Re: [asa] God disproven by science?

From: Murray Hogg <>
Date: Wed Apr 22 2009 - 07:40:38 EDT

Just a couple of thoughts on this thread;

First, following on from what Louise wrote:
> God, as a presumably free-will agent operating through an unknown physical (or perhaps unknowable "supernatural") mechanism can choose to answer prayer differently even if circumstances, from our human perspective, are practically identical for both patients and petitioners.
> Or, as one of the students put it last spring, "if I were God and people were doing a prayer study with me, I'd just mess with them!"

There is a similar sentiment from John Polkinghorne, Science and Creation: the search for understanding (London: SPCK, 1988), p.87;

Another power we lose in personal encounter is the ability to predict. Only in the event itself is its meaning to be found. It cannot be laid down beforehand nor prescribed by those who are merely observers and not participants. The religious believer is ill and prays for the gift of wholeness in the experience. He may find it in physical recovery or in the acceptance of disability or death. What will happen to him cannot be predicted, nor may any but he say whether the experience, when it comes, is one of wholeness or of disintegration.

Scientific knowledge is concerned with generalities, what all can find if they choose to look. In consequence it has a repeatable, and so shareable, character to it. Personal encounter is always idiosyncratic, because each individual is unique. We may find analogies in the experience of others but never identity. We all hear a Beethoven quartet differently, and we ourselves never quite hear it in the same way twice. Hence the scandal of particularity, which for Christian theology finds its most startling exemplification in the unique status claimed for Jesus Christ. While such a claim clearly calls for the most careful assessment, it is a rational possibility in the sphere of the personal that God should have made himself uniquely known in a particular man.

Second, on prayer studies in hospitals, one of the greatest problems is the fact that we simply can't establish any sort of control group. We cannot stop patients praying for themselves, nor can we stop family or friends doing so. And even if patients are die-hard atheists who insist that neither they nor any of their acquaintances are praying for healing, there are still hospital chaplains and local church prayer teams. Daily prayer for all the afflicted is also set down in the Anglican prayer book as well as forming part of the liturgy of many Catholic and other traditions. In short, there's no such thing as "not being prayed for." Consequently no way, in practice, to test the claim that "prayer has no effect on healing".


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Received on Wed Apr 22 07:40:59 2009

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