Saturday, April 4, 2009

If God Hears Me, Why Does He Not Care?

This is a challenge that I have heard put against practicing prayer many times. It is also used to imply that God either cannot hear our prayers, or does not care about us (thus He is not all-loving).

Simply put, this claim is the result of the person claiming it "forming God in man's image". The person has a specific idea of what God is supposed to be. Many sources exist to arrive at this conclusion. Someone might have told him to believe that if he prays for healing...POOF! He's healed! A church may have taught him that God wants his people to have the very best (referring to material possessions, of course). "God, please let me win the lottery." Have you ever seen the movie Bruce Almighty? :) Watch it and you'll know what I'm talking about.

The thing about God is that He made us in His image, not the other way around. Man is impatient, greedy, and selfish. Many times, God answers your prayer, not how you think it should be answered, but how He knows it should be answered, and when. For instance, I have a friend that has been wheelchair bound for several decades. This person asked for healing from God, and she believed with all that her heart that God would do it. Years passed, but she was not healed. Later, she realized that God had other plans for her life. She has been a tremendous witness for Christ. Specifically she has the ability to testify that God will never leave nor forsake us when we are going through suffering. She can testify that God makes drastic changes in our lives to drastically change us, for the better.

Let's think about this for a minute. If God was to give us the $200 million lottery ticket like we prayed for. Would that make us feel more dependent on Him or less dependent on Him? Many times God gives us a resounding "NO!" to teach us to be more like Him and depend more on Him.

God also has perfect timing for everything. You might be in a painful situation that you have not been delivered from. God could be biding his time, waiting on you to acknowledge and change something that you haven't yet, and may not have even considered if the pain was not there. God may also be leading you down a different path in life.

Either way, while we are suffering, we can know that God is there, and we should use the situation to the best of our abilities to discover new (possibly temporary, possibly permanent) ways to serve God.

Remember that your prayers are never unheard, and they are never unanswered. God just might be doing something that you don't expect. As we strive to be more like Christ and draw nearer to Him, we will be able to see more clearly what He has planned for our lives. As this happens, we will be able to be a witness to others in the same situation.

I have posted more on the topic of suffering in my posts "Suffering Sucks...or Does It?" and "Natural Evil".

33 comments:

  1. If God gave all His children $200 million lottery tickets, the increase in the money supply would cause such massive inflation that the winnings would be worth very little....

    but, is it too much to ask a benevolent God to give us this day our daily bread? Is it too much for Him to answer the prayers of the children around the globe who die daily from malnutrition? What testimony does their ill-deserved and early deaths give?

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  2. Do you believe that God honor's man's free will?

    Is it possible that the extreme poverty in certain countries could be caused by extreme corruption in the government?

    Is it possible that the same could also be the result of certain cultural systems?

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  3. Many Christian theodicies attribute evil to man's free will. This seems the most logical position for the theist to take.

    Corruption does have a lot to do with extreme poverty. But nonetheless, God does not intervene to save the children dying from poverty. God's intervention would not be an infringement upon the will of men who do evil (He is not making choices for them); but rather an infringement on the natural laws he is supposed to have power over. He gave manna from heaven to the Israelites, but unfortunately starving children today do not get that gift.

    I am not certain about the last point.... specifically what in cultural systems?

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  4. Once again, do you believe that God honors man's free will?

    Why do you bring up "manna from heaven"? Are you saying that God is not being fair? Are you condemning God for not sending manna?

    Are you implying that because God does not exercise power over the natural laws, it follows that he does not have the power over the natural laws?

    An example of my last point would be the cast system of Hindu cultures.

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  5. Within theism, it makes most sense to understand evil as God permitting men to have free will.

    Because the Isrealites were hungry and God sent them food from heaven. Starvin' Marvin doesn't get any of that. It is definitely unfair. The Israelites were the "chosen people" and apparently starving children in developing countries are not. I don't know that I am condemning God, but it is troublesome when one reads the Old Testament to see the correlation between the Hebrews and the Nazi party. Ironic as well.

    Chosen people going about in conquest, committing genocide against other races, all because they are the "chosen people." But that's another issue.

