Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Foy Valentine and Phil Strickland - Their Prophetic Voices Still Sound the Call

Two of our great Baptist statesmen shared a conviction that all believers are called to be prophets.

In November 1987, Foy Valentine, longtime executive director of the SBC Christian Life Commission, accepted the first T. B. Maston Christian Ethics Award with a ringing address entitled Crying in the Wilderness: Streaking in Jerusalem: The Prophethood of All Believers.

In November 2005, Phil Strickland, longtime executive director of the Texas Baptist Christian Life Commission, prepared an address for the annual Texas Baptists Committed Breakfast in Austin. Phil's illness prevented him from attending; his friend and pastor, George Mason, Wilshire Baptist Church in Dallas, delivered the speech on Phil's behalf. It was entitled Where Have All the Prophets Gone?

Foy and Phil are both gone now, but their stirring messages are needed just as much today as then.

Following are a few excerpts that I chose for the blog, because I think they help to summarize the critical points embodied in these speeches. To read the full text of Foy Valentine's speech on the Maston Foundation Web site, click here. To read the full text of Phil Strickland's speech on the TBC Web site, click here.

Crying in the Wilderness: Streaking in Jerusalem: The Prophethood of All Believers
by Foy Valentine
"Even the Lord’s anointed are subject to temptations related to . . . pleasure, materialism, economic determinism, and love of comfort. When the winnowing and harrowing of Fundamentalism started among Southern Baptists, Baptists were not lean and mean, ready for the war, but soft and satisfied, flabby and floppy."

"At the 1985 Southern Baptist Convention in Dallas, there were 36,270 seats in all three auditoriums; there were 45,049 messengers registered; and there were 44,248 ballots allegedly cast (with 98.2% of the registered messengers allegedly present and allegedly voting) in the presidential race between Charles Stanley and Winfred Moore; the denominational news services and the editors of state Baptist papers chose not to report those curious statistics. Let-the-chips-fall-where-they-may, tell‑it‑like‑it‑is prophethood did not ring their journalistic bells."

"Our world needs few things more now than prophetic words and prophetic deeds. The churches now need few things more than the prophethood of crying in the wilderness like brave John the Baptist, streaking in Jerusalem like courageous Isaiah. By these words and deeds, the demands of God are understood to be not obscure or ambiguous, but understandable and doable, practical and specific, clear and concrete, relevant and redemptive."

"The prophet is the priest who is taking the longer look, listening to a different drummer, and feeling the fire in his baptism as it burns to become fire in his belly."

"As we speak of the priesthood of all believers, we may also rightly speak of the prophethood of all believers. There is nothing that would do more to revive authentic Christianity in our time than for us to find the ways and devise the means to press successfully for the prophethood of all believers."

"That incarnational witness of God in Christ puts the streaking of Isaiah in Jerusalem into perspective. Isaiah’s witness was but a pale portent, a mere shadow, of the power of prophecy when presented by the Prophet of prophets, Jesus Christ."

"The prophethood of believers can smash idols. . . . Gentleness and facile optimism sometimes need to be balanced by justice and hard reality. The prophethood of believers can foster repentance; and repentance, it is to be remembered, is the keynote of the New Testament message. . . . Voices crying seize interest . . . demand attention."

"Oh, there is one other little matter. With the prophethood of all believers recovered and then taken seriously, failure is assured. . . . rejection, loneliness, scandal, stoning, banishment, scorn, hatred, and crucifixion go with prophethood. . . . The prophet’s pay may be spit in the face.
"But the prophet’s reward is God’s 'Well done, thou good and faithful servant. . . . Enter thou into the joy of thy Lord' (Matthew 25:21).
"As we believe in and practice the priesthood of all believers, so let us believe in and practice the prophethood of all believers."

Where Have All the Prophets Gone?
by Phil Strickland

"One-half the world is living on $2 a day.
"Twenty-five percent of our Texas children [are] living in poverty. 
"Religious liberty is . . . oozing away through our fingers like a fist full of sand until we open it all too late to discover there is not much of it left in our grasp. 
"Then there’s the dramatic and continuing shift of the world’s wealth away from the poor and the middle class to the largest corporations and the wealthiest people. 
"Environmental regulations are disappearing every day. 
"What about another tax cut of $70 billion that will be funded by $50 billion of cuts to children?"

"Pretty much all of us are called to have an element of the prophet in us. . . . The title of prophet might even apply to laymen. . . . ready and willing to confront the principalities and powers, whether they be school boards, city councils, the legislature, Congress, or even our own Baptist institutions."
"Should [denominations] take risk and speak prophetically or declare that [their] only real role . . . is meeting the needs of the churches . . . ? To me, the answer is easy. Meeting the will of churches, vital as it is, comes in behind one other: listening for and meeting the will of God."

In his speech, Phil also quoted a paragraph written by Joe Haag and published in a CLC flyer. I honestly don't think I've ever heard the challenge and demand of Christian prophethood summarized as "aptly" (to use Phil's description of it) as Joe Haag sets it forth in the following:
"To follow Christ means that we allow his life to gain leverage against our lives. Against our lust for power, he endures the cross. Against our pride and arrogance, he washes the disciples’ feet. Against our upward mobility, he preaches good news to the poor. Against our self-absorption, he has compassion on the multitudes. Against our tight circles of family and friends, he reaches out to strangers. Against our safe noninvolvement, he confronts the powers. Against our violence and hatred, he demands that we love our enemies. Against our self-righteousness, he welcomes sinners. Against our bigotry, he tells us about a Good Samaritan. Against our frenzy, he invites us to trust God. Against all the lies which enslave us, he tells the truth which sets us free. How can we be transformed into the image of Christ? . . . as we surrender our lives to God’s purposes, God changes us."

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