Monday, May 02, 2016

Pretending to See the Future

Watts Up With That lists seven times the global warm-mongers got it spectacularly wrong.

There’s biologist George Wald, who predicted “Civilization will end within 15 or 30 years”. Then there’s ecologist Kenneth Watt, who was convinced the crude oil supply would be fully depleted by the year 2000. And let’s not forget the Life magazine prognostication that “in a decade, urban dwellers will have to wear gas masks to survive air pollution”. That was all in 1970 and so far so good, except maybe in China.

We laugh, but some Christians are not much more accurate when they attempt to read tea leaves.

The Robertson Report

Former presidential candidate Pat Robertson is notable for his tendency to speculate. The way the world works, nobody keeps track when you get it right and everybody sources your errors, so it should not surprise us that the Internet will not let us forget Robertson’s more egregious blunders: while he was correct on the George Bush reelection, his prediction of a Jay Rockefeller presidency fell flat and his 2004 prediction that “God will remove judges from the Supreme Court quickly and their successors will refuse to sanction the attacks on religious faith” is still awaiting its fulfillment (unless he meant that God would remove conservative judges, in which case Robertson may have nailed everything but the timing).

Too Many Moving Parts

On balance, especially compared to many of his political ilk, Robertson is not even a bad guy. Time and time again, Christians and non-Christians alike have attempted to predict the future. Many of them have looked sillier than Robertson, but all are out of their depth. From a worldly perspective, we are speculating about something (in this case the ecosystem) that has too many moving parts and about which we know too little to be dogmatic. From a Christian perspective, we are speculating about how God may choose to fulfill his promises and accomplish his purposes. And while God’s character has been fully revealed in Christ and the broad strokes of his future actions laid out for us in scripture, no mere man can say precisely how or when God will carry out his purpose in any specific instance.

But isn’t it tempting to try?

On the Inside

You would think with all the biblical warnings about going beyond the word of God, Christians would be a little more cautious.

But there’s obviously something about the illusion that we know what’s ACTUALLY going on that fires up the human ego big time. The idea of being on the inside, of having a window into the operations of the ecosystem, the universe or the counsels of God — of being in the know — is horribly compelling.

We might say insider knowledge was the original temptation. Eve wanted to KNOW. The serpent told her “your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil”. You’ll have the inside dope, Eve. And Eve saw that “the tree was to be desired to make one wise”.

Oh boy.

The Ultimate Example

I love it that there was nothing at all in the perfect humanity of the Lord Jesus to respond to this all-too-common human craving. There wasn’t, was there? If there was, we’d surely see a hint of it in four gospels. I don’t.

He does not seem to have had the slightest problem doing the things he was instructed to do while leaving the Father’s actions — and especially the Father’s knowledge — to the Father. While being in very nature God, he did not consider equality with God a thing to be grasped.

He wasn’t worried about how that might have looked to the world. In speaking of his own future return to earth and the events that will accompany it, he told his disciples:
“But concerning that day and hour no one knows, not even the angels of heaven, nor the Son, but the Father only.”
Much has been argued about this, and I have no intention of getting into it. My point is simply this: Jesus didn’t have to include the words “nor the Son” here. Those few Greek syllables (οὐδέ υἱός) add nothing but profound mystery and theological complication. The disciples hadn’t asked about how much he knew, and he had no obligation to tell them. If the Lord Jesus had been the slightest bit concerned about how his lack of knowledge in this area might appear or if it had bothered him in the least that theologians over the next two millennia would beat themselves silly trying to explain it, he would never have said it.

He didn’t have to. But he was completely comfortable doing so.

And Here It Is Again

Now, it should be mentioned that the passage in Matthew has been a bone of contention between adherents to the text tradition behind the King James Version and those who value the text tradition behind modern translations. Fair enough. Let’s not fly into a panic over a few piously added (or piously deleted) letters. Scripture is vast enough and well enough preserved that no Christian doctrine of any consequence stands or falls on the Greek text of a single verse. But I will point out that the very same idea recurs in Revelation. The book starts with this sentence:
“The revelation of Jesus Christ, which God gave him to show to his servants the things that must soon take place.”
God gave this revelation to his Son, and his Son passed it on to us. At one point, the Father had knowledge that the Son did not have. Again, this adds nothing but mystery and complication, but it seems to be the way things are:

On one hand, we have over and over again the plainly stated fact that the Lord Jesus is in every way equal with the Father; that there is nothing in the Father’s essence or being that is lacking in the Lord Jesus.

On the other hand, we have this mystery.

I’m happy to leave it mysterious for the time being, but I think we need to take at least one lesson from it: there’s nothing bad about not knowing. Nothing demeaning, nothing humiliating, nothing shabby or inferior. The Lord Jesus was none of these.

There’s nothing wrong with saying “I don’t know” when we don’t.

1 comment :

  1. Watts Up With That further down actually had some fairly relevant and useful information concerning predicting the future like this link, which pretty much describes the next car I might buy (depending on my finances ;O)

    Aside from that I agree that man-caused doomsday predictions concerning Earth are premature (except for nuclear war) also because of these two reasons, mankind can expand into the ocean if needed and, as I have pointed out before, society functions like an electronic control circuit with a feedback loop correcting problems when a set-point of unbearable is reached. As history has shown so far The Holy Spirit provides and we are not abandoned but obtain the genius and resources to solve the problems that need to be overcome. Actually we are quite successful at that as these two links show.

    Why retirees with low savings are happy anyway

    Revised mortality tables show newborns now to reach age 90, while 65 year olds on average live to 86, 88 years for men, women.