Answers to Prayer
Answers to prayer should be the norm for Christians. Didn't Jesus say "Ask and it shall be given you" (Mt.7:7)? Based on Jesus's words answers to prayer should be automatic. Yet, a recent e-mail prayer request was marked "urgent" because so many Christians are experiencing such extreme difficulties. The prayer request described Christians as experiencing pain, self-doubt, exhaustion, impatience, weakness, spiritual stagnation, fear, unrelenting bondage to sin and the ever-present demonic forces. During my years in the ministry back in the 1970s and 80s these same concerns needing prayer were just as prevalent, and they still continue today.
Is prayer the panacea? If the solution could be solved by prayer Christians would have resolved these problems long ago. No, the difficulties will persist as long as there are Christians. Why? These afflictions continue because the Christian thought-processes reject objective, rational, critical thinking. Since these thought-processes are done independent of God or the Bible, they are considered to be ungodly. The Bible teaches Christians to avoid objective, rational, critical thinking, for this would be leaning on their own understanding (Prov. 3:5). It would be utilizing the wisdom of the wise, the understanding of the prudent (I Cor.1:19), the wisdom of this world which is foolishness with God (I Cor.3:19). It might cause them to question their religion. This dilemma for many otherwise intelligent capable Christians is the crux of the problem.
In contrast to objective rational thought, Christian thinking is centered in a Bible-oriented faith which extends far beyond simple optimistic everyday faith. Biblical faith believes the proclamations of only the Bible and strongly rejects other ways of thinking. A healthy, productive psyche is found in something fervent Christians are "not allowed" to do. The 2nd century church father Tertullian wrote that the personal pursuit of truth and understanding is in itself an indication of heresy. Thus, it is heretical to consider that the earth's age might exceed 6,000 years, in spite of the geologic scientific record, lest one compromise the Bible's genealogy of Jesus to Adam. It is heretical to challenge the Noah flood story regardless of the extraordinary improbability of Noah's ability to gather, feed, and keep alive two of every fowl, cattle, and creeping thing of the earth on a one-window boat for 10' months, and in spite of the archeological record of neighboring cultures which contradicts the occurrence of a worldwide flood. Certainly it would be heretical to question the teachings and deeds of Jesus even though the earliest copies of copies of copies of manuscripts date from 300 years after his alleged life, and even though the reputable Jewish philosopher and historian Philo of Alexandria, who was contemporaneous with Jesus, never so much as mentioned the existence of a Jesus of Nazareth or the alleged miracles in and surrounding his life.
Faith as defined by the Bible requires the suspension of basic human thought-processes which are necessary for the functioning of a healthy mind. For example, in order to be a candidate for becoming a Christian each person must accept that they are sinners. Why? The historical facts as recorded in the Bible state that some 6,000 years ago a person named Eve, who, after being made from Adam's rib while he slept, was spurred on by a talking snake to seduce Adam into the sin of eating from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. All objective, rational, critical thought must be suspended to believe this story. But, once this story is accepted (swallowed), the process of naive, exploitable, child-like faith and cognitive dissonance become the standard operating procedure.
In fact, biblical Christianity undermines a person's ability to think by using self-deprecation as the hammer to convince people of their depraved, sinful state. The acclaimed Protestant theologian John Calvin declared "We are nothing but mud and filth both inside and outside." The Roman Catholic Ignatius of Loyola stated, "We are mere dung." Once people are persuaded of their degenerate sinful state they are then continually warned of their carnal natures lest they backslide into thinking for themselves. Instead of empowering people, Christianity in fact weakens people's ability to think, thus accentuating self-doubt, fear, exhaustion, helplessness, as well as all the other conditions expressed in the prayer request.
Biblical faith's substance is not only of things "hoped for" but depends on the evidence of things "not seen" (Heb. 11:1). This faith rejects reason, critical thinking, or contrary evidence. It effectively shuts the door to any inquiry or consideration that a healthy, productive mind would deem important. In practical terms, what are the implications of Biblical faith-based reasoning? Can anybody name a vocation in which success corresponds to things "hoped for" and whose validity is based on things "not seen"? How many brain surgeons succeed at removing tumors with hands guided by things "hoped for"? How many architects draw high-rise building plans based on engineering laws "not seen"? How about a lawyer prosecuting a case or a journalist writing a story based on "the evidence of things not seen"? In practical terms, Christian faith-based reasoning is in fact an oxymoron.
In contrast, objective rational thought put forward by the likes of Copernicus, Kepler, Galileo, Descartes, Newton, Darwin, Paine, and, other reputable scientists and academics has catapulted us forward to advances in science, the arts, democracy in government, and human rights barely if ever imagined in religious history. Religious, faith-based thinking has resisted these advances at every turn. Its devotees both Roman Catholic and Protestant impose Bible doctrine at every opportunity in opposition to these advances. The issues have been and in some cases continue to be as wide-ranging as the earth's age, a heliocentric universe, hygienic precautions in disease control, women's use of anaesthesia in childbirth, loaning money at interest, ventilation of carbonic gases in mines to prevent asphyxiation, emancipation from slavery, women's equality, and evolutionary science. A complete list could easily fill this page.
Every advance can be directly attributed to what the Bible calls worldly, foolish, unspiritual, earthly ways of thinking. These advances, many of which came in spite of persecution from Christians, developed because various individuals had the courage to apply objective, rational, critical reasoning to the problems of their day. Astoundingly, Christians today don't think twice about partaking in the benefits of these advances. Some present-day Christians are even so brazen as to suggest that these formerly considered anti-Biblical advances are available because God allowed it.
So what are the results of Biblical faith-based thinking? Christian will continue to struggle as long as their faith requires them to violate the very foundations of that which provides health and well being to the human psyche. Nevertheless Christianity will continue to vehemently oppose even the thought that one could survive apart from its support and control. Christianity with its longstanding weapon of maligning its detractors creates peer pressure from which few are willing or able to consider the contradictions and inconsistencies. When people do begin to think for themselves, that is the consummate "Answer To Prayer!"
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