The Complaint Department Is Closed #1

Continuing from the initial article, I will explore and analyze the list of arguments for believing God does not exist from the website godisimaginary.com which boasts 50+ such reasons. I have decided to count up from numbers one to fifty. The list as compiled on the website does not appear to list the arguments in a hierarchical manner with fifty being the weakest and one being the strongest or vice versa, even though everyone enjoys a good count down, there does not seem to be a climax worth building to.  I would like to add, just from a casual overview I have taken from some of the arguments, they appear to be more along the lines of complaints rather than reasons to believe God does not exist.  This being the case, more often than not, we will be dealing with someones preferences, not philosophical argumentation.

Proof Number 1: Try Praying

Like the majority of the arguments offered by atheists, this one is no different, in that godisimaginary (GII) treats God as a being at the beck and call of man.  This article, “Try Praying” will be referred to as the “Prayer List” in my future examinations of arguments since it is regularly referenced by GII in support of other proofs.  It is a list of the biblical references to believers being able to “ask” God anything in His name and receive it.

The First verse on the “Prayer List” is Matthew 7:7-11 which reads as follows:

Ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives, and he who seeks finds, and to him who knocks it will be opened. Or what man is there among you who, when his son asks for a loaf, will give him a stone? Or if he asks for a fish, he will not give him a snake, will he? If you then, being evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father who is in heaven give what is good to those who ask Him!

GII assesses the verse that “If “every one who asks receives”, then if we ask for cancer to be cured, it should be cured. Right? If “our Father who is in heaven gives good things to those who ask him”, then if we ask him to cure cancer, he should cure it. Right? And yet nothing happens.”  This is seen as a passage which allows believers to impose genie status upon God.  The entire passage, however, starts in verse 1, in which Jesus is warning about making hypocritical judgements upon one another, the infamous “thou shalt not judge…” passage.  Following through for context (a habit of nearly all atheists, and GII is no different, is proof texting out of context in order to make a point, creating a strawman argument), the asking, seeking, and knocking is not a reference to prayer.  Rather asking for wisdom, the seeking of truth, and knocking at the door for salvation.  What should be obvious by reading the entire chapter is Jesus is teaching us to not be hypocritical in our judgements. Seek wisdom, truth, and salvation.  That the way to Him is narrow, and true believers can be differentiated from false believers by their behavior and fidelity to Jesus teaching.

Matthew 17:20 is next on the Prayer List: “And He said to them, “Because of the littleness of your faith; for truly I say to you, if you have faith the size of a mustard seed, you will say to this mountain, ‘Move from here to there,’ and it will move; and nothing will be impossible to you”.  GII goes on to conclude, “If “nothing will be impossible to you”, then if we ask to cure cancer tonight, cancer should disappear. Right? Yet nothing happens. Note that if we take the Bible less-than-literally here, the statement “nothing will be impossible to you” becomes “lots of things will be impossible to you,” and that would mean that Jesus is lying.”

Not surprising, the verse is lifted out of context, and I will venture to say, intentionally misrepresented.  The passage is a rebuke of the Disciples lack of faith.  Jesus is speaking hyperbolically, basically stating the demons would have been able to be expelled by the Disciples of only they had true faith.  Jesus is more proving a point than granting power.

Next is Matthew 21:21, “And Jesus answered and said to them, “Truly I say to you, if you have faith and do not doubt, you will not only do what was done to the fig tree, but even if you say to this mountain, ‘Be taken up and cast into the sea,’ it will happen”  GII’s conclusion: “If “you will receive whatever you ask for in prayer”, then if we ask to cure cancer tonight, cancer should  dissappear [sic]. Right? Yet nothing happens. Note again that there is not a non-literal way to interpret “you will receive whatever you ask for in prayer”, unless you replace “whatever” with “nothing” or “little.

This is the passage where Jesus curses the fig tree when it has not born any fruit, and the Disciples ask in v.20 “how did the fig tree wither all at once?”  In addition to this being a foreshadowing of the judgement upon people who claim to be believers (the fig tree) but show no signs of true belief (baring fruit), Jesus is once again rebuking the Disciples for their lack of faith and belief that Jesus is the Messiah, God in flesh.  They had been following Him for some time and they continue doubt despite the things they see Jesus doing and teaching.  Again Jesus is making a point.

