Tuesday, November 29, 2005

Your sons and daughters shall Prophesy

This weekend I finished reading (but have yet to conquer the hefty appendixes) The Gift of Prophecy in the New Testament and Today. The topic of prophecy was not one that I had thought much about before. This book argues that prophecy in the Old Testament is "God's words", which were not to be questioned; this is why we have many of these prophecies recorded in the Bible. In the NT, apostles took over this role, as their words became Scripture, and they claimed authority from God (I Thes. 4:8 is an example).
Prophecy
in the NT (see I Cor. 14:29) was subject to "weighing" and did not have authority equal to scripture. It was a human reporting of something that the Holy Spirit brought to mind, and subject to human error in how the person reported it (for example, the details prophecied by Agabus did not come true), but still a valuable gift for the building up of the church.
The book goes on to talk about questions such as: "Did prophecy cease after the period of the early church?", "How can a wrong view of prophecy lead to abuses?" and "How does/should prophecy function?". The author also believes that some churches today that wouldn't obviously believe in or use prophecy (because they think of it as a scripture-quality revelation that has ceased) and churches that do responsibly allow and use prophecy are actually closer to each in their beliefs than they think. An example he gave of "non-prophesying" churches actually using prophecy would be a sudden and unexplained request for prayer that turns out later to have been needed at that exact time, without the person who requested it really knowing of the situation.
I thought an interesting aspect of this is that misuse of prophecy puts too much emphasis on it without weighing it and it becomes too subjective and people can be easily misled, but when it is used correctly, people would have to know the Bible very well in order to weigh what is said. So in correct use, it could actually encourage people's knowledge of scripture, not compete with it.
I think that I generally agreed with this book, although there are some parts that were difficult to follow, or that I should look over again with a Bible in hand. Also I should read or at least skim the appendixes.
Please comment! Are there any parts of this book's argument that seem unbiblical to you? What teaching have you heard in your church about prophecy?

4 comments:

Hannah said...

I have had too many posts now without pictures. Sorry.

HeatherJoy said...

Hannah!
sorry, but your (not heathen) sister thinks that this post sounds eerily like my ...evil... theology class that is currently demanding my LIFE of me, and the prophecy chapter from FEE that I actually did write the journal about. I love you anyway

Lynola said...

i did read it, but i haven't read the book or studied the subject. It sounds interesting though.

David Alan Hjelle said...

I think I would generally agree with that point of view, with a few reservations.

First, I think (at least from the time I heard this position argued in a sermon) that the example of Agabus wasn't as solid as I'd like in convincing me that New Testament prophecy isn't as authoritative. One could argue that Agubus' prophecy was correct even in its details, if you look at the sentence a different way. (Forgive me, but it's been a while since I've looked at it again...so I don't remember the details of that thought).

Of course, the point that prophecy must be weighed tends to give credence to that idea. But, then, might there be folks who are authoritative prophets and folks whom the Holy Spirit occassionally expresses Himself through a prophetic gift? I don't know. It does seem that many of the other gifts are present in almost all believers, just to limited degrees.

Anyhow...random related question. I've always been confused by the use of OT prophesy in the NT. If I heard a pastor quote from the OT in the same way that Matthew does, for instance, I'd accuse him of taking Scripture out of context. Does Mr. Grudem address that issue at all?

Thanks for putting up with my comment. ;-)