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7 years ago  ::  Jan 17, 2011 - 5:57PM #1
Posts: 18

Hey, I'm not a Christian, but I have read parts of the Bible. I have a question though, in the Bible there are many prophets, seers, fortune-tellers, and they are celebrated, yet, seers, prophets, and fortune-tellers of today are being condemned. Why is this?

I don't mean for this to seem like I'm criticizing, I'm just really curious. 

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7 years ago  ::  Jan 17, 2011 - 6:15PM #2
Posts: 12,363

Their acceptance is a denomination-by-denomination thing.

The LDS (Mormon) faith, for example, is indeed headed by a person who is regarded as being a prophet.

Other faiths, however, regard the position of "prophet" as being obsolete for whatever reason.

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7 years ago  ::  Jan 17, 2011 - 8:05PM #3
Posts: 4,367


The Old Testament prophets were not, contrary to popular belief, fortune tellers or "seers" in a supernatural sense.

The role of prophet, in the Hebrew community, was to communicate the will of God to the people, and to speak truth to power. (If you read the books of the prophets, you'll note that they're not usually the most popular folks, especially with religious and political leaders.) If you read the texts without the presupposition that the prophets are engaging in some kind of mystical seerdom, you'll see that they're keen observers of "the way it is," with insights into consequences -- what will happen if people keep doing what they're doing, and what will happen if they don't.) Rachel Carson, the author of "Silent Spring," who first warned of the dangers of widespread pesticide use (initially to a very skeptical public) is a contemporary, secular model of a prophet. Martin Luther King, holding out a possible future of racial harmony but also warning of the consequences of a divided nation, and calling out political and religious leaders alike for hindering the cause of civil rights and peace, is another contemporary prophet in the OT model.

So, first of all, I think you need to expand your understanding of prophet to the way it's understood by scholars, pastors and other biblically literate people.

But you still have a valid question, i.e., why Christians tend to look askance at people who do seem to possess, or who claim to have, clairvoyant abilities even though some notable people of faith seemed  have a gift in this area. I think one reason is because so many of them are fraudulent and exploitative of others or self-delusional. Religion, at its best, is in the truth business, so it behooves religious people to be grounded in truth; in reality.  There is also a sense within Christianity that we live "by faith and not by sight"; that, for whatever God's reasons, that seems to be part of the divine plan most of the time for most of us; and people who are constantly wanting to know about the future are not placing their ultimate trust in God but rather in their seer of choice, or in their own perceived ability to finesse the future.

Traditionally when Christians have felt that they were receiving some kind of special, extraordinary insight into future events, the standard m.o. for that has been  to subject it to group discernment -- using the faith community as a kind of reality check. (That, admittedly, doesn't always work, as in the case of "The Great Disappontment" back in the mid-1800's when a bunch of folks, led by a "prophet," sold all they had, even took off their clothes, and all sat on a mountaintop waiting for the end of the world as "prophesied." Didn't happen, obviously.;-) (Although their spiritual descendants are still with us.)

My own (Lutheran) tradition tends to understand "prophetic utterance" in the way that I explained it in my initial paragraphs. Among other things, it really makes reading the OT prophets more interesting and intellectually engaging, at least to me.

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7 years ago  ::  Jan 18, 2011 - 11:27AM #4
Posts: 5,267

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7 years ago  ::  Mar 29, 2011 - 11:36AM #5
Posts: 147

When a person is "religious" if something happens they call it a "miracle."

But if a person is not seen as part of a religion, then it is called "magic."

It really just depends on what side the religion you are on.

Historically, the major religions could write the history 

Name calling is part of that.

So if you were part of a religion that is popular you were a "prophet."

If you were on the outside of that religion you were labeled "a witch, seer, soothsayer."

It is all in how you look at it.

If I say Jesus did magic, people try to correct me. Why?  Jesus did do magic. 

Everyone sees it differently and with prejudice.

This is the reason for using different words for the exact same thing.

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7 years ago  ::  Mar 29, 2011 - 11:51AM #6
Posts: 1,268
I completely agree with Nonchristianheaven. It seems humans are so dualistic in thinking that if one doesn't see something in the same way, and use the same vocabulary to communicate about it, their point of view is condemned, or at the very least invalidated. We are so attached to being 'right' that we have to make others wrong to preserve our position, instead of acknowledging that many can be saying the same thing, just using different metaphors.
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6 years ago  ::  Sep 16, 2011 - 10:30AM #7
Posts: 24

This is a bit of a simplistic answer and I'm sure many people could come back and add a lot of indepth theology and philosophy to this, but this is my effort.

As others have said it depends on a persons viewpoint as to how they see these people. Different names for those who can give insight into the future or God's will are used by different people.

In the bible there are also those with insight into spiritual/future matters who were condemned.

In the bible, the difference between those who are condemned and those who are praised lies with where the power comes from. God gives power to give insight into his will and the future (Pharoah/Joseph's dreams) to people. These can be ordinary people not necesarily religious leaders. This still happens today!

The devil/ evil spirits also gives power to people to see into the future. This also still hapens to people today.

Some churches are reluctant even to accept the first type, because they fear that they will not know where the power/gifting is coming from.

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