Friday, August 09, 2013

The Fallible Prophets of New Calvinism, Chapter III: The Troubling Example of Agabus

The Book: The Fallible Prophets of New Calvinism: An Analysis, Critique, and Exhortation Concerning Wayne Grudem’s Teaching on “Fallible Prophecy”, is available here.

Table of Contents:   9781935358138 _covRGBFLAT

Introduction: A Primer to Prophecy  

Chapter I: Prophecy - A Test of Love

Chapter II: Fallible Prophecy – Lexical Concerns

Chapter III: Fallible Prophecy – The Case of Agabus 

Chapter IV: Fallible Prophecy – A Gift for All?

Conclusion: The Fallible Prophets of New Calvinism


Chapter III addresses the important subject of Agabus’ prophecy. Only in Agabus do we have Luke describing a prophet who delivers a prophecy. The advocates of fallible prophecy argue that Agabus was in error when he uttered his prophecy (Acts 21:11). His is considered a central example for fallible prophecy seeing that Agabus purportedly prophesied an admixture of truth and error. What is interesting about Agabus’ prophecy is that it is quite simple in its construct, yet the question of fulfillment is much more complex. According to Grudem and others, Agabus was right about Paul being arrested in Jerusalem, yet wrong about the manner in which this would take place:

“He would have the general idea correct (Paul would be imprisoned at Jerusalem), but the details somewhat wrong.”[1]

“Agabus’ prophecies of “…‘binding’ and ‘giving over’ by the Jews—are explicitly falsified by the subsequent narrative”[2]

D.A. Carson is more direct in his accusations of the New Testament prophet:

"I can think of no reported Old Testament prophet whose prophecies are so wrong on the details."[3]

Yet, is it really true that Agabus was in error and are we to assume that the New Testament church has missed these “errors” for centuries? In order to scrutinize the question of his prophecy’s fulfillment (or lack thereof), we will need to examine a great span of passages, specifically Acts 21:11-23:22. Additionally, there are corroborating passages that we will also need to consult in Acts chapters 24-26 and 28. In light of the sheer volume of requisite texts for this subject, it is no surprise that Agabus’ example is not a simple one.

Remarkably Grudem’s approach to Agabus is one which rests almost entirely on the historical narrative of Acts 21:27-36. Without the full force of Acts 21:11-23:22, Grudem’s analysis proves to be desperately inadequate.  

[1] Grudem, The Gift of Prophecy, p. 81.

[2] Ibid., p. 80.

[3] Ibid.