Messages from Young Adults

Lesson 8: The Authority of the Prophets

Warning: If you’re coming here to get a quick summary of the lesson points so you can prep for teaching tomorrow’s Sabbath School class, STOP HERE.  I’ll tell you now how this post ends before you get started.  It leaves you with nothing more than a closet full of hanging questions. Now, go study your quarterly, digest some scripture, come back and maybe you can answer a question or two? :)

Maybe it’s cause my docking station readings 6:39am, but it’s Friday, February 20, 2009 and I’m reading the final words of this week’s lesson. I don’t have my contacts in as yet, but 4 lenses should keep the words from jumping off the page and into my brain in such a chaotic blur, right?

So the final discussion question in the grown-ups quarterly reads: “How does this help clarify some issues regarding Ellen G. White? What questions does it raise?” And now that it’s 8:15am . . . the question is still stuck on my mind like an incessant commercial jingle.

So let’s quickly bullet point this week’s major points and then take up Friday’s question a little later.

Sabbath: Accept or reject what the prophet says = Accept or reject what God says

The lesson puts it this way, “People have been delegated to speak for the boss of the company, or the president, or the prime minister – but to speak for the Lord?  That’s heavy.”

Monday: It’s a scary thing, you know. This speaking the words of God that people don’t necessarily want to hear.  Moses and Ellen G. White were both reluctant, and God even had to make Aaron a prophet of Moses (Exodus 7:1). Now, my questions really start here…if God is the one speaking why go through Moses, Aaron, and then to the people? God had the power to make eloquent the muted-dumb, yet it seems he gave in to Moses’ fear. But that’s a tangent, moving on…

Tuesday: God is the ultimate authority. When you question authority, you make yourself the authority. But if all authority comes from God (Matthew 28:18), then you might want to check where yours is coming from when you deny His word. But then there’s 1 Thessalonians 5:20-21?

Wednesday: I don’t know what happened on Wednesday…we started out talking about the connection between the faith of the hearers and the spoken Word of God, and ended up spending 3 paragraphs on the reorg of church structure. Interesting historical tangent?

Thursday: So, there’s the inspired Word of God, and then…there’s the inspired Word of God. There’s the canonical (what’s in between the front and back leather bound) and the noncanonical (the et cet er a; everything written by prophets that didn’t make into the Book).

“The canon is simply the connection of books that under God’s guidance was put together as the rule of life and faith for God’s people and by which everything else has to be measured.”

And we have to stay on Thursday just a little longer, cause the lesson doesn’t stop there…

“Ellen White’s authority can be compared to the authority of the extracanonical prophets.  The inspired messages she received for the church are not an addition to the canon.  Her writings are not another Bible, nor do they carry the kind of authority found in the Bible.  In the end, the Bible and the Bible alone is our ultimate authority.”

Ok, as a good friend of mine always says … “are you tracking w/ me?”  Somehow we went through the whole week talking about where authority comes from (God), who the prophet speaks for (God), and whether written or spoken noncanonical prophetic messages should be checked against a book inspired by . . . (God).

So where do noncanonical prophetic messages come from again? Who inspires these words? So how do we measure God’s word against God’s Word? How are we supposed to accept God’s words from the prophet like Sabbath’s discussion says, and then apply the 1 Thess. 5:20-21 test without quesitoning the ultimate authority?

Alright…so you can see why at 6:39am this morning when I finally got to Friday’s lesson, the discussion question leaves me with a big “are you kidding me?”  So many interesting issues arise when discussing the intricacies of the prophetic gift.  I like to assume I’m not entirely ignorant, and so hopefully you’ll agree with me that I’m intelligently confused, overthinking maybe?

Friday: I think this all boils down  to the wonderful laundry list pasted on p.70 of the quarterly. This clearly has uncleared the position we have on the significance of Ellen G. White’s writings when placed alongside scripture.  I guess this is one of those standard versus the rule situation.  It’s much easier to apply a rule, but when having to juggle a balancing standard in “avoid[ing] two extremes,” the lesson describes as:

1) regarding EGW’s writings as functioning on a canonical level identical with Scripture, and

2) considering them as ordinary Christian scripture.

So I’ve ended up somewhere lost in the middle of those two extremes – and still wondering how God’s word written in stone is any different then God’s word spoken through the mouth of a modern-day prophet or even a biblical prophet such as who wrote (like Gad & Iddo), but just never made it into the book.

I know she calls her work the “lesser light,” but if we are going to accept she manifested the prophetic gift which is God’s inspired word, how can there be anything less about what God has to say today than yesterday?

So I’ll leave you where the lesson left you:

“How does this help clarify some issues regarding Ellen G. White? What questions does it raise?”

Just a side note:  Awesome topic this quarter. Continue to share your thoughts with us at the CQ Corner as we begin to wind down the exploration of the mysterious Prophetic Gift.

Comments

  • Roshan said:

    Great write-up, Janice! I have some thoughts on some of your questions, but you have started us on the right path by asking great questions. It is unfortunate that the lesson was clear as mud for some, but I hope to share some of my thoughts later as I have wrestled with some of these questions before.

  • Gerald said:

    Attempting equate EG White to non canonical prophets would imply that the church expects us to read her as much as we read the writings of the non canonical prophets, eh? 😀

    There is something suspiciously wrong with this “belief” of ours if it cannot be plainly and clearly explained from the Bible!!

    I enjoyed the summary, by the way. It’s my first time on here. I will continue to follow your study here.
    God bless!!

    (as an aside note: I do place varied importance on the things I say, sometimes authoritatively, sometimes jovially but it all originates from me. I believe that if we accept that God does not have one mode/emotion we will learn that He himself, possibly, could lay varied importance on the many things He has said and done.

