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Meditation 804
Failed Prophecy and Self-Delusion

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While I was doing a bit of research into the background of Robert Weiland (see discussion to Meditation 801) I encountered an astounding article by author David Ben-Ariel about Herbert W. Armstrong. Armstrong who was founder of the Worldwide Church of God, made numerous prophecies, including one that Christ would return in his lifetime. Armstrong died in 1986, that prophecy still unfulfilled.

Armstrong lived and preached long enough to make numerous prophecies in spite of the fact he was demonstrably bad at it, and extensive lists exist of his failed prophecies, such as this one.

Now Ben-Ariel is apparently a true believer in Armstrong in spite of Armstrong's abject failure at prophecy. In his article, Herbert W. Armstrong Was Ahead of His Time!, Ben-Ariel claims he responds to lists of failed prophecies with "Herbert Armstrong was ahead of his time."

As justification for this line of thought he states "The Apostle Paul also thought Christ would return in his lifetime. He was ahead of his time." The alternate idea that Paul was an even worse prophet (by about 1,900 years) than Armstrong does not seem to occur to Ben-Ariel.

Isn't this a wonderful way to delude yourself when a prophecy fails to pan out? Just say the prophet was ahead of his time and go on blindly believing the failed prophecy. What incredible self-inflicted stupidity!

I'm reminded of a few years back when I was on the psychic sucker's mailing list (Meditation 503 and discussion) and I chose to investigate a few psychic sites. One psychic actually had a list of all her New Year's predictions for several years and listed her success rate for each year (a mid-teen percentage) but then added a disclaimer to the effect that while psychics could foresee the future accurately, they were not good on dates, and any prediction might be fulfilled one or two or several years in the future. Same rational as the one used for Armstrong's prophecies - this psychic was just "ahead of her time." It's a great line - you can never be wrong.

Along the same line of thought, I found in the current issue of Skeptic[1] the origin of the prophecy that Planet X will crash into Earth in 2012. The event was originally predicted by the psychic Nancy Leider to occur in May 2003. The prophecy failed - but of course, psychics cannot be wrong, only ahead of their time, so the prophecy was recycled to December 2012.

When a prophecy or prediction fails, it fails! It's not ahead of its time, it's just out-and-out wrong. To pretend otherwise is nothing more than self-delusion.


  1. 2012 and Counting: A NASA Scientist Answers the Top 20 Questions About 2012 by David Morrison, Skeptic Vol 15 No.2 2009