Scriptural Predictions

Ok, back to the topic we started last week. To recap, we’re comparing two different hypotheses or premises about God by examining what real-world consequences would have to follow if the premise were true. The Myth Hypothesis says that the Christian God does not exist in real life, and thus the Christian faith originated and is maintained via a variety of complex and resilient psychosocial mechanisms we might broadly categorize as “myth.” The Gospel Hypothesis, by contrast, proposes that the Christian Creator God does exist, and further, that the Christian faith originated as a result of God loving mankind enough to become human Himself, and to die for us as a cleansing sacrifice so that He could enjoy fellowship with us (and vice versa) for all eternity, as is His (alleged) desire.

We started by looking at the primary source of information available to us concerning God. As the Myth Hypothesis would lead us to expect, our primary information source about God is not God Himself, even though you’d think a God Who wanted a eternal personal relationship with us could spare some time here and now. So that leaves us with human sources for information about God, of which there are two main categories: Scriptures, and personal testimonies (which we’ll discuss later). So what do each of our two hypotheses have to say about any Scriptures that might arise?

First of all, we have to remember that each of our Hypotheses deals with a deity Who ought to have existed since the beginning of time, well before the writing of any Scriptures about Him. This means that we ought to start by looking at the consequences each Hypothesis would have in the general area of how Scriptures would arise, and what characteristics we should expect such Scriptures to have, depending on which Hypothesis were true.

If the Myth Hypothesis were true, then, as we have seen, God will not be available to serve as the primary source of information for the Scriptures. Humans, in other words, will have to wing it: writing the truth as they understand it, making such guesses as seem promising at the time, appealing to the best virtues they know, while manifesting their own weaknesses, cultural and personal biases, ignorance, and other failings. Because the writers won’t really know what they are talking about, we should expect Scriptures to be prone to passages that are obscure, muddy, and subject to reinterpretation, though of course there’s also room for talented writing that is “inspired” in the mundane sense.

Furthermore, the Scriptures will have to make some kind of accommodation for the fact that God does not show up in real life. If the Myth Hypothesis is true, He can’t show up, so any Scripture will have to account for that absence somehow. There are a number of ways to accomplish this: by a kind of Emperor’s New Clothes argument (“only the pure in heart can see Him”), or by blaming the audience (“you are too evil for God to endure your presence”), or by blaming unpopular minorities or by various other strategems, up to and including “God works in mysterious ways.” These elements will be a necessary part of any book that wants to be included in a canon of Scripture, because a book that was wildly unrealistic about God showing up in real life, or that failed to address the problem of His consistent and universal absence, just won’t make the grade.

If such Scriptures are accumulated over time, the Myth Hypothesis would require that the doctrinal and moral content of the books involved reflect the changing social and religious attitudes and assumptions of its writers in each of the different ages, as well as reflecting their changing knowledge (or ignorance) of the world around them. Moral relativism should be inevitable We would expect to see teachings and cultural norms and moral standards from one age looking peculiar if not bizarre from the perspective of another. Additions and even contradictions ought to arise, though of course the latter would necessarily have to be accompanied by a harmonizing commentary explaining how to interpret both passages so as not to find them in conflict.

Finally, though there are more predictions we could make, we can close (for now) with the observation that, if the Myth Hypothesis were true, we would expect to see the Scriptures being given an exaggerated importance, up to and including the assertion of inspiration and infallibility. This is because the Scriptures would need to assume a place of authority left vacant by God’s absence from the real world. It’s not necessary that the Scriptures be given the ultimate position of authority on earth, since ambitious men likely could and would claim that role for themselves. However given God’s manifest absence from real world interaction with mankind, something will need to stand in for Him as His voice of authority, and a holy Book or Books would make a reasonable if not inevitable candidate for the position.

