Thinking Out Loud

August 13, 2015

Prediction vs. Prophecy

Filed under: Christianity — Tags: , , , , , — paulthinkingoutloud @ 8:12 am

Written very late at night…

I looked out the window at the morning sky as I stepped out of the shower stall. In the five minutes I had been in the bathroom, the scene had completely clouded over. Originally, I thought we were promised completely clear skies. Talking to myself out loud I said, “This is not the day that was prophesied.”

Of course, the wording is awkward. We tend to think of prophecy in religious terms. In a conversation today, one person suggested to me that the term was exclusively Christian or at least limited to deists; it was only prophecy if it came from God. I reminded them that the term is indeed associated with other religions, that in the broadest scheme of things, prophet is not limited to a handful of Biblical writers, and sometimes they got it right.

skipping stonesThe day’s weather was instead a matter of prediction, but by this point I was straining at the nuances of that word as well.

“Just save yourself all this, and use the word forecast when referring to the weather;” was my youngest son’s suggestion.

I think one variable is time. The meteorologist can predict tomorrows climate conditions, but we would hardly call it prophecy. Even if he offers a forecast for the same date, but twenty years from now, some would argue that this is projection based on climate data available to him or her.

But what we do see from the Biblical writers usually involves a very distant future, and involves parameters that exceed any current data available. There is usually a sense of a holy person having seen some type of vision. But even there the time frame is variable, as some prophecies have multiple fulfillment, not unlike the idea of stones skipping across the water.*

An internet search on this topic yielded over 600,000 results. Not all agreed. But it is interesting how people from a faith group, and Christians in particular, can appropriate a term as if it’s their own. We have no exclusive rights to prophecy — even if we believe that the only true or accurate prophecies can come from the author of truth — but we also have to remember that many times what we say is merely a prediction of human agency.

Any thoughts on this subject?


*A friend of mine taught me this skipping stones principle in terms of Joel 2:28 — among other passages — having multiple fulfillment. We developed this a little bit in this article:

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