Sometimes (unless you ask for something trivial) the answer is “No.”

A Christianity Today article describes, in part, how seven-year old Becky’s mother helped her to overcome her uncertainty about the existence of God:

An idea I’d heard several months earlier came to mind. “Let’s make construction paper flowers and write a prayer request on each one. We’ll pray every day for the requests. When God answers one, we’ll stick the flower on the wall until we have a whole garden of answered prayers. We’ll be able to see God in how he answers us.”

By the end of that first week, God answered five of Becky’s simple requests, including healing her teacher’s illness and allowing a friend to visit for a sleepover. At Becky’s suggestion, we stuck the flowers to her bedroom ceiling where she could read them day and night. By the end of the month, 20 flowers graced her ceiling garden. One of them read, “Please help me to know you, God.

Compare with this, from BBC correspondent Hilary Andersson in Darfur:

Among the stench and flies, the children lie wasted, staring into space. Tiny human beings, who were born into the madness of man’s inhumanity to man, into the madness of a spate of killing that has left many of their fathers, brothers, grandparents and uncles dead.

And now, they face starvation which is cruel and slow. Most of the children are too far gone to eat. Some have the peeling skin and lesions that come with advanced starvation – their skin is wrinkled, loose around their bones. The mothers sit by powerless.

We spent two weeks in Darfur, driving through eerie, burnt-out villages, empty of people.

We travelled to Mornay camp, where we were a month ago. On arriving back, we went to the medical tent. It was strangely quiet inside.

Four people were sitting in a circle. A mother was looking down and sobbing silently, rubbing her hands on her face. I realised I knew her. Then it slowly came to me what was going on. Her daughter Nadia, whom we had spent two days with in this tent a month ago, was dying.

The mother, Juma, was saying an awful goodbye.

We moved away in their private moment. Ten minutes later Nadia was dead.

According to the Christianity Today article, Becky is now 15, and “steadily grows in her walk with God.” I cannot help but to wonder whether she now prays for the children of Darfur, and how she matches the outcome of those prayers against her garden of paper flowers. Perhaps, like many, she is distantly troubled, but comforts herself that “sometimes the answer is ‘No’.” I don’t know her, so I cannot say. But I do know many believers who have similar stories to tell about little miracles in their lives, who on that basis dismiss horrendous suffering as a mere anomaly, as though something like Becky’s sleepover could outweigh Nadia’s death and Juma’s pain. Is such a faith worth having?

Interview with Prof. Axgrind
Swinburne’s Argument from Religious Experience – Part 2
Critical Thinking is Bigotry
Lessing’s Broad Ditch and Brad’s Lesser Ditch
About Bradley Bowen
  • mathyoo

    the answer, of course, is that god has forsaken those children in Darfur because they haven’t accepted Jesus as their savior-why should she pray for them when they believe in the wrong religion?

  • Bruce

    By the end of that first week, God answered five of Becky’s simple requests, including healing her teacher’s illness and allowing a friend to visit for a sleepover.

    Yeah, because nobody ever gets over a cold and your parents have no control over whether you get to have a friend sleep over. What were some of the other prayers? That the sun will rise tomorrow? For someone who claims they should be honest with their kids, this woman sure is pulling the wool over her daughter’s eyes.

    Also, I like how this woman assumes that she is doing the right thing and struggling against the bad influence of her husband. If you want to be fair about it, why don’t you alternate weekends with your husband? One week you go to church and the next Dad gets to pick what to do. I think I see why:

    “Her dad, an awesome father by the world’s standards, still considers himself agnostic.”

    That’s it, by our mere human standards, he’s great, but by God’s standards, he’s a failure and is trying to destroy your daughter’s chances in the afterlife.

    My guess is this marriage isn’t going to last much longer. This woman seems to put her allegiance to God above her commitment to her husband.

  • AspiringTheologian

    Consider your argument closely. You seem to be saying that man is generally good even though he rebels against God’s law. You want to believe that God is unjust or immoral because He does not use His power to remove the consequences of man’s disobedience. You think man is generally good even though he is the direct cause of all of these sorts of problems in Darfur and elsewhere. Yet you then claim that God, who allows man to eat his own cooking, is greatly unjust and unfair.

    True, God could just speak the word, and things like the situation in Darfur, the consequences of man’s sin, would then disappear. But in order to deal with sin itself, the root of all the problems, God sent His Son to die on the cross. He did this to change men, but some men do not want to be changed. If all men were changed and followed God’s law, surely problems in the world would be gone.

    Blaming God for man’s inactivity will not solve the problems in Darfur. As for the subject of prayers, God may very well be using people to change things in Darfur to bring those prayers to fruition. I must ask you, what have you personally done for the suffering in Darfur? You have the power to do something. If you do nothing, what right then would you have to challenge God if God chooses to let man’s own sin take its toll? God is not being unjust or unfair, man and his sin are rather being so.

    I say these things with all due respect. I shall be praying for you, and that shall be no trivial prayer.

    Have a nice day,
    Aspiring Theologian

  • AspiringTheologian

    This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

  • AspiringTheologian

    By the way, I say the above as a friend, not as an opponent responding in anger, but rather as someone who wants to point out that not all of your assumptions and statements about what Christians believe (in yoru post above) are true.


  • Inquisitor

    Notice that aspiringtheologian offers zero evidence to substantiate his claims. He merely heaps one superstitious assertion upon another.

    He states, “You want to believe that God is unjust or immoral because He does not use His power to remove the consequences of man’s disobedience.” That is like saying that I don’t have to help a man hit by a car because he way jaywalking. His disobedience to the law resulted in his predicament. If I were God, I would be justified in sitting back and watching this man suffer and possibly die. Yeah, he sounds like someone I want to worship.

    And how can God use people and still allow for free-will? Doesn’t God’s influence cancel out at least a little of a person’s ability to decide for themselves? Christianity is riddled with contradictions, and these posts are little different.

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