If the Gospel Hypothesis were true, on the other hand, then we would expect any inspired Scriptures to be consistent with God’s desire to see the maximum number of His children successfully pass the test of eternity, and join Him with the saved in glory forever. This has several implications which we ought to look for, starting with the need for a clear and unmistakable distinction between which books are genuinely inspired and authoritative, and which are not. This ought to be a fairly easy standard to meet, as God Himself ought to be showing up both to commission the writing and to accept it when it passes His divine quality control program. The Scriptures thus should not need to account for God’s absence because God should not be absent.

As a work inspired by an infallible and unchanging God, we should expect the contents of the Scriptures to rise above the cultural weaknesses and foibles of the times and cultures in which they are written. We ought to see God’s plan of salvation (which really isn’t terribly hard to explain) laid out plainly and consistently, from beginning to end. It ought to be clear and easy to read, because there would be no point in confusing His children about what He wants, and worse, confusion would only open them up to heresies and the exploitation of false teachers. Though of course, false teachers might not be a problem, because why would you need mere men to interpret for you if the Book was already written by the most talented Teacher possible?

If the Gospel God should choose to send a prophecy or prediction of the future and have it recorded in the Scriptures, it should be detailed, specific, and time-stamped, since this would (a) be no problem for an omniscient and omnipotent deity and (b) serve to validate the Scriptures and to distinguish genuine prophecies from the mushy-mouthed mumblings of the likes of Sylvia Browne and company. Given the nature and character of the God of the Gospel Hypothesis, we would expect that no particular details about the future would be any more difficult for Him than any other details about the future, so His predictions should not reflect a human imprecision about exactly what was going to happen or when (if ever) it was going to take place.

Finally, if the God of the Gospel Hypothesis were going to communicate with people via His Word, we would not expect that it would ever stop being written, as each new age faced new doctrinal, moral, and cultural challenges. A fixed canon is of use only to a human hierarchy which has no further source of “inspiration,” and is finding it difficult to keep new books from adding new contradictions. A wise and loving God, however, would have no trouble staying consistent, even when addressing new problems like how to respond to Islam, or medical marijuana, or stem cell research, or cloning. Besides, it’s ridiculous to suggest that a God we were going to spend eternity with would already have run out of things to say in only a few centuries. If so, there’s going to be a looooooong awkward silence after God gets done saying, “Welcome to heaven.”

Tomorrow, we’ll have a look at the Scriptures and see which set of consequences matches what we find in the real world. In the meantime, feel free to expand on what’s above. What would you expect “God’s Word” to look like if the Myth Hypothesis were true? or the Gospel Hypothesis? The comments are open.

 
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Posted in Evidence Against Christianity, Unapologetics. 19 Comments »

19 Responses to “Scriptural Predictions”

  1. R. C. Moore Says:

    What would you expect “God’s Word” to look like if the Myth Hypothesis were true?

    It would reflect the human culture at the time — its social mores, its technology, etc. It would offer a message to counteract the whatever oppression was in place — if people were slaves, it would offer deliverance from slavery. It people were dominated by a religious ruling class, it would offer a more egalitarian alternative. If life was inescapably hard, it would offer a better life after death.

    Religion fills a God-shaped hole, but not with God, but with an escape from our circumstances.

    What would you expect “God’s Word” to look like if the Gospel Hypothesis were true?

    (Hidden premise — God wants documentation, which in reality is completely necessary for a real God).

    The Gospels would attempt to translate divine thought into concepts that could be grasped by the evolutionary descendants of primates. It would contain stories and events that limited intelligence and awareness would find appealing and persuasive, reinforcing their basic needs for food, shelter, and sex, and the power that guarantees such things in human society. This would be done in order to “steer” the believers in a direction desired by God.

    In other words, God would exploit the attributes of very creatures he created, in order achieve the results he/she desires.

    But as I note, this is a moot discussion. A real God would not need to do any of this. The Gospels are myth, precisely because they exist.

  2. R. C. Moore Says:

    Sorry, above I meant:


    (Hidden premise — God wants documentation, which in reality is completely unecessary for a real God).

