The Nature Of Christian Prophecy
Introduction: In this episode of the Christian Philosopher, we discuss the first main category of the motives of credibility, which is prophecy.
Here we cover:
- Prophecy As A Motive Of Credibility
- The Nature of Prophecy
- The Three Conditions of Prophecy
- Why Prophecy is Possible
- How We Can Tell The Difference Between True And False Prophecy
Prophecy As A Motive Of Credibility
In, the last video we saw that the traditional Christian position is that God wanted our faith to be reasonable and Jesus Christ himself advocated an evidence-based faith.
And this is a good thing. Prudence would demand that we don’t just thoughtlessly adopt some religious belief.
What makes a religious belief credible is evidence. Something is credible to the degree in which it is supported by evidence. Evidence removes doubt and is the ground for rational belief.
The best evidence God can use to show us that it is Him who is acting is to do something only God can do, namely miracles and prophecy.
So to better understand the nature of the motives of credibility we need to understand the nature of both prophecies and miracles. In this lesson, we take up prophecy.
The Nature Of Prophecy
The Definition Of Prophecy: Prophecy can be defined as “The certain foretelling of a future contingent event which cannot be foreseen by any natural cause.”
Let’s break this definition down.
Foretelling – prophecy speaks of something that is going to happen in the future.
Future Contingent Event – that which does not have to happen, not a matter of physical necessity or law that guarantees it’s going to happen, rather a contingent event is something that could or could not happen. A prophecy says which way it will go.
Which Cannot Be Foreseen By Any Natural Cause – not like predicting storms that can be foreseen by us, or even predicting likely moral events like a political revolution. These kinds of things can be known to us and we do it all the time.
The Three Conditions Of Prophecy
There are three conditions required for true prophecy. These criteria are designed to remove human guessing and predictions as a possible explanation.
- That the prophecy is certain and not a mere guess. Not “I think this might happen” but “This is going to happen.”
- That the prophecy be about a future contingent event. A contingent event is something that doesn’t have to happen. It’s not necessary. Judging from the event itself, it might happen or it might not. Example – Jesus predicted the fall of Jerusalem to the Romans almost 40 years before it happened. This event wasn’t necessary, it was based on the decisions of the people at that time.
- That the prophecy cannot be foreseen by any natural cause. In other words, it should at least have a high degree of improbability of it being known by human beings. That this person will eat lunch tomorrow at 12 noon is not improbable enough given human knowledge to count as a true prophecy. The reason why is only God can know future contingent events and God alone can be the author of true prophecy.
Why Prophecy Is Possible
When we ask the question “is prophecy possible?” we want to know if it can happen.
- Is prophecy possible on the part of God? Can God give us prophecy?
- Is prophecy possible on the part of man? Can we understand it?
This possibility has been recognized by virtually every human culture.
Many different cultures have believed in Divine foreknowledge of things and some way to discover what God knows like through oracles, astrology or whatever.
So there is no contradiction here. Prophecy is possible.
How To Tell The Difference Between True and False Prophecy
We can know if a true prophecy has occurred by applying these conditions.
- That a true prophecy was made (Three conditions above satisfied).
- The event as described came to pass!
This is the Biblical standard – “if you say in your heart, ‘How may we know the word that the Lord has not spoken?’— when a prophet speaks in the name of the Lord, if the word does not come to pass or come true, that is a word that the Lord has not spoken; the prophet has spoken it presumptuously. You need not be afraid of him.” - Deuteronomy 18:20-22
Two Kinds Of Christian Prophecies
- Those made about Christ – these are the Messianic prophecies.
- Those made by Christ - these are the things predicted by Christ Himself, such as His resurrection from the dead, the fall of Jerusalem in AD 70, and that His Gospel would be spread over the whole world.
Both kinds of prophecies support the divine origin of the Christian faith.
Much has been written on this. I have a whole section in Christ 101 program in the Aquinas School Of Theology and Philosophy and we will cover this topic in other videos as well.