The Emasculated Bible

prayerIt is not just one Bible verse.
It is many that make the same unqualified promise of answered prayer.

And Jesus said unto them, Because of your unbelief: for verily I say unto you, If ye have faith as a grain of mustard seed, ye shall say unto this mountain, Remove hence to yonder place; and it shall remove; and nothing shall be impossible unto you. Matthew 17:20

Jesus answered and said unto them, Verily I say unto you, If ye have faith, and doubt not, ye shall not only do this which is done to the fig tree, but also if ye shall say unto this mountain, Be thou removed, and be thou cast into the sea; it shall be done. Matthew 21:21

And Jesus answering saith unto them, Have faith in God. For verily I say unto you, That whosoever shall say unto this mountain, Be thou removed, and be thou cast into the sea; and shall not doubt in his heart, but shall believe that those things which he saith shall come to pass; he shall have whatsoever he saith. Therefore I say unto you, What things soever ye desire, when ye pray, believe that ye receive them, and ye shall have them. Mark 11:22-24

Verily, verily, I say unto you, He that believeth on me, the works that I do shall he do also; and greater works than these shall he do; because I go unto my Father. And whatsoever ye shall ask in my name, that will I do, that the Father may be glorified in the Son. If ye shall ask any thing in my name, I will do it. John 14:12-14

Is any sick among you? let him call for the elders of the church; and let them pray over him, anointing him with oil in the name of the Lord: And the prayer of faith shall save the sick, and the Lord shall raise him up; and if he have committed sins, they shall be forgiven him. Confess your faults one to another, and pray one for another, that ye may be healed. The effectual fervent prayer of a righteous man availeth much. Elias was a man subject to like passions as we are, and he prayed earnestly that it might not rain: and it rained not on the earth by the space of three years and six months. And he prayed again, and the heaven gave rain, and the earth brought forth her fruit. James 5:14-18

If you have any question about the authenticity of these promises, please grab a Bible and look at the greater context. There are no additional requirements other than faith. None.

However, Christians will do their utmost to wrench these verses from their clear contexts and attempt to emasculate them with a shameless contriving of additional qualifications.

And they are helpless to do anything else. They well understand that, if they do take these verses at face value, the lack of answered prayer in their own lives can mean only one of two things; either they lack faith, or the Bible is untrue.

The problem is that, in grossly distorting these verses to preserve their status of faithfullness or the veracity of the Bible, they must employ arbitrary standards of hermeneutics (principles of interpretation) that they then deny others from employing in other contexts of the Bible. And this has always been the major problem of Christianity. It is based on a book that is said to be true, yet, no single consistent standard of interpretation is offered, even within a single denomination.

It is extremely difficult to imagine what principles of hermeneutics Christians could apply to the aforementioned verses that could not also be used to explain away into emasculated gibberish every other biblical passage.

It is easy enough for Christians to see the peril they would place themselves in should they take these verses at face value. The concept of a farmer earnestly praying for rain for his crops while the townspeople of faith downstream pray for protection from floods would introduce a clear case of illogicality, thus disproving the veracity of the Bible.

One dubious way out of this dilemma would be to suggest that, in every single case of this kind, either the farmer or the townspeople would have insufficient faith. This notion does not scale well when considering all the potential Christians that might be praying with diametrically opposed agendas.

Take another look at the verses above. Are they unclear? Do they leave room for reinterpretation? Is there some principle of hermeneutics that can be honestly applied that can miraculously qualify these verses into something less potent than their face value?

Let’s sum things up. Christians must do one of the following when confronting the verses presented above.

  1. They could take these verses at face value and realize that the Bible is logically incoherent. The logical inconsistencies clearly arise when applied to persons of sincere faith who petition God with opposing requests.
  2. They could take these verses at face value and imagine that God has somehow made it impossible for persons of faith to petition with opposing requests. Having done this, they would then need to either demonstrate that God is answering their every petition, or imagine that they do not have sufficient faith. This radical position would, at the very least, encourage others to abandon Christianity for fear of falling into a similar embarrassing state of illogical credulity.
  3. They could emasculate the verses into gibberish, thereby making God impotent in respect to answering the prayers of those with faith, plus introduce hermeneutic gymnastics that open up the Bible to proving or disproving any pet doctrine.

Most Christians opt for number 3, not understanding the implications.

