Book Plunge: Ten Things Christians Wish Jesus Hadn’t Taught Part 7

Can we pull a rabbit out of a hat? Let’s plunge into the Deeper Waters and find out.

And for his next trick, Madison is going to try to convince us that Jesus taught we can do magic. Well, of course we can! I mean, it takes years of practice and learning how to trick people but get a wand and a hat and a book of tricks and….wait…you mean it’s not that kind of magic? Oh! You mean he thinks miracles and things like that are automatically magic!

Sorry. I forget evangelistic atheists are just ignorant and like to use the word magic as if that discredits everything.

Now you’re not going to find anything here like a reasoned case against miracles. I mean, at least throw out David Hume or something like that. But hey, when you’re arguing from his position, who needs to make a case for his worldview? It’s just those nutty Christians that have to defend theirs.

So let’s get to something he says about the Lord’s Supper.

The familiar words we know from Mark’s gospel, “this is my body…this is my blood of the new covenant,” are missing from John’s account of the Last Supper. Instead, much earlier in the story, in the 6th chapter of John, after Jesus had fed the 5,000, we find these words—and no matter how familiar you may be with communion—how can they not be disturbing?


Very truly, I tell you, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood, you have no life in you. Those who eat my flesh and drink my blood have eternal life, and I will raise them up on the last day; for my flesh is true food and my blood is true drink. Those who eat my flesh and drink my blood abide in me, and I in them. Just as the living Father sent me, and I live because of the Father, so whoever eats me will live because of me. (John 6:53-57, NRSV)

Madison, David. Ten Things Christians Wish Jesus Hadn’t Taught: And Other Reasons to Question His Words (pp. 51-52). Insighting Growth Publications. Kindle Edition.

Let’s agree on one point. These words should be very disturbing indeed! They were so disturbing that a majority of the people who had just witnessed a miracle and were ready to proclaim Jesus to be king turned and walked away. Jesus went straight from hero to zero in their eyes. They were at one moment ready to trust Him as king and the next they gave up any trust in Him.

So for a point, let’s consider Madison is right. We need to really take these words seriously.

Do I think Jesus is talking about the Eucharist here? No. I think instead that Jesus is pointing to the Wilderness wanderings and saying “Just as the manna was their sustenance in the wilderness, so it is that I must be your sustenance in all things.” Now you could say “And that takes place in the Eucharist” if you’re of that persuasion, but it is not a necessity.

Now moving on, we get this little gem:

I will do whatever you ask in my name, so that the Father may be glorified in the Son. If in my name you ask me for anything, I will do it. (John 14:13-14, NRSV) Very truly, I tell you, if you ask anything of the Father in my name, he will give it to you. Until now you have not asked for anything in my name. Ask and you will receive, so that your joy may be complete. (John 16:23-24, NRSV)

I suspect many Christians know these texts are falsified by their own prayer experiences. I urge you to think long and hard about prayer. How can it not be classified as a form of magical thinking? In many cases, even an attempt at conjuring?

Madison, David. Ten Things Christians Wish Jesus Hadn’t Taught: And Other Reasons to Question His Words (p. 53). Insighting Growth Publications. Kindle Edition.

There’s a rule of interpretation that is to try to avoid making what your opponent say look as stupid as possible. If you think your opponent is saying something that is manifestly false, you need to check to see if you have misunderstood Him. Unfortunately, Madison has not done that.

For one thing, it should be blatantly obvious Jesus is not offering a blank check because any prayer that would come back unanswered would immediately disprove that. What is He offering then? He is offering that if you are fully in line with the will of God, you will get what you want, and very few people will be in such a place and if they are, they are not going to be asking for selfish things.

Not only that, but ancient Jews spoke in terms of hyperbole. When Salome dances for Herod, he offers her half of his kingdom. She could have just asked for the one that gave her authority to execute John the Baptist and got him executed and a kingdom then. Everyone knew he couldn’t give that literally. He himself knew it. They also knew what the gesture meant.

Madison doesn’t because he doesn’t understand any culture but his own.

But Madison isn’t done with prayer.

But how do the thoughts inside our heads—trapped there by our skulls—escape to be perceived by God? There are no known mechanisms by which that would work, just as there are no known ways by which the popular spells in the Harry Potter stories would work. Nobody even tries to explain how the Fairy God Mother in Cinderella, waving a wand, changes a pumpkin into a carriage—because that’s fantasy. Does prayer amount to waving a wand in our minds? The efficacy of prayer should not be off-limits for legitimate inquiry. Indeed, scientific studies of prayer have not yielded hoped-for results.

Madison, David. Ten Things Christians Wish Jesus Hadn’t Taught: And Other Reasons to Question His Words (pp. 53-54). Insighting Growth Publications. Kindle Edition.

I am sitting here and typing out a response and I am telling my hands through my brain to type. How does that work? I have no idea. Do I conclude then that I am not doing it because I do not know the mechanism by which this works? Not at all. How does God know what I am praying? As a Thomist, I contend He knows all things by knowing Himself, but even if I don’t understand that, a God who is all-powerful and all-knowing I am sure knows what I am thinking.

Madison dismisses prayer studies. I am skeptical of them as well, but then there are researchers like Candy Gunther-Brown and others who have observed miracles after prayer in certain settings. Of course, if Madison were being fair, he would research those, but we all know he won’t.

The last thing I plan to cover is he says there are two things that are troubling about prayer.

The concept of prayer brings us face-to-face, again, with the grim specter of totalitarian monotheism, that is to say, God monitors our very thoughts—the ultimate invasion of privacy for every person on earth. Doesn’t that make God a nosy busybody? Aside from the fact that there is no verifiable evidence to back up this idea—our feelings about prayer instilled since childhood are not the kind of hard evidence required—it’s simply a terrible idea.

Madison, David. Ten Things Christians Wish Jesus Hadn’t Taught: And Other Reasons to Question His Words (p. 54). Insighting Growth Publications. Kindle Edition.

A terrible idea, therefore wrong. Got it. Besides that nonsense, why should I think I have a right to privacy from God? I owe everything to Him, including my very being. Also, if there is evidence that God exists, and there is, and that He’s all-knowing, and there is, then Madison’s claim is false. God knows what I am thinking. Yes, that should concern me, but knowing He is forgiving should also relieve me and I should seek to get my own thought life under control. Does Madison seriously have a problem with me wanting to have a good thought life?

It is incredibly implausible that a God who manages the cosmos, that is, who has hundreds of billions of galaxies, and trillions of planets under management, would be interested in monitoring the thoughts of more than seven billion human beings—as a way of keeping track of their sinful inclinations, their need for a parking space, or recovery from an ailment. Such an attentive God might have made sense long ago when the earth was regarded as the center of his attention, and when God was thought to reside in the realm above the clouds.

Madison, David. Ten Things Christians Wish Jesus Hadn’t Taught: And Other Reasons to Question His Words (pp. 54-55). Insighting Growth Publications. Kindle Edition.

This is just an appeal to incredulity. First off, the Christians never made the Earth the center of everything. God has always been. Second, God does not have limited resources or strength such that He has to use energy monitoring trillions of planets and everything else.

So alas, Madison again really gives us nothing.

We’ll continue next time.

In Christ,
Nick Peters
(And I affirm the virgin birth)



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