Tuesday, January 6, 2015

Why Elijah Defeated the Baal Priests


Why Elijah Defeated the Baal Priests
Thomas Allen



[Editor's note: The following article has been significantly revised from the eariler version that appeared.]
    Why was Elijah able to defeat Baal’s priests in his duel with them (1 Kings, chapter 18)? The traditional explanation is that Jehovah or Yahweh or YHWH is the supreme God or that He is the only true God.[1] Naturally, Baal apologists object to Jehovah being the supreme god, much less being the true god.
    Jesus said in Matthew 7:7, “Ask and it shall be given you.” As many prayers go unanswered, prayer apologists have come up with excuses for unanswered prayers. Baal apologists can easily use these excuses to explain Elijah’s victory over Baal’s priests. Some of the favorite and most popular excuses of the prayer apologists for unanswered prayers follow.
    1. Doubt. God does not answer prayer because of doubt, i.e., the prayer has some doubt that God would answer the prayer. Thus, doubt is more powerful than God. How much doubt is necessary is not usually stated other than if the prayer has one iota of doubt, his prayer will not be answered. According to the Baal apologists, Baal’s priests did not lose because Jehovah is mightier; they lost because they had some doubt that Baal would answer their prayers. Therefore, Baal did not answer their prayers and allowed Elijah to win. Moreover, the reason that we have war instead of peace is that out of the multitude of people praying for peace, is that all of them have doubt. Of the few who pray for war, apparently one of them has no doubt that God will deliver war. Therefore, we have war instead of peace. (In this article, peace means the absence of war; it does not mean the unmeasurable internal peace of God.)
    2. Lack of Faith. God does not answer prayer because of a lack of faith, i.e., the prayer does not have enough faith. Presumably, if the prayer is answered, the prayer has enough faith. If it is not answered, the prayer does not have enough faith. Thus, according to the Baal apologists, Baal’s priests did not lose because Jehovah is mightier; they lost because they did not have enough faith that Baal would answer their prayers. Therefore, Baal did not answer their prayers and allowed Elijah to win. Moreover, the reason that we have war instead of peace is that out of the multitude of people praying for peace, is that none of them have enough faith. Of the few who pray for war, at least one of them has enough faith to ensure that God will deliver war.  Therefore, we have war instead of peace.
    3. Serious and Earnest. God only answers prayers when the prayer begs seriously and earnestly. Otherwise, He ignores the prayer. Thus, according to the Baal apologists, Baal’s priests did not lose because Jehovah is mightier; they lost because they did not beg seriously and earnestly enough. Therefore, Baal did not answer their prayers and allowed Elijah to win. Moreover, the reason that we have war instead of peace is that out of the multitude who pray for peace, none begs seriously or earnestly enough. Of the few who pray for war, at least one begs seriously and earnestly enough. Therefore, we have war instead of peace.
    4. Not God’s Will. God does not answer the prayers of His people unless He so desires, i.e., it is His will to answer them, or the prayer is consistent with His will. Presumably, His refusal to answer serves some higher and usually a hidden purpose and is not whimsical. Moreover, as God’s will always prevails, presumably, His will is going to be executed even if no one ever prays. Thus, according to the Baal apologists, Baal’s priests did not lose because Jehovah is mightier; they lost because Baal’s will was that they lose. Therefore, Baal did not answer their prayers and allowed Elijah to win. Moreover, the reason that we have war instead of peace is that of the multitude who pray for peace, is that none are praying for God’s will. Of the few who pray for war, they are praying for God’s will, which means that God’s will is war. Therefore, we have war instead of peace.
    5. God Answers Those Who Seek His Will. If what the prayer is seeking with his prayer is God’s will, God answers the prayer. If the prayer’s prayer is contrary to God’s will, God does not answer the prayer or answers it negatively.  Again, as God’s will always prevails, presumably, His will is going to be executed even if no one ever prays. Thus, according to the Baal apologists, Baal’s priests did not lose because Jehovah is mightier; they lost because they were not seeking Baal’s will when they asked him to defeat Elijah. Therefore, Baal allowed Elijah to win. Moreover, the reason that we have war instead of peace is that people who pray for peace are not seeking God’s will. The few who pray for war apparently are seeking God’s will, which is war.
