Bible Deism and Listening Prayer

April 9, 2015

For the most part Christians tend to think of prayer as our speech to God. The words we use may be audible or inaudible, but the direction is from us to God. We speak and he listens. The idea is that prayer is a response to the prior speaking of God to us objectively in creation, or in Christ and the Scriptures.


The problem with this understanding is that it tends to lose the dynamic quality of an ongoing conversation between God and ourselves.

The thought is that God has already said what is necessary and important. Dallas Willard has termed this understanding of God’s relationship to believers as “Bible deism”:

Classical deism, associated with the extreme rationalism of the sixteenth to eighteenth centuries, held that God created his world complete and perfect and then went away, leaving humanity to its own devices. There was no individualized intervention in the lives of human beings, no miracles. Bible deism similarly holds that God gave us the Bible and then went away, leaving us to make what we could of it, with no individualized communication either through the Bible or otherwise (Hearing God, p. 107).

The Risks of Bible Deism

The risk in this approach is that we may lose a significant dimension of a mature spirituality. Think of the experience of being around small children who talk incessantly but do very little listening . . . how soon we yearn for conversation with an adult! Of course, some adults can put us through a similar ordeal, but we generally regard them as rude or narcissistic.

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