Does Prophecy Continue?

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Aaron Blumer's picture
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Does Prophecy Continue?

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Did all the miraculous gifts of the Spirit, such as tongues and prophecy, cease with the completion of the New Testament? If we take the position that prophecy continues in some form, is such a view compatible with the conviction that God has given us all the authoritative revelation He intended to give (that the the canon of Scripture is closed)?

Last January, Dr. Bruce Compton (Detroit Baptist Theological Seminary) presented a paper on these questions at the Preserving the Truth Conference. What follows is a summary reflecting my understanding of Compton’s analysis. The full paper is available at the PTC resources page.1

The two levels of prophecy view

Since Dr. Wayne Grudem’s work has been foundational for many who believe in a continuing gift of prophecy, Compton’s paper focuses on Grudem’s view2 that the NT speaks of two levels of prophecy: apostolic and non-apostolic. Grudem maintains that apostolic prophecy was authoritative and inerrant in the same way that Old Testament prophecy was and that this form of prophecy ceased when the NT Scriptures were completed.

But Grudem holds that a second level of prophecy—also a gift of the Spirit—existed simultaneously in NT times. This second level of prophecy is subject to error and not divinely authoritative. Consequently, it continues among believers to the present day.

Compton’s central question should be ours as well: does Grudem’s exegetical work truly support the idea of two levels of prophecy? Grudem’s case rests primarily on three arguments and three texts.

Ephesians 2:20

Grudem’s first argument3 is that the NT refers to two kinds of prophecy and distinguishes between them. His primary text is Ephesians 2:20: “having been built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Jesus Christ Himself being the chief cornerstone” (NKJV).

Grudem understands “apostles and prophets” here to mean “apostolic prophets,” and bases his conclusion on a grammatical principle known among Greek students as Granville Sharp. Grudem’s conclusion is that only this foundational apostolic prophecy was uniquely inerrant and authoritative and that ordinary prophecy did not possess these qualities.

1 Corinthians 14:29

Grudem’s second argument4 is based on NT instructions to test the messages of prophets. His reasoning is that if prophecies had to be tested, this must mean believers had to sort out what was accurate from what was in error. And since OT prophecy and apostolic prophecy was inerrant, these verses must be referring to a different kind of prophecy, a second level of prophecy.

The primary text involved in this argument is 1 Corinthians 14:29: “Let two or three prophets speak, and let the others judge.”

Grudem acknowledges that the NT passages referring to testing prophecy are similar to OT passages aimed at distinguishing true prophets from false ones, but argues that the NT passages are also different in important ways. For example, the context of 1 Corinthians 14 indicates that these were already-approved prophets and that the “judging” refers to the contents of their prophecies. He argues further that diakrino (“judge”) here has the idea of “making distinctions” and not so much to judging the individual.

Grudem also sees support in 1 Thessalonians 5:20-21: “Do not despise prophecies. 21 Test all things; hold fast what is good.”

Acts 21:10-11

Thirdly, Grudem argues5 that there must be two levels of prophecy because the NT records at least one example of a true prophet prophesying in error. The clearest case of this is the prophecy of Agabus in Acts 21:10-11.

…a certain prophet named Agabus came down from Judea. 11 When he had come to us, he took Paul’s belt, bound his own hands and feet, and said, “Thus says the Holy Spirit, ‘So shall the Jews at Jerusalem bind the man who owns this belt, and deliver him into the hands of the Gentiles.’”

In Grudem’s view, Agabus’ prediction does not match what actually occurred in Acts 21:27-35. Rather than the Jews binding Paul and delivering him to the Gentiles, Gentiles bind him and he is taken forcefully by the Romans. Since Agabus was a true prophet, yet fell short of the OT standards for true prophets, his prophecy must have been of a different type.

Grudem argues further that though Agabus’ formula, “Thus says the Holy Spirit,” is very similar to the phrase “Thus says the Lord” in the Greek version of the OT, it is not identical. It is possible that Agabus was attributing the basic content of his prophecy to the Spirit but not claiming the particular words. Apparently, Grudem’s view is that Agabus received a general prophecy but misunderstood—and then misspoke—the particulars.

Problems with Grudem’s view

In Compton’s analysis, Grudem fails to make an adequate exegetical case for two levels of prophecy in the NT.

“Apostles and prophets”

Grudem’s Granville Sharp argument has some weaknesses.6 Though it is possible to interpret a plural Granville Sharp construction in the sense of “apostolic prophets,” the NT offers no examples of a plural Granville Sharp construction working this way. NT examples suggest that the phrase “apostles and prophets” either denotes two distinct groups (equivalent to the English “apostles and prophets”) or indicates that the first group is a subset of the second (something like “apostles and other prophets”).

On the whole, the NT evidence favors seeing two distinct groups in Ephesians 2:20, both of which form the inerrant and authoritative foundation of the church.

Grudem attempts to insure his view against Ephesians 2:20 problems by saying that even if the passage refers to two groups, he’d argue for a third non-authoritative congregational type of prophet. Compton counters that the context of Ephesians 2:20 refers to the apostles and prophets of churches in general, so what is true of them in Ephesians 2:20 is true of them elsewhere.

My own observation: even if the Ephesians passage means “apostolic prophets,” the statement does not prove that that there were non-apostolic prophets or that, if this category existed, their prophecy was any different in character from that of the apostolic prophets.

“Let the others judge”

The argument from prophet-testing is similarly inconclusive.7 Grudem grants that the non-apostolic prophets would have been tested at some point to determine whether they were true prophets and that the content of their prophecies would be the basis for testing. But if that was the case, how could an approved prophet later utter untrue prophecy? The criteria used to identify him as true initially would be violated. Wouldn’t this require him to be re-classed as a false prophet?

In addition, the verb diakrino in 1 Corinthians 14:29 is more flexible than Grudem suggests. The word can mean something close to “judge” (1 Cor. 4:7, “makes you to differ”; 11:29, “discerning”). And the verb in 1 Thess 5:20-21 (“test all things”) is the same one John uses in 1 John 4:1.

