False Prophets

Picture of the Antichrist
From a determinist view, false prophets are allowed to exist by God. Do they therefore serve some purpose? Perhaps false prophets exist to push the church off of its doctrinal certainty? Do they not inspire the church to study the scriptures, to develop arguments and debate them, and to ultimately discover new realities that would have otherwise remained hidden beneath a warm blanket of blessed assurance? Yes they do.

I deny the charge of false prophet. But to those who claim otherwise, I respond with an offer of dialogue. Let's study and debate our scripture together. Perhaps we will discover new realities together?

On http://www.ligonier.org/learn/articles/semper-reformanda/ it says this:

"If you’ve been in Protestant circles for very long, whether conservative or liberal, you may have heard the phrase “reformed and always reforming” or sometimes just “always reforming.” I hear it a lot these days, especially from friends who want our Reformed churches to be more open to moving beyond the faith and practice that is confessed in our doctrinal standards. Even in Reformed circles of late, various movements have arisen that challenge these standards. How can confessions and catechisms written in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries guide our doctrine, life, and worship in the twenty-first? Liberal Protestants frequently invoked this phrase to justify their captivity to the spirit of the age, but some conservative Protestants also use it to encourage a broader definition of what it means to be Reformed.

But where did this phrase come from? Its first appearance was in a 1674 devotional by Jodocus van Lodenstein, who was an important figure in Dutch Reformed pietism — a movement known as the Dutch Second Reformation. According to these writers, the Reformation reformed the doctrine of the church, but the lives and practices of God’s people always need further reformation.
Van Lodenstein and his colleagues were committed to the teaching of the Reformed confession and catechism; they simply wanted to see that teaching become more thoroughly applied as well as understood. However, here is his whole phrase: “The church is reformed and always [in need of] being reformed according to the Word of God.” The verb is passive: the church is not “always reforming,” but is “always being reformed” by the Spirit of God through the Word. Although the Reformers themselves did not use this slogan, it certainly reflects what they were up to; that is, if one quotes the whole phrase!"

Dr. Michael S. Horton is J. Gresham Machen Professor of Systematic Theology and Apologetics at Westminster Seminary California. He is author of Pilgrim Theology: Core Doctrines for Christian Disciples.

The church is always being reformed, by the Spirit of God through the Word. Let's accept that at face value. Now if by Word we mean scripture (not the third person of the Trinity), I submit this means that the Spirit of God reforms the church through the church's own study of the scriptures. And this reformation is both doctrinal and practical, because (to quote John MacArthur, http://www.gty.org/resources/articles/A141/doctrine-is-practical) "Doctrine is practical." It affects not just our beliefs, but in turn, our behaviors. If true, then it is not only good for the church to study the Bible, it is necessary if the church is to be reformed by the Spirit.

Now what do we mean by reform? Different groups of Christians will define that word differently. Christians and churches who call themselves reformed define the word and concept very carefully. Other individuals and groups perhaps have not given it as much thought. Myself, I define reform as change. Therefore, doctrinal reform means doctrinal change, and practical reform means behavioral change. In other words, doctrinal reform leads to behavioral change.

When we consider the word reform from a historical perspective, we Christians naturally think of the Protestant Reformation, an epic change in church doctrine brought about by the Spirit of God through the Word. And while it may perhaps be that many reformed churches still resemble the catholic church in a variety of ways, it remains true that Protestants as a whole believe and behave very differently today than did the Catholics of the 16th century (as does the Catholic church of today in many respects). If it is true that the church is always being reformed by the Spirit of God through the Word, I expect our continued study of the scripture to result in the churches of 500 years from now believing and behaving very differently than we do.

We must allow the Spirit of God to change our doctrinal beliefs through our study of the scripture. We must not shortchange this process with unexamined assumptions and lazy exegesis.

But wasn't the faith once and for all delivered to the saints (Jude 1:3)? The Restoration Movement believes so. Semper reformanda to a Campbellite does indeed mean doctrinal change, but more precisely a change in the direction of doctrinal development. MLKjr said the arc of history bends toward justice.

Does the arc of christian doctrinal history bend ever upward toward greater and greater understanding of the truth? Or rather, does it begin in the fullness of truth, bend away for a time, forgetting truths it once knew, lacking fullness, but ultimately returning to a full understanding of the truth, to the faith that was once and for all delivered?

I don't study the Bible to discover new doctrines. I am not captive to the spirit of the age, and therefore have no need to justify that. I study the Bible to discover where our current doctrine is flawed or incomplete. Does a particular doctrine, if properly understood, agree with all of scripture? Where are the tensions, the paradoxes, the contradictions? Let's examine them. Either we are moving ahead toward a future of undiscovered truths, or we are returning to truths once understood (the Israelites found the word upon their return from exile, etc.).

But there are new doctrines to be found. I believe that. I don't believe God wants us to return to the past. I think God wants us to embrace the future. And the future is different than the past.

In christian dialogue, a false prophet comparison is akin to a hitler/nazi comparison. It destroys the dialogue. It's the nuclear option. This is not acceptable. False prophet references do not belong in dialogue between Christians. If you think someone here is a false prophet, start your own blog and point it out there

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