Saturday, June 18, 2011

On Prophets . . .

Charles Villa-Vicencio's topic for his morning talk last Wednesday was along the lines of 'Why do fired-up young prophets become tame parish priests?' He encouraged seminarians to let their 'claws grow sharp and their manes grow long'. He spoke about the roles of a minister (I'm not sure if he was specifically addressing ministers here) as being prophet, priest and political counsellor (or statesman). By including statesman he was meaning people who can draw together different people and encourage them to move on together - and given that this is something of the ultimate force of my PhD thesis, with Desmond Tutu as a model, I obviously concur.
However, having wrestled with the idea of prophecy and the complications of the cultural aspects (do the Old Testament and Black Consciouness define prophets in the same way?) I am now feeling that actually the country has enough prophets. There are so many voices - shouting, ranting, complaining and sometimes even being constructive that I don't believe we need more prophets. We need people who can and will listen. People with wisdom and discernment and people who will lead others into constructive action. Maybe this is what Villa-Vicencio meant by statesmen - but I think it goes further.
As far as the church is concerned - it needs to focus on being the people of God in a world that needs God and needs love and grace and hope and all those good Christian things. We need to teach our people that personal holiness and a Christ-centred lifestyle will lead to social justice. The three go hand in hand.
And that is my little prophetic rant for the day.


Anonymous said...

I think that I basically agree with you! If fired up young prophets become tame parish priests, then it may also be because they have learnt something along the way, although there may also be less desirable things involved - like complacency. But it is indeed all too easy to mistake rhetoric with true Christian identity. And one of the things that has disillusioned me about "critical" theological traditions is the unwillingness to turn the hermeneutic of suspicion onto the inner life of the believer, to recognise the "will to power" in each of us, and to engage in an ascetical struggle to unmasking and overcoming that.

Of course the discernment of prophecy is also related to the question: on whose behalf do people prophecy?

On a not entirely unrelated note: is Charles Villa-Vicencio still a Methodist minister in good standing? I ask because a while ago I came across this interview with him (which I reacted to here) in which he makes statements about moving beyond dogma that I find rather troubling. Our knowledge of God, however inadequate, and our understanding of Christian revelation, does have quite a big impact on how we understand prophecy - and a lot of other things too!


Jenny Hillebrand said...

Hi Macrina - Thank you for an interesting conversation in your links! Firstly, as regards 'on whose behalf do people prophesy' - exactly! Part of the problem. For example, is demanding my 'rights' prophecy? And should I prophesy for the benefit of others, or is that demeaning to them?
On the Charles Villa-Vicencio question - he is not listed in our Yearbook. I would guess that he resigned from the ministry when he turned to academia, but I don't know. I'm not sure how this will make you feel about the Methodist Church but the opinions expressed in that article are not uncommon in the Church, in a particular sector. I have in mind to write a blog post some time that may touch on this - I am reluctant to try to express my thoughts in a shortish comment!

Anonymous said...

Thanks Jenny,

Actually in asking about on whose behalf people prophecy I was also thinking of the God on whose behalf people prophecy. I have a suspicion (and this is something I've been meaning to blog on for ages but not getting to) that our views of God (and in particular whether those recognise the freedom of a personal God or tend towards monism) have quite a bit to do with the sort of prophecy people engage in, sort of going back to Barth's disillusionment with liberal theology after World War I... But I'd better also get my thoughts more in shape before saying more! But it's in that context that I am inclined to react to things in that interview. And yes, I know that they are quite widespread in some circles, and not only among Methodists!

Anyway, I look forward to reading your further thoughts when you post them.


Anonymous said...

I came here to observe that, “Not all buckets draw water from the same well.” Yet I see Macrina beat me to it.