    And all I'm sayin' is that it's a little odd for him to send manna to the Israelites, and so often directly intervene on their behalf, and then to not do it for all the other struggling people of the world. It creates a lot of theological problems if God loves one race more than others.

    The caste system is stupid, and thankfully it's mostly abolished. I think it was implemented by the ruling Aryans to control the Indus Valley people. Hinduism is a blend of Aryan and Vedic religion.

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  6. How are you determining what is "fair"?

    If you think that "it is definitely unfair", how is that not condemning God?

    Why did Jesus come to earth, die, and come back to life?

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  7. Fair: adj. 1. free from bias, dishonesty, or injustice: a fair decision; a fair judge.

    If God is favoring the Isrealites over everyone else, then he is not free from bias. I'm determining what is fair by the plain English definition of the word "fair." If one even takes a cursory look at the O.T., God advocates genocide for the expansion of the Isrealite nation. See the Amalekites.

    With the given Biblical illiteracy of the average laymen, it's no wonder people aren't aware of the God-advocated genocide.

    Deut. 20:16: "In the cities of the nations the Lord is giving you as an inheritance, do not leave alive anything that breathes."

    There are numerous other examples of God's cruelty in action in the O.T.

    We condemn Hitler but praise blood-thirsty and jealous Yahweh.


    Why did Jesus come to earth, die, and come back to life?
    Well, first of all the answer to that question would be contingent on whether he actually did come to earth, and secondly if he did come back to life.

    But the general Christian answer is either, a) to reconcile man with God by making man judicially justified in view of God's justice (Latin fathers and their descendents the Americans)b) to heal the marred image of God through an ontological transformation of the cosmos through his Incarnation and joining of human nature to the divine nature (Greek fathers).

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  8. Do you think that God is obligated to be unbiased and by what standards are you discerning bias?

    Are you equating "fair" or "unbiased" with "good" or "correct"?

    Is either one of your given answers about Jesus an option to all people regardless of race?

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  9. I discern bias and fairness based on the very definitions of the words themselves.

    I will turn the question on you.... if God told you to put a baby into an oven, would you? You can't say "He wouldn't do that." He asked Abraham to sacrifice Isaac, and Abraham as the prototype model of the faithful man did as he asked. Thankfully God stopped him. The Isrealites were asked to slaughter the Amalekites. God did not change his mind about that one. But before I ask you if you would commit genocide in the name of God, I'll just keep it simple. Would you commit homicide, would you put a baby in an oven, if God told you to? If you wouldn't, why not?

    Jesus is an option to all races. This brings up an interesting point. If God is immutable, then he should continue to prefer the Jews to everyone else. If He has stopped preferring the Jews to give equal access to all races, then He is no longer immutable. The fact that He once did prefer the Jews is plain in the Old Testament. If God can change, His nature is not fixed. If His nature is not fixed, it is not permanent. I'll let you take it from there....

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  10. How do I know that the command is from God?

    Where does the Bible teach that God rejected the Jews?

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  11. I am saying if God told you in the same way he told Abraham, would you do it?

    And as for the second question, who are God's chosen people today - the Jews or the Christians?
    If the Jews are still the chosen people, then Christianity is not the true Israel. If Christianity, then the Jews are not the true Israel.

    But I am more interested in the first question.
    If God told you to put a baby in the oven, would you? And I mean in the same way that He talked to Abraham and Moses.

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  12. How did God tell Abraham? Are you assuming that Abraham did not have some way of authenticating that the message was from God?

    Once again, where does the Bible teach that God rejected the Jews? This is a claim that you have made; I am asking you substantiate it.

    What is the significance of the "true Israel"?

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  13. Red herring. You're avoiding the question. If you heard directly from God, without a doubt, that you ought to put a baby in an oven, would you do it?

    If you keep going with the "how would I know it was God telling me?".... well isn't the whole point of evangelical Christianity to have a personal relationship? If you can't even know when you are hearing God, what kind of personal relationship is that?

