Something New under the Sun? -- By: David B. McWilliams

Journal: Westminster Theological Journal
Volume: WTJ 54:2 (Fall 1992)
Article: Something New under the Sun?
Author: David B. McWilliams


Something New under the Sun?*

David B. McWilliams

* Wayne A. Grudem, The Gift of Prophecy in the New Testament and Today (Westchester, IL: Crossway, 1988. 351. $12.95, paper).

According to the well-nigh universal testimony of orthodox Christianity, the prophetic word was an infallible revelation from God to his people which, in all essentials, functioned alike in the OT period and in the early church. The prophetic word, accompanying the dawning of the new covenant era and attesting to the complex of redemptive events that culminated in the ascension of the risen Lord, ceased to pour forth a fresh stream of utterance in the church when the last member of the apostolic band laid down his life, leaving behind preparations for a glorious if more “ordinary” ministry, namely, through those called to expound the Scriptures and administer the sacraments. Against this viewpoint of the cessation of prophecy a bold and somewhat sophisticated challenge has arisen in the book The Gift of Prophecy in the New Testament and Today, by Professor Wayne Grudem of Trinity Evangelical Divinity School.

Although Grudem’s doctoral dissertation—progenitor of the present book—was reviewed previously in this journal,1 there is good reason to look at Grudem’s revision. First of all, Grudem’s more popular work is widely circulated and is well received by many who have been unaware of his dissertation. Second, though more popularly written, this second work represents Grudem’s further reflection upon and development of his original thesis. Furthermore, my assessment of Grudem’s thesis differs substantially from that of the previous reviewer. Indeed, the issue upon which Grudem writes is of such crucial importance that reflection upon his latest publication seems not only to be appropriate, but essential. What, then, is Wayne Grudem’s viewpoint regarding prophecy in the church today?

Grudem claims to take neither a charismatic nor a cessationist position on prophecy but a “middle ground,” a “third position” that he believes is substantiated by the NT. What follows as one pursues Grudem’s book, therefore, is largely an exegetical study of various NT passages on prophecy and conclusions on the continuance and use of the gift of prophecy in the church today. Grudem concludes that prophecy as it functions in

the church today is not equal to biblical authority nor was prophecy in ordinary NT churches equal to Scripture but “simply a very human—and sometimes partially mistaken—report of something the Holy Spirit brought to someone’s mind.”2 Conseq...

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