Ad Hominems and False Prophets

False prophet is a label haphazardly thrown around far too frequently in Christendom today. When I hear someone use this derogatory phrase, I find it to be approximately the equivalent of that individual picking up a megaphone and announcing, "I don't read my Bible closely!" Presuppositions regarding the biblical text abound today, but I'm sure I didn't need to tell you that. This practice of "calling names" with Bible words exemplifies the pervasive attitude which seeks to provide scriptural support for an ad hominem against "them," "those people," the ones who, "obviously," have it wrong. "The Scripture couldn't be more clear," the mantra goes.

A "prophet" (in biblical lingo) is an individual commissioned by the God of Israel (Yahweh) to deliver a given message, verbal or otherwise. This is by no means an individual who is merely "telling the future." Actually, prophets do far more forth-telling (delivering a relevant message to their contemporary hearers), than foretelling (giving a message that means nothing to their contemporaries and is only relevant many years in the future). Therefore, a "false prophet" is one who purports to speak on behalf of or deliver a message for Yahweh (Deut. 18) but rather speaks from himself, "presumptuously."

Regardless of "Christian speak," "Christianese," or whatever we want to call the catch phrases that roll off Christian lips today, a "false prophet" is NOT someone who my spiritual guru or I ascertain to hold heretical or heterodoxical (opposite of my own orthodoxy) views, and/or fails to accept doctrines I may believe to be "soteriologically" (a fancy way of speaking about salvation) essential.

If I were a coach, I would challenge the call, and ask for an instant replay. Listen, if there would ever happen to be someone you know of, or God forbid, someone in your life who holds a view different than your own, it does not mean they are claiming to speak in the name of or on behalf of the God of Israel, hence making them a false prophet; there is a big difference. 

Jesus' use of "false prophet" in the Synoptics (all the Gospels but John) is not what many today may think he meant. He was referring to actual prophets, not renegade pastors or teachers from other denominations, with differing points of view. Even the epistle of Peter makes a distinction: 

"But false prophets also arose among the people, just as there will also be false teachers among you, who will secretly introduce destructive heresies, even denying the Master who bought them, bringing swift destruction upon themselves" (2 Pe 2:1 NAU).

A false prophet, a false messiah (christ) and a false teacher are not all synonymous.

A prophet is also NOT someone who may believe - through either discernment and other pieces of evidence - that certain events may be about to unfold, false or not. An example could be a stockbroker at the New York Stock Exchange, who observes a shift or evidence in numbers that there may be an imminent, economic bubble-burst (see The Big Short, 2015). This however, has nothing to do with prophecy, a word from Yahweh (aka. the LORD, God of Israel). Jesus referenced this when speaking to his followers about recognizing the "signs of the times" (Matt 16; Luke 12). 

Christians need to stop inventing definitions for the express purpose of smearing others with whom they may disagree. Someone who has a theological or doctrinal position other than your own does not make that individual a false prophet. It does, however, reveal the ignorance of the accusing individual(s) with the ad hominem baton. 

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