Whose Prophet?

Sabbath School commentary for discussion on Sabbath, October 10, 2015

There are ‘prophets’ who enjoy conflict; who relish attacking the enemy and only feel good when in the full blood of the condemnatory vein. Their bias is always against the apostasy of others, and they appear to thrive in an atmosphere of isolation and minority triumphalism. Then too, we have the ‘prophets’ who constantly massage the status quo; the celebrity mongers; the smooth talkers who never lose their bearings when it comes to seeking the popular vote; the ‘love and acceptance’ prophets who cannot bring themselves to say anything (no matter how true) beyond what they calculate most folks like to hear.

Ironically, despite their huge ideological differences, both these types of prophets (and leaders) are much the same. Their messages differ entirely, but their motives do not. In both these preaching types the desire for popularity remains a constant. Sure, they use opposite means to secure their followers, but in the end, the attacking prophet of the minority and the nurturing prophet of the majority are driven by very similar motives. Their respective messages prove it.

The minority prophet only and always condemns, but his relentless campaign assumes that the ‘other side’, alone, needs correcting. His messages are designed to garner support from the minority side, exclusively; never will he risk offending his base (no matter how few they be). Thus, his subject is always and only the great exposure of the evils of his majority opponents. He thrives in his role as the opposition; but, it must be noted, he rarely, if ever, turns the spotlight on himself, nor does he fail to secure a loyal (albeit tiny) ‘following’ just as allergic to examining their personal liabilities as he is. One is never sure whether he hates sin nearly as much as he hates sinners.

On the other side, we have the majority prophet with his careful study of mainstream trends and fashions. His message must never ‘cut’ or offend that group; all pulpit words must assure, nurture, and leave folks thinking of God as more or less ‘just like us’; a god incapable of unsettling those who have created god in their own image. When the majority prophet does rise to an occasion, he can only muster an attack upon the ‘sin’ of offending the group! This prophet tilts at weakened foes and triumphs in the dubious honor of preaching to the general comfort of the affluent. He is a consummate sophisticate; he valorizes the Bible as a means to ensure that God’s Word always cozens to the will of those in power.

Are these not the same—politicos both—securing their ambitions according to their ideological proclivities? Speaking to solely their religio-political bases in the name of ‘God’? Always teaching what gives them prestige and power in their respective groups?

Yet, a third type of prophet speaks—the one who shudders to ‘call sin by its right name’; the prophet who spends sleepless nights wondering if, perhaps, his own weakness and need will not corrupt the purity of the gospel he must preach; the prophet who reluctantly urges reform in the face of universal scorn. The prophet who cannot appease any ‘side’, but must say what Truth speaks, knowing full well that he will offend everyone. The prophet who would love to just have a quiet life with friends and a family; but cannot. This was Jeremiah:

“For though thou wash thee with nitre, and take thee much soap

Yet, thine iniquity is marked before me, saith the Lord God.

How canst thou say, I am not polluted, I have not gone after Baal?

See thy way…” (Jer. 2. 22-23).

Jeremiah enjoyed no party; minority or majority. I would submit that in the postmodern era, the prophetic voice recognizes no sides; rather, it would arrest the self-serving polemics and the shrill propagandizing of both sides long enough to make clear this one, unsuspected truth, “thy iniquity is marked before me… how can you say, I am not polluted?”


This is a companion discussion topic for the original entry at http://spectrummagazine.org/node/7111
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It is a black and white fallacy that there can be no great preaching that brings comfort to the afflicted and hope for the future rather that either condemnation or flattery.

There are speakers who are quick to condemn only the sins of a few
who may not even be in the congregation; but assume that Jonathan Edwards is still the model for preaching against sin.

But listen to Pope Francis when he speaks: he neither condemns gays or women who have suffered through abortion, the current sins de jour, But comforts with compassion and understanding rather than
judging them. This is Christ’s model as seen in the adulterous woman: “Neither do I condemn thee.” As Christians, shouldn’t his example always be followed?

