Prayer Doesn’t Work as Advertised

This is an excerpt from my book, Cross Examined: An Unconventional Spiritual Journey.

A bit of background: Jim is a wealthy, housebound, and somewhat obnoxious atheist, though formerly a devout and learned Christian. Paul is the young acolyte of a famous pastor, doing his best to evangelize. It’s 1906 in Los Angeles, and they’re in Jim’s study.

“Have you thought much about how prayer works?” Jim asked.

“The Bible tells us how: ‘Ask and ye shall receive.’”

“Does it really work that way? You just ask for things and then you get them?”

Paul breathed deeply to focus his mind. He had to think clearly. Jim’s arguments always seemed to trap him. “Well, no, of course not. And that frustrates some Christians. They don’t understand that they need to let God’s plan unfold for them. It may simply not be part of God’s plan to give you what you ask for right now. You can’t treat God as an all-powerful servant always at your elbow, fulfilling every whim that comes to mind. God isn’t a genie.”

Several white chess pieces—three pawns, a knight, and a bishop—lay on the center table. Though the table was not marked with a chessboard, Jim leaned forward and set them up on the table in their beginning positions. “Perhaps not, but ‘ask and ye shall receive’ is pretty straightforward. It makes God sound like a genie to me.”

“But that’s clearly not how prayer works.”

“I agree, but the Bible doesn’t. It makes plain that prayer is supposed to work that way—you ask for it, and then you get it. Prayer is a telephone call to God, and he always answers your call.”

“No—you’re misreading the Bible. It doesn’t say when you get it.”

Jim shook his head. “But it does say that you’ll get it.”

Paul tried another tack. “God answers every prayer, but sometimes the answer is No.”

“That’s not what the Bible says. Jesus said that if you have faith as tiny as a mustard seed, you will be able to move mountains. Jesus said that prayer offered in faith will make the sick person well. Jesus said that whatever you ask for in prayer, believe that you have received it, and it will be yours. Jesus said that all things are possible to him who believes. Jesus said, ‘Whatever you ask in my name, I will do it.’ No limitations or delays are mentioned.”

“Fine,” Paul said, clenching his teeth. “Fine.” He hated conceding ground, but he had no response.

“Okay,” Jim said, “let’s look at another aspect of prayer. When you pray, are you telling God something he doesn’t already know? That is, is prayer important because you’re informing God of some news, like ‘I’ve lost my job’ or ‘my brother has consumption’?”

“Certainly not—God is all-knowing. Obviously, he already understands your situation. It’s the asking part that’s important.”

“So you need to change it to ‘please help me get this new job’ or ‘please cure my brother’s consumption’?”

“That sounds better.”

Jim leaned forward. “But even this doesn’t make sense. God knows what’s best for you. For you to ask God to change his plans is presumptuous. It’s like an ant giving an engineer tips for designing a bridge. Will God think, ‘It’s best that you not get the new job, but since you asked nicely, I’ve changed my mind’? And maybe it’s simply part of his plan that your brother die from consumption.”

“But prayers are answered all the time! Lots of consumption patients can point to God as the reason they’re alive now.”

“Not with any justification. Let’s say Aunt May has an illness. She and her family pray, and then she gets well. She concludes that it was prayer and God’s intervention that cured her. But obviously there are other explanations, such as, that her treatment saved her. And if she had no treatment, perhaps it was simply her body healing itself.”

“And perhaps it was God!” Paul ached to pace around the room to burn off some of his tension, but he was a guest and thought better of it.

“Perhaps so, but you’re basing that on no evidence. I agree that we can’t rule out that it was God—or Vishnu or Osiris or a four-leaf clover. But we have no evidence that any of them did anything.” Jim was quickly running through different opening moves for his five chess pieces—tick, tick, tick as the pieces quickly struck the table, then a pause as he set them up again.

Paul wondered if his responses were so bland that Jim needed to play chess to keep his mind occupied.

Jim looked up and said, “The attraction of prayer in many cases is that it’s easier than doing the hard work yourself. Praying for a promotion is easier than doing what’s necessary to deserve a promotion. But let’s look at this from another angle. God has cured zero cases of birth defects—say, mental idiocy. We know this because zero cases have been cured by any cause, natural or supernatural. Millions of mothers have been devastated by the prospect of their children growing up with a disability or even dying an early death. Has God found none of their prayers worthy of an answer? Or amputations—there are probably men in your own church who have lost limbs due to war or injury. Has a single limb ever grown back? No. And since God has cured zero of these, maybe he has intervened in zero illnesses. That is, since God hasn’t performed any visible cures, maybe he hasn’t done any invisible ones, either.

“And think of the millions of people around the world who are starving. Prayers or no prayers, God apparently can’t be bothered to help them. If God is going to set aside the laws of physics and perform a miracle, is he to put my needs at the top of the list? If he won’t save a country starving during a famine, why should I think he’ll cure my rheumatism?”

