All right, Christians, can I get a straight answer on this, please? Maybe you could have some kind of council or something…? I just want to know if you think it’s reasonable to expect some kind of trustworthy evidence for your god’s existence before believing in him. That means that claiming a mystical trance experience in a group of people doing the same thing as you doesn’t count, but a specific, unusual prayer being granted could count — say, asking God to make an amputated limb grow back and then watching it happen.
Of course, the reason why I keep getting contradictory answers on this question is that the Bible itself tries to take both sides. On the one hand, we have passages like:
You shall not put the LORD your God to the test, as you tested him at Massah. (Deuteronomy 6:16)
Then the devil took him to the holy city and set him on the pinnacle of the temple and said to him, “If you are the Son of God, throw yourself down, for it is written, “‘He will command his angels concerning you,’ and ‘On their hands they will bear you up, lest you strike your foot against a stone.’” Jesus said to him, “Again it is written, ‘You shall not put the Lord your God to the test.’” (Matthew 4:5-7, virtually the same text in Luke 4:9-12)
But on the other hand, you can’t escape passages like:
And at the time of the offering of the oblation, Elijah the prophet came near and said, “O LORD, God of Abraham, Isaac, and Israel, let it be known this day that you are God in Israel, and that I am your servant, and that I have done all these things at your word. Answer me, O LORD, answer me, that this people may know that you, O LORD, are God, and that you have turned their hearts back.” Then the fire of the LORD fell and consumed the burnt offering and the wood and the stones and the dust, and licked up the water that was in the trench. And when all the people saw it, they fell on their faces and said, “The LORD, he is God; the LORD, he is God.” (1 Kings 18:36-39, fire burned up stone and water!)
And Hezekiah said to Isaiah, “What shall be the sign that the LORD will heal me, and that I shall go up to the house of the LORD on the third day?” And Isaiah said, “This shall be the sign to you from the LORD, that the LORD will do the thing that he has promised: shall the shadow go forward ten steps, or go back ten steps?” And Hezekiah answered, “It is an easy thing for the shadow to lengthen ten steps. Rather let the shadow go back ten steps.” And Isaiah the prophet called to the LORD, and he brought the shadow back ten steps, by which it had gone down on the steps of Ahaz. (2 Kings 20:8-11, the sun moving backwards!)
Then Gideon said to God, “If you will save Israel by my hand, as you have said, behold, I am laying a fleece of wool on the threshing floor. If there is dew on the fleece alone, and it is dry on all the ground, then I shall know that you will save Israel by my hand, as you have said.” And it was so. When he rose early next morning and squeezed the fleece, he wrung enough dew from the fleece to fill a bowl with water. Then Gideon said to God, “Let not your anger burn against me; let me speak just once more. Please let me test just once more with the fleece. Please let it be dry on the fleece only, and on all the ground let there be dew.” And God did so that night; and it was dry on the fleece only, and on all the ground there was dew. (Judges 6:36-40, two tests this time!)
Then the LORD said to Moses and Aaron, “When Pharaoh says to you, ‘Prove yourselves by working a miracle,’ then you shall say to Aaron, ‘Take your staff and cast it down before Pharaoh, that it may become a serpent.’” So Moses and Aaron went to Pharaoh and did just as the LORD commanded. Aaron cast down his staff before Pharaoh and his servants, and it became a serpent. (Exodus 7:8-10, this one was God’s suggestion)
Do not despise prophecies, but test everything; hold fast what is good. (1 Thessalonians 5:20-21, if you’ve been waiting for a New Testament source)
Every time I ask a Christian why God doesn’t heal amputees, or suggest the kind of events it would take for me to consider belief in their god, they tell me that testing God is a major no-no. But when I talk to Christians about the importance of evidence, they assure me that their faith isn’t a blind one and quote Thessalonians to me. Convenient, isn’t it?