Sunday, June 22, 2008

The Biblical Church

Hey everyone, this is a transcript of the sermon I preached tonight. Bare in mind it's not word for word, but just the thoughts that I write out before the sermon (then I make an outline and speak from that, so I don't just read what's written here). At any rate this will give you a pretty good idea of the sermon, and all the main points will be addressed.

Not every point will apply to every Church, I was primarily aiming at the Church in general. Last night talking to Patrick Taylor I said "I'd never have to preach this sermon at Chi Alpha"; my point being as a corporate body I think XA more or less succeeds in these things, though there are certainly individuals who would benefit (I hope) from this. At any rate I'm sure we'll discuss this more, I may put the actual sermon on youtube if I can figure out how. If I do I'll let you know.

God bless, and enjoy:

The Biblical Church
“They devoted themselves to the apostles' teaching and to the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer. Everyone was filled with awe, and many wonders and miraculous signs were done by the apostles. All the believers were together and had everything in common. Selling their possessions and goods, they gave to anyone as he had need. Every day they continued to meet together in the temple courts. They broke bread in their homes and ate together with glad and sincere hearts, praising God and enjoying the favor of all the people. And the Lord added to their number daily those who were being saved.” -Acts 2:42-47, NIV

Background: Luke writes Acts around 60-62 A.D., basically as a historical tracing of the first 30 years of the Church. In tracing this history Luke explains and defends the Church, and also guides faith and practice (Adams et. Al.). This passage is one of the most well-known as a guide for practices in the Church, and it also provides details about the beginning of the Church’s witnessing in Jerusalem. Immediately prior to this passage we have the outpouring of the Spirit and Peter’s open-air evangelistic message that results in 3,000 people being added to the Church in just one day.

We can summarize what Luke is doing this way: The Church begins with the outpouring of the Holy Spirit at the beginning of this chapter. Immediately Peter begins fulfilling the Great Commission by preaching the Gospel. With this evangelism and the establishment of the Church we must look at where does the Church go from here, that is, what do we as members of the Church do once we accept Christ?

We are told the new found Church devoted themselves to the Apostle’s teachings, to fellowship, to the breaking of bread, and to prayer. The idea of devotion in the Greek shows us they were “earnest towards, constantly diligent, attended assiduously to all the exercises, adhered closely to”. Think about that, they were constantly diligent in the Apostles teachings. They attended assiduously (with care and persistence) to prayer. They were earnest towards fellowship. These aren’t just some suggestions, this is what the early Church did. They were highly committed to these things.

The first of these things was the Apostle’s Teachings. There is a great parallel between the Great Commission and the events transpiring here: “Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.” -Matthew 28:19-20. Peter preaches the Gospel in an initial sermon, and immediately we have the new Church being taught the Way. The new Church was instructed as to how to follow Jesus.

Today’s Church has missed on this instruction. The Church today is simply not training believers how to follow Christ. The Great Commission commands us to make disciples of all nations and to teach them to obey everything Christ has commanded us. Consider that 90% of Americans own a Bible, but only half can name a single Gospel; and 10% think Joan of Arc was Noah’s wife (Nancy Gibbs). It would seem to me we’ve failed on the teaching part.

While over 60% of Americans believe the Bible is the Word of God, only 35% believe it is the literal Word of God (I’m not sure if parables caused confusion here), we may have a problem. This is really an unfortunate thing. The Epistles were all written to provide some type of instruction. The Word trains us in righteousness and thoroughly equips us for every good work (II Timothy 3:16-17). If we fail at learning the Word, if we don’t continue in the Apostles teachings, if we don’t become disciples, everything else will deteriorate as a result of being on a weak foundation and having no roots.

Some would argue at this point “Well we have Sunday School, and we have sermons, etc…” I agree, but I also think those things are failing. Most Sunday school classes prefer to spoon-feed the Saints rather than get into the meat of the Word of God. Sermons have been reduced to 3-point strategies no longer than 45 minutes. I just read an article in Relevant Magazine where a journalist visited 6 different Churches over the course of 6 Sundays; when he visited a Pentecostal Church he complained because the sermon went over 45 minutes, and the other sermons had all been about 20 minutes. Honestly I wanted to go to that man and look him square in the face and tell him he sickened me.

In Acts 20 the Apostle Paul is in Troas, getting ready to leave, and he preached all through the night until daybreak. What would the American Church do if we were confronted with actually having to be students of the Word? The Church that started at Pentecost thrived, and at the heart of that thriving was their continuation in the Apostles teaching, passed on to us in the Bible. In I Peter 2:2 we are told that we, as newborn babies, should desire the milk of the Word, and that through it we will grow.

The reason there are so many false prophets, strange doctrines, and private interpretations being popularized today is 1. People don’t know the Word, and therefore cannot spot false teachings; and 2. Those that do know the Word have failed to teach it to others and rebuke false prophets. There are people today (“cough… Joel Osteen…cough…Benny Hinn…cough”) teaching the strangest things, God can’t move on your behalf until you think positively; there are 3 levels to the anointing, etc… These are some pretty wacko doctrines! But the Church can’t recognize them because it has not continued in the Apostles teaching, we’ve not continued in the Message of Christ, and therefore the Church is being led astray. If we in the Church ever want to thrive like the Apostolic Church did, we must return to the Word of God that they preached!

We’ve lost a true expression of Biblical fellowship: Biblical fellowship, according the David Guzik, is about sharing something. Today we in the Church share, but I think we’re sharing the wrong things. We share gossip, we share feuds, we share anger, we share bitterness, we share mutual dislike, we share complaints, we share plenty, but we’re sharing all the wrong things! We ought to be sharing our lives, made common by the Savior and Lord we all share! If we share our struggles, we can share in rejoicing our victories!

Let’s look at this in context, Luke says they continued in fellowship, and he says they were together, had everything in common (all things were shared by all, in the Greek), sold their possessions and gave as others had need, met in the Temple courts, broke bread in their homes, praised together, and enjoyed the favor of all people. That’s a lot of stuff they were doing. The idea we get is they were always sharing their lives, always working with each other. Today we might say there were joined at the hips.

Fellowship was much more to the early believers than a 5 minute meet-and-greet at the beginning of each service. It was much more than a meal at Christmas and Resurrection Sunday time. How many times have we gone over to someone’s house with the intention of taking communion and praising God? Honestly the Church has set up such a hierarchy I think most people would be afraid to give communion because we haven’t given them a fancy enough title yet.

The early Church shared everything with each other.
The benefits of fellowship cannot be under-estimated. Fellowship provides accountability, it provides support, it helps intensify our heart for God, it provides a place of security and openness, it provides a place to receive prayer when we’re sick and struggling, the list goes on and on.

Now I must separate breaking of bread from fellowship. Breaking of bread was part of their fellowship, but it’s also a distinct activity. Sadly we’ve reduced it to a monthly ritual with little meaning. That is not, however, what communion is meant to be. To be as brief as possible, but still capture the essential meaning of communion I’ll quote a song:
“This is the body, this is the blood, Broken and poured out for all of us
In this communion, we share in His love, This is the body, this is the blood.
I will remember, everything Lord, You've done for me. I won't take for granted the sacrifice that set me free. I hunger and thirst for Your love, come fill me today. This is the body, this is the blood. Broken and poured out for all of us. In this communion we share in His love, this is the body this is the blood."

We are to do this in remembrance of our Lord (I Corinthians 11:25). We remember His sacrifice, we remember that His body was beaten and His blood was spilled so that we could be cleansed from all our unrighteousness. What Christ did is anything but ritual, Christ’s death and resurrection is the pivotal point in human history! As His followers we must remember what He did for us, in doing this I think it would be hard to follow Christ irreverently, or in word only in a dry and ritual way. When we realize what Christ has done for us we have no choice but to respond decisively and radically. On the other hand, if we fail to remember what Christ has done for us, than we will live as if He’s done nothing.

Just imagine gathering at each other’s homes to fellowship and break bread. It should not be a rare occurrence during Holiday seasons. Fellowshipping and breaking of bread should be sincere and it should be often. Let us bare in mind that these things are not suggestions, they are mandates.

Now we are told the early Church was devoted to prayer. I think today’s Church has failed when it comes to prayer.
Our failure has been 2-fold: 1. We don’t pray often enough. 2. We don’t understand what prayer is, so when we do pray it’s nearly meaningless.

As far as not praying often enough I’ve heard different accounts. Some assert the average American prays 2 minutes/day; while the average Christian prays 4 minutes each day and the average pastor prays a whopping 7 minutes each day. An Ellison Research Group study showed more favorable numbers, stating that the average Protestant minister prays 39 minutes each day, among those Pentecostal ministers compare favorably, averaging 47 minutes a day. Our pastors may be doing alright, but the overall population isn’t doing so hot.

Time, thank God, isn’t a very good measure of prayer. I think a good measure of prayer is the relationship one has with Jesus. Prayer is the key to intimacy with Christ, and as a result it would seem to me we could gauge the quality of one’s prayer life based on one’s relationship with the Lord. Here statistics fail, because to ask “are you in a good relationship with Christ” is to ask a question that will mean 1,000 different things to a thousand different people.

At any rate we think wrongly about prayer. We think it’s like a lottery, or we think of God as a magic genie waiting to grant our every whim. Prayer should not simply be a laundry list of things we want God to do for us, rather it should be conversing with God; seeking His face, searching for His guidance, discoursing about His will.

What individual topics will be addressed in prayer varies from person to person. As a student my campus comes up a lot. True prayer aligns us with God’s will, and once the Church starts walking in God’s will the Church will be unstoppable.

Now that we’ve examined these 4 marks of the early Church, we are told of their results. We are told there were wonders and miraculous signs. We are told the believers had everything in common. We are told they praised God. We are told they had the favor of all men.

It should come as no surprise we don’t see this when we realize we’re not continuing in the way of the early Church. If we don’t continue in the Apostle’s teachings (as given in the Bible), if we don’t continue in fellowship, if we don’t continue in breaking bread and prayer how can we expect anything good to come out of the Church?

Instead of a vibrant Church we’ve got one that accepts humanistic and selfish doctrines, teaching God was made to serve us. This is not what the Apostles taught. Instead of fellowship we’ve got an embittered, angry, and greedy Church. We think of relationships in economic terms. We invest in people, we value others, etc… I thank God He doesn’t think of us economically, if He did Christ would have never bought us.

We don’t praise like we should because we don’t think of God like we should. We don’t remember Christ’s sacrifice, we don’t realize how much He loves us, we don’t think of Him as the Lord of all Creation. If we did all these things we’d always have an attitude of praise and a heart of worship.

And if we fail in prayer how can we expect God to use us? How can we expect to see wonders and miracles? If we’re not walking with God how will we ever know when to pray or who to pray for or what to pray about? We have to be close to God and allow Him to show us these things, but if we don’t devote ourselves to prayer we’re cutting ourselves off at the root.

If the Church ever wants to see a true expression of worship, if the Church wants effective discipleship, if the Church wants vibrant ministry, if we want evangelism to flourish, if we want genuine fellowship, we’ve got to get back to the basics.

Now I’m tired of everyone sitting through the sermon saying “amen” and nodding your heads. God doesn’t just want your lip service, He wants your hands and your heart. God’s Word has practical application in our lives, and I think the Church has good theory but poor application. I can’t apply prayer to your life, I can’t make you fellowship, I can’t make you break bread, I can’t make you worship. How you come to apply all these things is something you’ll need to pray about and seek God’s face on. I’ve done my part in exposing you to the teachings of the Apostles.

