When confronted with my unbelief in the Christian God, Evangelicals will often ask me to pray and ask God to reveal himself to me. Evangelicals have even given me scripted prayers to pray on more than a few occasions, telling me that if I “sincerely” pray these prayers to the triune God of Christianity, he will reveal himself to me. On days when I am filled with 100-proof Gerencser snark, I will pray the prayers and then report back, “Nope, God didn’t reveal himself to me!” Their reply? “well, you didn’t “sincerely” ask God to pull the rabbit out of the hat.” I am always to blame, not God, when he fails to show his work, speak to me, or do anything that would lead me to conclude he is real.
Evangelicals who take this approach with me are ignorant of their Bibles — the inspired, inerrant, infallible Word of God. Evangelicals believe every word in the Bible is true, written by holy men of old as they were moved by the Holy Ghost. You would think Evangelicals would follow the Word of God instead of asking unbelievers to pray. Don’t they know that the Bible says that God doesn’t hear the prayers of the unsaved, that libertarian free will is a myth, and the only way that someone can be saved is if God chooses to save them? Don’t they know that lost people are dead in trespasses and sins, alienated from God, and unless God grants them the faith to believe, they will never be saved? What drives this notion of praying and asking God to reveal himself to you is bad theology. Shocker, right?
Take the story of the Rich Man and Lazarus in Luke 16. (Please see Luke 16:19-31: The Rich Man and Lazarus.) Towards the end of this story, we have a dialog between Abraham and the Rich Man:
Rich Man: I pray thee therefore, father, that thou wouldest send him [Lazarus] to my father’s house. For I have five brethren; that he may testify unto them, lest they also come into this place of torment [Hell].
Abraham: They have Moses and the prophets; let them hear them.
Rich Man: Nay, father Abraham: but if one went unto them from the dead, they will repent.
Abraham: If they hear not Moses and the prophets, neither will they be persuaded, though one rose from the dead.
The Rich Man, facing the torments of Hell, was rightly concerned about his family, particularly his five brothers. The Rich Man asked Abraham to resurrect Lazarus from the dead and send him to preach to his brothers. Abraham replied, no, they have the Moses and the Prophets, the Old Testament; let your brothers read and hear their words. Knowing the Bible wasn’t enough to convince his brothers to believe in Jesus, the Rich Man pleaded yet again for Abraham to resurrect Lazarus and send him up top to witness to his unsaved loved ones. Abraham’s response is germane to this post: if they won’t hear the Bible, they won’t be persuaded if someone rose from the dead and preached to them.
Evidently, Abraham didn’t know Jesus would soon die and three days later resurrect from the dead. This leaves me wondering, if the Bible is written by God, surely he knew Jesus would soon be crucified, placed in a borrowed tomb, descend into Hell, and resurrect from the dead. Evangelicals believe that Jesus’ resurrection from the dead is the linchpin of their religion; that Jesus’ resurrection is the one thing that should convince unbelievers of the veracity and truthfulness of Christianity. However, Abraham didn’t think such magic tricks were useful. Instead, the Evangelical Abraham said: Read the Bible!
For those of us who are atheists and agnostics, neither appeals to the resurrection of Jesus nor reading the Bible have convinced us that Christianity’s central claims are true. Perhaps this is why some Evangelical zealots ask us to pray and ask God to reveal himself to us. They believe that a supernatural encounter with their God will surely cause us to fall on our knees, repent, and embrace Jesus Christ as our Lord and Savior. If only believing was that simple, right?
Before asking us to pray to their God, Evangelicals must first provide evidence for the existence of said God. I assume Evangelicals would think it silly for me to pray to any other God but theirs. All deities but the Christian God are no gods at all. There is one true and living God, and Jesus is his name — well, he’s called the Father and the Holy Ghost too. I am quite willing to pray to the Christian God sincerely, but before doing so, I ask Evangelicals to give sufficient evidence for their deity’s existence, that he is whom Evangelicals say he is.
I walked away from Christianity twelve years ago. Since then, I have heard from and, at times, interacted with thousands of Evangelicals trying to “save” me. It’s been years since I have heard a new argument for the existence of God. Solomon rightly said that there is nothing new under the sun, which can certainly be said of Evangelical apologetical arguments.
I don’t get as many emails or comments from Evangelicals trying to “save” me as I did in the past. I suspect Evangelicals have decided that God has given me over to a reprobate mind, that I have crossed the line of no return, or have committed the unpardonable sin. This allows them to attack my character, revealing their lack of character, respect, and decency. After scores of such attacks and deconstructions, I am immune to their words. Twelve years of interacting with such people have given me a thick skin. I am still open to new evidence for their God’s existence, but the incessant playing of William Craig Lane’s greatest hits really doesn’t work with me.
Does the Christian God really need me to pray before he will reveal himself to me? Doesn’t he know everything beforehand, including the words people pray and how he will respond? Why doesn’t God skip the theatrics and appear to me at my home? If, as the Bible says, with God nothing is impossible, surely Jesus can stop by and have lunch with me, and while he is here, heal me of bile reflux, gastroparesis, fibromyalgia, osteoarthritis, and peripheral neuropathy.
I hope this post puts an end to the notion that if atheists and agnostics would just “sincerely” pray to the Evangelical God that he would reveal himself to them. There is no evidence that this has ever taken place.
Bruce Gerencser, 63, lives in rural Northwest Ohio with his wife of 42 years. He and his wife have six grown children and thirteen awesome grandchildren. Bruce pastored Evangelical churches for twenty-five years in Ohio, Texas, and Michigan. Bruce left the ministry in 2005, and in 2008 he left Christianity. Bruce is now a humanist and an atheist. For more information about Bruce, please read the About page.
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