Why was it so hard for my theological tradition to honor the prophetic? I don’t know. Maybe they had seen certain abuses. Maybe it made them uneasy. Maybe it made those who made claims that they heard God to be an elite few in the church. Maybe it made the rest look less spiritual. Maybe they remembered lessons from history when well-intended people who claimed to hear the voice of God went off the deep end.
Those who “hear voices” go off to certain places. They are a little mixed up in their thoughts. They may be schizophrenic. Voices have told people to kill people. “Voices”can’t be trusted.
I watched the denomination I was a part of struggle with the issue at different times. Every 40 years it would come up for serious discussion with the Renewal Movement in the 1970’s and then again with the “Third Wave” (Peter Wagner’s term).
Where does that leave us? I am not saying all of us, just those that struggle intellectually with these issues. I saw movement theologically, largely based on people’s experience that had become more mainstream. I found that wherever I went, I would meet those who were prophetic, spoke in tongues, exercised gifts of healing, etc. There was no stopping the Holy Spirit.
Yet, people are leery of those who make claims that they hear God in environments such as the one I had grown up in. Theologically speaking, there was progressively more room for people to say they heard from God and even openness to the fact that prophetic gifting might continue to operate. Practically speaking, there was not that much difference. What was written in the theological annals didn’t necessarily filter down to everyday church. Tradition has a strong effect on people.
So much of what we believe comes down to what we have historically believed. There is power in believing what we have always believed, even if I can’t explain why to you. As long as our experience doesn’t challenge what we have always believed, we have no need to change. As soon as my experience is at odds with my long-held beliefs, I need to change.
The power of prophetic words is overwhelmingly influential in my life. It has not lessened my view of the Bible. It is not contradictory. It does not supersede the authority of the written Word of God.
God is the same God yesterday, today, and tomorrow. Just as He spoke to people in biblical times, He can speak to us.
By Ralph Veenstra
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