Prophecy in the Church Today. Or Not. – Ian Hamilton vs. Wayne Grudem

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.

EMA 2010: discussion about prophecy from The Proclamation Trust on Vimeo.


  1. Barry York March 1, 2012 at 9:38 am #


    Noticed that Tim Challies had a reference to this same debate today at


  2. Dean Smith March 1, 2012 at 10:40 am #

    I have a published paper in WTJ on 140 years of prophecy and healing in Scotland during the “killing times.”

    In the paper I note that if a different word were used (Sinclair Fergusson argues for the use of the word “illumination” rather than prophecy and warns cessationists about rejecting genuine illumination that may be from the Holy Spirit.)

    Some prefer continuing extraordinary revelation (CER) which was not judged to be canonical.

    The most significant example in Scotland is Alexander Peden, known as “The Scottish Seer”.

    Whether one agrees or disagrees, the Scottish experience cannot be ignored not its influence on the Westminster Assembly/Confession denied.

    • Austin Brown March 1, 2012 at 4:41 pm #

      Hello. It’s been a while now, so my memory is a bit foggy as to who wrote it, but I think I’ve read your article! I distinctly remember enjoying it. And I also remember appreciating the historical insights that were drawn from that time period. So let me just say that I consider it an honor to hear from you!

      I came to know the Lord at the age of twelve in an Assemblies of God church. At the age of sixteen, my parents left (for doctrinal reasons) and we joined a C&MA church. The pastor, who happens to be my father-in-law now, was a cessationist. He’s softened his view a bit over the years. Naturally, I feel I’ve become acquainted with both sides, and I must say that I appreciate those within the Reformed camp who uphold a robust view of the Spirit’s work (call it CER or illumination or whatever). It is surely difficult to deny, as you have pointed out so aptly, the extraordinary work of the Spirit in Scotland. Surely hard-line cessationists must scratch their heads at what happened 🙂

      Thanks for the comments!


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