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14 thoughts on “The Emasculated Bible

  1. AV1 says:

    The Bible is not logically incoherent:
    16All scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness: 17That the man of God may be perfect, thoroughly furnished unto all good works. 2Tim. 3:16-17 KJV

    • Imagine your wife says she’s not a liar. Does that mean she’s not a liar?

      Did you know the Qur’an says that the Qur’an is true? How can you then refute the veracity of the Qur’an?

  2. churchindapub says:

    Please! Of course there are other requirements other than just faith!

    Your example of the farmer and the towns people is ridiculous – there have been many rains without floods ensuing.

    • Reread the verses and their context. If you wish to introduce other requirements, you will need to explain the hermeneutic principle by which you do so and why you can ignore the context. Then you must allow others to use the very same principle on other passages of scripture.

      If you say “of course there are other requirements other than just faith” because it would be irrational to believe otherwise, you’re right. Now you’ve committed yourself to the only remaining option; providing a consistent standard whereby all verses by all persons can be properly interpreted without ad hoc or arbitrary explanation. This I have yet to see.

      Let me emphasize that I’m looking for one single consistent hermeneutic standard. If there is none, then biblical content is arbitrarily extracted, and the authority of the bible falls.

      And there only needs to be one single case where you have a farmer with faith and townspeople with faith praying for opposite results for the promise of answered prayer, as defined by these verses, to be impossible.

  3. AV1 says:

    [Thanks for commenting, AV1. I’ve answered your post with my comments in brackets.]

    It is not a question if the Qur’an is not true or true nor do I refute what it says.
    1. [It is a question of whether you apply logic consistently. If you employ the bible’s own claims of its own veracity to prove it’s true, you’ll logically need to allow Muslims to do the same with the Qur’an, and logically, you’ll have to believe it. If you cannot do this, clean up your logic.]

    The discussion is not one of argument of who is correct and who is not.
    2. [If you believe this, I’d like to ask you not to comment on my postings. It will only anger those who are looking for truth.]

    The discussion is one of fact and faith; there is only one Savior who is risen His name is Jesus.
    3. [On other blogs you can post unsubstantiated claims. Not here.]

    The question is one of personal faith, and freedom to choose a relationship with Jesus, if one chooses to do so. In regard to family there is no reason to lie when one has a relationship with Jesus.
    4. [This is based on faith. Type in “faith” in the search box of the blog to read more about the real virtue of faith.]


    5. [Here I’ve deleted a large section of exegesis from the Jamieson-Fausset-Brown Bible Commentary that did not make even a token attempt to address the argument in my post.]

    the single constant is Jesus
    6. [This is based on faith. Type in “faith” in the search box of the blog to read more about the real virtue of faith.]

    Blessings,

    AV1

  4. Doulos says:

    People tend to overlook the Eastern Orthodox Chruch when they talk about consistency in interpretation or practice within Christianity. Eastern Orthodoxy is what the Roman Catholics broke away from in the year 1054, and the Orthodox Church has had no substantial changes in either theology, interpretation, or even liturgy in nearly 1,700 years. Yes, there are some Eastern Orthodox Christians who vary, but as a whole, the mainline, orthodox Orthodox have not changed. This is because in everything the Orthodox Church does, it checks against how the Fathers have done it before.

    I’m not going to say that there’s absolutely no variation, because that’s nearly impossible in an organization such as this, but overall, the general consensus and trend has not changed.

    Phil -> [Thanks for your comment, Doulos.
    However, I’m having difficulty understanding how they relate to the logic of my post. I’ve posted a (presumably) logical argument, not a commentary on denominational trends.]

  5. churchindapub says:

    [Thanks for your comments, Churchinapub. I’ll return comments between your lines.]

    -The one single standard is that believers are to be believers first before they can pray to get the result.
    1a. [You’ll notice that I also limited the scenarios to believers. And I only spoke of a standard of hermeneutics. I’m looking for a single consistent and coherent standard of interpreting bible verses that will make the activity objective, rather than subjective and arbitrary. ]
    -The gospel is based on Jesus Christ not on anything else. Faith is a divinely implanted principle and has nothing to do with us except for how we exercise it. Dogma is a wicked tool. To the one who sees only faith, cool, if that is what God has shown you. To the one who says he must be baptized, great, if that is what God has shown you. Never ever try to impose what God is speaking to you about as an individual, onto other people.
    Yes, there are verses that give some ‘instruction’ however we are never to do anything because of ‘laws’ but because God has asked it of us and that again, comes down to personal relationship with God through Jesus Christ.
    1b. [I’m not sure what your comments have to do with a single and coherent standard of interpreting bible verses. You may be losing touch with the focus of my post. Everything you said in your second comment I already assumed you believed. Yet it did not at all relate to my post about a single hermeneutic standard. Can you explain why?]

