What the Critics Get Right and Wrong Concerning the #WakeUpOlive Phenomenon – Regarding: Prayer- So Christians Really Are Deists
December 20, 2019
Several days ago, I believe on Friday, December 13, 2019, a little toddler girl named Olive died (Olive Alayne Heiligenthal).
(Edit, Dec 21, 2019: I saw a report that the church will be holding a memorial service for the little girl, so it looks like at least some of them have accepted that the little girl is gone.
(Link): Hope for girl’s resurrection shifts to Bethel memorial service
(Link): Family giving up prayers to resurrect 2-year-old, ‘moving towards a memorial service’)
I am sorry for her passing. I am sure her parents and other family are in a lot of pain due to her passing. They have my condolences.
Since their little girl Olive has died, the parents and the church they attend – Bethel Church – have been leading a “Wake Up Olive” movement, and some of that is being carried over on Instagram and on Twitter (you can search for it (Link): here on Twitter).
These Bethel people are expecting God to raise Olive from the dead, because they are praying and expecting God to do so.
You can read more background and details about this situation and several news sites, including these:
(Link): In California, a Christian Megachurch Is Trying to Bring a 2-Year-Old Girl Back to Life
(Link): Christian Mega- Church Prays for Resurrection of Two Year Old Girl
I believe the critics of the movement, who have been tweeting regularly about this situation, are right to say that the parents need to accept that their little girl has passed on, and that no amount of prayer or faith is going to bring her back to life.
The little girl has been deceased for about seven days now.
The last I read, a baby sitter put the girl down for a nap, and the girl stopped breathing.
Other sources say that Olive is at a morgue now, has been there a few days, and an autopsy was already performed.
There are other aspects of this story I don’t care to address in this post – for example, some people suspect there is foul play in the death of the girl, and some people think the Go Fund Me set up for this family in light of Olive’s passing is suspicious.
The aspect of this story I want to address is the issue of Prayer and Unanswered Prayer and biblical promises.
I’ve actually addressed these subjects several times over in older blog posts of mine (such as in (Link): this post), but I am seeing them crop up again in light of this story about Olive’s passing.
Now, I am not a Pentecostal.
I am neither a Cessationist or an Anti-Cessationist.
If you’re not familiar with those terms, here is a web page by guys who consider themselves Cessationists who explain what some of these terms mean:
(Link): Is cessationism biblical? What is a cessationist?
So far as my understanding of the Bible is concerned, I am somewhere in the middle of that topic.
I’ve written posts on that in the past such as
(Link): Extra-Biblical Knowledge – My Thougts Expanded and Clarified – And: Christian Deism
While I absolutely do not believe that little Olive is coming back to life on Earth – no matter how much her church prays and believes for that to happen…
….I am just as much in disagreement with the number of Christians I see arguing theology about this matter, especially the ones who are denigrating faith and biblical promises in the process.
I was even put off by one Pentecostal woman – well, she may be an ex-Christian now but was raised Pentecostal, I am unclear – who I conversed with yesterday on Twitter about this.
I was sort of horrified to discover this (ex?) Pentecostal woman was more upset that people were bashing Pentecostalism in general, than she was that all the church folk were egging on the parents to pray the girl alive were ultimately pulling a huge dis-service to the parents.
That is, by keeping this false hope alive that prayer will entice God to bring the girl back from the dead, the parents are only putting off the grieving process.
Their reaction to their child’s death is not healthy and will come back to create additional harm for them.
I do think in this very specific case, that the parents and church will not let go of this girl, that they keep demanding or expecting for the girl to come back to life if they just pray hard enough or long enough, is a form of selfishness.
If you believe Olive is safe with Jesus in the afterlife now, I know you still miss her and part of you wants her back (truly, I get it, someone close to me died years ago), but your loved one is in Paradise.
Again, if you are a Christian with the standard, Christian interpretation of the Bible, you must know that Olive will never know sickness again, and no suffering. No harm will ever come to her. She’s at complete peace.
