"Keyboard Brian" responded to my piece on tithing. He probably should have read my latest back and forth with Russell Earl Kelly. I was very gratified at Dr. Kelly’s response; it has lightened this whole discussion. One thing’s for sure: you have to give credit to a man who’s legally blind and hang glides!
In any case, in looking at Brian’s own blog, his current piece is on What is a prophet? He’s brought up an intriguing question, one that’s challenging people here in the Church of God regarding its own future. Frankly, until about a year or two ago I hadn’t given the subject much thought, but I had set myself up for it, and one of my visitors "called my bluff" on the issue.
In the preface to my master’s thesis (it’s an engineering thesis, I’m not a seminary product) I quoted the following from Moses Maimonides’ Guide for the Perplexed:
My son, so long as you are engaged in studying the Mathematical Sciences and Logic, you belong to those who go round about the palace in search of the gate…When you understand Physics, you have entered the hall; and when, after completing the study of Natural Philosophy, you master Metaphysics, you have entered the innermost court, and are with the king in the palace. You have attained the degree of the wise men, who include men of different grades of perfection. There are some who direct all their mind toward the attainment of perfection in Metaphysics, devote themselves entirely to God, exclude from their thought every other thing, and employ all their intellectual faculties in the study of the Universe, in order to derive therefrom a proof for the existence of God , and to learn in every possible way how God rules all things; they form the class of those who have entered the palace, namely the class of prophets.
One of my visitors who cruised both sites put forth the simple question: do you think you’re a prophet? I was very reluctant to answer one way or another. What I told him was that, if I am one, that others (such as himself) should make that judgement.
Today we have many who claim to be prophets. But that’s a pretty serious claim. Without going into a long Biblical study on the subject, it seems to me that an individual who can reasonably be said to have the prophetic gift should fulfil several requirements:
- They should be living a life that is pleasing to God. Jesus told us that those who loved him kept his commandments; if you can’t keep the commandments, how can you speak for God?
- What they say should square with God’s Word, his authoritative revelation. One of the things that I’ve come to understand in the back and forth I’ve had with some in my own church is that the strongest prophecy should be a reminder of what God has said in the first place. Put another way, if we had done the work we were sent to do right to start with, we wouldn’t need a prophet to come along and tell us to fix it.
- Their pronouncements should be accurate relative to the mind of God, if not necessarily precise. The differentiation between accuracy and precision is a scientific one, and I won’t spend a lot of time on it. An accurate prophecy of a future event might, for example, describe the event but not give a specific date. This is fairly common in Biblical prophecy.
- They should be validated by others. This is the central reason why I cannot describe myself as a prophet. Self-validation isn’t good enough. Divine validation is essential, but that validation should come through others, be they friend or foe (and we have examples of both in the Bible.) Going around telling people you’re a prophet is like the self-proclaimed know-it-all; he or she claims to know everything, but the rest of us know that isn’t true. It’s also like churches who advertise that they’re friendly; if they have to advertise it, chances are they’re not. When it’s established in the witness of others, it has more credibility.
I am sure there are other characteristics of a true prophet that I have missed. But the ones I list above are ones that are frequently missing in those who proclaim the prophetic gift today.
Note to Brian: if you want to be blessed by a fellow upstate New York Christian blogger, you should check out The Ancient Star-Song. And if you’re going to promote LuLu published books online, try this one. (And don’t give me a hard time for not giving it away; you can see that by clicking here.)