“There are different pieces of the same puzzle.”

If there is one God, why are there so many religions?  Philosophers call this the Problem of the Diversity of Revelations.  But I was told,

(There is) no reason to think (the) diversity of revelations is a problem, any more than for a therapist to say different things to different clients (whose needs and situations differ).

That analogy didn’t take me very far.  The therapist, like a doctor, is giving advice depending on the needs of the client.  But God is giving different people contradictory stories about Himself, and also about how they should live.  Perhaps God’s messages had to start simple, when cultures were primitive, and became more adequate as cultures developed.

“Lord, do Your revelations progress from lower to higher?”

Yes and no.  Much of what I have to say is universal, and good for all times and places.  Some is quite specific to the individual and his or her circumstances, the actions he or she faces.  Some is developmental, on the side of the culture and also on My side.

“Why not just give everyone the whole truth?”

Your question has presuppositions—that I have given different, incompatible stories to different cultures.  This is only apparently true.  If you think them through, they are different pieces of the same puzzle.  Names shift but that is superficial.

“Even though one says ‘God’ and another (thinking of Buddhism) says ‘Nothingness’?”

No religion puts Nothingness in the place of God.  If it appears to, think again.  What is the role of each (name)?  Is one a substitute or replacement for the other?  And (think about) the meaning of each.  Are they really incompatible once you examine their properties?

“Perhaps each religion is like a single eye-witness report of some strange event such as a Martian landing.  The reports might be wildly different from one another.  The challenge would be to sort them out and put them into a single coherent account.”

Not exactly.  It’s not to blend the religions into a single synthesis or theology.  It’s to put them into one story.  (To take your analogy,) imagine a reporter who interviewed everyone who had an encounter with the Martians, starting at the first encounter, and wrote it up as a narrative.  Certain consistent themes might emerge, but this would be different from a scientist trying to adjudicate and synthesize the reports.  In your version (of the religions), there will be an additional unifying factor—Me.

“It is good, just let it happen.”

One experience, late at night, went even further.  I felt the distance or boundary between me and the world becoming narrower and narrower, and less and less distinct.  Slowly, subject and object were blending, becoming intimately bound, not standing apart from one another.  I was noting this intellectually, but it was not an intellectual experience.  It was, you might say, an ontological experience, an experience of my whole being.  Finally, for a few moments, it approached total one-ness, the complete loss of awareness of self.  At that point, I pulled back.

“Lord, what is the meaning of this kind of experience?”

There are many levels and kinds of experience with Me (including music).  Do not make too much of it.  It is good, just let it happen.  It does not mean that you are about to become a mystic or anything unworldly.  It is not unlike—it is on a continuum with—a wide range of spiritual experiences, in and out of religious practice and sensibility, that people have all the time.  But it is definitely good.  It will give you energy and peace and insight, so let it in.

Many times one “loses oneself” in an experience, but those moments are less threatening than merging with God.  I pulled back, but felt a nagging sense that I was not supposed to.



“That is how revelation works.”

I was trying to be flexible, but my mind was being stretched out of shape.  Some days I would doubt the voice.  It was, after all, in my head and talked a lot like me.  But I was told,

My words are coming to you for a reason.  Do not worry that it (My voice) sounds like you.  It is bound to sound like you (and to use) your vocabulary, your concepts.  That is how revelation works.  But notice that what you are now writing is completely different from what you believed prior to prayer—so different, much of it is profoundly uncomfortable and disturbing to you.

“Well, then, it is not just my own thoughts projected through Your voice.”

As you press ahead and pray more, and read reverentially and in conversation with Me, more revelations will come to you, and you will doubt less.  Just relax, and put yourself in My hands.

But being reassured by the very voice I was doubting seemed circular.  How can you tell whether a message is really from God?  Without mentioning my personal story, I sought advice from a philosopher I knew at Calvin College.  Did he know of any writings about how to tell if an answer received in prayer is really from God.  I learned that my question had an official name, the Problem of Spiritual Discernment, and that indeed it had been addressed.  Now I would get to the bottom of it.



