Monday, May 23, 2011

Failed Prophesy and a Mirror

I was pleased as punch when my Sunday school class didn't have me burned at the stake for suggesting that one of the first failed prophesies concerning The Rapture (tm) was that of Tars Tarkas Paul of Tarsus. He spends a good deal of time explaining why one shouldn't get married or treat your spouse in a manner other than how you would a sibling - Jesus is comin'.

With all the gleeful mocking by more sensible Christians of Harold Camping's May 21 prediction for The Second Coming (tm), it is easy to forget that Jesus made a similar, if slightly less specific, prediction in Matt 24:33-34:
33 Even so, when you see all these things, you know that it is near, right at the door. 34 Truly I tell you, this generation will certainly not pass away until all these things have happened.
And Matt 16:28:
Truly, I say to you, there are some standing here who will not taste death until they see the Son of Man coming in his kingdom.
As James McGrath bravely points out, it has been two thousand years. Maybe it's time to stop looking for a guy in sandals to fly in and hit the reset button. Any number of bloggers chimed in with all the standard predictions of May 22 rationalizations and pity for Camping's followers. And yet many of them claim that to expect that God's judgment could happen any day now. Do they really fail to see the millenia of post-failure rationalization?
  • A thousand days is like a single day to God (2 Peter)?
  • God's time is not man's time?
  • There was a spiritual Second Coming?
  • It all happened in 70 ce (Preterism)?
  • It happened at the Ascension?
  • When Jesus said "generation" he meant "race" (Jerome)?
  • God changed his mind - you passed the test (Shepherd of Hermas)?
The excuses pile up until the "reasonable" Christian just ignores the issue while continuing to insist that belief in the Second Coming is essential to Christian belief.

It all reminds me of the defense offered by the religious against being called a cult, "My religion has been around for thousands of years." Essentially, a failed prophecy stops being a failed prophecy once it has failed long enough.

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