The Pilgrim’s Pensieve #25

Lost Direction

My first ever post in this series was more or less my manifesto. Coming from a Pentecostal/Charismatic background I’ve seen the movement’s brilliance but also its shortcomings, which I have personally experienced and been harmed by. I am not willing to throw out the baby with the bath water but the movement does need a reformation. On my part I do not hold any pretensions that I can save Pentecostalism but I do want to recover for myself a biblical vision of a charismatic faith. I’ve made quite a lot of progress pursuing some tough questions even though many still remain.

I just finished reading The Prophetic Imagination by pre-eminent Old Testament scholar Walter Brueggemann which in a sense brings me full circle back to my original manifesto. Prophetism is a key facet of the global Pentecostal/Charismatic Movement (CM.) In my own context it has unparalleled prominence and controversy. I for long time was deeply embedded in it and I left it deeply dissatisfied with what I saw, finding very little relationship with the local expressions of the prophetic I was used to and what I found in the scriptures. Reading The Prophetic Imagination I learnt a lot but the real strength of the book is the sweeping vision of the biblical prophetic tradition it presents. It presented an opportunity for me to deeply reflect on scripture as a whole and through those reflections I am convinced that the Ghanaian expression of the prophetic is different from the Bible. Before I read Brueggemann I already thought things didn’t line up at all, but going through it I realised the dissonance could not be more marked and profound. I would even go so far as to say, and say confidently, that contemporary Ghanaian prophetism has no continuity with the biblical prophetic tradition.

In conversation with close friends I say it regularly but I do not think I have said it on this platform before, at least not as poignantly: Ghanaian prophets closely resemble local shamans and fetish priests and are not like the biblical prophets. Even the sincere ones who do not wish to manipulate or defraud people fall into the same camp as those who have an essentially pagan worldview. No, I am not a cessationist, not even a soft one, and I do believe there are probably genuine prophets and prophetic voices out there in the Ghanaian church. The trouble is I do not see them and therefore I am going off only what I have seen. In a way you do expect the genuine voices not to encamp before the camera and entertain the masses with all their spiritualised theatrics. I cannot presume to say what God is or is not doing in the present especially when he promised on Pentecost that the Spirit will be poured out on flesh. However, this false vision of the prophetic needs to be dismantled and a new biblical vision raised. In future posts I hope to grapple with current prophetic crisis and perhaps point forward to a better way.

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