Experiencing God by Henry and Richard Blackaby and Claude King has been translated into over seventy languages (p. xii). For that reason in addition to my hearing about the influence of Blackaby’s work from a sermon by Justin Peters, I decided to review this book. After reading this book, I can understand why it has had the influence it has had. However, that doesn’t automatically mean that all influence is good.
Structure-wise, this book has a preface, an introduction, twenty-six chapters (not organized into any particular sections or parts), closing remarks, an appendix (the best thing about the book) and a section about the authors. It is fairly easy to read; Blackaby (henceforth I’ll be referring to one author, Henry Blackaby, when mentioning the author) is not very dense in any of his chapters. I also don’t recall too many grammar errors in the book. The book is also fairly easy to understand. Henry Blackaby’s prayer for the reader is that the reader would encounter the LORD “in its pages and that, as a result”, the reader’s life will never be the same (p. xiii).
As for this book’s audience, Blackaby assumes the reader has both trusted Jesus Christ as Savior and acknowledged Him to be the LORD of the reader’s life (p. 3). If the reader has not done this, Blackaby essentially walks the reader through a decision of some sort preceded by a combination of the Romans Road and some 7-step process to turning the control of one’s life to Christ (seemingly reeking of synergism; pp. 3-4). The problem with this procedure is both its vagueness/non-confrontational take on sin and heavy emphasis on the law with no/little Gospel crumbs. Blackaby also states God created you for a “love relationship” with Him without backing it up with a biblical text (more on that later). Without even getting into the content, I already have an issue with this book given its horrible “Gospel” (?) presentation for the unregenerate reader (assuming said reader is unregenerate).
As for content, this book is a train wreck for no less than three reasons.
First, Blackaby twists the Scriptures a lot. He does this in a couple ways. First, he frequently narcigetes Bible passages. What I mean is that he inserts himself into quite a few of the biblical texts he cites. He fails to realize that the Bible is not about him. The Bible is also not about me. It is about Jesus Christ, the Savior of the world (John 5:39-45; 20:30-31; Luke 24:25-27). In his narcigesis, Blackaby twists quite a few descriptive texts into prescriptive ones (pp. 12, 27, 38, 59, 95-96, 98, 103, 123, 143-144 to name quite a few). What I mean by that is he twists historical texts that describe something that happened into prescriptive commands that the reader must do. For example, when describing Abraham’s faith in Genesis 12:1-5 (a text Blackaby doesn’t even honestly cite…..more on the idea of dishonest citations later), Blackaby notes how Abraham obeyed God despite being given little detail (pp. 37-38). Blackaby then proposes the question, “Would you be willing to follow God’s direction for your life with so little detail?” (p. 38). The problem with asking this question is that you’re not Abraham in the story. I am not Abraham in the story. This story is a historical narrative, a descriptive text. Just because Abraham obeyed God with little detail does not mean that we are to necessarily do the same. In fact, Scripture is clear that God’s Word, which is all-powerful and all-true, equips us for all pertaining to life and godliness (2 Timothy 3:16-17; 2 Peter 1:1-7). Therefore, it is not necessary to follow God’s direction with little detail. The worst thing Blackaby did in this instance was twist a text’s original meaning (stockpiled with the theme of land, seed and blessing) into a command you must do.
The second way Blackaby twists the Scriptures is via his dishonest citations. What I mean by that is that when he cites verses, he doesn’t cite them in full while at the same time giving the impression that he is citing them in full. For example, on pp. 59-60, Blackaby cites Hebrews 11:24-29. However, he omits verse 26 entirely (which I have bolded) while maintaining he is citing verses 24-29. What I’ll do here is cite that passage from the Holman Christian Standard Bible (the translation he uses in this book). I will also add verse 23 since that verse also pertains to Moses. I will then show how Blackaby cites the aforementioned passage:
23 By faith, after Moses was born, he was hidden by his parents for three months, because they saw that the child was beautiful, and they didn’t fear the king’s edict.24 By faith Moses, when he had grown up, refused to be called the son of Pharaoh’s daughter 25 and chose to suffer with the people of God rather than to enjoy the short-lived pleasure of sin. 26 For he considered the reproach because of the Messiah to be greater wealth than the treasures of Egypt, since his attention was on the reward.
