The Incredible Shrinking God
by: Lois Kobb
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Have you ever noticed how, in the Bible, the miracles become less impressive as time goes on? Let's take a look at that phenomenon and see what conclusions can be reached.
The very first miracle ever recorded is the creation of the universe in
Genesis 1. You are all familiar with it by now, so there is no need to repeat it here, nor is it necessary to go into details about why it is stupid from a scientific standpoint. The point here is that this is SPECTACULAR! Never before had God done such an act, and he has never done it since then. Why is that? If he did it once, can't he do it again? If not, why not?
Also in Genesis, we get treated to a worldwide flood. God is really throwing his weight around here, showing everyone who's the baddest ass in town by covering the world in roaring, foaming, seething water so high that it covers all the mountains! I bet all the other gods were impressed.
The next big miracle is the confusing of languages at the Tower of Babel, in Genesis 11. Well, I guess that's pretty amazing. I am not sure exactly what sort of magical forces one would have to manipulate in order to instantaneously cause hundreds of human beings to start speaking a variety of different languages, but it's probably pretty complicated. I guess.
Genesis 19 gives us the total destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah, the world's wickedest cities, and suddenly God is back in action! He can't stand these guys, so he RAINS FIRE ON THEM FROM THE SKY!! HellYEAH! He finishes this off by turning Lot's wife into a lump of salt.
After that, there are a few minor incidents that barely qualify as miracles, they are so mundane: the birth of Isaac to his elderly mother (Gen. 22), Jacob's dream about a ladder reaching to heaven (Gen. 28), and various stories wherein we are expected to believe that God was guiding the lives of his people. Things don't really become interesting again, miracle-wise, until Exodus 3, when God appears to Moses as a burning bush. And then we are told of the Ten Plagues and Israel's escape to freedom, the parting of the Red Sea, manna from the sky and water from a rock, and so on. God has made himself known again in the only way he knows how: by fucking people up as much as possible.
Once this business is ended, we see an abrupt end to the incredible miracles and a continuation of rather boring ones. There is the plague at Kadesh, the sun and moon standing still, Aaron's rod sprouting leaves, Uzzah being struck dead for touching the ark of the covenant, and some weird incidents involving the prophets Elijah and Elisha; but no world-changing catastrophes, no brimstone from the heavens, no worlds coming into being at a snap of the Almighty's fingers. The rest of the Old Testament's miracles are highly localized and rather mundane.
Miracles in the New Testament are not much of an improvement. There is, of course, the entire story of Jesus, which is filled with the miraculous from his birth to his death. Angels proclaim his birth, he is born to a virgin, is uncommonly wise as a child, heals the sick, the lame, and the blind, raises the dead, and so on. By this time, what God lacks in quality, he makes up for in quantity. Christians, of course, will argue that Jesus is his best miracle ever, ignoring that Jesus' life is suspiciously similar to that of many other half-god heroes and saviors of other religions that existed long before the First Century AD. Is this the best God could do? He couldn't think of a truly unique way to bring his savior into the world, so he had to copy the Romans, the Greeks, the Egyptians, and others? I would expect more out of the God who simply willed the universe into being in Genesis 1. Why couldn't he will a savior into being, just poof one out of thin air? Or why not save people himself? Or create people already in heaven, if that is where he wants them?
Once Jesus dies, it is up to the apostles to carry on with the magic tricks. Paul's conversion (which I have detailed here) is one of them, but only if you read about it in the book of Acts, where a vision of Jesus makes him temporarily blind. In Galatians, no Jesus-vision is mentioned at all, leading one to wonder if this miracle ever really happened. Peter and Paul go around healing people, Peter raises Tabitha from death, miracles supposedly occur through objects that were touched by Paul, Silas and Paul are broken from prison by divine intervention, etc.
Does it seem that, as time went on, miracles became less impressive? Why is God not scooping people up to heaven in fiery chariots in the epistles, as he did to Elijah in 2 Kings 2:11? Peter and Paul were a couple of God's favorite guys, so surely this would have been a fitting end to their lives. In the Old Testament, God smote entire cities for their wicked ways; in the New Testament, he tells people to just shake the dust off their feet, should they preach in a city that refuses to accept Jesus. Is that because God finally learned to control his temper, or that he is getting weaker in his old age?
When I bring up the marked difference between miracles in the Old Testament and those in the New, or between New Testament times and modern times, Christians always give a reason basically amounting to "That was then, this is now." Meaning that God had a use for mind-blowing miracles Once Upon a Time, but that time is long past and now he just kind of...I dunno, hangs around making people feel happy, or something. They actually get miffed when I dare to suggest that God should do some really cool miracles now and again, like he used to do thousands of years ago. He wants people to believe in him and be scared of him and bow down before him like grovelling cowards, right? Fine, give me a reason why I should bother. He could rearrange the stars in the sky to spell out a message, or eliminate cancer overnight, or create a second moon. Any of those would be undeniably miraculous. Why would he limit himself to doing "miracles" that anyone with a good education could figure out were simply natural events with natural causes, or simply made-up impossible fables? I have been told that it is wrong to expect God to do the same miracles today that he did back then. Why?
Well, that is easy: It's because BibleGod does not exist, and all of those miracles in the Bible are nothing but tall tales. People might have believed them back then, but that is no reason for us to believe them now. We have NO evidence for any of them, and not the slightest reason to accept that somehow, the laws of physics were different back then, or gods were more powerful, or Yahweh had a message that could only be conveyed through terrorizing humanity in bizarre ways. It surely cannot escape the Christian's notice that their God has been shrinking over the centuries. Long, long ago, he could wish stars into existence and obliterate a million people on a sudden whim; now, he can sort of give you a warm, happy feeling inside when you pray. Not very impressive, that.