Jim expanded his diversion, adding opposing black chess pieces to his imaginary board—three pawns and a knight from the other side of the table. He alternated moves from each side and held the captured pieces between his fingers so that the round bottoms embellished his hands like fat wooden rings.

“Consider smallpox,” Jim said as he set up the pieces for another mock game. “We don’t think of it much now, but it has been one of civilization’s most deadly diseases. In fact, the last smallpox outbreak in this country was here in Los Angeles, about thirty years ago. Suppose you have a large number of people who are vaccinated against smallpox and an equally large number who aren’t, and both groups are exposed to smallpox. Those who were vaccinated will do far better than those who don’t—regardless of who prays. You can look at this from the other direction—the high death rate from smallpox suggests that God’s plan is for it to be deadly. That is, vaccines interfere with God’s plan. Maybe we shouldn’t be using them.”

Every confident tick of a chess piece was a goad to Paul, a reminder that he was the novice in this discussion. Tick, tick, tick became “i-di-ot.” He said, “Maybe God doesn’t need to focus on smallpox anymore because science has stepped in. Maybe He’s focusing His miracle cures on diseases like consumption or cancer because that’s where the need still exists.”

“Did God ever focus on people with diseases?” Jim tossed away the chess pieces, and they clattered on the table. “Before vaccines, smallpox was life threatening. It killed hundreds of thousands of people every year. But in America, it’s now just a nuisance. Science has improved life expectancy; prayer hasn’t.”

Paul clenched the arms of his chair. “You can’t judge prayer with science,” he said, probably louder than he should have. “You can’t expect God to perform like a trained monkey at your command. It’s not our place, nor is it even possible, to judge God’s work. I agree that there are aspects of God’s actions that we just can’t explain. But I have the patience and the humility to accept God’s wisdom and wait for understanding. Perhaps I won’t understand until I get to heaven.”

“Fine, but if your argument is that you don’t understand, then say so. When asked, ‘Can we say that prayer gives results?’ the correct answer must then be ‘No, we cannot because we don’t understand.’ God might answer every prayer as you suggest, but we have no reason to believe that. A sufficient explanation is that prayers don’t appear to work because there is no God to answer them. The invisible looks very much like the nonexistent. Which one is God—invisible or nonexistent?”

Paul had no clever rebuttal, so he treated the question as rhetorical. “You’ve ignored praise,” he said. “That’s a vitally important reason for prayer. We humble ourselves before God and acknowledge that He can do what we can’t. It’s only appropriate to give thanks and praise to God.”

Jim snorted. “What’s the point in praising God? Surely God doesn’t need to hear how great he is. Is he that insecure that he needs constant reminding? Put this in human terms—do we curse insects for not acknowledging how important we are? Suppose we built a race of mechanical men. Would our first command to them be that they need to worship their human creators?”

“Are you unwilling to humble yourself before a greater power?”

“I’ll consider it when I know that such a power exists,” Jim said. “The picture of God that the writers of the Old Testament painted for us is that of a great king—a man with the wisdom of Solomon, the generalship of Alexander, and the physical strength of Hercules. And he apparently needs the fawning and flattering of a great king as well. You would think that God would be a magnification of all good human qualities and an elimination of the bad ones. But the small-minded, praise-demanding, vindictive, and intolerant God of the Bible is simply a caricature, a magnification of all human inclinations, good and bad. As Man becomes nobler, he loses these petty needs. Shouldn’t this be even more true of God?”

Jim leaned down and picked up a rumpled copy of a newspaper from the floor. “Let me show you something I read in this morning’s paper,” he said as he noisily flipped through a section. After a few moments he laid the newspaper on the table. “Here it is. It’s about a train accident in which eight people died. A woman was just released from the hospital, and here she says, ‘The doctors told my husband that I probably wouldn’t make it. But he prayed and prayed. And his prayers were answered—it was a miracle.’” Jim looked up. “So according to this, prayer works. But I must wonder if I understand the meaning of the word ‘works.’ Imagine if the utilities that we use so often—electricity, clean water, trains, mail delivery, and so on—worked no more reliably than prayer.”

“You’re mixing two different things,” Paul said. “You can’t judge the Almighty’s response to prayer in the same way that you judge something as artificial and profane as electricity.”

“Then don’t use the same word to describe their reliability. Prayer clearly does not ‘work’ as electricity does. And to compensate, the rules are rigged so that success is inevitable—if I get what I pray for, that’s God’s plan, and if I don’t get what I pray for, that’s also God’s plan. When a train crash kills eight people, and it’s called a miracle, how can God lose?” Jim slapped his hand on the newspaper. “But this makes praying to God as effective as praying to an old stump.”

