Fallible New Testament Prophecy/Prophets? A Critique of Wayne Grudem’s Hypothesis -- By: F. David Farnell

Journal: Masters Seminary Journal
Volume: TMSJ 02:2 (Fall 1991)
Article: Fallible New Testament Prophecy/Prophets? A Critique of Wayne Grudem’s Hypothesis
Author: F. David Farnell


Fallible New Testament Prophecy/Prophets?
A Critique of Wayne Grudem’s Hypothesis

F. David Farnell1

Associate Professor of Biblical Studies
Southeastern Bible College

Spiritual gifts have long been a major topic of discussion in evangelicalism, but in recent years the focus has shifted somewhat from a discussion of gifts like tongues to the gift of prophecy. Wayne A. Grudem has proposed a novel definition of prophecy that he attempts to support from the NT. He traces part of his definition to cessationists and part to Charismatics in hopes of finding a middle ground acceptable to both. A central platform in Grudems hypothesis is Eph 2:20, a verse whose interpretation he misrepresents because of a grammatical misunderstanding. Other weaknesses in his theory include his assumption of a strict discontinuity from OT to NT prophecy, a mistaken understanding of the prestige of the NT prophet, and a misapprehension of the need of continuous evaluation of NT prophecy.

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Spiritual Gifts As a Center of Controversy

Controversy and crisis are no strangers to the Christian church. When Paul penned 1 Corinthians, this first-century church was already embroiled in turmoil over the nature and practice of spiritual gifts. Misconceptions and abuse of the gifts in Christian worship were rampant. A three-man delegation from the church (1 Cor 7:1; 16:17) asked Paul for clarification on gifts such as prophecy, tongues, and knowledge (1 Cor 13:8). The outcome of the turbulence in Corinth is unknown, but the second century saw the same confusion in the Montanist heresy. Now the tumult has re-emerged in the twentieth century in the form of Pentecostalism, Neopentecostalism, and

movements variously labelled as “Charismatic,” “Vineyard,” “Signs and Wonders,” and “Third Wave.”

The gift of tongues (cf. Acts 2:1–13; 1 Cor 14:2ff) has drawn a disproportionate amount of this debate until about the last fifteen years. Most recently, however, several books have dealt with the gift of prophecy. Since the nature and purpose of this gift had not been closely defined by either side of the controversy, this gift has provided a fertile topic as a new phase in the discussion of temporary and permanent spiritual gifts. Fundamental questions about the nature of this gift now threaten to become, if t...

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