Are Prophets Still Relevant In Our Times? Writing Sample

A Book Review of  R.B.Y Scott’s Relevance of the Prophets

I.                   Introduction

Dr. Robert Scott’s Relevance of the Prophets written in 1944 is a work scholarly exploring the tradition and literature of the biblical prophets. It is an ardent and critical study of who and what prophets really are. He asks the question what makes prophets as prophets as he examines their role in biblical society, their humanity, the circumstances of their lives, and what really constitutes the prophetic tradition. He does this by first and foremost reading and interpreting the Old Testament Bible and understanding the prophets in their historical contexts.

Dr. Robert Scott is known for his advocacy of the social gospel as some of his writings would include Towards the Christian Revolution (1936), The Way of Wisdom, (1971), Treasures from Judaean Caves (1955) among others. He is a Canadian who taught as the Danforth Professor of Religion at Princeton University as he got his Ph.D. at the University of Toronto. He was also an ordained minister of the United Church of Canada (The Canadian Encyclopedia).

II.                The Message of the Book

What Prophets are and what they are not

Dr. Scott uses his incisive analytical thinking based on in depth historical, biblical, and theological research to provide us with a sharp definition of what real prophets really are and how they are distinguished from diviners, seers, priests, those speaking in tongues, false prophets, and even the miracle workers.

First he distinguishes true prophets from diviners and soothsayers and I quote:

“The Relevance of the prophets…must lie in some other realm than that of soothsaying or divination which the prophets themselves so sternly denounced. “He has forsaken his people, the House of Jacob,” says Isaiah, “because they are filled with diviners from the East and practice soothsaying like the Philistines.”[i]”

Dr. Scott is very keen in saying that prophets although prophets do make predictions on the future these are not unalterable and fatalistic occurrences but can be changed if we repent. Prophecy is very different from prediction because in prophecy there is a warning and a hope and the outcome depends on how people will respond to the prophecy positively or negatively. In the case of Jonah being devoured by a whale and prophesying in Nineveh, the people changed their ways and were thus saved.  Although there is definitely a predictive element in prophecy, what is supposed to happen is a consequence of our sinfulness and not a simple fatalistic statement of doom.

Dr. Scott’s main distinction is that a prophet means “one who speaks in behalf of someone else. In this case, for God’s.[ii] Dr. Scott further distinguishes prophecy from Apocalyptic messages in the sense the true prophecy is delivered in the concrete, compelling and has its relevance in the present moment where Apocalyptic messages are laced in mythology, symbolism, and surreal representation of another reality beyond the senses[iii].

Unlike soothsayers, diviners and false prophets who usually make a living out of their craft, prophets only come and speak when there are critical times when Yahweh is really pressed to deliver a message to his people[iv].  These times are usually characterized by poor social conditions, sinfulness, and public issues that represent a major spiritual crisis being experienced by the Chosen People. Dr. Scott further distinguishes the prophets from priests and sages:

“The priest ministered in terms of the eternal and changeless to that in man’s life which was constant or recurrent.  The wise man distilled in his teaching the essence of common and long experience.[v]”

Dr. Scott was also able to elaborate a distinction between different kinds of prophets. Although prophets sometimes go on an ecstatic state and speak in tongues, solid prophecy is spoken in words that can be understood and has immediate impact on the times.   He quotes St. Paul saying “It is better to speak 5 words with understanding than ten thousand words in a tongue.” 1 Cor 14:19. As differentiated from the cultic prophets in the temple, I quote Dr. Scott,

“What they wanted and expect from a prophet in the temple was reassurance just as Ahab wanted prophetic support from his 400 court prophets (1 Kings 22: 1-28) then, too,  a lone voice has been raised to set Yahweh will to work against the wishes and vain hopes of men.[vi]”

Thus a prophet is someone who speaks in the name of God; “Express in moral certainty what God was about to do….They themselves were media of divine self disclosure…Preachers but not like scribes who got it from tradition…Mystics but also men of action…Moralists as well as poets…Social radicals but were religious conservatives…In very truth they were the servants and envoys of the living God, instruments of his creative purpose in the realm of spirit.”[vii]