Paul’s rebuttal lay scattered about him like a division of troops overrun by Jim’s argument. His fists were clenched, but he felt defenseless. “Are you saying that prayer has no value?”

“Many spiritual traditions across the world use meditation to clarify the mind or relax. Christian prayer can have these same benefits. A mature view acknowledges what you can’t control and can be an important part of facing a problem, but to imagine an all-powerful benefactor helping you out of a jam is simply to ignore reality. None of prayer’s benefits demand a supernatural explanation, and to imagine that prayer shows that God exists is simply to delude yourself. The voice on the other end of the telephone line is your own.”

Photo credit: Wikimedia

About Bob Seidensticker
  • Raquel Myrick

    Well Bob, I’m not going to argue with any of the points that you’ve made here, because quite frankly, ‘EVERYTHING’ that you’ve written in the article here is true; (and it’s very cunning of the enemy to use a favorable context to exert his deceit and falsehood); but it’s only true from a single and very false perspective, and that perspective is the human perspective; (the perspective of the flesh, and of human reasoning, which always relegates the expected behavior of The Almighty to the very same behavior which follows human rationale)! If anyone who reads this article were as spiritual as they suppose they are, or as spiritual as they suppose they have been at any time in the past, whenever they have failed to receive a favorable answer to their prayer, despite having thought that they had every valid reason and justification for receiving a positive response to their request, then they would also know that-(through that very same spirituality which they should have had, and should have now), while in the garden of Gethsemane, when Jesus ‘fervently’ prayed that ‘this cup pass from me?’, he concluded that prayer with the words, “not as I would have it, but as you would have it.” Therefore, in this truly spiritual context, the article regarding unanswered prayer must conclude by saying, “The reason that those who have fallen from the faith, or for those who subscribe to this philosophy of unbelief, do not understand many of the things of the spirit, is ‘ABSOLUTELY’ because they do not possess the spirit of the Almighty within them, (which teaches all things and brings all things to remembrance, according to the will of the Father, and not according to the will of men), and He also gives you, and others, the solution to your dilemma by inviting you to request it of Him. So, to receive the ability to understand the behavior of the Spirit, you must also have the Spirit, to acquire the ability to comprehend that if the Lord himself relinquished his rights to answered prayer for the sake of submitting his will to the will of the Spirit, through his humility, then who are we, and by what excessive value do we have of ourselves to expect more than He did from his prayer, while we, also having done far less for mankind than He? May the Almighty enlighten those who ask it of Him in humble prayer…I too am an author ‘Abbackus Abbael’.

    • adam

      “do not possess the spirit of the Almighty within them”

      Of course they do, they IMAGINE the “Almighty” just as you do….

      IMAGINARY…

      • Raquel Myrick

        The silliness of Faux-Intellectuals! None-the-less, you’ve just excused the Almighty of everything that you believe to be wrong in the world. Whatever happens, always blame yourself, and other men, never the One that you so vehemently deny exist for the very same reasons. So you have concluded that He cannot exist because of the evils of this world, now you also know why!! Genius…

        • adam

          “The silliness of Faux-Intellectuals!” vs the silliness of believers in MAGIC?

          ” None-the-less, you’ve just excused the Almighty of everything that you believe to be wrong in the world.”

          Until you demonstrate that this “Almighty” of yours is anything but IMAGINARY, of course.

          “So you have concluded that He cannot exist because of the evils of this world,”

          Of course not, It CLAIMS to have created EVIL in the first place.
          https://uploads.disquscdn.com/images/a739c44e531cc2a1c8020ed886a9ac0b160015226e3fc3c8b29f6b45672f0706.jpg

          So you dont know anything.

          https://uploads.disquscdn.com/images/9428b2dcf7bb378c4499d1146887bdc709908129b83adfab72562069711c19ab.png

          Demonstrate that this “Almighty” is real and not IMAGINARY, and THEN you will KNOW something…

        • Raquel Myrick

          So now you do believe that He exists, since you must use what has been written about Him to validate your unbelief in any points that you make to prove His non-existence. Confusion is a most severe impediment to understanding simple, and complexed things. The good gift of free-will DEMANDS OPPOSING CHOICES, and this is what you choose to use to declare that He does not exist except inside you? Prove to me that you do not have free will, and I will prove to you that my experience is not imaginary-SMH…

        • adam

          “So now you do believe that He exists,”

          As a monsterous war god character is a collection of old stories, of course.

          Still WAITING for you or one of your kind, to demonstrate that it is anything but IMAGINARY>

          “since you must use what has been written about Him to validate your
          unbelief in any points that you make to prove His non-existence. ”

          As it exists as an IMAGINARY character in some old stories.

          “Confusion is a most severe impediment to understanding simple, and complexed things.”

          And you seem very confused between IMAGINARY characters and real ones.

