Chapter 19 - Why didn't Jesus move a mountain?

Let's say you are walking down a New York City street one day, and you notice a man walking toward you from the other direction. There are two reasons why you notice him. First, he is wearing a long white robe and leather sandals. Second, he is obviously planning to talk to you. He has made direct eye contact and is motioning for you to stop so that he can say something to you.

You try to look at the ground and walk past him, but he actually steps right into your path and you stop short. He focuses his eyes on you and says, " I am the light of the world: he who follows me shall not walk in darkness, but shall have the light of life. I am the way, and the truth, and the life; no one comes to the Father, but by me. I am the prince of peace. I am God. Believe in me and you shall have Eternal life...."

You are thinking that this person is a total nut case. You are fingering the cell phone in your pocket, making sure that you will be able to dial 911 if you need to. Fortunately there are a number of other people walking by, so you feel fairly safe. And there is something about the intensity of his gaze... Instead of running away, you say, "Wait a minute. Wait a minute. Let me make sure I heard you right. You are God?"

    Man: "Yes. I am God. I am the son of the highest. I am the lord of our righteousness. I am the horn of salvation. I..."

    You: "Whoa. Slow down. You are God?"

    Man: "Yes. I am God."

    You: "Can you show me an ID?"

    Man: "No. I am God. I don't need an ID."

    You: "Of course. OK. Can you tell me your name?

    Man: "My name is Jesus2."

    You: "Can you prove to me that you are God? That's a pretty stupendous claim."

    Man: "Yes, certainly. Walk with me."

Jesus2 walks about half a block, and you come upon a homeless person in a wheel chair begging for change with a sign and a rattling cup. Jesus2 approaches him and says, "Good sir. May we interrupt you for a moment?"
    Homeless man: Yes.

    Jesus2: Have we ever met before?

    Homeless man: No, I've never seen you before in my life.

    Jesus2: Now good sir, how long have you been confined to this wheel chair.

    Homeless man: Going on 20 years I'd say. Seems like my whole life.

    Jesus2: Arise and walk. You are healed!

At this point the homeless person leaps to his feet screaming, "It's a miracle! I am cured! I am able to walk!" and runs off down the street joyously.

Now, what do you think about this? You need to make a decision here. Either this man is God and has just healed a person who has not walked for 20 years. That's option #1. Or... this man is not God, and there is some other explanation for what you just saw. For example, it might, possibly, be the case that Jesus2 is a homeless man too, and that these two homeless men might -- just might -- be working together on some sort of scam. That is option #2.

Chances are that you suspect that option #2 is the more likely of the two scenarios at work here. So you might say to Jesus2, "Wow. That was impressive. You just healed a guy who had been in a wheelchair for 20 years. But look -- I need something a little more convincing. See that skyscraper across the street? Can you pick it up and move it to the middle of Central Park?"

    Jesus2: Which part of Central Park?

    You: It really doesn't matter to me.

    Jesus2: Well, there is a slight problem.

    You: Really? What is the problem?

    Jesus2: It is not my will to move the skyscraper.

    You: Really? I thought you were God. Aren't you all-powerful?

    Jesus2: I am God, yes. I am the bread of life. I am the blessed and only potentate. However, it is not my will to move that skyscraper.

    You: Why not?

    Jesus2: It simply is not. I like Central Park the way it is.

    You: OK. Move it somewhere else. Move it to a vacant lot in Jersey.

    Jesus2: It is not my will to do that.

    You: I see. Well, have a nice day!

And you would walk away.

Prove it

Think about it. If someone were to come to you and say, "I am God!", wouldn't you want proof? Yes, you would. Of course you would. And you would not want goofy proof. You would not accept something that looks like a faith healer's show at a tent revival, and you would not accept something that looks like a magic trick. You want real, solid proof. You want any person who claims to be God to do something that is clearly impossible, like picking up a skyscraper, levitating it through the air and settling it into the middle of Central Park.

Something like that, quite obviously, would have to be the work of an all-powerful God. Levitating a skyscraper and moving it from here to there is clearly something that no human being can do, so it would be convincing. There is no way to fake it. And millions of other people would be able to verify that, yes, the skyscraper did move from its original location to a new location. If the building were hooked into water, sewer, power and phone at its new resting place, that would be perfect.

No normal person, and I mean no one, would accept anything less than rock solid proof from a person who claims to be God.

