One of the most popular (yet possibly ambiguous) terms used in the Malaysian socio-politicalcontext is the term 'prophetic'. Malaysians are frequently exhorted to heed the prophetic call tospeak up against the injustices of the Barisan Nasional government and even vote against theincumbent government (or, more specifically, voting
Pakatan Rakyat).It’s surely apt for Christians, therefore, to ensure a reasonably sound understanding of anyBiblical term as a pre-condition for its use in the public square. How then are prophets and prophetic understood in the Bible? Let’s look at the Old and New testaments:
Old Testament - a prophet is a person anointed/chosen by YHWH to embody and perform His proclamation of
blessing to the kingdoms of Israel andJudah (and occasionally to her neighbors), to remind her of her covenantal obligations,her role as light to the world, to chastise them for their economic, political, social andreligious(!) sins/crimes/oppression, to 'threaten' them with exile and punishment shouldthey continue in their evil ways and to promise them deliverance in the future.
New Testament - a prophet is a person who brings a word of (usually apostolic)encouragement, teaching, futuristic visions and/or direction and leadership to theChurch (in relation to the Gospel of Jesus Christ the Son of God).The above are, more or less, what is understood by the term, Biblically speaking
.Compare this against the generally accepted and exalted way of using the term in Malaysia,where a movement or person is considered “prophetic” by
speaking out, condemning and voting against a specific political party (we all know which one) and its injustices, failures, lies and crimes in Malaysia.
This more populist/civilly active definition is certainly right in what it includes but if we wish to be fair to the Biblical portrait of the prophet we need to ask what it excludes and, hopefully,understand why.So, for example, would the term ‘prophetic’ apply to:
some person (or movement) who speaks out against BN but who votes for them?
some person (or movement) who speaks out against BN but who chooses
some person (or movement)who speaks out against
Pakatan i.e. whosees injustices, lies and failures in both sides?
some person (or movement) who highlights the inconsistencies and failures of PakatanRakyat alone?
some person (or movement) who speaks out against Pakatan but also (quietly?) votes for them
The definitions are far from complete but I doubt anyone would wish to substantially
from it. The reader isalso most welcomed to
to the definitions as I suspect this would only strengthen the point made in this essay aboutthe current populist usage of the word being questionably selective and limited.
Isn’t this the irony of democracy? It’s a
system which works via
preferences and decisions i.e. we may NEVER know the true political views of the guy sitting next to us no matter what he complains about…