Asking God to send your loved one back (especially after a few days have gone by), rather than choosing to accept reality – that the loved one is gone – and wanting them back to this degree does seem a little selfish.
If you’re honest with yourself and with others, you’d probably have to admit that you’re asking God to return Olive for you, not for Olive.
If you believe Olive is with Jesus, then I’d say she’s probably very happy right now; she’s not suffering.
That is what concerns me in all this, ultimately, is how living in this on-going denial will further damage the people praying for Olive to come back.
The (ex?) Pentecostal woman I was chatting with about this the other day on social media seemed offended that anyone on Twitter was “bashing” Pentecostal beliefs about the supernatural – I think her priorities are out of whack on that.
In the Midst of the “Wake Up Olive” Situation, Some Christians Are Denying What The Bible Says On Prayers and God’s Promises
At any rate, I see Christians, who, while quite rightfully encouraging the parents and the church to accept that the girl is permanently gone and to stop it with the “Wake up, Olive” prayer meetings and Twitter hash tags, are at the same time being derogatory or dismissive of prayer and biblical promises.
And that is one portion of this that I disagree with and that I take umbrage with.
As for me, I was raised Southern Baptist, but in years past I have drifted away from the faith.
Southern Baptists are not known to be friendly towards Charismatic beliefs, so I am definitely not a Charismatic, nor was I encouraged to be one when I was growing up.
I now consider a lot of the Christian faith, as it is and was taught to me by your every day conservative Christians, Southern Baptists, evangelicals, Calvinists, and all else similar, to be a huge crock.
I have been blogging here on the topic of Unanswered Prayers (and on a related issue, broken biblical promises) for years now.
Whether you Christians out there like it or not, the fact remains there are many Bible verses, passages, and examples of biblical characters, who received answers to prayers.
Further, whether you Christians like it or not and will admit to it or not, there are numerous places in the Bible where the believer is told that she can have her prayer answered in the affirmative.
And those promises are not confined to only Jewish people of 2,000 or more years ago, but are for believers today. Those Bible verses are not taken out of context.
Bible Verses (Because Christians Usually Insist On These)
Here are just a few (I could cite many more, and I didn’t even list any from the Old Testament here):
And I will do whatever you ask in my name, so that the Father may be glorified in the Son. (John 14:12 )
For no matter how many promises God has made, they are “Yes” in Christ. And so through him the “Amen” is spoken by us to the glory of God. (2 Corin. 1: 20)
Let us therefore come boldly to the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy and find grace to help in time of need. (Hebrews 4:16)
…You do not have because you do not ask God. (James 4:2)
See: The Parable of the Persistent Widow (Luke 18:1-8)
And my God will meet all your needs according to the riches of his glory in Christ Jesus. (Philippians 4:19)
“Which of you, if your son asks for bread, will give him a stone? Or if he asks for a fish, will give him a snake? If you, then, though you are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give good gifts to those who ask him! (Matthew 7:9-11)
As I said, there are plenty more verses and examples in the rest of the New Testament, and certainly in the Old, that say if a person is in need or want of whatever, all they have to do is pray, and God will more than likely send them whatever it is they are asking.
I have several posts on my blog from years past where I responded to Christians on these subjects, including writing a post about a guy who was interviewed by Christian radio host Janet Mefferd.
On Mefferd’s program, the guy was saying, well, you see, where Jesus says ‘anything you ask for in His name, that will God do,’ that Jesus did not REALLY mean “anything,” no, that Jesus was supposedly only referring to ‘spreading the Gospel.’
My problem with that response, and ones similar to it, is that it’s not in the Bible. At all. It’s another Christian trying to wiggle his way out of the fact that the Bible is not true, or does not come true, on every point it states.
I went back and read the quote of Jesus that the Mefferd guest brought up as well as the surrounding paragraphs, and no where does the context say or even imply that Jesus was qualifying his “anything you ask for in my name” was limited only to “spreading the Gospel.”
