- When a person relies on the authority of scripture to undermine what the text actually teaches.
This definition pops up for me whenever I hear a cessationist argument. Here we have a summary by Nathan Busenitz of a debate between Wayne Grudem and Ian Hamilton over the idea of “fallible prophecy” in the New Testament.
For my purposes, we’ll leave aside the question of fallibility for a minute. Let’s just look at authority, or urgency. Does scripture portray any kind of prophecy, in the Old Testament or New, which has less authority than the full weight of Biblical law? Is Saul also among the prophets? If all true prophecy has the full weight of scripture behind it, how is it possible for Paul to instruct the Corinthians that “spirits of prophets are subject to prophets”? Can you imagine someone saying that the text of Jeremiah was subject to Jeremiah, that if someone had interrupted him, he would have done best to sit down and shut up? Of course not. “there is in my heart as it were a burning fire shut up in my bones, and I am weary with holding it in, and I cannot.”
Scripture itself presents prophecy as being a thing that has different levels of urgency and precariousness. Who then are you to argue that the nature of scripture requires prophecy to be sealed off like scripture? The implication then would be that all prophecy necessarily has the same weight as scripture, and therefore becomes scripture the minute it is written down and preserved. But that simply isn’t the case at all. There are references in scripture to literally thousands of prophetic events of various levels, that nobody thought even worth writing down. An entire school of prophets in Elijah’s time was able to come up with only a single message worth writing down – for dramatic effect. Most prophecy in ancient times never ascended to the level of being considered scripture, so why should it be disturbing to think that, though there may still be prophecy today, none of it reaches the same level of authority as scripture?
Brothers, we are not Platonists. Neither scripture nor prophecy come down like a mathematical proof, with all the edges carefully sealed. If we are to obey scripture, we must obey it as it is, both in what it says and in the characteristics that it models. What you mustn’t do is determine what it ought to model, based on what it necessary for the formula, and use that to determine what the text must mean.
Busenitz lists 5 dangers of prophecy. They strike me more as 5 inconveniences. The possibility of modern prophecy creates scenarios where people might be subject to influences that can’t be shot down with a cannonade from scripture. But scripture wasn’t given us so that we might have confidence in the teachers of the law. It was given us that we might have confidence in Christ. God forbid that we should build up a confidence in the text in such a way that we fail to perceive what the text actually says, about itself, and about how we relate to Christ and each other.