15 Comments:

Blogger Lee said...

Hi Joey

Hey everyone, this is a transcript of the sermon I preached tonight

I didn't know you were a preacher - Gosh

Been busy these past few weeks, so little time to comment.

I’ve always been interested in what prayer ‘is’ and what it is suppose to ‘achieve’ – basically what is it’s purpose?

According to the bible (I believe) it could be used to test the claims of the bible i.e. that God will listen to prayer and it makes a difference to the person or community.

I suppose you disagree?

Lee

Thu Jun 26, 10:13:00 PM 2008  
Blogger sweetswede said...

I didn't know you were a preacher - Gosh

Yep, I'm hoping to apply for credentials by the end of this summer.

I’ve always been interested in what prayer ‘is’ and what it is suppose to ‘achieve’ – basically what is it’s purpose?

According to the bible (I believe) it could be used to test the claims of the bible i.e. that God will listen to prayer and it makes a difference to the person or community.


I don't know if I can fully explain it, but basically prayer is communicating with God.

There's a great deal of misconception about this in the Church, as most people consider prayer sitting down and saying "God please let me win the lottery" or something like that. But what is often forgotten is the friendship we (should) have with God. Just as two friends talk, so we can talk with God; and contrary to popular belief, God does talk back.

Prayer has many purposes, one of which is asking God to provide needs, which sadly is the extent of prayer for many. But prayer also gets us in line with God's will.

Prayer is very powerful. You mentioned prayer as a means of testing the claims of the Bible, which to an extent I suppose it is; but on the other hand there's a lot of confusion. People say God answers every prayer, and I think He does, He just doesn't answer them all "yes". Oftentimes people pray for very selfish things, a Rolls Royce, a yacht, abundant wealth, etc... but these people don't understand that we are to pray "in Jesus Name", and that means according to His will. There are a great deal of people who pray for things that are not God's will and so when they don't get those things it seems prayer doesn't work.

However, as I said, prayer is powerful. I've seen (as in I know these people and saw this myself) a lady healed of cancer. The doctors had given her 6 months, and she went to an appointment one time and the cancer was just gone. I know a man who was abused as a child, and because of this contracted an incurable STD; and God healed Him, once again, it was just gone. For a third example I was at the Aroostook County Pentecostal Campmeeting in 2006, and a lady who had lost all hearing (she had some type of disease that gradually eroded it) was brought up to be prayed for, and she left that meeting with her hearing.

I hope that answers some of your questions. There are entire books written on the topic of prayer, so this is not an exhaustive explanation by any means, but I think it'll give you an idea.

God bless!
Joey

Fri Jun 27, 11:36:00 AM 2008  
Blogger Lee said...

Hi Joey,

I don't know if I can fully explain it, but basically prayer is communicating with God.

I thought the bible (and Jesus) suggested it was a little more than just a conversation/communication with God?

There's a great deal of misconception about this in the Church, as most people consider prayer sitting down and saying "God please let me win the lottery" or something like that.

There is something about praying to move mountains isn’t there in the bible?

Seems reasonable then to pray for the winning numbers... if you truly believe (have faith) of course it will work :)

But what is often forgotten is the friendship we (should) have with God. Just as two friends talk, so we can talk with God; and contrary to popular belief, God does talk back.

It’s this ‘talking back’ that seems to be the problem... not seen any evidence myself for it. It then seems (as a sceptic) that the conversation is more than a little one sided.

(I could also then ask about how I am suppose to have a ‘friendship’ with someone who doesn’t return my phone calls or e-mails but lets stick to prayer)

Prayer has many purposes, one of which is asking God to provide needs, which sadly is the extent of prayer for many. But prayer also gets us in line with God's will.

I need to you to explain this one a little more for me... ‘in line with God's will’?

I don’t get it – if God’s has a will, shouldn’t we all know it – in advance? Wouldn’t this be the ‘loving’ action? I don’t see how a hidden purpose to be a loving one.

Prayer is very powerful.

So I am told, but it has never been demonstrated I am sorry to report.

You mentioned prayer as a means of testing the claims of the Bible, which to an extent I suppose it is; but on the other hand there's a lot of confusion.

I guess it is the confusion part that is confusing me :)

Oh, and I am glad you seem to agree it could be possible to test the claims made.

People say God answers every prayer, and I think He does, He just doesn't answer them all "yes".

If 50% are answered ‘NO’ and 50% are answered ‘YES’ how would I know this wasn’t just a random (and uninfluenced) occurrence?

It could be argued (from a sceptic like me) that no one is in fact answering the prayers – just that ‘things happen’ everyday.

Oftentimes people pray for very selfish things, a Rolls Royce, a yacht, abundant wealth, etc...

If we had 3 wishes, would wish for more?

I would not be interested in testing such prayers though, they are easily rejected as ‘unreasonable’. We agree on this.

but these people don't understand that we are to pray "in Jesus Name", and that means according to His will. There are a great deal of people who pray for things that are not God's will and so when they don't get those things it seems prayer doesn't work.

How do we know what is ‘God’s will’?

Since it is never disclosed to us, ANY and ALL outcomes could be claimed to be ‘God’s will’?

However, as I said, prayer is powerful. I've seen (as in I know these people and saw this myself) a lady healed of cancer.

The doctors had given her 6 months, and she went to an appointment one time and the cancer was just gone.


I won’t say this didn’t happen, but will say ‘million to one events’ happen everyday.
(Erm... sounds a little like the ‘God’s will’ reasoning but this time from a sceptic. I will expand on this point though later if you like)

Was the doctor just wrong?
Is there a history of these types of cancers just ‘clearing up’ on their own?
Was there a controlled ‘double blind’ test on a statistical large volume of people?
(This last one is the one we should really consider – there are clinical trails for a reason I think)

Yet, if your claim is that prayer worked for this lady – what was the prayer? Which religion did she follow?
Do some religions and prayers work better then others – this study, IF prayer works, would be very, very valuable I am sure you would agree. We should not be wasting our prayers on the wrong god or wrong type of prayer should we?

I know a man who was abused as a child, and because of this contracted an incurable STD; and God healed Him, once again, it was just gone.

Same are above I am afraid – anecdotal evidence can be interesting, but you must agree that they should be backed up with some ‘hard study’ and research before we just believe any old thing?

I hear a lot of good things coming out from India at the moment about similar ‘miracle cures’... unfortunately, for your argument, they are NOT Christian prayers that are doing it.
(Oh, I assume you believe all these miracle cures from India BTW?)

For a third example I was at the Aroostook County Pentecostal Campmeeting in 2006, and a lady who had lost all hearing (she had some type of disease that gradually eroded it) was brought up to be prayed for, and she left that meeting with her hearing.

Sounds (no pun intended) a little like how the chiropractic ‘treatment’ began – with the curing of a man’s hearing with a little correction of the spine - do you believe in alternative medicine as well?

More importantly, are you aware of any prayer that has made an amputated limb grow back for a believer (or indeed non-believer)?

Can you think of any reason why this would be so? (It’s not as subjective could be the cynical response.)

I hope that answers some of your questions. There are entire books written on the topic of prayer, so this is not an exhaustive explanation by any means, but I think it'll give you an idea.

Thanks - It gives me a taste, but leaves some questions also (as you can tell)

In summary:-

Firstly, it seems that prayer only works if you believe, meaning that any failure (if it is deemed as a failure and not God’s will) is the fault of the person making the prayer and NOT God.

Secondly, since ‘God’s will’ is not known, ANY and ALL outcomes from prayer is possible to ‘validate’ the ‘prayee’ (believer) i.e. when the building collapses on someone breaking both their legs it is ‘God’s way’ of telling them the demolition industry is not for them? (I would prefer a letter in the post myself – how about you?)

Can you see the problem this all leaves for a sceptic?

It doesn’t have to be this way of course - evidence could still be presented that prayer works that isn’t just subjective or anecdotal. The problem though is when the ‘clinical’ testings are done, prayer fails.

Cheers

Lee

Sun Jun 29, 10:34:00 PM 2008  
Blogger Lee said...

Oh, and good luck with the credentials BTW

Lee

Sun Jun 29, 10:35:00 PM 2008  
Blogger sweetswede said...

I thought the bible (and Jesus) suggested it was a little more than just a conversation/communication with God?

Yes, prayer has many benefits for lack of a better term; but whether someone is interceding, supplicating, thanking, etc... they all involve communication.

There is something about praying to move mountains isn’t there in the bible?

Seems reasonable then to pray for the winning numbers... if you truly believe (have faith) of course it will work :)


There is. If you look at the context you'll find though that Jesus wasn't saying God is a genie.

It would seem reasonable to pray to win lottery; I could do a lot of good with a few hundred million dollars, could feed a lot of starving kids and help a lot of great organizations, but the end doesn't necessarily justify the means. The lottery would involve, essentially, gambling, and I don't think that's a method God necessarily approves of. God is all-powerful, but He's also all-knowing and sometimes I think we may ask for things that aren't necessarily good for us.


It’s this ‘talking back’ that seems to be the problem... not seen any evidence myself for it. It then seems (as a sceptic) that the conversation is more than a little one sided.

(I could also then ask about how I am suppose to have a ‘friendship’ with someone who doesn’t return my phone calls or e-mails but lets stick to prayer)


I can certainly understand skepticism of it. There are people in the Church who don't necessarily believe in it. Honestly FishHawk is quite the expert on this (www.asthecrackerheadcrumbles.blogspot.com)

At any rate I think God does respond to us, in various ways. There's a lot of stuff God has already told us; I don't need to pray about murdering, I already know that's wrong. God has already established that in the Bible.

Honestly I don't expect you to believe it and there's not really any way I can prove it. I mean sure I could give you numerous examples, and various times God has told me something and I've later seen it happen, but there's no way I'll ever convince anybody of that who has not been convinced of it for themselves.

I need to you to explain this one a little more for me... ‘in line with God's will’?

I don’t get it – if God’s has a will, shouldn’t we all know it – in advance? Wouldn’t this be the ‘loving’ action? I don’t see how a hidden purpose to be a loving one.


Well we do all know it, life's greatest purpose, and the greatest command, according to Christ, is to love the Lord with all your heart, soul, strength, and mind; and to love your neighbor as yourself.

That is what God wants us to do. How that's applied may vary from person to person, and that's what we pray about. To give you a personal example I was planning to become a politician or lawyer (or both), not a preacher. But eventually I started praying about it, and it was confirmed in numerous ways. Now I could still become a lawyer or politician, but I'd know I'm not doing what God wants me to.

Truthfully, I'm much more satisfied doing what I do then I would have been doing something else. God knew what He was doing ;)

So I am told, but it has never been demonstrated I am sorry to report.

What would demonstrate it?

I guess it is the confusion part that is confusing me :)

Oh, and I am glad you seem to agree it could be possible to test the claims made.


Well, there's a lot of people inside the Church that I don't even think know what prayer is. Based on what I've done the average American Christian prays 4 minutes a day.

I think it might be able to text the claims to an extent; but God is unscientific in that in science a+b will lead to c; but sometimes God takes a and b and goes straight to d (He doesn't always do the same thing in the same circumstances).

If 50% are answered ‘NO’ and 50% are answered ‘YES’ how would I know this wasn’t just a random (and uninfluenced) occurrence?

It could be argued (from a sceptic like me) that no one is in fact answering the prayers – just that ‘things happen’ everyday.


