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What is a prophet? – Shawna R. B. Atteberry
Jan 042007
 

Pat Robertson has made another “prophecy.” I put prophecy in quotations because what he considers prophecy is not biblical prophecy. Biblical prophecy is not a straight prediction/fulfillment event. That could be a part of biblical prophecy, but that was never its main thrust. The prophets’ calling was to call the people back into a right relatioship with God. It was to remind them of their covenant promise to God: that Yahweh alone would be their God, and they would be his people. They called the people to fulfill their covenant obligations: to worship God alone, love each other, and take care of the widow, orphan, the opressed, and the alien (see Leviticus 19:9-18, 33-34; Deuteronomy 24:17-22).

When judgment was proclaimed, it was in the hopes that the judgment would not come. Judgment was preached so that God’s people would repent of their sin, turn back to God, and obey him. They were not predetermined events set in stone. The predictions could be changed because God wanted the people restored to him. He waited for them to make their decision before he acted.

That strongly demonstrates that the primary category for prophetic literature should not be “prediction of the future.” A prophet was given insight (inspiration) into how God works in the world and what God’s people need to do to respond faithfully. That prophetic word to the people was itself part of the “response” to God’s self-revelation. However, the prophet then translated that understanding about God into the historical arena in which he lived, using the circumstances, language, metaphors, cultural allusions, poetry, nearly anything available to communicate that message (including some rather unusual actions, such as walking around naked and barefoot for 3 years, as in Isaiah 20:1-4) (Bratcher, “Prophecy and Prediction”).

The historical elements the prophet used were the vehicle of the message: not the message itself. The message did not focus on catastrophies and disasters—the message was always about God and the people’s response to him. The message was always God’s desire for the people to be faithful to him as he was to them.

The prophets spoke about God; that is, they spoke theology, cast in the circumstances of historical event. They read history in light of God’s covenant with his people, and then translated the message about God back into the historical context in which the people were living. . . (ibid).

This is first place where Robertson’s prophecy is not biblical. His prophecies are always much more concerned with disaster and God punishing sinners than with calling God’s people to be faithful. In this latest prophecy he said that the second half of 2007 would be a time of mass killings.

“The Lord didn’t say nuclear, but I do believe it’ll be something like that – that’ll be a mass killing, possibly millions of people, major cities injured,” Robertson said.

“There will be some very serious terrorist attacks,” he said. “The evil people will come after this country, and there’s a possibility – not a possibility, a definite certainty – that chaos is going to rule.” Robertson did not say where the attacks would occur (Vegh).

He never said what the message was: he only predicted disaster.

Another place where Robertson’s theology is wrong is that he always predicts disaster for the entire United States, thinking that the entire country is in a covenant with God. When Jesus set up the church, the people of God ceased being a nation or country. The people of God is now the church universal.

That is not to say that the prophets didn’t hold the pagan nations around Israel and Judah responsible: they did. But they held the pagan nations to a different standard for different reasons: the nations were condemned for acts of atrocity that they knew through being human were wrong. Israel and Judah were condemned for forsaking their God and not being loyal to their covenant with him. The nations were condemed for different reasons than Israel and Judah (see Amos 1:3—2:16).

For Robertson’s prophecy to approach being biblical, he needs to tell us why God is judging this way. He also needs to tell us who God is angry with. Is he angry with nonbelievers for doing things they know are wrong? Is he angry at the church for not living faithfully and obeying him? And the judgment has be a place where repentance can happen. Judgment is never given as the last word. God wants the judgment to lead to repentance and restored relationship with him.

All Robertson’s prophecy contains is judgment. There is no message. There is no call to repentance. There is no grace. Therefore, Robertson’s message is not prophetic nor biblical.

Sources

“Pat Robertson Predicts ‘Mass Killing'” at MSNBC.com.

Dr. Dennis Bratcher, “Prophecy and Prediction” and “Criteria of a True Prophet” at The Voice.

Stephen G. Vegh, “Robertson says God told him of ‘mass killing’ in U. S. in 2007” in The Virginian-Pilot.

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