Beloved, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits, whether they are of God; because many false prophets have gone out into the world.

All of the prophet-testing passages should be taken in the same sense as 1 John 4:11 and in the same sense that the OT prophets were tested.

Bound by the Jews and handed over

Was Agabus’ prediction that Paul would be bound by the Jews and handed over to the Gentiles inaccurate? It is possible to interpret his prophecy in a way that is consistent with what later occurred, and evidence elsewhere in Acts supports such an interpretation.8 The Jews in Jerusalem were certainly the ultimate cause of Paul’s imprisonment. Furthermore, in Acts 24:5-8, the Jewish lawyer Tertullus describes Paul’s case to governor Felix using the phrase, “we [the Jews] arrested him” (Acts 24:5-8). Later, Paul describes his initial arrest to Agrippa and Felix: “some Jews seized me in the temple and tried to put me to death” (Acts 26:21).

Agabus’ introductory phrase, “Thus says the Holy Spirit” is also not so easily dismissed. The formula differs only from “Thus says the Lord” in identifying the Lord as the Holy Spirit. Grudem fails to demonstrate that Agabus only meant that the gist came from God but not the words.

Conclusions

Grudem’s goal has been to safeguard the doctrine of the closed canon and simultaneously allow for ongoing prophecy. To do this, he proposes a view of continuing prophecy that is both subject to error and non-authoritative.

But in Compton’s analysis, Grudem fails to show that any legitimate NT prophecy was subject to error and non-authoritative. What’s more, the idea of non-authoritative prophecy is a problem in itself. When God truly reveals something to a prophet, how can that special revelation be anything less than authoritative? Whenever such a prophet delivers a true prophecy, it must be as binding as everything else God has revealed.

In Compton’s words, “either New Testament prophecy ceased with the writing of the New Testament and the canon is closed or New Testament prophecy continues and the canon is open. There is simply no middle ground.”9

 

Notes

1 The presentation and paper are entitled “A Critique of Wayne Grudem’s Two Levels of Prophecy.”

2 Grudem’s primary work on the subject is The Gift of Prophecy in the New Testament and Today, Revised Ed., Crossway, 2000.

3 Compton, p. 2-4.

4 Compton, p. 5-7.

5 Compton, 8-10.

6 Compton, 3-5.

7 Compton, 6-7.

8 Compton, 9-10.

9 Compton, 11-12.

[node:bio/aaron-blumer body]

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The person who is right gets

The person who is right gets a free set of Ginzu Steak knives. And we will throw in a free wizzet potato peeler and a set of Shamwow wipe cloths.

Grudem's horse died in the gate. His arguments were an attempt to give some credence to the Pentecostal and Charismatic movement so we can embrace them a La CJ Mahany et. al. The problem is that no one has ever produced verified legitimate tongues or prophecy as presently occurring. Where, what, and when has, or are, these so called prophecies of errors occurring? Is it Pat Robertson? Pat's prophecies and "words of knowledge" are so full of errors and foolishness that one dare not attribute any part of them to God. The same for all such that has or is occurring elsewhere. Whenever you find someone giving any worthwhile prophecy that can be attributed as having God as its source let me know. Until then Grudem's theory is like arguing whether UFO's are Red or Brown, or both. Much ado about nothing using an argument that even the Greeks probably didn't know about. Oh no it's the double dare Granville Sharp rule! It's the coup de gras of all Greek slams.

Oh wait, that prophecy was wrong. Oh well, it doesn't matter. We just add them up and get an average. 300 is a good average in baseball. Perhaps God plays baseball with prophecy?

Perhaps God changed his mind and started to allow Prophecies with errors because in some parts of the world they are short of stones?

Aaron Blumer's picture
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Persuasive

A whole lot of people have found Grudem to be pretty persuasive, as some of Compton's footnotes show. It might not be an overstatement to say that the modern non-cessationist trend (post-Charismatic movement and maybe even post Third Wave) is built on Grudem's view of prophecy.
As far as I know, Grudem has not argued for the continuation of tongues, but with a plausible exegetical case for prophecy, others have felt more comfortable doing that.

It's really an an idea with very serious implications. More evangelicals are warming to Mormonism. Maybe a factor is the fact that they share a belief in continuing revelation... or share an emphasis on some kind of subjective inner light vs. a reliance on Scripture. The whole emergent trend is also keen on personal insight allegedly from God in addition to--or even having no relationship to--Scripture.

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Thanks

Thanks, Aaron, for posting this summary. I am amazed at the wholesale followership of Grudem, Piper and others that embrace this view. It is convenient, but not consistent with Scripture. It definitely impacts much. - Kevin

For the Shepherd and His sheep,
Kevin
Grateful husband of a Proverbs 31 wife, and the father of 15 blessings.
http://captive-thinker.blogspot.com

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what if someone did tell you?

What if someone did tell you and provide examples of this secondary level of prophecy happening? Would you believe them? I think not. You'd find some hole or some way to disprove it.

I'm not sure Grudem is correct in all his exegesis, but I don't find the cessationist case all that convincing either. What exactly is happening in 1 Cor. 14 with the judging and 1 Thess. 5???

Have you read Jack Deere's Surprised by the Power of the Spirit? Or what about Sam Storms, Convergence: The Spiritual Journeys of a Charismatic Calvinist? If this is really a case of show me the examples and facts, these books should convince. It usually ends up that you want a disinterested third party there, an affidavit and signatures in blood by ten witnesses or something.

I read these books and see men in good conscience explaining what's happened to them and their careful desire to conform to Scripture and also be true to their newfound experiences.

Is this really all that different, though, from some of the Revival stories that are told? The Welsh revival is full of quite unbelievable tales, yet most fundamentalists accept them. We're also fine with stories of exorcisms and miracles in darkest Africa. That's fine, but when someone wants to explain some story of a wondrous healing done on Western soil, he's disbelieved until the medical reports are provided.