    And if you say, "well God wouldn't ask me to do that" that would be another cop out. God DID ask Abraham to sacrifice his son. God DID command the Isrealites to kill people, sometimes downright genocide.

    And as for your question, "how did God tell Abraham?" The Bible is not explicit. One must refer to tradition or some other hermaneutic method to find that out. Generally it is understood that God directly spoke to Abraham. Sola scriptura is downright atrocious epistemology.... but that's another topic.

    ***
    The claim that God rejected the Jews is one interpretation among many. In Protestantism I believe it is represented by Covenant theology. It's also a position held by the Orthodox and AFAIK Roman Catholics. The references are in the Pauline epistles. I don't really want to get into a hermaneutics debate. The Bible can be interpreted in so many ways, often related to one's upbringing and cultural bias, that it would just be a waste of my time. American Baptists don't have the same ecclesiastical beliefs as EO/RC, or even Presbyterians - and it's not wonder they don't interpret passages the same way. But I don't want to waste any time worrying about it.... It's like arguing about the rapture. Baptists are convinced it's in the Bible when it's really a 17th century novelty.... but I digress. I'm closing that thread.

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  14. Red herring? Not at all. I am behaving exactly as I would if some thing (don't care what) claiming to be God (or from God) told me to do something. I am testing it. The Bible commands Christians to not trust everything they hear that is "from God".

    "...Satan himself masquerades as an angel of light. It is not surprising, then, if his servants masquerade as servants of righteousness."- 2 Corinthians 11:14-15

    "Test everything. Hold on to the good."- 1 Thessalonians 5:21

    "Dear friends, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits to see whether they are from God, because many false prophets have gone out into the world."- 1 John 4:1

    Now, the Christian God would not have commanded his followers to "test the spirits" if His own Spirit would not submit to the testing. You have not given me the opportunity to test yet. By asking questions, I am establishing context (since this is hypothetical) to begin my testing.

    Once I have finished my testing, I will answer your question. Or if you wish to not submit to the testing, I can Biblically assume that this is not God, but a spirit who is attempting to deceive me into committing infanticide or torture.

    Its up to you. What will it be? Test or no test?

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  15. Okay, for the sake of the thought experiment - let's say it is definitely God and you have verified that. It is unmistakably God. And like the Isrealites of yore, he is asking you to commit homicide in his Name.

    To make it parallel the OT perfectly.... He is giving you a city, and you are instructed to not leave alive anything that breathes, including children. Would you kill a child in obedience to God? (Deut 20:16).

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  16. The problem with your scenario is that you are telling me that I have already tested, yet I know that I haven't.

    If you want to say that I have authenticated the messenger, you need to say how I did, so that I know what I have done and what I have to work with. You're requiring me to make assumptions that I never would make if something like this were to actually happen.

    Once again, will you submit to my testing? This is the last time I will ask. If you provide another excuse for me not to test, then I am going to conclude that you are unwilling to submit to testing, and I will ignore your "God", which I am biblically allowed (and even commanded) to do.

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  17. You're just avoiding the thought experiment. I don't care what method you use to authenticate the messenger, it's IRRELEVANT to the purpose of the thought experiment. Pick any method you like, the point is that in the context of the thought experiment you have already authenticated it.

    I'm saying fast-forward, you have already authenticated it. Or if you'd like, authenticate it. But in going on a tangent about how to authenticate how God is really speaking, we are ignoring the point which is....

    if God reissued the command to you that he gave the Isrealites and asked you to kill a child would you do it?

    I'm not giving you excuses not to test; I'm giving a thought experiment that assumes you have already authenticated it. I'm asking you to assume God is asking you this; and I'm asking you to assume you have already authenticated it. If you need to explain how you would authenticate it, do so, but please answer the question.

    I'm not making up a God, I'm merely replicating the same commands he has asked his followers in the O.T., in other words; I am asking you the same thing God asked Abraham and the Isrealites to do.... I want to see what your response would be.

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  18. And by analogy.... your response is like me asking you to conduct a thought experiment where you imagine you are a pregnant woman, and you reply "but I know I'm not a pregnant woman!"