I know that could be argued, I won't deny that. But it could also be argued that everything we see is a misconception of reality, that this computer doesn't really exist and that you and I are both just imagining we are having this discourse. There's lots of things that could be argued, but a lot of them take more "faith" then others.

If we had 3 wishes, would wish for more?

God is not to serve man, man is to serve God.

How do we know what is ‘God’s will’?

Since it is never disclosed to us, ANY and ALL outcomes could be claimed to be ‘God’s will’?


I think God's will is disclosed. We know it is not God's will for us to steal, lie, kill baby seals, etc...

Once again, we may apply loving God and our neighbor differently, but we are essentially doing the same thing.

I won’t say this didn’t happen, but will say ‘million to one events’ happen everyday.
(Erm... sounds a little like the ‘God’s will’ reasoning but this time from a sceptic. I will expand on this point though later if you like)


I'm sure it'll come up in this discourse at some point

Was the doctor just wrong?
Is there a history of these types of cancers just ‘clearing up’ on their own?
Was there a controlled ‘double blind’ test on a statistical large volume of people?
(This last one is the one we should really consider – there are clinical trails for a reason I think)


Ummm... if the doctor was wrong we are in big trouble as far as the study of medicine goes. There is no history (that I've found) of this cancer just clearing up; I have several relatives in the medical profession who can confirm this.

There was no controlled test or experiment. Even if there was I'm not sure how it would work, God is not controlled or subject to circumstances, and in such a test He would have to be.

Yet, if your claim is that prayer worked for this lady – what was the prayer? Which religion did she follow?
Do some religions and prayers work better then others – this study, IF prayer works, would be very, very valuable I am sure you would agree. We should not be wasting our prayers on the wrong god or wrong type of prayer should we?


In this case the prayer was that God would heal her and that she'd live. She was a member of the International Fellowship of Christian Assemblies (IFCA, formerly CCNA); a small Pentecostal denomination that has it's roots in the Italian Pentecostal movement that started in Chicago in 1907 (I have to know that for the credentials).

As far as different religions prayers working, etc... I do think different religions prayers work for two reasons: 1. God (as in the Trinitarian God of the Bible that I believe in) may show Himself to someone through that. 2. God has an enemy who has a certain amount or "power" so to speak and he may use that to deceive people. I believe the standard for evaluating such things is what they teach (doctrine) and how they live it.

Same are above I am afraid – anecdotal evidence can be interesting, but you must agree that they should be backed up with some ‘hard study’ and research before we just believe any old thing?

I hear a lot of good things coming out from India at the moment about similar ‘miracle cures’... unfortunately, for your argument, they are NOT Christian prayers that are doing it.
(Oh, I assume you believe all these miracle cures from India BTW?)


Well, I certainly don't think we should just believe "any old thing". But if trustworthy people are attesting to the same event I'm prone to believe it happened.

As far as India I'm not very familiar with what you're referring to (at least specifically). First I'll apply the above criterion; then I'd apply the criterion and ask about the source (keep in mind I think there are two opposing sides in the supernatural world).

Sounds (no pun intended) a little like how the chiropractic ‘treatment’ began – with the curing of a man’s hearing with a little correction of the spine - do you believe in alternative medicine as well?

More importantly, are you aware of any prayer that has made an amputated limb grow back for a believer (or indeed non-believer)?

Can you think of any reason why this would be so? (It’s not as subjective could be the cynical response.)


Ummm... how broad is the definition for alternative medicine? I prefer licensed professionals with accredited degrees and the title "Dr." before their name (or "M.D." after it would also suffice). But miracles are only slightly within the scope of medicine.

Am I aware of any prayer for an amputated limb to grow back? I am. I've got a friend, a retired Evangelical Methodist pastor, who (along with several congregants) can attest to such an event. I don't think he's much of a blogger though :)

Secondly, since ‘God’s will’ is not known, ANY and ALL outcomes from prayer is possible to ‘validate’ the ‘prayee’ (believer) i.e. when the building collapses on someone breaking both their legs it is ‘God’s way’ of telling them the demolition industry is not for them? (I would prefer a letter in the post myself – how about you?)

There's a lot of debate, even in the Church, about miracles, healings, etc.. Some would say I'm involved in demonic or unBiblical practices (to which I'd reply they're using very poor hermeneutics). At any rate there's a lot of questions both skeptics and believers can ask, I certainly agree. I just think one of the mistakes is people don't look hard enough for answers (I've not studied prayer extensively, so there may be things I don't know, but I think were I to do extensive study I'd find the answers).

Can you see the problem this all leaves for a sceptic?

Certainly, I think it may leave a bigger problem for the believer though (it will take a lot of time to study every passage in the Bible on prayer).

The problem though is when the ‘clinical’ testings are done, prayer fails.

Maybe...

God bless!
Joey

Tue Jul 01, 07:33:00 AM 2008  
Blogger Lee said...

Hello again Joey,

Yes, prayer has many benefits for lack of a better term;

Well, it is this point I am trying to investigate as you can probably tell.

You might already realise that I don’t think it has any supernatural benefit (maybe a meditation level benefit, but even this still has to be shown, and isn’t what you are claiming)

If you look at the context you'll find though that Jesus wasn't saying God is a genie.

I’ve forgotten the chapter for the moment; my memory tells me though that Jesus was being pretty clear that if you truly believe and pray to God you will be able to move mountains.
(There is also another verse that says if you truly believe in God you will be able to eat the poison of snakes and survive, Jesus is pretty big on this belief thing)

It would seem reasonable to pray to win lottery; I could do a lot of good with a few hundred million dollars, could feed a lot of starving kids and help a lot of great organizations, but the end doesn't necessarily justify the means.

You’re right – an all-loving, all-powerful and all-knowing God should see to these problems Himself.

Oops – I’ve just moved into the problem of evil, better get back on track.

The lottery would involve, essentially, gambling, and I don't think that's a method God necessarily approves of.

Is that a fact? How do you know God doesn’t approve of gambling – I don’t remember reading about this sin in the bible?

Oh, and anything that has odds of over 15 million to one on winning isn’t gambling in my book.

God is all-powerful, but He's also all-knowing and sometimes I think we may ask for things that aren't necessarily good for us.

An end to hunger and suffering in the world? Such a prayer isn’t ‘good for us’?
(Problem of evil again, sorry)

I can certainly understand skepticism of it. There are people in the Church who don't necessarily believe in it.

Isn’t that going against what the bible say? Not believing in the power of prayer and all that?

Honestly FishHawk is quite the expert on this (www.asthecrackerheadcrumbles.blogspot.com)

I may have to pop over there at some point.

At any rate I think God does respond to us, in various ways. There's a lot of stuff God has already told us; I don't need to pray about murdering, I already know that's wrong. God has already established that in the Bible.

Erm... do you honestly believe that the Jews did NOT already know that murdering was bad BEFORE Moses and these stone tablets came along?

You will have to show the murder was common place in their tribe BEFORE this trip to the mountain, and reduced to near zero afterwards.

Also, it is very clear in the bible that God has no problem with the killing of women and children – the bible is full of such commands.

It seems then that ‘killing’ and ‘murder’ are seen as two different acts according to God. Strange that – both are wrong in my book :)

Oh, and why did God’s ‘absolute’ laws change over time? Could He not get them right the first time?

Honestly I don't expect you to believe it and there's not really any way I can prove it.

Yes there is... ask God for some divine knowledge of the future – tell me about it, and when it happens you have got yourself a new believer in prayer.
(Of course, I will be selective on what I call divine knowledge – telling me it will rain soon isn’t very divine. Why not tell me when and where the next great Earthquake will be over 8.0 on the scale. THAT would be divine knowledge. Of course, God can choose whatever He likes to tell you – God should know what I require for evidence after all)

I mean sure I could give you numerous examples, and various times God has told me something and I've later seen it happen

I’ve said before, ‘million to one events’ happen every day.

How risky was the prediction? How precise/specific in detail was it? How likely was it going to happen by random chance? Was it an open ended prediction? How many predictions have NOT come true? How sure are you that you remembered the details correctly (both of the revelation and the actual event)

I said I’m sceptical, I’m like this on alien landings as well, not just prayer so don’t feel I am picking on anyone.

but there's no way I'll ever convince anybody of that who has not been convinced of it for themselves.

Not so as I have said above.

Well we do all know it, life's greatest purpose, and the greatest command, according to Christ, is to love the Lord with all your heart, soul, strength, and mind; and to love your neighbor as yourself.

The ‘love your neighbour’ could open a new discussion.

Firstly, Jesus wasn’t the first man in history to say it – secondly I challenge it is possible to love your neighbour as yourself 100% all of the time.

Which means you will always, at some point, FAIL such a law/command.
(It is however fine as a guide or rule of thumb, not sure though if the bible is saying it is a command or a guide)

Oh, and this loving the Lord section – I would need evidence and reason for this first, which is why I am here discussing.

Why is this the most important task, and if so, why doesn’t God ensure everyone has enough evidence to ensure they do it.

At the moment, I do not see the point – given evidence, I could change my mind.

To give you a personal example I was planning to become a politician or lawyer (or both), not a preacher. But eventually I started praying about it, and it was confirmed in numerous ways. Now I could still become a lawyer or politician, but I'd know I'm not doing what God wants me to.

The ‘numerous ways’ is the interesting bit.

Has anyone prayed to God with ‘true belief’ asking what they should do with their lives and NOT found that a life in the church following their religion was the answer?

How did God confirm which church was the right one for you?

Oh, and I know people who have tried years of prayer and found nothing – what would you say to them?

Truthfully, I'm much more satisfied doing what I do then I would have been doing something else. God knew what He was doing ;)

No, I say YOU knew what you were doing...

What would demonstrate it?

Already provided one method – divine knowledge.

Another one would be to see a statistical benefit in one type of prayer or religion over another.

To take an extreme example, should a major earthquake hit a large city and we find that ALL the Anglican churches remained standing undamaged but ALL the mosques, Catholic churches and other places of worship (including the pubs and sports stadiums where we atheist’s worship) were in ruin then this would be rather telling.
Not conclusive, maybe the Anglican’s just built better churches - however it would be a start.

Maybe though if ALL the houses were damaged except those of practicing Anglican’s... NOW you will be onto something.

So, pick a church, start praying and wait for the next earthquake :)

What we see though in reality is all people, all buildings are damaged as you would expect as a result of a natural disaster. Nature treats all equally.

This should NOT be the case if prayer had any benefit in my view.




I think it might be able to (test) the claims to an extent; but God is unscientific in that in science a+b will lead to c; but sometimes God takes a and b and goes straight to d (He doesn't always do the same thing in the same circumstances).

Erm... that sounds a little random – almost as if God doesn’t exist or interact in anyway as the result of prayer.

However, if you claim there is a benefit to prayer, you should be able to show it.

You should be able to test if God is truly interacting on your behalf, otherwise how do you actually know that God is doing anything?

As I hinted before, if any outcome from a prayer is taken to be a sign of a positive interaction – then that person is really fooling themselves.


RE: ”If 50% are answered ‘NO’ and 50% are answered ‘YES’ how would I know this wasn’t just a random (and uninfluenced) occurrence?

It could be argued (from a sceptic like me) that no one is in fact answering the prayers – just that ‘things happen’ everyday.”


I know that could be argued, I won't deny that. But it could also be argued that everything we see is a misconception of reality, that this computer doesn't really exist and that you and I are both just imagining we are having this discourse. There's lots of things that could be argued, but a lot of them take more "faith" then others.

