No one can really predict the future
The Rev. Robert Lee Hill, pastor of Community Christian Church, Kansas City, Mo.:
There are prophecies and then there are prophecies.
I am among those who take the Bible far too seriously to take it literally.
Therefore, what some people see as definitive predictions of actual historical events coming true in the present (or near future), I would see as prophetic calls, uttered to inspire people to action and justice. For example, when the prophet Amos proclaims “let justice roll down like waters, and righteousness like an ever-flowing stream,” he is issuing a clarion invitation for our participation in justice and righteousness.
As we help justice become real, such prophecies become fulfilled. Dr. King and the cause of civil rights he advocated were supremely fine examples of such a prophecy “coming true.” Or, for another example, when the prophet Joel proclaims “your old men shall dream dreams, and your young men shall see visions,” he is proffering a visionary hope of what happens when God’s Spirit infuses lives with purpose and courage.
Have we witnessed such dreaming and envisioning? You bet. But no one can ever tell exactly when or where such events will take place. Our sacred texts, our wisest scholars, our capacities of reason, and our own experiences work together to determine how prophecies become realities. But no one can ever really predict the future.
Crystal balls are surely entertaining diversions. But prophecies have always been intended for the strengthening of faith.
We can see where we’re heading
The Rev. Duke Tufty, Unity Temple on the Plaza, Kansas City:
I believe prophecies are the result of closely observing what is going on, determining the trend of people’s actions and predicting where that trend will lead if not interrupted.
The prophet Isaiah stated: “The earth is laid waste. The inhabitants go outside the laws of nature; the earth will be polluted; people will be in severe suffering and great cities will fall to ruin.”
We can certainly see evidence of all those conditions today as we shave the earth of great forests essential to our atmosphere, dump toxics in our lakes and streams and stand idly by as one third of the world’s population is starving.
Isaiah also said: “Streams of fresh water will burst forth from the desert. Sorrow and mourning will flee. Parched land will burst forth with flowers and it will be a time of great joy.”
It might seem that Isaiah was predicting a time of great devastation followed by a time of great prosperity, but in actuality he was professing two different outcomes that could happen in the future based on the choices people made in the present.
By looking at the direction of the trends in warfare development, environmental abuse, poverty, starvation and global economic instability, if nothing is done, it is easy to predict where we are heading.
However, if we change our ways, we change the outcome.