The whole argument includes quite a bit of silence in Scripture. The Biblical arguments as opposed to the experiential ones, are very weak or inconclusive. I find the argument that allowing for non-Scriptural (so in some sense definitely "secondary") prophecy is opening the door for wholesale error and additional books added to the canon and the like, I find that argument unsound.

Yes, there have been abuses, and there still are. But a knee jerk reaction that solidifies the status quo of Western churches as universally normative for this age, is an unwise overreaction in my opinion.

Plus it comes down to semantics sometimes. Impressions, being led by the Lord, feelings prompted by the Spirit, conviction -- these are cessationist terms of describing the Spirit's work in believers. Prophecies, visions, word from the Lord, word of knowldege -- these are non-cessationist ways of speaking of the same experiences often.

Unless clearly contrary to Scripture teachings and practices are practiced (such as tongues speaking is a requirement for salvation, etc. etc.) we should be reticent to condemn those who are not as non-cessationist as we are, I believe. There are enough varieties with varying beliefs on "baptism of the Spirit", Keswickian theology and etc between the varying cessationist camps for us not to draw a hard and fast line excluding everyone who differs with cessationism from being true to Scripture.

These are my current ramblings on the topic and what I saw of Compton's article didn't help me. Thanks for reproducing it though, Aaron. It's definitely worth discussing.

Striving for the unity of the faith, for the glory of God ~ Eph. 4:3, 13; Rom. 15:5-7 I blog at Fundamentally Reformed. Follow me on Twitter.

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Quote: A whole lot of people

Quote:
A whole lot of people have found Grudem to be pretty persuasive, as some of Compton's footnotes show. It might not be an overstatement to say that the modern non-cessationist trend (post-Charismatic movement and maybe even post Third Wave) is built on Grudem's view of prophecy.

The modern Charismatic movement easily pre dates Grudem's position being published and those involved in it do not appear to often refer to Grudem. Their theology does not need his view at all. In other words I do not see them being influenced by Grudem's position. His influence appears to be among non Charismatic Evangelicals. His assertions were made in his books at the beginning of the 1990s. Grudem's Systematic theology came out in 1994. His other books on this prior if my memory is right. However, Grudem has given a basis for many non Charismatic Evangelicals to embrace the movement and be more comfortable with it. In his Systematic Theology Grudem refers to "the large main stream of Evangelicals that are neither Charismatic or cessationist." I remember reading Grudem position and laughing at it. In his Systematic Theology he states:

Quote:
Although several definitions have been given for the gift of prophecy, a fresh examination of the New Testament teaching on this gift will show that it should be defined not as "predicting the future," nor as "proclaiming a word from the Lord," nor as a "powerful preaching" - but rather as "telling something that God has spontaneously brought to mind." (p.1049).

This definition makes every thought we think a possible prophecy from God. Perhaps we are all prophets? I thought his assertion and reasoning ridiculous and beyond common sense. Then that summer we were visiting out of state and at the home of a very close ministry friend and he told me he thought the Grudem position good and he endorsed it. He was a graduate of Talbot Seminary and a member of the IFCA which took the cessationist position in their doctrinal statement. However, I felt he was looking for a reason to abandon the cessationist position prior and this gave him his final reason. He now pastors a church that endorses the Charismatic movement though he himself has not professed speaking in tongues or having prophecy. He is like many Evangelicals who think the cessationist position too narrow and too dogmatic. They do not want to condemn so many "good Christians" who are Charismatics as being heretics. My experience in and among the Charismatics, and in studying the Biblical and external empirical evidence, compels me to advocate the cessationist position dogmatically. Good, nice, and zealous people can be deluded and embrace heresy.

Aaron is right. A whole lot of people have embraced the Grudem position. But IMO they would not be cessationist even if Grudem had not asserted his position of continuation of prophecy. Almost everyone at Fuller Seminary were continuationists in the Seventies. This was when the third wave movement began along with the Vineyard Church movement. Grudem's position later brought justification for many who endorsed Reformed theology to embrace the Charismatic movement and be backed by a Reformed scholar. Today we even have some who want to call themselves Fundamentalists who are mushy on this subject. Of course the emergence of true Historic Fundamentalism pre dated the popular Pentecostal and Charismatic movements. Pentecostalism was just emerging out of the Azusa Street meetings and was soundly and completely condemned by those labeled as Fundamentalists. Most who have been soft on the Charismatic heresies have been honest and left the Fundamentalist label behind.

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Experience?

Bob Hayton wrote:
What if someone did tell you and provide examples of this secondary level of prophecy happening? Would you believe them? I think not. You'd find some hole or some way to disprove it.

Thank you for your thoughts.

From my understanding, experience is not proof of anything per se, as experience requires interpretation, and as such is open to misunderstanding (or multiple, contradicting interpretations). If some claim "secondary prophecy," what can be used to prove that such is the case?

I would offer that experience can only potentially illustrate truth, but not prove it.

As an example I offer the Acts 15 intercourse:

  • The Antioch church sends Paul and Barnabas to Jerusalem to resolve the requirement about circumcision and the keeping of the law - particularly circumcision accompanying conversion to be saved) a Jew to be saved - Acts 15:5. (Interesting that there was no appeal to or use of Paul's apostolic prophecy at Antioch to resolve this.)
  • The apostles and elders of Jerusalem gather (with the greater assembly seemingly looking on), and hear of the experiences of Paul and Barnabas regarding the conversion of the Gentiles - Acts 15:4,6.
  • In Acts 15:7-11, Peter chimes in with his experience regarding the conversion of the Gentiles with Cornelius, and summarizes of the foundational Scriptural truth of salvation by faith (Acts 15:9) through grace (Acts 15:11).
  • Paul and Barnabas follow with more a detailed description of their experiences in Acts 15:12.
  • Following these, James affirms what Peter said (ignoring all the experiences) by confirming it through direct revelation, quoting from the Old Testament (Acts 15:13-17). His conclusion is based upon what was revealed, not what was experienced (and there were many experience to draw upon).

Experience, in my understanding, cannot be the basis for our beliefs. Our understanding is too unclear, and our perceptions too easily tainted.