  3. cl Says:

    We started by looking at the primary source of information available to us concerning God. As the Myth Hypothesis would lead us to expect, our primary information source about God is not God Himself, even though you’d think a God Who wanted a eternal personal relationship with us could spare some time here and now. So that leaves us with human sources for information about God,

    Rhetorical device + presupposition != cogency. You essentially declare the Gospel hypothesis to be false because God didn’t communicate the way you presuppose an 0^3 God would and/or should. Yet God said to Isaiah, “the intelligence of the intelligent I will frustrate.” Personally, I get the idea from the Bible that it’s an affront to God when people demand that God conform to their definition of reason. Reasonable believers can’t take your argument seriously because you don’t seem to judge the Bible on it’s own merits, rather your own merits. Here’s another example:

    ..the Scriptures will have to make some kind of accommodation for the fact that God does not show up in real life.

    Why? Where do they say God does show up in this life? Not to be overly fussy, but this really is a strawman argument, unless you can show that the Bible says, “God will show his face and tangibly touch any person who repents once every few years,” or something similar, you might have an argument. As it is, this whole thing about God not showing up – which forms a major part of your unapologetics – has never been justified scripturally, as Jayman continually points out. I’ve never seen his objections satisfactorily answered – but how would I know – I haven’t seen all of your arguments.

    And DD, I have to wonder – isn’t the proof necessary to support any case regarding theopneustos beyond our epistemological purview? As with miracles, we cannot reliably prove whether God inspired the writers of the Bible, whether every prophecy comes true or not. To me, what you propose suffers from the same set of epistemological nightmares as the miracle discussion.

  4. R. C. Moore Says:


    As it is, this whole thing about God not showing up – which forms a major part of your unapologetics – has never been justified scripturally, as Jayman continually points out.

    Seems pretty clear to me: highly detailed and very specific as to time and place. I am still waiting.


    Jesus left the temple and was walking away when his disciples came up to him to call his attention to its buildings. “Do you see all these things?” he asked. “I tell you the truth, not one stone here will be left on another; every one will be thrown down.” As Jesus was sitting on the Mount of Olives, the disciples came to him privately. “Tell us,” they said, “when will this happen, and what will be the sign of your coming and of the end of the age?” So when you see standing in the holy place ‘the abomination that causes desolation,’ spoken of through the prophet Daniel—let the reader understand— then let those who are in Judea flee to the mountains. Let no one on the roof of his house go down to take anything out of the house. Pray that your flight will not take place in winter or on the Sabbath. For then there will be great distress, unequaled from the beginning of the world until now—and never to be equaled again. Immediately after the distress of those days the sun will be darkened, and the moon will not give its light; the stars will fall from the sky, and the heavenly bodies will be shaken. At that time the sign of the Son of Man will appear in the sky, and all the nations of the earth will mourn. They will see the Son of Man coming on the clouds of the sky, with power and great glory. Even so, when you see all these things, you know that it is near, right at the door. I tell you the truth, this generation will certainly not pass away until all these things have happened.

  5. Jayman Says:

    DD:

    If the Myth Hypothesis is true, He can’t show up, so any Scripture will have to account for that absence somehow. There are a number of ways to accomplish this: by a kind of Emperor’s New Clothes argument (”only the pure in heart can see Him”), or by blaming the audience (”you are too evil for God to endure your presence”), or by blaming unpopular minorities or by various other strategems, up to and including “God works in mysterious ways.” These elements will be a necessary part of any book that wants to be included in a canon of Scripture, because a book that was wildly unrealistic about God showing up in real life, or that failed to address the problem of His consistent and universal absence, just won’t make the grade.

    How does the myth hypothesis explain Galatians 3:1-5, where Paul is making a direct appeal to God’s actions? “You foolish Galatians! Who has bewitched you? Before your very eyes Jesus Christ was clearly portrayed as crucified. I would like to learn just one thing from you: Did you receive the Spirit by observing the law, or by believing what you heard? Are you so foolish? After beginning with the Spirit, are you now trying to attain your goal by human effort? Have you suffered so much for nothing—if it really was for nothing? Does God give you his Spirit and work miracles among you because you observe the law, or because you believe what you heard?”