    6. Gives Things Asked for That He is Willing to Grant. The prayers must ask for things that they know that God is willing to grant. This excuse leads to much groping around in the dark, for who knows the mind of God. Thus, prayer is mostly a trail and error thing with the prayer searching for what God will grant. Even then, he does not know whether it is answered prayer or coincidence. Thus, according to the Baal apologists, Baal’s priests did not lose because Jehovah is mightier; they lost because they did not ask for that which Baal was willing to grant when they asked him to defeat Elijah. Therefore, Baal allowed Elijah to win. Moreover, we have war instead of peace because those who pray for peace are not praying for that which God is willing to grant. The few who pray for war are praying for that which God is willing to grant, which is war.
    7. God Answers But the Answer Is “No.” God answers all prayer. Sometimes He grants the prayer what he asks for, and sometimes He does not. How this is to be distinguished from random events and coincidence is not adequately explained — especially, when compared to nonprayed for events. Thus, according to the Baal apologists, Baal’s priests did not lose because Jehovah is mightier; they lost because Baal answered his priests negatively. Therefore, Baal did answer their prayers, and his answer, contrary to their petition, was to allow Elijah to win. Moreover, the reason that we have war instead of peace is that God answers the prayers for peace negatively. However, He answers the prayers of the few who pray for war in the positive and gives them and those who pray for peace war.
    8. The Answer Is Not What Was Expected. God answers all prayers. However, the answer is frequently not what the prayer wanted or expected. Again, how this is to be distinguished from random events and coincidence is not adequately explained. Baal did answer the prayers of his priests. However, the answer was not what they expected. They expected Baal to give them victory over Elijah. Baal decided to answer their prayers by giving Elijah victory over them. Thus, according to the Baal apologists, Baal’s priests did not lose because Jehovah is mightier; they lost because Baal answered his priests in a way that was not expected. Moreover, the reason that we have war instead of peace is that God answers the prayers for peace with war, which is not what the prayers for peace wanted or expected.
    9. Has Something Better. God answers all prayers, but He often answers by giving the prayer something better than what he asks. Evidently, this is true even, and especially, when the prayer never perceives the thing received as better than what was requested. Apparently, the “something better” for Baal’s priests was defeat, humiliation, and death. Thus, according to the Baal apologists, Baal’s priests did not lose because Jehovah is mightier; Baal gave his priests something better than victory over Elijah: defeat, humiliation, and death. Moreover, the reason that we have war instead of peace is that God is giving the prayers for peace something better than peace and that is war.
    10. Gives What Is Needed, Not What Is Wanted. God answers prayers by giving the prayer what he needs instead of what he wants. A corollary of this excuse is that God does not answer prayers for wants; He only answers prayers for needs. What does God do when the request is for something that is both needed and wanted? Does He grant the request because it is needed? Does He withhold answering because it is wanted? Or does He only partially answer it? Obviously, Baal’s priests merely wanted victory over Elijah. What they really needed was defeat, humiliation, and death. Thus, according to the Baal apologists, Baal’s priests did not lose because Jehovah is mightier; Baal gave his priests what they needed (defeat, humiliation, and death) instead of what they wanted (victory). Moreover, the reason that we have war instead of peace is that prayers for peace merely want peace. What they really need is war. Presumably, those who pray for war merely want war, but what they really need is war, so God gives them war.