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  19. The problem with your analogy is that if you asked me that, you would expect me to think and act as if I were actually in the situation.

    In the thought experiment you are proposing, I am asking you if you are going to allow me to think and act as if I am actually in the situation.

    By not allowing me to test, you are expecting me to not act as if I were in the situation.

    If I am not allowed to think and act as if I were actually in the situation, the thought experiment has no value, period.

    What's really funny is that regardless of the crap you are trying to pull (avoid testing), I am acting exactly as if I were in the situation (if the "messenger" refuses testing, I ignore it). What you're hung up on is the fact that by my thinking and acting as if I were actually in the situation, your thought experiment will not result the way you want it to; so you're making up reasons why I should not be allowed to think and act as if it were really happening to me.

    If you allow me to think and act as if it were actually happening (test), we can get on with the thought experiment.

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  20. Okay, just so we can go forward.
    The angel Gabriel appears to you, Jesus appears to you, the Blessed Virgin appears to you, and God sets your bushes on fire and talks to you. Moses and Elijah appear to you.
    They all tell you the same thing.

    You wake up and find your Bible turned to Deut 20:16. You find the command on your mirror when you wake up. It is unmistakable. Is that verification enough?

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  21. One messenger giving me the command would have been enough to test, adding more does not change anything.

    My answer would be, "No".

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  22. No, it's not verification enough; or no, you would not do what God was commanding you to do?

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  23. I meant what I said- "One messenger giving me the command would have been enough to test, adding more does not change anything."

    How could that have been interpreted as "not verification enough"?

    To clarify, my answer is "No, I will not follow the command".

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  24. "The thing about God is that He made us in His image, not the other way around. Man is impatient, greedy, and selfish. Many times, God answers your prayer, not how you think it should be answered, but how He knows it should be answered, and when."

    So, if God answers your prayer with the command to kill a child, you would not do it? Obviously your post is centered around prayers of supplication; but what if you were supplicating God for information about what to do? And God gives you the answer, kill a child. I am not pulling this out of nowhere, there is plenty of precedent in the Bible for it. If that is how He knows to answer your request, who are you to disobey it?

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  25. Besides the story of Abraham and Issac, are you thinking of any other biblical references that should be addressed in my response?

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  26. The references are irrelevant to the thought experiment in itself. The point is whether you would obey God if He asked you to do something you considered immoral.

    But just so you will proceed.... Deut 20:16 I keep bringing up. Account for me the deaths of the Amorite and the Canaanite and the Hittite and the Perizzite and the Hivite and the Jebusite. Tell me how the Hebrew's chosen nation status induced slaughter of the above was moral because it was following God's command.


    Then explain to me why you would disobey God's command, the same God who is all holy and good, if he asked you to merely do the same thing. Abraham and Isaac is the only time in the Bible where God asked someone to kill a child and they didn't have to follow through. Unfortunately for the the Amorite and the Canaanite and the Hittite and the Perizzite and the Hivite and the Jebusite, they were not so lucky.

    "In the cities of the nations the Lord is giving you as an inheritance, do not leave alive anything that breathes."

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  27. Infanticide:

    1 Samuel 15:3 God commands the death of helpless "suckling" infants. This literally means that the children god killed were still nursing.

    Psalms 135:8 & 136:10 Here god is praised for slaughtering little babies.

    Psalms 137:9 Here god commands that infants should be “dashed upon the rocks”.

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  28. Well, if the references are "irrelevant", then I don't need to waste time responding to them (I'm not here to entertain you). :)

    But, since you brought them up (even though they are "irrelevant"), how do you determine that those commands and acts by God are immoral?

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  29. The reason they are irrelevant is because all I had was a simple question, "if God told you to kill a child, would you?"

    You're the one that keeps leading on the bunny trails, but I am giving evidence to substantiate my question lest you try to get out of it by saying "God would never ask me to do that."

    Besides, you are the one that asked for Biblical references. The reason I posited that they are irrelevant, is that they are only supplementary to the main question, which is a rather simple yes or no question.

    Would you kill a child if God asked you to?

