The God Who Performs Party Tricks

The miracle at Cana

The God of the Bible is not above performing party tricks.

I feel this needs to be pointed out because some I know seem to think they can have it both ways. They insist that the biblical God performed miracle after miracle in order to validate himself, at times upon very specific demand from the supplicant. But if I today suggest that I need some sort of clear validation in order to believe this deity is more than just a figment of our collective imagination, they then tell me I’m wicked for demanding this.

Furthermore, they insist that he will do no such thing for me. How they know this is beyond me, unless the best explanation is that when you create a being in your own mind you get to say what he will and will not do.

Let’s assume for a moment that the biblical God should be taken at face value. What sort of things is he willing to do in order to prove that he is who he says he is, and that he will do what he says he will do?

A God with Something to Prove

In Exodus 4, Yahweh turned the staff of Moses into a snake and back again, and then he turned Moses’s hand leprous and back again just to demonstrate to Moses that he could do what he said he could do. The same could be said about the burning bush and all the plagues leading up to the deliverance of the Hebrews from Egypt.

In Judges 6, Gideon required not one or two but three signs before he could believe what he heard was really trustworthy. First he required an angel to perform a sign on a pile of meat and bread, igniting it on top of a rock. Then he required a wet fleece surrounded by dry ground, followed by a dry fleece surrounded by wet ground. According to the Bible, Yahweh thrice acquiesced.

In 1 Kings 18, Elijah put on a show in front of 850 prophets of Baal and Asherah, provoking Yahweh to send fire from the sky to consume a slaughtered bull.  This was quite a grand spectacle, and it served the very same purpose for which skeptics today demand some sort of verification of the claims of theism in general, and Christianity in particular.

I would also like to point out that Elijah mocked his opponents’ beliefs (and their gods) with relish, ridiculing them with delight. Most Christians I know thoroughly enjoy that part of the story, but then become indignant when the same thing is done toward their belief system. Suddenly it’s in poor taste to mock someone else’s beliefs. But I digress…

An Actual Party Trick, Literally

The Old Testament isn’t the only place where Yahweh performed signs and wonders to prove himself. In the New Testament, he placed a moving star in the sky to guide men from the far east to the Messiah in Bethlehem. As a grown man, Jesus’s very first miracle was, quite literally, a party trick.

According to the story, they had run out of wine at a wedding, so he turned more than a hundred gallons of water into wine in order to keep the party going. John’s gospel reports, “What Jesus did here in Cana of Galilee was the first of the signs through which he revealed his glory; and his disciples believed in him” (John 2:11).

Time and time again Jesus provided signs in order to validate himself before his followers (walking on water, healing the sick, raising the dead, and miraculously predicting that a specific coin could be found in an as yet uncaught fish’s mouth). He won the trust of fishermen by giving apparently arbitrary fishing instructions which yielded record catches (Luke 5; John 21). And finally, when one of his closest companions doubted that he was back from the dead, he materialized in front of him and presented himself as tangible proof, inviting Thomas to touch the evidence with his own hands.

After the ministry of Jesus concluded, the book of Acts speaks of numerous signs and wonders being performed by the followers of Jesus in order to establish the credibility of their claims. And then Paul continues this trend by claiming that wherever he went, he performed the “marks of a true apostle, including signs, wonders and miracles” (2 Cor 12:12; see also Acts 14:3 and Romans 15:18-19) in order to validate his work and his message.

So we see that the biblical version of God is not above performing tricks to validate himself and his claims. That is why I find it unpersuasive when a well-meaning Christian friend tells me I can’t ask for some kind of verification of the existence of this deity, or when he insinuates that something is wrong with me for demanding such things.  I just don’t buy that.

Either I am to believe that your deity can and does supply such validations, or I am not.  You can’t have it both ways.

[Image Source: Swords of Truth]

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This article was the first blog entry I posted for Godless in Dixie three and a half years ago, reposted for today’s Godless Walk Through the Bible because it fits and because I’m traveling this weekend meeting new friends and readers, which has quickly become one of my favorite joys in life. Also the Secular Coalition of Arizona is a kickass organization full of rock stars. If you live anywhere in the United States and want to see what a state level secular organization can do to become more involved in state and local politics, this is the group of people you want to pester. They are exceptional.

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