Response to “Some Say It Blundered”

Standard

Tongues of FireWell, like a zombie, the issue of the cessation of the gifts of the Holy Spirit raises its head yet again as The Pyromaniac just can’t let the issue drop without getting in the last word. The biggest gift that seems to stick in his flaming craw is that of the gift of prophecy, so he takes up the sword yet again—even as the cessationist vs. charismatic debate has cooled elsewhere—to take one last whack at post-apostolic prophets.

I like reading Pyromaniac, and Phil certainly contends for the Gospel. More power to him! His upholding of the authority of the Scriptures in an age of concession is admirable. He’s ten times the thinker, theologian, and Christian that I am, and I mean that. But in light of this whole debate, I don’t get some comments from him in his latest post, “Some Say It Blundered“:

The continuationists’ response to this series of posts continues to amaze and amuse me. No matter how many times I point out that I am not making an argument for cessationism—not trying to make one; wasn’t planning to make one; wasn’t talking about the issue; did not even intend to bring it up when I began this series—we still have this flood of frantic comments from people who think cessationism is the issue and who demand to be given proof-texts so that they can dismantle whatever exegetical claims cessationism might rest on.

So Phil, who vehemently claims he’s not talking about cessationism here, ends his post this way:

So here’s my challenge to those continuationists who insist that the problem of bogus prophecies pales in importance compared to the exegetical issues raised by cessationism: Name one faithful modern prophet whose prognostications are both objectively verifiable and always one-hundred percent accurate. Because that is the biblical standard (Deuteronomy 18:20-22).

If you argue (as most do) that the gifts being practiced today are different in quality from the gifts possessed by the apostles themselves, you are actually arguing for a kind of cessationism yourself. If no one can identify a prophet who meets the biblical standard for basic accuracy, the question of cessationism is essentially moot anyway.

Let me understand this then. He’s never talked about cessationism being the issue? Then why does he end his post saying that if he’s right, then the whole point is that the gift of prophecy has ceased?

Hmm.

Honestly, I have no arguments with Phil on the issue of bogus modern day prophets. There are too many charismaniac flakes out there spouting man-inspired nonsense passed off as “The Word of the Lord.” What I do object to is his massive implication that just because there are a whole host of nutjobs out there claiming to be prophets that the real gift of prophecy ceased the second the Apostle John drew his last breath. (Using Phil’s same arugment, there are a whole host of lousy preachers, but that doesn’t mean preaching has passed away, has it? Or did I miss something?)

Phil’s burden of proof for charismatics is to spotlight one modern prophet who is 100% accurate. For the purpose of exceptions, I would like to turn that around on Phil (especially in the light of his post’s conclusion above) and have him prove that beginning the day after John died, not a single accurate prophetic word has been uttered by anyone in the rest of Christian history. Now that’s a burden of proof!

Phil’s biggest beef with prophets seems to be that of their predictive role. He’s skipping over the prophetic role of exhortation and correction, which it would be hard to claim has passed away. That being the case, I would offer A.W. Tozer as a prophetic voice. He most definitely exhorted and corrected the Church in his day. And forty years after his death, his writings look more prescient than ever as he describes the death throes of evangelicalism, so perhaps he was even predictive. No one would claim that John MacArthur fails to correct wayward charismatics in the manner of a prophet or that C.H. Spurgeon’s collected sermons no longer exhort today’s men and women. It’s that predictive part that is troublesome.

