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Where are the miracles?

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As many people on all sides of the “does God exist” debates have agreed, I believe that it can never be definitively proven or disproved. To use some legal terminology, that leaves a lower standard of provenance: rather than showing proof beyond a reasonable doubt, we are more concerned with the preponderance of evidence. And for my money, the scales are heavily on the non-existence side.

Since we can never know for sure that there is or is not a God, it comes down to basically one thing: does the world work in ways that can be rationally understood and predicted (naturalism) or do things happen unexpectedly, miraculously and with no plausible natural explanation (super-naturalism).

In other words: do miracles happen?

Time for a short digression. When I speak of miracles, I don’t mean natural, commonly occurring things things that often get labeled as such: a beautiful sunrise, the birth of a baby, or finding one’s lost car keys. I’m not even talking about things like so-called medical miracles. Cancer sometimes goes into remission. Disease is often misdiagnosed and seems to mysteriously disappear. God often gets credit for these miraculous “healings.” But why is it, I wonder, that in every single case, there are other possible explanations, other than the miraculous? If God wants to really show his power, why not miraculously regrow a lost limb or resurrect a cold corpse? Now, that would be a miracle!

Although stories of miraculous occurrences are as old as humanity and as numerous as the stars, the fact remains that in all of human history there has never been even one indisputable instance of a true miracle. All we have are second-hand stories — hearsay. There is not one single solitary shred of concrete evidence that proves conclusively that any miracle ever occurred.

That should cause one to pause and think. Because if there are no miracles, it means that science is probably correct to assume that naturalism is the way of the universe and not supernaturalism. It means that everything can be understood and explained, if enough data can be gathered. It means that there is no need to resort to explanations that involve spirits, demons, unseen realms, and yes, gods.

Of course, one of the hallmarks of the scientific method is that all knowledge is considered to be tentative and subject to revision. So you will never hear a good scientist rule out anything for certain. It may be that tomorrow morning we wake up to see God himself descend from the heavens, accompanied by 100 million angels, to announce his presence.

But I’m not holding my breath.

Rick Warren wants to please God

Check out this video of Rick Warren defending his position on gay marriage on Piers Morgan.

A friend on Facebook asked me what I thought about it. I couldn’t answer him honestly for a lot of reasons. So I decided to answer the friend here, where it is safe and I am anonymous. I know, I know…

Where to start? First of all, Warren’s definition of tolerance is all wrong. I know a lot of people who embrace tolerance, and none of them believe that “all ideas are equally valid.” That is a straw man argument that gets thrown out a lot but no one actually believes it.
Read the rest of this entry

“Sometimes God doesn’t answer prayers” (you think?)

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Long time no post. I hope to pick up the pace a bit in the coming weeks and months. Maybe.

Anyway, the point of this post is to respond to something I saw a while back on Facebook. A friend of a friend posted a long, rambling, circular-reasoned piece of drivel about why God doesn’t always answer prayer. Here’s an excerpt to give you an idea:

Sometimes God doesn’t answer prayers.

Before you overreact, let me explain myself. I know the old familiar line that an unanswered prayer “really IS an answer; It’s a ‘no’ or a ‘wait.'” I get that. I just don’t always agree with that. I’ve prayed for many things that I KNOW were within the will of God, but the requests weren’t granted. Yet the Bible says, “If any of you ask anything in prayer according to God’s will, you will have it.” (I John 5:14-15)

So what do you do with that? Well, the answer (for me) was to change my perspective. I stopped looking at the Bible as a “contract” between God and me. I decided to stop quoting certain verses, then saying dumb things to myself and others like, “God’s honor is at stake here. He’s GOT to do this.” No…He doesn’t. Reminder: HE’S God, we’re not. His honor is never at “stake” because His honor is alway perfect. We just don’t understand Him. And in some ways, we never will. I’m okay with that. God doesn’t owe me anything, the least of which is to live up to my grandiose expectations.

I used to live for this kind of stuff. Hell, I wrote a lot of this kind of stuff. If you read it with the intent of verifying your faith and see the words through that lens, then it is very reassuring. It all boils down to something like this: Read the rest of this entry

The one thing that would make me a believer again

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The Friendly Atheist blog notes that the world of film is being treated to yet another take on the Christian rapture. (Didn’t the Left Behind media empire beat that horse to death?) 

Anyway, watching the horrible trailer for what will undoubtedly be a horrible movie made something occur to me for the first time. According to the dominant doctrine among evangelicals, the rapture is supposed to usher in a seven-year period of hell on earth — the likes of which have never been seen — known as the Great Tribulation. If the trailer is any indication, this latest movie sticks to the script, depicting the post-Christian world as being full of non-believers behaving badly. There is rampant violence and all manner of debauchery because, of course, all the good people are gone. 

But here is what I thought as I watched the terror unfold: um, no… I don’t believe it would happen that way, at least not in America and in other places where there has been a strong Christian influence on the culture. In fact, just the opposite would occur. 

Think about it. If you are a non-believer who is nevertheless familiar with the doctrine of the rapture as I am, what would be your reaction if suddenly every Christian were to disappear from the face of the earth? There would be no bodies left behind. Just — poof! — and they’re all gone. (The snarky part of me wants to say that we’d all throw a big celebration party, but not really.)

I would be terrified, wouldn’t you? My first instinct would not be to run out and start looting and shooting at people. As soon as the realization hit, I think I would get down on my knees. Literally. Because that would be the one thing that would convince me that the God of the Bible is real. I think the churches would be packed. I think everyone would be weeping and begging Jesus to save them. I think there would be a Holy Ghost revival that would make the so-called Great Awakening look like a drunken orgy.

I’m not kidding about this. I mean, if all the Christians disappeared without a trace, what other explanation could there possibly be other than a supernatural one? And if it could be shown that it was accurately predicted by the Bible, what other explanation than that the Bible is true? 

So God, if you’re listening, here’s my advice: don’t put it off any longer. There are probably about 5 billion people who are going to hell unless you take drastic action. Send your boy down to get your people right now, and you can save maybe half of the heathen, maybe more. 

But I’m not holding my breath. 

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