Freedom had been hunted round the globe; reason was considered as rebellion; and the slavery of fear had made men afraid to think. But such is the irresistible nature of truth, that all it asks, and all it wants, is the liberty of appearing.
~ Thomas Paine, Rights of Man, 1791 ~

Thursday, August 21, 2014

World Events and Bible Prophecy

It seems that many Christadelphians have been making claims recently along the lines of major events happening in the world being an indicator that Bible prophecy is being fulfilled and that Jesus will thus return to earth soon. Those of you who are familiar with Christadelphian history (and also Christian history) will know that this is certainly not the first time they have made such claims, and I doubt it will be the last. In fact, the founder of the Christadelphians, John Thomas, made a claim of this nature over 100 years ago. Needless to say, Jesus did not return.

Rather than look at specific world events or Bible prophecy in detail, I thought it would be more interesting and more educational to point out what is usually missed when Christadelphians enthusiastically announce the modern day fulfilment of this or that obscure Bible verse.

My aim, as always, is not to ridicule Christadelphians but to educate and provide some tools to help you decide for yourself whether any particular prophecy has actually been fulfilled.

What are the available options?

Always ask whether you are considering all of the possible/available options. It is common for people to present an either/or proposition when reality actually allows for a much larger and perhaps even overlapping set of possibilities. Don't be talked into accepting a narrow range of options until you have considered for yourself what the possibilities might be. And remember that "unknown" is often a valid option too.

So in order to approach this topic somewhat scientifically I will define 3 different hypotheses regarding world events and bible prophecy.

  1. World events undeniably and clearly follow exactly what the Bible predicted.
  2. Christadelphians see world events and then turn to the Bible after the fact to see if they can find anything that sounds similar, coercing the meaning of the Bible verses into sounding something like what actually happened.
  3. It is impossible to be certain whether any world event fits any particular Bible prophecy.
You might be able to think of some more.

There is also the 'null' hypothesis. If we cannot positively confirm any of the above, what is the default position to hold? In this case it is simple, since we are talking about a positive claim being made regarding prophecy. Therefore I would consider our null hypothesis to be worded something like this:
There is no reason to believe that a particular world event is in any way related to the Bible.
Right at the outset, note that these hypotheses are not all mutually exclusive. However, there is enough detail in each hypothesis that allows us to rule one or more of them out. This leads me to my next point...

How would I prove it to be false?

All too often people accept a claim as true without following the steps required to actually confirm it (or rather, to 'disconfirm' it). They will ask themselves "is it plausible?" or "could it be true?". This is all well and good, but on its own this is not enough to actually confirm a claim as true. At best it can only tell us whether a claim is possible, or plausible. If we go no further, we leave ourselves wide open to committing the logical fallacy of 'confirmation bias'.

A far more important question to ask is "How would I prove it to be false?". If you cannot know whether a claim is false, then you cannot know whether it is true. It is as simple as that.

Returning to our 3 hypotheses, we can now start making predictions based on these hypotheses. We can then test these predictions against reality, and if any of them do not match reality then we have successfully ruled out that hypothesis.

What testable predictions can I make for each hypothesis?

Remember, if a hypothesis or idea is not testable, then it is impossible to know whether it is true or false.

For example, consider the possibility that there is an invisible pink unicorn sitting right near you. There is no way to test this, so you cannot know whether or not there really is an invisible pink unicorn. You cannot prove there isn't one, and you cannot prove there is. However, since you have no positive evidence that there is, it would be reasonable to conclude that, at least for practical purposes, there is not. That is, if you have no evidence for or against a claim, then the null hypothesis must stand.

  • Hypothesis 1: World events undeniably and clearly follow exactly what the Bible predicted.

    I should expect:
    • Clear predictions.
      This might be demonstrated by the majority of Christians (and even non-Christians if possible) independently interpreting the prophecy exactly the same way.
    • No double meaning or second guessing.
      The prophecy should have only ever applied to one world event and never to anything else, unless every other application of it also meets the above condition regarding interpretation.
    • No vague language.
      The prophecy should be specific and contain no language that could be interpreted multiple ways, unless all ways to interpret it are equally valid and agreed upon.
  • Hypothesis 2: World events retrofitted to Bible verses after the fact.

    I should expect:
    • Sometimes vague language, allowing a prophecy to apply broadly to a range of events.
    • Different Christian denominations sometimes predicting different things.
    • Different people sometimes applying the same prophecy to different events.
    • Some failed predictions (in cases where subsequent events don't end up panning out to match a prophecy in full).
    • Some events that no one predicted in advance. See the 'clear predictions' item for hypothesis 1. If no one actually predicted the event in advance (outside of the Bible), then that is strong evidence that the prophecy was not clear, nor specific enough.
    • Some differences between the prophecy and reality, however subtle.
    • Some interpretation required to make it fit, or to "explain" the prophecy.
  • Hypothesis 3: No certainty regarding Bible prophecy and world events.