But if the gift of prophecy is merely predictive, then what to make of this:

But this is what was uttered through the prophet Joel: “‘And in the last days it shall be, God declares, that I will pour out my Spirit on all flesh, and your sons and your daughters shall prophesy, and your young men shall see visions, and your old men shall dream dreams; even on my male servants and female servants in those days I will pour out my Spirit, and they shall prophesy.
—Acts 2:16-18 ESV

And

Pursue love, and earnestly desire the spiritual gifts, especially that you may prophesy. For one who speaks in a tongue speaks not to men but to God; for no one understands him, but he utters mysteries in the Spirit. On the other hand, the one who prophesies speaks to people for their upbuilding and encouragement and consolation.
—1 Corinthians 14:1-3 ESV

And

Thus tongues are a sign not for believers but for unbelievers, while prophecy is a sign not for unbelievers but for believers. If, therefore, the whole church comes together and all speak in tongues, and outsiders or unbelievers enter, will they not say that you are out of your minds? But if all prophesy, and an unbeliever or outsider enters, he is convicted by all, he is called to account by all, the secrets of his heart are disclosed, and so, falling on his face, he will worship God and declare that God is really among you.
—1 Corinthians 14:22-25 ESV

The nature of the gift doesn’t appear in these passages to be focused on predicting the future. This does not mean that the gift never entails prediction:

Now in these days prophets came down from Jerusalem to Antioch. And one of them named Agabus stood up and foretold by the Spirit that there would be a great famine over all the world (this took place in the days of Claudius). So the disciples determined, everyone according to his ability, to send relief to the brothers living in Judea. And they did so, sending it to the elders by the hand of Barnabas and Saul.
—Acts 11:27-30 ESV

And

On the next day we departed and came to Caesarea, and we entered the house of Philip the evangelist, who was one of the seven, and stayed with him. He had four unmarried daughters, who prophesied. While we were staying for many days, a prophet named Agabus came down from Judea. And coming to us, he took Paul’s belt and bound his own feet and hands and said, “Thus says the Holy Spirit, ‘This is how the Jews at Jerusalem will bind the man who owns this belt and deliver him into the hands of the Gentiles.'” When we heard this, we and the people there urged him not to go up to Jerusalem. Then Paul answered, “What are you doing, weeping and breaking my heart? For I am ready not only to be imprisoned but even to die in Jerusalem for the name of the Lord Jesus.” And since he would not be persuaded, we ceased and said, “Let the will of the Lord be done.”
—Acts 21:8-14 ESV

Agabus predicts a famine that Luke confirms. The response by the believers was to prepare to meet the need that would erupt; the Church was guided to react to a specific event in the future. In this way, Agabus’ prophecy mirrors that of Joseph in his predictive interpretation of the dream of pharaoh.

We also hear about the prophetic daughters of Philip, but curiously, their prophetic utterances are not recorded. God did not deem them—whether they were predictive, exhortative, or corrective—worthy of inclusion in the Scriptures. Luke does take care to note the existence of these gifted women, however.

Lastly, we see Agabus again. His prediction as to how Paul would be taken into custody not only foretold future events, but steeled the young Church to the truth that their leading light was going to be extinguished.

Prophecy has a number of components, obviously, but Phil is solely troubled by the predictive aspect of the gift and still wants proof of modern prophets.

Is John Knox prophesying the future a good enough example? Over at The Calvinist Corner there are records of Knox, plus Calvinist Robert Fleming (who studied under the tutelage of one of the framers of the Westminster Confession), and friend of Knox, George Wishart, predicting the future, having visions and dreams, hearing the audible voice of God, and other “charismatic” experiences. Click on the links. As Dave Barry says, “I’m not making this up!”

Modern? No. Inspired by God in the manner of the gift of prophecy and the description of the operation of the Spirit as spoken by the prophet Joel and referenced by Peter on Pentecost (Acts 2:14-18)? Absolutely!

Anyway, there’s a post-death-of-the-Apostle-John set of examples right from Calvinist history. I’m sure there have been plenty more like them in the post-apostolic age among Calvinists and non-Calvinists.

The problem, and I’m totally sympathetic to Phil’s complaint about bogus prophets, is that the scientific rationalism and “We’re rich and enlightened so we don’t need God” attitude only kills the miraculous among people who don’t believe it. While this may be prevalent in the West, it does not negate the fact that God is going to do supernaturally miraculous kinds of things (that some claim don’t happen anymore) among people who still take Him at His Word concerning the gifts. This is why revival is sweeping China and other less scientifically-indoctrinated cultures and is missing the West.

