Prophets, false prophets, and prudence -- an argument regarding continuationism

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steven-nemes

Puritan Board Sophomore
I have thought a bit lately about the issue of supposed "modern prophets" and people who claim to have revelation coming from God in these days.

Now the scriptures commonly warn against various false prophets who came into the church and will come, and things of that sort. We are to be on the look-out for that sort of thing and to be wary of them, to rebuke them, correct them, and disregard them, etc. But not only that: Christ tells of people who at the judgment will claim, "Lord, didn't we cast out demons and do miraculous things, etc. etc., in your name?" and the Lord of course rejects them as workers of lawlessness. The critical thing is that persons who appear to us to be authentic prophets and workers of miracles may in fact be reprobates and evil-doers.

But, won't you know them by their fruits? Yes, Jesus also teaches us this, but it is possible that a person be deceived regarding the truthfulness of a prophet and supposed miracle worker; for proof, see the claim Jesus makes about many coming to him on the last day and claiming they did miracles in his name but really were not his. It is possible to be deceived by someone who, as far as you can tell, is a true prophet with good fruits, but really is evil and a deceiver.

My argument is thus: even if there are still prophets and miraculous things happening these days, so, even if cessationist understandings of spritual gifts and charismata are incorrect, the wise and prudent thing is to disbelieve, distrust, or at least remain agnostic about the whole matter and trust rather the reliable authority of scripture, by which no man can be deceived, rather than supposed prophets, who may be, despite what we see about them, false.

What do you say?
 

Scott1

Puritanboard Commissioner
My argument is thus: even if there are still prophets and miraculous things happening these days, so, even if cessationist understandings of spritual gifts and charismata are incorrect, the wise and prudent thing is to disbelieve, distrust, or at least remain agnostic about the whole matter and trust rather the reliable authority of scripture, by which no man can be deceived, rather than supposed prophets, who may be, despite what we see about them, false.

What do you say?
_________________

What we might say is, it's all about what God has revealed about Himself through Scripture.

If the Holy Spirit has established the faith,
Jude 1:3

3Beloved, when I gave all diligence to write unto you of the common salvation, it was needful for me to write unto you, and exhort you that ye should earnestly contend for the faith which was once delivered unto the saints.

"once delivered unto the saints" speaking through Holy Scripture what would be purpose of new revelation outside of it?

And specifically, what would be the purpose of speaking that revelation in an unknown tongue, dependent upon a translator when the revelation of the Word is already written in the (known) tongue of the hearer?
 

steven-nemes

Puritan Board Sophomore
A continuationist could interpret the "faith once for all delivered unto the saints" as doctrinally-relevant propositional revelation, and not pragmatic, useful, non-doctrinal revelation, like "God wants you to go to China", or, "God does want you to speak with Sally", etc.
 

MW

Puritanboard Amanuensis
A continuationist could interpret the "faith once for all delivered unto the saints" as doctrinally-relevant propositional revelation, and not pragmatic, useful, non-doctrinal revelation, like "God wants you to go to China", or, "God does want you to speak with Sally", etc.

Then he is not really a continuationist because revelation is specifically concerned with faith and life. What he really advocates is the creation of a new kind of revelation which has no resemblance to the revelation of the Bible.
 

steven-nemes

Puritan Board Sophomore
Then he is not really a continuationist because revelation is specifically concerned with faith and life. What he really advocates is the creation of a new kind of revelation which has no resemblance to the revelation of the Bible.

Well I am not familiar at all with persons who think that new doctrinal revelation is continually coming from God; the continuationists (or at least I call them that; perhaps I misuse the term) I know believe that God might reveal pragmatic truths to persons that are doctrinally irrelevant.

I don't know how someone who believes that God continually reveals doctrinally relevant revelation can get around Jude 3.
 

chbrooking

Puritan Board Junior
In light of Heb. 1:1-2, I can't really go with you on this argument.

But if I were to, for the sake of argument, assume that we are wrong about cessationism, then NO, we could not ignore the word of God. That's like the Jew saying, "Hey, we may be wrong about the whole Jesus thing, but isn't it just safer to stick to the Shema and not delve into this whole trinity thing?"

Like I said, I'm a firm cessationist. I'm just interacting with your reasoning.
 

steven-nemes

Puritan Board Sophomore
This argument is for persons who are alive now, not for Jews in the C1 or anything of that sort: people who have (and accept) the canon of scripture as we have it and who are not convinced of cessationism, who are open to persons being "true prophets" with real word coming in from God, etc. It is more prudent for them to remain at the least agnostic and not judge any way over the other than to believe (and potentially be deceived by) prophets.
 

chbrooking

Puritan Board Junior
This argument is for persons who are alive now, not for Jews in the C1 or anything of that sort: people who have (and accept) the canon of scripture as we have it and who are not convinced of cessationism, who are open to persons being "true prophets" with real word coming in from God, etc. It is more prudent for them to remain at the least agnostic and not judge any way over the other than to believe (and potentially be deceived by) prophets.

