The Black Swan
By Pete Garcia
Probably the three most contentious points of scripture are the Creation, Jesus Christ’s first advent, and His Second Advent. These are under more attack, by more agencies both inside and out of Christendom than almost any other. The truth is, very few people believe in an actual literal return of our Lord and Savior. It is more akin to that bumper sticker I’ve seen from time to time that states: “Jesus is coming back, look busy”.
The “Black Swan Event/Theory” was put forth by a man named Nassim Taleb, who is a Lebanese American that studies randomness and probability. His book, “The Black Swan” is listed as one of the top 12 most influential books since World War II. He applies statistics and mathematics to the probability of events that have occurred and/or to the likeliness that they could occur. I came to understand it (in laymen’s terms) to be an unexpected event that should have been seen coming, but couldn’t because nothing like it had ever happened before.
The black swan theory or theory of black swan events is a metaphor that describes an event that is a surprise (to the observer), has a major impact, and after the fact is often inappropriately rationalized with the benefit of hindsight.
The theory was developed by Nassim Nicholas Taleb to explain:
1. The disproportionate role of high-impact, hard-to-predict, and rare events that are beyond the realm of normal expectations in history, science, finance and technology
2. The non-computability of the probability of the consequential rare events using scientific methods (owing to the very nature of small probabilities)
3. The psychological biases that make people individually and collectively blind to uncertainty and unaware of the massive role of the rare event in historical affairs
An example I’ve seen used in this: there is a turkey that, for a 1000 days is fed, sheltered, and cared for. On the 1000th day, he (the turkey) finds himself on the chopping block, because that 1000th day just happened to be Thanksgiving. So to the farmer, it was a ‘white swan’ event because he knew all along that this was the fate of that turkey; to the turkey it is a ‘black swan’ event because he didn’t see it coming.
In the Scriptures, we can see this played out in the life of Noah and the prophetic event known as the Flood. Out of the millions (possibly billions) of people on the planet at the time, not one person outside of his family believed him. Can you imagine the faith and perseverance that he must have had to continue to build decade after decade on an enormous boat, warning them about a coming judgment in the form of rain, in which no one had ever seen before. To the world that was then, this was the mother of all ‘black swan’ events, but only because they rejected God’s message and His messenger. The Apostle Peter ties that event (the flood), with the return of Christ and the same type of mentality people have concerning both events.
“…knowing this first: that scoffers will come in the last days, walking according to their own lusts, and saying, “Where is the promise of His coming? For since the fathers fell asleep, all things continue as they were from the beginning of creation.” For this they willfully forget: that by the word of God the heavens were of old, and the earth standing out of water and in the water, by which the world that then existed perished, being flooded with water.” – 2 Peter 3:3-6
The King James Version has the underlined phrase “they are willingly ignorant of” which paints a clearer picture of the type of mindset that those who reject God’s word, have to become. They have to purpose in their heart to ignore, pervert, or outright reject the message of warning because they don’t want to deal with it. See, there are no ‘black swan’ events to God. God, who exists outside of space and time, can simultaneously see the beginning and the end and all that is in between.
So back to the original statement, in that the three most contentious points in Scripture. Let me preface this by saying, that the first thing that had to go out the window was the Inerrancy of Scripture. Once supposed theologians (change agents) were able to insert some doubt into God’s word as to what we can take literally and what is ‘questionable’, the rest was down hill. It began by attacking the Genesis account of Creation. The western civilization was just entering the ‘Age of Reason’ and neither the Roman Catholic nor the Protestant churches were able to answer the hard questions pertaining to our beginning.
The next resurgent attack came on the personhood of Jesus Christ and whether He really was who He said He was. The current popular heresy floating around now days is that Jesus was really a woman named Judith Christ. And there are groups of supposed theologians out there that have debated as to what Christ really said, and what others have attributed Him to saying. There are the ‘Red Letter Christians’ who selectively pick and choose that which they consider the real Bible, while ignoring Paul’s and the other Apostle’s teachings as ‘too divisive’ to be useful.
Lastly, there is the eschatology and return of Jesus Christ. There was though, a movement in the 1800’s called the “Dispensationalists” who, based solely off of taking a literal reading of God’s word, could and did accurately forecast what would have to happen before we entered that ‘last generation’. Men like Darby, Scofield, Larkin, and Chafer viewed the unfulfilled prophetic passages as ‘futuristic’ since there had been no prior fulfillment of these events in historical records.
One of those events was the reestablishment of Israel as a nation. To the rest of the world, this was a ‘black swan’ event since Israel had not been a nation in almost 2,000 years. But, since these ‘Dispensationalists’ were taking God at His literal word; it wasn’t a matter of ‘if’ it could happen, but when. Again, the Apostle Peter reassures us that we have a ‘more sure word of prophecy’ in His word, than even Peter himself who had seen Christ’s Transfiguration first hand.
For most of the Age of the Church (from Augustine until 1948), both majorities of Protestant and Catholic churches were Amillennial…i.e.…that there was no future millennial reign of Christ on the earth as stated in Isaiah 65, Daniel 2, Psalm 2, and Revelation 20. So when Israel became a nation again, it forced these churches to address their traditions in light of current events. For many who adhered to Amillennialism embraced ‘Replacement Theology’. In doing so, they became ‘willingly ignorant’ of God’s promises to the nation of Israel and of the distinctions between Israel and the Church.
Aside from the outright rejection of Israel as a sign that the end of the age is drawing to a close, there have been numerous ‘theories’ as to when and how Christ should (or not) return for His Church. I think this is part of a ‘divide and conquer’ method of attack by Satan on the Church at large, to introduce confusion and ultimately, disillusionment with the nearness of His return. I’ve talked to a large number of Christians who have heard so many different viewpoints about when and how Christ will return, that they’ve just thrown their hands up in the air and said “Whatever”. They’ve become ‘pan-millennialist’ in their eschatology (it will all pan out in the end, so why bother). It is a sad state of affairs when a large portion of the professing Church either doesn’t know or doesn’t care when their Savior is set to return.
But concerning the times and the seasons, brethren, you have no need that I should write to you. For you yourselves know perfectly that the day of the Lord so comes as a thief in the night. For when they say, “Peace and safety!” then sudden destruction comes upon them, as labor pains upon a pregnant woman. And they shall not escape. But you, brethren, are not in darkness, so that this Day should overtake you as a thief. You are all sons of light and sons of the day. We are not of the night nor of darkness. 1 Thessalonians 5:1-5
Notice the shifts between the second person and third person grammatical usages of ‘you’, ‘they’, and ‘them’? We, who have been born again into the Body of Christ can take solace and comfort in the fact that our God has not left us to wade wearily into an unknown future. We can know what is coming, because He has put it in His word to us. The Rapture of the Church will be the ultimate ‘Black Swan’ event for this world because they too have rejected God’s message and His messengers. Like the doomed Antediluvian world, that day and hour will come like a ‘thief in the night’ and will wreak havoc on an already stressed system. But we, as instructed, should watch, and be ready so as not to be caught off guard. And even though we don’t know the exact day and hour, we should know the season we are in because of the signs of the times.
Now there is in store for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will award to me on that day —and not only to me, but also to all who have longed for his appearing. 2 Timothy 4:8 (NIV)