I realized today that August has become a strange month for me. A solemn one. While I was walking to work this morning, I was thinking back to this time a year ago. I was going through some tough stuff, and it was an emotional time for me. By that point, I was pretty sure that my faith had gone down the drain and was never coming back, but I was still desperately trying to hold onto it. I am going to save some of my discussion of this for a later post, because the one-year anniversary of my “last prayer” is coming up soon, but today is the anniversary of something else that I want to talk about.
During this intense period, I was home for a weekend and had the opportunity to go to the youth group at my church back home. I was at the back, by the sound board, before the service started, and I was talking to my friend, John-Marc. He had just come back from vacation or some sort of retreat (I forget where), and was all excited. He told me that while he was away, he had received a word from the Lord – a prophecy of something that was to come soon. As he talked on and on, I sort of nodded my head, while in the back of my mind I was thinking, “It’s kind of unfortunate that I don’t believe this stuff anymore.” Once I got home later that night, I wrote down what he had said so that I wouldn’t forget it. Here’s what I wrote:
“On August 10, 2008, at youth, before the service, John-Marc Stevenson was telling me about a prophetic word that he heard from the Lord. He said that revival was going to come into Canada, but that it was going to be started in the small town churches where they have to sacrifice every Sunday to come to church – rather than in the States, where revivals start in the big churches. He said that people would come to these small churches and then take the revival back to their churches and it would ‘spread like fire throughout Canada.’ He mentioned that this was going to happen soon.”
So there you have it. Today marks the one-year point of that prophecy not coming true. Since that time, I have not heard anything about any sort of small-town Canadian revival. I have not heard of any sweeping change in churches across Canada. As far as I can tell, the churches, both big and small, are pretty much the same.
Now, I don’t mean this to be some grandiose, comprehensive argument against Christianity or religion. Certainly this is not sufficient for something like that. But I do offer it as an example of what can go wrong when you rely on what some might call “voices in your head” to tell you what is going to happen in the future. Or even what has happened in the past. I wrote this down and made sure to remember it not because I believed it would happen, but precisely because it was specific enough that I could see whether or not it actually happened. Most prophecies are something like, “The Lord is going to use you mightily in his kingdom” or “God is calling you to a greater purpose” – these kinds of statements are completely untestable. But this one offered me a way to see if the prediction came true. Other than the vagueness of “soon,” I could sit back and wait to see if it happened. And as such, it is representative of the kind of thinking I left behind. I remember this prophecy because it is a way of showing myself what I left. And when I think about it that way, leaving the faith just doesn’t seem quite so bad.
Of course, it still is discouraging to me, because I am likely the only one who still remembers this prophecy. John-Marc has likely long forgotten it, and since it never came true, it has simply been lost in the recesses of his memory. Those he told it to have also likely forgotten, but I didn’t – I wrote it down. But this is discouraging because the failed prophecies are the ones that get forgotten – and those are the ones that are most crucial to determining if a person is telling the truth. Even the Bible says that the way to tell if a prophet is from the Lord is to wait and see if what he says comes true. If it doesn’t, he wasn’t from the Lord. That right there is the scientific concept of falsifiability. Of course, when we forget all the ones that fail, and remember all the amazing ones that come true, it’s a case of confirmation bias. That’s a well-known and well-established bias in psychology – we remember and seek out those things that confirm what we already believe. And this cognitive bias is what drives a lot of superstitious thinking. When something bad happens, we immediately remember the black cat that crossed our path the week before, rather than remembering also the numerous times a black cat crossed the path and nothing bad happened at all.
So here I am, sitting and remembering a prophecy that never came true. Why is it important? Well, the prophecy itself is not. So nothing happened. Who cares? But the thinking processes behind it certainly are. It is the type of thinking that I have tried to leave behind, and though I can never fully escape it, I would like to prevent it as much as I can. So I commemorate the event to remind myself of the fact that I am biased, and that the best process for discovering knowledge that we have is the scientific method, precisely because it limits and challenges our biases. So, here’s to knowledge. I raise a glass of liquid and toast the efforts of those who pursue truth, wherever that might lead them. Until next year…keep watching out for revival.