A prophetic revelation allegedly uttered by Reverend Duncan Williams about six years ago was not only troubling, but was also so convoluted as to make it difficult for anyone to judge its accuracy. The Bishop was reported as saying that the then President of Ghana, Mr. John Agyekum Kuffour, might not live to finish his term of office (Ghanaweb, November 30, 2007). According to Duncan, a major period of bloodshed might occur in the country's history to eliminate the president. He also attributed the president's car accident with Thomas Osei in 2007 to the work of spiritual forces conspiring to eliminate him before his term of office was up.
The prophecy was troubling because such utterances might have put the life of the president in danger—there might have been some psychopaths inclined to act to fulfill such a prophecy. The prophecy was also troubling because it created dissension in the president's own party about who might have been responsible for seeking the president's death. Also, attributing this spiritual conspiracy to a specific region of the country could have brought about disunity in the country. The prophecy was also convoluted because it was couched in a way that made it difficult for one to assess its truth or falsity.
A prophetic utterance in Christianity is a direct word from God about the situation at hand, through the mouth of one of his people. Unlike the “guesstimations” we hear from many Christian ministers in Ghana, prophecy is a declaration of future events, such as no human wisdom can forecast—a declaration dependent on knowledge of human affairs that can belong only to the omniscient God. Also, contrary to the idea that prophecy is an irresistible compulsion, there is no hint from the New Testament that it is so. The Apostle Paul teaches some prophets to keep quiet, while others are given the chance to speak (I Corinthians 14:29). The gift of prophecy and its mode of communication, therefore, involve the use of the mind. The interpretation and the manner of communicating this disturbing prophecy were at the discretion of the Bishop.
The prophet is not only to deliver his message with wisdom, but also with pathos. The Jewish scholar Abraham Herschel, in his great book The Prophets, writes, “The task of the prophet is to convey the word of God. Yet the word is aglow with the pathos. One can't understand the word without sensing the pathos. The prophet should not be regarded as an ambassador who must be dispassionate to be effective.”
Though prophetic gifts continue to appear in the church, they have become increasingly suspect because of their abuse, especially among Pentecostal and Charismatic Christians. The Didache laments over bogus and self-seeking prophets. Unlike the cessationists, I believe prophecy is meant to continue in the church, but because of the danger of abuse and its subjective nature, people who aspire to be in this office must be guided, and their words judged, by the Scriptures.
The Bible urges Christians to test all prophecies. In I John 4:1, the apostle writes, “Beloved, do not believe every spirit, test the spirits, whether they are of God; because many false prophets have gone out into the world.” The test of the true prophet is that his prophecy will be brought to fulfillment according to God's purpose (I Kings 22: 26 – 28; Jeremiah 28).
Deuteronomy 18:20 -22 declares:
“But the prophet who presumes to speak a word in my name which I have not commanded him to speak, or who speaks in the name of other gods, that same prophet shall die. And if you say in your heart, 'How may we know the word which the LORD has not spoken? – When a prophet speaks in the name of the LORD, if the word does not come to pass or come true, that is a word which the LORD has not spoken; the prophet has spoken it presumptuously, you need not be afraid of him.”
Deuteronomy 12:5 also commands that a false prophet be put to death. There is evidence from the Scriptures that suggest that for a prophecy to be credible, it must meet certain criteria. First, the event prophesied must be beyond the power of men to foresee. Second, the prophecy must come before the event. Third, the prediction in the prophecy must be unique to the event and must come to pass. Fourth, the communication of the prophecy must be unambiguous and unmistakable. And fifth, the moral character of the prophet himself provides another checkpoint (Jeremiah 23:14). However, this criterion has limitations, for none of the true prophets except Christ was sinless.
It is therefore fair to judge Bishop Duncan Williams' prophecy from a Biblical standpoint, since he presumed to speak for God Almighty. One problem with Rev. Williams' prophecy is that he prophesied after the facts; his prophecy came after the president's accident had occurred. Where was Bishop Williams before the president's car accident? Second, he worded his prophecy in such a convoluted fashion that it was difficult to assess its falsity or truth. It was one of the most ambiguous prophecies I have heard in recent memory. First, he prophesied the death of the president before his term of office was up, and then called a prayer meeting to intercede for the president. If the president dies, Williams becomes a true prophet; if he survives the prediction, then Williams becomes the great intercessor of the century. What a craft!!!
The questions that baffle any reader of this prophetic utterance are: Why did the Bishop have to tell the whole world about such a horrific prophecy if he and his intercessory group would stand in for the president? Why couldn't he tell the president in private to ensure his privacy and security?
Also troubling was the dissension, disharmony, and conflict that this prophecy could engender in the country and within the president's own party. Why was it necessary to inform all Ghanaians that those spiritual arrows were directed from Sunyani and Seikwa, both in Brong Ahafo Region, to kill president Kuffour? As I observed from the Scriptures above, the manner and the place of communicating prophecy is left to the prophet. Also, why was it necessary to mention that some of the NPP presidential candidates were seeking the president's death, especially when Williams was going to intercede for the president? Are all these conspirators working separately or were they coordinating their plans? A man of Williams' social standing should have exercised greater discretion in communicating such a horrific prophecy to its intended audience in the right time and place, even if the purported prophecy was true.
Also disturbing was the Bishop's attempt to absolve the criminals of their wicked acts on the grounds of “the devil made me do it.” The Bishop was reported to have said that “The driver of the car that hit the president's, Thomas Osei, was only a pawn used spiritually in an attempt to achieve the dastardly objective of killing the national leader.” This conclusion has no place in Biblical scholarship or theology. The Bible never absolves wrongdoers of their wicked acts because they were used as instruments by the devil or by God. By this logic, Judas could claim innocence for his wicked acts to betray Christ.
Though God, in His saving providence, wrought ultimate good out of Judas' wicked acts, this does not absolve him of his crime. In Acts 2:22 – 25, Peter declares, “Men of Israel, hear these words: Jesus of Nazareth, a man attested to you by God with mighty works and wonders and signs which God did through him in your midst, as you yourselves know – this Jesus, delivered up according to the definite plan and foreknowledge of God, you crucified and killed by the hands of lawless men….”
Here we see God's plan of salvation going concurrently with the wicked plans of men, and still God holds them responsible for their wickedness. Also, in Genesis 50:15-20, we see Joseph stressing the difference between God's intent and that of his brothers. He says, “But as for you, you meant evil against me; but God meant it for good, to bring it about as it is this day, to save many people alive.” The brothers' plans to kill Joseph saved Jacob and his family by making him the prime minister of Egypt during a devastating famine in the region, but the brothers were not absolved of their wicked acts.
Many Ghanaians excuse their irresponsible acts by this kind of unbiblical teaching that blames every such act on the devil. There are many Ghanaians, Christian and non-Christian, educated and uneducated, who are being deceived because of their biblical illiteracy. Ghanaian Christians need to emulate the Berean Christians in Acts 17:11, who examined the Scriptures every day to see if what the Apostle Paul communicated to them was true.
I must say that Bishop Duncan Williams' prophecy about the president's accident was very suspicious. The ambiguity in his prophecy, the unwise manner in which he communicated the prophecy and the disharmony that his prophecy could have engendered in our society make his prophecy disturbing. His prophecy was also troubling because it might have put the president's life in danger, since such an unwise pronouncement might have caused people to act to fulfill the prophecy. More importantly, it has been six years now, but none of Duncan's prophesies have come to pass.
It is therefore important that those who aspire to exercise the gift of prophecy seek wisdom and insight in the exercise of the gift so as not to bring the LORD's name into disrepute.