Why I Believe Prophecy Has Not Passed Away
We had a new members’ Sunday yesterday at church. Since we are a charismatic church, one of our traditions is that all the elders lay hands on the new members and prophesy over them. It’s pretty cool and we always tell them way more than we knew about them apart from God speaking to us.
Lest anyone get the wrong impression, we, along with every other charismatic Christian I know of, do not claim that modern prophecy is not on par with scripture. It is more along the lines of saying, “This is what I sense God wants to say to you personally.” It is usually inspired, but no one would claim inerrancy, infallibility, or any an addition to the biblical canon.
How can I, an aspiring academic, buy into this stuff (much less practice it)? The short answer is that the New Testament is a book about the supernatural. If you’re studying it from a purely secular standpoint, you can believe whatever you want to about it. But if you’re reading it as a Christian, if you believe what it says about Jesus, then you’re pretty much committed to a supernatural worldview. If you write off the supernatural, you’re basically a syncretist, mixing Christianity with Western materialism. I would argue that this is no longer true Christianity. But beyond that it was my encounters with the supernatural that drove me to faith, not the other way around.
But my first encounter with prophecy was probably the second time I visited a charismatic church. I still didn’t really know what to expect. They had a guest speaker in who was going to prophesy over people in the meeting. I was the very first one he called up. I was freaking out. No one there really even knew me. I had no idea what to expect. Here’s what he told me (transcribed from tape):
Ryan, I hear a lot of seeking and a lot of searching when I look at you. And it’s like, as you’ve sought and as you’ve searched, there’s always a little emptiness in there. Nothing has ever just clicked and settled in to where, it’s like, I’ll use the work “eureka,” I found it… First of all, I see you giving yourself in the sense of pursuit of intellectual things… God’s given you a good mind… because He wanted to instruct you in the ways of the Lord. And He wanted to instruct you in spiritual matters. In fact, in my mind, I’m hearing the word, “theologian,” and that is to be able to take doctrines and theology and to be able to bring it over into the realms of human understanding. And most theologians, to be honest, really have a hard time with this simply because they don’t know how to walk with God and talk with God, and they get puffed up on their intellect… But God wants you to have a real servant attitude and a servant heart.
I don’t think you can get a more clear picture of who I am. The hunger to understand mixed with the doubt of never having anything just click or settle in. And theology is so far outside of the sphere of what charismatics think about that this was really out of left field. I tell this story because, when done properly, modern prophecy can have a profound impact on the direction of your life.