The Prophets and the Social Order

A major theme of prophecy is justice. This pertains to how their society must always take care of the poor, the widowed, the landless, and those who have less in life. Beginning as a pastoralist society, prophets tried to recapture the justice of those times where “the economic wealth of the community was actually community wealth…there were no rich and poor in the clan except that the whole clan was rich or poor.”[viii] As the Chosen People become agrarian and practiced monarchy together with the rise of cities, there also came to be massive social inequalities alongside cultural degradation and Baal worship. It was also during these times of great iniquity that Yahweh sent many of his messengers, the prophets. Thus prophets are usually social critics who are not afraid to confront the status quo or the powers that be. This is the reason why great prophets are usually at odds with society as they are “a voice in the wilderness.” Dr. Scott referred to the prophets as “… insurgent prophets had something that could not be bought. They were a lonely succession of incorruptible men, often regarded by their contemporaries as heretics and traitors.[ix]” At the same time, prophets are also the makers of History because they are the messengers of the God of History. Their impact can literally change history as demonstrated Moses, Deborah, and Gideon. Prophets are also ethicists who say that “Obedience to god is greater than cultic sacrifices.” Sam 15:22. We are reminded of Nathan confronting King David of his sin. Thus prophet defy society because their words at done at God’s bidding rather than by the influence of society.  Yet Dr. Scott believes that in the end, “The final self revelation of God will not be a bursting in of sheer supernatural forces unrelated morally to man’s actual life.[x]”

What Distinguishes the False Prophets from the True Prophets?

Dr. Scott points out some signs. A prophets speaks independently of his personal volition but is compelled by God’s Will. The prophecy is consistent as well as reasonable and has moral weight and immediate impact and relevance. Although sometimes there are miraculous signs to attest true prophecy, what is important in the content and meaning of the prophecy[xi].

The content of the prophecy is characterized by the personal relationship of the prophet to Yahweh, assuring the Chosen People of their heritage and Yahweh’s promise, revealing God’s will in time, reminding the people of the covenant, warning the people of their  sin and the corresponding judgement, but never losing hope on the salvation that God has promised. Thus a prophet is God’s instrument in human history to reveal his purposive action[xii].

False prophets can also be distinguished from true prophets because of their power to see beyond appearances, burnt offerings, hypocrisy and preach essential religion, unwavering justice, and criticism of the social and spiritual situation of the people[xiii]. Micah spoke of Yahweh hating burnt offering and ritual sacrifices and exhorts the people to do justice love mercy and walk humbly with God. (Micah 6:6-8)

Personal Reflection

Dr. Scott’s scholarly and eloquent rendition is spirit-filled and inspiring and brings forth the timeless message of God that implies a total and integrative change, social, economic, political, cultural as well as individual, collective and spiritual change. It is amazing that his message even now falls on deaf ears and is like the prophets of old- a voice in the wilderness. For today, dominant culture would have nothing to say about the prophets of old and even the modern prophets who speak to us of God’s message in our times now. For normal Christians the age of prophets has already passed and has no relevance today. We cannot even sometimes conceive that God speaks to us now even to this day through his modern day messengers but we are now too callous and deft to even hear God’s message.  Yes even now we kill the messengers of God just like Joan of Arc who was declared heretic and burned to the stake, Thomas Muntzer killed in battle, Luther and Giordano Bruno excommunicated, and now Martin Luther King and John Lennon assassinated. These people have a message and way of life that reverberate the lives of the prophets of old. My only comment with Dr. Scott is that he was not able to link his analysis of prophets to our modern times implying an assumption that God no longer uses modern prophets and messengers in our critical times.

III.             Conclusion

Prophets are messengers God especially sends in critical times in biblical traditions. Their

message, being that of God, has power, impact, timeliness and relevance at the time of their delivery. Prophets are God’s visible signs that He is part of humanity’s continuing journey and struggle towards a future that is good. Prophets are God’s mighty hand and intervention in human history as He continues to walk with his people despite our disobedience and sin.

[i] Scott p. 2. Is. 2:6

[ii] Scott p. 2

[iii] Scott p. 5

[iv] Scott p. 13

[v] Scott p. 13

[vi] Scott p. 50-51

[vii] Scott p. 41

[viii] Scott p. 23

[ix] Scott p. 54

[x] Scott p. 168

[xi] Scott p. 106

[xii] Scott p. 159

[xiii] Scott p. 217

Bibliography

Scott, Robert. Relevance of the Prophets. New York: Macmillan, 1944.

