Introduction to this Series:
There is a site that claims God is imaginary for 50 reasons. However, if there was ever an example of a non-sequitur, which means that the conclusion to an argument does not follow, the author of this site is the prime example of one. For instance, the author argues prayer doesn’t work, but that does not give us the conclusion that God is imaginary. The author argues that the Bible is violent, but that hardly warrants that God (any God) does not exist. The author argues that so many gods have been created, but that does not give us the conclusion that God doesn’t exist. And so on and on this author goes with his non-sequiturs. This doesn’t mean, however, that the author totally misses the plot; some of his arguments need careful consideration, even though we could scrap 90% of them. The point of this series will be to analyze, step by step, the arguments the author provides.
Argument 1: Try Praying:
In his opening point the author goes on about how Jesus lied when he promised to answer prayers. For the sake of brevity I am going to abbreviate non-sequitur to NS – this is because almost every step of the way the author commits this.
This is our first NS. In other words because prayers aren’t answered, therefore God does not exist. That is a fallacious conclusion. So, the author points us to Matthew 7:7, Matthew 17:20, Matthew 21:21, Mark 11:24, John 14:12-14, Matthew 18:19 and James 5:15-16 in the hope to confirm his point. In other words, did Jesus lie when he said he would answer prayers? John tells us that Jesus said:
“If you ask anything in My name, I will do it” (John 14:14)
In its context:
Right off the mark the author is taking these verses right out of their context. For instance, say that I am reading a book written by an atheist, the book is called ‘God Is Stupid’, and I read in one sentence: “The Christian God, Yahweh, is responsible for the creations of quasars, galaxies, and Earth.”
Would I conclude that the author believes in God because of this one sentence? Hardly.
Once the very prominent atheist Christopher Hitchens wrote a book, which I have on my shelf behind me, called: ‘God Is Not Great’. Based off the title am I now going to conclude that Hitchens believes in God except in his mind God is not great? Obviously not, I have taken a sentence out of its context whereas the book will convey why Hitchens thinks that God does not exist.
In fact, the New Testament shows us that many of Jesus’ statements concerning prayer are qualified by certain criteria that must be met in order for that prayer to be effective.
In Jesus’ name:
“If you ask anything in My name, I will do it” (John 14:14)
One qualifying criteria is to pray in Jesus’ name. It is therefore important we know what this means. But first off we must note that this was said to his disciples, and not to us, so immediately the author is fallacious in applying John 14:14 to us and then using it to accuse Jesus.
Nevertheless, to say “in Jesus’ name” is not just a meaningless phrase, the phrase “in Jesus’ name” means that whatever is being said or done must be done by the authority of Jesus. So, this means that whatever we do, or ask for, should be in accord with Jesus’ teachings, and thus by his authority.
So, would asking for the latest Mercedes, or the latest Iphone be in accordance of Jesus’ will for our lives and the spreading of his Gospel? Likely not.
In God’s name:
We must understand all that Jesus taught on prayer, which of course the author of this article has missed doing completely. In Jesus’ instructions to the disciples on prayer he explains that they should align it with God’s will (Matthew 6:10). In 1 John 5:14-15 we read:
“Now this is the confidence that we have in Him, that if we ask anything according to His will, He hears us. And if we know that He hears us, whatever we ask, we know that we have the petitions that we have asked of Him”
In other words, “according to God’s will” tells us that God is the ultimate authority, and that he answers prayers in the way he sees fit. God will not answer prayers if they go against his will, or violate his intentions.
In the case of Jesus:
Jesus, the very one giving these instructions, was rejected in his proposal to God in the Garden of Gethsemane. Jesus tries to plea with God to spare him from the inevitable unfolding events of the crucifixion. In Luke 22:42 we read:
“Father, if You are willing, remove this cup from Me; yet not My will, but Yours be done.”