Why should it be any different with Jesus? Jesus was a man who claims to be God. If he is God, then he ought to be able to prove it in a real, inimitable way. If he cannot prove it then, quite clearly, he is not God.

A Christian would say, "But Jesus HAS proven it! Just look at all of the miracles he did in the Bible! He healed the sick! He changed water into wine! That PROVES that Jesus is the Lord!"

Does that make sense to you? Imagine that someone, today, were to come up to you and say, "I am God, and I will prove that I am God by healing the sick and turning water into wine!" What would you say? Be honest. You would not believe this person because:

  1. Everyone has seen all sorts of "faith healers" who can "heal" the sick. And we all know that this sort of "healing" is quackery. If it were true, then we would not need doctors, hospitals or prescription medicines. (see also Chapter 6)

  2. Turning water into wine... Doesn't that sound like something that a B-grade David-Copperfield-wannabe magician would do in a nightclub act? There are a dozen ways that you could stage things to make it look like water is turning into wine. There is no reason why a normal person would accept a magic trick as proof that someone is God.
It is as simple as that. If someone claimed to be God today, you would never believe it if the evidence consisted of faith healing and magic tricks. Never. Yet billions of people claim that Jesus' faith healing and magic tricks prove that he is God.

Real proof

Let's imagine that Jesus truly is God. What might he have done to prove it? He could have started by taking one of his most famous quotes from the Bible and acting on it. In Matthew 17:20 Jesus says quite clearly:

    For truly, I say to you, if you have faith as a grain of mustard seed, you will say to this mountain, 'Move from here to there,' and it will move; and nothing will be impossible to you.
To prove that he is God, Jesus would have moved a mountain. Especially since it is so easy. And Jesus would have written something down to explain himself. Here's what the first page of Jesus' book might have looked like:
    My name is Jesus, and I am God. I know there are a lot of people out there who will doubt that I am God, so let me start off by proving it to you. Take a look at Mount Sinai. Everyone knows that, until today, Mount Sinai stood near here. It is the mountain where God, my father, gave Moses the Ten Commandments.

    Mount Sinai vanished this morning, and what was left in its place was a perfectly smooth, polished stone base measuring four miles square. Hundreds of years from now, people will find that Mount Sinai landed near a place that will be called Newark, New Jersey. When scientists dig into the mountain, they will find that the bottom of the mountain is also completely smooth and polished, and that the bottom of the mountain in New Jersey perfectly matches the polished plain nearby. Scientists will be able to align the mountain and the plain, looking at it rock crystal by rock crystal at a microscopic level. I have said many times that, if you have faith, you can move mountains. I moved Mount Sinai to show how easy it is, and to prove that I am God.

    I know that that may not be enough, so let me offer a second proof. If you draw a circle, you know that there is distance across the circle. Let us call it the diameter of the circle. There is also a distance around the outside of the circle. Let us call it the circumference. If you divide the circumference by the diameter, you get another number. Let us call it Pi, and its first 6 digits are 3.14159. Pi is an irrational number. It is a number that is made up of an infinite number of non-repeating digits.

    There will come a day when machines called computers will calculate billions of digits of Pi. If you calculate Pi out to the millionth trillionth digit, here is what you will find:


    Now, having proven that I am God to any rational being, through my documentable movement of a mountain and through my foreknowledge of Pi at the millionth trillionth position, here is what I want to say to the human race as your creator, and as the creator of the universe...

Wouldn't that be awesome and amazing? If we had such a book, and if Mount Sinai had actually moved, then there would be no questions about Jesus. We would all believe that he is God. How could we not? Imagine what such a book would say on the following pages. A book like that, I am sure, would leave all of us in awe. (see also chapter 17)

Unfortunately, Jesus did not provide concrete proof of his divinity. For any normal person, that makes things simple -- Jesus is not God. We would not believe that anyone today is God without concrete proof. Jesus doesn't get a pass because he lived 2,000 years ago.

Key Point

Jesus did not provide any concrete proof of his divinity. For any normal person, that makes things simple -- Jesus is not God. To believe that anyone today is God, we would need concrete proof. Jesus does not get a pass because he lived 2,000 years ago.
For religious people, however, it is a different story. If you ask a religious person about Jesus' divinity, you may find yourself in a conversation like this:

    Norm: If Jesus is God, why didn't Jesus ever prove that he is God?