27 By faith he left Egypt behind, not being afraid of the king’s anger, for he persevered as one who sees Him who is invisible. 28 By faith he instituted the Passover and the sprinkling of the blood, so that the destroyer of the firstborn might not touch the them. 29 By faith they crossed the Red Sea as though they were on dry land. When the Egyptians attempted to do this, they were drowned.Hebrews 11:23-29 (HCSB—1999, 2000, 2002, 2003)
It should be noted that if you were to look up the above passage on Bible Gateway, the second “he” in verse 27 and the word “them” in verse 28 are instead “Moses” and “the Israelites”, respectively. Bible Gateway uses the 1999, 2000, 2002, 2003 AND 2009 copyrighted HCSB. Blackaby’s HCSB doesn’t have the “2009” number included in it (which is fine). That fact is simply informational only. Furthermore, it guards against any potential accusation that Blackaby may also be changing words in his citations (I don’t believe he is).
Now here is how Blackaby cites Hebrews 11:24-29:
24 By faith Moses, when he had grown up, refused to be called the son of Pharaoh’s daughter 25 and chose to suffer with the people of God rather than to enjoy the short-lived pleasure of sin….27 by faith he left Egypt behind, not being afraid of the king’s anger, for he persevered as one who sees Him who is invisible. 28 By faith he instituted the Passover and the sprinkling of the blood, so that the destroyer of the firstborn might not touch them. 29 By faith they crossed the Red Sea as though they were on dry land. When the Egyptians attempted to do this, they were drowned.Hebrews 11:24-29…..sorta (HCSB)
Verse 26 is completely omitted. However, Blackaby’s citation maintains he is citing verses 24-29 of Hebrews 11. In case you may think this was an isolated, unintentional incident, other instances of this dishonest citing prove the contrary.
On page 67, Blackaby cites 2 Corinthians 5:17-20. What he doesn’t tell you is that he cites half of verse 20 rather than in full.
Here is how the HCSB has those verses (I bold the part he omitted):
17 Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; old things have passed away, and look, new things have come. 18 Now everything is from God, who reconciled us to Himself through Christ and gave us the ministry of reconciliation: 19 That is, in Christ, God was reconciling the world to Himself, not counting their trespasses against them, and He has committed the message of reconciliation to us. 20 Therefore, we are ambassadors for Christ, certain that God is appealing through us. We plead on Christ’s behalf, “Be reconciled to God.”2 Corinthians 5:17-20 (HCSB)
Here is how Blackaby cites it:
17 Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; old things have passed away, and look, new things have come. 18 Now everything is from God, who reconciled us to Himself through Christ and gave us the ministry of reconciliation: 19 That is, in Christ, God was reconciling the world to Himself, not counting their trespasses against them, and He has committed the message of reconciliation to us. 20 Therefore, we are ambassadors for Christ, certain that God is appealing through us.2 Corinthians 5:17-20…..ish
Why does Blackaby omit the part about pleading for sinners to be reconciled to God? Furthermore, why does he maintain that he is citing those verses when in reality he is once again cutting off verses (or in this case, half a verse)?
In this final example, Blackaby omits the last half verse of Matthew 28:19-20 while stating he is citing Matthew 28:19-20 (p. 309).
Here is how the HCSB reads it (once again I bold the omitted part):
19 Go, therefore, and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, 20 teaching them to observe everything I have commanded you. And remember, I am with you always, to the end of the age.”Matthew 28:19-20 (HCSB)
Here is how Blackaby cites it:
19 Go, therefore, and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, 20 teaching them to observe everything I have commanded you.Matthew 28:19-20….only not in full
There are a plethora of other instances in which Blackaby either dishonestly cites passages or omits verses in other passages. Why he omits verses in his citations while maintaining he is citing what he is citing, I am not sure. Regardless, it should be clear he is a bonafide Scripture-twister.