    I should expect:
    • There should be no expectation for people to believe based on fulfilled prophecy.
    • Vague language, allowing a prophecy to apply broadly to a range of events.
    • Every prophecy should in some way fit an event or be plausibly true.

Process of elimination

So now we that we have established clear expectations or predictions to test, it is simply a matter of researching whether or not these predictions match reality. If any observations from reality (or history) differ from the predictive tests above, then we can rule out that entire hypothesis. This is the power of setting up tests that can swing either way. For a hypothesis to be true, ALL of its tests must pass. If any ONE of its tests fail, then the hypothesis is false.

Summary

Congratulations, you are now familiar with what is known as The Scientific Method.

As you may have guessed, the scientific method can be applied to many different things in life, and is very useful for determining whether or not something is true.

It is specifically designed to work around our various biases. The easiest person to fool is ourselves, so tools such as The Scientific Method are invaluable if we are serious in our passion for seeking the truth.

The more you want something to be true, the more you should be cautious when examining its claims.

Thank you for reading. I hope you have found this article helpful.

37 comments:

  1. it is not new, to me it is CD desease, trying to predict Christ return thru wordly events, mainly affecting middle east and Russia. For 165 yrs they have attempted to guess when Jesus will reing on earth and once found worthy, CD's will rule with Him from Jerusalem. The predictions which I have heard of and made publicly were: J.Thomas:Jesus Christ will arise to His inheritance, Kingdom of God 1866-failed. Mr.R.Roberts learned nothing from that, he also calculated that: Christ will reing on earth in 1910.-failed. Prominent south Australian CD CP.Wauchope claimed that armageddon will happen in 1934.-failed. HP.Mansfield aussie CD book writer said in 1968: the world lives in the very shadow of Christ second coming, then again in 1985, he claimed that the Russian growt is a witness to the immenant return of Christ, also failed. CD Roger Stokes said: massive coming of nations together against Israel, will devestate the Jews 1987.failed. 1999, Woodville exclessia put an add in the local news paper stating that Russia will invade Turkey first, then Israel, Jesus is coming soon.- failed. Duncan Heaster in London in Hyde park tried to prophecy Christ return by attempting to attach wordly affaires to the Bible, failed as well and admitted that he was " a well meaning false prophet" Andy Walton is still harping about the middle east, who knows what will happen, but CD's love this, it is like a drug to them, and it is hard to comprehend, because they don't learn from their failures.

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    1. It seems to me that amongst all of those failed predictions, one correct prediction would be no more statistically significant than someone making a guess. Make enough predictions and one of them is bound to be right. If one is ever right (JT predicted the return of the Jews), everyone conveniently forgets all the ones that were wrong.

      Just like chronic gambling and prayer, you never talk about your losses...

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  2. The problem with Christos is that they like to point a finger at other denominations that they are wrong, but they never look at their own back yard, there is rubbish there to be cleaned up as well, none of us are perfect, but claims are made that " they are privileged to hold the key of knowledge" which of course is a self elevation and gratification.

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    1. This is an excellent point.

      On a slightly different topic, I absolutely think that Christadelphians need to learn a lesson in humility, realise that they are actually the "new kids" when it comes to christian history and that there is a lot they could learn from other denominations, and more importantly from biblical scholarship, past and present.

      As far as this topic is concerned, I think the Christadelphians have yet to demonstrate any such "key of knowledge" when it comes to bible prophecy.

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  3. Steve,
    A good article. I've often considered hardcore Christadelphians as being religion addicts, and wondered if this prophecy obsession gives them a dopamine hit in the same way it does to gamblers who (nearly) win.

    The article prompted me to do a quick re-read of Graham Pearce 1982 ' book "The Revalation-Which Interpretation" in which he takes to pieces the books of two other Christadelphian writers.
    After discussing how correct Thomas was in his interpretation, he bemoans the fact that since the '50's, Christadelphians have interpreted the revelation differently. On page 118 under the heading "TRUTH IS PRECIOUS" (capitals his) he states:

    "Many who read these new interpretations recognise they are not sound expositions , but they maintain a high tolerance towards them, and continue to hold those who write thus in high esteem. This comparative indifference to the Truth is not good. With these mutually contradictory interpretations before us, our rising generation will adopt the view that there is no certain truth. With this loose attitude on one of the books of the inspired word of God, it will inevitably follow that a similar attitude will grow towards the rest of God's word. Uncertainty and debate will increase, and our standing as the people that have the TRUTH will be lost."

    Needless to say, when Graham Pearce "fell asleep" in 1994, Don Pearce went on to fulfill the above, with ever more crazy interpretations helping to bring ridicule upon the Christadelphians, something that continues to this day.