    Chris: He did! He performed many miracles, and he was resurrected. That proves that he is God!

    Norm: Why did he not prove that he is God in a way that is definitive and scientifically provable -- for example, by moving a mountain?

    Chris: He could not do that! That would take away man's free will to believe in him. People must come to God through faith.

    Norm: Why, then, did Jesus perform the miracles described in the Gospels?

    Chris: To prove that he is God. If he had not done the miracles, culminating in his final most miraculous resurrection, we would not know that he is God.

    Norm: I thought that if Jesus performed miracles to prove that he was God, then it took away our free will.

    Chris: No.

    Norm: Isn't that what you just said?

    Chris: No. What I just said is that Jesus' miracles prove that he was God.

    Norm: So why didn't Jesus perform real, concrete miracles like moving a mountain?

    Chris: Because that would take away our free will.

Try having this conversation yourself with a Christian and you will find it to be a very odd discussion. The circular logic will make you dizzy:
  • Jesus had to perform miracles to prove his divinity, and that doesn't take away free will...

  • ...But if Jesus performed miracles that we could see and scientifically verify, it would take away free will.
Any normal person can see reality. The reason why Jesus did not perform concrete, verifiable miracles is because Jesus was a man like any other. The "miracles" discussed in the Bible were not miracles at all.

A hidden God?

Here is a line of reasoning that Christians will frequently use to try to rationalize Jesus' behavior. In the book "The Case for Faith," the author Lee Stroble interviews Peter Kreeft, Ph.D. Dr. Kreeft says the following:

    "Scripture describes God as a hidden God. You have to make the effort of faith to find him. There are clues you can follow. And if that weren't so, if there was something more or less than clues, it's difficult for me to understand how we could really be free to make a choice about him."
Clues? Hidden? According to the Bible God incarnated himself. He created an entire human body named Jesus. That is not a "clue" -- that is a huge, obvious piece of evidence. It is very hard to "hide" a 170-pound human being who is running around performing miracles on every street corner. Then you collect the stories of those miracles and publish them in a book. Where is the hiding in that?

There are examples of God's desire for publicity throughout the Bible. The best known is God's parting of the Red Sea in the book of Exodus, chapter 14:

    Then Moses stretched out his hand over the sea; and the LORD drove the sea back by a strong east wind all night, and made the sea dry land, and the waters were divided. And the people of Israel went into the midst of the sea on dry ground, the waters being a wall to them on their right hand and on their left.
That is impressive, and it is utterly obvious. Thousands of Israelites witnessed this event. There are many other events that are equally obvious: manna from heaven, the Ten Commandments carved onto stone tablets, the Passover massacre and so on. All of it is described in the Bible, which God wrote so that billions of people can read about these events and experience them vicariously today.

It is pretty hard to hide something that you do in front of thousands of people and then describe and publish in billions of books. Clearly God is not a hidden God.

But there is an even more impressive sign that we often forget. If God exists and God wrote the Bible, then rainbows are actually proof that God exists. God is not hiding at all. If you read Genesis 9:12-13 you will find this:

    And God said, "This is the sign of the covenant which I make between me and you and every living creature that is with you, for all future generations: I set my bow in the cloud, and it shall be a sign of the covenant between me and the earth..."
What could be more obvious than that? God left a sign for all future generations, according to the Bible. Clearly God does not want to hide.

There are also plenty of cases in the New Testament. For example, Matthew, Chapter 17:

    After six days Jesus took with him Peter, James and John the brother of James, and led them up a high mountain by themselves. There he was transfigured before them. His face shone like the sun, and his clothes became as white as the light. Just then there appeared before them Moses and Elijah, talking with Jesus.

    Peter said to Jesus, "Lord, it is good for us to be here. If you wish, I will put up three shelters--one for you, one for Moses and one for Elijah."

    While he was still speaking, a bright cloud enveloped them, and a voice from the cloud said, "This is my Son, whom I love; with him I am well pleased. Listen to him!"

These are not exactly the actions of a God in hiding. Apparently the free wills of Peter, James and John were not that important to God. And again it is published in the Bible so that billions of other people can read about it.

Or take this passage from the book of Matthew, Chapter 3:

    As soon as Jesus was baptized, he went up out of the water. At that moment heaven was opened, and he saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove and lighting on him. And a voice from heaven said, "This is my Son, whom I love; with him I am well pleased."
Again, not exactly a hidden God.