The second reason this book is a train wreck is because of its subtle denial of Sola Scriptura and the sufficiency of Scripture. The title of the book (Experiencing God) should be a dead giveaway that his emphasis is in the wrong place. Nevertheless, a review of his material is still needed to prove his denial is not simply in title only.
Throughout the book, Blackaby appeals to personal experiences in relation to God. This appeal peaks in the chapters that claim God speaks through prayer, circumstances and the church (pp. 173-206). In the chapter about prayer, Blackaby states the following (p. 175):
“Prayer is not a one-way conversation where you simply recite everything you want God to do for you. It is two-way fellowship and communication. You speak to God, and He speaks to you. Prayer also includes listening. In fact, what God says to you in prayer is far more important than what you say to Him. After all, God already knows what you’re gonna tell Him, but He has amazing things to revel that you don’t know (Jer. 33:3)
I’ve heard false teacher, Bible-twister and liar Rick Warren say something to this effect in this sermon review here. Worse, Blackaby once again twists Scripture to try and prove his point. As mentioned earlier, Blackaby fails to understand that the Bible is not about him; it is about Jesus Christ. Jeremiah 33:3 was not written to all believers for all time; in its context, this passage was written to Jeremiah to give to the people of Israel and Judah. What Blackaby has done once again is turn a descriptive text into a prescriptive one. In context, I will look at Jeremiah 33:3 in light of its semi-fuller context (Jeremiah 33:1-26):
33 Then the word of the Lord came to Jeremiah the second time, while he was still confined in the court of the guard, saying, 2 “Thus says the Lord who made the earth, the Lord who formed it to establish it, the Lord is His name, 3 ‘Call to Me and I will answer you, and I will tell you great and mighty things, which you do not know.’ 4 For thus says the Lord God of Israel concerning the houses of this city, and concerning the houses of the kings of Judah which are broken down to make a defense against the siege ramps and against the sword, 5 ‘While they are coming to fight with the Chaldeans and to fill them with the corpses of men whom I have slain in My anger and in My wrath, and I have hidden My face from this city because of all their wickedness: 6 Behold, I will bring to it health and healing, and I will heal them; and I will reveal to them an abundance of peace and truth. 7 I will restore the fortunes of Judah and the fortunes of Israel and will rebuild them as they were at first. 8 I will cleanse them from all their iniquity by which they have sinned against Me, and I will pardon all their iniquities by which they have sinned against Me and by which they have transgressed against Me. 9 It will be to Me a name of joy, praise and glory before all the nations of the earth which will hear of all the good that I do for them, and they will fear and tremble because of all the good and all the peace that I make for it.’
10 “Thus says the Lord, ‘Yet again there will be heard in this place, of which you say, “It is a waste, without man and without beast,” that is, in the cities of Judah and in the streets of Jerusalem that are desolate, without man and without inhabitant and without beast, 11 the voice of joy and the voice of gladness, the voice of the bridegroom and the voice of the bride, the voice of those who say,
“Give thanks to the Lord of hosts,
For the Lord is good,
For His lovingkindness is everlasting”;
and of those who bring a thank offering into the house of the Lord. For I will restore the fortunes of the land as they were at first,’ says the Lord.
12 “Thus says the Lord of hosts, ‘There will again be in this place which is waste, without man or beast, and in all its cities, a habitation of shepherds who rest their flocks. 13 In the cities of the hill country, in the cities of the lowland, in the cities of the Negev, in the land of Benjamin, in the environs of Jerusalem and in the cities of Judah, the flocks will again pass under the hands of the one who numbers them,’ says the Lord.