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The issue is between dogma and enlightenment. S.A. Demonstrated dogma at its worst. One case in point was to equate recent with 6000 years. The other was rejecting Christ’s headship for male ordination. What is true is that man and his institutions are frail at best. One does not need to point out sin. one clear view of Christ will reveal the human condition. Thus the prophetic need is to lead the heart, mind, and soul to the assurance within the Christ event. Assurance is hope fulfilled. That hope is available by faith alone, and is consummation within three score years and ten. imagine Joseph Bates and I will see Jesus with the same time frame as will David and Paul. Tom Z

I find myself encouraged by the Pope’s words; however, I am even more troubled by his record as Arch Bishop with respect to the serial rape of children in Argentina by his own clergy. The record is clear: Pope Francis remained silent and passive as his own priests abused children… 4 young women appealed to him personally to stop this outrage: he did nothing. Why, you ask… I suspect it all comes down to politics in the end. Rhetoric is deeply political, and this Pope knows how to use it. As Pope he proclaims ‘zero tolerance’ for child rape by the priesthood; yet, he supports without qualification the ordination of a Chilean bishop identified by victims as having been present in the room when a notorious pedophile priest raped children. 1300 Chilean lay catholics sent a letter to Pope Francis begging that this bishop not be appointed; 30 priests did the same… there was a protest by lay persons and priests at the actual ordination. Still, the Vatican offered total support to this bishop. I think we should be more critical of this Pope’s use of rhetoric than we are… especially given his actual ‘deeds’ or lack thereof.
Karl

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Whose Prophet? 6 October 2015 by Karl. G. Wilcox said:
“Jeremiah enjoyed no party; minority or majority. I would submit that in the postmodern era, the prophetic voice recognizes no sides; rather, it would arrest the self-serving polemics and the shrill propagandizing of both sides long enough to make clear this one, unsuspected truth, “thy iniquity is marked before me… how can you say, I am not polluted?”

Excellent article by Brother Wilcox. Great thoughts are presented, that for me cast Jeremiah aa a modern CEO, a prophet, leading his followers to the promised land. There are many lessons for Ted Wilson and other leaders of our church and institutions in this current Sabbath School Lesson. If you are a manager, CEO, or lay leader, this lesson speaks to you, to all of us.

The Bible is one of the most influential books in management. Themes from Abrahamic mythology shape much of modern management, not surprisingly since most modern management theories do come from men of Euro-American descent. Our notion of the CEO is very much like the prophet, who leads his followers to the Promised Land. The prophet is not the master; he is at best the steward. He communicates the word of God, and ensures the word of God is respected. He is also subject to the will of God. He too can be punished by God.

There is constant performance anxiety and the CEO is as much subject to it as are other members of the management. And so we hear of how Moses, who led people to the Promised Land, was not allowed to enter the land because he broke one of the sacred commandments. He used his staff and released water from a rock to save his thirsty followers, rather than waiting for God, displaying a lack of faith in God. Later, king David, who is chosen to lead the people of Israel by God himself, is unable to build a Temple for God because he breaks another sacred commandment and has an adulterous relationship with Bathsheba, the wife of a soldier.

The entire management system is based on judgement. Judgement is based on measurement, hence the obsession with score cards, and audits. If you perform, you are good. If you don’t perform, you are not good. There is constant performance anxiety and the CEO is as much subject to it as are other members of the management. Those downstream would like to believe that the one on top is all-powerful, but it is never so. He is answerable to God, the Board.

CEO appraisal criteria depends on stage the organization is at. In start-up stage, you measure if spending is done well and judiciously. In the mature phase, you measure if there is good return on investment. In the late stage, when the market is saturated, you measure if cost-cutting is accompanied by searching for new business opportunities. But measurement of the CEO cannot be equated with measurement of the organization’s performance. The CEO exists to re-shape the organization. Unlike the COO, who focuses on the present, the CEO needs to focus on the future.

The CEO exists to reshape the organization. Unlike the COO, who focuses on the present, the CEO needs to focus on the future. A lot depends on the CEO’s personality and the nature of relationship with the Board. Every CEO brings personality and the nature of relationship with the Board. Every CEO brings with him a new way of thinking and so new ways of functioning. A key criteria, that is difficult to measure, is to figure out how he negotiates with the old power structure, both upstream and downstream and establishes his own authority. Is he patient, understanding what was already there, before introducing changes? Or is he, like many young Turks tend to be, eager to change everything from Day One?