    11. Not Yet. God answers all prayers, but He often delays in answering, even when the prayer is time sensitive. Again, how this is to be distinguished from random events and coincidence is not adequately explained. Also, not explained is time running out without the prayer being answered. When was Baal going to answer the prayers of his priests? After Elijah defeated, humiliated, and killed them? According to the Baal apologists, Baal did answer the prayers of his priests. He just did not answer them in a timely manner. He delayed answering their prayers to some future date. Evidently, Baal plans to answer the prayers of his priests in the future when he has reincarnated or resurrected them and Elijah and has the duel between them reenacted. Thus, according to the Baal apologists, Baal’s priests did not lose because Jehovah is mightier; they lost because Baal decided to answer their prayers later. Moreover, the reason that we have war instead of peace is that God will grant peace sometimes in the future — perhaps when no one is left to fight.
    12. Unconfessed Sin. God does not answer prayer because the prayer has unconfused sin, i.e., the prayer has not confessed all his sin. Therefore, God will not answer the prayer. If this excuse is true, then God seldom answers many prayers as many prayers have unconfessed sin. Many people cannot even remember all their unconfessed sins, so their prayers are never answered. Thus, according to the Baal apologists, Baal’s priests did not lose because Jehovah is mightier; they lost because they had some unconfessed sin. Therefore, Baal did not answer their prayers and allowed Elijah to win. Moreover, the reason that we have war instead of peace is that of the multitude who pray for peace, all have unconfessed sin. Of the few who pray for war, apparently at least one does not have any unconfessed sin, so God answers his prayer for war.
    13. Dire Need. God only answers prayers of people in dire need. When does a need become a dire need? What is a dire need? Cemeteries are full of people who thought that they had a dire need. Thus, according to the Baal apologists, Baal’s priests did not lose because Jehovah is mightier; they lost because they did not have a dire need to win. Apparently, they had a dire need for defeat, humiliation, and death. Moreover, prayers for peace do not have a dire need for peace; however, prayers for war do have a dire need for war. Therefore, we have war.
    14. Not Praying the Correct Way. According to this excuse, one should pray as though God has already answered the prayer. If the prayer thanks God in advance for answering the prayer, God will grant the prayer’s request. That is, in order for God to give the prayer his request, the prayer must follow the correct formula for prayer. (This excuse sounds like Gnosticism in that a hidden formula for prayer exists. One only needs to be enlightened enough to find it.) Thus, according to Baal apologists, Baal’s priests did not lose because Jehovah is mightier; they lost because they did not pray the correct way. Therefore, Baal did not answer their prayers and allowed Elijah to win. Moreover, the reason that we have war instead of peace is that of the few who pray for war at least one follows the correct formula. Of the multitude who pray for peace, none uses the correct formula. To the extent any formula for prayer is given in Matthew 7:7, it is simply to ask; then God will grant the request.
    15. Failing to Deal with the Spirit Behind the Problem. The prayer has one or more spirits causing the problem for which he is praying, and he has not dealt with these spirits. He must first rebuke, confess, acknowledge, and command these spirits to depart before his prayers are answered. (To the extent that this excuse has validity, the rebuking, confessing, acknowledging and commanding the departure of these spirits is implied in most prayers even if they are not explicitly stated. Often the prayer may not even be aware of such spirits.) Thus, according to Baal apologists, Baal’s priests did not lose because Jehovah is mightier; they lost because they did not first rebuke, confess, acknowledge, and command the departure of the spirit behind Elijah’s challenge although their prayers did imply, if not explicitly command, etc., such departure. Moreover, the reason that we have war instead of peace is that of the few who pray for war at least one has rebuked, confessed, acknowledged, and commanded the departure of the spirit behind peace. Of the multitude who pray for peace, none has rebuked, confessed, acknowledged, and commanded the departure of the spirit behind war.
    16. Not Praying to the Right God. God will not answer one’s prayer if he prays to the wrong God. Presumably, the wrong God will not answer his prayers either, although the prayer prayed to him. Thus, according to Baal apologists, Baal’s priest did not lose because Jehovah is mightier; they lost because they prayed to the wrong god. Therefore, Baal refused to answer their prayers and allowed Elijah to win. Moreover, the reason that we have war instead of peace is that out of the multitude of people praying for peace, none of them is praying to the right God. All are praying to the wrong God. Apparently of the few who pray for war, at least one is praying to the right God.
