I’m part of the second year cohort in the Missional Training Center, a paradigm-shifting experiment in theological education that will–God willing–result in me having a Master’s Degree a few years from now. Here are some reflections from last week.
The Prophets — Heath Thomas
Last week’s classes were taught by Heath Thomas, visiting professor from Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary. We focused on the Prophets, and it was outstanding. I came away with a four key things I want to remember.
1. A prophet is a spokesperson for God, regardless of class or gender. The main job of a prophet is to speak “the word of the Lord.” This is what they are constrained to speak, as anything else could result in a heap of trouble (Deut 13:1-5). What is beautiful, however, is that God did not only speak through one type of prophet. There was significant diversity among the backgrounds of the people God spoke through.
2. God’s word was and is present in both the speaking of the prophet and the composition of the book. Many of the prophecies we have recorded in Scripture were spoken (preached) beforehand and then compiled into a book. While that may seem like our version of podcasting or transcribing, they key difference is that the prophecies were not necessarily compiled in the order they were spoken. Often the prophet or editors arranged material in thematic or other ways. Nonetheless, both the spoken oracles of the prophet and the final composition of the book are the word of the Lord. As Paul told Timothy, “All Scripture is breathed out by God” (2 Tim 3:16).
3. The Prophets show us a God who is both Covenant Lord and Cosmic King. God has authority over his people and over the nations. The Prophets show God in covenant with his people, offering salvation and warning against judgment. At the same time, however, the Prophets show that God is reigning over the nations and over all of creation. He is not simply the God of Israel, but the one true God over all. Micah 4:1-5 provides a beautiful picture of how these relate to one another, showing that the nations are blessed as God’s people are faithful to him.
4. Reading commentaries early in the study process is good. I have often felt bad that I consult commentaries rather early in my study, since you’re typically told to only do that after you’ve already come up with all your conclusions (as a kind of check/balance). A side discussion in class, however, showed me how this typical approach is overly individualistic and disregards the many wise insights that the body of Christ brings to understanding the Scriptures. We are arrogant and overly influenced by Enlightenment thinking if we imagine that we can come to all the best conclusions (mostly) on our own.