For the Shepherd and His sheep,
Kevin
Grateful husband of a Proverbs 31 wife, and the father of 15 blessings.
http://captive-thinker.blogspot.com

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I am a strong cessationist

I am a strong cessationist and have never agreed with Grudem on this. And Bob H makes a good argument about the "revivalism" wing of our movement. Reading some of them reminds me of what a friend of mine once said: "It's charasmaticism without the toungues."

Roger Carlson, Pastor
Berean Baptist Church

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Reply to Kevin

Kevin,

Totally agree with you about experience. It can't be the sole basis of our beliefs and we are so open as fallen human beings, to misinterpret our experiences and over- or under-read them. When it comes to this particular issue, however, the clear cut teaching that the gifts have ceased is not readily apparent in Scripture and the argument that they have ceased is actually based once again on experience, oddly enough.

Striving for the unity of the faith, for the glory of God ~ Eph. 4:3, 13; Rom. 15:5-7 I blog at Fundamentally Reformed. Follow me on Twitter.

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1 Cor 13:8

Bob Hayton wrote:
Kevin,

Totally agree with you about experience. It can't be the sole basis of our beliefs and we are so open as fallen human beings, to misinterpret our experiences and over- or under-read them. When it comes to this particular issue, however, the clear cut teaching that the gifts have ceased is not readily apparent in Scripture and the argument that they have ceased is actually based once again on experience, oddly enough.

I know that 1 Cor 13:8 has some opposing interpretations, but I still consider that an argument for cessation which is not based upon experience. It may have its shortcomings, but I think it to be stronger than arguments for continuing revelatory gifts.

It seems from my own "experience," that Charismatics base their "why" largely on what they experience. I guess I'm not versed well enough in cessationism arguments.

I appreciate the interaction.

For the Shepherd and His sheep,
Kevin
Grateful husband of a Proverbs 31 wife, and the father of 15 blessings.
http://captive-thinker.blogspot.com

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Some other resources and a Q for Bob H

Edgar's Satisfied by the Promise of the Spirit does a reasonable job of removing many of the teeth of Deere's arguments. Also Mike Riley has an unpublished refutation of Grudem available at DBTS's library--it is definitely worth a read--if I find the title I will relay it.

@Bob,
by your last phrase, do you mean the argument for cessation is experience-based because it is based the lack of experience?
Thanks.

SamH

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Lots to Think About

Aaron wrote:

Quote:
Grudem attempts to insure his view against Ephesians 2:20 problems by saying that even if the passage refers to two groups, he’d argue for a third non-authoritative congregational type of prophet. Compton counters that the context of Ephesians 2:20 refers to the apostles and prophets of churches in general, so what is true of them in Ephesians 2:20 is true of them elsewhere.

The most natural understanding of Eph. 2:20, IMO, is that the church is built upon the prophets (i.e., OT prophets) and apostles (i.e., New Testament apostles). I would argue that this is the first impression most of us would take of Eph. 2:20, esp. in light of 2 Timothy 3:16-17 with its assertion that we need all Scripture to become mature people of God in the Christian era.

Grudem also argues that in the NT, the AUTHORITY is seen not in the NT prophets, but the apostles. Thus there is an equivalency in authority between OT prophets and NT apostles, but not OT prophets and NT prophets. This is an important point in establishing a secondary sort of prophecy.

Because we distinguish between false teachers and true teachers (even in our day), we are not saying that true teachers never teach anything false. So Grudem would say that this non-authoritative gift of NT prophecy should not be confused with its OT counterpart, because the NT prophet is not the final word. The final word rested in the apostles, and, afterwards, in their writings (the Scriptures). Sola Scriptura is not about authority, but FINAL authority. Just because we believe we need no more revelation since we have the Scripture, the question remains "need for WHAT?" It is true that we need no more FINAL AUTHORITY, but we certainly need a secondary sort of authority (which is why we have elders and pastors and doctrinal statements and train counselors, etc.), even if fallible. We would argue that the fallible authorities must be checked against the infallible, but often fallible authorities address what is not directly addressed in Scripture.

If we view NT prophecy as a non-authoritative sharing of what people believe the Spirit is leading them to say, we approximate a common belief that transcends the "gifts" issue. If we choose to label that a "leading" or "sensitivity to God's Spirit," that would smell just as sweet.

Paul's desire that all would prophesy and suggesting that all should prophesy is an important factor to consider in this equation. In I Corinthians 14:39, Paul allows speaking in tongues if interpreted, but he ENCOURAGES all believers to prophesy:

Quote:
So, my brothers, earnestly desire to prophesy, and do not forbid speaking in tongues.

However we understand that, I think we can conclude that this is very different from the OT gift of Prophecy or the office of Prophet.

I am not saying Grudem is right, but I am saying that he could have some valid points.

"The Midrash Detective"

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Not much silence... but even silence can mean plenty

Bob,
I don't think there's much silence involved. In this particular piece we're assuming the burden is on someone to prove two levels of prophecy and then basically show that the case for that is weak.
So this piece doesn't make a case for one level of prophecy. But that doesn't mean it can't be done and hasn't been done.

Just to suggest roughly how the case might go...

1) We already have a gift of prophecy in the OT. Reformed folks are big on continuity right? ;) Is it really an argument from silence to point out that the gift is not specifically redefined anywhere in the NT? Not really, because the OT is not silent.
2) We know what prophecy was for in the OT: revealing to men the infallible words of God.
3) We know from Eph.2:20 and other passages that NT prophecy also has this purpose or at least has this among its purposes.
4) We know that the category of "false prophets" still existed in NT times, another clear similarity to OT prophecy.
5) We believe that the 66 books of the Bible fully accomplish the purpose of OT prophecy and accomplish the purpose of some NT prophecy.

So really, framing the question with a bias toward meaningful silence is seems justified. That is, the non-silent data seems to require us to ask, what evidence is there that NT prophecy is different?
Arguments from silence are not always weak arguments.

(e.g., if you're pounding a nail in with a hammer and I don't hear you cry in pain, it's pretty strong evidence that you didn't hit your thumb.)

