Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Cookie Monster Objections


A friend of mine and I often discuss the various objections atheists consistently raise against the Christian faith (this is what I am interested in defending).

Numerous objections are normally brought up in our conversations including the problem of evil, naturalism, and alleged contradictions in the Bible.

However, we both agree that many of the objections raised by the unbeliever often have to do with God not working in the manner they think He should.

The following are examples of these types of objections:

"God would not (fill in the blank)."

"If God existed, He would....(fill in the blank)."

"God didn't answer my prayer..."

While discussing these objections (and others like them), my friend provided the following fictitious conversation to illustrate the atheist's position: (admittedly, this does not apply to atheists universally)

Atheist
: God should have given me cookies. ("cookies" could be anything here)

Chad
: Maybe God doesn't give out cookies.

(Meaning, maybe God had a purpose for not answering your prayer in the manner that you pre-determined was acceptable. After all, if the God of Christianity exists, I believe it's completely logical to conclude that He most likely has a better vantage point in which to decide what we do and do not need.)

Atheist
: I used to believe that God would give out cookies, but I didn't get any. So, my experience tells me that God doesn't exist. Therefore, your suggestion that maybe God doesn't give out cookies doesn't make any difference.
(Translation: God didn't give me what I wrongly believed He should; therefore, He obviously cannot exist.)

For this reason, I have named these types of objections Cookie Monster Objections. I believe that the thoughtful person can immediately see why these types of objections fail to cast any doubt on whether or not the Christian God exists.

Please consider the following:

1) If the Christian God exists (and I believe we have good reason to believe He does), then I see no logical reason to assume that He is required to act in any way that we (finite humans) pre-determine to be acceptable.

2) It is completely reasonable to believe that God has reasons for answering prayers and reasons for not answer prayers. Imagine the chaos that would ensue if God provided everyone with everything they wanted.

I myself can look back and remember prayers that I shared with God that were not answered, and I can honestly say that I am now thankful that He did not answer them the way that I had requested. See Isaiah 55:8-9

3) When someone requests something it is important to remember that "no" is a valid answer. It may not be a desired answer, but an answer nonetheless.

4) Answered prayer can certainly be considered evidence for the existence of God; however, it is not necessary evidence for the existence of God.

5) The purpose of prayer is not to treat God like a cosmic drive-thru, but to shape our character to be more like His own.

6) Finally, could it be that God is not the problem? Could it be the Asker of the prayer? Scripture does provide us with reasons as to why God may not answer specific prayers:

We really don't believe God can answer (Matthew 21:22; James 1:6-8).

We ask with wrong motives (James 4:3).

Unconfessed sin separates us from God so He will not hear (Isaiah 59:1-2).

We set up idols in our hearts that come between us and God (Ezekiel 14:3).

We don't answer those who cry for help (Proverbs 21:13).

Conclusion

For myself, I believe the most important question is- "Do I have good reason to believe that the Christian God exists and has revealed Himself through Jesus Christ?" I have concluded that I do; therefore, He is sovereign over all things and knows what I need better than I do.

Jesus Himself, when faced with the crucifixion, prayed:

"My Father, if it be possible, let this cup pass from me; nevertheless, not as I will, but as you will" (Matthew 26:39b, ESV; Emphasis mine).

There are no easy answers to the mystery of unanswered prayer; however, perhaps unanswered prayer is a necessary part of the growing process for every believer.

Each of us either desires the will of God or our own will. When all is said and done, God is gentlemen enough to say, "as you will..."

Courage and Godspeed,
Chad A. Gross

Reference:

1) Dawson McAllister, Why aren't my prayers answered?, http://christiananswers.net/q-dml/dml-y002.html, 1997.

3 comments:

cv3946 said...

Hey Chad, thanks for the cookie monster objectives. You make some great points to consider in regards to prayers being answered. I was having a conversation with a coworker this week. She grew up Catholic but no longer attended church after her father died. I asked her why she has not gone back to church since and she stated that for a while she was "angry" at God. She also lives with her boyfried who practices Budhism. I thought it was a great oppportunity to share my beliefs with her and how there is so much evidence to support the life/death/rebirth of Jesus Christ. I mentioned the fact that Budhism does not have the historical evidence to substantiate it to be "true." I think she would be willing to hear more but I think her boyfriend's beliefs and her past experience with Catholisism and her dad's untimely death will create some tough obstacles. How would you approach this situation?

Thanks Truthbomber!

Chad said...

cv3946,

Hello there! Hope all is well with you and yours. I'm glad you enjoyed the Cookie Monster objections post. I just thought it was fun to use Cookie Monster as a post topic. :-)

Regarding your friend at work, I think the best way to approach the situation is to keep the conversation centered on Jesus.

First off, be sure that she understands the basic gospel message. A great way to do this would be with a question. For example, you could ask: "Growing up in a Catholic church, what did they teach about the message of salvation found in the Bible?" If she shares something contrary to the gospel, this is a great time for you to share the CORRECT gospel, as Jesus, Paul, and the disciples taught it.

Second, it's important to point out that Jesus understands what it's like to lose a loved one; obviously, his early father died and he even wept when Lazarus was dead because he saw the hurt it caused others and He most likely felt it himself. The "sting" of death, that is. A great verse to share would be Hebrews 4:15. I'm sure you know others.

Third, regarding Buddhism, I believe it would be helpful to point out the clear differences that exist between Christianity and Buddhism that cannot be reconciled. For example:

1) Buddhism is pantheistic; meaning, God is in nature. God is in a tree, God is in the leaves, etc. Christianity teaches that God transcends creation.

2) The Buddha saw no relevance for revelation from God; Jesus, on the other hand, revealed a personal Creator.

3) The Buddha taught humanity's problem is ignorance; while Jesus taught that the root problem is sin.

4) Buddha is not a Savior, he simply pointed to the way of enlightenment. Jesus presents Himself to the world as the "way, the truth, and the life" (Jn. 14:6).

Clearly, they both can't be true. Then, this would be a great opportunity to share the Minimal facts as presented by Habermas. (See Audio from Tuesday's post) If we have good reason to believe Jesus rose from the dead, His Words have authority over all others.

With these types of situations, prayer, patients , and understanding are key.

I hope this helps and if you have more questions, let me know!

Godspeed

Chad said...

"earthy father" that is! Not, "early!" :-)