    Sorry for the long comment Steve

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    1. So he thought that not only was there some way to determine whose interpretation was the "correct" one (did they get a tap on the shoulder by an angel? a gold star? how could they possibly know?), but that since the 50's people were knowingly choosing the wrong interpretation. That's bizarre, and wreaks of someone who just can't handle the thought that they might be wrong, or that the truth might not be so clear cut.

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    2. Well you kind of get that with Christadelphians (and other prophecy hungry types). He goes on to call up Dan 12:10 "None of the wicked shall understand: but the wise shall understand". He tells us that the duty of Christadelphians is to join the faithful brethren of past centuries to witness against the apostasy, and then:
      "A tolerant friendly attitude to the Churches is growing rapidly in our community. We are ceasing to be God's witnesses, because we have ceased to respond to the revelation, to keep the sayings of the book" (this was 1982 remember).
      So we have the logical fallacy of false cause, followed by the cultic thinking of "one truth" and separation from others. Of course the supposed friendly disposition toward the churches never developed, but the closed mind mentality put forth helped to isolate those members who would think for themselves- the very thing the apostasy did!
      How do they know they are right? The answer Steve, is in the book, on the previous page, P117 Referring to Dr Thomas, he says:
      "Under the good hand of God he [Dr Thomas] made plain the Truth....."
      So yes, it's true because God gave Dr Thomas a tap on the shoulder..not an angel.

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    3. "Under the good hand of God he [Dr Thomas] made plain the Truth....."

      That reads like "We Christadelphians are so lucky to be chosen by God, and everyone else be damned".

      It just raises more questions. For example:
      If God was able to make plain the truth to one person, why couldn't he do it for everyone? Not only that, but why wait 1800 years to do something? Why was John Thomas any different from the Campbellites and others that he borrowed his ideas from?

      I don't think we need to answer those questions. The whole idea is egocentric and absurd.

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  4. Again at a bible study once I was told by a CD lady that John Thomas was moved by God's spirit to rediscover the CD TRUTH. However no one mentions that J.Thomas copied other writers books ( plagiarized) and claimed that his books were authentic, original writings, but that is swept under the carpet, He has worked himself to stardom among his followers, yet he was also a liar.

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  5. It appears that fewer and fewer CDs are reading "The Pioneers" these days. Here's a clip of a well known Christadelphian almost brought to tears by this fact.

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vckpuduCprA

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    1. God must have been lucky to have these pioneers show up (admittedly a little late in the piece) to explain the true meaning of the book that he failed to make clear enough in the first place...

      Are we actually still talking about an omnipotent, omniscient deity or are we talking about a bumbling deity who has been trying unsuccessfully to get it together? I mean, according to the Bible, he messed up his first creation attempt so he had to kill everyone off in a flood, only to have Noah get blind drunk shortly after returning to land. Somehow all the evidence for the first half of the Bible then went missing. Then he had a baby with some poor woman in a backwater village in the middle east that no one had ever heard of, making it take ages to get the news out. To make things worse neither Jesus nor his followers could write, let alone read. Eventually he got some people to write his book, but then shortly after he completed his book it was corrupted by later scribes and so all these false religions sprang up ("false" according to the Christadelphian view), and then finally in the mid 1800's a bunch of men suddenly managed to figure out the truth again and finally people could be saved. Only problem was that virtually no one had heard of these men and 150 years later it's all going wrong again because people stopped blindly trusting those men to have correctly understood a book written 2000 years ago.

      Makes perfect sense...

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    2. ^^ sorry if my weird sense of humour is offensive to people.

      My intention is to paint the picture in an alternative way to perhaps get people to see things differently.

      The brute facts are that less than 1% of 1% of the world's population understand the Bible according to the Christadelphian view, and there's only so much you can blame on people. If the bible was written by a god, and this same god supposedly made humans, then sooner or later that god needs to take ownership of his utter failure to communicate with his kids...

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    3. Steve, your "weird sense of humour" is what is needed to wake up the sleepers in the CD bubble. You unerringly place your digit on the nub or gist of what is needed to be aired.
      Keep on doing so.

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  6. Well it is easy if you are a CD, first you are privileged, to have the key of knowledge, then with that key you are able to unlock the hidden scripture, then you become a know all.

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  7. The problem is that many Christians have A problem with interpreting prophecy and are not methodological sound. There is no doubt that first century Christians expected an early return. Even Revelation expected events to happen soon. The thing is these events did transpire (but not as first century Christians expected). What was meant to happen was judgment of Israel (punishment), repentance (of the nation) and the visible physical presence of Jesus. Unfortunately the nation did not repent and only received destruction and the "times of the Gentiles" commenced. The nation was dispersed and the gospel was preached world wide. In other words, the prophetic program was INTERRUPTED because of faithlessness and first century events formed a pattern (or prism) through which to view the end. This is how prophecy ALWAYS works --initial immediate fulfillment (already) followed by distant future fulfillment (not yet). The reason for immediate fulfillment is so that the veracity of the prophet could be tested. Jesus was proven correct because he "came" in Judgement and destroyed Jerusalem and the generation that heard his prophecy saw "heaven and earth" (the Jewish cult) pass away. The "prophetic clock" has recently started ticking again because the Jews (after 2,000 years) have returned to the land. That means that the Olivet prophecy is now (once again) relevant to the end. This particular view of Revelation is known as Partial Preterism (that some, but not all was fulfilled in the past).