Now here we have a logical fallacy – just have to identify which one?

It does sound like a bit of a ‘red herring’ to be. I am not arguing about ‘reality’ or whether we are brains in jars or anything - so you have gone to an extreme that is unrelated to my point. This would lead to a very different discussion.

No, I am talking about probability and statistics... flip a coin 100 times, and if it lands ‘heads’ 100 times I damn well want to know why... if the outcome is 48 heads, and 52 tails than that result is within the realms of probability and random chance that suggests the coin toss is indeed random.

No supernatural or anything unusual is happening.

So, to bring this back to what we are discussing at this point.

If you claim to be able to predict the outcome of a coin toss correct 100 times in a row – then you will need a LOT more faith to believe you could do it than if I said I could guess it correct 50% of the time.

This is the point you missed.

If an event appears random, and you want to claim otherwise – you have better be able to show it and not just say I have a lot of faith that I am not just a brain in a jar imagining this conversation. Your point is unrelated.

RE: If we had 3 wishes, would wish for more?

God is not to serve man, man is to serve God.

Sorry, my comment related to a song you will have never heard of called “111 wishes”

Erm... why should we serve God, and why would God require this? To ‘serve’ without a choice seems a little wrong to me – almost slavery.

I have a choice you say? What happens if I do not choose to follow God? Is it heaven or hell for me?

I think God's will is disclosed. We know it is not God's will for us to steal, lie, kill baby seals, etc...

Discussed this already – but I will add that the bible might not mention killing baby seals, but it does mention killing babies by throwing them against the rocks if my memory serves me correctly?

I’m pretty certain that the bible writes about God hardening the heart of Pharaoh thus not allowing him a free choice which resulted (as you know) in the first born son being killed by the angel of death... you telling me no babies were harmed?

What about the flood? Did this really happen by God’s hand? If so, did no babies die as a result? Shall I go on?

Once again, we may apply loving God and our neighbor differently, but we are essentially doing the same thing.

Back to this loving God again.... please see above.

Is the God of the Old Testament the same God as the New? He does not sound like a very nice chap I am sorry to report.

Ummm... if the doctor was wrong we are in big trouble as far as the study of medicine goes.

Doctors are human and make mistakes like everybody else – I assume you have read as many newspaper stories as I of mistakes made by doctors

There is no history (that I've found) of this cancer just clearing up;

First we have to be certain on the diagnosis (which I am not) then we have to know if there are any cases of this just clearing up. Did she receive any treatment for the cancer?

I have several relatives in the medical profession who can confirm this.

Please ask them how many time mistakes are made on such diagnoses and whether they have every cleared up either naturally or under treatment.

There was no controlled test or experiment.

Erm... a single ‘million to one event’ was it?

Even if there was I'm not sure how it would work, God is not controlled or subject to circumstances, and in such a test He would have to be.

Why would God want to hide himself from such testing?

That you what I need you to answer to at least yourself. Not that He could hide (God can do anything right) but WHY hide?

Instead of one or two extra believers from such an event, God could have millions. Every atheist I know is open to the possible evidence for God... so why does God not provide it when given the chance?

In this case the prayer was that God would heal her and that she'd live.

And how many times have such prayers still resulted in the death of the patient?
(Just a thought)

She was a member of the International Fellowship of Christian Assemblies (IFCA, formerly CCNA); a small Pentecostal denomination that has it's roots in the Italian Pentecostal movement that started in Chicago in 1907 (I have to know that for the credentials).

Now we are on to something... how many other people of this church have had miracle recoveries, and how does that compare to the normal population?

Show a statistical benefit and you are on to proving the power of prayer to a sceptic.

As far as different religions prayers working, etc... I do think different religions prayers work for two reasons: 1. God (as in the Trinitarian God of the Bible that I believe in) may show Himself to someone through that.

So it doesn’t matter what god we believe in, so long as we believe in god/s?

This causes you another problem (depending how literal you are on the bible) since the bible is clear there is only one God and how He wants to be worshipped (well, so I am told)

God therefore should NOT be responding to the wrong type of prayer from the wrong religion (if taken literally)

Didn’t you mention before that you believed in the 6 day creation story in Genesis – this would seem to imply to take a more literal approach.

You are not trying to have you cake AND eat it are you?

2. God has an enemy who has a certain amount or "power" so to speak and he may use that to deceive people. I believe the standard for evaluating such things is what they teach (doctrine) and how they live it.

Erm... does this mean I am the ‘devil’?

It is rather ‘convenient’ that anyone who does not hold the same opinion as your own in a debate could be classified as a ‘deceiver’. The more convincing their argument, the more power in deception they must have.

Oh, and why does God have an enemy? Isn’t He All-powerful so could remove any such enemy without more than a thought.

Well, I certainly don't think we should just believe "any old thing".

Excellent we agree we should all have a certain amount of scepticism.

But if trustworthy people are attesting to the same event I'm prone to believe it happened.

This statement hangs on ‘trustworthy’ and how you define it.

I could only agree with this statement IF we agree on the definition of trustworthy.

Would I trust a doctor friend of mine NOT to be tricked by a magician?

Well, my friend is trustworthy by certain definitions, but I would not trust him not to be fooled in this case.

As far as India I'm not very familiar with what you're referring to (at least specifically).

I wasn’t referring to any one act - merely that you hear of many reports coming from India of such miracles. Just do a google search and I am sure you will find hundreds of miracle events happening in India.

He’s one that caught my eye... bringing someone back from the dead?

http://www.saibaba.ws/miracles/resurrectionradhakrishna.htm

There are also people like ‘John of God’ from South America – Christian I suspect, but do you believe him and his miracles? His followers certainly do...

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jo%C3%A3o_de_Deus_(medium)

Ummm... how broad is the definition for alternative medicine?

How about any medical practices that have NOT been tested and shown to work by the standard medical/clinical testing?

I prefer licensed professionals with accredited degrees and the title "Dr." before their name

Where I live this means you could be wasting your money and placing yourself at risk at the hands of a Doctor of chiropractic.

But miracles are only slightly within the scope of medicine.

Ugh?

This doesn’t follow – if such miracles really occurred, then you would need a trained medical practitioner to confirm it. Otherwise you are likely to be fooled due to ignorance on the subject matter.

Back to this ‘trustworthy’ definition again.

Am I aware of any prayer for an amputated limb to grow back? I am. I've got a friend, a retired Evangelical Methodist pastor, who (along with several congregants) can attest to such an event. I don't think he's much of a blogger though :)

Really? Then you could have the evidence I need to believe in miracles (and a few atheist friends of mine as well)

However, I will remain rather doubtful for now – such an occurrence of a limb growing back would be such strong evidence for the power of prayer, I am a little sceptical because I’ve never heard of any such events before.

You can prove this old sceptic wrong though... just provide some web links that hold up to scrutiny.

Some would say I'm involved in demonic or unBiblical practices

I’ve better be careful then, I didn’t know I was talking to a demonic practicing preacher... :)

I am interested what these acts are now though.

(to which I'd reply they're using very poor hermeneutics).

Ah... interpretation. Such a shame the bible can be read in so many different ways...

RE: ”Can you see the problem this all leaves for a sceptic?

Certainly, I think it may leave a bigger problem for the believer though (it will take a lot of time to study every passage in the Bible on prayer).

I agree. The believer has a lot of questions to answer and resolve.

Glad I don’t have that problem :)

RE: The problem though is when the ‘clinical’ testings are done, prayer fails.

Maybe...

Can you name any successful clinical trails?

OK, that’s all folks...

See ya

Lee

Wed Jul 02, 11:41:00 PM 2008  
Blogger sweetswede said...

Well, it is this point I am trying to investigate as you can probably tell.

You might already realise that I don’t think it has any supernatural benefit (maybe a meditation level benefit, but even this still has to be shown, and isn’t what you are claiming)


I think we'll address this more specifically in a few paragraphs.

I’ve forgotten the chapter for the moment; my memory tells me though that Jesus was being pretty clear that if you truly believe and pray to God you will be able to move mountains.
(There is also another verse that says if you truly believe in God you will be able to eat the poison of snakes and survive, Jesus is pretty big on this belief thing)


Mark 11 and Mark 16. Jesus is very clear about moving mountains. But we must interpret that passage in it's proper historical/grammatical context; and moving mountains was a popular Hebrew saying that referred to overcoming great challenges, etc... Now I do believe this text also can apply to physical rocky hills; but the exact conditions and everything lead to a conversation about what is meant by true faith and several other topics.

However, to give you just one example in reference to the snakes and poison statement in Mark 16 . F.D. Davis was an evangelist/preacher in the early 1900s. At one revival near Rusk, Texas he spoke about That very passage. A skeptic in the audience decided to test that claim and poisoned their (Davis' and families) water supply. Keep in mind this was in 1917, so the family drank out of a bucket, not a faucet. Well the next morning the entire family was fine; after the man who poisoned them hid and watched them drink the poison.

You’re right – an all-loving, all-powerful and all-knowing God should see to these problems Himself.

Oops – I’ve just moved into the problem of evil, better get back on track.


Another topic for another day :)

Is that a fact? How do you know God doesn’t approve of gambling – I don’t remember reading about this sin in the bible?

Oh, and anything that has odds of over 15 million to one on winning isn’t gambling in my book.


You're right, gambling isn't directly forbidden in the Bible (though I still don't personally think God approves of it). But you understand many people pray for things, and may even try to explain how good it would be, but still have underlying motives (e.g. -I'd set up a healthy retirement plan, and probably buy a nice house along with all the charity and everything). To give you a better idea of what I mean it might help to read II Chronicles 12 (I do hope I'm remembering the right chapter).

An end to hunger and suffering in the world? Such a prayer isn’t ‘good for us’?
(Problem of evil again, sorry)


No, that's a good thing to ask for. But a lot of people who pray are asking for a Rolls Royce and not an end to world hunger. I think it would be better to take that money used for a Rolls Royce and bring 42 children out of poverty from birth to adulthood (these are by my calculations through Compassion International using a Rolls Royce 2007 Sedan).

Isn’t that going against what the bible say? Not believing in the power of prayer and all that?

My goodness, I'm going to show this to all my friends; a skeptic is more supportive of what I'm preaching then most Christians are.

In all seriousness you're right, however I think the Church has got way off track, hence this sermon and post.

Erm... do you honestly believe that the Jews did NOT already know that murdering was bad BEFORE Moses and these stone tablets came along?

You will have to show the murder was common place in their tribe BEFORE this trip to the mountain, and reduced to near zero afterwards.

Also, it is very clear in the bible that God has no problem with the killing of women and children – the bible is full of such commands.

It seems then that ‘killing’ and ‘murder’ are seen as two different acts according to God. Strange that – both are wrong in my book :)

Oh, and why did God’s ‘absolute’ laws change over time? Could He not get them right the first time?


No, I think they most certainly did. However, I think God wanted to make it abundantly clear; that way nobody would have much ground to stand on were they to argue against it (murder being wrong).

I think killing and murdering are different. Honestly I'd prefer we not have either, but if we can kill one terrorist and save 1,000 lives I think we should aim for the terrorist (that's a very extreme example, but I think it makes the point). Also, this is something I've always been skeptical in regards to atheism about; if there is no God, what makes anything wrong?