Ed, I can see how a case could be made that the NT office of apostle basically replaces the OT office of prophet. And even apostles weren't infallible (Gal. 2, either Paul was right or Peter was... I'm with Paul), but when they claimed to be speaking for God, they were.
Anyway, if you're right that Eph.2.20 "prophets" should be understood to mean the OT prophets, the further raises the standard of evidence required to see "prophet" in the NT elsewhere mean something different.
That is, if people thought of "prophet" in the OT sense, you'd think Paul or Peter or John or someone would have to explicitly communicate: "these prophets are not like the OT ones." There is nothing like that.
Some tension, yes, but nothing like a redefining.

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kinda the wrong argument.

I've never been completely convinced by Grudem's exegetics - it's neither neat nor tidy.

BUT, (my opinion) it seem that the burden of the debate is on the cessationist side. I tend to side with Grudem. Not because his Biblical arguments are compleatly solid, but because they seem more plausible than the cessationist proof texts.

I mean, lets be honest here - if one examines the cessationist side it's pretty easy to poke holes in it pretty quick.

_______________
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Start poking.

Start poking.

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Bob Hayton wrote: When it

Bob Hayton wrote:

When it comes to this particular issue, however, the clear cut teaching that the gifts have ceased is not readily apparent in Scripture and the argument that they have ceased is actually based once again on experience, oddly enough.
This is a rather odd statement seeing that Compton's arguments do not come from experience but are exegetical/theological.

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Bob T., as always your

Bob T., as always your thorough grasp of the issue is edifying. When I read Grudem's use of the Granville Sharp rule I immediately understood his misuse. In fact, here is a crushing response by http://www.efg-hohenstaufenstr.de/downloads/bibel/prophecy03.html Dr. Farnell on Grudem's erring use of the Granville Sharp rule . This is a second year Bible college error and an embarrassing one.

Thanks for helping people with the history of the pre-Grudem path.

Thank you Aaron for the solid approach in the article.

The dearth of basic exegetical skills to keep people from such positions is startling.

But one thing I have noticed in response to Kevin's question about why Grudem, Piper, et.al are accepted as they are. I believe that this broad willingness to engage in forms of sycophantic allegiance to these Teachers (who are misguiding on critical issues) is because (in a large part but not only this by any means) people have come across certain forms of pious sounding writings during their formative years and invest far, far too much of their ego or self into the arguments of these men instead of being actual students of the Bible, they become students of the arguments of such men. Hence they simply cannot bring themselves to admit that they are wrong, particularly some years down the road. They really do not have independent judgment skills per se with regard to theology, rather they have simply become extensions of Augustine, Calvin, Piper, and so on. Hence they cannot judge such men's writings with a sufficient amount of objectivity to understand and accept where they err and sometimes seriously.

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one more thing

My copy of Grudem's The Gift of Prophecy is packed away at the moment, so I am going from memory on this.

Grudem comes to his position acknowledging the weakness of the traditional Pentecostal/Charismatic viewpoint. That is, they have a problem with supposed ongoing revelation and a closed canon. Grudem wants to avoid that mistake, so he invents the 'dumbed down New Testament prophet' category.

One huge problem with his view that has been touched on, but not fully dealt with in this thread is with respect to the prophecy of Agabus. Agabus says, "Thus says the Holy Spirit". Now either the HS said it or he didn't. Paul the APOSTLE was standing right there. I kinda think he was a guy who had the HS. Yet Paul doesn't rebuke Agabus or correct his statement. He lets it stand. This is consistent with Paul's earlier testimony to the Ephesian elders:

Acts 20:23 except that the Holy Spirit solemnly testifies to me in every city, saying that bonds and afflictions await me.

There is no good reason to say that Agabus made a mistake. There is no good reason to say that the Holy Spirit didn't say exactly what Agabus said.

So Grudem has avoided a problem with ongoing revelation only to fall into a problem with inerrancy.

Maranatha! Don Johnson Jer 33.3

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Catching up...

1 Cor. 13:8 - the issue is not opposing interpretations only, it is also the lack of a unified interpretation on this passage from the cessationist camp. There are plenty of differences of opinion among cessationists on this unclear passage.

Sam's Question: - By your last phrase, do you mean the argument for cessation is experience-based because it is based the lack of experience? Yes. A lack of experience is a big part of their argument, as far as I understand it.

Great points raised by Ed V - Note also his concluding point about 1 Cor. 14:39. What does this mean in a cessationist world? If prophecy was intended to give us God's Word, did God go about giving everyone His Word prior to the completion of the canon? If so, given the fact that God's Word is precisely situated in specific letters to churches, what did that pre-complete-canon giving of His Word look like?

Aaron, you're misreading me - Aaron, I'm not directly questioning the NT prophecy argument so much as speaking generally on the cessationism debate in general. You bring up an interesting point, though. You claim that the whole point of prophets in the OT and presumably the NT too, was to give us God's Word. But what were the guys at the school of the prophets doing? Taking turns receiving inspiration and penning a verse or two here and there? It sure seems like a ministry that didn't involve Scripture writing, only. It seems from Scripture that prophetic ministry could happen irrespective of Scripture-authoring, Elijah and Elisha come to mind as prime examples of that. Yes, Scripture came by means of prophets, but Scripture-writing and Scripture-speaking was not their sole occupation.

The silence I see is silence in explaining that all these prophetic utterances that you are having to judge, that you are supposed to strive to participate in yourself, that these now are supposted to stop after a certain date or time period. The New Testament is mostly silent on exactly how that's going to pan out. The lists of gifts to the church don't come complete with modifiers to some of the gifts as bearing expiration dates.

Another relevant point, I think, is found in Rev. 19:10: "the testimony of Jesus is the spirit of prophecy." How does this fit in with prophecy being only the revealing of God's Words. This could fit with that understanding, but it seems to speak of much more. Is testifying of Jesus somehow to be considered as prophecy?

sycophantic allegiance - I knew I was struggling with something... Smile Seriously, though. I'm sorry, but this isn't sycophantic allegiance to a person. I'm still studying this out in many respects, but I am bound by the Word of God and my study of it. You can say I'm beholden to my newfound popular teachers just as surely as I can say you are warped by stodgy tradition and prejudice. Either way we're judging motives and befuddling the real question.