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    1. Interesting hypothesis. But why do you believe it is true? Is there any way to test it?

      If it wasn't true, what would be different?

      Regarding your claim that the return of Israel is a fulfilment of prophecy, you might be interested in my recent article here: http://www.exchristovoiceofreason.com/2016/12/the-return-of-israel.html

      Or regarding prophecy in general: http://www.exchristovoiceofreason.com/2015/10/the-flawed-methodology-behind.html

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    2. "ALWAYS" is a bold claim (all the more bold for being in all caps). It also seems to me a surprising claim. Even if this were generally true, surely you would expect some prophecies that are only short term, not long term, and other prophecies that are only long term, not short term? Or is God required to conjure up a short term fulfilment even for a prophecy that is meant to be longer term? (and vice versa).

      To take a couple of examples from opposite ends of the spectrum:
      1. I found that the prophecy of the death of Hananiah the prophet in Jeremiah 28 was considered the paradigmatic example of a short term prophecy. It was predicted it would happen in the same year, and it did (in your reckoning, is that short term or long term?)
      Assuming this is a short term prophecy, where is the long term fulfilment? It seems pretty specific. Should we be looking for a latter day Hananiah, a prophet who represents the spirit of opposition to God? You could conjecture that, but there is literally nothing in the prophecy that even remotely suggests that we should look for such a fulfilment.

      2. Almost any prediction of future peace and God's kingdom in Old Testament times would now be viewed as only talking about the kingdom, and as being long term only. For example, Isaiah 2: God's mountain being the highest in the world, the law coming from Jerusalem, surrounding nations coming to worship and be taught, etc. Does each of these predictions have a short term fulfilment in the time of Isaiah? If so, what are these fulfilments? And why is it talking about "the latter days" when the reader is meant to be looking for a short term fulfilment first?

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    3. Oh, one final point: the main problem with establishing short term prophecy fulfilments is that we weren't around to see their fulfilment. For all we know, the prophecy was manipulated or even recorded after the fact. Consider carefully whether this can apply to AD 70 related predictions in the NT.

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    4. Fair point about ALWAYS (perhaps I a being bit hyperbolic). I had in mind "national prophecies" and "messianic prophecies" (which are often types/allusions/echoes). This should be distinguished from personal prophecies, for example against an individual --you will be dead/taken captive etc. As I said many Christians (not just Christadelphians) have little understanding how prophecy actually works. Your point about prophecy after the fact (ex eventu) is valid and difficult to prove/disprove as it involves the dating range of Biblical Books (both OT and NT). On this I have done extensive statistical work regarding the language (EBH/LBH)and also Linear Discriminant Analysis (LDA/PCA/clustering etc) on Greek Function words etc. This is an ongoing project and difficult as we are often dealing with mixed distributions. Suffice to say that my conclusions so far are largely in line with J.A.T. Robinson in Redating the NT which demonstrates that the NT books are of much earlier provenance than originally thought (Prior AD 70). Besides linguistical/statistical arguments there are many other historical/psychological reasons to believe that the NT are earlier (prior 70). JAT Robinson says that the fact that the destruction of the temple is not recorded is like the case of the "dog that did not bark" in the Sherlock Homes Case. It is surely a good argument (if one by omission) as Christians (who had suffered cruel persecuted by Jews) would have described their vindication and the fall of the temple with great satisfaction (one would imagine). The exact opposite is found in Pauline Literature ---the Jews are making great headway and turning (de-converting Christians) back to the temple cult....something that was no longer possible once the temple had been removed.




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    5. PS. Isaiah 2 initially applicable to Hezekiah -defeat of Assyrians and time of "peace"/centralized worship/reformation etc. Of course, Isaiah employs Hezekiah as a type/cameo and images in hyperbolic fashion. Same might be said about "Ezekiel's Temple" which was the temple THAT SHOULD HAVE BEEN BUILT when they returned from exile (but never was---the old men "cried" when they saw what had actually been built). Revelation takes this temple to a new level (metaphorically) it becomes a temple that uses people as building blocks/gates/foundations. So much for those who envisage the building of a physical temple (by Christ although many Jews are agitating to build a temple next to the Dome of the Rock which would be an abomination to God). So many Christians are clueless when it comes to interpreting prophecy (it is quite sad) especially as they will not listen to valid counterpoints. And before you say it...no I don't think I have all the answers...

