Let’s think carefully about proof #1 and see if succeeds in showing that god is imaginary. If it does, that’s big news; we’d have found out something very interesting. We may express proof #1 succinctly as follows:
?Premise 1: According to the Bible, if we ask for all cancer to be cured, it will be.
?Premise 2: But, if we ask for all cancer to be cured, it won’t be cured.
?Therefore: The God of the Bible is imaginary.
Let’s start by thinking about the logic of this argument. Suppose its premises are true. It then follows that at least some of the Bible’s statements about prayer are mistaken. But now notice that the conclusion says more than that. It says that the God of the Bible is imaginary. How does that follow from the premises? To reach that conclusion, we need an additional premise—something like this:
?Premise 3: If some of the Bible’s statements about prayer are mistaken, then the God of the Bible is imaginary.
Now it’s worth pointing out that the author of proof #1 doesn’t even discuss anything like Premise 3. It appears to be a background assumption. But for the proof to succeed, Premise 3, or something like it, needs to be demonstrated. Otherwise, the argument is logically invalid: the conclusion doesn’t follow from its premises.
My sense is that the vast majority of people would find Premise 3 implausible.
I'll grant that Marshall should have worded his arguments more carefully and precisely if he really meant to address them to "intelligent, educated Christians," as he often says in his videos. However, he really seems to be targeting fundamentalists who hold that Biblical inerrancy is an essential doctrine. Against that particular version of Christianity, Premise 3 is assumed, by the fundamentalists themselves.
Even if we set the doctrine of Biblical inerrancy aside, and admit that Biblical statements about prayer could be mistaken...then we're also in a position of admitting that Biblical statements about God
could be mistaken. "The god of the Bible" becomes a lot less coherent as a concept once we're in a position of not knowing which parts "of the Bible" are in error and which ones aren't. "the god of whatever parts of the Bible aren't in error" is a much more slippery concept to deal with.
After all, it seems perfectly possible for a morally perfect, all-powerful, all-knowing being described by the Bible
The Bible does not describe such a being. At best, such ideas might be inferred from a few examples of hyperbolic "courtier-speak" from Biblical authors heaping praise on their heavenly master. Like hundred-foot tall statues of a Pharaoh, such praises are meant to "magnify the Lord" rather than provide anything resembling an objective, accurate description of his nature. When we compare such praises with the way Yahweh is actually portrayed in action
as a character in narrative, it is self-evident that he does not possess any of those attributes. Believers have to engage in all sorts of convoluted theological loop-o-planes in a desperate but futile effort to reconcile their lofty theology with the Biblical deity and all his genocides and cruelties and need for magical, but primitive technologies (flaming swords and horse-drawn chariots), his jealousy and pettiness, his obvious lack of superhuman intelligence or perceptive abilities, and his spoiled-12-year-old-with-super-powers behavior patterns, and all the rest.
to be real whether or not the Bible itself makes mistakes. So, Premise 3 is questionable (to say the least).
If such an omnimax Deity existed and, for some reason chose a literary idol scribed by human hands as its method of communication, and it intended to communicate effectively, then it follows that such a book could not be riddled with errors. If it is omnipotent and omniscient, the Deity could not fail. If it is omnibenevolent, it would not want
For God is not the author of confusion, but of peace, as in all churches of the saints.
I Corinthians 14:33
Someone might reply that perhaps “the God of the Bible” just means “the God that would exist if the entire Bible were true.” In that case, Premise 3 would be axiomatic. However, then the conclusion would be compatible with there being a perfectly good, all-powerful, and all-knowing being. And certainly any argument that’s compatible with there being a perfectly good, all-powerful, and all-knowing being is not an argument that God is imaginary.
You have given no reason why the perfectly good, all-powerful, and all-knowing being could not be a Goddess
. In that case, the existence of such an omnimax being would
be compatible with the argument that "God" (if by "God" you mean the god of the Bible) is imaginary.
So, if proof #1 is indeed an argument that God is imaginary, then it relies on a dubious premise; therefore, proof #1 fails to establish its conclusion. It seems, then, that reflective truth-seekers wouldn’t be moved by it.
We could stop here. The proof fails to establish what it claims to establish.