Of course the narrative, and history, tells us that God did not approve of this prayer. Jesus still went on to die on the cross for mans sins. Why did God not answer Jesus’ prayer? Because, it was not in accordance to his ultimate will for mankind.
Prayer with faith:
Praying with faith is another crucial qualifier that the author seems to have missed. Jesus says in Matthew 21:22:
“And all things, whatever you ask in prayer, believing, you will receive.”
Another verse, James 1:5-8, tells us:
“If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask of God, who gives to all liberally and without reproach, and it will be given to him. But let him ask in faith, with no doubting, for he who doubts is like a wave of the sea driven and tossed by the wind. For let not that man suppose that he will receive anything from the Lord; he is a double-minded man, unstable in all his ways.”
One must believe that they will receive an answer to their prayer if it is in accordance to God’s word, and his ultimate plan for his/her life. A faithless prayer will not be effective.
Would God consent to giving someone all the material goods he so wishes? Likely not, as the person asking will only wish to satisfy his own needs. Even adding in “in Jesus’ name” to the end of a prayer asking this will not help. If the one making the request is driven by selfish and impure motives then he cannot expect God to grant the prayer in the affirmative. If the prayer is selfish, thus not of God’s will it will not help.
Furthermore, even when it comes to praying for good things people will do so for their own selfish means. For instance, praying for the ability to help poor people, which is a good thing, can be turned rotten if the person praying for this wants it only to make his reputation better than everyone else’s in that line of business.
Having a relationship with God, according to Christian doctrine, is the ultimate purpose for life and is the ultimate good; it is why we were created. But this can also turn sour if we only want this relationship for our own selfish needs, such as to get what we want from God, or be looked up at by others in the church.
Even good things can be turned bad if people approach them with the wrong motives and desires.
Persistence in prayer:
“Then He spoke a parable to them, that men always ought to pray and not lose heart.” (Luke 18:1)
This was a parable of Jesus’ in which he tells us about a widow who made a request to an unjust judge. Her request was noble and right but the unjust judge did not feel obligated to comply with her appeal. However, because of her persistence and her “continual coming” to the judge, he finally granted her request. Jesus then commented that if an unjust judge can be swayed by persistence, how much more effective is the persistent prayer of a virtuous person when addressed to the righteous Judge of all the Earth. Persistent is admire by God, but is not the only qualifier there is to him answering prayer.
What this shows us is that God being just, righteous, and loving admires persistence. However, just because we persist in something that is not within God’s will for us probably means that he will not grant it. Nevertheless, persistence is needed in prayer.
What the article author pretends to know:
In the case of this 1st point the author pretends to know more than he, or anyone else for that matter, could. He contends that millions of good Christian people regularly pray for things that they do not receive, and that these people truly believed that they would receive them. In other words, their prayers were ineffective.
But, wait a second, how does he know this? How does he know that these persons prayers haven’t been answered? How does he know that these prayers will not be answered by God in another place, time, or cultural context? How does this author know the hearts and minds of those who pray, especially with the above criteria for good prayer in mind? According to Psalm 44:21 it is only God who is capable of knowing the secrets of the heart. Does this author know the secrets of the hearts of those who pray?
Can this author say for a fact that God has not granted the prayers of many people? Surely not, or he would be God, the very thing that he is trying to disprove in the first place with his non-sequiturs.
In conclusion to argument 1:
What we have seen is that the author of the article has really only been unfair to the Biblical text. He, as we have seen, has taken verses totally out of their contexts, and uses them as an argument against God, or Jesus. This is a NS as it fails to logically conclude the argument provided – that God is imaginary. We have also seen that the author pretends to know too much about people and prayer, of which he, being finite, could not possibly know. We have also seen that there are additional qualifiers that need to be taken into consideration regarding prayer, such as our motives when praying, our perseverance, our faith, praying in Jesus’ name, and according to God’s will. Those are important qualifiers and cannot simply be left out of the equation, of which the author has done.
We have sen that the authors 1st argument is logically incoherent.