    Finally, though there are more predictions we could make, we can close (for now) with the observation that, if the Myth Hypothesis were true, we would expect to see the Scriptures being given an exaggerated importance, up to and including the assertion of inspiration and infallibility.

    It seems strange to critique the God of the Bible by ignoring the Bible’s own claims about itself. Doesn’t the Gospel hypothesis make the same prediction?

    As a work inspired by an infallible and unchanging God, we should expect the contents of the Scriptures to rise above the cultural weaknesses and foibles of the times and cultures in which they are written.

    What should we conclude when ancient (or modern) Jews and Christians rose above the cultural weaknesses of their time?

  6. Facilis Says:

    DD your myth prediction are waaaay too ad hoc. I don’t see any reason why the myth hypothesis would lead to the things you say it leads to unless you try to shoehorn it to fit the evidence.
    FAIL!!

  7. ThatOtherGuy Says:

    “Yet God said to Isaiah, ‘the intelligence of the intelligent I will frustrate.’ ”

    Yes, which means he’s an anti-intellectual, spiteful monster who deliberately created intelligent people solely to send them to Hell.

    “As it is, this whole thing about God not showing up – which forms a major part of your unapologetics – has never been justified scripturally, as Jayman continually points out. I’ve never seen his objections satisfactorily answered – but how would I know – I haven’t seen all of your arguments.”

    He’s answered it numerous times: because God does not fit the criteria of a good, loving father, though he is supposed to be the epitome of the very idea.

  8. R. C. Moore Says:

    Jayman wrote —


    How does the myth hypothesis explain Galatians 3:1-5, where Paul is making a direct appeal to God’s actions? “You foolish Galatians! Who has bewitched you? Before your very eyes Jesus Christ was clearly portrayed as crucified. I would like to learn just one thing from you: Did you receive the Spirit by observing the law, or by believing what you heard? Are you so foolish? After beginning with the Spirit, are you now trying to attain your goal by human effort? Have you suffered so much for nothing—if it really was for nothing? Does God give you his Spirit and work miracles among you because you observe the law, or because you believe what you heard?”

    I don’t understand the significance you feel this has. Paul is pulling out all stops to keep his early church from disintegrating. He appeals to the Galatians superstitious pagan past, asking them to ignore the law of man. The same can be seen any Sunday on television or at the local megachurch.

    It is an appeal to the myth, it is framed that way — ignore the historic religion, codified and stabilized by the law, and accept the fairy tale, for it has magic (it did not really of course, but these were ex-pagans) To me this passage reinforces that the early church was the result of a charismatic marketer in Paul, whose religion relieved the faithful of having to tithe multiple gods, removed divinity from rulers, removed genetics from the equation, and on top of that circumcision, which could not have been fun without medicine while promising personal miracles.

    It is myth-making captured by an emerging technology. We are fortunate to have some version of Paul’s letters but demonstrates nothing extraordinary or divine, just another church in the making, 2000 years ago.

  9. Deacon Duncan Says:

    Facilis:

    The Myth Hypothesis proposes that a major world religion arose through the operation of human psychosocial factors, in the absence of an actual God. I’d be interested in hearing your analysis of how Scriptures arising under those conditions would not have to face consequences such as the lack of divine inspiration, the inevitable influence of human biases and weaknesses, and an elevated authority for the written tradition, in God’s absence.

  10. GaySolomon Says:

    cl writes:

    “You essentially declare the Gospel hypothesis to be false because God didn’t communicate the way you presuppose an 0^3 God would and/or should.”

    I am truly confused by the above comment. Over on your site, you seem quite willing to accept the following as evidence of the “Omni 4″ attributes of your god:

    “Omniscience: 1 John 3:20 For if our heart condemn us, God is greater than our heart, and knoweth all things.

    Omnipotence: Matt 19:26 But Jesus beheld them, and said unto them, With men this is impossible; but with God all things are possible.