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    6. //As I said many Christians (not just Christadelphians) have little understanding how prophecy actually works//

      That's to be expected with an ancient text from an ancient culture.

      However, I have to question whether we should expect this to be the case if Christianity was in fact true. Could an omnipotent, omniscient god have done better to get the message across more clearly? Surely the answer is yes. So why didn't he/it?

      And before you blame people for their lack of understanding, has there ever been a time when the majority understood correctly? Didn't the same god create people too?

      If a god created people, and then wrote them a book, but they couldn't understand the book properly, at some point one has to question the capabilities of the author/creator, especially if he supposedly knew this would be the case in advance.

      It may sound off-topic, but when people make claims to have some secret or superior knowledge of the Bible that almost everyone else seems to have missed, I can't reconcile that with the bigger picture of how it's all supposed to work.

      What's the point of putting prophecies in the Bible if most people couldn't figure it out? I just don't think it's reasonable to put it down to laziness on the part of the readers. It's certainly true in some cases, but if it was true in the majority of cases then you'd have to question who made people with a tendency to be lazy.

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  8. @Steve Pryde. Had a quick skim read of your article and many of the points you make are valid. A lot of the prophecies you refer to had a fulfillment in the return from the Babylonian exile (as you point out). Of course it can be said that there is a dual fulfillment but this is a weak argument and usually (but not always) untrue. The question is whether or not the return of Israel is just an unprecedented historical anomaly (coincidence). I do not think so as the NT suggests that the fig tree (the tree that Jesus cursed) would blossom again. Other parables told by Jesus suggest a form of virulent national Judaism would emerge at the end (Zionism though secular has seen a large growth in the fundamentalist orthodox base). By the way, read the comments on Sir Isaac Newton (brilliant scientist but poor biblical scholar). The "days" in Daniel/Revelation (1260,1335 etc) are just that...DAYS. They are not (arbitrarily) convertible to years. They are based on the Jewish Lunar Calendar and represent the intervals between certain feast days. They start at the destruction of the temple (9th of AB) and culminate with either Day of Atonement/Passover/Purim/Hanukah. I have performed various calculations (with and without intercallenary leap year months). This demonstrates that the intervals are periods between feast days and means that the various possibilities/combinations are largely (but not entirely) symbolic and based on a particular three-and-one-half year time period. For example the trumpets (in Revelation) begin on the DOA (note the ritual) and the witnesses (Rev 11) are killed just before Purim (exchange of gifts). Interesting fact...Israel attacked on DOA (their holiest day) in 1973....coincidence? Hmmm...that would make the 5th trumpet the fall of the twin towers and the start of Jewish instigated American Noe-conservative policy that has destroyed and destabilized the Middle East. Me thinks that those looking at Russia would benefit more from examining the USA/Israeli actions. Anyway, enough ramblings...and you can make of it what you will but my prediction is that we will see many more strange things happening in the Middle East and that it is not a coincidence. But unfortunately you are correct regarding confirmation bias and misinterpretation and I have to be careful not to fall in the same trap.

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  9. //A lot of the prophecies you refer to had a fulfillment in the return from the Babylonian exile (as you point out)//

    I did?

    I seem to recall saying that many of the predictions were not fulfilled even in the return from Babylon (most notably, the northern 10 tribes never returned).

    //By the way, read the comments on Sir Isaac Newton//

    You mean this?
    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Religious_views_of_Isaac_Newton#2016_vs_2060

    //The "days" in Daniel/Revelation (1260,1335 etc) are just that...DAYS. They are not (arbitrarily) convertible to years.//

    I agree with you on that point, but not your later comments. The book appears to be referring to a very specific event, namely when Antiochus Epiphanes took away the daily sacrifice, in 168BCE.

    "From the time that the daily sacrifice is removed and the abomination that causes desolation is set in place, there are 1,290 days"
    Daniel 12:11 NET

    "The rabbinical consensus is that the expression refers to the 168 BCE desecration of the Second Temple (Herod's Temple) by the erection of a Zeus statue in its sacred precincts by Antiochus IV Epiphanes"
    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Abomination_of_desolation

    //The question is whether or not the return of Israel is just an unprecedented historical anomaly (coincidence)//

    Well, yes, but I don't necessarily think it's fair to call it "unprecedented historical anomaly". It may be unprecedented in terms of this specific type of thing, in the details, but the more specific you are, the more you could claim that every single event is unprecedented. Stepping back to a big picture view, you have to realise that history is full of anomalies, or rather we have evolved to see patterns even when there are none, such that if we go looking for "anomalies" in history, we're almost guaranteed to find some. It's like a giant game of "Which of these things is not like the others?" but we get to choose the criteria and we decide when we're right. Confirmation bias indeed.

