God IS: A Refutation of “Proof” #1 at godisimaginary.com

Let us examine an argument that claims that God is imaginary. The title of the argument is “Try Praying”. The main argument is that because God does not answer our prayer for Him to cure every instance of cancer, He is imaginary (does not exist). Several scripture references are cited in support of the argument, namely Mt 7:7-10, 17:20, 21:21; Mk 11:24; Jn 14:12-14. Several actual arguments exist in the article in the following form:

  1. Premise: If God/Jesus said {something regarding prayer from the aforementioned verses}, and we ask God to cure cancer, then God should cure cancer.
  2. Premise: God does not cure cancer.
  3. Conclusion: Therefore, God does not exist.

The first argument quotes Jesus in Matthew 7:7-11 and makes the following argument:

  1. Premise: If “our Father who is in heaven gives good things to those who ask him”, then if we ask him to cure cancer, he should cure it.
  2. Premise: God does not cure cancer.
  3. Conclusion: Therefore, God does not exist.

Is this argument valid? Is it sound? Are there any logical fallacies presented? There are several layers of assumptions intertwined into this argument that must be discharged for this argument to be proven. Furthermore, premise 1 is an argument itself. Here are the elements of the argument with the added assumptions:

  1. Premise 1
    1. Premise: Our Father who is in heaven gives good things to those who ask him
    2. Assumption: Curing every instance of cancer is a good thing.
    3. Assumption: God is required to do what we ask.
    4. Premise: I have asked God to cure every instance of cancer.
    5. Conclusion: Therefore, God must cure every instance of cancer.
  2. Premise 2
    1. Premise: God does not cure cancer.
    2. Assumption: No instance of the elimination of cancer in one person in history can be attributed to God.
    3. Assumption: No instance of the elimination of cancer in one person in the future can be attributed to God.
    4. Assumption: If cancer miraculously disappeared it could not be attributed to God.
    5. Assumption: If man discovered a cure to cancer it could not be attributed to God.
  3. Conclusion
    1. Assumption: For God to exist, He must meet the qualifications set out in premise 1, even if those qualifications are inconsistent with other depictions of God.

The deeply implicit assumptions in this argument present some difficulty in proving that this is indeed a valid argument. For instance, if one is going to argue from the Bible that God should cure every instance of cancer if He exists because it is good, that person has neither considered the attributes of God as presented in Scripture nor pondered the nature of the fallen world. Romans 8:28 states that “all things work together for good for those who love God and are called according to His purpose.” A biblical view of God is one that sees His ultimate sovereignty over all things. For more information regarding God’s sovereignty, see A. W. Pink’s The Sovereignty of God. The Bible presents the universe in a fallen state due to the sin of Adam. The entire cosmos is touched by the corruption of sin. Adam’s sin was imputed to all men (Romans 5:12). Earth was no longer a peaceful and safe place to dwell; furthermore, work would be hard (Genesis 3:17-19). God forewarned of disease, earthquakes, and famines (Luke 21:11). God uses disease for the purpose of teaching people (Proverbs 3:11, 15:32). To Moses, God asserted, “Who has made man’s mouth? Who makes him mute, or deaf, or seeing, or blind? Is it not I, the Lord?” (Exodus 4:11). Trials and sufferings bring patience and patience bring character and character brings hope (James 1:2; Romans 5:3-4). The syllogism is as follows: if we experience suffering, we will get patience. If we get patience, we’ll grow in character. If we grow in character, we’ll acquire hope. Therefore if we experience suffering, we’ll acquire hope. The negation of the syllogism is as follows: If we don’t acquire hope, then we have not experienced suffering.

The argument presented by godisimaginary.com in “Proof #1″ does not reflect the Biblical presentation of the nature and character of God and creation. God is all-powerful, self-existent, and transcendent, and is therefore in control of all things. For disease to exist, it must have a purpose in God’s plan. “For from Him and through Him and to Him are all things. To Him be glory forever, amen,” says Paul in Romans 11:38.

So what, then, is a “good thing” that Jesus told his audience at the Sermon on the Mount to ask for? That’s not for us to decide. In order to understand what to pray for, one must be indwelt by the Holy Spirit, because we are too weak:

Likewise the Spirit helps us in our weakness. For we do not know what to pray for as we ought, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with groanings too deep for words. And he who searches hearts knows what is the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for the saints according to the will of God. (Romans 8:26-27, ESV)

In order to be indwelt by the Holy Spirit, one must be saved. The Bible presents a radically different view of man than the world wants to accept. Man is by nature spiritually dead (Ephesians 2:1) and under the rule and dominion of Satan (Ephesians 2:2-3). It is only when God elects to have mercy on an undeserving sinner and regenerates their depraved soul that salvation occurs and the human becomes indwelt with the Holy Spirit (Ephesians 2:4-10). This is an act of grace and results in the person’s repentance and profession of faith in Jesus Christ. When this occurs, the person may pray for those “good things” that Jesus said that they would receive if only they asked. In a spiritually dead state, however, not even a single soul is capable of asking for “good things”.

There are many other ways to provide counterexamples to invalidate this argument, but they are not needed. The assumptions implicit in this argument are the keys to its own demise.

Are there any fallacies presented in this argument that we can learn from? An obvious one is the fallacy of non sequitur, which simply means that the conclusion does not follow from the premises.

Apologetics, Philosophy


  1. Miller Ansell

    So in the first part you're saying that the antitheist's naturalistic worldview wouldn't even allow them to consider the existence of God. In fact, before premise one is stated their mind is made up that God cannot exist because the supernatural cannot exist. Good job! That wasn't my initial thought. My first response would be to question the antitheist's foundation of ethics. For example, how would they know that cancer is bad?

  2. Greg Johnston

    Miller, that's a great point: antitheists have no objective basis for determining whether cancer is bad, yet many would assume that it is. You have obviously read your Van Til and I have not.

  3. Cory Tucholski

    The approach I generally take with prayer is to ask the atheist what would constitute a bona fide answer to prayer.

    I haven't had a direct answer to that question yet. I get a lot of posturing or dodging, but never an answer.

    What, in the mind of an atheist, does NOT equate to answer to prayer are things like another person coming in to aid, mankind finding a cure to the terrible disease, anything that could be a coincidence, anything that has an antecedent cause from nature, character development from the experience, the ability to help someone later in life overcome the same obstacle.

    An example might be in order. If I've been out of work for a while, and my house is about to be foreclosed, I pray to God to save my house, then the following are NOT (in the atheist mind) an answer to that prayer:

    * Rich uncle dies and leaves me enough to buy the house
    * My attorney informs me that I'm due more money from the IRS, and to expect a check that will cover the house payment by the end of the week
    * Putting on a coat to leave the house and discovering some money accidentally left in the pocket long ago
    * A teller calling from the bank and explaining that they made a terrible mistake and I'm nowhere near foreclosure
    * A normally tightfisted friend calling and volunteering to loan me the money

    All legitimate answers to the prayer. All within the power of a perfectly sovereign God to effect. Yet, the atheist will ALWAYS prefer coincidence to the movement of God WITHOUT providing criteria for what constitutes the movement of God and mere coincidence.

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