Prophecy or Fortune-telling?

Noshic's picture

A friend of mine told me yesterday about how his church invited a 'Prophet' over from the US, and how this Prophet/preacher prophesized over each member - concerning their career/ business/ international travel/ relationships etc etc. My friend was mighty impressed...But somehow I felt very concerned - It sounds to me more like fortune-telling than genuine prophecy.

From my understanding, even if a person is given that gift, it is not something that is used lightly and at will to predict everyone's future. It has to be an inner, powerful moving by the Spirit for God's specific purpose.

And this is not even a one-off incident. Most of the Christians I've personally come across in this part of the world tend to be heavily into prophecy, speaking in tongues etc.. People like Benny Hinn and other tele-evangelists have a lot of appeal here. And I've known people who've been left really scarred and disillusioned when the superficiality of all this is exposed.

I can't help feeling that most of this phenomenon arises from a forced imitation of a faulty mental picture of the early church. Or worse, it is something that is deliberately done to exploit in-built cultural superstitions. Some people certainly are building highly-paying careers out of religion and taking the gullible for a ride.

Am I wrong to feel concerned? Is it just my scientific, skeptical temperament that makes me question things that seem overtly emotive or out of order?

I'd like to hear other people's views / experiences in this area. Is this a uniquely Indian phenomenon, or are you seeing more of this in the West too? Do others too feel concerned? How do you deal with it?

re: cast out

Perhaps we are defining "blaspheme" slightly different, which is why I posted a definition which simply defines it as attributing to God that which is from another source, which might well be from us.

I think we probably are. I've heard people attribute their thoughts to the Spirit of God, and genuinely believed it. I don't think of that as blasphemy, just delusion. I've also heard people who have used the "Spirit of God" as a tool to manipulate sincere believers--the televangelist who announces that God's Spirit as revealed someone watching the show needs to be more thankful, for example. That kind of psychological manipulation is somehow sinister, and even if the person's motive is only something as mundane as greed, they still have presented themselves as God. Maybe this isn't exactly blasphemy, but it's close enough in my thinking that I wouldn't want to stray there. I'd rather be sincerely delusional than cynically manipulative :)

And I believe that some who have been pressured into the sort of activity you mention should go beyond, if they conclude they were mistaken, should go beyond "I made a mistake" and get to "I'm sorry, Father, that I attributed to You messages that were not really Yours." It's a simple, humble prayer.

If the person attributed specific revelatory messages while deluding themselves in response to the pressure of a generically charismatic church culture--not that all charismatic churches are bad--I would likewise think that repairs need to be made, once the error has been realized. And it should ideally go beyond, "Sorry, Father." It should also include the apology, "Sorry, congregation. Sorry, person I misled." It's an amazingly uncomfortable thing to wake up and realize you have confused zealous religious fever with spiritual ecstasy, and I suppose it would be even harder to return to those who attributed special devotion or piety to you and correct the error.

Actually, I know a man who for decades knowingly lived in a charismatic illusion; he didn't know how to approach his brothers and sisters in Christ and say, "That wasn't what you thought it was; it was only a pressured Christian allowing others to categorize his experiences because he wanted to be known as a successful Christian." Ultimately, my friend lost faith in the church which taught him to expect the unrealistic as a matter of course, and in the end I suppose he lost faith altogether. That's a real danger in prophetic/charismatic church culture, as it can leverage enormous psychological pressure on Christians to become something they are not.

It sounds like we're on the same basic page and using different terminology :)