Prophecy: Jack Deere’s view on it

Next, we look at how Jack Deere views the office of the prophets and prophecy both in biblical times and modern times. The main definition for prophecy focuses on Deuteronomy 18. While this writer agrees that prophecy is one of the gifts of the Holy Spirit, we must be careful to not elevate that gift to the same level as the divinely inspired Word.

Deere’s View on Prophecy

A serious issue with the book is Deere’s casual handling of the biblical prophets, or as to use his term, those that are “prophetically gifted.” Deere doesn’t believe that a failed or missed prediction makes a false prophet. He will even go so far as to say that the 100% accuracy rule of Deuteronomy 18:15-22 is not the correct interpretation of that text, nor does he hold 100% accuracy view for the New Testament.[1] Thus, let us now look at Deuteronomy 18:18, 20, 22 to see what it says:

[A]nd I will put my words in his mouth. He will tell them everything I command him…. But a prophet who presumes to speak in my name anything I have not commanded, or a prophet who speaks in the name of other gods, is to be put to death…. If what a prophet proclaims in the name of the Lord does not take place or come true, that is a message the Lord has not spoken.

In reviewing the passage in Deuteronomy, the view of this writer is that Deere has missed the mark. If one claims to be a prophet and speaks presumptuously for God a message that God has not delivered to them, then the prophet is a false prophet. Since they are a false prophet, then they are deserving of death. From this passage, there are two main standards of truth. First, that it must be 100% accurate. Second, that it must match the word of God. This standard would then apply in spirit at all times, not just in ancient Israel. In view of the text, an Old Testament prophet could be defined as one who speaks for God. A prophet is one in whom God has placed His words and because they are from God, the standard of accuracy is 100%. “Deuteronomy 18 does more than establish the prophet as a divinely deputized spokesman; it correlates his mission with the proclamation of God’s divinely given words.”[2]

Contrary to the biblical standard of Deuteronomy 18, Deere instead believes that “the way to discern between false and true prophets is to examine the fruit of the prophet’s ministry.”[3] Deere later mentions that “certainly, truth or fulfillment of prophecy would be part of the good fruit.”[4] By mentioning fruit, he is causing the reader to observe the effects of the prophet instead of the accuracy. While Deere admits that he knows of no prophets that are absolutely accurate 100% of the time, he believes that prophetic error can still produce fruit of the Spirit.[5] At the same time, in viewing prophets in this way, he has made a fundamental mistake saying in effect that God speaks in error.

This directs us back to the definition of a prophet. If prophecy can be defined as speaking God’s words, then what Deere terms a “prophetically gifted” person must be called a prophet. While Deere says that the “prophetically gifted” are right most of the time but not all of the time, if they claim to speak the words of God, then by definition they must be called prophets. If the standard of a prophet is that they will speak the words that God will put into their mouths, and because God is who He is and He is the standard of truth, then the prophecy must be 100% accurate. Unfortunately, these “prophets” do not meet the standard of truth that God set out for them in His Word. Deere instead tries to fit God’s Word into his theology. Truth can be defined as “a statement or idea that is true or accepted as true.”[6] Examining truth further, the “root notion of truth is that of something measuring up – that is, measuring up in being or excellence.”[7] God is the only and best standard of truth. When God-breathed out His inspired Word by using the Spirit to guide the biblical authors to write these inerrant words, He gave us His standard of truth.

The issue at hand is not about adding these prophetic words to the Bible. As discussed, the canon is a closed discussion. The issue is if God is speaking these words through these “prophets,” then they are from God and have God as their source. This means that they are also considered inspired, which means they must be true. But when Deere says that not every prophet is 100% accurate and are wrong some of the time, then they cannot be from God because His words meet the standard of truth and come with His authority. These “prophets” simply do not measure up.

[1] Deere, 69.

[2] Henry, 16.

[3] Ibid.

[4] Deere, 326.

[5] Ibid, 68-69.

[6] Merriam-Webster, s.v. “True,” accessed May 3, 2014,                                            http://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/true.

[7] Nicholas Wolterstorff, “True Words,” in But is it All True?: The Bible and the Question of Truth, ed. Alan Padgett and Patrick Keifert (Cambridge, UK: WM. B. Eerdmans 2006), 43.

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