We turn now to the first of the ten questions that the atheists have posed us.
The challenge is quite robust:
According to the Standard Model of God:
- God is all-powerful. Therefore, God can do anything, and regenerating a leg is trivial.
- God is perfect, and he created the Bible, which is his perfect book. In the Bible, Jesus makes very specific statements about the power of prayer. Since Jesus is God, and God and the Bible are perfect, those statements should be true and accurate.
- God is all-knowing and all-loving. He certainly knows about the plight of the amputee, and he loves this amputee very much.
- God is ready and willing to answer your prayers no matter how big or small. All that you have to do is believe. He says it in multiple places in the Bible. Surely, with millions of people in the prayer circle, at least one of them will believe and the prayer will be answered.
- God has no reason to discriminate against amputees. If he is answering millions of other prayers like Jeanna's every day, God should be answering the prayers of amputees too.
Nonetheless, the amputated legs are not going to regenerate.
The logic appears to flow and yet, as we shall see, it is flawed on 2 bases; it draws incorrect conclusions from facts that are agreed and it asserts some things as fact that, really, any intelligent person (let alone the fêted College-Educated Christian that the whole video claims to be aimed at) would not ascribe as a “Christian” view or would understand to be debatable.
So, we turn to the lines of the argument:
God is all-powerful. Therefore, God can do anything, and regenerating a leg is trivial.
We are agreed, God is all-powerful and therefore can do anything. That is the clear testimony of Scripture (e.g. Dan 4:35 etc.). But is it accurate to say “regenerating a leg is trivial”? In one sense, of course, it is. If God put the stars in their place and raised the Lord Jesus from the dead then it would be a comparatively trivial matter to regenerate a leg. This is, I suppose, the sense in which “trivial” is intended. And yet, at the same time, we need to note that for such an event to occur is not trivial. The Scriptures' testimony of miraculous healings is that they occur at discrete moments and for specific purposes. There is nothing “trivial” about them if by trivial we mean “commonplace/ordinary“. It may be claimed that it is a trivial matter for God to perform a miracle but the Scriptural witness is that such miracles were never trivial. Miracles served a specific purpose. So, for one example, John's gospel reports a number of miraculous signs that Jesus performs which serve to reveal His glory and give a firm basis on which we should place our trust in Him (2:11; 21:30-31). So basic is this principle in the Scriptures that, surely, any “intelligent college-educated” student of the Bible should be aware of it.
God is perfect, and he created the Bible, which is his perfect book. In the Bible, Jesus makes very specific statements about the power of prayer. Since Jesus is God, and God and the Bible are perfect, those statements should be true and accurate.
Well yes, God is perfect. But the rest of the sentence is, at the best, very poorly set out. First, it is massively simplistic to simply assert “God created the Bible”. Again, surely the “intelligent college-educated” (wow, that's going to be boring to keep typing – and trust me, we're going to have to keep typing it – why don't we settle for “ic-e”) critic understands that? The classical Christian view is that God “inspired” the Bible as opposed to either simply dictating it or presenting it as a completed work (such as claimed by the Mormons or Muslims). The Scripture's own reflection upon itself is far more sophisticated:
2 Peter 1:21 For prophecy never had its origin in the will of man, but men spoke from God as they were carried along by the Holy Spirit.
As for the “perfection” of the Bible, what exactly is being argued here? The critic does not define his terms. I think what is being argued is authority but, again, its hard to tell.
He then turns to claim that “Jesus makes very specific statements about the power of prayer. Since Jesus is God, and God and the Bible are perfect, those statements should be true and accurate.” Well yes, I guess. But what specific statements are we talking about? The problem here is that our critic is beginning to build up an argument that God, in the person of Jesus, has promised to answer every prayer but that argument is made without any actual Scriptural citation at all. Surely the ic-e reader would not accept such poor argumentation?
