Party Tricks

Party Tricks April 28, 2013
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?

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.

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 towards their belief system.  Suddenly it’s in poor taste to mock someone else’s beliefs.  But I digress…

The Old Testamant 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’ very first miracle was, quite literally, a party trick.  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.

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  • I am enjoying reading back to see earlier posts of yours. I’ll play devil’s advocate here, since there are no other comments on this post.

    I think one thing inherent in the biblical scriptures is the idea that God chooses to reveal himself to whom he chooses, at the level he chooses. The scriptures themselves space “miraculous” periods out hundreds of years.

    Also, the short claim Paul makes in Romans is that the existence of a supreme creator is evidenced by nature and written on natural law written on men’s hearts — and that God is of no obligation to reveal himself further than this — although he may choose to do so at various times and places.

    Christians should make no mistake in saying that the Christian God reveals himself the same way to all people. He clearly does not. And Romans 8 and 9 reinforce this quite clearly. The Christian God chooses whom he will save, and others he does not save… and so it should be of no surprise to Christians when God refuses extra-scientific miracles. In fact, that is the norm.

  • Jesus promised miracles, though. Jesus said his followers would do greater things than he did himself. He promised they could heal the sick and handle poisonous snakes and drive out demons.

    God only chooses to reveal himself to certain people, sure–so why doesn’t your loving God love me? Why does he choose to NOT reveal himself to so many atheists who were once Christians? Do you think I want to go to hell? Do you think I would reject a loving God if I thought he was real? I served Jesus for years and tried my hardest to seek and find him. Why would God choose to send me to hell rather than give me what I needed for my faith to live?

    The short claim Paul makes in Romans is simply not true. Saying that the existence of God is obvious to everyone, when so many people say it IS NOT obvious, seems ridiculous to me. Many people believe in multiple gods, like the Hindus. Some people believe that god is in everything–not that there is an “obvious”, personal creator god. Gravity is obvious. The connection between hunger and food is obvious. The nature of god is not.

  • David W

    I totally agree with you, and my experience mirrors yours.

    I also tried my best to seek and find and believe in God, in the end, I could not.

    It is a truism that the existence of gods is NOT obvious.

    Religious are faith-based.

    Faith: strong belief in God or in the doctrines of a religion, based on spiritual apprehension rather than proof. OED.

    Rather than proof, the belief in gods is NOT based on proof. Claims which lack proof are NOT obvious.