Currently in Ghana, children who are physically deformed are frequently declared to be a “spirit child” by the father or others in the community(1). A “concoction man” is then called in who mixes a variety of poisonous substances that are then administered to the child with the “evil spirit” who usually dies very soon thereafter.
The concoction man is careful not to suggest that a deformity is definitive evidence of an evil spirit. He simply assures the community that if the deformed child does not die after drinking the poison, then that indicates that there was no evil spirit present.
Sounds fair enough, does it not? It certainly does to a community inundated with stories of an invisible supernatural realm. The father who makes the claim that his deformed child is possessed with an evil spirit is actually placing his reputation at risk since, if the child does not die, then his claim has been falsified. And surely the just god(s) wouldn’t allow an innocent child to succumb to a dose of poison. The doctrinal “patch” that incorporates the remote possibility of a child surviving lends credibility to the entire system of thought once you’ve accepted the spiritual realm. It actually strengthens the authority of the father who has his judgment vindicated by god when the child dies. It also, in a very convoluted way, distances claims of spirit possession from any scrutiny that might reveal the entire system to be flawed.
So also in other systems of belief. Before the Christian faith evolved into something more inline with modern notions of morality, alleged witches were submerged in water(2). If the witch sank, this was evidence of guilt since it was obvious that no god would allow an innocent victim to perish. This “patch” allowed clerics to quickly make accusations since this “patch” would surely correct for any mistakes on their part. And the drowning of the accused vindicated the accuser within a strange convoluted logic that assumed a god with the power to intervene.
Sounds fair enough, does it not? Certainly if you believe that God is active in the affairs of humans. The Bible is full of stories where the righteous were protected by God from the faulty judgments of humans. This “patch” allowed accusations of witchcraft to be properly tested by subjecting the accused to an ordeal that would require the intervention of a just God were they innocent.
Today, psychics often make enormous claims of prescience or telekinesis. These claims normally come with a convenient disclaimer. The alleged powers may be blocked by the presence of the negative energy (and discerning senses) of a skeptical mind(3). This patch assures that only true believers are present during the demonstration of those powers.
The Apostle Paul attempted to shield Christianity from discredit by increasing the conditions placed on the petitioner, but this required that he emasculate the earlier teachings of Jesus. Jesus unconditionally promised answered prayer to those with the faith of a mustard seed(4), and to the 2 or 3 that were petitioning God while gathered in his name. Paul then suggests to failed petitioners that not only was the degree of faith an issue, but also whether or not they had asked selfishly. Today, theologians go beyond Paul and now also stipulate that the prayer must be within god’s will, effectively plugging all possible peepholes of scrutiny, but also removing prayer from the respectable status of something falsifiable. These patches in theology were needed to render the strong promises of answered prayer by Jesus into impotent and highly conditional gibberish unassailable by skeptics.
Has this damaged the credibility of Christianity? Apparently not. Millions still pray while quoting the unequivocal promises of Jesus, and once the prayer is clearly unanswered, they then invoke the equivocal patches of Paul. If starting with the assumption of the supernatural, results that match a naturalistic paradigm are reinterpreted with patches to salvage the possibility of a spiritual realm.
This is just an introduction to the types of patches that the supernaturalists employ to shore up their sinking ideologies in a rising sea of critical thinking and scientific methodology. If you’d like to conduct further research, consider how Christians have progressively applied patches to the following concepts.
- Is god is a spirit?
(Abraham & god’s backside; Jacob wrestles with god; god walks in Eden.)
- Can women speak in the church?
- The issue of slavery.
- The issue of rape.
Consider how doctrinal patches have allowed Christianity to evolve to conform to contemporary moral norms and thereby survive. Then consider the incoherence of moving moral and doctrinal goalposts from a source alleged to be objective, immutable truth.
2. Submerging Witches: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Trial_by_ordeal
Perhaps things got boring for the godly after a while since some began to later claim that it was actually the innocent that sank, and that the witches would float. The floating witches could then be extracted from the water and properly burnt.
A few of the strong promises of answered prayer by Jesus that were subsequently emasculated by Paul and then again by more modern theologians.
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
Read other posts on the Failure of Prayer.