          So just demonstrate that YOUR ‘Almighty’ is anything but IMAGINARY.

          “The good gift of free-will DEMANDS OPPOSING CHOICES”

          No such thing as Free Will

          And look at what your “God” character does with in in your STORIES: https://uploads.disquscdn.com/images/7399dcd5f7fc3abfcf309a19007e2d15703d3827cc4ba7cef2953149b4913c57.png

          “Prove to me that you do not have free will, and I will prove to you that my experience is not imaginary”

          My will is to be able to become invisible to everyone and everything whenever I want.
          My will is to be able to fly, to levitate myself and transports myself whereever and whenever I desire.

          I am not able to do so, so my will is not free.

          So feel free to prove that your “Almighty” is real and not IMAGINARY.

        • Raquel Myrick

          You have become lost inside your own point-all of my answers are here for you to clearly see should you decide to follow your own rationale, much less mine. As you have already said “Magic”, this is the definition of your proposition; free-will is not an exercise in any magic other than that magic which, in the real world, men have discovered to be possible, and if it is possible then it’s not magic at all, it is the science of man’s work to achieve. This is also available to all men who choose to seek it, it takes education, experience, and effort-not very much magic unless you choose to call it that-since everyone’s interpretation of things is also a matter of free-will. FIN…

        • adam

          “You have become lost inside your own point-all of my answers are here for you to clearly see”

          Then where is this ‘proof’ of your “Almighty” then?

          ” As you have already said “Magic”, this is the definition of your proposition;”

          No my definition, but Merriam Websters

          Full Definition of magic
          1 a : the use of means (as charms or spells) believed to have supernatural power over natural forces b : magic rites or incantations

          2 a : an extraordinary power or influence seemingly from a supernatural source

          “free-will is not an exercise in any magic other than that magic which, in the real world, men have discovered to be possible,”

          So in the REAL WORLD, there are no Creators of Universes, no Adam and Eve, no talking serpents or magical fruits.

          People dont live inside whales for days at a time and there are no Satans to place bets with Gods to destroy a mans family.

          In the REAL WORLD people dont come back from being dead, and they dont ascend to the sky as ghosts.

          In the REAL WORLD, as I have demonstrated there is no Free Will.

          In the REAL WORLD people like YOU, LIE to pretend you can demonstrate your “Almighty” is anything but IMAGINARY.

          But since it is OBVIOUSLY IMAGINARY, all you can do is LIE. https://uploads.disquscdn.com/images/0475458f4fd52f3b0b86eb714433ff8ab751ac1d0bddf2f25c23e130ca9d13db.jpg

        • Raquel Myrick

          I truly don’t mean to offend you as much as you’ve already offended yourself with these trifles that you’re using for perspectives. I will end the conversation here so as to not appear argumentative. I know that someone is intended to read this exchange, and as a result they will come into an epiphany regarding their very own search for the Spiritual Enlightenment. I do not say GOD because I know that this is not in any way a reference to the Almighty-the I Am-the Prince of Peace. I know that the English word (God) is merely a root acronym of ancient pagan worship, meaning Government-Ordained-Deity. Since in ancient times it was the kings, rulers, and leaders of the people that established the types and the forms of worship for the people, even as recent as the Caesars there were claims to a form of divinity. I believe that this is the downfall of many religions, their inability to understand this, in that they think they are seeking the Almighty, when in fact they are only worshiping men who consistently fail them as GOD! So Long Adam…(:~)D)

        • adam

          “I truly don’t mean to offend you as much as you’ve already offended
          yourself with these trifles that you’re using for perspectives.”

          I am not offended by your ignorance, or your INABILITY to demonstrate that what you CLAIM is true.
          I am used to delusional people who believe in MAGIC.

          ” I know that someone is intended to read this exchange, and as a result
          they will come into an epiphany regarding their very own search for the
          Spiritual Enlightenment. ”

          Yes, they will see where you LIED to me about demonstrating that YOUR ‘Almighty’ is anything but IMAGINARY.

          So YES,

          RUN
          RUN
          RUN

          AWAY from the truth of this conversation, and put your ‘faith’ in Magical beings from your OWN IMAGINATION https://uploads.disquscdn.com/images/a290f73f84c317d9e8cf39187d52b12c448f2272120d3a6bd8fb8861ad2962f5.jpg