Agabus and others - I haven't read Grudem on this, but from what I've seen here I'd have to agree his take is a big stretch. It's interesting that Paul didn't feel bound to listen to Agabus and not go to Jerusalem, though. In fact, prior to Agabus arriving, we find this in Acts 21:4, "And through the Spirit they were telling Paul not to go on to Jerusalem." What does this mean from a cessationist perspective and why did Paul not listen to them??

Striving for the unity of the faith, for the glory of God ~ Eph. 4:3, 13; Rom. 15:5-7 I blog at Fundamentally Reformed. Follow me on Twitter.

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We're leaving something out, folks

We don't know what we do not know.

We do try to put clues together in the NT all the time to come up with appropriate practices. That's why some of our churches have elders, deacons, and deaconesses, while others have pastors and deacons. Still others have bishops or other hierarchy. Grudem is trying to put together clues that do exist.

If OT and NT prophecy were identical, you would expect to hear from Paul, "test the prophecies; if any is wrong in the least point, do not listen to that person again." He certainly provides plenty of other standards for using the gifts. What we do NOT hear is a clue as well. I believe in the "deductive check." What would we expect to see if something is true. Do we see it?

The reverse is also true. You do not have people labelled "exhorters" in the OT, yet some did exhort.

Even in the OT, we have cases where "prophesying" does not necessarily make one a prophet, which is an important part of this discussion. To confound the two is at best a questionable assumption. Saul, for example, prophesied and associated with that mysterious band called the "school of the prophets" (perhaps a prototype for the rabbi and disciple model later espoused by Judaism and Jesus?), 1 SAMUEL 10:10-12

Quote:
10 When he and his servant arrived at Gibeah, a procession of prophets met him; the Spirit of God came powerfully upon him, and he joined in their prophesying. 11 When all those who had formerly known him saw him prophesying with the prophets, they asked each other, “What is this that has happened to the son of Kish? Is Saul also among the prophets?”
12 A man who lived there answered, “And who is their father?” So it became a saying: “Is Saul also among the prophets?”

I would suggest that even much (fallible) prophesying in the OT was common. But that does not mean that those who were in the school of the prophets were themselves recognized as AUTHORITATIVE prophets. Grudem doesn't even go there, but he is not a Jewish roots guy like yours truly Smile So, as those of us who practice believer's baptism say, "Put that in your baptistry and immerse it" (well, you have to admit that sounds better than putting that in your pipe and smoking it!).

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Bob Hayton wrote: sycophantic

Bob Hayton wrote:

sycophantic allegiance - I knew I was struggling with something... Smile Seriously, though. I'm sorry, but this isn't sycophantic allegiance to a person. I'm still studying this out in many respects, but I am bound by the Word of God and my study of it. You can say I'm beholden to my newfound popular teachers just as surely as I can say you are warped by stodgy tradition and prejudice. Either way we're judging motives and befuddling the real question.
Bob,

My response which you are quoting in minimum, was a general response to a general question by Kevin S who was not asking it as if it addressed the primary issue, it simply was a related question. No where was your name mentioned and in fact I was quite clear in stating that I was responding directly to Kevin's general question. It was your choice to take it personally but it certainly was not given personally. The distinctions between general and personal must be retained for accurate responses. This is a bit off topic so to the moderators, please forgive the sidebar, but I believed it necessary to provide a fair response to this indictment.

Now...back to the topic at hand Smile

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Alex,

Alex,

Sorry, so it wasn't directed to me, but you still feel liberty to judge the motives of people in general. Fine, I agree that discussion is a bit off topic. Thanks for clarifying it. I still think those statements are overkill on your part though. But we can disagree charitably.

Striving for the unity of the faith, for the glory of God ~ Eph. 4:3, 13; Rom. 15:5-7 I blog at Fundamentally Reformed. Follow me on Twitter.

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I have never found Grudem's

I have never found Grudem's arguments here persuasive, unlike his very fine work on the issue of women's roles. Just the use of the word prophet in the book of Acts freely intermixes the word for Old and New Testament prophets without any distinction whatsoever. In my mind, that such a key idea as prophecy should be radically changed without explanation puts the burden of proof on those who say there is now a radically different two-tier meaning to the word prophet.

I have to disagree with my brother here:

Quote:
In I Corinthians 14:39, Paul allows speaking in tongues if interpreted, but he ENCOURAGES all believers to prophesy:

Quote:
So, my brothers, earnestly desire to prophesy, and do not forbid speaking in tongues.

However we understand that, I think we can conclude that this is very different from the OT gift of Prophecy or the office of Prophet.

I think the natural way to understand 1 Cor 14:29 is not that Paul wants every individual to prophesy, but that they should all desire prophecy in the congregation. The plural is a corporate, not individual desire. He says essentially the same thing in 1 Cor 12:31 about desiring the greater gifts...right after saying not all individuals have all the gifts...including prophecy. They should earnestly desire the greater gifts to be used in their meetings, not for themselves. 1 Cor 12:29-31 really precludes an understanding of 14:29 that Paul wants each Corinthian believer to prophesy.

Finally, I had a class once with Grudem. He is a very gentle, sweet, godly man. His nature is to be a unifier. I think his effort to bridge the gap between people he loves in the charismatic movement and among cessationists had more of an influence on his scholarship here than he realizes. I agree with Don Johnson that this has led him to put forth an idea with dangerous ramifications for inerrency, something I am sure he did not intend to do.