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  10. Hello Steve,
    Well we could go on discussing these matters for a long time and this website is not really ideal for complex discussions. Once again you make many valid points and it is good to come across someone who approaches everything critically. This is a process that I engaged with some 20 years ago ---reading many books on higher criticism, language dating etc. I may have missed what you said about the 10 tribes (my bad) as I quickly skim read the article ---suffice to say that the historical situation is murky as many of the "poor" from the 10 tribes were never deported ---only the elite ---and therefore they never actually left! Many of the remnant intermarried and became Samaritans. Again, you are correct with your observations about Antiochus Epiphanes but that does not tell the complete story. I can suggest a book that looks at Daniel at some depth and throws a new light on how it should be approached (It is largely ignored by Christadelphians so that in itself should be a good recommendation!):
    http://www.lulu.com/shop/paul-wyns/god-is-judge/ebook/product-17469325.html Can send you a PDF version if you give me an email address.

    As for unprecedented historical anomaly. Yes, the whole question of the Jews as a nation/people is very strange. Just briefly, some comments about them as a people. I think that they form about 0.5% of the world population but they are ENORMOUSLY influential (had to use caps). This gives rise to anti-Semitic tendencies and they have been kicked out of 108 countries. I recently came across a post that showed how many US companies had Jews as CEO's/board members, how many universities, banks,lawyers etc...it was eye opening. Also very influential in politics. The last three chairman of the Federal Reserve were Jews! (Thank you for the coming financial crisis!). The last century was shaped by Jews (Carl Marx/Freud/Einstein)and the Bolshevik revolution driven by Jews.The movement towards globalization (Babylon) would not be possible without Jews (Sorros etc). Even in Biblical times Jews managed to gain positions of political influence (Joseph/Daniel/Nehemiah/Mordecai etc)and often were expelled (or genocide) even before the rise of Christianity (so can't blame blood libel for persecution). This tells me that something strange is going on with the Jewish people. And yes, it is highly unusual that they even exist as a people (and have not been absorbed) and returned after 2,000 years. Other peoples (the Kurds for example) cannot gain nationhood and they never even left their lands. The Jews have achieved what no other people in history have achieved (and that is not hyperbole). As a consequence the newly formed nation sits like a festering sore on the political landscape.
    So Steve, I hope you continue your critical evaluation but keep an open mind otherwise you will become similar to those who you critique. They have obviously hurt you with their narrow minds and self-righteous ways and your reaction is understandable but don't give up! I believe that the next seven years will witness remarkable (and perplexing) events as we are entering the last (Donald) Trump. LOL

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    1. I am never impressed by people who claim to have some superior/secret knowledge that almost everyone else who has studied the same thing somehow missed.

      Again, you are cherry-picking details where the Jews have excelled, but you could do the same with any nation or group. You'd just have to pick different criteria. For example there are civilisations older than the Jews that are still around. The Commonwealth nations are vastly more successful than Israel. Note that we are writing in English, not Hebrew. It is true that Jews have made remarkable achievements, but none of that requires a supernatural explanation. If you do wish to posit one, you'll need to do more than just offer vague speculation. Otherwise you'd just be fooling yourself.

      There's not really any critical evaluation left to continue with in my opinion. Almost none of the Christian worldview makes sense to me. It's beyond absurd.

      If there's a god out there, it seems to me that I have no way of knowing it. Your claims might be true, but the time to believe them is after you've demonstrated them.

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    2. I'm sorry, but are you really suggesting that the book of Daniel contains actual relevant prophecies about modern events?

      So... an omniscient god thought it would be a great idea to have someone in the 2nd century BCE impersonate a prophet from the 6th century BCE, while pretending to "predict" the future (which was actually the author's past/present)...

      ...and you think that even though the later predictions failed, it still looks like something that a god might have inspired... ?

      It's a bizarre picture. How does it all fit together for you? What do you think this whole thing is about?

      Your idea of God being some cosmic puzzler who has hidden the true message in cryptic texts intentionally, actually sounds like a cross between a deceiver and a torturer. Do you think this is all a game? Some crazy riddle that a cosmic trickster is pulling on us? We're surrounded by death and suffering, children are starving by the millions, and you're seriously thinking that there is a super-powerful wizard looking at us and saying, "it's too bad, you didn't solve the riddle". It's not exactly the "loving father" image, now is it?

      //They have obviously hurt you//

      Enough. This has to be the most irritating thing that believers say to non-believers. The implication is that rather than arriving at my current position through research and rational thought, I must have instead been hurt or be acting on emotions rather than reason. It's insulting. It's also highly ironic given that most believers arrived at their position before they were 5.

      If there's any "hurt" it comes from people trying to tell me that they know some hidden "truth" about the world and that if only I'd give up my entire life (including all my critical faculties) and believe them, I'll be rewarded in some Utopian afterlife. I'm sorry, but I'm going to need some evidence.