Now you mentioned God's commands to kill, I'm guessing you're probably referring to the Jews taking out all the Canaanites (or most of them)? I realize it seems horrible, killing entire nations, but there are certain rights God has. God is just and He is holy. God judged the nations of Canaan (who had very grotesque rituals, honestly they were killing themselves off). When Israel stepped away from God's commands they were judged.

However, let us also remember that in repentance nations were preserved and saved; and that God often turned His judgment away and preserved people (Rahab and her family, for example).

Had the Canaanites continued who knows what the situation would have been. Honestly I don't know, but it probably would have been a lot worse then those nations being conquered. World War II was horrible, but it would have been a lot worse had we not taken the Nazis out.

God's absolute laws have not changed, they're precisely the same. Now do we have to live by the ceremonial or civic law of the Old Testament? Certainly not. The ceremonial law was fulfilled in Jesus, and the civic law dealt with how to run a nation (Israel was, after all, a theocracy). The moral law, what's right and wrong, hasn't changed.

Yes there is... ask God for some divine knowledge of the future – tell me about it, and when it happens you have got yourself a new believer in prayer.
(Of course, I will be selective on what I call divine knowledge – telling me it will rain soon isn’t very divine. Why not tell me when and where the next great Earthquake will be over 8.0 on the scale. THAT would be divine knowledge. Of course, God can choose whatever He likes to tell you – God should know what I require for evidence after all)


For specific prophecies (divine knowledge) you might try reading David Wilkersons "The Vision" and "The Vision and Beyond". I don't know how things are where you're located, but the fulfillment of what Wilkerson said looks pretty obvious to me. To give you an example, he said that America would suffer a recession (which we did right after 9/11), we'd recover (which we did), and then we'd hit another one that would be worse then the first (which we're seeing right now). It might seem like a guess were it not for his specificity in regards to 9/11 and the conditions of this recession. He described it to the t.

I’ve said before, ‘million to one events’ happen every day.

How risky was the prediction? How precise/specific in detail was it? How likely was it going to happen by random chance? Was it an open ended prediction? How many predictions have NOT come true? How sure are you that you remembered the details correctly (both of the revelation and the actual event)

I said I’m sceptical, I’m like this on alien landings as well, not just prayer so don’t feel I am picking on anyone.


Oh I don't feel like you're picking on anyone at all.

Different occasions and prophecies have different answers to the above questions (obviously). But let me give you just one example here. I lead worship at my Church, so during the first half of the service I'm behind a microphone and I can stop things, and say things, etc... God told me someone needed to come up to be prayed for and they would be healed. A deaf lady was attending the service that night, and naturally I thought she'd probably be the one. However, somebody else came up I continued the singing while the pastor and some others went to pray for her. At the end of the song service the lady (an asthmatic) explained that as I spoke up to say what I said she was reaching for her medicine (inhaler) because she was "tightening up" (having trouble breathing). She said she went to be prayed for and hadn't had trouble breathing since.

Not so as I have said above.

Well, you'd be convinced for yourself at that point, would you not?

The ‘love your neighbour’ could open a new discussion.

Agreed.

Firstly, Jesus wasn’t the first man in history to say it – secondly I challenge it is possible to love your neighbour as yourself 100% all of the time.

Which means you will always, at some point, FAIL such a law/command.
(It is however fine as a guide or rule of thumb, not sure though if the bible is saying it is a command or a guide)

Oh, and this loving the Lord section – I would need evidence and reason for this first, which is why I am here discussing.

Why is this the most important task, and if so, why doesn’t God ensure everyone has enough evidence to ensure they do it.

At the moment, I do not see the point – given evidence, I could change my mind.


I realize Jesus wasn't the first man in history to say it; but it makes sense that as He was answering a question asked by a Jew about "what is the greatest command" He'd answer out of the commands the Jewish people had been given.

I'd say everything is possible with God ;) We may mess up here and there, but I think it's something we can achieve with God's help.

Based on the context I'd say it's a command, though I'd need to study it more to say anything definitively.

I think it's the most important task because what we think about God (or what we don't think about Him) is the largest determinant of our opinions and behavior. Looking at it from my perspective, can we truly be intimate with Jesus and not love our neighbor? I don't think so. Can we truly love our neighbor and steal from them, or lie to them?

The ‘numerous ways’ is the interesting bit.

Has anyone prayed to God with ‘true belief’ asking what they should do with their lives and NOT found that a life in the church following their religion was the answer?

How did God confirm which church was the right one for you?

Oh, and I know people who have tried years of prayer and found nothing – what would you say to them?


Yes, people have prayed about what to do with their life and wound up doing things outside of ministry. My brother is in the Navy band, my uncle works at a university in human resources, his wife is a nurse; and I've got several friends who are becoming teachers, accountants, engineers, etc... They all prayed, they're all Christians. The General Overseer of the Assemblies of God is not only a minister, but also a lawyer.

As of yet I'm not positive which Church I'll ultimately end up in. That's one of the big hindrances in applying for credentials. At any rate I'll go where God calls me, and that could be any number of Churches.

Honestly to say anything to someone who's prayed and not got an answer I'd have to actually know the situation. In some cases it may be people don't listen, in others God might not tell us all the specifics at once (see Hebrews 11:6). There's a thousand different factors that could play into that.

No, I say YOU knew what you were doing...

I didn't want to be a pastor originally; shoot, I'm not even that good at public speaking (which wouldn't have worked too well with politics and all either).

Already provided one method – divine knowledge.

Another one would be to see a statistical benefit in one type of prayer or religion over another.

To take an extreme example, should a major earthquake hit a large city and we find that ALL the Anglican churches remained standing undamaged but ALL the mosques, Catholic churches and other places of worship (including the pubs and sports stadiums where we atheist’s worship) were in ruin then this would be rather telling.
Not conclusive, maybe the Anglican’s just built better churches - however it would be a start.

Maybe though if ALL the houses were damaged except those of practicing Anglican’s... NOW you will be onto something.

So, pick a church, start praying and wait for the next earthquake :)

What we see though in reality is all people, all buildings are damaged as you would expect as a result of a natural disaster. Nature treats all equally.

This should NOT be the case if prayer had any benefit in my view.


While I disagree with Anglicans on certain things I still think they are Christians just like I as a Pentecostal am, just like Baptists are, etc...

However, I'm not so sure the situation you've described would be the case if prayer is effective. God never says we won't have to deal with anything; the early Church, which was devoted to prayer, suffered persecution. However, I do know that in New York City when the Twin Towers came down on 9/11 several buildings were damaged (I've been there since that time, and they were still tearing some damaged buildings down). There was, however, a Church (it may have been Anglican, actually; don't quote me on that though) very near by that wasn't damaged. If I recall correctly it was in a closer proximity then some of the buildings that were so damaged they had to be torn down.

Erm... that sounds a little random – almost as if God doesn’t exist or interact in anyway as the result of prayer.

However, if you claim there is a benefit to prayer, you should be able to show it.

You should be able to test if God is truly interacting on your behalf, otherwise how do you actually know that God is doing anything?

As I hinted before, if any outcome from a prayer is taken to be a sign of a positive interaction – then that person is really fooling themselves.


What I meant by that is God doesn't always do things the exact same way. God delivered Israel once through the Red Sea; another time the enemy was thrown into confusion and fought themselves; another time the enemy soldiers were kept from seeing their target, etc... So we want to set up a pattern "When God's people are in trouble He uses the sea to squelch their enemies". But that's not always the case.

There are certain tests you can apply. I believe the Bible is the Word of God, so I don't think God will ever say or do anything in contradiction of what He's already established. Take Benny Hinn for example; he said Jesus would physically appear at one of his crusades. The Bible says when Jesus comes back it will be at the Second Coming where He first gathers the saints, then He comes with the Saints. As what Benny Hinn described does not align with that, I'd say God was not interacting with Hinn in this case (also, what Hinn claimed would happen never did, so that's a pretty good indication; if God says something I believe it will happen). Also, you've pointed out some specifics we can ask about divine knowledge. I think those could be beneficial.

Now here we have a logical fallacy – just have to identify which one?

It does sound like a bit of a ‘red herring’ to be. I am not arguing about ‘reality’ or whether we are brains in jars or anything - so you have gone to an extreme that is unrelated to my point. This would lead to a very different discussion.

No, I am talking about probability and statistics... flip a coin 100 times, and if it lands ‘heads’ 100 times I damn well want to know why... if the outcome is 48 heads, and 52 tails than that result is within the realms of probability and random chance that suggests the coin toss is indeed random.

No supernatural or anything unusual is happening.

So, to bring this back to what we are discussing at this point.

If you claim to be able to predict the outcome of a coin toss correct 100 times in a row – then you will need a LOT more faith to believe you could do it than if I said I could guess it correct 50% of the time.

This is the point you missed.

If an event appears random, and you want to claim otherwise – you have better be able to show it and not just say I have a lot of faith that I am not just a brain in a jar imagining this conversation. Your point is unrelated.


Yeah, my illustration did miss your point; sorry about that, got off track. I think we've discussed some of the specifics regarding how to "evaluate" prayer above.

I do agree though, we have to be careful about just saying "God did it" about everything.

Erm... why should we serve God, and why would God require this? To ‘serve’ without a choice seems a little wrong to me – almost slavery.

I have a choice you say? What happens if I do not choose to follow God? Is it heaven or hell for me?


Well, I'd say we should serve Him because He loves us. It's not just about service, Jesus has called us friends.

I do think there is a choice; and I think Jesus was clear that we can either be with Him or not; there's no middle road. I also think Jesus was clear that it's Heaven for those who are with Him and hell for those who are not.

This gets into Christian particularism; which has over laps with what we're talking about, but is definately not all within the topic of prayer.

Discussed this already – but I will add that the bible might not mention killing baby seals, but it does mention killing babies by throwing them against the rocks if my memory serves me correctly?

I’m pretty certain that the bible writes about God hardening the heart of Pharaoh thus not allowing him a free choice which resulted (as you know) in the first born son being killed by the angel of death... you telling me no babies were harmed?

What about the flood? Did this really happen by God’s hand? If so, did no babies die as a result? Shall I go on?


I need to look up that passage about throwing babies against rocks; I think it's a prophetic warning against what will happen to Israel when their enemies attack, I could be wrong though.

As far as God hardening Pharaoh's heart I'm somewhat of a Molinist (with just a pinch of Calvinism) when it comes to these things. I believe God knows what everyone will do, long before they do it. However, that doesn't necessarily mean God's "causing" it per se. For example, say I offer you something to eat, and let you choose between a live scorpion and bread. I know in advance you'll probably pick the bread, but I'll still give you the choice (that example mustn't be taken to literally, after all I'm not all-knowing).

Pharaoh could have just let the Israelites go; but he didn't. He was so resistant to God that God allowed Pharaoh to be turned completely over to his pride and selfishness. God gave Pharaoh exactly what Pharaoh chose.

I believe the flood did happen; see what I wrote earlier about God being just, holy, etc...

Is the God of the Old Testament the same God as the New? He does not sound like a very nice chap I am sorry to report.

Certainly. At first glance we wince and squirm when we read about judgment; but often we don't consider everything. True there was a worldwide flood; which we think is very harsh, but keep in mind Noah was building the ark for nearly 100 years. The rest of the world had 100 years to avert what was coming. Had they have repented, based on what we read in the rest of the Biblical text, I believe God would have withheld the flood, possibly indefinitely.

Also, like I already asked, if God does not exist what basis do we have for any type of morality?