Another factor that Boards need to con-sider about a CEO is whether he is an insider or outsider. Has he grown from the ranks or has he been brought in from outside? If from the inside, then he has to deal with relationships he is already familiar with. If from outside, he has to deal with hostility, for clearly the Board thinks the existing management is not good enough to lead.

Most damaging to organizations is the trend of contract CEOs who are appointed for 3-5 years, who are focused only on getting their bonus and not interested in creating a long-lasting institution. They have hardly any time to appreciate the context of the organizations they function in, or the nuances of the business, and function as cogs in a well-oiled machinery where they are seen not as people so much as set of skills. They spend the first year throwing out the old, the second and third year getting the numbers, leaving a mess behind for the next contract CEO to deal with.

The Board needs to check if the CEO is creating a personality cult or building an institution. Many great leaders are often Banyan Trees, who do not let anyone else grow under them. They hire mediocre people and so create an ecosystem of mediocrity, which listens and obeys. They do everything in their power to kick out talent so that they are never threatened. They do not focus on developing a talent pipeline. At best, they give it lip service. Usually such CEOs make the Board dependent on them and so the Board cannot kick them out or punish them as only God can.

PS
I agree 100% with Wilcox’s note of caution about the current CEO of the Catholic Church, Pope Francis. Events surrounding the "secret"meeting with Kim Davis, left many feeling a sense of disappointment and betrayal as to what was really going on behind the scenes. Political realities aside, it gave many, including me, a sad glimpse into a political leader who unlike Jeremiah, was trying to be ALL things to ALL people.

I have to agree with you. I’m not a fan of this Pope. I think he is a wolf in sheep’s clothing.

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This article reminded me of a Side Bar in the readings for Rosh Hashanah.
"Prayer preceded God.
"Prayer created God.
"God created Humans.
“Humans create prayers that create God who created Humanity.
------ Yehudah Amichai”

The Northern Tribes [after the division of Israel developed the Elohim god — a very strict rabbinic god.
The Southern Tribes [ Judah, Benjamin] developed their Yahweh god — a playful human-type god who creates a Garden of Eden for his naked creatures to romp around in.

It is my understanding that it was 40 years before the actual “BOOK” of Jeremiah was written after the messages came. One would wonder who compiled the materials that were available, and how it was decided to include what, and how it was decided to organize it the way it is. Was it an individual effort, or a group effort?
Not having a computer and Page Maker back then it would have been quite a task. When one even had to make the “paper” and the ink before even beginning.

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Steve,
I wish I knew how and when the bible was written. I think the average “person of scripture” would tear their closes and go running out of the house screaming, if they knew. lol I read some areas as very polytheistic and other areas as monotheistic. Part of me thinks the ‘Priestly’ tried to remove the “poly” but did a bad job, while part of me thinks the job was so bad that maybe there was no Priestly. Whats wrong with God having a wife? Doesn’t God have a son? I understand sitting in Babylon and praying to the God of war. OR Watching the grain ripen and thinking of the God of Harvest.

There are so many versions of people: pre-Babylon, went to Babylon, did not go to Babylon, came back form Babylon, stayed in Babylon, North, South, (seven more types I don’t remember). What makes the Pastor so convinced that any one version of “Jew” is right? Why not a different version?

People are like wind up toys. God cranks them up. He stamps “I are right and you are wrong” on each forehead. Then God watches people run around and bump into each other. There must be a reason there are 300+ versions of Baptists.
p.s.
I think Christians are polytheistic while claiming to be monotheistic. “We worship the one true God, all three of them.”

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I guess we need to be reminded that people created religions and their gods - as an answer to life’s big questions. Somehow we tend to think that the older the concepts the more valid they are - as if God spoke to these prophets and writers of the Bible directly, forgetting that these guys wrote from their perceptions and called them God (speaking). That leaves us with a responsibility to dig it all out for ourselves instead of just playing “follow the leader” through some ideological door.

