In order to avoid the confusion regarding the apparent lack of fulfillment and the undermining of biblical inerrancy, I believe that such interlocking of the words, dynamic and predictive discourse, should be dichotomized in order to have absolute identifiable terms.
Before I explain why I believe that such interlocking of the words dynamic and predictive discourse, should be dichotomized, in order to have absolute, identifiable terms that will help decrease the undermining of biblical inerrancy, I will first try to identify and define what is unfulfilled prophecy, synthesize the issues, and contrast the various possible views.
So how do we define and identify unfulfilled prophecy? In laymen’s terms, unfulfilled prophecy means a prophecy that has not been fulfilled, carried out, or brought into completion yet. In God’s timing—not our own theological schemes, His prophecies will be fulfilled. And before I start to identify where the unfulfilled prophecies are, let me first take some time to clarify an area that I think needs more explanation (Barrick, 2). The area of explanation has to do with the terms “altered” or “unrealized” prophecies, and “provisionally cancelled” prophecies.
When it comes to “altered” or “unrealized” prophecies, and “provisionally cancelled” prophecies, some will go to Jonah’s prophecies to substantiate their claims. Jonah’s prophecy was predictive because it was concerning the destruction of Nineveh. But here is the question people pose, “Is it still a predictive prophecy even though God withheld His judgment of Nineveh when they repented?” (Barrick, 2). I think the right question to ask is this, “Is the judgment, applied to Nineveh only or was is it tied to a specific generation? (Barrick, 2). It appears that the judgment of Nineveh was applied to a later generation (Barrick, 2). As a result, this account that people see as an apparent lack of fulfillment was not a permanent lack of fulfillment (Barrick, 2).
Some will say Exodus 32:9-14 is another example of an apparent lack of fulfillment because God did not judge them. It must be clear, that this is faulty reasoning that inherits conjectures. The prophecy was still predictive and not altered or provisionally canceled in any manner, because God did ultimately judge and destroy the entire generation in the wilderness (Barrick, 2). They only received postponement of punishment for a little while, but the wilderness was their doom (Barrick, 2). Exodus 32:34-35 says, “But go now, lead the people where I told you. Behold, My angel shall go before you; nevertheless in the day when I punish, I will punish them for their sin. Then the Lord smote the people, because of what they did with the calf which Aaron had made” (NASB). Psalm 106:19-23 and Deuteronomy 9:13-20, 25-29 recalls this event between Yahweh and the wilderness people too (Barrick, 2).
Another element I also would like to elaborate on before I start to identify where the unfulfilled prophecies are located, is the employment of אוּלַי, which means “perhaps or “maybe” (Barrick, 3). This word can be located in Jeremiah 26:3 and Ezekiel 12:3. When אוּלַ is used, it is more accurate to say that it is more hortatory as opposed to predictive (Barrick, 3). Using this term in juxtaposition with אוּלַ can seem quite arbitrary. But some will contest and say that there are certain prophecies that are contingent upon human stimuli (Barrick, 3). While there are some prophecies that are contingent upon human stimuli, one will have to analyze what kind of prophecy are we talking about? We need to examine the prophesy in its context. It is safe to say that when looking at many of the prophecies in the OT, most would be predictive rather than hortatory (Barrick, 3).
Another passage that some will try to use in order to establish the concept of the “so-called dynamic” prophecy is Micah’s speech in 3:12. However, it must be noted that the impending judgment was fulfilled at a later time. Although the prophecies may be contingent upon human response, God’s promise to His covenant is firm. He does not change His mind. He is immutable when it comes to covenants or decrees. It just happens that God uses humans sometimes as secondary causes to bring about His will. The same applies to Jonah’s case. Because of their repentance, in Jonah’s story, the judgment was withheld for a moment. It was not revised or reapplied (Barrick, 3). It was just fulfilled at a later time, when the conditions that originally prompted the judgment resurfaced (Barrick, 3).
In addition, when it comes to the predictive discourse in Isaiah 40-55, which some incorrectly use: the term dynamic predictive discourse—fails to see it as a section that focuses on repentance and salvation (Barrick, 3). When analyzing Isaiah 40-55, I would not consider it a dynamic predictive discourse, but a predictive prophecy that has elements of the hortatory elements (Barrick, 3). Isaiah tells them what the future of the Jewish people will be like if they respond in repentance (Barrick, 3). Once they repent, salvation will be granted to them. Although this section of Isaiah is clearly not an example of an unfulfilled prophecy, I would not see it as a dynamic prophecy either. This naming convention implies that if man responds not the way God desires—the prophecy is cancelled, altered, etc. At the end of the day, God’s promises supersede human responses. I see this as a prophecy that has both hortatory and predictive elements (Barrick 3).
On another note, one fundamental caricature about Isaiah’s prophecy and the other prophets mentioned is the depiction of Yahweh’s ability to accurately fulfill what He prophesies (Barrick, 4). However, Yahweh stands in stark contrast to the false pagan gods in the ancient near eastern kingdoms because He is a God that fulfills what He promises (Barrick, 4). He is not slow at His promises nor does He lie because that will go against His attributes. He is also a God that acts in absolutely clear ways when bringing history to pass, (Barrick, 4). He does it because He wants the nations to see how transcendent His Words are. But a dynamic-non-performative perfection would not exalt God in this manner (Barrick, 4).
This now ultimately brings me to some of the examples of what unfulfilled contingent prophecies are. There are many examples, but I will only focus on two. One cogent example would be the prophecy of Haggai (2:6-9), which centers on the glory of the temple. This promise did not happen during Haggai’s time nor at any other period (Barrick, 5). It will come to pass when He returns at His second coming. This prophecy in the Book of Haggai, does not require an immediate promise, because contingency in this case is based on Christ’s return (Barrick, 5).
Psalm 89 is also another good example of an unfulfilled contingent prophecy. In this chapter, God made promises to David that is filled with loyal love to him and his descendants. But because of difficult circumstances, David becomes disillusioned with confusion and disappointment (Barrick, 5). However, if you continue reading Psalm 89, David also acknowledges that God is a faithful covenant keeping God (Barrick, 6). Basically, David knows that God will fulfill what he promises. What a sobering reminder for us. May we have faith like David when difficult circumstances surround us.
On the grounds of an important point I made earlier: “In order to avoid the confusion regarding the apparent lack of fulfillment and the undermining of biblical inerrancy, I believe that such interlocking of the words dynamic and predictive discourse should be dichotomized, in order to have absolute identifiable terms.” This is significant because God expresses Himself in clear, absolute, and in identifiable ways. And because He is also intrinsically holy, He will not alter nor change the promises that He has made. Hence, we need to remember that no matter what circumstances occur, God will fulfill the promises He stated.
Here is part one of the series if you have not read it yet:
William D., Barrick. “Response to Robert B. Chisholm, “Making Sense of Prophecy Recognizing the Presence of Contingency’”.” ETS Far West Region Annual Meeting (April 20, 2007): 1-8.