The Politics of Making a Prophet

My latest post over on Political Theology Today was published this morning. Within it I discuss the rich biblical theology that lies behind the events of the Day of Pentecost.

The role of the prophet, as I have defined it, is a deeply politically charged one. The prophet is a member of the divine ruling council, participating in its deliberations, and charged with playing the ‘angelic’ role of communicating its judgments to the powers of this world. The prophet is also often defined by suffering witness and frequent martyrdom. Luke’s narrative identifies the Church as continuing the prophetic mission of Jesus, bearing the authorization and power of Jesus’ Spirit, enjoying privileged access to the heavenly court, and delivering the judgments of God in Christ to kings and rulers. It should come as no surprise to us that the rest of the book of Acts is filled with confrontations and showdowns with various rulers and authorities.

It is, however, rare for the Church to display such a self-understanding of its status and vocation. The Church far too easily finds itself in thrall to the powers that be, weakly petitioning for a hearing in their halls, rather than confidently exercising its privilege of access to the heavenly council. The Church too often addresses the rulers of this world with impotent bleats, rather than with the authoritative blast of the incendiary word of God. Reflection upon Pentecost calls us to return to the self-understanding that underlay the Church’s earliest prophetic mission, a self-understanding that equipped it with the nerve to confront political powers, to face both suffering and death unflinchingly, and to overcome the world by faith in the One who is above all earthly rulers.

Read the whole thing here.

This post may have whetted your appetite to read more on the subject of Pentecost and, specifically, the theme of prophetic installation within it. If it has, you are in luck! I have a long series of posts within which I unpack these themes in considerable detail. Enjoy!

About Alastair Roberts

Alastair Roberts (PhD, Durham University) writes in the areas of biblical theology and ethics, but frequently trespasses beyond these bounds. He participates in the weekly Mere Fidelity podcast, blogs at Alastair’s Adversaria, and tweets at @zugzwanged.
This entry was posted in Acts, Bible, Guest Post, NT, NT Theology, OT Theology, Politics, The Church, Theological. Bookmark the permalink.

5 Responses to The Politics of Making a Prophet

  1. quinnjones2 says:

    Hi Alastair,
    I found this really informative and faith-building and I especially liked your challenge in your final paragraph:
    ‘The Church too often addresses the rulers of this world with impotent bleats, rather than the authoritative blast of the incendiary word of God…’

    I speak here as one who is awe of ‘the incendiary word of God’ and the power of the Holy Spirit, but who is also prone to making ‘impotent bleats’, particularly when in the daunting physical presence of a phalanx of unbelievers! One such occasion was a family funeral which, though held in a church, was attended mainly by unbelievers. I was one of the few who actually joined in with the Lord’s Prayer.

    You mentioned ‘the divine throne chariot’ ( 2 Kings 2:11) and I would love to hear more about this, please! This verse was quoted to me by our church leader when I asked for prayer before going to a family funeral last year, and I was sustained by this image if God’s ‘hidden army’, but I don’t actually know much about it.

    • Really pleased to hear that you found it helpful!

      This is definitely something that has encouraged me in bearing witness as an individual. However, I think that the authority I am referring to here is especially pronounced when, as the disciples on the Day of Pentecost, we are all gathered together as one accord as the Church.

      The throne chariot of God is especially seen in the vision of Ezekiel 1 and elsewhere in that book. However, it appears throughout Scripture. It is the storm cloud that God rides upon in his miraculous appearances. I comment a little on the relation between it and the tabernacle here.

      • quinnjones2 says:

        Thank you so much for the link to your post in which you commented on the throne chariot of God. – I look forward to studying it closely later today. I can see that you are referring to the authority we are given when we are all gathered together as one accord as the Church, as were the disciples on the Day of Pentecost, and to the way that church leaders behave and speak at the interface with ‘the world’ and especially with governing authorities. However, I am also mindful of the fact that, of the many spiritual gifts which were bestowed on the disciples at Pentecost, the most manifest was the gift of tongues, which was given to reach unbelievers who were present, reversing the Tower of Babel, as you wrote.Those who spoke in tongues at Pentecost were of course apostles ( I think?), but that gift was then, and is now, also given to lay members of the church. This is why I think that the spiritual gifts are also important at the interface between lay church members and unbelievers. I know some people who have come to the Christian faith from other faiths, sometimes after a Christian prayed for them in tongues, and that these people have then joined the Christian church in the face of fierce opposition from family members.
        I also faced some resistance from non-Christian family members when I became a Christian after a colleague prayed for me in tongues in my home. My colleague was not a church leader, though a church leader was present when she prayed. So while I in no way endorse the individualism of liberal ideology, I am in awe of the way that God, in the power of the Holy Spirit, reaches, sometimes via lay Christians, lone people in ‘dark places’, and gives them the courage to stand in their newly-embraced faith in the face of opposition from family and friends. The church as a body certainly plays a vital part in receiving, guiding and encouraging such converts.
        I have not made this as clear as I’d like, but I hope it’s near enough!

      • No, you have made it clear! And, yes, I agree: the Church isn’t something that exists in detachment from its members, which can express its Spirit-empowered presence and activity in the world. The one Gift of the Spirit at Pentecost is re-presented in the many different gifts of the Spirit possessed by the members of Christ’s body.

  2. quinnjones2 says:

    Alastair, I was about to look for this article because I wanted to RT it on Twitter, when suddenly there it was before me, posted by you🙂

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