    Omnipresence: PS 139: 7-10 Whither shall I go from thy spirit? or whither shall I flee from thy presence?
    If I ascend up into heaven, thou art there: if I make my bed in hell, behold, thou art there.
    If I take the wings of the morning, and dwell in the uttermost parts of the sea;
    Even there shall thy hand lead me, and thy right hand shall hold me.

    Omnibenevolence: Luke 18:19 And Jesus said unto him, Why callest thou me good? none is good, save one, that is, God.”

    You accepted the above references as a biblical basis for the Omni 3 or 4 attributes of god. Yet somehow, it is not permissable for DD to point out the implications of what these attributes would look like in the real world? This confuses me.

    Are you saying that your god is beyond reason? Or are you suggesting that your god is necessarily inconsistent with its scriptures? Or perhaps something different altogether – for example your scriptures are internally inconsistent and your god is outside the scope of all reasonable enquiry?

    In many disciplines (e.g. law), the “reasonable person” test is frequently used to arrive at truth. Do you think that this test has any relevance in arriving at some level of knowledge about your god?

  11. R. C. Moore Says:


    Or are you suggesting that your god is necessarily inconsistent with its scriptures? Or perhaps something different altogether – for example your scriptures are internally inconsistent and your god is outside the scope of all reasonable enquiry?

    One could view the scriptures are the work of man, full of mistakes and inconsistencies, badly edited history, some folk tales and local myth thrown in, embellishment, propaganda, etc, but still (due to the hidden premise of wanting to a God to exist) reach the conclusion that some part of the scripture documents real events of man interacting with God.

    I can accept this a legitimate thought process (given the hidden premise)

    What I do not understand is any claim that others should agree, if no objective basis for agreement is going to be defined.

    How is one to distinguish scripture from any other work that claims to be true, or which parts are true and which parts are not? Was there a Troy and a Helen? Did a great warrior named Achilles have a fatal flaw? Did Odysseus run into a lot of problems on his journey home?

    Were these real events spun into mythic storytelling?

    What criteria do I use to discriminate?

  12. Jayman Says:

    R.C. Moore:

    I don’t understand the significance you feel this has.

    According to DD’s myth hypothesis, Scripture will try to explain why God does not show up in an attempt to address the problem of God’s consistent and universal absence. In Galatians 3:1-5, Paul uses God’s presence as part of his argument. This passage directly contradicts DD’s “prediction” about Scripture. The myth hypothesis, as DD has told it, must be modified or rejected.

  13. R. C. Moore Says:

    Jayman —

    Thanks, much clearer now. My interpretation of the passage is just the opposite. Paul is trying to rouse the troops, invoking their pagan beliefs that the world is magic, and full of spirits. Because the promised God has not show up, the Galatians have found appeal in the law of man, as everyone eventually did, another strike against the teachings of Paul I guess. People eventually realize you can’t eat promises.

    I can’t get to your interpretation, because if God really was working miracles, (meaning he was or had been present), Paul would not be having to remind the Galatians. Nobody would forget a real miracle so soon, if ever.

  14. Jayman Says:

    R. C. Moore:

    Paul is trying to rouse the troops, invoking their pagan beliefs that the world is magic, and full of spirits.

    Galatians 3:1-5 has only one God working miracles and giving His Spirit.

    Because the promised God has not show up, the Galatians have found appeal in the law of man, as everyone eventually did, another strike against the teachings of Paul I guess.

    The dispute in Galatia was over whether Gentile Christians needed to follow the entire Law of Moses. As far as I can tell, the phrase “the law of man” never appears in the Bible.

    I can’t get to your interpretation, because if God really was working miracles, (meaning he was or had been present), Paul would not be having to remind the Galatians. Nobody would forget a real miracle so soon, if ever.

    The issue is whether Gentile Christians need to keep the Law of Moses. Paul’s argument is that they do not since God showed that He accepted them before they observed the Law of Moses. God showed his acceptance of the Galatians through the outpouring of the Holy Spirit and the working of miracles.