In other words, I think that predictive prophetic utterances that are truly of the Lord are rare in the West. But experience does not trump Truth! That our experience of prophecy today is rare does not mean that it is non-existent or rare in places around that world where those who speak predictive prophecy prophesy in obscurity.

God has a history of taking away from those who do not appreciate what He has given them and giving to people who do. Just because the wind has died down here in our anti-supernatural, rationalistic country does not mean that there are not prophets even now speaking to the Church in China and in places where people are willing to believe because belief is all they have.

So no, I can’t give Phil names of any 100% accurate predictive prophets in 2005 (because tracking supposed prophets is not my calling), but neither can he prove that none exist elsewhere in the world, either today or at any time since the death of the apostles—especially since some leading Calvinists of yesteryear were definitely prophesying, hearing the audible voice of God, and having visions in a Europe not yet overcome by anti-supernaturalism and the Enlightenment.

And that’s all I have to say on this topic.

18 thoughts on “Response to “Some Say It Blundered”

  1. Ronni

    Well I CAN Dan. Me. I’m VERY careful about who I speak over and what I say when God shares something. I’ve even started writing things down and when they are confirmed back to me I also write it down. It’s my defense plan against Satan’s “you don’t really have any gifting” doubts he puts in me. People who are around me and know me KNOW that if I actually say something, its true, usually whether people admit to it or not. I haven’t been wrong yet. I’ve been asked by God to approach waiters, speak to people on blogs I don’t even know, speak to people I’ve just met… and I’ve asked God specifically to confirm them all to me and EVERY time He has. I’ve told people when a person has gone missing that they were dead, and they show up on TV a day or two later dead, or that they are alive and will be found and it happens. Perhaps most cessationalists have had to deal with false prophets in their lives and have that experience to base it on. I only know that it took me YEARS to finally accept the fact that Prophecy was my gifting. It’s not easy for me to even write this but its the truth and even I have to accept that. Truth is truth and no amount of arguing about truth will change that. Yes, sooo many prophets are inaccurate. Why? Because they put themselves into the mix, and their pride and their need to be validated by anyone shows up. If they would sit back, let time pass and trust that God will confirm things to them in time, they would be less likely to add themselves into the mix. It’s a fine line to tread and I always err on the side of caution. Better to hear God’s voice, and pray about instead of sharing something than sharing something that I’ve added a bit of myself too. It happens far to often and what is even scarier are those who say “I’m a prophet” purely to get on TV, admiration or put on a pedestal. I’ve had to leave churches because too many people started coming to me for every answer in their life and when I point them to Christ, they dismiss him, wanting a “quick word”. Prophecy is not a 20 second microwavable gifting and people abuse it.

  2. candyinsierras

    Very articulate response Dan. I would include Hugh Latimer who said at the stake, “Be of good comfort Master Ridley, and play the man. We shall this day light such a candle, by God’s grace in England, as I trust shall never be put out.”

  3. Well..darn! Once again, Dan, you’ve done it. You’ve said better than I ever could what I wanted to post on my blog. So, I will defer to you..LOL.

    Seriously, Phil has issued the correct challenge—we do need to strive to get to that 100%. The Third Waver Charismatics’ low bar of a 65-70% accuracy rate for their “prophets” is insulting to the rest of us Charismatic/Petnecostals and to the larger Body of Christ.

    I have the feeling that there are a few 100%’ers in churches..ones who the rest of us don’t know about but individual churches do. No, they don’t get their mug on TV, but I bet they exist.

  4. Mmm…interesting insight into the important Calvinists 🙂

    I’ve always felt like this 100% standard to prophets was a bit unreasonable. In the sense that we don’t ever hold pastors, teachers, or evangelists to the same standard in the effectiveness and track record of their ministry.