    …and the most important of these is Love…

  • Roshan said:

    Because it was helpful for me to do, I will list the questions I found in the blog post:

    Now, my questions really start here…if God is the one speaking why go through Moses, Aaron, and then to the people?

    I have often been amazed that God entrusts some of His most important work (salvation of humanity) to fallen beings instead of the perfect angels He has in Heaven or even Himself. Yet, a little further in the story told in Exodus, we may have some insight:

    When the people saw the thunder and lightning and heard the trumpet and saw the mountain in smoke, they trembled with fear. They stayed at a distance and said to Moses, “Speak to us yourself and we will listen. But do not have God speak to us or we will die.”
    Exodus 20:18-19.

    Perhaps we can see how, for some people, hearing God’s Word through another human is more effective. I believe that God is not holding anything back in trying to bring humanity to salvation. That means, crazily enough, that having humanity represent Him to each other (either through prophets or through non-prophets living out the Great Commission) is the BEST POSSIBLE SITUATION. I don’t pretend to understand it, but I do believe God is giving this His best shot.

    One thing I do understand about the wisdom of this approach is that the bearers of His messages benefit. God not only desires to save us from the penalty of sin, He desires that we become free from the bondage of sin to become slaves of righteousness. Such a sweeping character transformation, though, is not possible merely through Bible study. We understand that God is love, and God wants us to be like Him: perfect expressions of love. I do not believe it is possible to learn to live this merely through reading, but we have to experience love (love others) to truly become like Him. Acting as His prophet gives the prophet a unique experience and opportunity to love people in a manner that approaches what God must feel like since the prophet is given divine insight. As we see later in Exodus, Moses became a man in love with the people of Israel.

    But if all authority comes from God (Matthew 28:18), then you might want to check where yours is coming from when you deny His word. But then there’s 1 Thessalonians 5:20-21?

    So where do noncanonical prophetic messages come from again? Who inspires these words? So how do we measure God’s word against God’s Word? How are we supposed to accept God’s words from the prophet like Sabbath’s discussion says, and then apply the 1 Thess. 5:20-21 test without quesitoning the ultimate authority?

    My understanding of the importance of the Bible as canonical is that it is the standard by which all others are tested. BEFORE we can accept any writings / utterances as prophetic, they need to be tested against the Bible. So when it is asked how we measure God’s word against God’s Word, the question contains a temporal paradox. You measure the writings / utterances to God’s Word BEFORE you call it inspired. All true prophets are inspired by God just as canonical prophets were inspired. However, God has guided the formation of the Bible and that gives us a continuing written standard by which we may judge all other claims of inspiration.

    The Bible calls us to test the spirits, and there is no harm in doing so. However, we must be certain that our criteria for the test is from the Bible and not our own ideas of what is right and wrong, inaccurate or accurate. Thus, we do not run afoul of exalting our authority over God’s when we test allegedly inspired writings/utterances to the Bible since we are raising the Bible as the standard of authority.

    and still wondering how God’s word written in stone is any different then God’s word spoken through the mouth of a modern-day prophet or even a biblical prophet such as who wrote (like Gad & Iddo), but just never made it into the book.

    I agree that it is curious that God chose to leave certain prophetic utterances and writings out of the Bible. It is probably something we won’t understand the reasons for until after Jesus comes back. Perhaps one way of understanding the differences in these different categories of inspiration is to realize that while they might all of have the same authority (being inspired by the same God), they might not all have the same purpose. Infinite Wisdom has seen it right to establish the writing in the Bible as the standard by which all things are tested, and I really don’t know why, although just as authoritative, other inspired writings / utterances were chosen not to be part of the canon.

    I know she calls her work the “lesser light,” but if we are going to accept she manifested the prophetic gift which is God’s inspired word, how can there be anything less about what God has to say today than yesterday?

    Understanding the difference between authority behind inspiration and purpose for inspiration may help resolve this question as well. The following link has been helpful in my understanding of the “lesser light” issue:

    http://www.dennispriebe.com/documents/Ellen%20White's%20Writings%20–%20Their%20Role%20and%20Function.html

    Search for the section dealing with “lesser light” and you will find the difference between “authority” and “purpose” expanded on using a very helpful illustration.

    I am open to questions about what I have written, since sometimes I find that in answering such questions I find that I may not understand things as clearly as I would like.

    Also, I have an online list of links regarding Ellen White that I compiled as I was doing research about her and answering my questions about the nature of her inspiration:

    delicious.com/rosh/ellen

    I would highly recommend the link found there entitled “Messenger of the Lord” as it deals with a lot of issues in one place and is pretty good at explaining how to understand Ellen White’s writings:

    http://www.whiteestate.org/books/mol/TOC.html

  • Kemi said:

    I think Janice Becca has managed to confuse me more than i thought was possible on this topic.

    I have no answers, i remember reading a couple of years back about how the Bible was canonized but a refresher course is needed obviously

  • Janice A. Becca (Author) said:

    so for an extremely delayed response…

    @ Gerald: Thanks for stopping by, your comment humored me. :)

    @ Roshan: I really appreciate you laying out such a detailed response, and especially including the links. I was hoping as the quarter went by that things would become clearer, but I’ve discovered I’m going to have to take some time to look into this further.

    @ Kemi: you, confused…by me? :) We should pick this whole canonization thing up in a study.

  • Gareth Stark said:

    I can’t posibly agree with the above post, and would like to take to task a few of the OP’s points. Not everyone will agree and though I am one of them, I do respect your right to have your view. Either way I have enjoyed reading Lesson 8: The Authority of the Prophets | adventistya.com.

  • vimax said:

    I thought it was going to be some boring old post, but it really compensated for my time. I will post a link to this page on my blog. I am sure my visitors will find that very useful

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