I have a single, simple question for you. It may at first seem frivolous, but I assure you that I am dead serious and consider its implications profound and its answers revelatory of the Christian mindset.
If I believed in a compassionate, all-powerful God who answers prayers, I would pray every day for Him to eradicate all human disease.
My question is predicated on the a priori assumption that you do not do this.
My only question for you is: WHY NOT?
There are only a tiny number of Christians that are ever active on the site. We'll get one here and there that will pop up, claim to have irrefutable evidence for their claims, but once they engage the atheists and agnostics on the site they quickly bail. So if you're hoping to engage Christians with your question it's almost certainly not going to happen.
claim to have irrefutable evidence for their claims
When Jesus presented Himself as the Son of God, some did indeed follow Him and trust Him and a movement did indeed begin. However, the vast majority of His own people rejected Him, even to the point of torturing and killing Him. Any disciple of Jesus reaching out to atheists, Muslims, Buddhists, Hindus, Jews, etc., etc., should expect much the same response. Some certainly will turn and follow Jesus as Lord, while the majority however (sadly) never will. Any professing Christian who thinks, "Bam, I've got an absolutely brilliant apologetic argument that no one is going to be able to refute and I'm going to win over the whole world and be the awesomest evangelist ever in all history, even better than Jesus Himself," is delusional.
[Jesus said,] "All men will hate you because of me...A student is not above his teacher, nor a servant above his master. It is enough for the student to be like his teacher, and the servant like his master. If the head of the house has been called Beelzebub, how much more the members of his household! (Matthew 10:22-24)
““If the world hates you, keep in mind that it hated me first. If you belonged to the world, it would love you as its own. As it is, you do not belong to the world, but I have chosen you out of the world. That is why the world hates you. Remember the words I spoke to you: ‘No servant is greater than his master.’ If they persecuted me, they will persecute you also. If they obeyed my teaching, they will obey yours also. They will treat you this way because of my name, for they do not know the One who sent me." (John 15:18-21)
I'll help Sarah. "a priori" is a philosophical term from epistemology, the study of knowledge– what it is and how we come to have it– that translates as "from the earlier." It means without reference to experience or empirical facts. It's opposite is "a posteriori."
Translated, Dale is saying his question is predicated on the assumption, before he knows differently, that you personally don't already pray daily for your god to eradicate all human disease.
Yearning for the eradication of all human disease is obviously a good desire. The all-powerful God does indeed have the power to bring such a thing about.
I'll give two answers why Christians may not pray daily for something like this: one Biblical and one which is an honest critique of Christian culture.
First, the Bible. God has given us a "big-picture" overview of his plan for the cosmic history of this world. In the first chapter of Genesis we have the creation of the heaven and the earth. Jump to the last couple chapters of Revelation and we have the new heaven and new earth that come after the return of Christ and the end of this world as we know it. Notably, the climax at the end of the story includes Rev 21:4, "He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away." Based on this, and other verses, I see God's plan to ultimately bring about the eradication of all human disease, together with the eradication of death, pain, suffering, and all the consequences of the Fall and sin of man, at the final end of the age. No sooner, and no later. (Of course, this happy state will not be enjoyed by everyone, but only by those who are together with God. That's another matter, beyond our present scope.)
So, when I both pray and labor to "hasten the coming of the day of God" (2 Peter 3:11-12) in doing so I am at least implicitly (if not even explicitly) seeking the day in which all human disease, as well as many other problems, will be ultimately eradicated. Knowing that "all human disease" will not be entirely eradicated before that day, many Christians, myself included, nevertheless continue to pray for cases of individual healing as the need arises, and also give money to various causes including those to help find cures and ease the suffering of those with debilitating and life-threatening diseases. All of those forms of compassion exhibit Christ-likeness in different ways. For example, often it requires a bigger act of love and sacrifice to open your wallet for a cause than to lay hands on the sick and pray for their healing. For a disciple of Christ I think it is not a matter of either/or but rather both/and.
Now, as far as modern first-world Christian culture goes, I am a very strong critic. I would have to honestly say that probably the most common reason that most professing Christians don't pray every day for God to eradicate human disease is simply because they generally don't pray about much of anything beyond personal, immediate needs for themselves and their own family and friends. Even getting Christians to pray for the "lost heathen" around the world requires herculean effort, and only a relatively tiny number will come to a prayer meeting to do so. So by and large it is not a matter of Christians being "too heavenly minded to be of earthly good", but rather it is a matter of them being quite apathetic toward any such major issues in *either* the spiritual or the physical realm. Anyone who shows up to engage on this forum is probably a statistical outlier.
