The trivialisation of prophecy

Entailment # 2: Trivialisation of the Prophetic Tradition   

Third, closely related to our points about the idolisation of tradition and the glorification of educational backwardness is what we may call the trivialisation of prophecy.

In his commentary on 1 Corinthians 11:4, Thiselton notes that “prophetic speech may include applied theological teaching, encouragement, and exhortation to build the church, not merely (if at all) ad hoc cries of an expressive, diagnostic, or tactical nature, delivered as ‘spontaneous’ mini-messages.

The latter debase and trivialise the great tradition of the term in the biblical writings as something altogether more serious, sustained, and reflective”. And yet, is it not the case, in so many churches today, that ‘spontaneous ad hoc tactical mini-messages’ have replaced ‘serious, sustained, reflective, applied theological teaching’?

As it happens, I have been looking at 1 Corinthians 14 this morning in my devotions. From this passage, it seems that true ‘prophecy’ has the following characteristics.

(i) It strengthens, encourages, and comforts.

(ii) It intelligibly instructs or edifies.

(iii) It exposes secrets and sins, leading to worship.

(iv) It stimulates to wholesome thinking.

(v) It is orderly, peaceful, and appropriate.

(vi) It is consistent with growth towards ‘adult’ thinking that only remains ‘childlike’ in relation to ‘evil’.

That is, the prophetic ‘builds’ and ‘matures’ us through an analytical exposure of the secret and sinful that leads to repentance and worship. This is qualitatively different to the ‘prophecy’ (which did not come true) that there would be a huge revival in Britain before all Diana’s flowers had been gathered up. It is also very different from ‘prophecy’ that is vague and flowery enough to be like a horoscope into which people can read their own content.

Recently, I provided a three sentence précis of a ‘prophecy’ of some 30 minutes in length. The original ‘prophecy’ sounded very ‘spiritual’, but the précis sounded ridiculous. I was not popular at that point. It was as though people needed the vague mystical language so that they could read into the ‘prophecy’ what they wanted to hear. This is a long way from 1 Corinthians 14.

The substitution of indoctrination for education, then, brings with it the idolisation of tradition over growing in biblical understanding, the glorification of educational backwardness, and the trivialisation of the prophetic tradition. In such a climate, it is difficult to imagine ‘right judgements’ being made about homosexuality. Rather, one would expect mere repetition of traditional responses, lack of understanding, and false ‘tactical mini-messages’ about stupendous divine interventions that sought to bypass normal processes of maturing.

What a sorry situation.

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