    17. Asking God to Perform Magic, Miracles. One should never pray for a miracle because that is asking God to perform magic. God does not do magic because that is interfering with the natural course of events, and God does not interfere with the natural course of events. Therefore, one should only pray for unmeasurable intangibles like courage and wisdom. One should never pray for measurable tangibles like curing someone of a disease or world peace. Apparently, people who use this excuse do not believe Jesus when he said, “Ask and it shall be given you” (Matt. 7:7). An unanswerable prayer for a measurable tangible shows that Jesus lied. A prayer for an unmeasurable intangible cannot be shown whether it is answered or not. Thus, according to Baal apologists, Baal’s priests did not lose because Jehovah is mightier; they lost because they prayed for a miracle, i.e., they asked Baal to perform magic. However, Jehovah interfered with the natural course of events and performed an act of magic by lighting Elijah’s water-soaked wood (1 Kings 18:32-38). Therefore, proponents of this excuse must reject Jehovah as the true God because He performed magic. Baal apologists would add that since the true God does not do magic, since Baal did no magic, and since Jehovah did do magic, Baal must be the true God. Moreover, God refuses to answer prayers for peace because to do so requires magic, a miracle. War is the natural course of events.
    18. Lack of Fervor. According to this excuse, God only answers prayers of those who pray fervently. How much fervor does it take before a prayer is fervently praying? Apparently the fervor displayed by Baal’s priests was not enough. For anyone to display more fervor as the Bible describes them doing (1 King 18:28-29) is hard to image. Thus, according to Baal apologists, Baal’s priests did not lose because Jehovah is mightier; they lost because they did not pray fervently enough. Therefore, Baal refused to answer their prayers and allowed Elijah to win. Moreover, the reason that we have war instead of peace is that out of the multitude of people praying for peace, none of them prays fervently enough. However, out of the few who pray for war, at least one prays fervently enough.
    19. Praying for the Wrong Thing. God does not answer prayers of people who do not pray for the right thing, i.e., they pray for the wrong thing. Thus, according to Baal apologists, Baal’s priests did not lose because Jehovah is mightier; they lost because they did not pray for the right thing. He did not answer the prayers of his priest because they prayed for victory over Elijah; they prayed for the wrong thing. Presumably, they should have prayed for Elijah to win; then Baal would have answered their prayers because they would have prayed for the right thing. Likewise, the multitude who pray for peace prays for the wrong thing: peace. However, the warmongers pray for the right thing: war. Therefore, God answers the prayers of the warmongers and ignores the prayers of the peace lovers.
    20. Asking for Things Not Good for the Prayer. If a person prays for something that is not good for him, God will not answer the prayer. Thus, according to Baal apologists, Baal’s priests did not lose because Jehovah is mightier; they lost because they prayed for something that was not good for them. He did not answer the prayers of his priest because they prayed for victory over Elijah, which was not good for them. Presumably, defeat was good for them. Likewise, God does not answer the prayers of those who pray for peace because peace is not good for them. Therefore, war must be good for them.
    21. Sinner. God does not answer the prayers of sinners. If true, then God would never answer any prayers as everyone is a sinner. Possibly, the only exception is a prayer for salvation and that is iffy. So why did Jesus bother promising that people would receive for whatever they asked? Thus, according to Baal apologists, Baal’s priests did not lose because Jehovah is mightier; they lost because they were sinners. Therefore, Baal refused to answer their prayers and allowed Elijah to win. Moreover, the reason that we have war instead of peace is that every one of the multitude who pray for peace is a sinner. At least one prayer for war is not a sinner. Therefore, God answers the prayers of the nonsinning warmonger.