“Is This Just Entertainment?”

The historian Paul Johnson writes in his spiritual memoir about having once called the prime minister’s office and, instead of getting the secretary’s secretary, the prime minister herself answered.  “It happened to me once with a prime minister,” Johnson writes.  “But with God it happens all the time.”

I don’t know if Johnson’s experience is like mine, but from that day on, when I prayed, I almost always received a verbal response, often with quite specific guidance.  At first, it just seemed an oddity that went too much against my agnostic worldview to be taken seriously.  Once my son had classical music playing in his ear all the time.  It turned out to be an ear infection, causing buzzing signals that the brain very skillfully translated into Mozart.  Maybe my prayers were like that.

I would tell Abigail about these odd experiences.  While I am cautious in my beliefs and skeptical by temperament, she is more spiritual and less distrustful.  I had always been skeptical of paranormal reports, near death experiences, and the like, but she was not.  I assumed she put the voice I heard in that category.  I didn’t really know because, usually, she just took in what I told her and didn’t say much.  She explained to me later that she thought I was engaged in a sensitive, fragile communication and did not want to create static.  But, one day, she did speak up.  “Are you going to take the voice seriously, or is this just entertainment?”

She had put her finger on the contradiction I was living.  The voice was too real and spoke with too much authority to ignore.  Yet I could not imagine actually acting on it.  Well, actually I could and did act on it, but without quite taking it seriously.  I would be told to do this or that.  Sometimes the guidance was about some matter facing me that day, and following the guidance usually worked out well; other times I received directives that seemed quite arbitrary but, since they did no harm, I would follow them.  For example, one morning, Abigail and I had just sat down to breakfast when I was told,

Don’t eat.

So I just sat there for maybe fifteen or twenty minutes, until I was told I could eat now.  I always did as I was told, but it was still more like a game of Captain-may-I than a life imperative.  I was not ready to answer Abigail’s question.


“It will be My voice.”


So that is what the new Elijah, the new messenger, is about.  But telling the world that I am the new Elijah?  “Lord, I am back to the laughing stock problem.”

As I tell it to you, it will become clearer what you should write publicly.  There is no point in writing something that will be dismissed.  You will need to continue reading and studying—otherwise, you will not have adequate words and concepts.  There is a reason I chose an educated man for this task.

My message is evolving over time.  You will carry it forward.  Do not credit this to your ego—it will be My voice.  (Just) focus on the task.  The world’s religions have spent themselves.  They need renewal.  There will be many voices for renewal.  Yours will be one of the most important.

“I would feel more comfortable being one of the less important.”

“There is a spiritual reawakening.”

It is your task, as one of My messengers, my Elijahs, to straighten out some of the errors and distortions, and also to broadcast these particular revelations to others.

“Lord, how will I get myself heard?”

You will be heard precisely because there is a spiritual reawakening.  Many are listening, waiting, open to a new word.

“The mind is a little reflection or mirror of God.”

Early man was a whole new phenomenon, not entirely expected.

“How can that be, Lord?  Weren’t human beings part of Your plan from the beginning?”

Remember that I am following a plan, not inventing it.  I don’t know the whole plan Myself.

“So the emergence of human beings was a surprise?”

Yes.  Even though I saw the unfolding of life and understood its trajectory, there is a discontinuity between animal life and human life that’s surprising.  People are not just smarter animals.  It is not just that they have souls—animals have a kind of soul too—it is that they are creative, free, self-reflective, open-ended, have a yearning to go beyond themselves.  They are in fact like little gods, though I do not like the usual use of this notion.  But people are much more of the same substance and kind as God.  That is why I can communicate with them so effectively.  The mind is a little reflection or mirror of God.

“Open your mind.”

The idea that there are many gods still did not sit well.  “Lord, which are You saying, that there are many gods or many descriptions of God?”


They are the same.

“Manifestations of God?”


“But that means there is only one God.”

