In my previous post, I was posed a question that has me thinking - are there modern day prophets in line with the Biblical tradition? Feel free to read the comments in my previous post for the original question and my answer. I'm satisfied with my comments, but am curious to know what other people think the term means. How do you define a prophet? And is there something that distinguishes a type of prophet as in line with the Biblical tradition?
Looking in an online bible dictionary, I found this: a prophet "proclaimed the message given to him, as the "seer" beheld the vision of God. (See Num. 12:6, 8.) Thus a prophet was a spokesman for God; he spake in God's name and by his authority (Ex. 7:1). He is the mouth by which God speaks to men (Jer. 1:9; Isa. 51:16), and hence what the prophet says is not of man but of God (2 Pet. 1:20, 21; comp. Heb. 3:7; Acts 4:25; 28:25). Prophets were the immediate organs of God for the communication of his mind and will to men (Deut. 18:18, 19). "
In my own thinking, a prophet is someone who speaks to/reaches a lot of people and helps them understand God's intentions and wishes for us and our world. All of the prophets in the Bible, Jesus included (we can argue later about the full extent of Jesus's titles but prophet would be one role for sure), taught, spoke out when people didn't want to hear it, were ridiculed and questioned by those in authority, called the people to accountability, were commissioned by God in some fashion. There may be more to add to this list - I don't claim to be much of an expert or that this blog is exhaustive. A lot of these characteristics are easily seen but not all of them. The part that's really hard is the last one - how do we know who is "sent by God" or "speaking for God"?? There are preachers on tv who claim this role, but they all preach such different messages - are they all sent by God? There is a process for ordination in the United Methodist Church which is supposed to help determine those who are truly gifted for ministry and called by God, but does this process work? What about those pastors who abuse their positions? Are they still called by God? Where is the line and what are you criteria?
It doesn't work by consensus, and yet I think there are people, like MLK, Jr., who many people would agree are modern day prophets. Mother Theresa also comes to mind right away which leads me to say that people can "speak" through actions as much as words. Both aspects are important but in many cases actions come across in ways that words can never do. Jesus did both in an extraordinary way. I think there are many people, ordinary people, who do prophetic things all the time. I'd like to think that I'm one of them, but I don't dare call myself a prophet. There are many people in my life story who have been guides/teachers/mentors in their prophetic moments, but I wouldn't call them prophets outright either. I need to think about this some more but am curious to hear what you think - who are modern day prophets you would recognize - or are there none? How do you make that determination?