits of the gospel (read 1 Peter).”
Mark Dever in The Gospel and Personal Evangelism
In Whisper, Mark Batterson asserts that God speaks to us in multiple ways but most often in a whisper which could be a feeling, emotion, or circumstance. In the first part of the book, the author describes his own experiences in hearing God speak to him in subtle ways that proved to be providential and supernatural. The second half identifies seven different “love languages” that Batterson suggests as being valid ways that God communicates His will to us. Batterson highlights Scripture as being the primary guide to knowing God’s will but suggests that other means such as desires, dreams, and pain can also be genuine opportunities to hear God’s voice. Much of the evidence produced is based on his own church planting and life experience along with a wide array of popular and academic sources that support the seven proposed methods. Biblical support lies mainly in Old Testament narratives such as Gideon and his fleece which the author argues is an example of how we can discern God’s promptings. In summary, Batterson’s views are like many other popular books on the topic of searching out God’s will which rely heavily on personal experience and subjective interpretation of the results as evidence of correctly discerning His will.
Although I agree with Batterson that we need to be attentive to the Spirit’s promptings in our lives, I found many parts of the book concerning. Firstly, the usage of biblical texts for support are strained and the interpretative methods used are troubling. For example, in Chapter 2, Batterson references a Jewish book titled The Book of Legends as a viable translation of Psalms 29:4 to support his view that God customizes His voice to fit “the unique strength of each and every person.” From a plain reading of the verse in its context with mainstream evangelical translations such as the ESV and NIV, the psalmist is simply adoring the power and majesty found in God alone. There is no obvious connection that one can identify to show that God’s strength is apportioned to each person in a unique way as Batterson asserts. Secondly, I find it problematic how the author attempts to gauge whether following a certain sign or prompting as being God’s will by pointing to the results as empirical proof. Not only is such an argument illogical but there is also no means by which we can test whether choosing an alternative would have resulted in better or worse results. For example, Batterson suggests that God’s whisper moved him to plant his church and its coffeeshop which resulted in soaring attendance numbers. However, how can we objectively determine that opening a coffeeshop is necessarily God’s will for Batterson instead of a laundromat or supermarket? Lastly, I find it disturbing that the author does not address the spiritual aspects of seeking God’s will. Without a deep spiritual life characterized by holiness and spiritual maturity while being constantly connected to Christ and His Word, there is little chance that we are walking in ways that God desires.
I would not recommend this book as a reliable resource on finding out what God intends for our lives. I am not denying Batterson’s claims that what transpired in his life is God-ordained, but I have reservations about his methods of finding God’s will. We must acknowledge that God speaks to us through the internal testimony of the Holy Spirit and the Bible as His written Word. Any other attempt to find God’s will outside of these parameters is merely conjecture and must be tested accordingly. All Christians should seek to follow God’s will by living Spirit-filled lives that are informed by Scripture so that we grow in spiritual maturity and closeness to God. When we are in sync with God’s Spirit and Word, we can be confident that the next steps we will take will be within God’s divine will and pleasure.
In compliance with Federal Trade Commission guidelines, I received a review copy from The Crown Publishing Group in exchange for a book review.