The Christian Bible is an interesting combination of the Hebrew concept of the God of action - one of laws and consequences; and the Greek influences that spiritualized God. It seems that Jesus, as strictly the “lamb” of the OT wasn’t enough to describe His person, meaning, and role. We need both - which makes the SDA tenacious hold on the OT rituals an imbalanced view of God.

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@ ageis​711​Oxyain

I wish you would have completed the verse which is found in John 8:11. Christ concluded by saying go and sin no more. As the Pope speaks comfortably to these gays and women as you quoted he should also admonish them to go and sin no more as Jesus Christ said to Mary Magdeline.

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Perhaps because the Pope, like millions of Christians, do not believe that homosexuals and women who have had abortions are not sinners.
There is nothing in the Bible condemning either group. If it is believed otherwise, please give a Bible text that specifically lists either as sinners.

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The thoughtful essay by Karl Wilcox rightly identifies two kinds of false prophets that appear to be very different, but in fact are rather similar. In the lingo of psychos (mental health professionals) you would identify both as narcissists - they are limited to their own little world of “I” and boost their ego by admiration or the wonderful assurance of being right and knowing it all.

What strikes me is that these kind of images come to mind when we reflect on prophets. Could it be that narcissism is one of the greater afflictions of our church and its leaders? If so - how is narcissism best treated (@elmer_cupino, @GeorgeTichy)? And more in the traditional Adventist vein: How can we learn to differentiate?

Incidentally I dimly remember some research on clergy that clearly identified narcissism as more typical for protestant clergy (i.e. Catholic and Orthodox priests had different “typical” afflictions). Thus the discussion of the pope is something that in my view would better fit some other place, rather than this very self-reflective piece.

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The Presentation:

A pervasive pattern of grandiosity (in fantasy or behavior), need for admiration, and lack of empathy, beginning by early adulthood and present in a variety of contexts, as indicated by the following:

  1. Has a grandiose sense of self-importance (e.g., exaggerates achievements and talents, expects to be recognized as superior without commensurate achievements).
  2. Is preoccupied with fantasies of unlimited success, power, brilliance, beauty, or ideal love.
  3. Believes that he or she is “special” and unique and can only be understood by, or should associate with, other special or high-status people (or institutions).
  4. Requires excessive admiration.
  5. Has a sense of entitlement (i.e., unreasonable expectations of especially favorable treatment or automatic compliance with his or her expectations).
  6. Is interpersonally exploitative (i.e., takes advantage of others to achieve his or her own ends).
  7. Lacks empathy: is unwilling to recognize or identify with the feelings and needs of others.
  8. Is often envious of others or believes that others are envious of him or her.
  9. Shows arrogant, haughty behaviors or attitudes.

The Pathology:

Failure to develop a cohesive sense of self through unempathic and inconsistent early childhood interactions. For instance poor, inadequate, impoverished or excessive and overblown parental mirroring.

The Consequence:

Narcissistic traits is the root of being unable to empathize and care for others. Extreme examples are Adolph Hitler, Joseph Stalin and Joseph Mengele

A touch of narcissism is necessary to maintain the concept of “The Remnant Church” theory. Could narcissism be part of the SDA DNA?

The Treatment:

Assist the individual through psychotherapy to develop and incorporate missing self objects functions into his internal psychic structure. This is done best by engaging them in activities that foster empathy. The biggest problem with these individuals is their difficulty in merging their feelings with empathy, so they go through the motions without the necessary emotions needed and/or required. IOW, they become robots.

The following link is a synopsis of what narcissism is. Think SDA in place of Facebook and you get the drift.

@GeorgeTichy

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Case by case.

Did Jesus never condemn anyone?
Does your post condemn condemners?
The SS lesson has for scripture study…28 verses of Jer 2 of which 2 verses were referred to in the article.
Did anyone get condemned in that chapter?
I would think that most SDA would not even read Jer 2 in preparation for Sabbath school today…even if they took time to attend.

Also, it is very unlikely that much of Jer 2 will be read in class today by the majority of SDA Sabbath school teachers or the audience.