What's the difference? If God is speaking, man is duty bound to listen. That's why God gave procedures for testing the spirits. To say that it is dangerous to risk being deceived is to miss the fact that it is dangerous to ignore God when he speaks.

Remember, though -- I'm only going this way for the sake of argument. I'm fully persuaded of cessationism.
 

steven-nemes

Puritan Board Sophomore
What's the difference? If God is speaking, man is duty bound to listen. That's why God gave procedures for testing the spirits. To say that it is dangerous to risk being deceived is to miss the fact that it is dangerous to ignore God when he speaks.

You have a very good point here; God's word is quite authoritative in itself, and ought to be listened to when it is discerned to be such. But in a discussion between myself and my hypothetical continuationist-leaning friend Smith, both of us accept the authority of scripture as being God's word; we disagree on the authority of the supposed local prophet Malcom, however. What my argument addresses is the disagreement we have about Malcom: it is very possible that Malcom be a true prophet. But it is also very possible that he be a false prophet. In fact, no matter how true and real he may seem, we may both be deceived by him! No doubt false prophets seem real and true--they have to be persuasive to deceive people! Therefore, I conclude (and hopefully Smith will agree) that it is wiser that we either disbelieve him or at the least remain agnostic about him, not going one way or the other.

My point with the argument is that even if continuationism is true, it is prudent to disbelieve all supposed prophets and claims to "new" revelation.
 

steven-nemes

Puritan Board Sophomore
No one else has anything to say? I would enjoy dialog in helping me to strengthen this argument if possible...
 

Rich Koster

Puritan Board Post-Graduate
Read all of the whoppers by Chuck Pierce, Cindy Jacobs and Rick Joyner. That should give you ample evidence that there is a cluster of false prophets trying to lead the Church into deception today. Their fruit is bogus and their agenda is to draw people after themselves.
 

Theognome

Burrito Bill
There is an incorrect premise at work here- that a false prophet only speaks false prophecy. Balaam is an example of a false prophet that spoke true prophecy. All prophecy is to be judged by the standard of Scripture as given in the Pentateuch, while Christ judges those who speak it.

Theognome
 

Scott1

Puritanboard Commissioner
A continuationist could interpret the "faith once for all delivered unto the saints" as doctrinally-relevant propositional revelation, and not pragmatic, useful, non-doctrinal revelation, like "God wants you to go to China", or, "God does want you to speak with Sally", etc.

Another aspect of this is that "continuation" tends to mean speaking in an unknown tongue and then interpretation to a known tongue amidst corporate worship.

The purpose in Corinth might have been to corporately receive doctrine as the Scriptures were not completed.

Is the 'continuationist' now saying the purpose is particularized revelation, first unknown, then known as the focus of corporate worship?

Think about the purpose- why would one person, ordinarily, receive revelation first unknown, then known as part of corporate worship. Is it personal revelation rather than revelation toward the whole group, e.g. in Corinth where doctrine came sometimes in that way?

Believing miracles can "continue" is one thing, but believing corporate worship is focused now on particularized revelation and in an unknown tongue at that (when both the Scripture and guidance could be given in a known tongue) is quite another.
 

steven-nemes

Puritan Board Sophomore
There is an incorrect premise at work here- that a false prophet only speaks false prophecy. Balaam is an example of a false prophet that spoke true prophecy. All prophecy is to be judged by the standard of Scripture as given in the Pentateuch, while Christ judges those who speak it.

Theognome

You have a point here, though I am not immediately aware of how it is relevant to my argument. I am saying that it is more wise to not believe in any supposed prophets, even if the office of prophet is still around these days.
 

steven-nemes

Puritan Board Sophomore
Ok Theognome, I think I understand your point. I understand you as asserting:

(1) We are to judge the assertions of the prophets according to Scripture.
(2) If we judge the words of a prophet to be true and good, then we are to trust in that prophet.

Well these only work if the supposed prophet is uttering propositions that are relevant to the bulk of scripture; if someone claims to have word from God and is telling my family we shouldn't worry about my father finding a job (just an example) because God plans to provide or us through mysterious charitable donation--well, there's no scripture to verify or falsify that, but what I am concerned with is should I trust that person? Or let's say this prophet claims to have a word from God saying that I ought not go to school because God is going to provide for me an opportunity to do mission work in Africa--should I then trust this person and drop out of high school and go take a plane to Congo? This is what I am concerned with. Because the propositions they claim to receive from God are not falsifiable by the propositions found in scripture, I am not able to judge their words by scripture. And their fruits can be deceiving. I am saying it would be the most prudent thing to do if you ignore them. That is my argument.
 

Scott1

Puritanboard Commissioner
steven-nemes

My argument is thus: even if there are still prophets and miraculous things happening these days, so, even if cessationist understandings of spritual gifts and charismata are incorrect, the wise and prudent thing is to disbelieve, distrust, or at least remain agnostic about the whole matter and trust rather the reliable authority of scripture, by which no man can be deceived, rather than supposed prophets, who may be, despite what we see about them, false.

If I'm understanding, you are linking false prophets with the spiritual gifts (I Cor. 12:1-11) under "continuationism."