I'm running short on time, and will be away for the next week (I'm an assistant scoutmaster and must be at scout camp), so I'm going to skip some stuff for now and try to hit the most pressing questions.

Why would God want to hide himself from such testing?

That you what I need you to answer to at least yourself. Not that He could hide (God can do anything right) but WHY hide?

Instead of one or two extra believers from such an event, God could have millions. Every atheist I know is open to the possible evidence for God... so why does God not provide it when given the chance?


Is God hiding? I don't know as if we can reasonably expect Him, being all-powerful, eternal, etc... to be tested like a butterfly or plant that we can learn everything about. God, as Creator, is not as simple as creation. To be frank, we set up standards for testing created things and then are frustrated when the Creator doesn't fit into our little box.

I know I've asked what evidence you want to demonstrate the power of prayer; but what evidence would you want to show God exists? As an absence of evidence is only evidence of absence if, were something to exist, we should reasonably expect more evidence then we already have; what evidence do you think we should reasonably expect?

I'm so sorry I have to leave at that, but I definately look forward to picking this conversation up again.

God bless!
Joey

Sat Jul 05, 03:15:00 PM 2008  
Blogger Lee said...

Hi Joey,

Thanks again for the reply – so glad you don’t expect a response straight away, since you have given me so much I feel I should comment on.

I’m glad then for this comment:-

[I] will be away for the next week (I'm an assistant scoutmaster and must be at scout camp), so I'm going to skip some stuff for now and try to hit the most pressing questions.

Gives me time to write a reply in more detail – which I will of course do - in time.

Though jumping to the end and answering your last question first to give you a taste.

I know I've asked what evidence you want to demonstrate the power of prayer; but what evidence would you want to show God exists?

Both the power of prayer and the existence of God are part of the same claim made by the Christian.

If you could prove/show one is likely, you can imply the other.

Evidence for the power of prayer (as I requested above) would be convincing evidence for the existence of God. It would be one part of the jigsaw puzzle, so I have in fact already answered this question.

The prayer for an amputated limp to grow back would be great evidence as I said for both the power of prayer and God – so there was your first challenge, since you have heard of someone who has heard of someone that this might have happened to.

This should be easy for you then - so if you fail, you should be asking yourself serious questions why.

So can you provide any evidence that would stand up in a ‘court of law’?

I could provide many more examples if you like (if you feel proving this prayer is difficult), though always seem to be asking for a miracle (but since the bible is in very clear agreement with me that these are good ways to convince people, I don't have a problem) – if God wants me (and billions of others) to believe in Him, He only needs to provide a miracle.

Simple really… and since the bible is full of such examples, it should not be much to ask for the price of my eternal soul now should it?

For example, according to the bible, God once held the Sun and the moon still in the sky for 24 hours so a tribe of a few men could win a battle long ago.

If God could be kind enough to do the same miracle in the near future (I’m free next week if you are) then BILLIONS of new believers will be made over night.

Why is that too much to ask from an all-loving God who wants us to know Him?

I show my love to my son in all the ways that I can everyday of the week, I’m just asking here for one simple example (a simple trick maybe) to show at least He exists (this is saying nothing about His love.)

If it was not too great a task for God to do it for a little battle hundreds of years ago, why not now?

As an absence of evidence is only evidence of absence if, were something to exist, we should reasonably expect more evidence then we already have; what evidence do you think we should reasonably expect?

Ah… here we are in agreement, but are you truly prepared to be consistent with this approach?

I just gave an example of a miracle recorded in the bible – IF it were true; I would expect evidence for it in the historical record. (Wouldn't you?)

My reasoning is that since the Sun and Moon were very important to the ancient cultures around the world, such an amazing event would be seen as a portent of some kind – a sure sign that ‘something was happening’ by the gods - this event should be recorded in many (if not all) of the civilizations that had an astronomical ‘science’ since each used such a calendar meant so much to religious folk.

If the Chinese can notice a star brightening in the night sky, they are sure to notice 24 hours lengthening of the day/night. If ancient Britons can build a huge stone calendar to track the passage of time, you cannot tell me they are not looking.

As for what I would ‘reasonably expect’ in general for God, it really depends on your claims for Him – so here you have to be specific about your claims. Only then can I state what evidence I would expect for each.

How literal do you take the bible for example?

What do you think about Noah and the flood – was it a global flood as described in the bible? Higher than the highest mountain?

You said it took Noah 100 years to build the ark, so you seem to have a more literal approach than some Christians I speak to.

I feel you would have a hard time convincing any skeptic that Noah’s flood ever happened as described in the bible. This would mean you cannot, and should not take the bible literal on anything in my view.

What is your view?

Also, can you explain the ‘fact’ of evolution using the bible? I say ‘fact’ because some may wish to challenge the theory of evolution and they might be right to do so on certain levels, but I do not know how they can challenge the evidence for it – not without a good explanation for such evidence.

OK – my short reply, wasn’t that short, sorry.

Hope you enjoy scouts.

Lee

Mon Jul 07, 08:28:00 PM 2008  
Blogger Lee said...

Hi Joey,

Jesus is very clear about moving mountains. But we must interpret that passage in it's proper historical/grammatical context; and moving mountains was a popular Hebrew saying that referred to overcoming great challenges, etc...

Not wanting to make a ‘mountain out of a mole hill’… I’ll trust your interpretation here that it is just a figure of speech.

However, to give you just one example in reference to the snakes and poison statement in Mark 16 . F.D. Davis was an evangelist/preacher in the early 1900s. At one revival near Rusk, Texas he spoke about That very passage. A skeptic in the audience decided to test that claim and poisoned their (Davis' and families) water supply. Keep in mind this was in 1917, so the family drank out of a bucket, not a faucet. Well the next morning the entire family was fine; after the man who poisoned them hid and watched them drink the poison.

Well, I will be more sceptical than this sceptic... how much poison do you need to add to a well? It’s a lot of water and I doubt the poison was ‘designed’ to be diluted in this way – also, I would be in the habit of boiling my water from an open well before I drank it (kill germs and all that) so did the Davis family do just that, and does this break down the poison from the snake?

So many questions... however, as I have said before, anecdotal evidence from 90 years ago don’t really do much for me.

This passage though can be tested... I would be tipping not many will have the faith to test it though for some reason :)

You're right, gambling isn't directly forbidden in the Bible (though I still don't personally think God approves of it).

Sorry, how do you know the mind of God again?

To give you a better idea of what I mean it might help to read II Chronicles 12 (I do hope I'm remembering the right chapter).

Erm, if this is the right chapter, I have missed your point – but thanks anyway, I’ve not read this chapter before and found this quote as a fine example of a post-hoc explanation of a situation.

When the LORD saw that they humbled themselves, this word of the LORD came to Shemaiah: "Since they have humbled themselves, I will not destroy them but will soon give them deliverance. My wrath will not be poured out on Jerusalem through Shishak. They will, however, become subject to him, so that they may learn the difference between serving me and serving the kings of other lands."
2 Chronicles 12:7-8

So this tribe has lost the battle (since there were 60,000 horsemen at the door) and so God thought in his wisdom to allow them to be subject to the victors?

I think the writer of this text was merely writing in hindsight – they have lost the battle, they are now subject to a new king, how could he explain this to himself and other believers? Oh, I know... say it was God’s will of course because the people have not been believing enough in God.

Oh dear...

I think it would be better to take that money used for a Rolls Royce and bring 42 children out of poverty from birth to adulthood (these are by my calculations through Compassion International using a Rolls Royce 2007 Sedan).

I would have thought it would be better if God showed His all-loving nature and help ALL the children in poverty – or is that just me?

Though, since I don’t believe in God – the best we can do is help as you said, but will throwing money at the problem do that? I don’t honestly know. A different subject.

My goodness, I'm going to show this to all my friends; a skeptic is more supportive of what I'm preaching then most Christians are.

He he... that’s funny. Never thought my words could be used to promote the bible.

The bible is clear (to me) on the power of prayer as the Jesus mountain verse showed – the problem though for the bible is that this isn’t what we see in the real world, not if we are being critical and honest.

Maybe this is why some Christians don’t believe in the power of prayer anymore – because they have no evidence for it?

No, I think they most certainly did.

That’s it – I need say no more I think. The ‘moral’ laws of Moses were already known and didn’t require a god for their instruction.

However, I think God wanted to make it abundantly clear; that way nobody would have much ground to stand on were they to argue against it (murder being wrong).

It’s pretty low on the list though... you have to admit that.

5 or 6 depending on how you count them.

You shall have no other gods before me
You shall not make for yourself an idol
You shall not make wrongful use of the name of your God
Remember the Sabbath and keep it holy

All are deemed more important... why do you think that is the case – and no “Because God said so” isn’t a reasonable reply in my book – not unless you can prove the existence of God first and that He wrote them.

As you have agreed, the people already knew laws such as “Do not murder” without being told – shouldn’t laws like this be higher on the list then, more important?

Is really the 2nd most important laws is that we shouldn’t make idols?

I think killing and murdering are different.

Well, you have the bible to back you up on this... killing people for collecting sticks of wood on the Sabbath was a reported ‘killing’ wasn’t it?

It is more important NOT to collect wood for the fire to keep your family warm, than killing a man (and probably family without their main income earner)

The laws are wrong – God should have known better.

Honestly I'd prefer we not have either, but if we can kill one terrorist and save 1,000 lives I think we should aim for the terrorist (that's a very extreme example, but I think it makes the point).

It is difficult – we have to be certain they are a terrorist first and their death will save lives, but I don’t disagree in theory.

I suppose this is an example of morals forming...

Also, this is something I've always been skeptical in regards to atheism about; if there is no God, what makes anything wrong?

Excellent... This opens up a moral debate... happy to have it.

Just this week I listened to a podcast on the subject, and listed it on my blog for comment. Would love to have your input

My blog entry is here:- Can science teach us anything about morality?

Can science teach us anything about morality?

It has the links to the mp3 and transcript of the show.

Please take a listen/read and tell me what you think. It is only about 15 mins long.

I will point out though, I think you have just answered your own question. You implied it would be right to kill one man IF it saved many (this example is touch upon in the podcast).

So it isn’t absolutely wrong in your book, neither is it absolutely right.

Now you mentioned God's commands to kill, I'm guessing you're probably referring to the Jews taking out all the Canaanites (or most of them)?

That is one of the stories I was thinking about, but I don’t think it is in isolation.

I realize it seems horrible, killing entire nations, but there are certain rights God has.

Why does God have a right?

You certainly believe He gave man the ability to feel pain and suffering don’t you – that the sight of someone killing your child is probably the worst mental pain a parent could be made to go through.

Why does God have the right to create more suffering?

Where does He get this ‘right’ from?

You say God created man with freewill and feelings, then we have a right not for be forced to have more suffering.

God is just and He is holy.

What actually does this mean?

Please explain, since it seems either wrong or meaningless. It certainly isn’t clear to me.

God judged the nations of Canaan (who had very grotesque rituals, honestly they were killing themselves off).

OK, let’s say you are right for a moment.

Is the command to kill their children, mothers, menfolk and take the ‘untouched’ women as their own wives ‘right’ and ‘just’?

Why couldn’t God just stop them from doing these ‘grotesque rituals’ – you know, tell them clearly it is wrong?

When Israel stepped away from God's commands they were judged.

If a toddler makes a mistake, we don’t kill them for that mistake... moderation in the correction should be taken.

