“Experiencing God” by Henry Blackaby and Claude King (and now also Richard Blackaby) seems to be a book for which reviewers find no middle ground. Almost all of the reviewers on Amazon give the book 5 stars (with one 4 star book) and one 1 star review. I find that the book has the potential to lead many to a deeper, more meaningful experience with God but also has the potential to lead many into false views of how God works with His people today.
On the positive side, the book can be profitable as a devotional book that leads people closer to the heart of God. Blackaby is on target when he teaches that God is always at work around us, that He pursues a love relationship with us, that He takes the initiative, that He invites us to join Him in His work, and that God speaks to His people. He’s also right when he emphasizes that joining God requires major adjustments and obedience. Reminding people of these truths and teaching them to look for a personal encounter with God is a good thing. “Experiencing God” can help God and the Bible become more personal in the Christian’ life.
This new, revised edition also has additional chapters on “Experiencing God as Couples,” “Experiencing God in the Church,” “Experiencing God in the Marketplace,” and “Experiencing God in His Kingdom.” These are helpful to the degree that they help Christians realize that God is present in every area of their lives.
However, I find that Blackaby’s presentation of how we experience God is misleading in some ways. For the reasons I list below, I can only give the book 3 stars. Although Blackaby includes a number of ways that we may experience God (the Bible, Prayer, Circumstances, and the Church), his fundamental approach is an individualistic one. Such an approach, without proper checks and balances, can often go astray. This is especially true because Blackaby teaches that “God gives specific directions.” While this may be true in some circumstances, it is not true in most cases for most people. This is a problem in two ways. First, I’ve experienced too many Christians who claim God told them specific things that were not true: what check was there on this false interpretation? I’ve seen the most lawless Christians claim that God speaks to them quite specifically about the smallest details of life while many of the most godly Christians I know make no such claims. There is too much emphasis on what amounts to individual, subjective experiences with God. Second, what happens when you pray and act faithfully, and yet God doesn’t speak specifically or act miraculously? You end up either blaming God or yourself when neither is to blame. (Or, perhaps, you could realize that He may be working in other ways in your life.) In general, Blackaby presumes that God will be following some script that I find He often doesn’t follow.
These errors proceed from a fundamental error in biblical interpretation: the belief that God will speak specifically to us the way He did through the patriarchs or other biblical figures. Again, this may be true at certain times, but this is nowhere taught in Scripture as the primary means God speaks to His people, or we would have seen it taught a lot more directly, for example, in very personal Paul’s letters. I’m also wary of stories where God tells people to go out and do something they are unprepared to do, only to find that God miraculously delivers them. Do I believe that God can and does do such things? Absolutely! But I’ve seen too many Christians act presumptuously and foolishly in the name of God on this basis. Furthermore, I’ve seen too many Christians become addicted to God’s miraculous deliverance in their lives when what He really wants is a day by day, moment by moment faithfulness – even when the miraculous isn’t present.
Of course it’s not necessary that such errors will proceed from reading “Experiencing God.” But because of an overemphasis on and distortion of certain ways in which God deals with us, Christians who follow such an approach should also be aware of some of the ways that such an approach may, in time, lead them astray.
Category: Book Reviews