The Canadian Encyclopedia. “Robert Balgarnie Young Scott.” The Canadian Encyclopedia. 14 August 2010 <http://www.thecanadianencyclopedia.com/index.cfm?PgNm=TCE&Params=A1ARTA0007230>.

Financial Worth Of Outsourcing

Present Manufacturing Cost per unit $425
Cost per unit if outsourced $395
Financial Benefit per unit $ 30

At first glance, the outsourcing of the GPSN Model into Thailand seems feasible leading to a financial gain per unit of $30.  However, in management accounting it is important that the relevant costing premise is utilized when evaluating business proposals like the one at hand.  Under relevant costing all the incremental costs and revenues are taken into consideration in the evaluation of the decisions at hand.

Relevant Costing Determination

Financial Benefit of lower unit cost for five years:

($30 x 8,000 x 12 x 5)

$14,400,000
Penalty payable to Employees Union ($64,000 x 5) $(320,000)
Rental Saving ($4,000 x 12 x 5) $240,000
Incremental Gain $14,320,000

Notes:

Since the 10 supervisors can be allocated to other jobs within the factory there is no incremental cost or gain present.  Therefore it can be ignored in the relevant costing statement computed above.

The general overhead apportionment will change once the product is outsourced.  However, as instructed the general overheads will remain unaffected in value.  Therefore there is no incremental cost to be considered.

The units manufactured by the FEE will hold the same quality as those presently manufactured leading to a 2% of the units inspected failing to meet quality standards.  In this respect there is no incremental cost or gain arising from the shift.  Thus such element can be neglected in the relevant costing computation.

Suggestion on the Outsourcing Decision

Based on the financial figures computed above, the outsourcing decision is financially viable, because it leads to an increase in the financial wealth of the organization.  However, at this stage, an important point out to be outlined in the computation conducted above.  Under such calculations it is presumed that the outsourcing will last for five years.  However, presently the organization holds the possibility to enter in a 2 year contract with Far East Enterprises Limited.  Therefore before reaching any drastic conclusions it is reasonable to compute the incremental profit again under relevant costing based on a 2 year contract.  The relevant costing statement under such a contingency approach would be as follows:

Financial Benefit of lower unit cost for two years:

($30 x 8,000 x 12 x 2)

$5,760,000
Penalty payable to Employees Union ($64,000 x 5) $ (320,000)
Rental Saving ($4,000 x 12 x 2) $ 96,000
Incremental Gain $ 5,536,000

Under such a stance the organization will still incur a substantial gain despite it will have to pay the penalty to the Employees Union for five years.  Therefore such outsourcing exercise should be accepted by the company.

References:

  1. Drury C. (1996). Management and Cost Accounting. Fourth Edition. New York: International Thomson Business Press.
  2. Lucey T. (2003). Management Accounting. Fifth Edition. Great Britain: Biddles Limited.

Dances With Wolves And Lt. Dunbar Analysis

Dances with Wolves Film Review Film Information: Title: Dances with Wolves Lead Actors: Kevin Costner and Mary McDonnell Release date: 1990 Studio: TIG Productions and Majestic Films International Is considered a Fiction Movie. Although the film was added to the Library of Congress stating it as being “culturally, historically, or aesthetically significant. “(Library of Congress). Map of Film Location: Here is map of where the movie took place. Most of the movie was filmed on location in South Dakota, mainly near Pierre and Rapid City, with a few scenes filmed in Wyoming. Specific locations included the Badlands National Park, the Black Hills, the Sage Creek Wilderness Area, and the Belle Fourche River area”( Southdakota. midwestmovies. com). The buffalo hunt scenes were filmed at the Triple U Buffalo Ranch outside Fort Pierre, South Dakota, as were the Fort Sedgwick scenes, the set being constructed on the property. Summarization: Dances with Wolves is the story of Lt. Dunbar, whose exploration of the Western frontier becomes emulated in a search for his own identity. The film is shot as a narrative in continuous development, with Dunbar providing a voice-over narrative in the guise of journal entries.

It begins dramatically with the badly wounded Dunbar who would rather choose death than allow the amputation of his foot. He charges the Confederate lines and so, unwittingly, becomes a hero. Allowed to choose his posting, Dunbar opts for the frontier. His increasing loneliness drives him to seek consolation with the neighboring Indian tribe. Gradually he is accepted as a member of the tribe, which in the America of the Civil War (1861-64) is seen as desertion. In order to spare the tribe anymore retribution from the army, he leaves with his wife (Stands with a Fist) for the wilderness.

