Probable Cause

I had to take a lot of math in college.  Much of which was advanced.  I have to admit, I wasn’t real interested in diving into 3 of 4 layers of Calculus, Advanced Geometry, and Intermediate to Advanced Statistics.  But I “had” to for my degree requirements.

One of the courses I really did enjoy was Statistics, and even more so, the focus on Probability.  It really is fascinating when you consider it.  Would probably be a good prescription for all those who continue to think their retirement will be funded by the lotto.  But that’s a different blog.  For now, I want to try (my best) to capture some biblical prophesy and yes, probability.  Notice the implication of the word, “some.”

The reason?  I hear (and more frequently, overhear) questions and statements that demonstrate a perception that people have, including some believers, that seems to marginalize the Christ-centered faith.  Some notice they are doing it  – others can be totally oblivious to it.  It seems though that some people want “more evidence” or “more convincing proof,” even when they know that the Word of God stands on its own authority, power, and truth.  It is true, it is accurate, it has stood the test of time, it is life transforming.  So this blog, while for everyone, is somewhat tailored for those who struggle in the realm of evidence and proof.  It is really my hope that this will help settle any uncertainty.  At the very least, I hope it is informative and edifying.

Forgive me if it is long.  Simply attribute it to my attempt to be thorough, not vague.

First, as we look within the Old Testament, from Moses to Malachi, we know the role of “prophet” was essential to the life and betterment of God’s people and His plan.  God Himself desired that His people know conclusively, without any reservation, that the people who He called and sent spoke for Him (Read Deut.18, vv.21-22).  One purpose for the Bible’s prophetic visions and predictions is to give God’s people hard evidence and compelling proof that the message is true, reliable, and trustworthy.  This is Who God is.  Both credible theologians and biblical scholars agree that the Bible contains approximately 2,500 prophecies with over 2,000 having already been fulfilled.

Could you imagine the boldness of someone today, in 2013, trying to predict the name and foreign policy of a world leader or president 100 years from now.  In 2113?  In 700 B.C., Isaiah did just this.  He envisioned that Jerusalem would be surrounded and the people who go into captivity.  It came to pass 100 years later.  But Isaiah went deeper, and further.  He prophesied that the Israelites would return to their home and that the ruler who would set them free would be Cyrus:  “I will raise up Cyrus in My righteousness…He will rebuild My city and set My exiles free” (Isaiah 27-32).  History verifies that Cyrus of the Persian Empire reigned from 559-530 B.C. and issued a decree in 538 B.C. that permitted the Jews to return to their homeland.

The prophet Ezekiel made an equally startling prediction about the city of Tyre (now located in Lebanon).  He prophesied that: (1) Many nations would come against it (Ezek.26:2); (2) Nebuchadnezzar would destroy the city (Ezek.26:4); (3) The city would be scraped bare (Ezek.26:4); (4) Fishing nets would be spread out, all over the site (Ezek.26:5); (5) The stones of the city would be cast into the sea (Ezek.26:12); and (6) The city would never be rebuilt (Ezek.26:14).  Here is what we know:  Tyre was a city in 2-parts.  Half the city was on the coast, the other half on an island 1/2 mile from shore.  The Jewish historian Josephus informs us that Nebuchadnezzar “besieged the coastal city for 13 years and finally captured it” (Isaiah 45:13).  Many citizens escaped to the island – which remained.

Then, 240 years later, Alexander the Great attacked the island city.  Alexander built a causeway from the mainland to the island, moving the stones from the old coastal city into the sea – to serve as building materials.  He literally “scraped” away the rock by casting it into the sea.  The city of Tyre has never been rebuilt.  And in that region today, fishermen who journey to the island cast their nets from the barren rocks; they “spread” their nets out.

The Old Testament contains several hundred prophesies related to the coming Messiah; 332 of which were fulfilled in Christ’s 1st coming (see Erwin Lutzer, You Can Trust the Bible, Moody Press, 1998, p.98).  Now, implement some probablity here and someone who has spent time putting this together:  Peter Stoner, a science and mathematical academic, has calculated the odds of any 1 person fulfilling just 8 prophesies of the 332.  After conducting his calculations, he stated:  “we find that the chance that any man might have lived down to the present time and fulfilled 8 prophesies is 1 x 10 (to the 17th power).  That is: 1 in 100,000,000,000,000,000.

To illustrate this – and I really like this illustration – Stoner used this to convey it in practical terms:  “Suppose we take 10 (to the 17th power) silver dollars and lay them on the face of Texas.  They will cover all of the state, 2 feet deep.  Now, mark one of those coins and stir the whole mass thoroughly, all over the state.  Blindfold a man and tell him that he can travel as far as he wishes, but he has one chance to pick up the silver dollar and have it be the right one.  What are the odds that we will succeed?  1 x 10 (to the 17th power)” (Peter Stoner, Science Speaks, Moody Press, p.175-176).

Calculating that 1 person could fulfill 48 prophesies, Stoner came up with the following number:  1 x 10 (to the 157th power) (ibid).  That is definitely too high a number to write out.  For reference, the number of atoms in the entire universe has been calculated at 1 x 10 (to the 82nd power) (ibid).

All of this said, and if you are one that “needs” this type of evidence, the supreme Person of Jesus Christ is convincing in history, in revelation, and in mathematics.  He is Who He said He was.  But the greatest proof and evidence, bar none, is what He does in the lives of those who receive Him, believe Him, and surrender to Him.  The greatest evidence is Him living in me, and you – transforming us from the “old” man to a new creation.

May we allow Him to be all that He desires to be, in us!  Lord, help us not to get in the way.  May we truly be a people after Your own heart.  That is the cry of our hearts.  More of you ~ increase our faith!  In Jesus Name!  Amen.