I wrote earlier that we need to be careful with developing a dependance on personal prophecy.
Q: Why didn’t God tell you the accountant was embezzling?
A: Because that is not how God designed things to work.
Having said that, I want to be clear – I believe in the gifts of the Holy Spirit, including the prophetic. I have seen some wild stuff in the past 20 years and while I no longer run in charismatic circles, I am not interested in poo-pooing on my friends’ parade nor explaining away my experience.
Process theology has given me an interesting framework with which to view the phenomenon.
I can do it in 3 simple steps!
- Step out of the 3 Tiered Universe. The Bible was written in an antiquated vocabulary that was embedded in a system that had Heaven above & Hell below. We still use that vocabulary but recognize now that it is only imagery – not physical reality.
- Step away from the super-Natural. Get rid of the imagery that God is ‘up’ in heaven and periodically pokes through the thin veil to whisper in your ear – if you have enough faith, or if you are a chosen vessel, or if you are not tainted by sin, or … the truth is that God is with you. Holy Spirit is a work all around you.
God doesn’t need to ‘come down, or ‘break in’ or ‘break through’. God is down, in, and through.
- Be aware of and open to the reality of God’s presence in the world. From verbal cues to body language – there are hundreds of ways that we perceive and interpret other people and our interactions. The is nothing magical about your receptivity, openness or awareness of what is possibly going on with someone else. As Christians, we believe that God’s Spirit is alive and at work in the world. Part of that ministry is to heighten and intensify our already existent (by grace) ability to listen, perceive and interpret social and relational interactions.
I have done this enough to know the objections that are bound to arise. So let me just say 2 things with the space I have left:
- There are several innovative definitions of transcendence (as it relates to God) that get us out of the 3 Tiered Universe but still hold that God is not just a big bearded guy in the sky that we made up to feel like ‘somebody is watching over us’ and will take care of things in the end. Both Process theology and the work of Panneneberg give us visions of God’s otherness that squash most objections to moving in the direction that I am headed: we don’t lose the transcendence/otherness of God.
I love the idea that God is the power of the future. God comes to us in each moment and provides the possibility of a preferable reality complete with contingencies of the past. That gets me out of bed in the morning!
- Prophecy is a sign that is meant to create in us a greater level of faith, trust and awareness. It is not a ‘party trick’ nor is it a primary mode of decision making. If you are relying on God’s Voice to plan travel itineraries, invest in the stock market, look for your missing child, counsel people getting divorced, or predict the weather … I got bad news for ya. That is not how God designed this all to work.
Admittedly, you have to downgrade your expectations a little bit. Gone are the days of thinking that some stranger on the street is going to call out your name and tell you all the secrets of your heart – and which fork in the road is ‘God’s will’. The magic show is over. Prophecy happens in relationship.
BUT (and this is a big but) because God is relational and inside a relationship God’s Spirit can lead your friend to speak loving, kind, challenging words to you – by being open and available … that is pretty great stuff! It’s just not magic.
It’s like your sex life. One you get rid of the unrealistic expectations of porn, you can have a healthy real relationship that is both satisfying and sustainable. First, though, you have to acknowledge that the earlier thing was fantasy … or you will be perpetually disappointed.
We are going to touch on this in an upcoming TNT so I would love to hear your feedback, fears, questions, comments, concerns and pushbacks.