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A Wrong Way to Test a Prophecy — ‘The Inner Witness Test’

hand on heartScripture is clear: we need to test prophecy.

Because this teaching is inescapable, even NAR leaders would agree that prophetic words should be put to the test before being embraced wholeheartedly. But as it turns out, not all tests are created equal.

One method of discerning the accuracy of prophecies that is promoted in the NAR movement is woefully inadequate as a way to separate  truth from error: that is, the method of the “inner witness.” Yet, through this emotionally compelling method, NAR leaders are able to give lip service to “discernment” while clouding any real discernment.

The inner witness test is promoted by a very influential NAR prophet, Bill Hamon, of Christian International Ministries in Santa Rosa Beach, Florida.

The Inner Witness Test

Hamon describes the test this way:

The inner witness of the Spirit with our spirit is one way of determining that a prophetic utterance is of the Lord. (from Prophets, Pitfalls and Principles)

Hamon says an inner witness may include physical sensations that let us know if a prophecy is true. He said physical sensations occur in the “upper stomach or lower chest area” (from Prophets and Personal Prophecy). Here is his description of the sensations that indicate a prophecy is false.

A negative spirit-witness, with a message of either “No,” “Be careful,” or “Something’s not right,” usually manifests itself with a nervous, jumpy, or uneasy feeling, a deep, almost unintelligible sensation that something is not right. (from Prophets and Personal Prophecy)

And here is his description of sensations that indicate a prophecy is true.

There is a deep, unexplainable peace and joy, a warm, loving feeling, or even a sense of our spirit jumping up and down with excitement. (from Prophets and Personal Prophecy)

But Scripture never says to test prophecies by an “inner witness.” The claim that prophecies can be tested by physical sensations that occur in the lower chest area is remarkably similar to the Mormon claim that God confirms the truth of the Mormon faith by giving people a burning sensation in their bosoms. In both examples, revelation is confirmed apart from any rational thought processes.

Yet, that seems to be exactly Hamon’s intention. I say this because he claims that rational thought can actually interfere with the inner witness test.

This sensation [the negative sensation that identifies false prophecies] can only be trusted when we are more in tune with our spirit than with our thoughts. If our thinking is causing these sensations, then it could be a soulish reaction rather than the spirit bearing a negative witness. (from Prophets and Personal Prophecy)

He also says:

Our reasoning is in the mind, not the spirit. So our traditions, beliefs, and strong opinions are not true witnesses to prophetic truth. In fact, these parts of us often bring doubt, confusion, resentment, rejection, and rebellion against true personal prophecy. Our head may say, “No” while our heart says, “Go.” Our soul may say, “I don’t understand,” while our spirit says, “It’s fine; don’t lean to your own understanding. (from Prophets and Personal Prophecy)

By encouraging people to turn off their thoughts and to ignore their opinions, Hamon is repudiating their God-given ability to critically evaluate prophecies. I have discussed this NAR tactic in previous posts—the tactic of discouraging people from using their minds.

Hamon acknowledges that the inner witness test is subjective. “For that reason,” he says, “we should not discard a word as inaccurate or incorrect simply because we do not ‘witness’ to it” (from Prophets, Pitfalls and Principles).

Of course, following the logic of Hamon’s position, the inner witness test works only for true prophecies. Thus, it is useless for identifying false prophecies.

It is troubling that Hamon would even suggest such a frankly subjective test. Why should someone ever trust a “yes” answer?

— By Holly Pivec

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7 Responses to “A Wrong Way to Test a Prophecy — ‘The Inner Witness Test’”

  1. IWTT Says:

    I want to thank you for your input into these matters. I do wish more folks would “plant their feet more firmly on the gorund and get their heads out of the clouds” when it comes to biblical interpretation of the Word of God.

    God made specific statements to His people. Words have meanings, and words make up sentences that have specific meanings and sentences make up paragraghs and paragraphs make up chapters, etc. The original author (God) made a specific statement with a specific meaning and man tends to get his head into some lofty, supernatural search of what has been said and thereby comes up with an interpretation that is above and beyond what has been written.