    -No not all persons can properly interpret all verses throughout scripture.
    non believers can quite easily get wrong interpretations.
    2a. [No argument there. My argument is that believers with, presumably, the same holy spirit interpret scriptures differently. If the holy spirit is not enough to assure consistent interpretation of verses, then there must be a consistent hermeneutic standard. Either the holy spirit is not doing his job (which would be a broken promise), or the bible is inherently impotent as believers are free to interpret it in inconsistent ways.]
    -Heheh, not geography my friend, different places in our lives, as in circumstances etc. each one of us is unknown to even the person closest to us in that there are many things in our lives that are stories untold. God alone knows those stories and God alone is able to lead and direct us best.
    2b. [Once again, I find your comments very strange. You are saying nothing related to my post. And you are not even presenting an argument, but rather making statements about what you believe. This is not looking good.]

    -Even believers can get different meanings depending on what God is saying to that believer at that specific time.
    3a. [This is a very interesting statement. Since these different meanings come from god, are then the believers of 2 separate interpretations of one verse both correct?]
    -There is no man made system of theology, it is a farce pretending to be theology – God alone knows what is best for each individual according to their situation and circumstance. I have not taken this to any theologian and will not take this to any theologian. I do not need any man with so called worldly wisdom to lead me and guide me according to his interpretation. The Bible itself is against this in that Jesus promises us that the Holy Spirit is our guide and our teacher. God also promised us this. Sure, you may check mate me in your system – I care nothing for it so it matters not, it is your system and I do not have to subscribe to it.
    3b. [Alright then. We then have nothing do discuss. But I am approving your comments for the benefit of others who wish to see an informative anecdote of christian reasoning skills and attitude. At this point, I don’t see much value in approving any more of your posts. You are not engaged in the argument, and are only looking for a pulpit.]

    -Scripture is a tool used by God. Unfortunately man thinks he can put God in a box.
    4a. [However, it would be nice if god could also employ logic. The only box I’m introducing is logical.]
    -No, there is only one form of logic! What we have may be what we call logic but that does not mean that it is logic! God alone has The Logic and I do not think any one on earth is anywhere near that simply because, like I said earlier in #2, stories untold, many facts unknown, many issues undisclosed. Our ‘logic’ is flawed from the get go because we do not know everything about anything. You are trying to get me to agree that your logic, or a theologians logic or a pastors logic etc is correct. It can not be for not one of you is omnipotent or omniscient and thus your ‘logic’ is inherently flawed.
    4b. [Readers: If you find any coherency in this, please post an explanation.]

    -I know of many farmers that pray for rain and get results. I know too that people could be praying for no floods and they too get results – at the very time it is raining in answer to the farmers prayer.
    5a. [So you do believe that everyone praying for their needs will be answered then, is that correct?]
    -Yes, I do think the yes no wait is consistent. Again, stories untold. I can be praying for something (which is what you, an outsider see and hear) but meanwhile I am not obeying God on another issue. Would the lack of response to my prayer then give you seemingly logical cause to doubt the validity of Gods promise to hear our every prayer? Absolutely but only because you do not know the full story as to why God is answering my prayer with ‘Wait’.
    5b. [The verses do not allow for the “no” or “wait” options. That is why the focus of my blog post was the need for a consistent hermeneutic standard. Why are you so intent on commenting on everything else but this necessary standard?]

