This is a re-tread article published back in May. I didn’t plan on posting anything today. But, the picture below blew my mind.
Rather than write a whole new article, this post makes the point clearly. For those of you who flock to such ministries (at least, those of you who have not already labeled me a “hater” and moved on), please read the article, think, and pray.
“They are guessers rather than prophets. Therefore, if sometimes they foretell such things truly, even so no one need wonder at them. For physicians also who have experience of diseases, when they meet the same disease in others can often tell beforehand, judging from experience. And again, seamen and farmers, looking at the state of the weather, from their experience prophesy that there will be a storm or fine weather. No one would say because of this that they prophesy by supernatural inspiration; but by experience and practice.” St. Anthony the Great, The Life of St. Anthony the Great pgs 47, 48
Here is another example of why Protestant Christians, and African-Americans in particular, would do well to know and learn from the ancient saints of Orthodox Christianity. There is a plethora of modern day false prophets that prey on the emotions of believers for profit and vanity. The wisdom of the ancient fathers guide us away from such predators.
For about a decade, there has been a movement in too many churches called the “Five Fold Ministry.” It is interpreted that in the body of Christ (the church of which there are 400,000 different denominations and non-denominations) that there are to be five offices of administrative and spiritual leadership: apostles, evangelist, pastors, prophets, and teachers. Of these, the role of the prophet in the modern church is proving to be the most bizarre and ridiculous.
Among them are well meaning men and women who want to offer words of encouragement to people who are struggling with life’s challenges. By using passages of scripture out of context (“God is going to make you the head and not the tail, the lender and not the borrower”) accompanied with familiar religious “buzz words” and phrases (“breakthrough, release, shift” ), the “prophet” guesses that things will get better for the person going a crisis of health, finances, relationships, and the like. Well, everyone wants to hear that God is going to act in their behalf. And there are some who “prophecy” believing that misusing scripture and getting people’s hopes up to make them feel better is a good thing to do. If the guess turns out to be right, then the “prophet” builds a reputation for credibility. If the guess is wrong, it can be explained away (“I saw with the eyes of man yet God saw something further”), patience can be called for (“it isn’t your season yet”), or the hearer can be faulted (“There may be something wrong with your faith”). If the prophet seems sincere and can gain the trust of the gullible, he (or she) can be wrong numerous times without being held accountable.
While there are some honestly mistaken prophets who are not after personal gain, there are also con artists who deliberately lie to people for the sake of fortune and fame. Some have small yet loyal followings. Others can be seen on television. In either case, these guessers do not care for the souls of a broken humanity except to exploit and manipulate people for their gain. They have become skilled at the art of scripture manipulation and know how to make the guesses to keep them in business. They also have the support of their loyal base of followers to speak up for them when they are incorrect, or to put a doubter in their ranks in line. While the honestly mistaken prophet is a victim of ignorance, the deliberate false prophet is an especially evil person who victimizes the gullible.
The ancient fathers and scripture has little tolerance for either sort of “prophet.” The Old Testament prophets who spoke of Israel’s and Judah’s coming captivity were always at odds with those who spoke of peace and safety. A glaring example of this is Micaiah’s prophecy that Ahab would fall and Israel would be defeated at Ramoth-gilead despite the 400 “prophets” that declared victory for the king (I Kings 22 Masoritic, III Kings 22 Septuagint). Jesus himself is more impressed with people who do the will of His Father than those who prophecy in His name (Matthew 7:21-23). Jesus did not command his disciples to prophecy, but to preach the Gospel. If any of them were to give a prophetic word (Peter to Ananias and Sapphira in Acts 5:1-11) they did not let prophecy become their defining role as they were the apostles. Our Lord and the apostles warned us to be wise and not to follow false prophets. St. Anthony calls such guesses, “The Devils Prophecies” and gives us these words of truth:
Therefore we must not make much of these things, nor live our life of hardship and toil for the sake of knowing the future, but in order to please God by living well. And we must pray, not in order to know the future, nor is that the reward we must ask for our hard life; but that our Lord may be our fellow-worker in conquering the devil. (The Life of St. Anthony the Great pg. 48)
Perhaps the best way to deal with modern day prophets is to avoid them. The honestly mistaken are like loose wires. Deliberate deceivers are playing with matches beside leaky gas lines. Both are destructive to true faith.