Tuesday, April 17, 2007

JP Moreland on Answered Prayer

A scholar and a true Christian. There aren't many men or women of whom I could use both descriptions. JP Moreland is one.

In this blog post, JP does two things for us: first, he tells us how to recognize answered prayer; second, he encourages us to keep record of our requests and answers as a sort of "ebenezer." Of course, the assumption (gulp) is that we are actually praying on occassion.

It's a great read. While you're there, you should check out other posts on that blog -- it's a group blog by some profs at Biola/Talbot.


Blogger One Wave said...

Hi Chris,
This is Onewave from DC peeking in on your blog. Nice blog!

Good article link to JP Moreland, I agree he is both true scholar and Christian.

I have a question for you...
Did you see the interchange between Sam Harris and Rick Warren?
It's linked in Troy Waller's blog. www.whyidontbelieve.blogspot.com

Sam Harris makes a compelling point when he asks if we keep track of unanswered prayer. For a person demanding plausibility it may be a valid point. I would be interested in your thoughts if you have time.


3:07 AM  
Blogger chris said...

Honestly, I don't see how that is a problem. So suppose I recorded all the *supplication* type prayers I made, and then recorded the responses. That is data. But how do you interpret the data? That all depends on what you should expect. Given that God is all-{powerful, loving, wise, etc.}, should we expect 50% "granting?" 80%? 10%? There are so many variables, it is mind-boggling (and many of them aren't even accessible to us). E.g., the nature of the request (was it good, bad, neutral?), the heart of the asker (motives), the larger purposes of God, the delay factor (a prayer may be answered 30 years from now). How do you go about such a study? You can't. That's because ultimately, prayer is non-scientific. It involves the agency of a free being, namely, God. That is completely unpredictable.

So what can we do? (1) I think we can take instances of answered prayer like the one's Moreland talks about are evidence of supernatural intervention. (2) If no prayers were ever answered, then we should take this to count against theism.

So, recording negative results doesn't really tell us anything.

One last thought: if we tested everyone in a town for AIDS, and the rate of false positives was 5%, and the rate of false negatives was 50%, and you had 100/1000, or 10% of the population test positive, what would you conclude? You would consider 5 of the positives to be wrong (coincidence). But what of the negatives? Would you even worry about them, since they don't really tell you anything? I.e., if a test comes out negative, it's still a coin-flip whether that person really has AIDS. Only the positives are informative.

Now, I'm not saying that this is how AIDS testing works, but I'll wager that there are some disease screening processes that come out this way. It all depends on the kind of test you have.

Look in the archives at Debunking Christianity and see my exchange with Lee on prayer. http://debunkingchristianity.blogspot.com/2007/03/promise-of-prayer.html

Also do a search on my blog for "prayer" and read my other posts on the subject.

9:51 AM  
Blogger One Wave said...

Thanks Chris,
I think your point that God is free, unpredictable, is the key. I agree with your evaluation.

I hope my children don't decide to start recording all of their unmet requests to balance them with the ones that were/are granted. I might come out looking pretty shabby or maybe even seen as an absent parent.

1:30 AM  

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