You Christians out there will say the Bible does not really mean what it says – you’re asking me to just ignore that the Bible says “X.”
The Bible flatly and plainly says “X” (even when taking context into account), but when “X” is quite obviously not true, or X does not come true in any of our lived experiences,
the Christian will start saying, well, X was a promise meant only for the Christians of Christ’s day, it’s not for us today; you’re not supposed to accept “X” as being true for us today.
You know, Christians will come up with some way to weasel word their way out of a biblical dilemma like that. It’s not honest.
I think a lot of Christians out there are loathe to admit that the Bible’s promises and statements are not always true, do not always come true, and don’t always work for everyone all the time.
If you say your prayers are not being answered, for example (in spite of the fact the Bible saying God will, can, and does answer prayers in the affirmative for all times, eras, and persons – such promises are not limited to only persons living 2,000 years ago), the average Christian gets very uncomfortable and starts victim blaming.
Or, they may try to “side step” what the Bible says about prayer and God’s promises to try to explain away the uncomfortable, observable, lived reality, that in spite of the fact the Bible says God will meet our earthly needs, that he does not always do so.
We’ve all experienced this or have known someone for whom this is true. Yet Christians don’t want to admit to this.
I remember I wrote a post on here a few years ago telling Christians on how to not further alienate people like myself who are walking away from the faith, or thinking about doing so:
And I specifically laid out a list of things, such as, if I say my prayers are not being answered, don’t you dare shoot back with your victim blaming comments like, “Well, you must be living in unrepentant sin,” or, “You must lack faith.”
And do you know, at a later date, some horrible Christian woman left a comment under that very post doing the very things I had just warned her and people like her not to do.
She proceeded to say, “It’s been my experience that if you’re not getting your prayers answered, it’s because you’re living in unrepentant sin, or you lack faith, or you’re not praying hard enough…”
She went on like that for quite some time before I finally blocked her obnoxious self.
The Bible says sometimes bad things happen to even good people.
So no, it’s not true that if someone’s prayers were not answered with a “yes,” it’s because they are living in sin, or didn’t pray hard enough, or lacked faith.
I sometimes wonder if you Christians just skip over the book of “Job” in the Old Testament.
It’s a fact of life that the Bible – in particular the New Testament – does in fact contain promises that are meant to be for all believers for all time, ones that include telling the reader that she can pray to God for whatever she needs or wants, and God will fulfill that request.
It’s the Bible that says that – and yet, if you believe in those verses, other Christians will come along and say, “You are making God a magic Genie. Well, God is not a magic Genie.”
Or else, they will say, “You must be a Word of Faith-er! Only those heretical Name It And Claim It types believe God answers prayers!”
And I sit here dumb-founded by these attitudes.
The Bible says what it says about promises and prayer.
The Bible does in fact say that one can and should approach the throne of grace in boldness and place petitions before God.
Jesus says God will give you good gifts, not stones if you ask him for bread.
Jesus does not say you are treating God like a magic Genie if you ask him for things.
Jesus does not say you are being selfish if you ask or expect God to meet your earthly needs.
As a matter of fact, Jesus says God will meet your needs, so don’t go into anxiety mode about how you’ll pay your bills or put food on your table, because God will pay your rent and buy your groceries.
FFS, those sorts of reassurances are right there in the New Testament itself.
I could go on and on with other biblical references, but my case has been made.
For me or someone else expecting God to give me a good thing when I pray to him asking – as Jesus says I can and should do – some of you out there on Twitter or on the blogs will say for that view, I am making God into a “magic Genie,” or I am being “selfish,” or I must be a “WOFer” (Word Of Faith-er).
Your very Bible teaches these things, though. You are contradicting the Bible you say you believe in.
It’s not me saying any of this.
Your Bible says “you have not because you ask not” – so if you want or need something, the Bible encourages the believer to pray and ask God for whatever it is.
For the record, I’ve never been a WOFer, nor do I agree with all or most of their theological beliefs.