        • Raquel Myrick

          Forgive me Adam, but this is too much for me to pass up! Afterward I will cease to reply. But you have left me with no choice but to explain the ‘LIE’ under which you live from day-to-day.The fact is Adam, you too have faith, and you live by faith in the unknown and the unseen everyday. Adam, you believe in the unseen, and the unproven as much as any other man of religious faith! Every day that you rise up from your bed of slumber, you believe that in getting up you will go about your day unimpeded by some unforeseen catastrophe. You believe that when you get into your car you will make it to your destination without harm, and without death from an accident! Do you have any proof of this without that imagination of yours, yet you continue anyway without that proof, and how, in full faith? Even something as simple as getting into the bath tub without slipping and breaking your neck, or picking up a child without dropping it on its head and killing it, or going into the kitchen and not severing a vein, these are all done in faith ‘by YOU Adam’! Walking, and believing that you will not fall into some sink hole and die, or will not be hit by an on-coming car, these are are done by you in faith. If not Adam, then prove to me, and to everyone who reads this article and these comments, how else it is that you know that you are safe in all of these actions that you have already taken for granted through your faith in the unknown, and the unseen-oh is it science? Prove-it! I’m sure that were you to know where danger or death awaits you, you will definitely not venture there!

        • MNb

          “The fact is Adam, you too have faith ….”
          Nope. Faith means accepting something without empirical evidence. I don’t have that.

          “you believe that in getting up you you will go about your day unimpeded by some unforeseen catastrophe.”
          Nope. I don’t believe that. I always realize there is a chance, however small, that something like that may happen.

          “You believe that when you get into your car you will make it to your destination without harm,”
          Nope, I don’t believe that. I know that the chance to do so are immensely larger than the chance that I will be harmed when underway. But I always realize that there is a small chance.
          Same for your other examples.
          No faith needed, just a good feel – and it has to be developed, trained and maintained – for probabilities.

          “Prove-it!”
          Just done so.

        • adam

          ” But you have left me with no choice but to explain the ‘LIE’ under
          which you live from day-to-day.The fact is Adam, you too have faith, and
          you live by faith in the unknown and the unseen everyday.”

          So you TRY and cover your other LIE with yet another LIE.

          I dont have faith.

          “Adam, you believe in the unseen, and the unproven as much as any other man of religious faith!”

          And yet ANOTHER LIE.
          Nope, I do not believe in MAGIC or the supernatural.

          “You believe that when you get into your car you will make it to your destination without harm, ”

          Compound it your LIES with more lies.

          I just LOVE how you talk about me like you know me.
          All the while pretending to know things you will NEVER KNOW.

          :”If not Adam, then prove to me, and to everyone who reads this article
          and these comments, how else it is that you know that you are safe in
          all of these actions ”

          I dont know that I am safe in all of these actions, I assume that I am not.

          Do YOU PRETEND to KNOW that YOU ARE SAFE in these kinds of actions?

          Besides I already proved to you about Free Will, and YOU LIED TO ME about what you could do.

          I understand why you HAVE TO LIE, when you represent an IMAGINARY ‘god’, you have already fooled yourself into thinking you can convince others to lie to themselves.

          https://uploads.disquscdn.com/images/56b912b89ab184b91f0be4e969f9f5dc42b3e0279121535a8de46cbabbcc8d5f.jpg https://uploads.disquscdn.com/images/9b2a55feb27606a0ec9ab507d463f37f805e5a9c6fb0e9f3673c0f3639329d15.jpg

        • MNb

          “I know that someone is intended to read this exchange, and as a result they will come into an epiphany …”
          I have read this exchange and indeed had a kind of epiphany – your just imagine your god.

        • MNb

          How exactly does this word salad show that your god is not imaginary?

        • MNb

          It’s a hypothetical. “If I accept that there is a god, defined this or that way, I would expect …..”

          “The good gift of free-will”
          Yeah, tell Elisabeth Fritzl so. She fully enjoyed that good gift.

          https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fritzl_case

        • MNb

          Of course a non-existing entitiy cannot be responsible for anything. That’s the point, silly.

    • MNb

      “If anyone who reads this article were as spiritual as they suppose they are ….”
      I am not spiritual at all. What nonsense is this?
      The human perspective is the only perspective I have, exactly because there is no god. If you say it’s false, well, shrug. I do pretty well with it.
      The rest of your comment is just meaningless bla bla, again exactly because there is no god.

