According to 1 Samuel 10, shortly after Saul is anointed king of Israel, the spirit of God overcomes him and he is caught up in a prophetic frenzy. Just a few chapters later in 1 Samuel 19, despite his steady decline in the face of David’s steady ascent, Saul again falls into a prophetic frenzy. This twice-told event led to the coining of a proverb: “Is Saul, too, among the prophets?”

The proverb appears to register surprise at an unusual phenomenon: The person in question, Saul, is not a prophet but is nevertheless acting like one. How can this be? Is he other than what we thought him to be? Is he a prophet, too? 

The proverbial nature of the question also suggests that it could be applied to others, not just Saul. If so, and in light of Candler’s centennial theme, “The Centennial in Story and Prophecy,” perhaps we might ask if Candler, too, is among the prophets.

It is tempting to respond quickly with a resounding “yes!” Like Saul, Candler may not be a prophet in the mold of Amos or Isaiah, but surely Candler has acted prophetically at many times and in various ways during its first 100 years. And certainly Candler continues to aspire to the prophetic tasks of speaking God’s truth to those in power and seeking God’s justice and righteousness in a world dead set against both.

But before we answer affirmatively, it pays to remember that being a prophet in ancient Israel was a dangerous occupation. According to the first-century pseudepigraphical text The Lives of the Prophets, most of the prophets suffered cruel and untimely deaths with no one to collect the life insurance. The danger involved in the prophetic task led many prophets to object to their callings—to try to find an escape clause even before their missions began, à la Moses. Speaking God’s truth to those in power, or proclaiming God’s justice and righteousness in a world dead set against both, is no light affair. Those in power often have power over life and death: They can take away life and deal out death. And if the world truly is dead set against God’s justice and righteousness, then it may very well mete out death before taking those other options.

These harsh realities of the prophets’ lives warrant caution when considering Candler’s prophetic status. For one thing, the prophetic call is not something to run toward, but to run from! For another, prophets typically don’t last long enough to celebrate centennials!

Even so, the proverb’s surprise over Saul, who isn’t a prophet, suddenly fitting the bill suggests that Candler, too, might also be prophetic. No, Candler doesn’t run away from its vocation—quite to the contrary, Candler resolutely continues in its mission “to educate faithful and creative leaders for the church’s ministries throughout the world.” And, yes, Candler has enjoyed a very long life (at least in prophet-years). But Candler, like Saul at times, has been overcome by God’s spirit so as to act in prophetic ways.

That last detail is fundamental. According to 1 Samuel, it is God’s Spirit that enables Saul to join the prophetic ranks, even if only for a brief stint. It is only God and God’s power that permit those who aren’t prophets per se to act the part. So at those times and in those places that Candler has been prophetic, it is no doubt due to God’s empowering Spirit. It is God, then, who deserves the credit for Candler’s prophetic moments. And it is God who deserves the credit for sustaining Candler and its moments of prophetic frenzy for more than 100 years.

One final remark: There were big prophets in ancient Israel, like Amos and Isaiah, but also countless lesser-known ones, such as those who made up the “band of prophets” alongside whom Saul prophesied. These prophetic guilds—“groupies” or “roadies” as it were—accompanied the superstar prophets and preserved their words for posterity. And they played a crucial role. It took guts to say what Amos said, but it also took guts for a group of people to hear what he said, preserve it carefully, and pass it along faithfully for millennia. This is one more way that Candler has been and continues to be counted among the prophets: by listening to the prophetic word of God in Scripture and the world, preserving it carefully, and passing it along faithfully. That may not be the same as being Amos or Isaiah, but it is no small matter, because without this kind of faithful reception and transmission there is no Amos or Isaiah at all—their words would have been lost forever. Listening for, treasuring, and proclaiming God’s message—these are the prophetic tasks of the faithful. These are the tasks Candler faces every day.

May God continue to sustain and enliven Candler School of Theology with God’s Spirit for another century! Then Candler, too, will continue to be counted among God’s servants, the prophets.

CREDITS: Worship: Cindy Brown 09T; Kaleidoscope: H. Pellikka/Creative Commons; All others: iStock.