By: Ninos Hadjirousou
John Piper and 1 Thessalonians 5:19-20
Let me state even further. John Piper and Grundem, use 1 Thessalonians 5:19-21 teach that there were some who despised prophecy. They presuppose that if Paul mentions this ‘not to despise prophecy’, it would imply that there is infallible prophecy which is to be tested and not completely rejected. They also reject’s the fact that Paul is speaking about prophecy and prophets. Piper is more concerned about the utterance of the prophecy rather than the prophet. As if the two are separated. The main issue of Piper as well as Grudem argument for believing in ‘fallible’ prophecy is this: they believe that testing and evaluating prophets and prophecy would not be done if prophecy is infallible and without error. Thus, there teaching is that, ‘since this is the case, we are commanded to test prophecy. This surely implies that we can also allow fallible prophecy to be legitimately accepted and define as prophecy’.
Piper said ‘that text is different from 1 john 4:1’ (which teaches us to test all things, to test every spirit,) ‘there (1 John 4:1) you test a person to see if he is a true prophet from the false one’ ‘here (1 Thessalonians 5:19-21) you test words, and prophecy, and hold fast to those things which are good’ ‘it’s not between two people’ ‘but what they say’. (http://www.desiringgod.org/interviews/what-is-prophecy-today)
As you can read for yourself, Piper indeed is more concerned about the utterance of the prophecy rather than prophet and prophecy.
But here is my question: if we are commanded to test and evaluate prophecy, which we are according to the OT and the NT, does this imply that anyone can legitimately speak fallible prophecy? Obviously, if we think this carefully, examining the consequences of it, we will see that it would not be right to do so. First, it would be violating every biblical principle we are given to test prophecy (Deuteronomy 18:20-22, 13:1-5). Just because Paul said to test prophecy, does not make it legitimate to allow and welcome fallible prophecy and call it a ‘new type of prophecy’.
Secondly, nowhere in the NT or the OT does anyone separate the voice of prophecy from the prophet, whoever that maybe.
Thus, for Grudem and Piper to say that in the New Testament there is this new category of prophecy is to build a house without a foundation. It is baseless and non-scriptural.
What about 1 Corinthians 14:29?
Just because the Apostle Paul encouraged others to judge or examine and evaluate prophets and their prophecy, does not make it legit for us to practice prophecy in the church, since we know (as I have already said) that prophecy and prophets and Apostles stick close together with the inspiration of Scripture (2 Peter 1:20-21, 2 Timothy 3:16, Hebrews 1:1). Which means that we have the canon closed! No more extra biblical revelation needs to be added or practised. Obviously our Lord did warn us that false prophets will come. So it is our duty to be on guard of those false prophets and to expose their error. I agree on that. However, to suggest that there will be also new kinds of prophets and new kinds a prophecies, is reading through the text. Let us remember that if Piper and Grudem desire to use 1 Corinthians 14:29 as their basis for continuation of prophecy, they would have to be ignoring of the whole testimony of all Scripture, in order to justify their position. As much as I respect them and their work in other areas (biblical womanhood and manhood, parenting, against feminism, books on other Christians from the past, dealing with sin and temptation), this however, needs to be recognised as something which will lead others in confusion of what true biblical prophecy is. For as we live in a time where charismatic and Pentecostal theology has influenced the way we define prophecy and illumination of the Spirit, we need to be reminded of what the Scriptures clearly teach and get it right.
(to be continued…)