    22. Not a Christian. God only answers the prayers of Christians. This excuse is a good test for someone to use to decide if he is really a Christian. If God answers all his prayers, he is a real Christian. If God fails to answer at least one of his prayers, he is not a real Christian; he is a pseudo Christian. Thus, according to Baal apologists, Baal’s priests did not lose because Jehovah is mightier; they lost because they were not real Christians. Therefore, Baal refused to answer their prayers and allowed Elijah to win. Because Elijah was not a Christian either, Jehovah could not have answered his prayer. Moreover, of the multitude who pray for peace, not one of them is a Christian. Of the few who pray for war, at least one is a Christian. Therefore, God answers the prayers of the warmongering Christian.
    23. The Prayer Must Be Prepared to Receive What Is Being Asked For. God only answers prayers of those who are prepared to receive that for which they pray. He does not answer prayers of those who are not prepared. How one becomes prepared is anyone’s guess. Thus, according to Baal apologists, Baal’s priests did not lose because Jehovah is mightier; they lost because they were not prepared to receive victory. Therefore, Baal refused to answer their prayers and allowed Elijah to win. Thus, of the multitude who pray for peace, none are prepared to receive peace; none can handle peace. Of the few who pray for war, at least one is prepared to receive war; this one can handle war. Therefore, we have war instead of peace.
    24. Must Adhere Only to Christ.  Before God answers a person’s prayer, that person must adhere only to Christ. Thus, according to Baal apologists, Baal’s priests did not lose because Jehovah is mightier; they lost because they did not adhere only to Christ. Therefore, Baal refused to answer their prayers and allowed Elijah to win. Although evidence is given that Elijah adhered to Jehovah, no specifically stated evidence is given that Elijah adhered only to Christ. Thus, of the multitude who pray for peace, none adhere only to Christ. Presumably, of the few who pray for war, at least one adheres to only Christ. Therefore, we have war instead of peace.
    25. Prepared to Live God’s Will. Before God answers a person’s prayer, the prayer must be prepared to live God’s will. Thus, according to Baal apologists, Baal’s priests did not lose because Jehovah is mightier; they lost because they were not prepared to live Baal’s, will. Therefore, Baal refused to answer their prayers and allowed Elijah to win. Thus of the multitude who pray for peace, none are prepared to live God’s will. Of the few who pray for war, at least one is prepared to live God’s will. If correct, then living for war appears to be God’s will.
    26. Praying for God’s Will to Be Done. Only when a person prays that God’s will to be done, does God answer the prayer. Thus, according to Baal apologists, Baal’s priests did not lose because Jehovah is mightier; they lost because they did not pray that Baal’s will be done. Therefore, Baal did not answer their prayers and allowed Elijah to win. Thus, of the multitude who pray for peace, none is praying that God’s will to be done. Of the few who pray for war, they are praying that God’s will to be done. Therefore, as we have war instead of peace, then God’s will must be war. However, according to Matthew 7:7, God’s will seems to be simply to ask so that He can give whatever is asked for.
    27. Must Know God. God only answers prayers of those who know Him. Thus, according to Baal apologists, Baal’s priests did not lose because Jehovah is mightier; they lost because they did not know Baal. Therefore, Baal did not answer their prayers and allowed Elijah to win. Thus, of the multitude who pray for peace, none knows God. Of the few who pray for war, at least one knows God Therefore, we have war instead of peace.
    28. Must Keep the Commandments of God. God only answer prayers of those who keep His commandments. This excuse is the ultimate excuse because we are all sinners, and no sinner can keep the commandments of God. To break one commandment is to break all commandments. Based on this excuse, God never answers anyone’s prayer, which makes Jesus’ promise in Matthew 7:7 a hoax. Thus, according to Baal apologists, Baal’s priests did not lose because Jehovah is mightier; they lost because they did not keep Baal’s commandments. Thus, of the multitude who pray for peace, none keep God’s commandments. Of the few who pray for war, at least one keeps God’s commandments. Therefore, as we have war instead of peace.
