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“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:

“Taken at face value, the Bible seems to hold God to certain promises. We all know from experience that God does not always honor those promises. We also know (from the Bible) that God does not lie and always keeps his promises. So we have to reconcile this some way. How do we do that? Well, the fault certainly can’t lie with God (if it did, our faith would be worthless), so it must lie with us. Either we’re doing something wrong or we just just don’t comprehend the ways of God. Either way, it’s on us, not God.”

Now, the problem with that line of reasoning is clear to see to any non-believer. But to a believer trying to reconcile precious faith with contradictory information, it is reassuring. It’s emotionally satisfying and it seems to tie everything up nicely — except that it doesn’t. No amount of flowery, pious language can mask the fact that this is a clear logical fallacy. It’s all built upon circular reasoning.

It’s like the spouse of an unfaithful partner who rejects all the evidence of infidelity because he or she refuses to accept the even the possibility of it. Rather than deal honestly with the evidence, they choose to tamper with it and may even blame themselves.

The Bible is nothing if not a confused jumble of irreconcilable information. (And considering that it was compiled from scattered fragments of text written over the span of more than a millennium by dozens of authors from different cultures and with different goals and perspectives, that shouldn’t be at all surprising.) Rather than accept this fact and deal with the consequences, most Christians — my former self included — prefer to twist the words and dance around the problems and dismiss them as though the problem is not with the text, but simply with our understanding of it.

To which I ask a simple question.

If God really is who he says he is and if the concepts expressed in the Bible are really so far beyond our understanding as to be incomprehensible, why not just say so? (Some Christians do just that, but not most.) Because if that is the case, then the Bible is useless as a moral guide or key to understanding who or what God is.

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One response »

  1. Good to hear from you again, Tom. Maybe it’s time for a believer to write The Bible 2.0, omitting the weird-a** contradictory stuff so they don’t have to twist themselves into knots trying to justify it. Heck, it God still talks to people they they can still claim it’s the Word of God. Future generations of Xians would undoubtedly thank this author for making their lives easier.

    Reply

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