In the case of trying to correct the more egregious overflows of Pentecostals and Charismatics, the remainder of Christians trample the concepts of prayer and biblical promises underfoot.
Maybe the Pentecostals and Charismatics are wrong about things like speaking in tongues being for today…
And I think the Charismatics are certainly wrong about church prayer being able to bring a dead girl (whose been dead for seven days now) back to life…
However, none of that invalidates and takes away from the fact that the Bible does contain promises for believers, and yes, it contains passages that says anything you ask for in Christ’s name will be done.
The Charismatics being wrong about God bringing a dead girl back to life in 2019 via prayer does not make everything else they say or think incorrect.
If you really think after Jesus floated up to Heaven in a Cloud as mentioned in Acts, that all Jesus left his followers was a book of text, and a Holy Spirit who does nothing for anyone (other than convict of sin), then you are a Deist in practice, so please stop saying you are a Christian.
I am still deconstructing my own Christian faith (I may never be done with it), and for the last few years, I’ve adopted a deist outlook. At least I’m honest about it.
At least I’m honest enough to notice that the Bible contains promises and tells us if we pray, God will help us…
I’m honest enough to say that after a lifetime of sincerely believing in those promises, in that Bible, in that God, and after a life time of praying to God for things or situations I needed…
I realized if that God does exist, He does not and will not answer prayer. This God of the Bible does not answer in the affirmative, even though the biblical text says He can, will, and does.
Apparently, there may be a God, but he does not care about any of us on an individual level, nor does he intervene in a supernatural way any more.
Nor does the God of the Bible even guide or spur one Christian to help another Christian – all this in spite of the fact the Bible says he DOES care about the individual, and that he will perform miracles (even today in 2019), and even though there are timeless promises made to all believers in the text.
I admit it.
Unlike the frauds I am seeing on Twitter arguing against the “Wake Up Olive” hash tag, I admit that the Bible teaches that prayer should result in well, results, for believers of all ages – but it does no such thing.
However, your average conservative Non-Charismatic Christian does not believe that or will not admit to it.
They like to be deceptive and say, well, no, you see, if you take those biblical promises at face value and comments about prayer bringing things to pass, you have just misunderstood the Bible!
Or, you have to realize, they say, those promises were meant ONLY for believers 2,000 years ago, even though the text doesn’t say or indicate that at all.
The Bible does in fact contain examples of and promises telling Christians that if they just pray and have faith, God will respond to their prayers by sending them whatever they need, or by sending them help or healing.
There are even examples in the text of people praying to God for help, and God helps them.
None of these passages indicate that all divine help is or was limited to the first few hundred years of Christianity.
Some of those promises are for all believers for all ages. It is dishonest for Christians to argue other wise.
If you reply with (and I’ve seen some Christians on twitter say the following),
“Well, sure, I believe God COULD answer so- and- so’s prayer for X, Z, or Q, but he just does not any more; that was for the olden days”
-then you’re admitting that your God does not intervene any more in the lives of people, and/or that this God doesn’t care about individuals and what they go through in this life. We’re irrelevant to him, at least so long as we exist on earth.
The God you describe only cares about spiritual matters, and spiritual justice and not much more, or not much else.
A God like that is cold and distant and totally irrelevant to anyone living life on planet earth.
I don’t think it’s unrealistic for me to expect a supposed caring and compassionate deity to occasionally take an interest in my (or whomever’s) pain and problems and occasionally lend a hand – and that God of the Bible makes those claims.
The God of the Bible says he has all the hairs on your head numbered. He says up and down you can rely on him to meet your daily needs and for your daily bread. He says he’s loving.
But I’m getting another picture from my own lived reality and from some of the Christians on Twitter who say, no, no, no, you cannot and should NOT count on God for your daily bread, why that is turning God into a magic Genie, you selfish butt-head you.
I have no desire to be part of a faith where the deity I am meant to worship is not going to help me with my life this side of eternity.
