Tuesday, 29 September 2015

Is There a Difference Between Logos and Rhema?

A friend from my church has lent to me Mark and Patti Virkler’s How to Hear God’s Voice. Ordinarily, I wouldn’t entertain reading such a book as it appears to stem from a US-based charismaticism with which I just don’t identify (any more). But I’m entertaining reading the Virkler volume for two reasons: first, the need to listen to God in prayer has impressed itself on me over the past few months; and secondly, the friend who has passed How to Hear God’s Voice to me had no way of knowing my state of mind on this and, indeed, has said that she felt compelled to offer me the book. Given my strong interest in God’s providence, I confess I don’t take such coincidences lightly – and so I’m going to give the book a try.

A glance through the contents has alerted me to the Virklers’ conviction that there is a significant difference between logos (‘the written Word of God – the Bible’) and rhema (‘the voice of God in your heart’; both definitions are on page 21). I admit I’m sceptical that there is such a demonstrable difference between the way logos and rhema are used in the New Testament, but I’m not a New Testament scholar and am open to correction. So, to boil away the flesh of this blog post down to its bone, I’m asking you, my reader, to help me with this all-important question: Is there a (significant) difference between logos and rhema?

Regardless of the answer, I’m going to give this book, as unpromising as it seems, a go. There may well be a baby in the bathwater, and it’d be disingenuous of me not to read a book on listening to God that God has prompted someone else to loan me to help me listen to God – wouldn’t it?


  1. As I understand it, the difference between rhema and logos is that rhema is simply a word, where logos is an utterance of something spoken into being. My husband says 'logos' is like when I say I want pizza for tea and we all know there *will* be pizza. Part command, part creative act in its own right (this is my interpretation of what he's told me). Frank is not a NT scholar as such, but he did study NT Greek when he was training for ministry and he's read an awful lot of books on the subject so I tend to go with what he says (unless it's the suggestion that there won't be pizza). He is, frustratingly, usually right, because he remembers everything that he reads.

  2. Interesting stuff! Having had my fingers burnt by wacky-end ultra-charismatic stuff, I too would tend to approach this kind of thing with extreme wariness and a strong degree of scepticism.

    I *do* believe that God can speak to us today, and not necessarily just through the pages of the Bible. But I find it very hard to hear him for myself and (perhaps as a result) I'm pretty sceptical of most prophecies claimed by Charismatic and Pentecostal Christians.

    And when people say they feel God wanted them to tell me something or give me something, I'm never too sure how to respond. I usually experience it as a pressure or burden rather than a relief.

    I've come across the whole rhema/logos thing, but I'm not massively convinced that there's a material difference in their biblical use (if that matters). Interestingly I understood it the opposite way to Sandy - that rhema referred to an utterance and logos simply to the word.

    I suppose there is a difference between a written word in a book which could be for anyone and a spoken one that is intended specifically for a single recipient, but I'm not sure we should push that distinction too far.

  3. Yes, my initial thoughts were that people interpret rhema and logos the other way round, but if there is a distinction I can see why logos would be more suitable for speech-acts. But I can't help but think that this is an area where too much theology is being loaded onto ordinary words.

    Interestingly, though, at least to me, the idea that God speaks words (rhema, on this schema - see what I did there?) to people that can be assessed against Scripture (logos) isn't so far from what John Calvin and surely many others have said - that the Spirit needs to make the Scripture real for us.

    1. That sounds fair to me. The Word and the Spirit are surely meant to work together in harmony. I know many would say that the the Spirit must guide or enlighten our reading of the Bible, and the Bible in turn helps us discern whether an idea is 'of the Spirit' or not. Though I'm not always sure this theory works out quite so neatly in practice...