Theme: The Authority of the Prophets
Leading Question: With reference to three kinds of prophetic voices, how does the authority of a prophetic messenger differ: a living prophetic voice, a deceased prophet who has left writings; a non-canonical prophet, whether dead or alive?
1. The living prophet. When Nathan confronts David in person over his sin with Bathsheba (2 Sam 12) when Elijah stands before Ahab and confronts him with the evils of Baal worship (1 Kings 17-18), is it possible to avoid the full thrust of the prophetic message?
In one notable instance, Nathan told David to move ahead with his plans to build the temple, only to come back the next day and retract his approval (2 Samuel 7). How would such an example affect our understanding of prophetic authority?
2. The writings of deceased prophets. None of the Bible writers are alive. But they have left their writings for us. How do we understand the “authority” of the these ancient documents? When Proverbs puts apparently contradictory proverbs side-by-side (“Don’t answer a fool according to his folly…. Answer a fool according to his folly” – Prov 26:4-5), is that a model for a casebook approach to Scripture that would apply to all biblical writings? Is any biblical passage ever clear without “interpretation”?
3. Non-canonical prophets. Ellen White always classed her own experience with the non-canonical prophets who spoke for God during biblical times but who did not contribute to the writing of Scripture. Elijah and Elisha would be the best know of these prophetic figures. But the books of Chronicles mention no less that six prophetic figures who wrote books that were not included in Scripture: Samuel, Gad, Nathan, Ahijah, Shemaiah, and Iddo. How should believers relate to such prophetic figures? Do they provide a good model for non-canonical prophets today, such as Ellen White?
Safeguarding prophetic authority. If one adopts a “casebook” approach to inspired writings, how can one safeguard prophetic authority when the individual or the community takes it upon themselves to determine which parts of the prophetic message applies in any given “modern” situation?
Contradictory messages from the prophets. Perhaps the most startling example of a “contradiction” in the Bible is the story of David’s census. In 2 Samuel 14:1, God is responsible for tempting David to number Israel; but in 1 Chronicles 21:1, a later parallel passage, Satan is said to be responsible for David’s temptation. How do we negotiate such “contradictions.” Are they frequent in Scripture and/or in the writings of Ellen White?