At this time of year many preachers start turning to Old Testament prophecies of Christ’s birth. But we often ignore the unique “success rate” of biblical prophecy. We get so used to the Bible’s accuracy that we just take it for granted and forget just how pathetically hopeless most merely human predictions are.

Want proof? Richard Watson has collated a timeline of failed human predictions over the last 600 years. Some great sermon introduction material here, with one proviso – that you don’t use it to prove that you are the next Brian Regan! Here are some samples:

“Drill for oil? You mean drill into the ground to try and find oil? You’re crazy.” -Associates of Edwin L. Drake on his suggestion to drill for oil in 1859.

“What can be more palpably absurd than the prospect held out of locomotives travelling twice as fast as stagecoaches?” – Quarterly Review, 1825.

“Rail travel at high speed is not possible because passengers, unable to breathe, would die of asphyxia.” – Dr. Dionysys Larder, 1793-1859.

“We don’t like their sound, and guitar music is on the way out.” – Decca Recording Co., rejecting The Beatles, 1962.

“But what…is it good for?” – Engineer at the Advanced Computing Systems Division of IBM, 1968 (commenting on the microchip).

“There is no reason anyone would want a computer in their home.” Ken Olson, president, chairman, and founder of Digital Equipment Corp, 1977.

“That virus [HIV] is a pussycat.” – Dr. Peter Duesberg, molecular-biology professor at U.C. Berkeley, 1988.

“For the most part, the portable computer is a dream machine for the few … On the whole, people don’t want to lug a computer with them to the beach or on a train to while away hours they would rather spend reading the sports or business section of the newspaper.” – Erik Sandberg-Diment, The New York Times, 1985.

“You’ll never make any money out of children’s books” – Advice to JK Rowling from Barry Cunningham, editor at Bloomsbury Books, 1996.

“Simply stated, there is no doubt that Saddam Hussein now has weapons of mass destruction.” – Dick Cheney August 26, 2002.

“Next Christmas the iPod will be dead, finished, gone, kaput.” – Sir Alan Sugar, 2005.

  • Chuck Thomas

    Your overarching point is well made, but your selection of the next to last example was unfortunate, in my opinion. The general content of that statement, in its timeframe, could just have easily been attributed to the vast majority of U.S. senators and representatives on BOTH side of the political aisle, AND to many if not most heads-of-state of nations in the so-called “west.” I’ll grant you that you are simply excerpting from Watson’s list, but you chose the 11 out of 100. I can’t possible know your REAL motivation for using that particular one over any of the other 89, but I am at least left with the impression that in so-doing you have revealed your political leanings with a really cheap shot, as if Cheney was the ONLY one who got that one wrong, and of course, by implication, his boss.

  • David Murray

    Chuck, I’m sorry, but you simply could not possibly be more wrong in your attempt at mind-reading.

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