Does God use dreams to speak to Christians today?
Many years ago, I would have immediately replied with a vehement and emphatic “No!” My fervor for protecting the place of Scripture as God’s revelation of Himself demanded it. Or so I thought.
Now, I’m not so sure that dreams have no place alongside my continued insistence on the rightful place of Scripture as “the only rule to direct how we may glorify and enjoy Him.” As I read Scripture, I see God using dreams to guide His people, not just for giving special revelation, but for directing them in life.
I think of the times we read, “and being warned in a dream…” and similar phrases and ask why the Spirit can’t use dreams to speak to Christians today? Granted, any dreams we may have must be measured by the Word of God, by wisdom God has given His Church over the ages, and a healthy dose of common sense. But do they have a place in our relationship with God?
As I’ve Pondered My Own Dreams
The last two nights, I’ve had vivid dreams that I suspect God may have used to awaken me to issues in my own faith walk and family. So I find myself asking these questions not just as an academic exercise.
In the first dream, my children were leaping from an extremely high platform above a large body of water. When I say high I mean well over 1,000 feet — and I seemed to be okay with it. They seemed to be enjoying it even though everything in me told me that they were at great risk. There was more to it that I can’t really recall now, but I awoke quite disturbed.
When I considered what it might have meant, I immediately thought of two real-world situations involving my children in which I think I have been negligent. I’d been standing by, as it were, while they “leaped” in directions that may put them at risk. No, I’m not necessarily talking about their running over baby copperhead snakes with bicycles – although that’s not behavior I want to encourage them to continue.
The second dream reminded me of how awesome my wife truly is. I don’t even remember all the details of it, quite frankly. Only that I awoke with a renewed appreciation for her, a reminder of how beautiful she is, a thankfulness for how blessed I am to have her as a partner in this faith journey, and more than a little guilt that I’ve not been diligent in communicating to her how much I love her. (Maybe she was prompting me with subliminal messages as I slept. If so, it worked. Fortunately, she’s too busy being awesome to read my blog, so I’m good.)
So Did God Speak through My Dreams?
First, let me be clear that I am not approaching this question as a theologian. If I were, I know that words like speak and dream have precise theological definitions about which many books have been written. And, yes, the distinctions are valid, especially when determining infallible revelation from God.
But I’m not arguing for any infallible revelation being delivered today through dreams. Quite the opposite. I think we should approach dreams with great caution these days as God works primarily through the Spirit applying His Word. (Hebrews 1:1-2)
I am also not approaching the question as a dream specialist, neurologist, or therapist with expertise in dreams. I’ve studied a little about the nature of dreams, enough to know they are still largely a mystery to us in spite of all our study. One thing common to all the research I’ve seen is that dreams are essentially the result of our own subconscious efforts to make sense of life.
But can God use dreams, a phenomenon He created within us, to speak to us, not as a means of dispensing new revelation of any private interpretation (2 Peter 1:20), but to alert us to danger we’ve been ignoring, to convict us of sin, to remind us of obligations, or sharpen our focus on problems we’ve been trying to suppress? If not, why not?
I’ve seen a wide range of perspectives on dreams in Evangelical circles. Some say that dreams are nothing more than the byproducts of indigestion and should be ignored as dangerous thing that could easily lead us into heresy (Jeremiah 23:25-27). Others seem disappointed when not receiving dreams, as if God had forgotten to send the singing telegram that would direct their daily work. I think most of us see them as what the writer of Ecclesiastes calls them – the natural result of much business.
I have a reason for asking this question beyond just my own recent dreams. As some of you may be aware, my next book will unpack what it means to walk by faith. I’d welcome your input in the process. Comments left on these posts over the next few months may well find a place in the book with your user name attached, so leave some good comments. Besides, I’d really like to know what you think about whether or not God uses dreams to speak to Christians today.
And I’m looking for stories of faith that might be a fit in the book. They don’t have to involve dreams, of course, but as I ask for input in the weeks to come, don’t hesitate to share your story with a comment. Who knows, it may end up being a great help to others struggling on the same journey.
Now, about those dreams, should the Christian pay attention to dreams and, if so, to what extent? Share your thoughts, story, or perspective with a comment below.
Photo by Laenulfean