The odd thing is the older I get, the LESS I care about the afterlife and heaven. I hear people say that most people are the reverse, that the older they get, they wrestle with their mortality and worry about death and yada yada.
That’s not been true for me so far. I’m more concerned with getting my earthly needs met.
But you Christians out there disputing the Olive hash tag are telling me to just sort of pretend as though I don’t have daily, earthly, physical needs or just ignore them (and sure as heck don’t pray about them and expect God to meet them).
That does not work, sorry – ignoring needs doesn’t make them go away.
While the “pray for Olive” types may be wrong – and I think they are – those of you on Twitter and on blogs saying that the verses in the Bible that tell people to pray and God will favorably answer those prayers are not for today, or that those verses don’t “really” mean that, are just as false and wrong.
Just admit that your Bible contains false instructions.
Just admit it contains promises for all believers that don’t come true, and certainly don’t come true for everyone all the time.
And to you Christians out there who are blogging or Tweeting about “Wake Up Olive”:
Stop falsely portraying anyone who takes biblical injunctions to approach God in petition (prayer) as being a selfish, greedy jerk who only views God as a “genie,” because that is simply not true.
Your own Bible encourages folks to pray and ask God to have their needs met, so stop shaming those believers who do believe that way.
You Christians tell people you believe every word of the Bible, and that they should believe in it (and its promises and content), too…
But when confronted with verses that say, “God will do X for you,” and I reply, “Well, X did not come to pass for me,” then you Christians try to weasel out of it by all manner of argument.
You start yammering that I must be living in sin (not true), I am taking the verse the wrong way (nope), the promise was only for Jews living so many years ago (no, no indication of that in the text) – you start making excuses to explain away your own Bible.
The one you say I should believe in and that I should consider relevant to my daily life in the “here and now.”
Why do I want to believe in a book or a deity that cannot or does not help me with life’s problems on this side of eternity? That is another dilemma you guys have set up.
Please see my other posts on these topics or related ones:
(Link): On Prayer and Christ’s Comment to Grant You Anything You Ask in His Name
(Link): How to Deal with Unanswered Prayers via Pastor Bil Cornelius
(Link): Extrabiblical is Not Necessarily Unbiblical or Anti Biblical – Rosebrough, Osteen, Extrabiblical Revelation and Promptings – Denying one of the Works of the Holy Spirit
(Link): Pat Robertson’s Insensitive Response to Randy with the Unanswered Prayers
(Link): Christian Viewer Expresses Disappointment in God, Wants To Know Why, In Spite of Years of Service, God is Not Helping Him
(Link): The Consider The Lily Blogger, 220 Lily, Thinks You Should Believe in God For Anything, But This Was Sure Not Her Message to Me in 2016
(Link): Blaming the Christian for His or Her Own Problem or Unanswered Prayer / Christian Codependency
(Link): Gender Complementarianism – A General Response – from a Former Gender Complementarian Who Is Still A Conservative
(Link): Hyper Sola Scriptura
(Link): Christians Who Can’t Agree on Who The Old Testament Is For and When or If It Applies
(Link): Over 50 Percent of Christians Believe Prayer, Bible Reading Alone Can Cure Mental Illness (article) – In Other Words Half of Christians are Ignorant Idiots Regarding Mental Illness
(Link): Some of My Thoughts Regarding ‘Why do evangelicals lose their faith?’ – Podcast by Unbelievable
(Link): Extra-Biblical Knowledge – My Thougts Expanded and Clarified – And: Christian Deism
(Link): Joanne The Widow Lady Wants to Know Why God Didn’t Answer Her Prayer to Keep her Husband With Her
(Link): Never-Married Adult Man Named Stephen Asks Christian Host Why God Has Not Answered His 3-Decades Long Prayers To Send Him A Wife
(Link): Critique of Pastor Groeschel’s “I Want to Believe But…” Sermon Series (Re: Unanswered Prayer, etc)
(Link): When All We Hear from God is Silence by Diane Markins
this post has been edited several times to add more content or to fix typing errors