The Great Big Arguments #5: Prophecies

The basic form of this argument is that the Bible or some other holy text predicted some event or phenomenon its author(s) could not possibly have known about without divine inspiration. Examples: Jesus' life and death fulfilled hundreds of prophecies made about him in the Old Testament, every detail of the 9/11 World Trade Centre attack was laid out in Revelations, the Bible or Quran describes scientific facts only discovered later by scientists themselves. There were a great many arguments like this coming in, so it's time for a summary question for future reference.
Atheist Answer: 

Claimed predictions by the Bible (from which my examples will be drawn, since they're what I've been receiving lately) and other old texts are presented along with a false dilemma: either the authors took wild guesses and were correct multiple times purely by chance, or they were divinely inspired and therefore granted knowledge the rest of humanity didn't have at the time. There are a number of other possibilities for each supposed prophecy or prediction, which are generally more likely than either. The names below aren't universal, they're my own.

1. High Probability of Success: the event predicted was likely almost to the point of certainty, especially given unlimited time in which to occur.

In Jeremiah 49:16, the fall of the city of Edom was prophesied. Edom had many enemies, including Israel, and was regularly at war. Which was more likely, that it would triumph forever or that at some stage it would be destroyed?

2. Still Unknown: the fact given by the text is in dispute even today.

Christians credit the Bible with foreknowledge of cosmology for saying that the universe had a beginning. Even if this is correct, it had a one in two chance which is hardly imposing odds. Importantly, though, the Big Bang might be the very beginning or it may have been caused by some precursor. There's still the possibility of an eternally old universe or multiverse. Claiming credit for predicting a beginning at this point is like trying to collect your winnings from a horse race before it's ended.

3. Self-Fulfilling Prophecy: the very existence of the prophecy assists in its fulfilment.

There were prophecies, at least as told in Jeremiah and Ezekiel, that the captive Jews would return to their homeland of Israel. Assuming for now that the non-supernatural parts of the stories are true to begin with, the Jews themselves knew of this prophecy. They believed God had stated directly that they would return. To do so was to obey His will. No wonder they did everything they could to get back.

In a more general sense, the Bible lays out a complete future history of Israel and Jerusalem. The Jews there do everything in their power to follow the instructions as far as rebuilding and protecting it, and largely use the actions of the Muslims to fill in the bits about invasion, destruction and exile.

4. Shoehorned: the text only applies to reality or to the present day through an unwarranted act of lateral interpretation.

Isaiah 40:22 says, "It is He that sits upon the circle of the earth." Some take this as a signal that the author knew ahead of everyone else that the Earth is a sphere, when the word "circle" seems more likely to refer to the apparent disc one sees when one looks out from atop a mountain. The now-all-but-defunct Flat Earth Society, which believed the statement as much as any other Christian group, maintained their position of a flat Earth because they interpreted it as I do.

5. Made to Order: accounts of a subsequent event were in fact tailored to fit the prophecy.

This possibility is most often applicable to the story of Jesus. The authors of the Gospels had access to the writings of Isaiah et al, and had every opportunity to make sure their own accounts lined up with the old prophecies. Jesus, after all, would have been just one of an army of self-proclaimed Messiahs at the time. He needed everything possible to make him stand out, and that meant fitting the bill to the letter.

This is not a direct accusation that any of the above is in fact the case for any given prediction in an ancient text (extending beyond religion, to writers like Nostradamus). However, any given prediction in texts I've read can be explained by one or several of the above. These extra possibilities must therefore be considered in addition to the false dilemma of chance or God. In this company, divine inspiration is less of a sure thing to say the least.

So what kind of a prediction would bypass all of the above and appear truly, plainly supernatural in its accuracy? Simple: one that we are able to test ourselves, without any prior knowledge. An obvious example is the Rapture: if it happens, those of us who are left will know that prediction was right. You can't engineer the Rapture, or interpret the bodily disapparation of every Christian (of only one denomination, you would assume) any other way.

For a less extreme example, say that instead of interpreting dates gone by to match counts of days in the Bible, someone uses Revelations to predict the day of a future earthquake in Los Angeles, far in advance of seismologists. It could still be coincidence, but it couldn't be Shoehorned or Made to Order. Further, the chances are low, the outcome is known and the prophet couldn't fulfil it him/herself without a nuclear weapon.

That, therefore, is what believers in Biblical prophecy need to do in order to score credibility: use the old texts to make new and accurate predictions, instead of cultivating awe for those gone by. Many do try this, of course, and so there's a growing list of dates for the Rapture, the Tribulation, the Second Coming and lesser events like the collapse of the United States. So far, all of these dates have passed by uneventfully.

