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by Dr. Andrew Corbett
Many of the “new” atheists are now making a lot of noise about Bible Prophecy. Theologically liberal scholars have long fuelled the atheists’ assertions that Bible Prophecy is really just fabricated history made to sound like predictive prophecies. But now they’ve gone a step further! In fact, for some of them, they’ve made these new claims about “failed” Bible prophecies central to their arguments for atheism…
It was Bertrand Russell who mocked Christianity by claiming that Jesus has been proven to be a false prophet and therefore without any credibility. He based his arguments on the statements in Matthew 24 by Christ. Jesus was very precise about what he said would happen in the future. Jesus was also very clear about when these things would take place. And for these two incontrovertible facts atheists feel they have an air-tight case against Jesus and Christianity.
In particular, Bertrand Russell was highlighting two verses in Matthew 24 to make his case.
Then will appear in heaven the sign of the Son of Man, and then all the tribes of the earth will mourn, and they will see the Son of Man coming on the clouds of heaven with power and great glory. - Matthew 24:30
Truly, I say to you, this generation will not pass away until all these things take place. - Matthew 24:34
The meaning of what Christ said is plain. Bertrand Russell nearly understood exactly what Christ was saying. And so did C.S. Lewis. Lewis saw what Russell later saw. For Lewis, these two verses almost rocked his faith to the core. Where Russell said that Jesus made some bad guesses about the future (and therefore could not claim to be divinely inspired), Lewis went further and wondered whether Jesus had “deceived” His disciples with these two verses! But unlike Russell, Lewis did not renounce faith in Christ because of this passage, instead he claimed that Christ later confessed His ignorance about what He was saying when He said-
“But concerning that day and hour no one knows, not even the angels of heaven, nor the Son, but the Father only.” - Matthew 24:36
For Lewis, this statement in verse 36 qualified the earlier two verses of Christ. Lewis, like many Evangelical scholars, makes the claim that Matthew 24:36 is Jesus switching minds. That is, of the 49 verses of Matthew 24 where Jesus is speaking, for 48 of these verses Jesus is speaking with his “divine” mind, but for verse 36 He is speaking with His “human” mind. As divine, Jesus was omniscient. But as a human, Jesus was apparently intellectually vulnerable, they reason. This argument is proffered against the claims of atheists who refuse to make any mind distinction with Jesus. But is fails to impress most atheists. So for the past century, or so, a new Evangelical response has grown in popularity. So ubiquitous has this response become among Evangelicals that it is barely ever challenged. And here it is…
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