However, let us also remember that in repentance nations were preserved and saved; and that God often turned His judgment away and preserved people (Rahab and her family, for example).

Repentance nations?

So when France ‘bowed down’ to Hitler – it was a good thing, and Hitler should be praised for it?

Had the Canaanites continued who knows what the situation would have been. Honestly I don't know, but it probably would have been a lot worse then those nations being conquered.

The outcome of being conquered was pretty vile – An all-powerful, all-loving God didn’t have to let this happen this way. Certainly not write about it with pride.

World War II was horrible, but it would have been a lot worse had we not taken the Nazis out.

I always wondered why God didn’t just step in and gave Hitler a heart attack in 1930... No one would have known it was God, and MILLIONS of Jews would have been saved, millions of lives would not have to be destroyed.

I guess the all loving God was taking a decade off or something?

Though, of course – His followers on Earth, the Christian’s, could have done something about the rise of Hitler couldn’t they, before it got out of hand – I wonder why they didn’t? (In fact, I wonder more why they actually helped.)

Could God have spoken to the pope (in prayer) and said – “you know what, this Hitler guy is a bad dude – whatever you do, don’t help him get to power, tell my people NOT to help”

Just a thought...

God's absolute laws have not changed, they're precisely the same.

Please then tell me what these “absolute laws” are...

How do you know which laws are still valid today (absolute, so for all time really) and which were just for a period of time and now can be ignored (or allowed to ‘evolve’).

Where does it say in the bible which laws are to be rejected, and which are absolute? I missed it...

The moral law, what's right and wrong, hasn't changed.

Erm... let’s just think of a few examples for brief discussion then.

The rights of women?
The rights of gays?
Slavery?
The rights of belief in other gods (or indeed no gods)?

If I am not mistaken, these values have changed since the bible was written – what do you think? The last one is certainly one close to my heart.... 500 years ago your ‘good Christian forbears’ would have me burned at the stake FOR MY OWN GOOD!!! They could quote the bible clearly on why they should do this – one of the quotes I believe would be from Jesus about throwing them into the fire?

RE: prophecies

For specific prophecies (divine knowledge) you might try reading David Wilkersons "The Vision" and "The Vision and Beyond".

Not heard of him...

I don't know how things are where you're located,

Melbourne, Australia – a little cold at the moment and raining.

but the fulfillment of what Wilkerson said looks pretty obvious to me.

Shoehorning prophecy is common, so I will be more careful on the obvious part. Let’s look at the detail.

To give you an example, he said that America would suffer a recession

People have been saying THAT for years. What you have here is an open-ended prophecy... it will certainly happen at some point based on previous experiences of the stock market.

It is like me saying “It will rain soon” (or since it is raining today) “Soon it will be hot and sunny”

It’s rubbish as a prophecy.

(which we did right after 9/11)

Two points here... the prophecy would be better (more specific) if he actually said when the ‘two towers fall, a recession will occur’. It didn’t (at least you have not suggested it did) – this is important and turns on the warning lights for me.

Secondly – it was hardly a recession. The markets went into panic (of course) but soon settled down once everything was assessed.

we'd recover (which we did),

I would have been more surprised if we didn’t

and then we'd hit another one that would be worse then the first (which we're seeing right now).

As I said before, not much of a prediction – some are actually still debating whether we are in a recession or not.

It might seem like a guess were it not for his specificity in regards to 9/11 and the conditions of this recession. He described it to the t.

Erm... did he actually mention 9/11 at all, or is this post-hoc shoehorning of a prophecy – yep, I think so.

Here is my prediction for the next 12 months (already better than this author, since I have enclosed it within a timeframe)...

“A team is red will win the cup”

Pretty good eh?

Actually, I made this prediction last year on a blog as well... guess what, I was RIGHT!!!

Man Utd did win the European Cup... Amazing right?

Not really, and I will let you the reader work out why.

RE: I’ve said before, ‘million to one events’ happen every day.

How risky was the prediction? How precise/specific in detail was it? How likely was it going to happen by random chance? Was it an open ended prediction? How many predictions have NOT come true? How sure are you that you remembered the details correctly (both of the revelation and the actual event)

I said I’m sceptical, I’m like this on alien landings as well, not just prayer so don’t feel I am picking on anyone.


Oh I don't feel like you're picking on anyone at all.

Different occasions and prophecies have different answers to the above questions (obviously).


Glad you don’t think I am picking on you, but although different ‘prophecies’ might have very different answers to my questions – can you tell me which of my questions are invalid (if any) and why?

How each of my questions are answered shows how risky a prediction the prophecy actually was/is, and how surprised we should be if it occurred correct.
(Oh, I have assumed also that we are actually talking about real predictions, and not history i.e. the prophecy/prediction was recorded BEFORE the actual event. And that the prophecy isn’t a self fulfilling one)

But let me give you just one example here. I lead worship at my Church, so during the first half of the service I'm behind a microphone and I can stop things, and say things, etc... God told me someone needed to come up to be prayed for and they would be healed. A deaf lady was attending the service that night, and naturally I thought she'd probably be the one. However, somebody else came up I continued the singing while the pastor and some others went to pray for her. At the end of the song service the lady (an asthmatic) explained that as I spoke up to say what I said she was reaching for her medicine (inhaler) because she was "tightening up" (having trouble breathing). She said she went to be prayed for and hadn't had trouble breathing since.

My sister is convinced that her chiropractor has cured her asthma... swears by it.
(Last week she was suffering from asthma, but she forgets events like this)

Do I need to say any more on the topic? It sounds just are miraculous as the claim you are making – at least I cannot at first glance see the difference.

Oh, and for the record, one of my favourite podcasts is quackcast

A doctor who explains the ‘evidence’ in the medical literature for alternative medicine (which he includes prayer BTW). Might not be for the light hearted though.


I realize Jesus wasn't the first man in history to say it;

Can I rest my case on that one statement? i.e. we agree that man alone can come to his conclusion – no need for a god (or son of god)

Based on the context I'd say it's a command, though I'd need to study it more to say anything definitively.

I would value your input then... is this statement from Jesus a law? Something we have to follow?

If so, I say it is an evil command/law... as it is impossible to follow 100% of the time.
(Reminds me of another of the 10 commandments – something about desiring another man’s ox or something)

Looking at it from my perspective, can we truly be intimate with Jesus and not love our neighbor? I don't think so. Can we truly love our neighbor and steal from them, or lie to them?

Can you truly love your neighbour more than yourself 100% of the time?

As I said, as a ‘rule of thumb’ or guide – I agree to it 100%, but not as a law.

As of yet I'm not positive which Church I'll ultimately end up in.

I wonder why there is a choice in churches, and not just one?

Evidence of a manmade creation?

Honestly to say anything to someone who's prayed and not got an answer I'd have to actually know the situation.

Well, I cannot answer that question. I have never been religious and therefore never prayed. Neither do I know anyone personally who thinks prayer works – only on blogs, and hence my conversations.

In some cases it may be people don't listen

That is blaming the person for a non-result. Don’t agree to that.

in others God might not tell us all the specifics at once (see Hebrews 11:6).

This last one assumes at least a response, so isn’t an answer to the lack of response to prayer.

Meaning, your only answer seems to be that the person isn’t listening (another one I hear is that they are not praying correctly, or praying for the wrong things, or don’t believe enough).

The answer (or blame) then seems to be with the person. As I said, this the wrong way round.

While I disagree with Anglicans on certain things I still think they are Christians just like I as a Pentecostal am, just like Baptists are, etc...

I only mentioned the Anglicans because I was raised in (well, around really) the Church of England.

However, I'm not so sure the situation you've described would be the case if prayer is effective. God never says we won't have to deal with anything;

So any outcome is evidence for God replying to prayer... I’ve already commented on this.

However, I do know that in New York City when the Twin Towers came down on 9/11 several buildings were damaged (I've been there since that time, and they were still tearing some damaged buildings down). There was, however, a Church (it may have been Anglican, actually; don't quote me on that though) very near by that wasn't damaged.

This is why I said a whole city disaster and not just a city block... why should I be surprised to find a church undamaged after 9/11? I’m not.

If I recall correctly it was in a closer proximity then some of the buildings that were so damaged they had to be torn down.

Now I come to think of it, I believe there was an earthquake in Japan where many of the modern buildings fell down, but the churches build over 500 years ago remained.

It turned out, the churches were better build for earthquakes – no miracle. If they weren’t good at withstanding earthquakes they would not have survived 500 years – more an evolution thing really, survival of the fitness and all that.

Sounds like I have to find a better example of a miracle for God to perform, but I don’t think it is an impossible task (certainly not for God if He wants to show Himself and the power of prayer)

What I meant by that is God doesn't always do things the exact same way. God delivered Israel once through the Red Sea; another time the enemy was thrown into confusion and fought themselves; another time the enemy soldiers were kept from seeing their target, etc... So we want to set up a pattern "When God's people are in trouble He uses the sea to squelch their enemies". But that's not always the case.

The examples you gave would be fine examples IF they were seen in the modern day – I do not expect to see the same method used every time BUT I would expect too see a pattern in the results i.e. those who prayer correctly have an observable benefit.

There are certain tests you can apply. I believe the Bible is the Word of God, so I don't think God will ever say or do anything in contradiction of what He's already established.

Erm... so there are no contradictions in the bible?

Take Benny Hinn for example; he said Jesus would physically appear at one of his crusades. The Bible says when Jesus comes back it will be at the Second Coming where He first gathers the saints, then He comes with the Saints. As what Benny Hinn described does not align with that, I'd say God was not interacting with Hinn in this case

Doesn’t the bible also say all the stars will fall to the ground out of the sky like figs or something? Not sure if that is possible... not the stars I know and love.

Yeah, my illustration did miss your point; sorry about that, got off track.

No problem – I miss the point and get off track all the time.

Well, I'd say we should serve Him because He loves us. It's not just about service, Jesus has called us friends.

Sounds reasonable if you could show it, prove it.

I do think there is a choice; and I think Jesus was clear that we can either be with Him or not; there's no middle road. I also think Jesus was clear that it's Heaven for those who are with Him and hell for those who are not.

Oops... now you are saying I have a choice of heaven or hell.

A kick in the teeth or some candy
(My American talk, am I right? They call them lollies in Australia, sweets in the UK)

Erm... so what should my free choice be?

What would you choose... kick in the teeth?

Also reminds me of the ‘choice’ the people of Germany must of have when deciding to follower Hitler... makes sense? When you are threatened with death and torture it isn’t nice being given such a choice.

As you say... no middle road.

I need to look up that passage about throwing babies against rocks; I think it's a prophetic warning against what will happen to Israel when their enemies attack, I could be wrong though.

Can you give me the chapter and verse – I’m working on memory, so I probably have it out of context.

However, you have already acknowledged the killing of babies and children, men and women after the battle mentioned above. That example alone is good enough for me.

As far as God hardening Pharaoh's heart I'm somewhat of a Molinist (with just a pinch of Calvinism) when it comes to these things.

And I’m still an atheist, and this means I don’t actually understand what you are saying.

What’s a Molinst? And how can there be so many (correct?) versions of Christianity?

I believe God knows what everyone will do, long before they do it. However, that doesn't necessarily mean God's "causing" it per se.

The bible was pretty clear I thought... and God hardened the heart, not Pharaoh hardened his heart.

A bit of a difference.

Pharaoh could have just let the Israelites go; but he didn't.

...and God hardened his heart so Pharaoh could not, even if he wanted, change his mind.