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Doesn't work

Wayne,

That approach to 1 Cor. 14:39 doesn't work. Compare the first few verses of that chapter:

Quote:
1 Pursue love, and earnestly desire the spiritual gifts, especially that you may prophesy. 2 For one who speaks in a tongue speaks not to men but to God; for no one understands him, but he utters mysteries in the Spirit. 3 On the other hand, the one who prophesies speaks to people for their upbuilding and encouragement and consolation. 4 The one who speaks in a tongue builds up himself, but the one who prophesies builds up the church. 5 Now I want you all to speak in tongues, but even more to prophesy. The one who prophesies is greater than the one who speaks in tongues, unless someone interprets, so that the church may be built up.

It is clear he is saying he wants all of them to prophesy rather than speak in tongues. Is speaking in tongues a corporate function or private? Painfully private according to Paul, instead he wants them to pursue prophesying.

Striving for the unity of the faith, for the glory of God ~ Eph. 4:3, 13; Rom. 15:5-7 I blog at Fundamentally Reformed. Follow me on Twitter.

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Works for me

Quote:
That approach to 1 Cor. 14:39 doesn't work. Compare the first few verses of that chapter:

Quote:
1 Pursue love, and earnestly desire the spiritual gifts, especially that you may prophesy. 2 For one who speaks in a tongue speaks not to men but to God; for no one understands him, but he utters mysteries in the Spirit. 3 On the other hand, the one who prophesies speaks to people for their upbuilding and encouragement and consolation. 4 The one who speaks in a tongue builds up himself, but the one who prophesies builds up the church. 5 Now I want you all to speak in tongues, but even more to prophesy. The one who prophesies is greater than the one who speaks in tongues, unless someone interprets, so that the church may be built up.

It is clear he is saying he wants all of them to prophesy rather than speak in tongues. Is speaking in tongues a corporate function or private? Painfully private according to Paul, instead he wants them to pursue prophesying.

I appreciate that point, Bob, and I can understand your reasoning, but I can't bring myself to isolate Paul's wish in 14:5 from what has come before. I don't think Paul is contradicting what he already said in chp. 12, that the gifts are distributed according to the will by the Holy Spirit (12:11) and that we are all given different gifts (12:14-31). He devotes a large amount of space to our different giftedness for the common good. It is clearly established that not all have tongues and not all will have the gift of prophecy.

So I am taking what he clearly said with me when I get to chp. 14. He's not going to contradict a core principle he's laid out, so I believe Paul's wish or want in 14:5 is more in the spirit of Moses' statement in Numbers 11:29 "Would that all the Lord's people were prophets, that the Lord would put His Spirit upon them!" But that wasn't going to happen and he knew it, just as Paul knows it here. Moses is saying he would share his gift with all if it were up to him, that he is claiming no special privilege. I assume Paul, likewise, is saying he would love to see it, that it would be great, that he has no interest in limiting the gift to himself, for himself, or by his own desire. Still, he knows and has taught that God will limit it according to His will.

If I say to a group of hungry Bible students studying for the ministry, "I wish that you were all great and gifted pulpit men like Spurgeon," I would not necessarily be proclaiming what will be the case or what I expect God to accomplish. But do I think it would be wonderful? Absolutely!! But I might really be saying they shouldn't all expect to be like Spurgeon, but to work hard and yet be content with the gift God has given them.

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Yes, but

Yes, but.... I can see some of what you're saying, not all will prophesy. But surely 2 or 3 will prophesy in a given church service, per his instructions in chapter 14. How does that fit in with prophecy being just given to give us the Word of God (which we now have in written form, hence no more prophecy needed). No matter how you dice it, you're stretching if you're saying that all Paul is saying is we should hope for some corporate operation of prophesy -- which now is replaced by reading the Word of God -- Prophecy written down.

I contend that what Paul is talking about with regards to prophecy in 1 Cor. has to be more than just the words written down on the pages of Scripture that we have today. If it is more than those words, what in the world was prophecy and is there some less authoritative secondary type prophecy similar to what Grudem refers to, or not?

I agree with Ed that we are piecing things together and trying to make sense of Scripture and our current expereince/practice. At the very least, the difficulties we're encountering reveal this isn't just a cut and dry, super-simplistic issue.

Striving for the unity of the faith, for the glory of God ~ Eph. 4:3, 13; Rom. 15:5-7 I blog at Fundamentally Reformed. Follow me on Twitter.

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The task of prophets, arg's from silence, etc.

Bob wrote:
You claim that the whole point of prophets in the OT and presumably the NT too, was to give us God's Word. But what were the guys at the school of the prophets doing? Taking turns receiving inspiration and penning a verse or two here and there? It sure seems like a ministry that didn't involve Scripture writing, only. It seems from Scripture that prophetic ministry could happen irrespective of Scripture-authoring, Elijah and Elisha come to mind as prime examples of that. Yes, Scripture came by means of prophets, but Scripture-writing and Scripture-speaking was not their sole occupation.

I may have overstated my point there. I don't believe all prophecy was intended to be written down. But all prophecy was intended to communicate authoritative word from God. Grudem's argument--indeed any continuing-prophecy argument--has to posit a dramatic change in the nature of prophecy from "Here's what God says" to "Here's an impression I think I got from God, possibly."

This is a big change and requires some very strong biblical evidence. No amount of vagueness in NT references to prophecy can satisfy the evidence threshold for that particular thesis because "Prophecy = thus says the Lord" is the starting point.
There could be zero evidence in the NT of ceasing gifts (which is not the case) and we'd still have "Prophecy = thus says the Lord" as the starting point.

Bob H. wrote:
The silence I see is silence in explaining that all these prophetic utterances that you are having to judge, that you are supposed to strive to participate in yourself, that these now are supposed to stop after a certain date or time period. The New Testament is mostly silent on exactly how that's going to pan out. The lists of gifts to the church don't come complete with modifiers to some of the gifts as bearing expiration dates.

Pretty much answered above. The real problem is the nature of prophecy.
Belief in the closed canon has long meant belief that God has given us all the special revelation He intends to give.

A point I missed earlier: is cessationism founded on arguments from experience? Well, there is certainly a lot of corroborating evidence of that sort in reference to tongues and prophecy and healing, but a logical argument has long been more central to the case. In a nutshell it's this:

Exegetical evidence that tongues, healing, prophecy had a special purpose + exegetical and historical evidence of the accomplishing of that purpose = prophecy, etc. have ceased.