    Certainly causes alot of problems and DIVISIONS which can and will bring about false teachings and heresy. I have the same issues with the verse from Jeremiah 29:11 and how that is used today. 

    Anyway, thank you for your many down to earth posts

  2. Mark P Says:

    Inner witness test is a terrible guide. I know that I have been mistaken a handful of times while trying to use my own understanding. But luckily God is compassionate and He has led me away even from heretic teachers that I once adored. Let us not lean on our own understanding, but pray always, so that God may compassionately teach us and lead us if we go astray.

  3. J Says:

    Shalom Holly,
    Thank you for this article.  I’ve had experience with the NAR and use to make trips out to IHOP and have had experience with prophecies both true and false, and I’ve since come to learn that the ‘inner witness’ test is no test at all because of how highly subjective it can be.  Thankfully the Lord put it in me to never have a desire for the extra-Biblical practices and ‘drunk in the spirit’ experiences, but I did receive prophetic ministry not just at IHOP but from other folks I’ve met elsewhere and have experienced the heartbreak of false prophecies.  

    I even sold my car due to a false prophecy several years ago that had a false confirmation….! *insert face palm here*.  Stupid stupid stupid!  But that’s a whole ‘nother story.  An excellent book on this topic is ‘Thus Saith the Lord?’ by John Bevere.  He gives an excellent Scriptural analysis of prophecy and its applications in both the Old and New Testaments, and for today.  Above all he also states the highest testing there can be is from the Word because it never changes.  And that we are never to rely on some feeling even if the prophecy  ‘feels right’ and makes us cry those happy tears.

    I’ve learned a thing or two and have repented for being so naive.  I now have learned through trial and error– emphasis on ERROR– to put prophetic words on the shelf and leave them before the Lord and say ‘Abba, would You sort these out for me?  Show me what is true and what is not’, and help me to not let my feelings get in the way.

    God bless you.

    ‘J’

  4. Holly Says:

    J,

    Thank you for sharing your personal experiences with false prophecies. I’m sorry you had to learn a painful lesson about the inadequacy of going by feelings to test prophetic words. You are right to now look to Scripture as the only sure test.

    Holly

  5. M. K. Says:

    This gives me a chuckle. Yes I remember the encouragement to use the inner witness test. Yes I got burnt. Bad. We were encouraged to start a business (rental) that nearly put us bankrupt. Grace of God got us out from that church, that community and eventually that money pit.

    What really looks bad is it’s exactly the same as the “burning in the bosom” test that the Mormons use. It’s a clue!!!!

    Sure wish I’d had my head screwed on back then, but better late than never! 😉

  6. John B Says:

    This is an interesting concept. I remember some months back I was waiting for my wife in a bookstore and just took to wandering up and down the shelves, not particularly focussing on anything. Suddenly I had that sensation – in my upper stomach area – that something wasn’t right. I focussed my eyes and found myself in the New Age/Occult section looking at the shelves of tarot cards.

    Several times when I’ve come across a teaching that just doesn’t seem right I’ve had the exact same sensation. I’ve found it’s a good sign that something isn’t right, but I think the crucial difference is that for me it’s a pointer to test something under the lens of Scripture.

    Curiously, given statements from within NAR that this is a great way of testing a word, I’ve found most of what comes from names associated with NAR gives me the sensation they describe as meaning “No,” “Be careful,” or “Something’s not right,”.

    A warm fuzzy feeling is all well and good but in and of itself doesn’t prove anything.

  7. Franklyn Says:

    Thanks so much for sharing. I am learning more and more that we need to go to the objective standard (the infallible inspired word) and avoid the subjective (feelings and or personal experiences)
    In today’s “mass market” theological world it is becoming more difficult to take a stance on the side of the objective truth against the subjective
    May we be strengthened in His grace to “prove all things and hold fast to that which is good” 

    God bless

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