Friday, June 02, 2017

What Are the Odds? (by Peter A. Black)

Calgarian Barb Parker could scarcely believe her eyes when she saw her golf ball nestled in the bottom of the hole following her 125-yard drive. Yep, it was a hole-in-one. The Canadian snowbird was competing at a Tucson, Arizona, tournament in March this year. 

Understandably she was more than a little excited at her amazing (pardon the pun) ‘stroke of luck.’ Ms Parker moved on and nervously positioned herself to take a swipe towards her next hole. She swung and drove the ball into a breeze, up and over a ridge – a 136-yard drive. Where did that one
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Her eyes scanned the green . . . no sign of her ball – at least, not until she got close enough to look down at the hole, and there it was, its shamrock emblem facing up, winking at her astonished gaze. A little excited? Barb Parker could hardly function for her next drive. And yes, she won. She later learned that the odds to landing two consecutive holes-in-one were 167,000,000 :1.

Our Western culture increasingly projects responses towards the Bible that range from indifference to scepticism and mistrust, and from negativism and disbelief to outright hostility. Some folk who identify themselves as Christian never crack open a Bible from one week or month to the other. (Simply stating a fact, not judging.) I’ve heard some people say that the Bible isn’t relevant to their lives.

North American TV Bible teachers and preachers and End-Times prophecy ‘specialists,’ might have wearied some folk and frightened others. But hold on; don’t throw away your Bible yet. If you don’t possess one, they’re readily available in Canada and the USA. (Also, BibleGateway dot com has versions galore you can read.)

Barb Parker’s amazing 167,000,000 :1 odds of her consecutive two holes-in-one fade into the mists of early morning fairways, compared to those of prophecies fulfilled in Jesus of Nazareth. That was established many decades ago, by the calculations of the eminently-credentialed Peter Stoner. (He’d been chairman of the mathematics and astronomy departments at Pasadena City College. In 1953 he moved to become chairman of the science division at Westmount College of Santa Barbara, California.

In Science Speaks** Stoner extrapolated that for just eight Old Testament prophecies concerning the Messiah to be fulfilled in Jesus, it would require a probability factor of 1 in 1 quintillion. That is, one chance in 1,000,000,000,000,000,000!

To help us get a handle on that Professor Stoner explained: If you were to cover the entire State of Texas with quarters two feet deep and send in a blind man to pick up just one coin, and that [specially] marked coin was the one he picked up; then that’s scale of probability involved here. (Since then others have calculated or else extrapolated much greater odds.)

Jesus of Nazareth beautifully fulfilled more than two hundred prophecies given during a period upwards of two thousand years, as recorded by a variety of writers and prophets from  contrasting social and educational backgrounds.

The mind seems incapable of conceiving the odds against those fulfilments occurring in one person during one narrow time frame – unless, of course, there is no coincidental factor, whatsoever. In Jesus the events were assuredly unfolding according to the Divine Plan.

Events unfolding from His final entry into Jerusalem through the days leading up to His betrayal, crucifixion, burial and resurrection, fulfilled so many prophecies that they would have required enormously greater odds than our Calgarian snowbird’s two consecutive holes-in-one.

That demands I seriously regard the biblical scriptures.


*B. Parker two holes-in-one story constructed from various online media sources.

** Moody Press, Chicago, 1958


Peter A. Black lives in Southwestern Ontario. He writes a weekly inspirational newspaper column, P-Pep! and is author of Raise Your Gaze ... Mindful Musings of a Grateful Heart, and Parables from the Pond. ~~+~~


Rose McCormick Brandon said...

Love this Peter. Jesus always beats the odds :)

Glynis said...

Sometimes we fall prey to the words of naysayers especially when, like you say, some point out how irrelevant the Word of God is today. And some are pretty quick to try to prove it. But as a believer, my faith and hope in the One who fulfilled prophecy, healed the sick, mended the broken, calmed the seas, turned water into wine and hung on the cross for my sin, is what carries me through each day. Something happened in my heart a long time ago and it's very hard to explain but it isn't very hard to believe. Thanks, Peter, for this lovely reminder of how Jesus always beats the odds (like Rose just said!) And seriously, two holes in one?

Ruth Smith Meyer said...

Oh Peter, isn't it marvelous that there are actually figures to prove what we in our hearts already know to be true? Thank you for giving us some of the facts and figures!

Peter Black said...

Thank you, dear sisters. Sometimes I find it quite amazing what some folks accept without question, and yet are unwilling to even consider the tremendous weight of manuscript evidence for God and Christ in the biblical scriptures - the Old and New Testaments. Besides, nature itself and the cosmos declare the glory of God day after day, and throughout succeeding millennia.
And Glynis, your personal testimony, above ("it's very hard to explain but it isn't very hard to believe"), reminds me that when one is "in Christ" and living the "kingdom life" their spirit sometimes knows or apprehends a truth before the mind can fully comprehend it. The intellect can take time to catch up. ~~+~~

fudge4ever said...

Now I know why I believe! Like Ruth and Glynis testified, we already knew this to be true. The Holy Spirit has assured us. But isn't it fun finding out statistics like this? Such a great read!! This is a keeper! Thank you for sharing.
Pam Mytroen

Carol Ford said...

Thanks, Peter. Why do we continue to be surprised when God regularly shows up in our lives? He told us "He would never leave us or forsake us." We need to hold on to his promises and not doubt what has been prophesied. Good reminder and also to see the odds.

Peter Black said...

Pam, I sometimes think that those who pursue a calling to Christian apologetics, researching biblical and factual data, must have a fun time. And I appreciate those who can describe and provide analogies that make those facts easily understood by lay folks such as I, and then we can share those insights. They may spring up at some time as shoots of faith.
And, Carol, your quoted phrase from Heb. 13:5-6 is one of my favourites. It is in our spirit that we know that God is with us and that His Word and promises are unfailing. ~~+~~

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