Saturday, January 11, 2014

different qualities of revelatory words?

This is a response to an article in Authentic Fire, which can also be found online here. The article is an attempt to defend the notion that modern-day prophets do not need to live up to the Old Testament standard of perfection in what they say in prophesy, that they can prophecy incorrectly, that prophecy today is fallible.

It's a long article, and I'll not deal with all of it here. Parts of what he says, such as his attempt to see fallible prophecy in the account of Agabus in Acts, have been dealt with in this book.

To try to explain, Storms is responding to statements made that, if there are true prophets today, then why do we not view their prophecies as being as inspired as Scripture, why do we not add those prophecies on to the end of the Bible.

One things that Storms tries to posit is that there are various levels of revelatory words. One, possible the highest, is what he calls “Scripture-quality”, and then posits that there is at least one level of revelatory words that is of lesser quality, and that modern prophecy is at these one or more lower levels. His position is this—there were many prophets and prophecies given in the early church, the Bible even mentions specific people who were prophets, yet with only a few exceptions we do not have the prophetic revelatory words these prophets spoke. Ergo, these unrecorded prophetic words were of a lesser quality than those recorded in the Bible. Or to use Storms' own words...

My question is this: If such words, each and every one of them, were the very “Word of God” and thus equal to Scripture in authority, what happened to them? Why were the NT authors so lacking in concern for whether or not other Christians heard them and obeyed them? Why were they not preserved for subsequent generations of the church? I’m not suggesting this proves that these “revelatory gifts” operated at a lower level of authority, but it certainly strikes me as odd that the NT would portray the operation of the gift of prophecy in this manner if in fact all such “words” were Scripture quality and essential to building the foundation for the universal body of Christ.

One thing that a little thought made me realize was that even in the time before Christ's death and resurrection, there are examples of prophets about whom we have no prophesies.

For example, here is a few verses from I Samuel 19

18 Now David fled and escaped, and he came to Samuel at Ramah and told him all that Saul had done to him. And he and Samuel went and lived at Naioth. 19 And it was told Saul, “Behold, David is at Naioth in Ramah.” 20 Then Saul sent messengers to take David, and when they saw the company of the prophets prophesying, and Samuel standing as head over them, the Spirit of God came upon the messengers of Saul, and they also prophesied. 21 When it was told Saul, he sent other messengers, and they also prophesied. And Saul sent messengers again the third time, and they also prophesied. 22 Then he himself went to Ramah and came to the great well that is in Secu. And he asked, “Where are Samuel and David?” And one said, “Behold, they are at Naioth in Ramah.” 23 And he went there to Naioth in Ramah. And the Spirit of God came upon him also, and as he went he prophesied until he came to Naioth in Ramah. 24 And he too stripped off his clothes, and he too prophesied before Samuel and lay naked all that day and all that night. Thus it is said, “Is Saul also among the prophets?”

So, here we have an account of a company of prophets who were prophesying, and when King Saul himself came to them, he prophesied. Were these people true prophets of God? Considering that Samuel was in some sense their head, I think we can say that they were. Yet we have no record of what they prophesied.

Another interesting example would be from the Gospels. Luke 2 gives the account of the parents of Jesus taking their newborn child to the Temple, and there they encounter a woman named Anna, who is called a prophetess. Yet the passage in Luke gives no prophetic statement of hers.

So, are we to assume that, simply because these prophets' revelatory words are not recorded in the Bible, then they were of a lesser quality? That they were even fallible, even though they were still subject the Old Testament standard of having to be completely correct in their prophetic statements?

I would say, no. And I would go further and say that Storms' position simply doesn't hold up. There is no hint in the New Testament that prophetic words today can be of a lesser quality than those in the Old Testament.

Even the concept of varying qualities of revelatory words seems to be very questionable. Where is such a concept in the Bible? Where does God ever say that He speaks less clearly to some people than to others? Where does God plainly speak to one prophet, but another prophet has to make do with trying to interpret vague feelings? What happened to God's communication abilities, such that in the Old Testament He always spoke clearly to the prophets, but since Christ's death and resurrection He tends to speak in an unclear, garbled way, leaving the prophets to rely on revelatory words that they may get wrong.

Understand, I'm talking about the words themselves, not necessarily interpretations. Even the Old Testament prophets did not completely understand the things God was saying to them prophetically, you can read the last chapter of Daniel to see that Daniel did not understand everything being said to him. But even in that, Daniel plainly heard the words being said to him, and recorded them accurately.

So, I find Storms' idea of lesser qualities of revelatory words to not be supported by the Bible. It seems more like a supposition he has formed to support his notion of fallible prophecy, then something that is plainly taught or ever strongly hinted at in the Bible.

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