The Davidic Kingdom
14 ‘Behold, days are coming,’ declares the Lord, ‘when I will fulfill the good word which I have spoken concerning the house of Israel and the house of Judah. 15 In those days and at that time I will cause a righteous Branch of David to spring forth; and He shall execute justice and righteousness on the earth. 16 In those days Judah will be saved and Jerusalem will dwell in safety; and this is the name by which she will be called: the Lord is our righteousness.’ 17 For thus says the Lord, ‘David shall never lack a man to sit on the throne of the house of Israel; 18 and the Levitical priests shall never lack a man before Me to offer burnt offerings, to burn grain offerings and to prepare sacrifices continually.’”
19 The word of the Lord came to Jeremiah, saying, 20 “Thus says the Lord, ‘If you can break My covenant for the day and My covenant for the night, so that day and night will not be at their appointed time, 21 then My covenant may also be broken with David My servant so that he will not have a son to reign on his throne, and with the Levitical priests, My ministers. 22 As the host of heaven cannot be counted and the sand of the sea cannot be measured, so I will multiply the descendants of David My servant and the Levites who minister to Me.’” 23 And the word of the Lord came to Jeremiah, saying, 24 “Have you not observed what this people have spoken, saying, ‘The two families which the Lord chose, He has rejected them’? Thus they despise My people, no longer are they as a nation in their sight. 25 Thus says the Lord, ‘If My covenant for day and night stand not, and the fixed patterns of heaven and earth I have not established, 26 then I would reject the descendants of Jacob and David My servant, not taking from his descendants rulers over the descendants of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. But I will restore their fortunes and will have mercy on them.’”
As you can see in the above passage, Jeremiah 33:3 is not some universal promise that God has amazing things to “revel” (I think he meant to write “reveal”) that we do not know. Such a statement by Blackaby is a tacit denial of Sola Scriptura. Furthermore, it is more proof that Blackaby is a Scripture twister. The above text is a descriptive text, not a prescriptive one.
It is important to understand that God’s Word is all true, all powerful and without error (2 Timothy 3:16-17; Numbers 23:19; Malachi 3:6; Psalm 12:6; John 17:17; Titus 1:2). Furthermore, it equips the believer for every good work, for it is sufficient for all things pertaining to life and godliness (2 Timothy 3:16-17; 2 Peter 1:3-9). Scripture is sufficient. Scripture alone is one’s authority for the faith and practice of a Christian. Hebrews 1:1-2 (NASB) states:
God, after He spoke long ago to the fathers in the prophets in many portions and in many ways, 2 in these last days has spoken to us in His Son, whom He appointed heir of all things, through whom also He made the world.Hebrews 1:1-2 (NASB)
Who is “His Son”? That would be Jesus Christ, God in human flesh (John 1:1-14). Jesus is the Word incarnate. Moreover, He has already revealed all the Christian needs to know as it pertains to life and godliness.
The third reason Blackaby’s book is a train wreck is because of his emphasis of this idea that God created people for a “love relationship” with him. This concept is littered throughout the entire book (seemingly, if not certainly in every chapter). Unfortunately, those two words in unison appear nowhere in Scripture in any Bible translation that I searched. These include good translations such as the NASB and ESV. They also include the very bad/mediocre “translations” such as the Message, The Voice, and the Passion “translation.” Given it has already been proven that Blackaby is certainly no sound handler of Scripture, it does not really matter what texts he attempts to cite in his promoting of this idea. In fact, he rarely cites a verse (if ever) when mentioning the very concept. It’s a wonder this concept never made it to the book title.
As I mentioned earlier in this review, I understand why this book has had the influence it has; it is a book that tickles itching ears and draws people to Blackaby himself rather than the written Word of God (2 Timothy 4:1-5; Acts 20:17-38). Therefore, you would be best served to avoid this book like the plague. Blackaby is far from a sound handler of God’s Word. Furthermore, he thinks the Bible is about him when in reality it is about Jesus Christ, the Savior of the world (John 5:39-45). Stay away from this book.
NOTE: I emailed the review to the author via the website https://blackaby.org/contact/. I also asked the author some questions regarding my findings in the book.