As a skeptic, I have often asked for proof that God — specifically the God of the Bible, the religion of which is an overwhelming majority in my area — exists, to which I’m often told that there is no proof that God exists, that it simply requires faith, or that there is plenty of proof but that it takes faith to actually accept that proof.
I’m also often challenged to prove that God doesn’t exist, the implication being that one cannot prove a negative and so cannot prove that God doesn’t exist, leaving open the possibility that he does exist.
The Bible even goes so far as to say that you cannot test God (Deuteronomy 6:16; Luke 4:12), and some apologists will say that you cannot test God from a position of a lack of faith but that those who have faith in God can test him because they already know he’s real.1
Would you believe, though, that there is an experiment described by the Bible which is entirely repeatable and which can be performed by any group of people, provided one of them is a believer in the God of the Bible and the other isn’t? You won’t find it mentioned too often by apologists; a cursory overview of a handful of articles on testing God, as well as OpenBible.info’s relevant topic listing, turned up no entry of this particular test. Here’s the story:
The short version of the above is this: The prophet Elijah was alone in standing up for the God of Abraham, overwhelmingly outnumbered by the prophets of Baal. However, in faith, he challenged Baal’s prophets to a good ol’ fashioned sacrifice off: each god’s prophet(s) would lay out a sacrifice on a prepared altar, but would not burn it; the prophet(s) whose god sent fire to burn up the sacrifice would win the challenge, and their god would be shown to exist.
The prophets of Baal went first, yet despite working at it for half the day, Baal never burnt up the sacrifice. Elijah taunts them, and then sets up his own sacrifice which of course the God of Abraham burns up in acceptance. Elijah then kills the prophets of Baal because, well, … reasons?
The story reads like a fairy tale, and like so many other fairy tales, it teaches us a great lesson: the God of the Bible can absolutely be tested as to whether he exists.
All you need is a Christian willing to make a sacrifice (in worship, in celebration, in humility, whatever) to God and anybody else willing to sacrifice to anything else. It has to be a Christian, though, one who absolutely believes that God is real, at least according to certain apologists who think that God can only be tested by those who accept his realness already.2
That’s all it takes: A sacrifice to show that God does not exist. Once and for all, the Bible’s mythology can be shown to not reflect reality.
No doubt there will be some objections.
“Christians don’t sacrifice to God!” Well, no, but nobody commanded Cain and Abel to do so either, but they did. Sacrifices don’t have to be commanded; they only need to be genuine.
“Animal killer!” Yeah, this necessitates the killing of at least two animals, but if you work together with a slaughterhouse, you can no doubt accomplish this. You may actually already live on a farm and have animals which you kill yourselves for food — nobody says you can’t dine on these sacrifices if your conscience allows it (1 Corinthians 8), and besides, God is sure to cook one of them right up for you, right?
“Elijah already proved God exists!” Yes, in the context of the story. There is no corroborating evidence for us to accept the biblical account as reality. The New Testament says to “prove all things” (1 Thessalonians 5:21), and “all things” would certainly include God or perhaps even the methodology Elijah used. In other words, try it for yourself; if you don’t get the same result as Elijah, then you obviously don’t have to hold fast to the Bible as being good and true.
“That only worked for Elijah!” Ah, of course, it only worked where there were no cameras, no impartial third parties, no lasting evidence. Clicking red heels together is a means of magical transport too, based on the same quality of evidence.3 There is nothing in the text which indicates that this event isn’t repeatable. Elijah made the challenge, made the taunts, followed through with his side of the experiment, and then went on a murderous rampage against the prophets of Baal — nothing all that inherent to his prophetableness.
So what then? We have a foolproof experiment to show that the God of the Bible exists. Christians, feel free to put your faith into action.4
- Got-Questions.org takes this position. Nothing says “useful knowledge” like conducting tests designed to confirm something which you already believe in. I’m sure confirmation bias won’t affect the results in any way.
- See The Wizard of Oz (1939).
- Unless of course your annoyance with the increasing secularity of society is just all talk.