Beware of Christian ventriloquism
By Lynn Jones
Ventriloquism is an interesting form of entertainment. It usually consists of someone who appears to be carrying on a conversation with a “dummy.” When you see the ventriloquist in action, it’s the dummy who is usually getting the best lines. Of course, the truth of the matter is that the dummy is saying nothing. It is the ventriloquist who is putting the words into his mouth.
Ventriloquism hit its peak in entertainment circles with Edgar Bergen and his friend Charlie McCarthy in the heyday of radio. Shari Lewis and her friend Lambchop were staples in the early days of television.
Ventriloquism is in decline now, but it remains popular in religious circles. By that, I do not mean Christian entertainers, but ordinary Christians like you and me who put words into God’s mouth.
A small boy was playing outside when he saw a big dog. The dog had long hair that stood out from his head. The boy took one look at the dog, came running inside, and said, “Daddy, I’ve just seen a lion outside.” The father took a look outside and said to his son, “There’s no lion out there. It’s just a big dog.” He added, “I’ve warned you about telling something that’s not true. Now I want you to go to your room and talk to the Lord about what you just told me.”
The little boy trudged off to his room. When he returned, his father asked, “Well, did you talk to the Lord about what you told me?” The boy said, “Yes I did. And the Lord told me that the first time he saw that dog He thought it was a lion too.”
Having had some experience with both boys and with the Lord, I am skeptical about the Lord’s saying such a thing. It seems much more likely that the boy was putting some words into the Lord’s mouth.
The little boy was not the first person to do such a thing. Throughout the Old Testament one of the problems that the people of God faced was the problem of the false prophet. The false prophet would show up claiming to have a word from God when it was really his own word.
When Jeremiah prophesied that the Israelites would go into captivity in Babylon for their sins, the false prophet Hananiah showed up to say something different. He declared that God would eliminate the Babylonian threat and bring all the people already carried to Babylon back to Israel (Jer. 28).
When Jeremiah had been called as a prophet, God had extended His hand, touched Jeremiah’s mouth, and said, “Now I have put my words in your mouth” (Jer. 1:9). That’s the way it should work. Beware the tendency to play the part of the Christian ventriloquist and place your own words into the mouth of God.
Lynn Jones is a retired pastor who lives in Oxford. He does supply preaching for churches in his area and often serves as an interim pastor. Jones is also an author, has written two books and writes a weekly newspaper column. He may be contacted at: firstname.lastname@example.org.