The last few posts have been inspired by several books on science I’ve been reading. They have explored the idea that we all come to the big questions in life with existing frameworks. These frameworks in turn lead to our holding various biases and presuppositions, which can result in our seeing what we wish to see rather than what is really there. I have adopted the term Vulcan Theology to describe this as it relates to interpreting Scripture.
As a result of these posts an interesting question arose. What is the role of the Holy Spirit in dealing with the Vulcan problem? If the Spirit provides illumination on a particular passage can that help us see it accurately?
This question invites us to first define the term illumination.
The Moody Handbook of Theology, defines illumination as “the ministry of the Holy Spirit whereby He enlightens those who are in a right relationship with Him to comprehend the written Word of God.” Going on to say that:
The believer is aided by the Holy Spirit’s ministry of illumination in guiding the believer to an understanding of divine truth (1 Cor 2:11-13).
J.I. Packer unpacks this term in Concise Theology: A Guide To Historic Christian Beliefs (link).
[Illumination] is not a giving of new revelation, but a work within us that enables us to grasp and to love the revelation that is there before us in the biblical text as heard and read, and as explained by teachers and writers.
Defining the work of illumination as the process in which the Spirit aids us in understanding the Scripture is a rather broad definition of the term. It does differentiate the work of illumination from other forms of guidance (ed. see this post and this one for more on that topic). However it still leaves open the question: does the Spirit help us arrive at the correct interpretation of a passage and thus eliminate Vulcan theology? Continue reading
The first post can be found here…
It has been interesting how often a relatively obscure prophet named Agabus keeps coming up in seminary. This week he also came up in the “General Epistles” class during our discussion on 2 Peter 1:20-21.
For no prophecy was ever produced by the will of man, but men spoke from God as they were carried along by the Holy Spirit.
This would seem to be a fairly straight forward NT definition of how prophecy works that would rule out a fallible prophetic gift. With this in mind let’s examine the case against Agabus.
We meet Agabus in Caesarea where he intercepts Paul and his team who are on their way to Jerusalem having concluded the 3rd Missionary Journey (3MJ). As Paul has made his way through the cities of Macedonia and Achaia, numerous prophets have warned him that he will be face prison and hardship in Jerusalem (Acts 20:23). As Paul gets closer to Jerusalem he is warned again in Tyre (21:4) and in Caesarea by Philip’s daughters (21:9) before Agabus reaches him. Apparently Agabus had a prophetic vision while in Judea and felt compelled to travel north to warn Paul as well. Agabus’ prophecy provides the most detail about what awaits Paul and includes the OT practice of having the prophet act out some part of the prophecy. Continue reading
A conversation in our home group sparked the re-post of this two post series on fallible prophecy originally published in 2011.
One of the many seminary classes I am taking is pneumatology (the theology of the Holy Spirit). In this class we evaluated various positions on the spiritual gifts which exposed me to the a view that regards the NT gift of prophecy as operating today in a fallible manner. It is held by such esteemed pastors and scholars as John Piper, Wayne Grudem, and D. A. Carson.
Piper gives this succinct definition of the NT prophet:
the gift of prophecy is in the New Testament [and it] is a Spirit-prompted, Spirit-sustained utterance that does not carry intrinsic, divine authority and may be mixed with error.