I wrote the other day about how thousands of Muslims become Christians because they claim to have seen Jesus in a dream. As I was googling “Muslims Jesus dream” to find testimonies about this to link to, I also came across criticism of this phenomena by reformed pastor John Piper. Piper says that he is “very suspicious” to these claims because the Biblical model of evangelism is not hearing the Gospel through dreams but through a preacher:
“Jesus coming to them in their head, preaching the Gospel to them that they have never heard of before, and believing and being saved… that I am suspicious of… big time,”
“The Gospel needs to be heard. How shall they believe unless they hear and how shall they hear without a preacher and how shall they preach unless they be sent. That’s a pretty significant argument in Romans 10… It says, how shall they preach unless they be sent? It doesn’t say, oh they can preach in a dream when they are not even there.”
I think there are several problems with this argument. First of all, dreams and visions are a very common way for God to communicate to people in the Bible. As Jack Deere write in his awesome book Surprised by the Voice of God:
According to the Bible, dreams and visions are the normal language of the Holy Spirit when God speaks to hos prophets. Numbers 12:6 says, “When a prophet of the Lord is among you, I reveal myself to him in visions, I speak to him in dreams.” Joel promised that one day drams and visions would be common among the people of God, saying, “And afterward, I will pour our my Spirit on all people. Your sons and daughters will prophesy, your old men will dream dreams, your young men will see visions. Even on my servants, both men and women, I will pour out my Spirit in those days” (Joel 2:28-29). The apostle Peter claimed that the coming of the Spirit on Pentecost began the fulfillment of Joel’s prophecy (Acts 2:16ff.).
Thus, we shouldn’t be very surprised when Jesus tells us stuff in dreams. It seems though that Piper’s argument is that when it comes to non-believers, the rules are completely different. Piper probably has no problem with a pastor receiving knowledge from God in a dream, but Jesus sharing the Gospel in a dream – no way! That’s the job of the preacher! Step away Holy Spirit, you’re taking my job!
There’s a lot of Biblical examples of non-believers receiving dreams from God – Pharao, Nebuchadnessar and Pilate’s wife for example. Piper himself mentions Cornelius in Acts 10, who got saved after an angel told him to meet the apostle Peter. Piper’s point however is that the angel did not share the Gospel himself but referred to the preacher instead.
And of course, God wants us to connect with the church and not only rely on our own dreams and visions. I’m not saying that the thousands of Muslims that have seen Christ in a dream should be without further teaching and support from Christians; on the contrary, I really think that should be a top priority. But Piper is basically saying that God refuses to share the Gospel himself, that He can tell you anything in a dream besides the Gospel. Think about that. He can give you encouragement, tell you what Bible book He wants you to read, reveal something in your future – but not tell you how to get saved! For a pastor that emphasizes the sovereignity of God, that’s a really, really weird argument.
Just look at Abraham. The guy grew up in an idol-worshipping culture and family, but God started to speak to him and called him to be the father of His people. He became righteous by faith, a faith that no human being gave him, only God himself. Now, I guess Piper would say that Abraham was an exception from the rule since not so many were there to share the Gospel with him. But isn’t the same situation present in many Muslim nations? Missions organizations are struggling in the Middle East because of prejudices and even hatred. Isn’t it amazing that God then Himself is doing some evangelistic outreach?
Perhaps some stories are exagerated, perhaps some are even made up, we should always be aware of that. That’s not Piper’s point though, he’s against this phenomena per se because it doesn’t fit with his theology. But seriously, when thousands of former Muslims testify that they have become Christians because Jesus spoke to them in a dream, who are we to say “that never happened”? I have a better idea: rejoice, praise God and do more evangelism so that you can take back your job from the Holy Spirit. 😉
- John Piper Says Revival Is Needed to Bring America Out of ‘a God-Ignoring, God-Belittling Frame of Mind’ (blackchristiannews.com)
- John Piper on Crack. (thespankingmyth.wordpress.com)
- The end of the … (darricksuen.wordpress.com)
- God Is Not an Idolator (pjcockrell.wordpress.com)