    -It is sufficient for the farmer and not too much to worry the townsfolk – farmers too can not benefit at all from a flood, it would ruin the crops!
    6a. [I live in Japan. Here and in India, China, Peru and India are many cases where a nice rain for a farmer creates devastating downstream. But I introduced that as just an example. Let me give you a chance to see if you can introduce another scenario where 2 groups of believers are, in earnest faith, praying for incompatible results. Or are you saying that such a scenario is impossible?]
    -There is no hermeneutic gymnastics. Well there is actually but that is because we are trying to pin God down to a formula which is a man made formula. God is not a juke box! There are too many other factors that are in play here and no one knows them all, only God.
    Look, if everyone ran a life that was entirely consistent with what God wanted of us and I mean 100% consistent, then we could pin things down to a fine point in a system of hermeneutics, theology etc. but the fact is that no one is living that type of life and thus there will always be variations to the system. Any system needs consistent and uniform inputs in order to get the desired outcomes. This is impossible when dealing with human beings and the intricacies of their lives.
    6b. [Good. You’ve addressed the problem I introduced. However, we are not talking about a man-made system. This is god’s system if we assume bible to be divinely inspired. Churchinapub, unless subsequent comments stay on topic, they will not be approved.]

  6. churchindapub says:

    1. I do not think there can be one standard because it is a Living Word.
    We humans try pin things down to formula etc. but we can not do that because God is Himself outside of those even thought He created them.
    phil – > [So if someone claim that the gospel is only based on faith based on clear passages of scripture, yet someone suggests that baptism by immersion is also necessary based on other verses outside the context of the original verses, what would be your response?]

    2.No, the Holy Spirit is well able to interpret for each individual as it applys to that individual and their specific circumstance. Nothing wrong with that as we live in different places.
    phil – > [So the truth of a particular verse depends, in part, on geography, right?]

    3. Yes they are both correct. Like I said in #2.
    phil – > [I’d suggest taking this notion to your pastor. My guess is that he’ll warn you against making such a statement since the implications are untenable in a coherent system of theology. Or have you already taken this notion to a theologian? Most will advise you to believe that there is only one meaning for all people lest you fall into some form of theological post-modernism. I know you disagree with my position, but I don’t what you to hastily disagree with the position of theologians in your church. If you research this, and return saying you have not changed your mind, you’ll need to prepare yourself for the easy checkmate on my part. I’m just giving you a chance to talk it over with exprienced theologians.]

    4. God does use logic. It may not agree with your understanding of logic but it is still logic and it is a logic based on more information thatn what we have.
    phil – > [So there is more than one kind of logic, right? Could you elaborate?]

    5. I do, but it may not be the answer they are looking for. There is that cliche that says you will get one of 3 answers: Yes, No, or Wait.
    phil – > [Do you think that the “yes, no, wait” cliche is consistent with the verses in my post?]

    6. Okay, I accept the example given, just seemed a bit over the top, but I see the point you are trying to make.
    Other examples? I pray to get a job at a certain company and the boss is praying for ways to cut down his overheads. No I do not believe that such scenarios are impossible. What brings them about, well that is a different story eh!
    phil – > [I appreciate your concession.]
    phil – > [The simple existence of these scenarios is my point. They do not reconcile with the verses I quoted in my post without hermeneutic gymnastics. Would you not agree?]

  7. ophalm says:

    Phil – love this post.
    I have one question, which is not to criticise the content at all, but why do so many non-christians use the king james when quoting scripture? I’ve met very few christians who use it as a translation.

    • I grew up with the KJV, and it is easy to remember the verses correctly from that version. One reason that many apostates might use it is that it tends to be used by denominations that are inherently irrational, which leads to a lot of deconversions.

  8. ophalm says:

    I’ve heard one smart explanation in my time..

    If we truly have faith, we will be with the holy spirit. Therefore anything we pray for will be the will of God. So in that case (and that case only?) prayers will be answered, and no two prayers could be inconsistent because one would be the will of God and the other not.

    I understand this doesn’t change the problem with the approach to the text, but it “fixes” the practical side of the problem

    • I’ve also heard that one. That’s fine as long as christians are willing to admit that whenever there prayers are not answered, that they are “asking amiss that they might consume it upon their own lusts” as the good old KJV states if I recall correctly. For the christian that enters into a petition of God with utmost sincerity, humility and purity of heart, it is a serious problem if God does not respond with a positive response to the petition as the verses I’ve presented should lead them to expect.

  9. tony says:

    oh are you for real? these lame arguments are about as valid as the one who asks – can God make something that is too heavy for himself to lift? therefore god is not omnipotent…

    so lame

    • If you feel an argument is lame, you might want to demonstrate how it is lame rather than merely proclaiming it such. This will prevent readers from assuming you don’t have any real response.

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