Philosophy Fridays: No May21st = No God?

Every now and then, on a Friday, I’ll step into the deep waters of Philosophy, ramble on about some idea and maybe even interact with something I might be reading. Most of the time, a real philosopher could probably read my drivel and speak into it offering a corrective—but for now I’ll speak from ignorance. After all, it is Friday; what better way to have fun than with philosophy. In this post I’ll deal with some philosophical issues surrounding the rapture (or lack thereof come May 21st) in under 700 words.

Let’s say that the rapture doesn’t happen on May 21st, 2011 (which, according to the last posts, seems extremely likely) does that mean that God doesn’t exist? After all, there is a group of Christians saying that it is an irrefutable fact that the Bible teaches this date for the rapture. And if the Bible teaches it, and it doesn’t happen, then surely God doesn’t exist.

This sounds silly, but I’ve seen folk raising this point as if now we’ll have the proof either way. But there’s several responses to this.

The Bible could be wrong, is one response. That shouldn’t be as catastrophic as some Christians might think. The existence of God isn’t predicated on a Bible that doesn’t make mistakes; it’s predicated on the fact that God exists. If the Bible contained errors, that wouldn’t negate the truth claim of God existing, it would just put into question what we can know about God’s existence.

Even then, that shouldn’t put us into an agnostic tailspin. We might wind up looking at the Bible like any other collection of ancient documents: containing historical data while simultaneously containing mistakes. So the way we would look at a modern textbook in School and say “this didn’t happen exactly this way” while still trusting what the book says, we can likewise do this with a Bible that contains mistakes of the proportion of predicting Christ’s return on May 21st, 2011.

But we don’t even have to go as far as saying the Bible is wrong. We might offer an easier response: the date-setters are wrong—and that could be at two levels. One level (which I think the date-setters might employ) is that (a) the calculations were wrong or (b) the event was right but the extent of the event was mistaken. Jehovah Witnesses, for example, long predicted that Christ came but made a correction saying that Christ entered into Earth with some sort of presence of judgment awaiting Armageddon. They weren’t saying that before the prediction failed. Anyway, this would only prove the fallibility of men.

The second level (which the date-setters will avoid if the event doesn’t occur) is that the date-setters were wrong on almost everything. They started trying to do something that there is no warrant to do, they based their math on presuppositions, and they preached a message which God never authorized. If anything, this wouldn’t disprove the existence of God either; it’d just prove that men can make intentional mistakes when they try to do what they aren’t authorized to do.

Even if the rapture does happen, it wouldn’t prove these date-setters were right. It could be that the rapture happens, but these people got the right day by luck and not by mathematics or revelation. This would leave these people wrong on everything except for the date which they hit by accident.

Of course, I personally doubt the event will occur tomorrow, but either way it doesn’t disprove the existence of God nor prove that the exegesis of the date-setters was spot-on.

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