      • Raquel Myrick

        The ‘ONE’ inconsistency that I find among every theoretical-atheist that I’ve encountered is this, (I say theoretical because you can’t prove that The Almighty does not exist, except through the use of the very same type of faith, although (opposing), which believers use in coming to the understanding that He does exist); never-the-less, the single inconsistency among you is the childish instability that you exercise in your debates about the Lord, and since you have no fear of lying, you will say anything in ignorant passion of your own unknowns, using your inadequate human reasoning to think that it makes sense. I say inadequate because, on the one hand you believe that you are intelligent, while on the other hand you constantly fail at anything worthwhile regarding bringing forth the remedy for human misery, greed, malice, envy, murder, unhappiness and discontent, while you validate you own sense of intellect only through your ability to read, write, and to speak. The Lord gave that solution through an offer of forgiveness following repentance. You fail to find yourselves adequately fitted through your inventions and intellegence to solve the most haunting, and enduring of human frailties, failures and shortcomings. On the one hand you vehement deny the existence of the Lord, while finding it necessary to use what is written about Him to validate your points. This is an amazing oversight to me, and flawed misuse of strategy that plays strong among each of you in your fervor to deny the existence of a higher power than humans! But, it is this same type of faith which will allow quite a number of you to believe in aliens, although not a single one among you having ever seen one personally! What if what has been called aliens by you are indeed the beings which you so ignorantly deny exist, since they are decribed differently in ancient linguistics? Surely you are aware of early explorers being looked upon as gods when encountering tribes of the past. This is an amazing degree of ignorance too. I guess if Abraham would have called those angels which came to him before destroying the cities of Sodom and Gomorrah, aliens, you would be on board with the faith. I thank the Lord for the grace and spiritual teaching which allows me to state my case without using any points of atheism to affirm it, while you guys can’t seem to make a valid statement without cursing, or using the bible as a positive affirmation of the negative points of view that you have of it.

        • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/crossexamined Bob Seidensticker

          you constantly fail at anything regarding remedying human misery, greed, malice, envy, murder, unhappiness and discontent

          And the Christians are solving this? In the United States, the most visible role Christianity has (admittedly, the press may be distorting this) is in increasing the problem. No more taxes, cutting Obamacare, and so on.

          What would Jesus do?

        • Raquel Myrick

          Jesus wants you to repent, and then allow Him to work through you to fix it! His work is accomplished here, that’s why he chose disciples to follow in His footsteps. It is by His example that we are to address the problems of this world. This is our mess, we choose it constantly over the more preferable virtues. If we stop prefering, and choosing our paths through selfishness, greed and pride first, then we may well see a change for the better, but we want what we want, and then we want to blame the Lord for that choice!

        • adam

          “His work is accomplished here, that’s why he chose disciples to follow in His footsteps.”

          Not according to Jesus himself:

        • adam

          “It is by His example that we are to address the problems of this world. “

        • adam

          “Jesus wants you to repent, and then allow Him to work through you to fix it! ”

          Isnt THIS because Jesus is just a character in a story and really cant do ANYTHING>

          We as people have to do what you want to credit this story Jesus for.

        • Greg G.

          Jesus wants you to repent, and then allow Him to work through you to fix it!

          85% of the US population thinks they are Christian. Why isn’t Jesus working through them?

          This is our mess, we choose it constantly over the more preferable virtues. If we stop prefering, and choosing our paths through selfishness, greed and pride first, then we may well see a change for the better, but we want what we want, and then we want to blame the Lord for that choice!

          That sounds like a Christian problem. An atheist cannot be open and be elected to a national office.

        • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/crossexamined Bob Seidensticker

          I don’t think you make a compelling case by ignoring questions to which you have no answers.

          I like the idea of people working to make society better, but the typical conservative Christian approach seems very much at odds with this. But perhaps you’re more progressive than this.

        • Raquel Myrick

          You guys really need to pay more attention to yourselves, and not allow your points to appear so naive. Everyone who says that they are of royal blood is not royal, nor are all those who claim to be part german, swedish, irish, or any other race truely part this or that. Or those who claim to have a rich uncle, but are not delivered from their own poverty by making such a boastful claim, so I can rightly conclude, and so should you, that neither are all those who say that they are Christian in agreement with the will of the Almighty, nor with His Spirit of grace. What you all have quoted from the scripture (again) is not understood in the context of the conversation’s relevance. If you think that you understand the word simply because you can read it, then you are sadly mistaken, but if you still choose to persist in the belief that you do understand it then you answer me this; why would Jesus say, when asked why He speaks in parables, that He speaks in parables so that hearing, those who are not to understand His words will not understand them, while those to whom the mystery of heaven is given to understand will understand it through the Spirit of understanding which has been given them by the Father? Never-the-less, the world “IS” messed up by fake christians, atheist, muslims, buddists, hindus, secret societies and any other groups of people who seek solutions to this worlds problems in the very same manner that mankind has always sought it, through brute force! I agree with you that this is a BIG part of the problem, but then I would have expected you to have already understood this, but since you cannot point to this type of behavior in the one who came to set the example for His followers to immulate, I can only wonder if it’s the truth that you seek or just an argument. Did He not say, “You will know a tree by its fruit”, not by how much the tree tries to pretend that it’s fruit are something that it’s not? Figs cannot pretend that they are pears without someone immediately noticing the untruth of the claim, so why are you confused by those who say that they are christian, yet they lack any and every resemblance in their behavior and attitudes to His examples of mercy for the adultress, compassion for the blind man in the temple, concessions of tolerance for the lady who expressed by her faith in Him, that receiving what was not yet rightfully hers to receive, she ultimately did receive it by saying this, “does not a dog still deserve to eat the scrapes which fall from the masters table?” This is the character that you seek, but you seek it in all the wrong places since you do not have the eyes to see it, because you are constantly distracted by the lies of liars!

        • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/crossexamined Bob Seidensticker

          why would Jesus say, when asked why He speaks in parables, that He speaks in parables so that hearing, those who are not to understand His words will not understand them, while those to whom the mystery of heaven is given to understand will understand it through the Spirit of understanding which has been given them by the Father?

          Because early Christianity was a jumble of competing ideas, and this is a Gnostic (mystery religion) idea.

          There’s a lot more here, but I have no idea what it means, so I’ll ignore it.

        • Raquel Myrick

          I can respect you for that Bob, admitting that you do not fully understand a matter is the first step to fully realizing yourself, and then the matter. If you choose to continue down the path of discovery for unbiased truths that is the very best asset to take with you. Tell all your friends here to do the same. BTW, Jesus spoke in parables because He knew that there would be some who would unknowingly seek to prevent Him from fulfilling His prophesied purpose for coming to earth, which was sacrificing his body for the disobedience and the sins of mankind; they would have instead made him king, and messiah as the prophesies had foretold that He would come even since Moses, but the holders of that prophesy did not understand that he was already king and messiah, yet mankind needed deliverance from himself, and his nature even more than they needed an earthly king like David. Through a new “SPIRITUAL” birth, by repentance, baptism, and receiving the gift of the Holy Spirit, and this required Jesus to follow a fore-ordained protocol which the natural, and carnally minded man cannot understand since these things are spiritually discerned. To put this into carnal minded linguistics that you all may understand better-it’s something like ESP for those who are born again, but not for those who choose, want, or independently call themselves Christians. It is written: “Those who do not possess the spirit of the Lord are none of His”, since they possess the spirit of this world. This is the problem that you are seeing in the world of ‘religion’, and it has, and always will be so.

        • MNb

          “Through a new “SPIRITUAL” birth.”
          Thanks, but no thanks – I’d rather not become like obnoxious you.

        • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/crossexamined Bob Seidensticker

          ?? My lack of understanding was due to your writing gibberish.

          I notice that you ignored my answer to your question.

        • MNb

          “why would Jesus say, when asked why He speaks in parables, that He speaks in parables so that hearing, those who are not to understand His words will not understand them, while those to whom the mystery of heaven is given to understand will understand it through the Spirit of understanding which has been given them by the Father?”
          Because he was imperfect and not the Great Hero you think he was. In this particular case he was a piece of shit.

          “You will know a tree by its fruit”,
          Exactly. And the fruit Jesus produced, christianity, is often so rotten that the stench is unbearable. So we know your Dead Hero Jesus as the imperfect guy he was.

        • Greg G.

          … so I can rightly conclude, and so should you, that neither are all those who say that they are Christian in agreement with the will of the Almighty, nor with His Spirit of grace.

          The greatest prayer failure in history:

          John 17:20-23 (NRSV)20 “I ask not only on behalf of these, but also on behalf of those who will believe in me through their word, 21 that they may all be one. As you, Father, are in me and I am in you, may they also be in us, so that the world may believe that you have sent me. 22 The glory that you have given me I have given them, so that they may be one, as we are one, 23 I in them and you in me, that they may become completely one, so that the world may know that you have sent me and have loved them even as you have loved me.

          Christians were supposed to be in agreement but there are something like 45,000 different denominations. Some have been in violent conflict with one another.

          Surely there is one denomination out there, or has been in history, that Jesus can work through.

          Instead, we only hear people who call themselves Christians pleading to be listened to in this post-Christian world.

        • Raquel Myrick
        • Greg G.

          The world doesn’t stink. It’s indifferent. Religion has poisoned your mind.

        • MNb

          Jesus doesn’t want anything. He has been dead for almost 2000 years.

          “His work is accomplished here.”
          Like this, you mean?

          http://www.truthbeknown.com/victims.htm

          http://globalgrind.com/2013/03/15/6-crazy-crimes-committed-in-the-name-religion-list/

          I bet we’ll enjoy another No True Christian now.

          Of course there is also the other copout, one of the most useless christian ideas ever. You may say that your Dead Hero Jesus wants to work through us to fix it, that same Dead Hero Jesus also maintained that we humans are sinners and hence are doomed to fail. So what he wants is simply silly. He being all powerful, all knowing etc. (and not dead according to you) should do it himself instead of cowardly handing over the task to miserable creatures like you and me. It’s like asking bacteria to build a plane.

        • Greg G.

          Civilization regressed in places where people followed Jesus during the Dark Ages. It was when people stopped trying to explain everything in terms of God that medicine, science, and technology expanded.

          We are in a post-Christian world and it is superior to the world that was when Christianity was a major influence.

