Wednesday, June 22, 2016

Bible prophecy and the CIA

Critics blamed the CIA for failure to anticipate the breakup of the Soviet Union. During the Cold War, a primary task of the CIA was to keep tabs on Russia. Huge resources were devoted to that task. 

In fairness, there may well have been CIA employees who saw it coming, but they weren't high enough in the agency for their views to be known outside the agency. They weren't official spokesmen.

Why did the Soviet empire collapse? A major factor was economics. It was an overextended empire. Communist economic policies were unable to generate the GNP necessary to sustain the Russian war machine. In that respect, the collapse of the Soviet empire was inevitable. 

However, that's arguably a necessary rather than sufficient condition. In addition to economic pressures, the timing of the collapse depended on the actions of key people, viz. Gorbachev, Reagan, Thatcher, Yeltsin, Walesa, John-Paul II.

Even if the Soviet Empire was economically unsustainable over the long haul, the timing was contingent on the presence of certain players in strategic positions. If you had a Putin rather than a Gorbachev, he might delay the inevitable. You might have a steady decline rather than sudden collapse. Rather like the Ottoman empire. 

Perhaps, moreover, the breakup of the Soviet Union was not a foregone conclusion. Suppose Russia had had a leader like Deng Xiaoping or Zhou Enlai, who promoted economic freedom without promoting political freedom. Reforming the economic system but not the political system. Combining capitalist economics with repressive government. That might have enabled Russia to subsidize its imperial ambitions. 

So the outcome was contingent on individual human factors as well as large-scale economic trends. And that's what made it unpredictable.

This illustrates why the future is hard to foretell. Even if you have some objective factors and trajectories to work with, extrapolations from the present may be unreliable because the outcome is dependent on independent variables. The rise and fall of certain leaders. Lucky or unlucky timing. That's not something which humans can foresee far in advance. And this is what makes fulfilled Bible prophecy impressive. 


  1. What do you think are the best handful of examples of impressive biblical prophecies outside of messianic prophecies? I'm trying to think of a few good bullet points to share with unbelievers in conversations we have.

    1. Good question. Deserves a separate post to answer. Stay tuned.