    Hmm. Our aim is not to be weird supernatural people…but to be naturally supernatural. That when God’s Spirit comes and fills a weak people, they start being able to do things they can’t do apart from the Spirit of God. God indwelling the weak frail and error-prone man will ALWAYS result in imperfection. That imperfection is going to be expressed in prophets, evangelists, teachers, pastors, and any other gifting.

    Immature expressions of gifting DOES NOT invalidate the gifting. I feel like sometimes that’s the burden of proof for the charismata. We don’t treat immature pastors the same way. Aren’t there even graver warnings for shepherds that lead sheep astray?

    In any case, just throwing in 2 cents 🙂 There seems to be a double standard here…

  5. Discernment, discernment, discernment. I can’t say that enough.

    Benson,

    One of issues, for me at least, with charismatic churches is that too many of them do a lousy job shutting up the immature people. Immature people should not be giving out any “revelations” of any kind unless they have an exceptional track record.

    I’ve been in the charismatic ranks for more than twenty years now, and I can tell you that the number of words of knowledge I’ve given out has probably been less than a dozen. There’s a reason for that and that’s because I don’t say anything unless I am absolutely certain.

    Case in point. A few years ago I was in a meeting when I had a word come to me. Look at how detailed this was: a woman who was visiting the church had a son in LA named Jim (I think that was the name, it’s been a few years) who had fled home a couple years previous and fallen into the drug culture; she needed to call him because he was ready to come back home. And indeed, that woman—who I had never seen before that day—had just that son in just that city who fit that to a T. She came bawling up to me saying, “How did you know?”

    God knows. He wanted her to know, too. But do I get words like that every day? No. Not even every month (or more.) But for that woman it was essential for her to know that and God used me. What more can I add?

  6. Anonymous

    I’ve always felt like this 100% standard to prophets was a bit unreasonable. In the sense that we don’t ever hold pastors, teachers, or evangelists to the same standard in the effectiveness and track record of their ministry.

    Of COURSE it’s an unreasonable standard.

    It is ALSO very much COMPLETELY unreasonable to be held to the standard of Loving one another, even when we don’t like what each other does. It’s completely unreasonable for Jesus to say that if we don’t love God more than our own lives we’re not fit to follow him. It’s completely unreasonable for Paul to say “the wages of sin is death.” The entire Christian faith is completely unreasonable.

    Because Reason is not God.

    The Old Testament holds prophets to a standard, that when they say, “The LORD SAYS”, it had better be the result of a specific revelation from God.

    I’ll tell you: I’ve had ONE of those. ONE. I was told to tell a pastor four words as being from the Lord, and to share with him my own perspective on the meanings those four words had in relation to the trouble he was undergoing.

    So, right now, I have 100% accuracy, because I choose to limit such prophecies to those I hear in such a manner. I have assumed that when God speaks, I will know that is He who is speaking. If I’m not sure who is speaking, I know for certain that it is not God.

    And while I’ve “felt” things at other times, or “gotten impressions” sometimes, I’ve always been very careful not to say, “The LORD says” surrounding those things, because I know darned well that with feelings and impressions, sometimes my own stubbornness and interpretation can get in the way. But when I ask “what shall I tell Pastor Bill?” and God answers quietly, specifically, firmly, with EXACT words, I have to go say to Pastor Bill, “I was praying last night, and God spoke to me, telling me to tell you this.”

  7. Ronni

    Anonymous…

    EXACTLY. The things we “see” or “feel” WAAAAY outnumber the times we speak. I’ve seen soooo many things and felt so many things but generally God just wants us to pray… and before I say anything to anyone, I make SURE that God really wants me to share… which is why I don’t share very often… I want to be totally sure. Will I ever falter? Probably. I’m an imperfect vessel. I don’t expect to be perfect but I do expect God’s grace to cover what imperfection I bring along with me. I honestly have journaled books about things I’ve felt and heard from God but most of those things will never be spoken except between me and God. I think everyone has this gifting and ability, some have it more strongly than others but I think that God wants to speak to us all this way. God is my very best friend and I want to share everything with him just like a flesh and blood best friend, only he can perfect me and mold me and love me as only He can. I’m honored that He has chosen me. Purely honored.