- SmartLX

9/11 foretold in the Bible. Do you believe it?

There is a man named Larry Ammons that wrote a book and he claims that 9/11 was foretold in the bible. I asked this question before in a facebook group. He told me that this is proof of God because he believes the bible predicted 9/11. Revelation 9/11 The Seventh Plague 36 facts that prove the attack on the World Trade center was Foretold in the Bible’s book of revelation by Larry Ammons Now I will try to summarize the “36 facts” that the author is talking about in the book. Look at Revelation 17 verse 7 up to the end of revelation 18 in the bible 1) Were there seven mountains on which the women sat? The WTC had exactly seven buildings , they weren’t little they were mountainous . 2) Were there seven kings, five that have fallen, one that is and one yet to come? This means the seventh king, (44th president of the U.S) will continue for a short time. When the WTC was built Gerald Ford was the president, then Jimmy Carter, Ronald Reagan, George Bush, Bill Clinton, “One is” George W. Bush. It says the seventh king as not yet to come. Ammons looks at Rev 17 verse 10 “And there are seven kings: five have fallen, and one is, and the other is not yet come, and when he cometh he must continue a short space.” So the 44th president will not do a full term. The 45th president will be the anti-christ, look at rev 17 verse 11. 3) Were there ten kings? The two planes that hit the WTC had 10 terrorists. A king rules over people, these ten men ruled over everyone in both airplanes. 4) Did the ten terrorists have power as kings for one hour? At 8:03 am the terrorists got up and started their duty and at 9:03 the last plane flight 175 crashed into the south tower of the WTC 5) Were the kings of one mind? Each terrorist read the exact same letter of religious brain washing over and over until they had it memorized. So if all ten men had the same things memorized, they were of “one mind” 6) Did the ten kings hate the WTC? Look at rev 17 verse 16b. These men hated the WTC center so much that they flew two planes into it and killing themselves. 7) Did the ten kings not have a kingdom? They were in the air (in the airplanes) so they had no land thus they had no kingdom 8) Did the WTC reign over the kings of the earth’s trade? Look at rev 17 verse 18. 28 nations had offices in the WTC, everything that was traded by ships, was traded through the WTC. 9) Were these peoples, multitudes, nations, and tongues in the WTC? The WTC had people from 28 nations working in her, 28 different peoples and tongues in one place. Can any other city in the world beat that? If so, I would like to know where that place is. 10) Did the WTC sit on many waters? Yes, Hudson river (315 miles long, upper New York Bay, Jamaica Bay, Gardiners Bay, Lower New York Bay and others. The Hudson river caused an underground water problem, they had to pump the water out and seal it with cement before they started to work on the construction 11) Was the WTC divided into three parts? One part was the seven WTC buildings, the second was the sixteen acre plaza, the third part was underneath which was the shopping mall, the underground transit. 12) Did people come out of the WTC before her collapse? The WTC had 50,000 people working there, all but 2,749 came out of her. 13) Was the WTC’s plagues doubled? Two planes crashed into the WTC. 14) Was she utterly burnt with fire? A study was done and it stated that all seven buildings suffered extensive fire damage. 15) Did her plagues come in one day? On 9/11 the WTC was destroyed. 16) Did the kings of the earth see her burn? The “whole world” saw her burn because it was on television. 17) “What is like this great city?” Is it true that nothing on earth was like the WTC, yes. The WTC was a landmark for New York. 18) Did the merchants weep and mourn for her? Look at rev 18 versus 11. They wept because they saw their business go up in smoke, they cried because they had a sweet deal going on in the WTC. 19) Did her judgment come in one hour? Ammons says “I took business law in college and found out that a judgment is a process of different action leading up to a verdict. The ten terrorists did a “process” of different action in their hour of power that lead up to their verdict: death and destruction.” 20) Did the WTC trade the merchandise written in rev 18 versus 12 and 13? Look at the diversity of the products, gold, and silver, fine linen and silk, flour, wheat, oil, and cattle. Where do you shop to find linen and cattle together? The only place that all the world’s products could possibly be traded would have to be a WTC. 21) Was everything burned in the fire? Everything had fire damage. Nothing was saved 22) Did every shipmaster that traveled by sea see her burn? Satellite television. 23) Was every shipmaster, standing at a far distance? When the twin towers collapsed, debris shot out for blocks and blocks. The only real way to avoid the debris was to board a boat and move out away from it. 24) Was the city thrown down with violence? The planes hit them with a violent speed of 124 miles per hour and they came down with violence to say the least. 25) Was the sound of music stopped? Look at rev 18 versus 22a. There was recorded music played on speakers in the 16 acre plaza. When the WTC came down the music stopped. 26) Were all the craftsmen gone and could not be found in her? Fact; there were craftsmen there. Fact; they are gone. Everyone is gone. 27) Was the sound of a millstone not heard in her any more? The sound of a milestone came from trains under the WTC. The six level basement they were in was completely destroyed. So no more do we hear the sound of the millstone. 28) Were all the WTC lights out? The electrical power was destroyed so no power, no lights. 29) Was the voice of bridegroom and bride gone and not heard anymore? Rev 18 versus 23b. Windows on the World restaurant that was on top of the North Tower of the WTC was the place where the wedding receptions were held. 30) Did the terrorists make war with the lamb? The lamb is referring to Jesus. The Muslims do not believe that Jesus was the son of God, this is a holy war we’re fighting against the terrorists. Ammons continues saying “There’s a book out called “God is not great” It’s by an atheist who says the problems and wars of this world are caused by people’s belief in their gods. Well, in this case the terrorists belief in their god “is” causing problems.” 31) Did great hail fall upon men, every hailstone about the weight of a talent? When the WTC fell the intense heat caused large sections of metal to rain down from the Towers. People had to run away. 32) Did every island flee away? The six level basement of the WTC was destroyed, and later trucked away. So yes, the islands fled away in trucks. 33) Did the nation of the world share in her wealth? Companies from 28 nations shared in her wealth. Business corporations to 28 nations fell into sin. 34) Were the mountains “not found?” The seven buildings were brought down. 35) Did the planes fly into the WTC towers with violence the way the angel showed John when he cast the stone, shaped like a great millstone, into the sea? The two airplanes hit the buildings with great force. 36) Was the WTC a city? The WTC sat on a giant 16 acre plaza. It was so large it had its own zip code and power plant. Most buildings were off limits to the general public, you needed clearance badges to enter. Back in the time of John, some 2,000 years ago, they had walled cities to keep the people safe from enemy attacks. They had two big doors that were opened during the day to let commerce in and out, but at night they were closed. Just like the WTC was closed and guarded at night especially since the 1993 bombing of the parking lot basement. That is it. Now 2 people have pointed out that predictions should be made before the event not after. That is reasonable, that way it is easier to interpret these versus. Ammons actually said that the reason nobody has been able to explain the 7th plague because it had not happened and he said that only God knew what those versus really meant (you might laugh at that). Also some may be wondering why the WTC? Ammons explains that the trading that was going on made a lot of products more expensive. God got mad at this and decided to destroy the WTC. Things like the price of oil went up, the price of houses went up, and corporations were price fixing. That is it. Are you a believer now or are you on the floor laughing?
Atheist Answer: 

