Is there a prophetic ministry today? Whilst I accept that the church’s foundation of the apostles and prophets (Eph.2:20) does not need to be relaid and that we do not have prophets delivering to us the new New Testament, is there no place for the prophetic within the church and to the society? The application of Biblical principles by such as ‘the men of Issachar who understood the times and knew what Israel should do’ (1 Chron.12:32) is surely something that is directly relevant and needed today.
Men like Francis Schaeffer and C. S. Lewis had a prophetic ministry, as does Os Guinness. C.S. Lewis’s That Hideous Strength was prescient in seeing how the regression of modern society would go. Melvin Tinker, who has recently gone to glory, used the title and message of Lewis’s book to issue a clarion call to the church. Tinker’s That Hideous Strength: a deeper look at how the West was lost is one of the few books that I believe should be on every church bookstall and in every Christian’s home. Those of us who don’t have the time or ability to read Carl Trueman’s The Rise and Triumph of the Modern Self will benefit enormously from reading Tinker’s short work.
Today we have church leaders who are more political than prophetic. They either reflect the political concerns of the day (on every side), or they just engage in a culture war which uses, but is not founded upon, Biblical Christianity.
The ‘prophets’ seem to be non-Christian. At least in terms of bold analysis. People like Doug Murray, Jordan Peterson (pictured), Lionel Shriver and Neil Oliver are not afraid to call out where society is going wrong. Although they do not really have the answer – because they do not (yet) have Christ. But where is the word from the Lord?
I was sent a couple of old pastoral letters by the Revd James Phillip (late of Holyrood Abbey Church of Scotland in Edinburgh). They are Schaefferesque in the brilliance of their analysis, and prophetic in their preparing the Lord’s people for what was to, and has now, come. Was anyone listening? One dated 4 April 1971* is especially brilliant in looking at the influence of the media and where it was going: ‘It is one of the huge and pathetic ironies of our time that, in an age which prides itself on its tolerance, permissiveness and freedom, men have hardly ever been less free than they are now, and certainly never less tolerant of any challenge to their way of life and never more bitterly resentful of any who resist them in the name of honesty and integrity.’
What such men are beginning to fear – and it is a fear that Christians should be particularly aware of – is that the minds of men are becoming manipulated and indoctrinated by powers that are alien to religion and morality, that hold truth and honour at a discount, and ruthlessly and unscrupulously devalue human dignity and human values in their bid to undermine and destroy the traditional standards of our country.
Phillip cites Lord Hailsham: ‘Our country is being destroyed before our eyes by a conspiracy of intellectuals without faith, delinquents without honour, muckrakers without charity or compassion, young men who are incapable of dreaming dreams and old men who have never known what it is to see visions’.
He goes on to point out that the all-pervasiveness of media (he was speaking before the age of the Internet) means that we get so used to swimming in the muck that there comes a point where we no longer notice.
‘This is the danger we are facing today. It will not grow less, but greater, as the days go by, unless the corruption of the media is challenged and set at nought. It is as well that we should see what is happening to us.’
He was right. But we don’t need prophets who look back – or who were right in the past. We need bold, courageous, compassionate men and women who understand the Bible, grasp the culture and know how to connect the dots. Thankfully there are some – but they are few and far between and rarely to be found in the upper echelons of the denominations, or on the platforms of the major Christian media (can’t upset the sponsors!). My prayer is that the Lord will not be silent, that he will not leave us to our own devices and that he will raise up a new generation of prophetic preachers like Melvin Tinker.
David Robertson is the Director of the ASK project in Sydney and blogs at http://www.theweeflea.com
* read the full text here: https://theweeflea.com/2020/12/06/a-prophetic-letter-the-church-and-the-media-rev-james-phili