    In saying no, you have undermined the bulk of your whole post.
    "The thing about God is that He made us in His image, not the other way around. Man is impatient, greedy, and selfish. Many times, God answers your prayer, not how you think it should be answered, but how He knows it should be answered"

    If you are just going to disobey God anyway and follow your own moral code rather than his command, then what's the point of bothering with his opinion anyway? If God is all-good, then you should obviously follow his command regardless of what it is.... but rather, you say you wouldn't. You would rather follow your own whim. Are you the one saying God is commanding immoral things by urging his followers to commit infanticide?

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  30. Actually you are the one who mentioned that you had references. I was just asking you to provide them (asking for provision of evidence is not a bunny trail). Also, if they were irrelevant, you would not have mentioned that you had them in the first place.

    Now back to the subject at hand. Are you assuming that God did not have a reason for what he did- such as a test of righteousness (in Abraham's case), a foreshadowing of Jesus (also, in Abraham's case); or judgment on an individual (Pharaoh) or a society (Amorite and the Canaanite and the Hittite and the Perizzite and the Hivite and the Jebusite)?

    Since Jesus came, died, and resurrected, our test of faith is whether or not we accept the pardon provided to escape judgment.

    As for the nursing babies who got caught up in the judgment, please refer to my posts "Who's in Control?". You may also look up Middle Knowledge, Molinism, and William Lane Craig's arguments about the unevalgelized.

    In summary of my answer and the reason for my answer: My answer was "No, I will not follow the command." The reason that I answered in that way is because Jesus Christ's death and resurrection replaced the requirement of following The Law for salvation. It IS the test of righteousness. There is also no further revelation that could be foreshadowed (Revelation 22:18-19). The rejection of Jesus Christ's pardon will result in judgment (not while on earth, though, because as long as you are still alive, you can still make the choice). Considering the Gospel, a command to perform infanticide would go against what Christ did, and in essence go against God. Therefore, I can conclude that the command was NOT from God, and I am free to ignore the command because the spirit did not pass the test of consistency with the Word of God.

    Now, if you wish to stump someone on this, you need to look at the theistic religions who hold that Jesus was not God. Even then, if they invoke divine judgment, middle knowledge, and/or God's ultimate moral authority they will have no problem remaining consistent.

    Since this has turned into such an issue, I will dedicate a post to it with more details in the future. For now, I will give you the final word, I'll close the comments on this post tomorrow afternoon.

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  31. A few problems with consistency:
    1) If the Christ event happened in time, and only applies after the time it occured; there is a gap in salvation prior to Christ.
    (Theology can fill those holes nicely and I am sure there are many answers, but that's because theology can break consistency whenever it needs to - because God doesn't have to play by the rules of reason or consistency).

    2) If God is against killing children now, but was not against it in the past then God is not immutable. That means God can change. That means God has no permanent nature, and that God is unpredictable.

    3) When God gave the command to the Isrealites, there was not the [Written] Word of God (the Bible) that you refer to. He was still speaking to people then, however it was he did it. This is your domain as the theologian to explain how God spoke in the past, but the point is he gave commands to people.

    In my thought experiment, I was talking about a command coming directly from God. The method, I don't know, the Bible doesn't specify but in all the cartoons a voice just speaks from the sky.

    4) So omnipotent God, instead of protecting the babies from the wrath of himself through his followers and allowing the infants to become children of Israel, would have rather just had them slaughtered?

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  32. 5) in relation to 3.... It could have been on another planet, in another universe that had no Jesus event. I'm talking like Narnia, something not even within the physical universe we are in.

    And since that universe would be outside our time framework, Jesus would not apply, because in your answer Jesus's work was accomplished in time and not applicable to prior it's accomplishment.

    Just to clarify things, what if God gave you the command a long time ago in a galaxy far, far away? If God told you to destroy Alderaan, would you fire up the Death Star? It seems you can only answer the question by saying, "well, no, Jesus happened, God is different now, and he changed his mind about ethics."

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  33. "I tell you the truth, until heaven and earth disappear, not the smallest letter, not the least stroke of a pen, will by any means disappear from the Law until everything is accomplished."

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