Bob H. wrote:
Rev. 19:10: "the testimony of Jesus is the spirit of prophecy." How does this fit in with prophecy being only the revealing of God's Words. This could fit with that understanding, but it seems to speak of much more. Is testifying of Jesus somehow to be considered as prophecy?

I don't think cessationists have to answer that, because the view that prophecy="thus says the Lord" has the OT behind it and does not really have a problem to solve in the NT. John's statement is pretty vauge, though. He can certainly be understood to mean that "prophecy is testifying of Jesus" rather than "testifying of Jesus is prophecy." I realize that grammaticallly "is" works in both directions, but what I mean is that he is quite possibly saying something about the character of prophecy, not saying something about the character of other forms of speaking about Jesus. This would be consistent with Jesus' Emmaus road claim that "these are those that testify of me" in reference to the OT.

Bob H wrote:
sycophantic allegiance... I'm sorry, but this isn't sycophantic allegiance to a person.

I agree. Spurious argument.

Bob H wrote:
Agabus and others - I haven't read Grudem on this, but from what I've seen here I'd have to agree his take is a big stretch. It's interesting that Paul didn't feel bound to listen to Agabus and not go to Jerusalem, though. In fact, prior to Agabus arriving, we find this in Acts 21:4, "And through the Spirit they were telling Paul not to go on to Jerusalem." What does this mean from a cessationist perspective and why did Paul not listen to them??

I can't speak for other cessationists on this, but my view is that Agabus reveals the information from the Spirit then makes his own application, along with the others there, that Paul should not go. The Spirit predicts what will happen but does not instruct Paul not to go. This is why Paul is comfortable going. He is probably already aware that trouble awaits him (I think there may be textual evidence for that but I can't verify at the moment). So it seems the people did not react properly to what the Spirit revealed.
The wording of the text bears this out. You can see where the prophecy ends and the reaction begins...

11 When he had come to us, he took Paul’s belt, bound his own hands and feet, and said, “Thus says the Holy Spirit, ‘So shall the Jews at Jerusalem bind the man who owns this belt, and deliver him into the hands of the Gentiles.’ ”
12 Now when we heard these things, both we and those from that place pleaded with him not to go up to Jerusalem
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Re: Aaron

In a nutshell it's this: Exegetical evidence that tongues, healing, prophecy had a special purpose + exegetical and historical evidence of the accomplishing of that purpose = prophecy, etc. have ceased.

That really is the strongest cessationist argument. I just don't see that in 1 Cor. 14 as clearly as it's stated here. Prophecy builds up the church, tongues builds up the individual. Neither of those functions are exclusively a sign, although there is an element of those gifts being a sign mentioned in 1 Cor. 14. I still think this whole argument is by inference and deduction. If you read the whole NT you see signs and gifts all over the place and it seems they are to function and never is an explicit teaching given saying they will cease to function and will end with the canon.

Re: Agabus. You didn't deal with Acts 21:4 where it's not Agabus but others who are telling Paul not to go to Jerusalem, and they are telling him that "through the Spirit".

Striving for the unity of the faith, for the glory of God ~ Eph. 4:3, 13; Rom. 15:5-7 I blog at Fundamentally Reformed. Follow me on Twitter.

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Aaron Blumer wrote: Bob H

Aaron Blumer wrote:

Bob H wrote:
sycophantic allegiance... I'm sorry, but this isn't sycophantic allegiance to a person.

I agree. Spurious argument.

Well Aaron, I thought this had been clarified earlier with Bob H, apparently not. This out of context reference by Bob which was addressed and now you quote, out of context, is a response to Kevin's observation (I earlier said "question" but it was in fact an observation):
Kevin Subra wrote:
I am amazed at the wholesale followership of Grudem, Piper and others that embrace this view. It is convenient, but not consistent with Scripture.

It is not an argument regarding the principle matter, rather why some people follow these men without discretion. My suggestion as to why sycophantic allegiance was but one possible cause with the acknowledgment that there can be other reasons. So it is not an argument about cessationism vs non-cessationism in the least. But as to this sidebar, if you think these men or any Teacher does not have such followers, I have car that runs on imagination that I would love to sell to you.

If you're going to take a potshot, at least know what you're shooting at.

P.S. I again encourage others to read Farnell's work as a compliment to Compton's.

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Alex Guggenheim

Alex Guggenheim stated:

Quote:
But one thing I have noticed in response to Kevin's question about why Grudem, Piper, et.al are accepted as they are. I believe that this broad willingness to engage in forms of sycophantic allegiance to these Teachers (who are misguiding on critical issues) is because (in a large part but not only this by any means) people have come across certain forms of pious sounding writings during their formative years and invest far, far too much of their ego or self into the arguments of these men instead of being actual students of the Bible, they become students of the arguments of such men. Hence they simply cannot bring themselves to admit that they are wrong, particularly some years down the road. They really do not have independent judgment skills per se with regard to theology, rather they have simply become extensions of Augustine, Calvin, Piper, and so on. Hence they cannot judge such men's writings with a sufficient amount of objectivity to understand and accept where they err and sometimes seriously.

Alex, this is a very astute observation and I agree with it. From my perspective, my generation had its prominent teachers and heroes but there was not the kind of blind loyalty I sometimes see today. Dr. J. Vernon McGee was a person I respected and had influence on me but I had no problem rejecting his gap theory of creation after I read the Genesis flood, He never changed his position. I had other differences as time went on. I recognized his great ministry and teaching but could still recognize his weaknesses. Later I would take a stronger stand on separation. In 1976 I was at a week long conference at Cannon Beach Oregon with him. We talked every day about issues. He had taken a strong stand against Fuller Seminary and Neo Evangelicalism but was soft on being involved with Billy Graham. Inconsistent? Yes! We can have heroes but recognize their weaknesses and differ. I see a blind loyalty to teachers today that may be due to what you have said.