    29. Must Have Accepted Jesus as Savior. According to this excuse, God only answer prayers of those who have accepted Jesus as savior. This excuse is a good test for one’s salvation. If the prayer has one unanswered prayer, then he is not saved. Thus, according to Baal apologists, Baal’s priest did not lose because Jehovah is mightier; they lost because they had not accepted Jesus as savior. Therefore, Baal did not answer their prayers and allowed Elijah to win. Moreover, no specific evidence is given that Elijah had accepted Jesus as savior, so accepting Jesus as savior had nothing to do with his victory. Thus, of the multitude who pray for peace, none has accepted Jesus as savior. Of the few who pray for war, at least one has accepted Jesus as savior.
    30. Must Pray in the Name of Christ Jesus. According to this excuse, a person must pray in the name of Christ Jesus before God will answer that prayer. However, Matthew 7:7 does not require asking in the name of Christ Jesus. Thus, according to Baal apologists, Baal’s priest did not lose because Jehovah is mightier; they lost because they had not prayed in the name of Christ Jesus. Therefore, Baal did not answer their prayers and allowed Elijah to win. Moreover, no evidence is given that Elijah prayed in the name of Christ Jesus, so his prayer had nothing to do with his victory. Thus, the reason that we have war instead of peace is that of the multitude who pray for peace, none pray in the name of Christ Jesus. Of the few who pray for war, at least one has prayed in the name of Christ Jesus.
    As shown above, the traditional explanation of Elijah’s victory over Baal’s priests may not be correct if the prayer apologists are correct. Prayer apologists need to find a better excuse for unanswered prayer. They need to find an excuse that the Baal apologists cannot possibly use to explain Elijah’s victory.
    Now let us examine Jesus’ promise in Matthew 7:7. According to this verse, God’s will it to ask so that He can give. All one has to do is merely to ask in order to receive that for which one asks. If this verse means what it says, conditions necessary have prayers answered, i.e., the excuses, given above are irrelevant. Taking as Jesus spoke it, this verse contradicts the above excuses offered by the prayer apologists.  If one or more of the above conditions, excuses, must be met before a prayer is answered, then Matthew 7:7 is deceptive. In essence, by providing excuses for unanswered prayer, prayer apologists do not believe what Jesus said in Matthew 7:7; they are calling him a liar.
     When the prayers for peace are considered, one must wonder why we have more war than peace. Is it because God gives more weight to the few who pray for war than He gives to the multitude who pray for peace? Is it because, as some critics claim, Jehovah is a god of war who relishes in war? Parts of the Old Testament seem to suggest such. Is it because one or more of the above excuses are correct and, therefore, God refuses to answer prayers for peace?
    As for war, a typical retort is that sin is the cause of war. True. Yet this argument also rests on making sin more powerful than prayer. Sin is more powerful than God Himself. It is so powerful that it prevents God from keeping the promise that His Son made in Matthew 7:7.
    To mask unanswered prayer, many pray for intangibles that cannot be measured, such as comfort or guidance. An exception is the prosperity preacher. His prayers or at least those of his followers can be measured. As many of these prayers are not answered, the prosperity preacher qualifies prayer and praying away to meaninglessness. The favorite excuses of the prosperity preacher for unanswered prayer are doubt and lack of faith. Thus, he does not really believe what Jesus said in Matthew 7:7. If his followers do not become wealthy, the followers doubted or lacked sufficient faith.
    In essence, by providing excuses for unanswered prayer, prayer apologists are claiming that the Bible is written as a good shyster lawyer writes contracts and laws. Grandiose promises are simply and concisely stated up front. Then the promise is qualified into meaningless with the fine print.
    Apparently, Jesus’ promise in Matthew 7:7 does not really mean what is so plainly stated. So, what does it really mean? Is the Bible written as a shyster lawyer writes a contract or law? Are the atheists right? Is it all coincidence? Was the little boy right when he said that faith was believing in what one knew was not true? Is all caprice?

Endnote
1. If He is the only god, then the first of the commandments (“You shall have not other gods before me:”) is meaningless.

Copyright © 2013, 2015, 2016 by Thomas Coley Allen. 

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