It does, if
you attempt to claim that "the god of the Bible" is an omnimax, as you do above. By definition, such a being could not fail to produce a perfect Bible, if it so intended. If it did not so intend, then why even call it "the god of the Bible?" At best, the Bible would represent random guesses by primitive humans at what an omnimax being would be like. We have no reason to think that their guesses about the nature of an omnimax Deity would be any more accurate than their guesses about the nature and workings of the Cosmos as found in the Bible.
If you take the Bible at its word, in its portrayals of Yahweh as a rather limited, and far from perfect or moral, small-g god, then yes, you can escape Proof #1. A fallible and/or capricious small god could
produce an imperfect Bible, either by accident or design, while still being responsible for "inspiring" every word. Such a god would obviously not succumb to Proof #1 for a number of reasons. On the other hand, how many Christians actually believe in and worship such a god?
But the proof fails in more ways than one. According to this proof, the Bible’s statements on prayer imply that God would cure all of cancer on account of our prayers. But the proof fails to rule out (or even consider) the following possibility: background conditions on prayer are implicit in the text.
Consider that according to Matthew’s account, Jesus says, “My Father, if it is possible, may this cup be taken from me.” He goes on: “not as I will, but as you will” (Matt. 26:39).
And elsewhere, he says, “This, then, is how you should pray: Our Father in heaven… your will be done on earth as it is in heaven” (Matt. 6:9-10).
It appears that Jesus thinks prayers must be possible to answer (so, no asking for square circles). And prayers must accord with God’s will.
What we have here, is a failure to communicate. And it is a failure on the part of Yahweh, if you attribute the Bible to his "inspiration."
Why, then, does Jesus say that “everyone who asks receives”? A standard answer, which proof #1 fails to address, is that background conditions on prayer are implicit and would have been understood by his audience.
Indeed, that’s exactly what Jesus’ earliest followers thought: the Johanine text says that we know that we have what we ask for if we ask according to his will (John 5:14-15).
The very idea that nearly all Christians have to try to read the minds of people living centuries or millennia in the past, from cultures and times alien to their own in order to even guess at the "true" meaning of their Scriptures, ought to expose the sheer ridiculousness of the idea that a god worthy of the name would choose "the Bible" as its method of communicating with its followers. There are around 2 billion Christians today who look to the Bible for their understanding of Yahweh, but as you admit, "the Bible" wasn't written to or for them. It's "audience" consists of relatively small numbers of Jews and Gentiles living in ancient times, speaking dead languages and using unfamiliar idioms and cultural contexts.
Now it certainly does seem good for all cancer to be cured. But the crucial question is this: could God instantly cure all cancer without thereby forfeiting a higher good? That’s a difficult question, and proof #1 doesn’t even attempt to answer it.
For all that proof #1 says, it may be that our fighting against cancer with mental and physical energy forges courage, compassion, and unique and special relationships between everlasting beings. What if some cancer allows us to become heroes in loving others? More generally, what if a finite stage of suffering can act as a means to certain everlasting bonds of love that far outweigh that suffering?
?! OK, so cancer is a wonderful thing, and we would be worse off without it. If that's the case, then there's no reason to go saying that people are depraved and deserving of Hell because Adam and Eve ate a fruit. If they had not done so, they would have continued to live deathlessly in Eden, and there would have been no lovely cancer to make heroes of anyone. As sick as this idea is, it gets even worse when the doctrine of Hell is taken into account. According to Jesus, the vast majority of people will end up suffering eternity in Hell, because they fail to believe in him in the just-right way. If that's so, then Yahweh's failure to cure cancer, or do anything else that unambiguously demonstrates his existence insures that those billions of people will suffer the most horrific agony imaginable, for ever.
How can the opportunity for any degree of "heroism" for a few be worth not only the existence of cancer, but also the everlasting suffering of most humans in Hell?
A Real God isn’t a Magical God
Jesus compares faith to a seed, not a magical wand. Seeds grow with time to produce fruit. There’s a process. And some methods of cultivation are more effective than others.
Truth is often complicated. Therefore, when a perfect being speaks truth, this being should sometimes speak about complex matters. What he says should sometimes baffle the simple-minded, while being discernible to the wise.
Since the purpose of these arguments is to explain why your god doesn't
do anything--i.e., why reality behaves exactly as we would expect it to if your god was imaginary--we have good reason to point out that this indicates your own awareness (in terms of your anticipation of reality's behavior) that you live in the same godless universe we do.