Radom thought on Wayne Grudem's view of Prophets

When I was younger I was very much persuaded by Wayne Grudem's thesis (based on his PhD work) that the NT apostle and not the NT prophet was the successor to the OT prophet. He sought to draw a clear distinction between OT and NT prophets. The former were inerrant whilst the latter could make mistakes in the details whilst still remaining prophets.

I have become increasingly suspicious of the thesis over the years (suspecting that it was driven by systematic theological concerns rather than exegetical ones) but have never really given it any sustained reflection.

Whilst at SBL I was chatting with some Pentecostal scholars and one random thought came to me (which I am sure that countless people have pointed out before):

A key part of Grudem's case that NT prophets were not inerrant (and were thus different from OT prophets) is the case of Agabus in the book of Acts. A hair-splitting analysis of the Greek text of Agabus' prophecy opens up a gap between the details of what was foretold and what came to pass. This proves that he was not inspired in the same way as OT prophets. Or does it?

My simple thought was this: if one applied Grudem's super-high standards for what counts as accurate fulfillment to OT prophets then Agabus was in the same boat as them. Indeed, he was a darn sight more "accurate" in the Grudem sense than, say, Isaiah, Jeremiah, Ezekiel, or Daniel.

Far from driving a wedge between OT and NT prophets the case of Agabus may suggest that they were cut from the same cloth.


Yahnatan said…
Great point in this post.

I'm sorry I missed the chance to meet you at SBL. I guess I'll have to be content with the copy of Robin Parry's book on Lamentations I picked up at the Eerdman's stand.

Until next year...keep blogging!
I think Grudem's case for two degrees of prophecy is rather weak. I think you are right and systematic concerns are foremost in his minds rather than exegesis.
Robin Parry said…
One wonders if one of those concerns is to allow for women prophets in the NT period without undermining the case against woman in authority in the church.
Robin Parry said…

Thanks. You should have popped over to the W&S booth. I'd have been happy to chat. Hope the Lam Comm is OK

I think prophetic ministry holds an peculiar place in charismatic churches.

On the one hand, charismatics acknowlege the need for the prophetic, but often when their prophets seek to have an impact on decision-making and leadership in the church, a lot of tensions can arise.

Grudem is offering an easy way to resolve the tension between eldership and prophetic ministry- the prophets can offer their suggestions, but the elders don't actually have to take them as gospel truth.

The issue of women only makes it even more complicated.
James Goetz said…
Hmm, Agabus didn't prophecy according to modern standards of history, just like various Old Testament prophets.
James, even a lot of inerrantists think Grudem is putting Agabus under too high a standard of historical rigour.
Anonymous said…
Hi, you said:
(suspecting that it was driven by systematic theological concerns rather than exegetical ones)

I like the phrase:
"doctrinal tail wags textual dog"!
Roy Huddle said…
I haven't read his doctoral thesis, but I imagine that he also relies heavely on New Testament texts such as 1 Corinthians 13:8-12, especially verse 9, 1 Thessalonians 5:20, and the examples of prophecy in the New Testament. For example, 1 Corinthians 14:1, which encourages believers in Christ to prophecy is different than the old testament where you were called to be a prophet.

I don't think the case for two degrees of prophecy is weak. Just based on the verses above, how would you reconcile these New Testament standards for prophecy with the standards of the Old Testament?
Anonymous said…
If giving a false prophecy is ok then the gift of prophecy is useless, one should not even bother listening to it. Such a gift of prophecy is no better than Mormonism. Scripture, tells us plainly not to go beyond what is written.

Popular Posts