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  11. Hello Jack,
    Good point and probably the start of a philosophical discussion or perhaps an apologetic article? LOL. It does seem a bit "naughty" that God should do such things. Why not make it plain and simple? But God does not:

    Isaiah 29:11 Read this, I pray thee: and he saith, I cannot; for it is sealed.

    Both the learned (Christadelphians? LOL) and the unlearned could not read the vision. God does this deliberately. Jesus spoke in parables deliberately. So unfair!

    Why does God do this? Perhaps because this allows people to express their true character? Some will dismiss it out of hand as nonsense. Others will "ponder in their heart" ---they may not understand but they will remember and try and figure it out. Others may take a leap of faith and achieve a clear insight (through divine guidance). We have to accept our limitations with humility ---none of us understands everything (not even Christadelphians)and God uses his word in a sifting process ---sorting wheat from chaff.

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    1. Sorry to nit-pick, but you haven't demonstrated that "God" does anything of the sort. The Bible says those things, but we know it was written by people. The challenge for you is to demonstrate that those people got it from some external source. I don't know of any way to do that.

      You may think prophecy can prove the existence of the divine but that's going too far. All we could really say is that the author appears to have gotten information from some external source, but we couldn't say what. If you have a way to demonstrate the supernatural, you'd be the first.

      That said, I'm not aware of any such prophecy fulfilment in the Bible, and I am aware of several that failed.

      //Others may take a leap of faith and achieve a clear insight (through divine guidance)//

      How do you tell the difference between a clear insight and a false positive? With no divine tap on the shoulder, any "feeling" that one has gotten clear insight is more likely than not to be misguided. Then you've got the millions of people who think they've had the truth revealed to them by some holy spirit, yet still disagree with each other.

      From where I'm standing, the evidence pretty clearly suggests that no one has "the truth", and everything scholars have learned about the Bible (and other holy books) suggests it's just the product of ancient human scribes. Interesting from an anthropological/cultural perspective, but that's about all.

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  12. Ha! You have fallen in the same trap as those you oppose. What a pity. I could go on with many valid counterpoints but it is like arguing with a JW.If you cannot even acknowledge that there is something "strange" going on with the Jews and are unprepared to engage with the link to the Daniel book that I sent then you are doing exactly the same thing as your opponents: Confirmation bias and a closed mind. In time (shortly) you will see that you are wrong as events have a way of challenging your unbelief in the same way that those same events will also challenge and confuse Christadelphian attitudes. Very funny that you are both on opposite sides of the same sinking ship. LOL

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    1. //If you cannot even acknowledge that there is something "strange" going on with the Jews//

      That's extremely vague and highly subjective. Also I noted that even though you think the Jews are special, you did not conclude that Judaism must therefore be true. Why?

      There is a huge gap between saying "something strange is going on" and actually understanding/confirming the cause. Even if you want to believe that the Jews are special, there is still no reason to conclude that anything supernatural has occurred. That would need to be demonstrated - something you seem reluctant to do.

      //You have fallen in the same trap as those you oppose//

      Interesting. I thought I left a religion where people thought they knew some secret truth about the world, and where people believed that ancient texts (including the book of Daniel) held secrets about future events. That sounds exactly like what you're doing.

      //In time (shortly) you will see that you are wrong as events have a way of challenging your unbelief//

      Funny, that's the kind of thing Christadelphians say.

      I asked for evidence, and that's when you ran away. I'm not entirely surprised. Lots of people claim to have evidence for the supernatural, but when asked to provide it, it never seems to materialise. I wonder why that is...

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    2. So by your account, in order to be open-minded Steve needs to read a book (515 pages) recommended by you.
      Just curious: If Steve were to recommend you a book, would you agree to consider yourself closed-minded until you had read and interacted with it?

      I don't know about Steve, but I personally have many more books on my "to-read" pile (fiction and non-fiction) than I will have time to read in the foreseeable future. Some of them agree with my worldview, and some of them challenge it. And even where I am reading a (non-fiction) book that agrees with my overall worldview, I expect to learn something from it. Otherwise there wouldn't be a lot of point reading it.

      I do try to read books from different perspectives, not just ones that I agree with. This was a conscious change in the last couple of years, and is part of the reason why I accepted unbelief. In addition, I have book recommendations from many people. Some I have read. Some are on the pile to read, or on a list of books that I might want to add to the pile. And some I won't read because they don't sound particularly interesting, or because I have read enough similar books that they are unlikely to teach me much.

      While I'm happy to accept recommendations from others, and to try and keep an open mind while considering them, I do not accept that anyone else is entitled to define which books I must read or not read to qualify as open-minded. Having a balanced reading list is difficult, and it's likely that some parts of my worldview are more challenged than others. But really, I don't think it's possible to re-consider everything from scratch: if you have no pre-conceptions, you won't even have sufficient background knowledge to read the books recommended. Reconsidering everything at once isn't open-mindedness. It is chaos. I'll do my best to choose a sensible set of ideas to explore out of a sea of options, but I'm not going to change that decision just because of the threat of being called "closed-minded".

