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?”