    The suggestion that the Galatians forgot about the miracles does not make sense of the text and is in no way supported by me. First, the rhetorical questions in verses 2-5 require that the Galatians know the correct answer. When Paul asks (v. 2), “Did you receive the Spirit by observing the law, or by believing what you heard?”, the Galatians are to respond, “By believing what we heard.” When Paul asks (v. 5), “Does God give you his Spirit and work miracles among you because you observe the law, or because you believe what you heard?”, the Galatians are to respond, “God gives his Spirit and works miracles among us because we believe what we heard.” Second, verse 5 is in the present tense. There has been no time for the Galatians to forget the miracles because they are still happening.

  15. R. C. Moore Says:

    Jayman —

    Indulge me a little longer please. I know the “law of man” is not in the Bible, make it the Law of Moses — it makes no difference as either way there is no objective evidence that the laws were thought of by anyone other that man. When you argue such points, it points to a desperation in logic, which I don’t think you mean to resort to. If I were to say Jonah was swallowed by a whale, and you said “no, a big fish”, it would be a distinction without a difference, in the context of the discussion.

    The tenses also make no real difference — past tense, present tense, if the Galatians had really experienced miracles, Paul would not be hauling himself halfway across the known world to give a stern lecture. I cannot speak to the literary embellishments of writing so far in the past.

    I cannot accept that a religion is explained by minute parsing of translations of translations. The big picture is what is at issue, and I don’t think your argument stands up.

  16. » Scriptural fulfillments Evangelical Realism Says:

    [...] out before because I was having trouble boiling it down into a concise statement. Jayman’s reference to Galatians, however, has helped crystalize my thinking a bit (thanks [...]

  17. Jayman Says:

    R.C. Moore:

    I know the “law of man” is not in the Bible, make it the Law of Moses — it makes no difference as either way there is no objective evidence that the laws were thought of by anyone other that man. When you argue such points, it points to a desperation in logic, which I don’t think you mean to resort to.

    I could not assume that you equated the law of man with the Law of Moses.

    The tenses also make no real difference — past tense, present tense, if the Galatians had really experienced miracles, Paul would not be hauling himself halfway across the known world to give a stern lecture.

    I don’t see how you reached that conclusion. The unspoken assumption seems to be that witnesses of miracles cannot make mistakes.

    I cannot accept that a religion is explained by minute parsing of translations of translations.

    If you have a better way to address poor interpretations I would like to hear it. Plus, my points were obvious even in the English translation of the Greek original.

  18. cl Says:

    GaySolomon, wasn’t it you who said,

    Perhaps we should all stop feeding the troll?

    In the world I live in, disrespect normally precludes civil discourse. How do you feel when someone insults you? I feel the same way. Still, I’ll answer respectfully, even though I think your comment was uncalled-for and against the spirit of discourse DD is aspiring to.

    You accepted the above references as a biblical basis for the Omni 3 or 4 attributes of god. Yet somehow, it is not permissable for DD to point out the implications of what these attributes would look like in the real world? This confuses me.

    Don’t you see the difficulty in a fallible human being reliably stating what omniscience, omnipresence, omnibenevolence and omnipotence necessarily entail? By DD’s logic, we can say something like, “The Gospel Hypothesis is false because we can cut ourselves. An all-powerful God who is all-good would never let us cut ourselves.” Such logic proceeds entirely from the human bias against pain – which is understandable, but certainly problematic in making a fair judgment.

    Are you saying that your god is beyond reason?

    I don’t suppose anything can be “beyond reason” if by “reason” we mean “truth.” However, by definition, an 0^4 God must be beyond human reason, and I answer a strong negative to the two questions that follow.

  19. » Understanding the Bible Evangelical Realism Says:

    [...] necessarily result from it being written in the absence of a genuine Christian deity, as we saw earlier. It is an example of myth-building, a reflection of people’s best hopes, values, and wishes, [...]