Wednesday, October 11, 2006revelations from God???
For the first two years, there were no prophecies being uttered at the Pentecostal church my family and I were attending. The practice was a complete mystery to me until a so-called prophet moved to our town. He joined our assembly and became a regular at "speaking for the Lord". Right in the height of the emotionalistic tempest that was our worship service, he would speak on everything from advice on nutrition to admonishments to faithfulness; all of it, of course, was from the Lord Himself.
"Thus saith the Lord..."
At first, I thought this gift was quite amazing. It was far more tangible and constructive as far as I was concerned. I really had a hard time, from day one, in seeing the profitability and blessing of "speaking-in-tongues" and "falling-in-the-spirit", but prophecies, that was something! I mean, think about it: God... speaking... specifically to us! Wow!
My wonder at this gift though, didn't last too long. After a few months, I was just as suspicious of this gift as "the tongues" and "the spirit-drops". The reasons? There are a few:
1- Just like the other charismatic gifts, prophecies only came amidst "worship" euphoria:
While this didn't seem to be an issue with anyone in my assembly, I saw this pattern as bit suspicious. "Is God a fair-weather friend," I thought, "He only speaks when the worship is really 'hot'?" It became pretty obvious that just like the "falling-in-the-spirit" nonsense, the emotional state of the audience directly impacted the utterance, the tone and even the volume of prophecy.
2- Prophecy, or Word of Knowledge, or Word of Wisdom?
These terms, which can all be found in 1 Corinthians 12, are used in a most confused fashion in charismatic circles. The "words of knowledge" and "words of wisdom" were used interchangeably and were basically prophecies without the "thus saith the Lord" at the beginning. These "words" were usually directed at a specific person about a specific issues: it's kind of like Christians playing psychics.
The problem is that ultimately, with or without the "thus saith the Lord", the messages are all pretty much the same.
3- Prophecies from God, or Fortune Cookie Proverbs?
In every charismatic assembly I have attended, 80-90% of all prophecies are pure platitudes like:
"Oh my son... remain close to Me, and I will bless you..."
"Oh my child... I know you are suffering... and I want you to know that I love you..."
Cute. Comforting. Completely unverifiable. And that's the point. I can count on my fingers the number of times I have heard of specific, verifiable prophecy; and let me tell you, the accuracy rate is even below the "blind guess" probability.
So, fearing being found out as liars, the charismatic prophets keep their prophecies nice and vague. Now read carefully: I have seen and heard of assemblies, assemblies with prophets, where there have been cases of pedophilia, theft, adultery and all manner of abominable sin. How many times did the "Lord" use "His prophets" to warn "His children" about these grave sins?
4- The Makings of a Prophet:
This really disturbed me. The man who joined our charismatic assembly... the so-called prophet... well... he and my father had become friends, so we got to know him pretty well. You would think that a man who the Lord uses to speak for Him would be a holy, upright man. Well, so much for that. The man frequently told dirty jokes, he wasn't well rooted in the Word of God, and get this, when we asked him about how he knew his prophecies were from the Lord, his response was:
"Well, I hope they are from Him."
5- Why Isn't Anyone Writing These Prophecies Down?
Revelation 22 makes clear that the Bible is God's Book of Prophecy. It doesn't say that it is the Book "Special" Prophecy, or even the "Book of Written Prophecy". Yet, that's how my charismatic friends viewed the Bible. They made a clear distinction between prophecies uttered in their worship services, and the written prophecies of Scripture; the worship ones being somehow "sub-prophecy". They did this because none of them felt comfortable with the idea of adding pages to their Bibles, literally or figuratively.
The problem is, of course, there is no biblical standard for this. Prophecy, in the Bible, is not divided into class of importance. "If the Bible is a revelation from God," I thought, "and these prophecies are also, then they are equal both in value and importance." This made me cringe, as it made most of my charismatic friends cringe (the saved ones anyway), but ultimately, it is the only logical and Scriptural end of their position.
They argued (and this is but one example): "What about Philip's daughters in Acts 21? They prophesied and we have no account of their words!" The answer to this foolish argument is that Philip's daughters, like countless others in NT times prophesied the instructions of God (see 1 Corinthians 14), which can now be found in our New Testaments. The prophesies of Philip's daughters weren't of less value... they were God's revelation to His people prior to the Book of Prophecy's completion.
6- The Bible, Ultimately, Just Wasn't Enough:
This realization, which came to me only after I had left the charismatic movement, was the one that really shook me. I had spent 7-8 years in an assembly which proclaimed itself as being Bible-only, except everyone in the house were poor stewards of the Word, including me! Oh! Everyone were experts at defending, with Scripture, why the "sign gifts" were still in operation today, but theologically... whoa! what a mess!
I remember, clearly, singing hymns that had a very "covenant theology" theme to them, only to sing about God's promises to Israel soon after! One Sunday, we would have a sermon that was 110% Arminian, and the following Sunday, God was sovereign in the affairs of men. How could this happen? I-G-N-O-R-A-N-C-E! They simply don't devote themselves to the Word enough to come to any solid conclusion on any given doctrine. The Bible speaks of such in Ephesians 4:14.
How much light... how much wisdom did the charismatic "prophecies" bring? None. You see, instead of studying hard and devoting themselves to Word and its teachings, charismatics seek emotionalistic experiences; that's the focus. And you don't get too emotional sitting at a desk and spending a couple of hours in God's Word, looking up the Hebrew of Greek lexicons and various commentaries from godly, learned men. Reading God's prophecies and studying them just doesn't feel good to them; they need the music, the sounds of "spiritual babbling", and they need for God to speak to them directly. The Scriptures, in the end, simply isn't enough. I even remember a charismatic telling me that spending a lot of time in Scripture isn't necessarily good, because "the letter killeth, but the spirit giveth life." I-G-N-O-R-A-N-C-E!
In the space of two years in a Baptist church, I had surpassed 1000-fold the knowledge I had accumulated at the Pentecostal assembly; and not only that, I was forced to cough out all the man-centered theology that I had been fed for so long. God was no longer a genie that would make me happy and bless me with all sorts of gifts that would make me "feel good". God was, and will forever be the great I AM! One that is to be feared, served and worshipped.
These six observations (there may have been more, but I have since forgotten) were enough for me to seriously question the veracity of these prophecies which were being uttered at the various charismatic assemblies I attended. You'll notice that I didn't require a huge theological analysis of 1 Corinthians 12 and 14 to come to this conclusion. All I needed was Matthew 7:17-18:
"Even so every good tree bringeth forth good fruit; but a corrupt tree bringeth forth evil fruit. A good tree cannot bring forth evil fruit, neither can a corrupt tree bring forth good fruit."
The fruits of my Pentecostal assembly (the prophecies) were corrupt. The assembly, therefore, was corrupt. That being said, I did work at understanding the two chapters of 1 Corinthians, in order to have an answer for my charismatic friends, and also, to be well grounded in the Truth. I plan to share this research with you all, dear readers, soon.
Labels: Charismatic Movement