  8. Mark

    Excellant response Dan, but I fear there is a bit of pre-judicial bent among the cessasionist camp.

    I really wonder why we have all these store-bought words to keep us away from each other in the first place.

  9. Dan: “And that’s all I have to say on this topic.”

    There’s a certain frame of mind—whether one chooses to call it “rationalistic” or “Scientific” or “Enlightenment” or whatever—that will never accept the possibility that people can directly experience God’s supernatural grace working in their lives in extraordinary ways, no matter what one says. You can explain things until you’re blue in the face, but it won’t do any good. So, Dan, I think it’s a waste of time even to try to argue with anybody about this (no matter how many scripture you cite), especially if they already are going out of their way to be contentious about it. About all you can do is point at the multitude of examples from church history, through the centuries, where God has demonstrated his grace in the lives of people in extraordinay, even downright phenomenal ways, yet even if you do it probably won’t do any good.

    All I can say is that ever since I encountered the real thing (prophecy in this case), I will never be able to explain it with the usual rationalistic or scientific categories of thought, nor can ten-thousand people jabbering at me convince me otherwise.

  10. Dawn

    What an EXCELLENT response Dan.

    Dan: “Phil’s burden of proof for charismatics is to spotlight one modern prophet who is 100% accurate. For the purpose of exceptions, I would like to turn that around on Phil (especially in the light of his post’s conclusion above) and have him prove that beginning the day after John died, not a single accurate prophetic word has been uttered by anyone in the rest of Christian history. Now that’s a burden of proof!

    I would like for Phil to respond to this challenge. 😀 And I’m still waiting for him, or anyone else, to give us an example of “new revelation.”

    Dan: “In other words, I think that predictive prophetic utterances that are truly of the Lord are rare in the West. But experience does not trump Truth! That our experience of prophecy today is rare does not mean that it is non-existent or rare in places around that world where those who speak predictive prophecy prophesy in obscurity.

    God has a history of taking away from those who do not appreciate what He has given them and giving to people who do. Just because the wind has died down here in our anti-supernatural, rationalistic country does not mean that there are not prophets even now speaking to the Church in China and in places where people are willing to believe because belief is all they have.

    Beautifully, beautifully put.

  11. I should add something, Dan, to what I said above. I guess I am worried that my reluctance to argue about these matters might be viewed by some people as a sort of “elitism”. I hope not, but if some people do view things that way, it would be a misinterpretation on their part of what I am really trying to say.

    First of all, I am absolutely convinced the charismatic gifts (of which prophecy is only one) are for all xtians. But there are times when, by His grace, God simply has to show a person what He means by what He is saying.

    In my case, having grown up in a very Southern Baptist setting, I held many anti-charismatic prejudices; but somehow, at the time of His choosing, God simply showed me what it was that was always there in Scriptures to begin with. Can I explain any of this in exhaustive, analytical detail? No I can’t. I can only say something like “I once was blind, but now I see.” Things changed, almost instanteously, and in fact, without much fanfare.

    In other words, there comes times when explaining has to give way to showing. Some people are more willing to be shown than others. But in all cases, the H.G. is very gentle in every way; He never forces Himself on anyone, and His purpose is to glorify XP.

  12. Dawn

    LOL, Candleman.

    Thanks for the info Catez. I guess “new revelation” is so complex that there has to be an entire book written about it? =:o

  13. Catez,

    I personally think that Rick Joyner has got some issues. He’s not someone I have any confidence in. The remnants of the Kansas Prophets crowd have had too many problems for me to support them at all.

    Hope that lets you know where I stand.

  14. Hi Dawn,
    Rick Joyner’s book is not about “new revelation” – it is “new revelation”. (Supposedly). It would just take too long to summarise it here but it is not consistent with some pretty important biblical priciples.

    Dan,
    Yes, I have absolutely no confidence in Joyner et al. I’ve heard Joyner speak BTW.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.