There is the problem – the one you are trying to walk around.

He was so resistant to God that God allowed Pharaoh to be turned completely over to his pride and selfishness. God gave Pharaoh exactly what Pharaoh chose.

Nope – you are reading something not in the passage.

The writers of this part of the bible didn’t think God was all-loving so didn’t have a problem of God doing nasty things. (I believe God himself said He was a jealous and vengeful God according to the bible – could be wrong)

I believe the flood did happen; see what I wrote earlier about God being just, holy, etc...

The flood could NOT happen as described in the bible (how about that for a definite statement) Unless of course you wish to interject further miracles NOT mentioned in the bible – but these will just be ad-hoc responses to problems found in the text.

This could make for an interesting topic... but it would be a long one.

True there was a worldwide flood; which we think is very harsh, but keep in mind Noah was building the ark for nearly 100 years.

The flood would have resulted in the death of innocent babies... have you thought about that? By God’s hand, babies would have been killed. This is more than a little ‘harsh’ if true.

The rest of the world had 100 years to avert what was coming. Had they have repented, based on what we read in the rest of the Biblical text, I believe God would have withheld the flood, possibly indefinitely.

It seems God had already made up his mind... He after all, knew what was about to happen.

Oh, and what is your view on the rainbow – God’s gift to Noah? Doesn’t make sense to me.

Also, like I already asked, if God does not exist what basis do we have for any type of morality?

Mentioned above...

So I think I have addressed each point now... phew, this takes a long time.

All the best

Lee

Wed Jul 09, 11:24:00 PM 2008  
Blogger sweetswede said...

Hey Lee,

Before I "get into it" there's one point you brought up last week that I didn't address. I'd mentioned the existence of satan, and you talked about being a devil, etc...

To be short I don't think you're a devil (I'm pretty sure you were joking with that suggestion, but I want to be abundantly clear). Obviously, we do disagree, and I'd like you to be on my side of the fence; but when it comes to spiritual matters like this keep in mind I don't wrestle against flesh and blood (see Ephesians 6). Since you are flesh and blood that means you are not the enemy.

Like I said, that's the short answer and spiritual warfare, like prayer and everything else we've brought up, is a long subject.

We've also brought up some good points and questions regarding theodicy (questions regarding God and pain and suffering), as well as some questions about God's nature (I said God is just and holy, you asked what that means). These are good topics that I want to discuss them, but I'm having trouble keeping up with all of our topics. So right now I'm going to try and focus on the most pressing one regarding prayer and its effectiveness.

I found this article: http://www.plim.org/PrayerDeb.htm

I'm not sure how much I trust it yet, I've never heard of the author, and the DD (Doctor of Divinity) is generally an honorary degree in the U.S. So I'm trying to find out if she earned her degree in England or elsewhere, or if it was awarded in the U.S. (some of our colleges give out honorary degrees like candy).

At any rate I'm sure we can evaluate how logically valid this is in our discussion.

Also, I mentioned David Wilkerson's "The Vision", I think I may have cited the wrong book. Wilkerson writes a great deal of articles, books, etc... I thought I was reading an excerpt from "The Vision", but I can't seem to find it. At any rate Wilkerson wrote it in the 1970's ('73, I think). I know one specific prophecy of his was a move towards one-world currency; which even someone like myself (who agrees with Wilkerson on major issues of theology) thought was absurd until hearing about the EU.

I don't think I was specific enough about the F.D. Davis incident. The water was already drawn from the well, in a bucket on the evangelist's porch. So the poison was placed in a relatively small sample of water. Even if it weren't enough poison or the right kind to be totally fatal, it still should have had some effect. But it was enough poison, apparently fatal enough, to convince that skeptic when the entire family wasn't dead.

I realize I'm leaving a lot of questions unanswered, but it's just for now. We'll either address them here in further conversation or in new blog entries.

God bless!
Joey

Sun Jul 13, 07:51:00 PM 2008  
Blogger Lee said...

Hi Joey,

Before I "get into it" there's one point you brought up last week that I didn't address. I'd mentioned the existence of satan, and you talked about being a devil, etc...

It was a little light relief on my part – you spoke of the devil/satan deceiving people (as I recall it does report in the bible) so I implied that since I was taking an opposing view, it could be argued (from some Christians) that I am being the ‘devil in the wilderness’ trying to temp you away from God.

I’m not… either the devil (which I of course don’t believe in) or trying to temp into/from anything.

… but I'm having trouble keeping up with all of our topics

A common ‘complaint’ – I ask a lot of questions, or more correctly – responses raise more questions for me.

Sorry about that… just pick a topic and run with it. I’m not keeping score of anything. If a topic is important or of interest to me, I will repeat it.

So right now I'm going to try and focus on the most pressing one regarding prayer and its effectiveness.

That’s the ticket.

I found this article: http://www.plim.org/PrayerDeb.htm

Thanks… I jumped straight to the conclusion:-

”These studies have shown conclusive evidence of the power of prayer.”

Well, I’ve never heard of any studies that stood up to testing before, so I’ve better give it a read. I’m sceptical of course (since I have not heard of any such studies) however I’ll give it a read and see where it leads.

I'm not sure how much I trust it yet, I've never heard of the author, and the DD (Doctor of Divinity) is generally an honorary degree in the U.S.

Yep – this is why my sceptical alarms bells are ringing. Not just me then :)

some of our colleges give out honorary degrees like candy

Just pay some money and you can get a doctorate in many studies it seems.

At any rate I'm sure we can evaluate how logically valid this is in our discussion.

Ah, so I have some homework to do. Excellent.

At any rate Wilkerson wrote it in the 1970's ('73, I think). I know one specific prophecy of his was a move towards one-world currency; which even someone like myself (who agrees with Wilkerson on major issues of theology) thought was absurd until hearing about the EU.

It doesn’t sound crazy to me… don’t you watch/read Sci-Fi? One world government is a pretty common theme (i.e. Star Trek, Babylon 5)

Besides, you said this ‘prophecy’ was written in the 70’s – the European countries have been moving slowly to the EU as it is since the end of WWII. In the 60’s it wouldn’t have taken much to predict which way the wind was blowing on common trade.

However, the important bit is this, was a date given for this prophecy?

With no end date, his ‘followers’ could still be claiming this is possible in 500 years time since it is open-ended.

Remember we have to test how risky any prophecy/prediction is.

Have you placed any money on the team in red winning the cup this year? I would…

I don't think I was specific enough about the F.D. Davis incident. The water was already drawn from the well, in a bucket on the evangelist's porch. So the poison was placed in a relatively small sample of water. Even if it weren't enough poison or the right kind to be totally fatal, it still should have had some effect. But it was enough poison, apparently fatal enough, to convince that skeptic when the entire family wasn't dead.

My original questions are still valid – this sceptic, what was his knowledge of poisons and does he know if the family used the water for drinking or washing the floor? With so many unanswered questions, I think I will remain sceptical.

Besides, I thought the bible said the believer could survive a snake bite or at least be able to drink the poison – I understood this to be ‘straight from the snake’. As I said, this could easily be tested… though not many people volunteer. We shouldn’t need to debate a story from 80+ years ago here to test this particular claim of the bible.

I realize I'm leaving a lot of questions unanswered, but it's just for now. We'll either address them here in further conversation or in new blog entries.

No worries, though I was hoping to have a discussion on the accuracies of the Noah bible story since we (or I) have mentioned the flood several times and you seem to take a more ‘fundamental’ view of the story. (Most Christians I have spoken too take it as merely a story – a fable or myth - and not literal truth

Time to read the link you gave me in more details.

See ya

Lee

Sun Jul 13, 10:55:00 PM 2008  
Blogger sweetswede said...

It was a little light relief on my part – you spoke of the devil/satan deceiving people (as I recall it does report in the bible) so I implied that since I was taking an opposing view, it could be argued (from some Christians) that I am being the ‘devil in the wilderness’ trying to temp you away from God.

I’m not… either the devil (which I of course don’t believe in) or trying to temp into/from anything.


I figured it was humor, just wanted to be clear. I certainly believe Satan can deceive people and use people to deceive others, but there is a fine line between that and actually being a devil.

At any rate I think the last thing Satan would want you doing is talking to someone like me :)

Sorry about that… just pick a topic and run with it. I’m not keeping score of anything. If a topic is important or of interest to me, I will repeat it.

Sounds good, I hope we'll address all your topics eventually.

Yep – this is why my sceptical alarms bells are ringing. Not just me then :)

Nope, it's not just you; glad we can be in agreement.

Just pay some money and you can get a doctorate in many studies it seems.

Sad, but true.

With no end date, his ‘followers’ could still be claiming this is possible in 500 years time since it is open-ended.

Remember we have to test how risky any prophecy/prediction is.

Have you placed any money on the team in red winning the cup this year? I would…


I understand what you mean. Since I can't find a copy of that book (I could swear there was one on this shelf right behind me) it might take a while for me to find that out. So I guess I too have some homework to do.

My original questions are still valid – this sceptic, what was his knowledge of poisons and does he know if the family used the water for drinking or washing the floor? With so many unanswered questions, I think I will remain sceptical.

Besides, I thought the bible said the believer could survive a snake bite or at least be able to drink the poison – I understood this to be ‘straight from the snake’. As I said, this could easily be tested… though not many people volunteer. We shouldn’t need to debate a story from 80+ years ago here to test this particular claim of the bible.


I'm not sure about his knowledge of poison, but he did see the family drink the water.

Since the event did happen at a time I was not alive I think you're right, we won't find all the details out.

Keep in mind though, that while the Bible does talk about taking snake bites and drinking poison it's in a very specific context, and we can't go around "tempting God" (e.g. -God gives His angels charge over me, so I can jump of a cliff and not worry).

No worries, though I was hoping to have a discussion on the accuracies of the Noah bible story since we (or I) have mentioned the flood several times and you seem to take a more ‘fundamental’ view of the story. (Most Christians I have spoken too take it as merely a story – a fable or myth - and not literal truth

Yes, I am a Biblical literalist (that is, I think we should interpret the Bible according to it's normal historical/grammatical context; interpret allegory as allegory and history as history).

I'm not really much of an expert on the flood, but I am willing to discuss it. Though I'm incredibly unqualified to do so (I'm not entirely sure what evidence a world-wide flood would leave behind).

God bless!
Joey

Sun Jul 27, 03:20:00 PM 2008  
Blogger Lee said...

Hi Joey,

Sorry for not getting back sooner - I've been busy the last few weeks as I think you now know – 2nd son and all that :)

Hope to get back into blogging soon would love to discuss the flood with you since I think it is very, very flawed if taken literal.

Lee

Sat Aug 02, 04:42:00 PM 2008  
Blogger sweetswede said...

Hi Lee, spend all the time you need to with your son. We can discuss these things any time; but you only get to raise your son once.

God bless!
Joey

Sun Aug 03, 10:52:00 AM 2008  
Blogger Lee said...

Hi Lee, spend all the time you need to with your son. We can discuss these things any time; but you only get to raise your son once.

Thanks… at the moment my new son spends most of the time either sleeping, feeding or filling his nappy - It’s my eldest (nearly 3 and I am calling him old?) who takes most of my time… he’s great and I would not have it any other way.

I’m at work at the moment so do feel bad about any time spent in debates… I am only ‘allowed’ on blogs by the wife at home when my eldest son is sleeping.

Lee

Mon Aug 04, 09:05:00 PM 2008  

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