Prophets of the Old Testament were originally caller “Seers”. They were “visionaries”. They saw things that others did not.
But their prophecies are frequently misunderstood. We presume that a prophet foretells the future. Actually prophets foretell two futures, of which only one will come true. You might say, they struggle with double vision. They usually describe the two options that lie before the nation or before the person they are speaking with. They describe the destinations towards which those two diverse roads run.
Canadian theologian Douglas Hall writes, “Christian Faith wishes not so much to know what is going to happen as to influence it. Christians have inherited this orientation from the prophetic tradition of ancient Israel. The prophets were not soothsayers or diviners. Their vocation rather, was to comment upon the present in such a way as to illumine what sort of future it was silently begetting, and to bear witness to an alternative future which could be hoped for and worked for through the pursuit of another course here and now…. They intended to say to Israel: The future that is the logical consequence of the paths that you are presently treading is contrary to the intentions of God; but the pursuit of different goals today could alter your tomorrow.” (“The Future of Religion In Canada”. Sackville, Canada, Mount Allison University, 1988. pp.1-2.)
A visionary person is one who looks towards the future, and along with the poet Robert Frost knows that,
“Two roads diverged in a yellow wood
And sorry I could not travel both
And be one traveler, long I stood
And looked down one as far as I could…
Then took the other…”
A visionary looks at the world, and sees it clearly, and then asks, “If we did nothing differently, what would the future bring? But if we changed how we respond to the world that we see before us, what kind of world can we then expect and hope for?”
Thinking it through
- The Pessimist sees the world to be worse than it is.
- The Optimist sees the world to be better than it is.
- The Visionary sees both as possibilities, yet works with the optimist to help bring about the dream.
In which camp do we find ourselves?
Published in Light and Life, July-August, 2007