Mark 11:24 “Therefore I say to you, all things for which you pray and ask, believe that you have received them, and they will be granted you”

 John 14:12-14 “Truly, truly, I say to you, he who believes in Me, the works that I do, he will do also; and greater works than these he will do; because I go to the Father. Whatever you ask in My name, that will I do, so that the Father may be glorified in the Son. If you ask Me anything in My name, I will do it”

GII says, “If God says, “believe that you have received it, and it will be yours,” and if we believe in God and his power, then what should happen if we pray to cure cancer tonight? It should be cured. Either that, or God is lying….Look at how direct this statement is: “You may ask me for anything in my name, and I will do it.” This is the “Son of God” speaking. Have we taken him “too literally?” No. This is a simple, unambiguous statement. Have we taken his statement “out of context?” No – Jesus uses the word anyone. Yet Jesus’ statement is obviously false. Because when we ask God to cure cancer tonight, nothing happens”

GII regularly fails to read the context of the passage for clarity.  So far the verses quoted are all Jesus responses to the Disciples lack of faith in Jesus and moments of weakness and doubt.  Matthew 18:19 we see similar wording to that in the previously cited passages, this time in the context of forgiveness.  Here Jesus is stressing to the Disciples that when someone comes to you asking forgiveness for a wrong committed they are to forgive, just like God will forgive “anything you ask in His name”  it is not instruction to lay claim to every whim of your desire.

James 5:15-16 appears to be about miraculous healing through prayer, though not impossible, is certainly not necessarily to be expected.  The Jews of the time had the belief that if someone was ill, born with a physical birth defect, was blind or deaf, etc.  that it was due to some sin either in the individual or the individual’s family (i.e. father, grandfather-see John 9:1-2; Job).  In context of the passage and history, James is assuring his readers that those who are sick should be praying, especially for salvation.  The passage, which sometimes reads “the prayer offered in faith will make the sick person well”  but is better translated “and the prayer offered in faith will restore the one who is sick, and the Lord will raise him up, and if he has committed sins, they will be forgiven him”.  James is focusing on the idea people had that sickness is related to sin, but he is assuring them basically not to worry, if someone is sick (sinned/sinning) he, through prayer (seeking forgiveness) will be restored (brought back into right standing with God), and if they were sinning, they will be forgiven.  The beginning of verse 15 is interpreted by the latter half of the same verse.

GII next quotes a partial verse, excluding the first half for sake of rhetorical effect.  Mark 9:23 is quoted by GII as reading “All things are possible to him who believes”.  The passage should be taken as a whole, and the verse should not be isolated.

Mark 9:19-24

And [Jesus] answered them and said, “O unbelieving generation, how long shall I be with you? How long shall I put up with you? Bring him to Me!”  They brought the boy to Him. When he saw [Jesus], immediately the spirit threw him into a convulsion, and falling to the ground, he began rolling around and foaming at the mouth. And [Jesus] asked his father, “How long has this been happening to him?” And he said, “From childhood. It has often thrown him both into the fire and into the water to destroy him. But if You can do anything, take pity on us and help us!” And Jesus said to him, “‘If You can?’ All things are possible to him who believes.” Immediately the boy’s father cried out and said, “I do believe; help my unbelief”

Here is another example of Jesus dealing with a person full of doubt.  The man comes to Jesus, who now has a reputation for healing people with all kinds of diseases, and (for lack of better wording) then has the nerve to say to Him, “if You can do anything…”. It seems Jesus has the same reaction essentially saying, “Do you really not know who I am?  Of course I can”.  Jesus is once again reiterating the importance of true faith and belief that Jesus is who He claimed to be.

This last citation is a flagrant example of taking a verse out of context.  Not only is the verse out of context, it has nothing to do with prayer.  Luke 1:37 “For nothing will be impossible with God”, to which GII responds: “Nothing could be simpler or clearer than Jesus’ promises about prayer in the Bible. Yet, when we pray to eliminate cancer, nothing happens”  What is both sad and funny about this example, not only is this passage about Mary questioning the Angel of God about how it is she can be pregnant since she is still a virgin, and not even about prayer, but this is not even a quote of Jesus.

In all, GII’s assessment that the bible and Jesus teach that God can be expected to act as our personal wish granter, is seriously deplorable.  Each verse is taken out of context with no consideration to surrounding passages.  In at least one case the verse is not a reference to prayer at all, nor is it a promise to believers, or to anyone for that matter.  If the other forty-nine arguments are anything like this, no Christian need have any fear.  If GII was intent on determining the true meaning of the passages, a simple reading of the chapter gives the context in which the passages should be understood.  Verses are not intended to stand alone.  They are part of a larger paragraph, which is part of a chapter, which is part of a book.

The tendency to lift passages out for isolation did not become prominent until the addition of chapter breaks and verse numbering, which was absent from the original text.  It is now common place to assign verses as individual ideas, much like the design of the book of Proverbs.  I would say that in creating a system for ease of locating specific texts came the advent of scripture relativization.  Make it a habit to never read a bible verse.  Spend a minute to read the chapter and you will be in a position to avoid succombing to the problems which plague GII, as well as many others.

Comments

  1. jonjermey says:

    Ah, so Jesus was LYING! Got it!

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