Prophecy, Critique, Action -- By: James W. Skillen

Journal: Westminster Theological Journal
Volume: WTJ 58:1 (Spring 1996)
Article: Prophecy, Critique, Action
Author: James W. Skillen


Prophecy, Critique, Action

James W. Skillen

I. Introduction

We live in a world marked by increasingly dramatic contrasts among people both within and across societies. Poverty contrasted to wealth, powerlessness to power, illiteracy to advanced education, anxiety to confidence, and on and on. Some scientific and technological advances in medicine, space exploration, military weaponry, and the communications media, for example, demonstrate the extremely rapid development of insights and hypotheses put forward only a few years or decades ago. But in many cases those advances benefit only a small number of people, or only a few sectors of society, or only a few countries. At the same time, we see growing millions of people dying from malnutrition and war or trying to subsist with little food and without homes, jobs, or education. Millions and millions of people have little if any hope for the development of their lives and talents.

These and many other stark contrasts emerge from, and in turn help produce, strong though often desperate commitments to false gods. Technological/scientific progress remains one much-loved god. National pride is attracting more and more devotees. Some of the poorest of the poor have been reduced to a covetous longing for mere bread. Of course, these false gods create their demonic opponents: the devils of capitalism or communism, of ignorance or military weakness, of the wealthy or the powerful, of other races or foreign cultures.

The creation groans under the weight of the conflicts among so many gods and demons. And yet, as the Bible testifies, these conflicts are possible only as evil distortions of a complex and good creation that points to the true God above all gods, the Creator of all things, including human beings made in God’s image. At this late date in history, those with eyes of faith know that God’s love for the creation, especially for human beings, is so great that the Son of God became the Son of man in Jesus Christ to bear God’s judgment against the sin that separates humans from God and from one another in order to reconcile the creation to God. Consequently, the greatest of all dramatic contrasts evident among people both within and across societies is the contrast between hope and debilitating despair, between faith and paralyzing doubt, between love and selfish grasping, contrasts produced by Christ’s dramatic confrontation with every human idol.

If we live at a time of growing contrasts among people, we also live in a day when all gods and dogmatisms are being criticized and relativized. Scientism, militarism, nationalism, racism, capitalism, communism, and many more are being exposed for the one-sided idolatries that they are. C...

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