Monday, November 12, 2012

Yanking God's chain

Over at the Secular Outpost, Stephen Law discusses a patently absurd experiment in prayer:

To paraphrase William James, If we were ourselves in the place of the Deity, we should probably take particular pleasure in not responding to atheists who reduce prayer to this cynical, manipulative gimmick.


  1. A few weeks ago I found out about "The Atheist Prayer Experiment" and I thought to myself, "Wow, someone finally attempted it on a large and public scale." For years I had always wondered if it were possible to write a kind of "Prayer of Jabez"-like month long devotional from a Reformed (or Reformed and charismatic) perspective for atheists to use to aid them in coming to know God personally. That was behind the question I asked Steve in the comments of one of his blogs.

    Brierley's experiment is not Calvinistically guided and so the "results" will probably give a wrong impression to many people who followed the experiment. Not only that, but if it were more Calvinistically oriented, then maybe more would have come to know God (given an alternative hypothetical decree).

    The "Results" (if it can be called that) so far have been:

    Of the 71 who signed up:

    2 have reported that they now believe in God (Kendra and Kelly)

    2 failed to take part in the experiment

    52 have said they did not receive any revelation of God's existence through prayer. Some of these stopped praying at an early or later point in the experiment, or failed to pray on some days, and some prayed for the entire duration.

    15 have not yet reported back with their results as yet.

    I agree with J.C. Ryle when it comes to written prayers,

    "As to praying of a book in our private devotions, it is a habit I cannot praise. If we can tell our doctors the state of our bodies without a book, we ought to be able to tell the state of our souls to God. I have no objection to a person using crutches when they are first recovering from a broken limb. It is better to use crutches, than not to walk at all."

    If even Christians (who have the Spirit of God by which to "cry 'Abba'") sometimes need crutches, then how much more would non-Christians need them. Obviously from a Calvinistic perspective only those who are regenerate can really pray. But that was never a hindrance for Calvinists to encourage non-Christians from praying and seeking God.

    Douglas M. Jones wrote a parody of Wilkinson's book "The Prayer of Jabez" titled "The Mantra of Jabez: Break on Though to the Other Side" to satirize what he saw as the implicit Health and Wealth Gospel promoted in Wilkinson's book. I haven't read either book. But in principle, I have no problem with Christians praying Jabez's prayer for greater prosperity in order to better fund/advance God's kingdom and for a better witness of God's kindness. If I recall correctly, Gary North said about Wilkinson's book something which he said about Pat Robertson's book "The Secret Kingdom". "He has done more to advance Postmillennialism's goals than all my books combined." (very loose paraphrase).

    I'm thinking of writing such a "devotional" for atheists to be freely accessible on one of my blogs.

    To those reading these comments, what do you all think? Is it blasphemous?

  2. Would it be blasphemous? Have you, or do you know someone who has already written such a devotional on a blog or published a book? Would you consider doing so? Part or all of the proceeds from the sales of the book could go to funding evangelism and apologetics.