Moving on let’s dissect some more of their constructive debate on Christianity featuring a christian son versus an atheist father… sounds clever adventure <wink><wink>
Correspondence 11: Why would an all-powerful God need prayer?
Date: December 15, 1989
As I said before, I don’t see that prayer ever works. Not only this but I don’t see how prayer ever could work. If God is all-good and all-powerful, and concerned about us, doesn’t He already want the best for us? And so wouldn’t he already be doing as much as He can ever do for us? So what are you asking for prayer? For Him to care more? He supposedly already cares as much as He could. Are you asking Him to do more? He’s supposedly already doing everything He can. Are you informing Him of some problem so He’ll do something about it? He supposedly already knows everything. So you can’t inform Him about anything, you can’t coax Him to do anything, and you can’t empower Him to do anything. So what the hell are you doing when you pray! The whole thing seems like a total waste of time to me.
Date: December 28, 1989
Now on to your question about prayer. The main purpose of talking to God (that’s all prayer really is) has little to do with asking for things, Dad. It’s to build a faith-filled, loving relationship with our Creator and Redeemer… The main purpose of prayer is simply to be with Someone you love: to talk, to listen, or to simply “commune” with your Creator.
Asking for things – what’s called “petitionary payer” – is simply one minor aspect of this total relationship…
A genuine relationship, I believe, can only occur where there is personal interaction between two persons, where there is “give and take” between two parties. In other words, any genuine relationship requires that both parties are to some extent empower over and against the other… God doesn’t want to be the only one calling the shots… So God ordains things so that we are to some degree empowered in our relationship with Him.
First, Dad, given the complexity of reality. I think it would be virtually impossible to “test” the effectiveness of prayers… If petitionary prayers could be conclusively “verified,” it would turn God into a sort of cosmic vending machine. Make your requests, pull the lever, and abracadabra, you have your wish granted… it takes faith to pray, and faith to see the answer to prayer.
Secondly, I’d again reiterate that, far more important than knowing the mechanics of unanswered prayer is knowing that God’s on your side even when the prayer is unanswered.
… And to communicate at all – anything! Is the beginning of a relationship with Him.
Hope to hear from you soon,
As promised, here are some exchange of opinions between Dr. Greg Boyd and his atheist father which I found tough but very enlightening:
Correspondence 2: Why is the world so full of suffering?
Date: March 23, 1989
If God created this world and cares about it, why is there so damn much suffering in it? In your letter your answer was that God can’t be held responsible because He gave man the freedom to choose to do right or wrong. But Greg, I don’t feel that the question can be swept away so easily. When the freedom to decide to do harm results in pain and suffering to innocent people, God is simply not the “loving” God you make Him out to be!
I though about this when I read about this lunatic down here in Florida who was released from jail after seven or eight years for raping a teenage girl and then chopping off both her arms, leaving her for dead. It was his free choice to commit the crime, but what choice did the innocent girl have?… Why does God value the freedom of the criminal, but not the freedom of the victim?
The point is , this world doesn’t look at all like the kind of world we’d have if there were an all-powerful, all-loving God behind it. And I don’t see the freedom improves the situation much.
Well enough for now. Look forward to your letter.
Lots of love,
Date: March 29, 1989
Well, Dad, I’ve got to admit that you are raising some extremely good points in your letters. You are raising the most difficult questions atheist can face. This is a good material.
It seems to me, Dad, that if God is going to give free wills to His creatures, He has to allow the possibility of them misusing that freedom, even if it means hurting others. To be significantly free is to be morally responsible to each other. What is the freedom to love or not love unless it is freedom to enrich or harm another? God structured things this way because the alternative would be to have a race of robots who can’t genuinely love – but that’s hardly worth creating, is it?
So why doesn’t God intervene every time someone is going to misuse his freedom and hurt another person? The answer, I believe, is found in the nature of freedom itself. A freedom which was prevented from being exercised whenever it was going to be misused simply wouldn’t be freedom.
So too, If God really gives gives us freedom, it must be, at least to a large extent, irrevocable. He must have, within limits, a “hands off” attitude towards it. God creates free people who can do as they please, not determined instruments who always end up doing what He pleases.
I look forward to your response
As always, with all my love,
“Letters from a Skeptic” is a collection of letters between a son by the name of Dr. Gregory Boyd, Theology professor at Bethel College in Minnesota, author and believer of the Christian faith, and his exceptionally intelligent, intensely skeptical, very strong-willed, 70 year-old father Edward K. Boyd.
A book that is very useful, not only as a source of hope, but also as a resource of information for Christians who have loved ones who are not believers.
Watch out for more post featuring actual correspondence between Dr. Boyd and his father…
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