By Cris D. Putnam
So how do we evaluate something so mystical, so weird, and so utterly unique? While we must allow for supernaturalism a priori, our evaluation must acknowledge the standards of science. Good science is a search for what is true. Science is defined by a process called the scientific method. Typically, this includes an observation about a phenomenon, a hypothesis formulated to explain it, and a test performed via a controlled experiment. The key to the testing process is falsifiability. A positive test result means a hypothesis is plausible, not proven, but a negative test result proves it false. Hence, the proper test of a hypothesis is to make a prediction and devise a test such that at least one outcome proves the theory false. Karl Popper is generally regarded as one of the greatest philosophers of science of the twentieth century. He is famous for establishing the criteria for modern scientific inquiry, two of which are suggested as:
- It is easy to obtain confirmations, or verifications, for nearly every theory—if we look for confirmations.
- Confirmations should count only if they are the result of risky predictions; that is to say, if, unenlightened by the theory in question, we should have expected an event which was incompatible with the theory—an event which would have refuted the theory.
Now, we are not exactly trying to prove a scientific theory, but the idea is that we want to have this sort of methodology in mind as we evaluate the Prophecy of the Popes. We are not arguing that all of it will stand up to this level of rigor. Even so, we are confident that the Christian worldview explains the reality we observe much better than the naturalistic theories advocated by most scientists. Our faith is grounded in evidence of a historical nature and we are confident and encouraged by the level of intellectual scrutiny that things like the evidence for Jesus’ resurrection can endure. Accordingly, we have no agenda to meet with the Prophecy of the Popes. It either authenticates itself on its merit or it becomes a conversation piece. We mentioned above that one prophecy in particular grabbed our attention in a way that prompted willingness to invest in the research. Benedict XV was assigned the motto Religio depopulate: “religion depopulated.”
September 3, 1914 to January 22, 1922
Religio depopulata “Religion depopulated”
This is the kind of prediction we like because it was easily falsifiable. For instance, his reign could have been marked by a remarkable revival in the Church. It was a risky prediction and according to Popper, “Confirmations should count only if they are the result of risky predictions.” If Roman Catholicism had grown or even stayed the same this would have been necessarily falsified. Yet, in remarkable fulfillment, this was the time when Catholicism lost more adherents in one short period than at any other time in history.
World War I was devastating to the Roman Catholic Church, and then to add insult to injury, some 200 million left the Russian Orthodox fold to join the Bolshevik revolution or were killed or persecuted by the communists. A papal historian confirms, “Lenin declared war on religion and on assuming power was immediately to subject both the Orthodox and the Roman Catholic Churches in Russia to murderous persecution.” According to a leading expert on democide (death by government), “the Soviet Union appears the greatest megamurderer of all, apparently killing near 61,000,000 people. Stalin himself is responsible for almost 43,000,000 of these. Most of the deaths, perhaps around 39,000,000 are due to lethal forced labor in gulag and transit thereto.” Lenin and Stalin specifically targeted religious leaders as they viewed them as a threat. Religion was heavily depopulated during this period. Indeed, the prophecy demonstrates breathtaking accuracy here. Because it is beyond dispute that this was published in 1595, this fulfillment alone seems to defy coincidence and supports taking the prophecy seriously.
 Karl Popper, Conjectures and Refutations (London: Routledge and Keagan Paul, 1963), 33–39.
 Karl Popper, Conjectures and Refutations, 33.
 John Julius Norwich (2011-07-12T04:00:00+00:00). Absolute Monarchs: A History of the Papacy (Random House Digital, Inc.. Kindle Edition), Kindle locations 7678–7679.
 R. J. Rummel, “How Many Did Communist Regimes Murder?” last accessed January 31, 2012, https://www.hawaii.edu/powerkills/COM.ART.HTM?PHPSESSID=2a47ce24761a818095b37d0dd2e2112c.