Or this passage from the book of Luke, Chapter 2:

    And there were shepherds living out in the fields nearby, keeping watch over their flocks at night. An angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were terrified. But the angel said to them, "Do not be afraid. I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people. Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is Christ the Lord. This will be a sign to you: You will find a baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger."

    Suddenly a great company of the heavenly host appeared with the angel, praising God and saying, "Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace to men on whom his favor rests."

    When the angels had left them and gone into heaven, the shepherds said to one another, "Let's go to Bethlehem and see this thing that has happened, which the Lord has told us about."

The free will of the shepherds was certainly tarnished a bit here.

In 1 Corinthians 15:6, Paul says,

    Then he [Jesus, after the resurrection] appeared to more than five hundred brethren at one time.
Those 500 people must have lost their free will. And John says:
    Jesus did many other things as well. If every one of them were written down, I suppose that even the whole world would not have room for the books that would be written. (John 21:25)
That's an awful lot of miracles -- so many that the world would not have room for all the books describing them. Presumably at least one person witnessed each miracle. Think of how many names fill just one phone book. Now imagine a whole world full of phone books. That's a lot of people. Weren't all of their free wills affected? How is God hiding if millions of people saw Jesus and the miracles he performed?

Jesus claims to be God, and Jesus is a physical being running around Israel for all to see. He apparently performed millions of miracles in front of millions of people. The God of the Bible is not hiding -- God is so hungry for publicity and exposure that he actually incarnates himself and then starts performing miracles for everyone on the planet. Then he creates a God-breathed book to describe everything and publishes billions of copies all over the world.

Yet, for some reason, God wants none of us today to see any of those miracles because he "needs to remain hidden" so that he will not "taint our free wills." Does that seem likely? Or is it more likely that Jesus never performed a real miracle? When you combine this evidence with the fact that Jesus answers no prayers (see section 1), it is clear to us what is actually happening.

Drawing a conclusion

Key Point

If Jesus needed miracles to prove to people that he is God, and if it did not hurt their "free wills" to see these miracles, and if all these miracles were written down and attested to by Matthew, Mark, Luke and John so that we could all experience them vicariously today, then why is it wrong for us to see a real miracle and have actual proof today? Why didn't any of Jesus' miracles have a physical permanence that would transcend time and prove his story to everyone? Because Jesus was a normal human being just like you and me.
Here is an important question for you to ask yourself: If Jesus needed miracles to prove to people that he is God, and if it did not hurt their "free wills" to see these miracles, and if all these miracles were written down and attested to by Matthew, Mark, Luke and John so that we could all experience them vicariously today, then why didn't Jesus perform a single real miracle? Why didn't any of Jesus' miracles have a physical permanence that would transcend time and prove his story?

To better understand the question, try this: Imagine that you are watching a magician like David Copperfield on television. He "heals" a few people -- makes a blind person see, makes a lame person walk, etc. He demonstrates that he can "turn water into wine." Then he goes one step further and says, "I am God! I have just proven it to you by my miracles!"

Would any of us believe him? Of course not. To believe that someone is God, we would need incontrovertible proof. We would not accept magic tricks. We know that they are meaningless.

God is not trying to remain "hidden" -- all we have to do is open the Bible to see it. And it is obvious that, if a person were to claim to be God today, we would demand real proof. Therefore, the fact that Jesus did not perform a single miracle that is visible and testable today proves to all of us that Jesus was a normal human being, just like you and me.

<<< Go to Chapter 18     |     TOC     |     Go to Chapter 20 >>>

by Marshall Brain

New York Times Coverage
discussed in a
New York Times piece
by N. D. Kristof.
For a counter-point to Mr. Kristof, please see
Chapter 26.

Recommendation by Sam Harris
Sam Harris recommends WWGHA in his book Letter to a Christian Nation.

Endorsement by Richard Dawkins
In a New York Times Letter, Richard Dawkins calls WWGHA a "splendid Web site."

Table of contents

Executive Summary


Section 1 - prayer Section 2 - The Bible Section 3 - Jesus What it means


Other Resources

Important  -  Home  -  Table of Contents  -  Contact  -  Join us  -  God is Imaginary  -  Deciding to Be Better  -  How God Works

© Copyright 2006-2017, All rights reserved.