On we go,
God is all-knowing and all-loving. He certainly knows about the plight of the amputee, and he loves this amputee very much
God is ready and willing to answer your prayers no matter how big or small. All that you have to do is believe. He says it in multiple places in the Bible. Surely, with millions of people in the prayer circle, at least one of them will believe and the prayer will be answered.
Yes, we have no doubt that God not only knows the plight of the amputee and loves him very much. Again, the Scriptures are clear on this and Jesus Himself models this same compassion as he meets similar people. But the question's main claim is actually unstated and at this point we arrive at a fundamental flaw our critics' argument. It is so fundamental that it is not actually stated since, one assumes, we should take it for granted.
This is the flawed assumption: that God's loving nature seeks always to rectify every instance of suffering.
Even a brief foray into the Scriptures by the ic-e reader reveals that this is a massive mistake to make. The Scriptures present manifold instances of people undergoing suffering at the hand of God. The classic example is, of course, Job. In that OT wisdom book we see Job's comforters making exactly the same flawed appeals to the nature of God as our critic does here. The answer given in Job is that they are seriously wrong and simplistic in their argumentation.
But more than Job, even a brief consideration of the central character of the “perfect” Bible, Jesus, shows that this paradigm is utterly flawed. Jesus Himself suffers terribly and, despite asking that the suffering may be taken from Him (Matt. 26:39), faces even death itself. The great paradox that the Scriptures present to us in the person of Jesus is that not every prayer for relief of suffering is answered, indeed there are many times when the prayer is flawed. Put another way, the Scriptures present to us an alternative to the simplistic assumption that the relief of suffering is always a moral good. Surely the ic-e critic of Christians would have done their homework and would know this? Apparently not.
Now, this is not to say that Jesus has not actually promised that all our prayer will be heard and answered but His own prayer in Gethsemane is demonstration enough that the answer may often, in God's good design, be a “no”. We are not, of course, arguing here that all apparent “non-answer” of prayer by or on behalf of amputees must be understood in this way, but we are arguing that the assumption that God must answer positively is simplistic to the extreme. No ic-e reader of the Bible would come to such a conclusion.
Nor does our critic deal with the question of exactly what Jesus is promising when He tells us our prayer will be answered. Does Jesus promise every believer a Ferrari? The school of thought that claims that such a blanket promise has been made is known as the “Word/Faith” [wiki] movement and is roundly criticised in classical Christian circles for one basic reason – it is a naïve and incorrect reading of the text. But this is the reading that our ic-e critic has chosen.
So how might we conclude?
Our critic claims to be speaking to intelligent college-educated Christians and yet displays a sophomoric understanding of what those Christians believe. He claims that the God of the Bible does not exist while ignoring the Biblical presentation of God. In particular he fails to understand:
- That miracles in the Scriptures are never trivial – they almost always serve a specific purpose. They are not widespread but, rather, isolated moments.
- That God's goodness does not mean God automatically reduces all suffering. Quite the contrary, God's goodness is often seen through suffering and despite it. Most notably it is in an act of great suffering, the Cross of Jesus, where God's goodness to us is most clearly seen.
- That prayer is not like a vending-machine. An understanding of prayer that places God under an obligation to heal is foolishly naïve.
Does God heal amputees? We don't want to discount the possibility. Jesus Himself performs a number of similar and (I suggest) no less astounding miracles:
Mark 2:10 But that you may know that the Son of Man has authority on earth to forgive sins”–he said to the paralytic– 11 “I say to you, rise, pick up your bed, and go home.” 12 And he rose and immediately picked up his bed and went out before them all, so that they were all amazed and glorified God, saying, “We never saw anything like this!”
Mark 3:5 And [Jesus] looked around at [the Pharisees] with anger, grieved at their hardness of heart, and said to the man, “Stretch out your [withered] hand.” He stretched it out, and his hand was restored.
So yes, He does. But even here we see specific healings performed by God Himself at a particular moment in salvation-history – the Incarnation. To extrapolate from those non-trivial instances and try and argue for a generic rule for all time is… Well it's not what an ic-e person would do.