It wasn’t a great debate, but it wasn’t a bad one either. Here’s why.
On the plus side, both men dealt with each other in a gracious manner (No chair throwing or headlocks), explaining their views with sufficient clarity. And given the caliber of both Dr. Hamilton and Dr. Grudem, one is surely bound to listen with interest. Neither are lightweights. In fact, Dr. Grudem may very well be the leading Calvinistic/Charismatic voice of our day. D.A. Carson, John Piper and Sam Storm would be other well known figures. Nevertheless, the debate was missing that little something; that intangible spark that causes listeners to sit on the edges of their seats.
Why was that?
For me it was a lack of details, or, perhaps, crisp and convincing argumentation. If you think of the debate in terms of a tree, Dr. Grudem and Dr. Hamilton rarely ventured down into the root system, namely, biblical exegesis. There was a lot of big picture stuff and a lot of focus on practical implications. So much more could have been said about 1 Corinthians 12-14… And should have been said! In fact, if memory serves me correctly, neither addressed a key text like 1 Cor 13:8-10. That’s a bit strange.
Here’s how things could have been more aptly focused. Dr. Hamilton argued that prophecy is univocal; meaning that he disagreed with Grudem’s two tier view of prophecy. All prophecy is akin to saying, “Thus saith the Lord.” It is binding. Grudem countered by arguing that some prophecy is clearly apostolic and authoritatively inerrant and binding, while other forms of congregational prophecy must be tested, thereby implying that it is errant, though still useful. Dr. Hamilton retorted that the testing of the prophecy doesn’t necessarily imply a two tier view of prophecy, but rather that one needs to discern whether the person is a false prophet.
That’s the crux of the debate, in part. Basically, they should have focused on that key issue, taking time to explore the biblical date in more detail. And secondly, even if Grudem’s view is shown to be correct, it needs to be demonstrated that such prophecy is for today. In other words, did both types of prophecy end in the first century? It’s an important question.
Well, all griping aside, I still enjoyed the discussion. I suppose it was like going to a fancy restaurant and eating a delicious steak, but missing out on dessert. The meal was good, and was satisfying in many respects, but it could have been great and truly memorable.
But don’t take my word for it. Check it out for yourself.