BLOG: Why Do Atheists Believe in Prophecy?

Dear Friends,

Why do most people believe in prophecy? Why do atheists believe in prophecy?

Now the first matter that we have to deal with is denial. Most people will deny that they believe in prophecy. Many will say that prophecy, the claim that someone can speak knowledgeably about the future, is one of those crackpot ideas that religious fanatics go on and on about. So if I, as a Christian, speak about how Jesus fulfilled hundreds of prophecies made centuries earlier, people will roll their eyes. If I, as a Christian, speak about the prophecies of Jesus’ second coming, and how we should live our life in the sure and certain hope that Jesus will return and bring an end to all things – well, most Canadians will either smirk or shake their heads sadly and sagely about how deluded and foolish I am.

Two of my favourite columnists are open atheists, Peter Foster and Terence Corcoran. When the Government comes out with its financial outlook for the next several years, it is interesting how atheists and secular thinkers respond. They will use the information to show why current policies are foolish and the Government should listen to their advice. They will challenge the numbers, saying that the numbers are too high or too low. What they will not do is challenge the idea that we can have some knowledge of the future. If pressed, they will probably deny that they believe in prophecy, claiming that they are being “evidence based” and “empirical” – but that is bunk. They accept that there is a way to know, within some limits, the future. But why is it reasonable to believe an economist or politician can know the future? Strictly speaking, no human being or group of human beings, can know the future. However, politicians, academics, and pundits believe in a culturally acceptable form of prophecy/prediction.

Consider as well, much in the social justice world. They are “progressive”. But when pressed, they do not just claim that they hope in a better future, they believe that history itself is moving to this better future. The brighter more just future will happen. You can see where I am going with this. Where does such knowledge come from? No human being or group of human beings can know the future. Many social justice advocates believe in a culturally acceptable form of prophecy/prediction.

The Christian claim is that God, who is outside of time, can know the future and has revealed a few key truths about the future. Christians just accept what God has revealed. And we believe for several reasons. First is that if you look at the hundreds of prophecies about Jesus’ first coming you will be struck by how well the birth, life, death and resurrection of our Lord fulfills these prophecies. More important still is Jesus’ repeated prophecy that He would die on a cross and then be raised on the third day. There is solid evidence for His predictions, and for the truth that He did rise from the dead, leaving the tomb empty. This is the basis for us trusting His promise to return a second time. Finally, these Biblical truths help us understand the human belief in prophecy. It is evidence of our fallen desire to be like God. It is also evidence of our innate sense that prophecy is real because there is a real God who really does know the future and reveals some key truths to human beings. So, as fallen creatures, whether religious, spiritual, secular or atheist, we long for prophecy without the true and living Lord God.

Principal of Ryle Seminary

Ryle Seminary