1 Corinthians 12


1Now concerning spiritual gifts, brethren, I would not have you ignorant.

2Ye know that ye were Gentiles, carried away unto these dumb idols, even as ye were led.

3Wherefore I give you to understand, that no man speaking by the Spirit of God calleth Jesus accursed: and that no man can say that Jesus is the Lord, but by the Holy Ghost.

4Now there are diversities of gifts, but the same Spirit.

5And there are differences of administrations, but the same Lord.

6And there are diversities of operations, but it is the same God which worketh all in all.

7But the manifestation of the Spirit is given to every man to profit withal.

8For to one is given by the Spirit the word of wisdom; to another the word of knowledge by the same Spirit;

9To another faith by the same Spirit; to another the gifts of healing by the same Spirit;

10To another the working of miracles; to another prophecy; to another discerning of spirits; to another divers kinds of tongues; to another the interpretation of tongues:

11But all these worketh that one and the selfsame Spirit, dividing to every man severally as he will.

They are not necessarily related in that false prophets are always evil (old and new testaments) whereas these gifts were not always wrong- they could be wrongly used in many ways and they must now be looked at in light of the completion of God's revealed Word, but they are not intrinsically wrong, certainly not in Old Testament and at least apostolic application.

Something that has been helpful to me is to first understand our reliance on the "ordinary" means the reformers brought to light. God ordains both the ends and the means.

God ordinarily extends grace in certain ways. That puts the emphasis where it should be (Word, sacraments, possibly church discipline) while leaving open God's ability to work "extraordinarily."

Westminster Confession of Faith

Chapter V.
Of Providence

III. God, in His ordinary providence, makes use of means,[10] yet is free to work without,[11] above,[12] and against them,[13] at His pleasure.

For example, In I Cor. 14, those gifts were not intended to be the focus of Christianity or corporate worship, they were not the priority among gifts, and they were probably most intended for evangelism. Standard charismatic/pentecostal practice today violates the I Cor. 14 injunctions, as it did then. Nothing has changed.

But how, today, in light of the completed Scripture, does a believer seek God? Through His Word, prayer, the sacraments. What means does God, ordinarily, use to bring a nonbeliever to Himself? Through the Word preached, and particularly through the context of the local church.

If a believer is orienting his life toward seeking God outside of His Word, he is sinning in many ways. So, if he is seeking God through going to "signs and wonder" oriented meetings, not through diligent use of God's Word, prayer and sacraments, he is sinning. His pattern of life before God is wrong, violating the first, second and other commandments and that way, he is walking as the ungodly, even though he may be in denial or not realize it.

Not being diligent to use the ordinary means of grace, is sin unto itself, whether believer or not, and God will judge all sin.

But if he is seeking God through the "ordinary means" and God decides to do what only He can do (a miracle), we need to be open to that too.
 
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Theognome

Burrito Bill
Ok Theognome, I think I understand your point. I understand you as asserting:

(1) We are to judge the assertions of the prophets according to Scripture.
(2) If we judge the words of a prophet to be true and good, then we are to trust in that prophet.

Well these only work if the supposed prophet is uttering propositions that are relevant to the bulk of scripture; if someone claims to have word from God and is telling my family we shouldn't worry about my father finding a job (just an example) because God plans to provide or us through mysterious charitable donation--well, there's no scripture to verify or falsify that, but what I am concerned with is should I trust that person? Or let's say this prophet claims to have a word from God saying that I ought not go to school because God is going to provide for me an opportunity to do mission work in Africa--should I then trust this person and drop out of high school and go take a plane to Congo? This is what I am concerned with. Because the propositions they claim to receive from God are not falsifiable by the propositions found in scripture, I am not able to judge their words by scripture. And their fruits can be deceiving. I am saying it would be the most prudent thing to do if you ignore them. That is my argument.

Point two isn't quite what I meant. I would write it thus-

(2) If we judge the words of a prophet to be true and good, then we are to trust those words.

It is the word that is the issue of trust, not the person. If someone 'prophesies' stuff that is unbiblical or biblically irrelevant, then said words are untrustworthy (and you definitely have a false prophet). If the words are biblically sound and edifying, then the words are trustworthy, regardless of the true/false position of the prophet himself.

Theognome
 

steven-nemes

Puritan Board Sophomore
Well, by a supposed prophet, I mean someone who claims to have words spoken to him by God, claims to have revelation from God, whether this revelation is merely intuitions and random thoughts regarding persons, or explicit statements that are either doctrinally-relevant or not.

If S says he is a prophet and just utters propositions that are consistent with scripture--well who cares? I can do that and claim to be a prophet, even though I'm not; there's nothing special about that.

If S says he is a prophet and utters propositions that are not necessarily consistent or inconsistent with scripture because they cannot be verified by scripture--like, "God will destroy the homosexual community of America by the year 2015" or "The end is coming soon, so you need to drop out of high school or college, quit your job, and spend your time praying and studying scriptures"--then what are we to do? Believe him or not? I say, we don't believe him. This is what my argument is relevant to.
 
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