Profiteering Prophets

“For we are, alas, only too familiar with alluring prophets. We have seen them crumble into fragments.

Karl Barth

We have seen them bring the Wholly Other into disrepute, by being themselves no more than ‘very strange.'” Karl Barth

Over on Pyromaniac a while back, there was s a discussion of the role of prophecy in the modern church, which began with Rubber Prophecies and a brief account of two of the “very strange” pseudo-prophets bouncing them. It’s amazing what a wide-ranging and informative overview you can get in the comments that followed.

Since then, we’ve had the Strange Fire brouhaha and the resulting fallout.

I am a continuationist, but I arrive at that view exegetically, from my understanding of the Scriptures. I’ve lived most of my Christian life navigating the stormy waters between the two poles on the issue: the cessationists on one end and the hyper-Pentecostals on the other. I think pneumatic utterances can be a welcome encouragement to the Body of Christ, but it seems as if the number of oddball oracles from the super-apostle camp outnumbers authentic prophets by about 20 to one (probably more). On the other side, I’ve seen or experienced some bona fide prophecy go unheeded or ignored and that presents a different sort of situation. I suppose it’s just one of those problems that will never go away.

I think Vance Havner was probably speaking of prophets in the sense of speaking forth the Word of God with boldness (the Bible), but he was not far off when he observed:

Prophets are almost extinct in the religious world today. The modern church is a “non-prophet” organization. Vance Havner


  1. sage said:

    I don’t know where you got the figure of true/false prophets being 1 out of 20. That’s interesting, but I wonder if it has ever been any difference–even in Old Testament times. There always seem to be a lot of false ones around (but in time, they’re oracles were forgotten).

    I think we too often tend to think of prophets in predicting the future, not in critiquing the status quo–which was a lot of the message of the OT prophets. They weren’t too popular because of it, neither are today’s prophets.

    On another matter, it’d be interesting to explore the use of prophet and profit… I started to write the wrong word twice in this post.

    November 7, 2005
  2. Bo Salisbury said:

    I pulled the figure right out of my hat… it sounded like a good, illustrative sort of percentage.

    Oh, yeah… always plenty of false prophets as the Bible will attest, but in our technological age, the goofballs seem to get a lot of airplay… unless they are, say, someone like Louis Farrakhan. Pat Robertson makes a wacked statement and the jurassic media run wild… LF talks about the mother wheel and visions of human origins and such — no coverage.

    November 7, 2005
  3. sage said:

    I thought about Pat Robertson last week in Honduras. We were praying the hurricane would turn (the idea of going through a storm in a 3rd world country wasn’t high on my list) and it did! Afterwards, I was careful not to credit my prayers (but then I wasn’t running for president). For the turn meant that things were worst for those in Nicaragua.

    November 7, 2005
  4. Bo Salisbury said:

    Ah, yes, the hidden workings of providence. I think everyone’s prayers were answered, perhaps not as they would have them, but to “bring all things together for good.”

    November 10, 2005

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