I am on record as saying that I don't believe in predictions, for the simple reason that time does not appear to be bidirectional on a macroscopic
level. We drift along, one event after another, observations becoming history, and the best that we can muster about tomorrow are statistics on the
likelihood of something happening, without absolute certainty.
Even the proverbial "the sun will rise tomorrow" is not a sure thing -- the chances of a cataclysm that results in the destruction of Earth or sun
are, of course, infinitesimally slim, but they are still potentials that prevent a statistical likelihood of the sun rising from being 100%.
God (or, if you prefer, any eternal being) on the other hand, would be perfectly capable of predicting our future, because as an eternal, it has
already happened from his perspective. He knows that the sun will rise tomorrow (if it will, lol) with 100% certainty because he remembers it
happening, or he remembers the day that it didn't. So if a prediction is revealed to someone, courtesy of God, it may be seen as 100% likely to
happen (which is where the admonition about false prophets comes from -- if a prophecy fails, it clearly didn't come from God, since an authentic
prophecy from God could not fail.)
Okay, that's not the "curious observation", because it seems pretty obvious. Once you settle on the notion of an eternal being (something outside of
time, without beginning or end) and his ability and desire to relate some specific future events to those in the time stream (all Biblical notions in
both Judaism and Christianity,) prophecy need no further rationale.
But a question arises from things that are unfulfilled prophecy, and represent our still unknown future. "How do we know when the prophecy is being
revealed?" As an example, consider this "sign of the end" from one of Paul's letters:
But mark this: There will be terrible times in the last days. People will be lovers of themselves, lovers of money, boastful, proud, abusive,
disobedient to their parents, ungrateful, unholy, without love, unforgiving, slanderous, without self-control, brutal, not lovers of the good,
treacherous, rash, conceited, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God — having a form of godliness but denying its power. Have nothing to do
with such people.
-- 2 Timothy 3:1-5 (NIV)
There was a recent thread on ATS that cited this passage as being an accurate prophecy for our time, and a number of people (including myself) noted
that it's the sort of thing that could be said of pretty much every time. But in thinking it through this morning, I made my curious observation.
This passage is pointless if it is never notable. The things that Paul writes about were not only applicable in his own
time, they were
the hallmarks of both Roman and Jewish culture, so one is struck by its non-notability -- one can imagine Timothy reading that and saying "thanks a
lot, Captain Obvious, tell me something I don't know."
The notability of this passage only arises if there comes a time when people do not
act in this fashion, but then fall away from it.
Not just true believers, or the Church in general, but society itself. That would require a different society, entirely, and one which was Christian
in nature (or which exhibited values akin to Christian values.)
My earlier comment about "this prophecy is pretty much always true" stands, but to look for veracity of prophecy, for the very reason that it is not
notable, one cannot see it as a simple "yes, it's happening" and consider it fulfilled. Rather, one needs to see it in terms of generalized
quantification of the pervasiveness of the statement. In other words, if the number of people who display those qualities is never zero, at what
point can we say that it met its minimum? If that point is yet in the future, then we can state, categorically, that this sign of the end does not
apply to us.
There are many that believe that we live at or near the boundary that will signify a "post-Christian" age, where even the ostensibly Christian
churches fall away. I think that this is still a ways off, but there are clear signs that it is coming. If we were to create a bell-curve that
displays the growth of the Church, I suspect that we're near the "falling away" portion of the back of that curve. Inverting the curve, in a vague
attempt to estimate the number of people who followed the teachings of the Church and would then exhibit behaviours contrary to Paul's claims, it
seems likely that we have, indeed, passed that point of minimalism.
(In no way am I implying that the Church is the sole source of morals, nor do I claim that Christians have uniformly exhibited the qualities being
discussed. The bell-curve is clearly not a smooth one, as events such as the Crusades, Spanish Inquisition or persecution of the Anabaptists point to
times where significant backsliding in true Christian behaviour occurred,)
By requiring notability in prophecy, we can narrow down what is being predicted, and whether it has happened, is happening, or is yet to happen.
The most curious thing about it, when applied to Paul's passage in 2 Timothy
, though, is that it not only clarifies the text, but it actually
validates the prophecy. Think about it… the Jewish faith was never more than a minority belief in an isolated area, amongst a single ethnic group.
Paul was in prison, soon to be executed, the other Apostles dead, imprisoned or scattered, and the nascent Christian church was under fire, not only
from government prosecution, but from competing religions and philosophies. Optimism about the mere survival of the faith must have been rare.
But somehow, Paul knew that what he preached would become a dominant worldwide religion, to the point where people not acting like Christians would be
sufficiently notable to point to "the end." To me, that's validation, and that makes the rest of it curious.
edit on 21-2-2011 by adjensen