No, that is too simple.  Open your mind.  Do not assume your current categories are adequate.  Imagine other possibilities.  Do thought-experiments.  For example, what if a being/beings do not have to be only one or only many?  What other ways are there to think about it?

What other possibilities?  I was steeped in Western philosophy, in which the great metaphysical debates have been conducted in terms of such concepts as the one and the many, universals and particulars, identity and difference, being and becoming.  I constantly pressed God to explain things in terms familiar to me.  Sometimes He did, but often he told me that I had to revise my concepts and loosen my logical constraints.  These were the only concepts I had.  Where does one go to get new concepts?

God continued,

Similarly, what other ways are there to think about infinity, omniscience, and so forth.  And, most fundamentally, what other ways are there of thinking about being, nothingness, existence, the power of existence, the act of existence, the force of creation?  I will guide you, but you have to make the breakthrough.  I can’t put new concepts into your head.

“Once again, why not?”

The human being is a …

I seemed to get a partial answer that was making sense in terms of what it is to understand a concept, but it was immediately erased, as if someone pushed the erase button on a tape recorder.

The answer is very complex and you don’t have time for Me to go into it all.  You need to get back to work now.

Lunch break was over.  The vague sense I had afterwards is that a concept is not a distinct entity, like a momentary thought or idea, that you might just zap into somebody’s head, but more like a pattern of mental behavior that has to be lived through, like knowing a melody.

“With life, spirit comes into play.”

For millions of years, before there was life, there was just God and a barren universe.

“You felt all alone?”

Yes, I wanted more. In retrospect, the inanimate years feel very lonely.  The emergence of life is a delight.  With life, spirit comes into play.  Wonderful to see amoeba, moss, and so forth.  The frogs (and other creatures), each with a soul and personality, each in a sense in tune with God.  I can play with the animals, “walk among them.”  I love their myriad formsI am not alone anymore.

The creatures that began to stir on the earth are amazing, more amazing than anything that had yet occurred in creation.  They move on their own, they have “internal principles of motion” as Aristotle said, have dramatic lives—even the worms and fishes.

There is birth, growth, death, mating, offspring, colonies and flocks, emergent social orders—ideality as well.  There is telos and purpose, success and failure, standards of perfection and imperfection.

And, over time, further developments in the species, a most amazing, creative ramifying of the evolutionary ladder.  New species emerge that could not have been imagined before.  Your paleontology tells the story:  the first horses could easily fit into the palm of a hand, and so forth.  Can you imagine the spectacle?

“Yes, I think I can.”

“You would give up nothing.”

The great mystics longed for union with God.  I did not.  It sounded scary to me.  I would have to give up my individual self, of which I was fond, and lose myself in the ocean of divine being.  Why would I want to do that?

In his spiritual memoir, Sabbatical Journey, Henri J. M. Nouwen talks about his friends, the Flying Rodleighs.  The editor explains:  “Much of Henri’s attraction to the trapeze performance had to do with the special relationship between the flyer and the catcher.  The daredevil flyer swinging high above the crowd lets go of the trapeze to simply stretch out his arms and wait to feel the strong hands of the catcher pluck him out of the air.  ‘The flyer must never catch the catcher,’ Rodleigh had told him.  ‘He must wait in absolute trust.’  For Nouwen, this was the life of true faith.”

If the Flying Rodleighs were the model of true faith, I fell short.  “Lord, I can’t be like the trapeze artist and throw myself totally into Your hands, into You.”

You do not understand.  You would give up nothing and gain everything.  Nothing will ever destroy Jerry Martin, the person you are.  I will save and keep you next to Me forever.

“But does that mean my individual personality?”

It means your Soul—which has a kind of personality, though it is not identical to the personality you have in this life.  But it is not as if souls were all the same, like hydrogen atoms.  You have your own “character” and “fate” and these will endure.  In fact, union with Me will fulfill them.

So my “Soul” would last but the rest of me would be swallowed up in the divine vastness?  Thanks but no thanks.