The movie takes place on the western frontier. This is where Lt. Dunbar sought to explore. While on the frontier he encountered the Lakota Indians. With this the audience can assume that the movie takes place in South Dakota. The main characters as mentioned above are Lt. Dunbar and the Indians whose primary character is ‘Stands with a Fist’, who is an English native women. Kevin Costner the director of Dances with Wolves wanted to show people that the movie depicted the Indians in an unstereotypical way. Everybody in this time thought of the Indians as thieves, beggars, and savages.

They took over other people’s land and killed the buffalo. I know that a lot of people have misunderstood, mistreated, or misjudged someone in their lifetime. All people are worthy of respect, you cannot just judge by first instinct or by what others say. Americans back then were small minded, revengeful, prejudiced, and swayed by rumor very easily. This movie really affected the Indian population in the U. S. , especially those in the conservation still abiding by their ancestors way of life. It showed great respect to the Indian heritage. Info about the Author:

Dances with Wolves was based off a book written by Michael Blake. He has also written other screenplays such as Stacy’s Knights and Winding Stair. Michael studied journalism at the University of New Mexico, and later studied at a film school, in Berkeley, California. He also attended Eastern New Mexico University in Portales, where wrote many screenplays. In the late 1970s he moved to Los Angeles; during the eighties only one of his screenplays was produced, called Stacey’s Knights. The movie starred Kevin Costner, who later convinced him to write Dances with Wolves, and then a screenplay for the film based on the novel.

He has since gone on to do humanitarian work, and continued to write. Michael Blake received an Academy Award for Best Adapted Screenplay for Dances with Wolves. 5 Meaningful Scenes: The very beginning scene of the film we have a sense of compassion and empathy for Lt. Dunbar because he is injured and tries to die heroically. This form of justifiable suicide gives us a sense of his aimlessness and loneliness. Since most people have experienced some form of these feelings before we naturally want to hop on board with John’s emotions and hold on for the ride.

This scene really makes me understand that we all have a purpose in life and striving to fulfill this purpose makes us realize that ‘life’ is more than just who one is or perceives to be. The scene where the Sioux tribe was attacked by the Pawnee tribe revealed something great to me. Throughout the film the Indian is represented as being civilized and living in a close and caring community, however, one must not ignore the fact that there were blood-thirsty Indians, who were very fierce and warlike.

The movie portrays the Indians as being good but as in all communities and civilizations there will always be bad and immoral people. This scene really shows us that. The Buffalo hunt scene where the Sioux riders race alongside thousands of rampaging buffalo and bring several of them down. It’s a high adrenaline sequence that marks the moment when Dunbar finally rejects his old culture to embrace his new one. Then this made me realize that the white men started killing all the animals that the Native Americans would live off of.

There were more than 60 million Bisons (Buffalos) and the white men killed 95% of them, so we essentially made the Natives starve to death just for a peace of fur or clothing. That’s very troubling to me. According to the credits, the scene called “Broken Forest” is another scene that appealed to me. Kicking Bird takes Dances with Wolves to a sacred place… even sacred to Sioux enemies. This scene is probably my favorite scene because it made me realize that the native cultures in retrospect were more civilized and respectful to our earth than any of us today.

The only thing we do now to preserve things is recycle. It makes one feel quite shameful at times. At the end of the movie a wolf appears, this is after Two Socks is killed. There are many theories on what the wolf stood for, some say the wolf never died. For me the wolf at the end is meant to show that Dances with Wolves, is still dancing with wolves. The howl is meant to tell of the sadness in what is yet to befall on the Sioux. I believe the wolf howling symbolizes to keep striving towards ones purpose in life. Film Evaluation:

This film is worth seeing because it is very informational and a lot can be learned from it. The film gives a historically accurate presentation of the Sioux Indians and their way of life. The biggest reason to see this film is because it nullifies negative stereotypes towards the Native Americans. This film fairly easy to understand, the hard part is maintaining focus on the movie due to its length (3 hours). I would definitely recommend this to a student because as mentioned above there is a lot to be learned from the film. Seeing this film made me want to be more preserving and less wasteful.

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