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    3. Oh, and in case you're wondering where your book recommendation sits, for me it falls into both "doesn't sound particularly interesting" and "I have read enough similar books". Maybe not similar in the details, but similar in trying to assert (or maybe assume) that the book is obviously inspired while looking for obscure secrets in this obviously inspired book that have been missed by 99.99% of the faithful.

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    4. Hello Jack and Steve,

      If anyone is "running away" it is both of you--unwilling to engage with the book link that I sent. And yes, I would follow up on a book link....in fact I probably would have already read it (such as Fox's The Unauthorized Version and many other critical books including an 18th century four volume Critical Biblical Encyclopedia which I posses and many other critical books). LOL You are exactly like your opponents....it is like a mirror image....closed minds and confirmation bias. So funny and so sad. Nowhere do I conclude that the Jews are "special".....those are your words. I simply point out the FACTS and state that something unusual is going on (I leave you to draw your own conclusions or to dismiss the FACTS as irrelevant because they do not fit your worldview). No one is talking about "secret knowledge" (your words) but about correct interpretation and establishing testable methodologies. Clearly you do not want to engage with the links that I sent and therefore I am not "running away" but simply cutting my loses because you cannot discuss with closed minds (as you know from your own experience so why do you act the same way?). And yes, the proof of the pudding is in the eating. If the interpretive approach to Revelation is partial preterism then we are about to see the outworking of the (as yet) unfulfilled section during our lifetime. Everything points towards that outcome.


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    5. //I simply point out the FACTS and state that something unusual is going on//

      Great. Let me know when it stops.

      //I leave you to draw your own conclusions//

      I did, but you didn't like my conclusions and accused me of being closed minded and a bunch of other things.

      //No one is talking about "secret knowledge" (your words) but about correct interpretation //

      If I'm not mistaken, you're talking about a "correct interpretation" that almost no one is aware of... Could you perhaps explain to me the difference between that and "secret knowledge" ?

      //Clearly you do not want to engage with the links that I sent//

      I wasn't aware that this was obligatory. Would you like me to respond with more links? Perhaps we could save time by getting the book authors to debate each other...

      //If the interpretive approach to Revelation is partial preterism //

      Why the "if" ? I thought you said it was the correct interpretation. Yet now you sound like you're hedging your bets.

      //then we are about to see the outworking of the (as yet) unfulfilled section during our lifetime. Everything points towards that outcome.//

      What outcome, in particular?

      If you would be so kind as to give a list of say 5 detailed predictions including dates (exact year would be good, month and day would be even better), then we will have it on record so that when it happens you'll be able to show us all that you're correct. Be sure to give some explanation as to how you arrived at those predictions too, or a link if you must. Don't give me anything vague though - you'd just be wasting everyone's time, including yours.

      Testable predictions are fantastic. Thing is, even if your prediction came true, it wouldn't really give us any additional information. Perhaps you were right about this but wrong about everything else. There are no guarantees. But it would be a pretty good start, and we can discuss the implications afterwards. Deal?

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    6. I would also be interested in what things might prove you wrong. A good theory should be testable/falsifiable.

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    7. If being open minded involves having 60 hours a day rather than the conventional 24, then sure, sign me up. But even then I wouldn't be able to read everything I would like to read.

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  13. On several occasions I've had people mention the disproportionate number of Jews among famous scientists and other significant people throughout world history. Or they point out other achievements of the Jews as being a "sign" or indicative of something, though as we can see above, they don't always say what.

    Every time I question these people about whether there is something peculiar about the Jews, they appear to quickly back away from the claim. No one seems willing to actually connect the dots and make a firm reality-based claim along these lines. Namely, that the Jews have been successful specifically because some invisible deity has been helping them over the years. It's about as valid as claiming they use magic.

    Obviously there is no way to test such a hypothesis, and that might be why people are so reluctant to defend it outright. It's also obvious that all one would need to do is point to some natural explanation for Jewish achievement and the "divine intervention" hypothesis starts to fade a little. It's not strictly falsifiable, but it would lose its persuasive force, I think.

    Now, I wasn't actually looking for this, but as it turns out there are some natural explanations that have been put forward to explain this. The video below was suggested on my youtube feed, so I watched it.

    https://richarddawkins.net/2013/08/steven-pinker-jews-genes-and-intelligence/

    Also:
    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ashkenazi_Jewish_intelligence

    I would note that these hypotheses all have their critics and are by no means settled, but it's worth a read/watch. For what it's worth, I would also mention that the "divine intervention" hypothesis is pure speculation and there isn't a shred of evidence for it. Nor is it even clear how one might go about defending it.

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