Even getting Christians to pray for the "lost heathen" around the world requires herculean effort, and only a relatively tiny number will come to a prayer meeting to do so
Yea, look at me. Some very august public servants have called me that "evangelical atheist wicked little thang". So, clearly, the prayers are not forthcoming.
All good humor aside, that is an excellent post and I appreciate it. The view you've presented is one I've seen many times. We can chat more about this in my group, "Welcome All Adherents" if you want to join (or anyone else does).
I agree with Zachary Harris. Another thing I would point out is that individuals have different things that touch their hearts. Some have a heart for the poor, the widows, the orphans. Some have a heart for those afflicted with the slavery of substance abuse. Some have a heart for the imprisoned, and truly enslaved (think human trafficking) and still others have a heart for the infirm, the ill.
Much like secular individuals focus on various outlets of good: the environment what we eat and where it comes from, peace, animal cruelty, etc.
We are admonished to pray for all of the individuals, but just as a person may feel more concerned for stopping animal cruelty than they care about the poor, so we Christians have things that strike a chord and become very important to us.
"Anyone who shows up to engage on this forum is probably a statistical outlier." I totally agree with this as well.
Atheists are angry at Christians a lot of times for the hypocrisy. Rightly so. So am I. There is a lot of apathy in the Church, most people don't wish to become "mature" Christians, which is a shame. The idea that one could be "proud" to be saved, when it is something that is freely given through grace and through no work of their own is absurd. I'll stop my rant right there.
A lot of prayers concerning illness also end with "but Your will be done." As we (maybe I should just say I in case I am alone here) believe that the Lord uses trials and tribulations to prune away and shape us into maturity.
He has certainly done so in my life.
Too busy praying for wealth & fame. Oh, and aunt Clara who's dying of pancreatic cancer, and for my team to win!
"Give us this day our daily bread. (Provide us with our basic physical and spiritual needs a day at a time)"
This day, in southern and eastern Africa, 5,500 children will die for lack of daily bread. The parents of these dying children pray to God, begging Him to use His magical powers to save them. The Christians among them surely use the very prayer you posted.
The children die anyway. The death toll rivals the 911 attacks. But it happens there every day. That's over 2 million children per year.
Meanwhile, this day in the west, millions of well-fed, educated, healthy Christians pray to God for things like pets, relationships, and personal finances. Most say God intervened to help.
If a God who answers prayers exists, then there are only two possibilities: (1) God refuses to help those who need it most. (2) God is unable to help those who need it most.
If it's the former, then God is a sadistic moral monster. If it's the latter, then God isn't omnipotent, and thus not God at all. Which do you think it is?
Hey Gallup's Mirror,
I sympathize with where you're going with this. The key to this discussion, imo, is understanding that different forms of apologetic will emerge depending on the Christian. Your objection will work for many. But for some you'll end up in the weeds of doctrine and theology and it is not clear to me that there is an inherent, internal inconsistency here.
To show one, we need to do controlled studies of prayer to show that no prayer is answered. Now, I know studies have been done along these lines and we all know what they showed: events due to chance alone, nothing more.
Having said that, I don't know if there has been a sufficiently sophisticated methodology out there to test this against all prayers (by, say, allowing for a large enough sample and a random choice of what to pray over).
For any reasonably sophisticated Christian this wouldn't work well as an apologetic, though I don't know that this is your intent.
If not, even so, the answer would be pretty standard.
God does not answer all prayers. And you need an understanding of predestination and original sin to understand how/why they say this. For some Christians, God is not Santa Claus.
If god is just going to do whatever he wants to do anyway, then why bother praying?
To satisfy that deep seated need in humans to lay important matters into others' hands, thus absolving themselves from the weight on their shoulders and clearing their conscience.
Not unlike a servile dog sniveling in front of his master when he did something bad.
Praying isn't going to change anything, but you can make yourself believe that. It's self hypnosis. Moral swindling.
But no matter how unintelligent and indoctrinated people are, they know no prayer in the world will cure all diseases, or regrow a limb. And it is at this point, that when you question them, they'll start to become defensive and make up impetuous and desperate drivel in the hope the person across is just as gullible and morally starving as they are.
I think that's an excellent intro to this subject. My own understanding of original sin was that the god YHWH loved humanity enough that he wanted us to have free will. The free will is what led to original sin. In my understanding sin to a Christian really means just living or acting outside YHWH's will, not necessarily something that makes you "bad", just fallible as it is impossible for a human being to live and act totally within a god's will.