The pain and glory of unanswered prayer

“Three times I pleaded with the Lord to take it away from me…”

alluaudia-procera-spice-plant-branch-38282Few things can be more confusing or frustrating for Christians than unanswered prayer, especially when we’re sure there are good, obvious reasons for God to grant our requests.

Recently I spoke to a good friend, a young man in (what should be) the prime of his life. Sadly, he’s afflicted with mysterious and chronic back pain. He’s tried every kind of medical treatment under the sun, and has persistently and faithfully prayed for relief. Yet his debilitating pain persists—unseen by most people, yet severe enough to prevent any real exercise and make everything in life difficult and uncomfortable.

My friend told me that he recently accepted an invitation to attend a large healing service. As the meeting went on and as many people appeared to be miraculously healed right before his eyes, my friend started to hope for a miracle of his own. “Maybe tonight’s the night,” he thought. “Maybe my suffering comes to an end—right here, right now.” Continue reading

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Census delivers few surprises on religion in New Zealand in 2013

New statistics on the spiritual and religious landscape in New Zealand make alarming (yet sadly unsurprising) reading

Graph Arrow DownThis month, Statistics New Zealand has begun releasing key data from the 2013 Census. A wealth of information is already available online, with all the details being rolled out between now and June 2015. I especially enjoyed ‘What if New Zealand were a village of 100 people?

Of course, we all know what they say about lies, damned lies and statistics, and the story of a nation can never be reduced to mere Census figures. But statistics do have their place. As Jed Bartlet once said, “Numbers, Mrs. Landingham. If you want to convince me of something, show me numbers.” Continue reading

Accepting the foolishness of Christian faith

Light Bulb HeadThis week, researchers at the University of Rochester have made a slightly off-putting discovery. Trawling back through decades of studies, they believe they have found “a reliable negative relation between intelligence and religiosity.” That is, they believe they’ve worked out that atheists are smarter than religious people.

The research looked at 63 studies conducted between 1928 and 2012, and found that 53 studies showed this ‘reliable negative correlation’ between religion and intelligence. Out of those 53, no less than 35 were said to demonstrate a ‘significant’ negative correlation. Continue reading