Aug 01, 2012 | Comments 13
Editor’s Note: The following article is written by Dr. Bill Fleming, Jr. Dr. Fleming is the director of Pastoral Studies at New Life Theological Seminary in Charlotte, NC. He is a minister in the Associate Reformed Presbyterian Church. He is the author of Mapping the Christian Life (Rev/press, Biloxi, Miss.) and blogs at drbillfleming.blogspot.com. Used with his permission, Dr. Fleming’s article first appeared at http://drbillfleming.blogspot.com/2012/07/blogging-prophets.html/.
Last Spring I wrote a blog called: “Blogging as a Spiritual discipline.” I have had a lot of thoughts about it since.
Blogs have assumed an important role in our society. They give thoughts that would otherwise be unsaid a place to be heard.
But blogging forces us to ask– should all thoughts be heard? Is blogging good for the world, or simply a form of mental exhibitionism?
I believe blogging has been a good thing for our society—a very good thing. At its worst, it’s a good way to blow off steam. At its best, it is a modern expression of prophecy. I am convinced that if Elijah were alive today, he would have a blog.
The prophets of the Old Testament were men and women who spoke in public places what they believed to be the Word of the Lord. They were not foretellers of the future, but forth-tellers of God’s Word, inspired to speak His interpretation of the times. Though the penalty for speaking falsely was severe, they spoke boldly. The people listened because they knew that a crazy voice in the wilderness might just be telling the truth.
New Testament prophecy was different. There were no penalties for being wrong, but instead people were encouraged to speak in bunches of two or three, and the rest of the church would judge true prophecy from false. (1 Corinthians 12:29-31) Prophets were respected in the church, being included among the elders of the people. (Acts 13:1)
There is a point of view which argues that prophecy no longer happens. Personally I find this view weak, both Biblically, historically, and experientially. Prophecy is still with us, serving essentially the same function today that it always has–as a corrector to the times, encouraging and rebuking the church towards God’s plan and away from error and division. It does not necessarily come from people with great intellectual insights or greater education, but from those who are in tune with the Spirit of God. Our education often serves only to reinforce our prejudices instead of drawing us deeper to God. So today, just like yesterday, we should be alert to prophecy coming from unlikely sources.
One prerequisite for being a prophet is that you cannot keep your opinions to yourself. A person who keeps his mouth shut can never be a prophet.
Throughout history, God has inspired individuals who have inspired us to look at eternal truths. They have given us new perspectives, challenged us to think in new ways, and shown us a vision of our times through the light of the Spirit. Unlike the Old Testament prophets, every word they speak is not correct, but even so God uses them. They are people who are not afraid to speak their mind–which in some cases and to some degree also happens to be the mind of Christ.
The only people who can speak God’s opinion are those who are unafraid to speak their own. A prophet cannot be timid or shy. They must speak up. They cannot be afraid of disagreement or controversy–rather, they should expect that most of what they say will be resented and ill-received. If they are wrong, they can be corrected by others – but only by people who are also willing to speak. We cannot correct by silence. We have to speak out.
Unfortunately, instead of encouraging people to speak their thoughts, feelings, and opinions, we have discouraged people from speaking at all. We have encouraged “civil”–that is, noncontroversial–, conversations full of platitudes and qualifiers, devoid of feeling or passion, offending no one but saying nothing. We have squelched robust conversation for fear of offense or error, resulting in the suppression of both error and the truth. For fear of speaking wrong, we say nothing at all. False prophets are a problem, but the lack of any prophet is worse.
Blogging, tweeting, commenting, and talking is vitally important if we are to hear God’s voice. Without it, things may be more peaceful. But with it, we might just hear the voice of God. But if we say nothing, the world will continue in darkness and ignorance, because we did not bother to say the truth.
I blog because I believe God wants me to speak my own opinion. I encourage others to blog for the same reason. We need people who are willing to stir the pot and keep the fire on, if our church and society are ever going to get better.
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