          Suggestion: Could you use paragraphs in your writing, please? It would be easier to read.

        • adam

          “The ‘ONE’ inconsistency that I find among every theoretical-atheist that
          I’ve encountered is this, (I say theoretical because you can’t prove
          that The Almighty does not exist,”

          You mean how you cant prove Ganesh and Shiva dont exist.
          Flying Invisible Pink Unicorns, and the MILLIONS of other God claims?

          “The Lord gave that solution through an offer of forgiveness following repentance.”

          Then why isn’t THIS working?

          Jesus has been a FAILURE from the beginning.

          Crusades, Inquisitions, witch burnings, gay bashing etc.

        • MNb

          “I say theoretical because you can’t prove that The Almighty does not exist.”
          Tell me what you mean with “prove” first. See, religious folks on internet tend to raise the bar as soon as atheists provide something they think convincing.

          “the single inconsistency among you is the childish instability that you exercise in your debates about the Lord, and since you have no fear of lying, you will say anything in ignorant passion of your own unknowns, using your inadequate human reasoning to think that it makes sense.”
          Tsk tsk tsk. You violating Matthew 7:1 over and over again does not nessarily result in some inconsistency. It only tells us more about you than about me.

          “on the one hand you believe that you are intelligent”
          BWAHAHAHAHA!
          I don’t need belief or faith for this. I have IQ tests. My score is 98, which means that 2% of mankind is more intelligent than me (more if we manage to correct for cultural biases). That’s 0,15 billion people.

          “you constantly fail at anything worthwhile regarding bringing forth the remedy for human misery, greed, malice, envy, murder, unhappiness and discontent,”
          My loved ones and my (ex-)pupils (and most of them are religious) tend to disagree. For some reason or another I value their judgment higher than yours.

          “The Lord gave that solution through an offer of forgiveness following repentance.”
          Oh? Whenever and wherever christianity is in charge on Earth those nice things – human misery, greed, malice, envy, murder, unhappiness and discontent – flourish, while in secular countries they decrease. Rather a failure, that Lord of yours.

          “This is an amazing oversight to me, and a flawed misuse of strategy”
          BWAHAHAHAHA!
          My dear, first you say that I overestimate my intelligence and now you blame me for reading, studying and referring to what other, more intelligent people write about this particular topic. Perhaps you should pay some attention to your own incoherence.

          “In your fervor to deny the existence of a higher power than humans, you acknowledge that same potential may exist in what you call aliens, while never giving over to the possibility that they are one and the same.”
          BWAHAHAHAHA!
          Excellent strawman. In fact a couple of times I explicitely admitted my willingness to worship such aliens as gods if they used their potential to cure the illnesses of our world.

          “I guess if Abraham would have called those angels which came to him before destroying the cities of Sodom and Gomorrah, aliens, you would be on board with the faith.”
          No. One testimony of one mythical character does not constitute enough evidence for me.
          But hey thanks – you totally not demonstrated that I am spiritual one way or another. You only demonstrated you have anger issues. Maybe you should read again about the right and left cheek ….

    • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/crossexamined Bob Seidensticker

      it’s very cunning of the enemy to use a favorable context to exert his deceit and falsehood

      I’d prefer that you refer to my lord and master with a capital E (Enemy), thank you!

      it’s only true from a single and very false perspective, and that perspective is the human perspective

      So God gave us a brain to use, and it fairly effectively distinguishes between true and false claims. But when I use it to see that the claims of prayer are false, I’ve done something wrong? I’d have thought that God would be pleased.

      the perspective of the flesh, and of human reasoning, which always relegates the expected behavior of The Almighty to the very same behavior which follows human rationale!

      I will always judge God’s actions in the Bible as if they were done by a person. What else can I do?

      If I knew somehow that God were indeed supernatural and omniscient, then of course I’d realize that my evaluation is fallible. Until that point, however, I have no other choice but to judge him myself. If you’ve read the OT, you know that he fails.

      in the garden of Gethsemane, when Jesus ‘fervently’ prayed that ‘this cup pass from me?’

      One person of the Trinity praying to another person of the Trinity that they change their perfect plan that they worked out together? You really need to examine this story and see if it fits together. It doesn’t.

      he concluded that prayer with the words, “not as I would have it, but as you would have it.”

      Uninteresting. He said elsewhere that prayer works.

      Whoops. It doesn’t.

      The reason that those who have fallen from the faith, or for those who subscribe to this philosophy of unbelief, do not understand many of the things of the spirit, is ‘ABSOLUTELY’ because they do not possess the spirit of the Almighty within them

      God’s kind of a dick for favoring some people with this celestial wisdom and others not, don’t you think?

      He also gives you, and others, the solution to your dilemma by inviting you to request it of Him

      He’s so shy that his very existence isn’t obvious, but he’ll reveal that to you … if he feels like it? Weird.