Biblical prophecy is theme of lecture



Dr. Ellen F. Davis offered five aspects of Biblical prophecy that recur in the Bible and impact modern-day ministry.

The Amos Ragan Kearns professor of Bible and practical theology at Duke University Divinity School in North Carolina spoke Tuesday at First Presbyterian Church, 201 Wick Ave., as featured speaker in the David S. Schaff Lectures. She is the author of eight books and numerous articles. Her research focuses on how biblical interpretations influence faith in communities and response to public issues such as the environment and interfaith relations.

“It’s easier to talk about what’s prophetic and harder to talk about prophets,” she said to a crowd of about 40 clergy and lay leaders.

Moses, she continued, is an example of a prophet who confronts “royal consumers.” He is “truth speaking to power,” she said, and those are complex entities.

The “prophetic tradition” is in the Bible from Genesis to Revelation, the speaker said. But, she noted, for 21st-century Christians, “the topic of prophetic word ... indispensible to Bible writers” but is it “God’s will is for the world?”.

Putting it in terms of modern history, Davis asked “Could Martin Luther King do the same now as he did 50 years ago"

The five aspects are:

The radical concreteness of prophetic expression, which both engages hearers in particular contexts and makes vivid God’s engagement with the world.

The prophetic demand for moral, economic and religious integrity in human communities (Israel or church) and the recognition that human integrity in these several dimensions is fundamentally related to the God-given integrity of creation.

Prophetic participation in the suffering of the vulnerable within the created order and the social order, and prophetic witnessing to the suffering of God.”

Prophet as trusted friend of God, entrusted with a ministry of protest, prayer, healing and reconcilation.

Prophetic witness to the theological significance of those who do not worship Israel’s covenant with God, which is potentially a witness of reconcilation.

“Characters are vividly drawn,” she said of the Bible. She pointed out Isaiah Chapter 6, which cites God in the temple and offers a description of him on the throne. “It’s a vision with surround sound,” she said of the passage that describes the Lord’s flowing robe and the “seraphs” who surround him.

Davis noted the description “engages the senses” and “language pays homage to the spiritual.”

The passages in Isaiah “show God’s involvement with the world.”

Prophecies in Amos deal with the moral and natural spheres, she said. The moral relates to the sacrifices at the temple and the natural disasters that God can bring and the financial woes that would ensue.

“Amos challenges us,” Davis said, citing how we as consumers hurt other creatures.

Jeremiah, Davis said, “suffers at the cost of bearing true witness” and he protests to God about his suffering. Jeremiah’s relationship with God, she noted, “is a kind of friendship.”

“Biblical writers know God does not always respond,” Davis said. “God suffers with us ... that knowledge keeps us from giving up on God.”

She added, “God’s justice is not cruelly administered.”

In Jeremiah 29, there are contradictory messages, Davis said. There are references to peace, and peace in Babylon, but in the end, Babylon must perish.

At an evening lecture, Davis’ topic was “Destroyers of the Earth: A Prophetic Critique of Empire.”

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