Hey BB. Don't worry about the spacing; it's not possible in the question field. In future, if you've got a large hunk of text to paste, put it in a comment.

I don't believe, but I'm not on the floor laughing either because many people do believe this stuff.

9/11 was also predicted, according to some people, by Nostradamus and/or by the Quran, and various other ancient sources too. For some it's only an oblique reference, for some it's purely a hoax. The Bible-based prophecy claim has easily had the most effort put into it.

The convenient thing about the tragedy is that the world's premier business centre has enough trades, commodities, people, money and numbers associated with it that you could connect just about anything to it if you are loose enough. Honestly, presidents and terrorists as kings?

On a more general note, this isn't the first event which people have claimed, after the fact, was predicted someplace. The real test of a prophet is whether you can take prophecies which have not yet come true, and use them to predict future events.

Project this back to the year 2000: if the connection to the WTC was so clear, why weren't evangelicals all over the world warning the American government of an impending attack on it? What's the point of a public prophecy if only the source understands it?

Consider the present day: Ammons has gone ahead and predicted that Obama won't serve a full term, and his successor will be the anti-Christ. If Obama leaves early, that'll be Joe Biden. This is something we can test. Therefore all we have to do is wait. I'm optimistic, because somehow I don't see Biden being the one who wants to damn us all.

Edit: On the other hand I'm really worried, because it's a dangerous prediction to make on Biblical authority. Remember the throngs of evangelicals at Sarah Palin's campaign rallies who seethed with hatred for Obama based on completely false premises? Well, now some of them may see an opportunity to fulfil an ancient prophecy, and please God, by ousting or murdering the President. If someone with any legal knowledge reads this, let us know: might Ammons therefore be guilty of incitement?

- SmartLX

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