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The Big Picture

'Have you ever heard of Plato, Aristotle, Socrates? Morons.' -- Vizzini from "The Princess Bride"

Wednesday, May 24, 2006

Biblical Prophecy and Pat Robertson

Over at my usual Christian ranting grounds, The Narrow; Bryan has a post up, Pointless Prediction.

[First I would like to send a big thanks out to Bryan, for putting up with me, you are a good Christian. Even if we have radically different worldviews, it is good to know we still listen to each other.]

He and I have basically the same views on Pat Robertson and his "predictions" for an above average hurricane storm season. Our difference lies in the whole idea of revealed knowledge. The comment I made there is reproduced below (sorry for plaigarizing myself here). But what interests me is the response by Bryan.

I wrote:
I think it goes without saying that on this, you and I are in total agreement. I would not have written it any differently -- well except for the prairie dogs bit; I would have gone for the sexier chihuahua....

The only thing I would add, is that I would further generalize that statement, to any and all predictions based on some form of revealed knowledge. It is the basic problem I see with faith. Sure one person can have faith in something (let's say religion -- specifically Christianity). But as that faith is nothing more than "revealed" knowledge at its base, it can never be explained or proven to anyone else. The best example is when someone like me asks a (fundamental) Christian how they know the Bible is literally true, they always end up saying something like "I searched for the Truth, and God revealed to me that the answers I sought are in the Bible."

Again, you can generalize your thoughts about Pat into any and all revealed knowledge, and what you find is that there is no difference in any statements of faith, be them Pat's Tsunami or the Christian's faith in a literal Bible. The reason is that there is no way to judge the validity (or truthfulness) of a claim of revealed knowledge. Pat's credibility (which you question) is exactly the same as any fundamentalist's when it comes to revealed knowledge, because none can be judged on independant criteria. (You best said this when you pointed out that if storms hit, that proves nothing, and if they don't again it proves nothing). The reason you know that is because you know there is no way to judge the actual basis of the claim, Pat Robertson's revealed knowledge. You can throw it out (as you did) because he is a kook, but that in no way changes the fact you cannot evaluate the knowledge itself. And that is true no matter who the person is, or how kooky or credible they are elsewise.

Bryan responded with the (to my opinion) non sequitur:
There is a major difference between the special knowledge Pat Robertson claimed and that which is found in the Bible. The Bible is very clear that it's teachings and truths are available to everyone who seeks them

He missed my point that I was referring specifically to personal revealed knowledge, not the revealed knowledge of the Bible. That is fine. I think my point is valid, and I gave him that I was not speaking of Biblical revealed knowledge. We disagree on that, but since it was not the point, I wasn't going to get into discussing biblical revealed knowledge since we do that all the time. But here is where I got tripped up. Bryan continued to expand on this misunderstanding by bringing up biblical predictions. He wrote:
In contrast, the Bible makes prediction after prediction and through history every single one has been found accurate

This is completely wrong. It is the exact opposite of what happened in history. I thought this some more and think it is worth writing about some more. I hope to return to this next week. But for the time being, one of the most well known is Jesus' prophesy that he would rise from the dead three days after he died. The problems are twofold with that biblical prediction. The first and most obvious was that it was not prophesy at all, it was written about decades after the event was said to have happened. And even then, only based on the recollection of witnesses who said Jesus said it. It has as much validity as a fictional story where the protagonist predicts something that comes true.

The second reason why this is not a fulfilled prophesy is found in Matthew 12:40:
"For as Jonah was three days and three nights in the belly of the great fish, so will the Son of Man be three days and three nights in the heart of the earth" [NKJV]. The story of Jonah was not a prophesy. The fact that it was used in the construction of the Gospels as midrash does not make it prophesy. The reason is clear, there was no indication that the original story of Jonah was anything other than a story of loyalty to God by Jonah. It was not called a prophesy of the later-to-arrive messiah. (The same goes for Isaiah 7:14). If this story of Jonah was a prophesy for the death and resurrection of Jesus, then what does the prophesy of David slashing the hamstrings of 900 horses prophesy? (2 Samuel 8:4)

The problem is, that there is absolutely no prophesy in the Bible that can be viewed as actual prophesy. It was all either after-the-fact testimonial or retooling an old story to mean something new. In fact, much prophesy of the Bible (most specifically Jesus) has been shown to be failed predictions. Consider Jesus prediction about his return:
"Assuredly, I say to you, this generation will by no means pass away till all these things take place" [Mark 13:30 NKJV].
The problem is that roughly 100 generations have passed and still no return.

Indeed, Nostradamus has nothing to worry about when it comes to being the king of prophesy, his crown is not in any way threatened by biblical prophesy.

If you have any specific biblical prophesy in mind that you would like to discuss, leave it in comments and next week we will look at them.

In the mean time, here is a prophesy from the great jeffperado: This weekend, the multitudes will come to Las Vegas and drink and gamble, and some will even visit certain clubs where the performers are missing their clothing...



At November 16, 2006 8:51 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I see your point. But where in Jesus' statement does he say that Jonas' experience was prophecy? He simply says that, just as Jonas was 3 days and 3 nights in the belly of the fish, so he would be that long in the grave. I could likewise say that, just as Martin Luther was born on November 10, I was also born on November 10. I wouldn't be implying that ML's birth date was prophetic of my own, just citing a similarity.

Now, as to whether Jesus actually said that, I guess the question is whether you believe that Matthew was a liar. I don't. He was a Levite and a scribe, and I believe that he probably even took notes when Jesus spoke. And, as was the scribal tradition among Jews of his day, he would have been careful to be accurate. Or maybe you're one of those people who doesn't believe Matthew wrote his gospel at all. But then you'd be substituting the guesswork of "scholars" in the 18th century, who second-guessed the witness of history. I personally believe Irenaeus, who wrote at a time when people died for their faith, who studied under a disciple of John's, who had literally a life and death reason to ascertain the source and reliability of these testaments. And he wrote that Matthew wrote his gospel, Mark wrote the gospel taught by Peter, Luke wrote his, after careful investigation, and John, the last, wrote his while imprisoned at Patmos. I believe the scriptures contain internal evidence to that effect, and I seriously question the reliability of later "scholarship" by open skeptics bent on making a name for themselves by tearing down the faith.

Finally, if you are a Christian, then you must believe Jesus is deity incarnate. Why wouldn't he know what was about to happen? To doubt that would be rather silly, IMO.

Interesting, though.


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