Tuesday, October 11, 2005

The Power of Crying Out, (anecdotal evidence) part 3

The second line of evidence he uses is anecdotal evidence. For such a short book, he uses and impressive number of anecdotes. I counted seventeen in all, and I'm not sure if I may have missed some. There were only about three of the anecdotes that even seemed relevant to me. All of the stories showed that people cried out to God, and God answered them. But that doesn't show that God answered them because they cried out rather than using silent prayer.

Anecdotal evidence is notoriously unreliable in the first place, and there are a few reasons to be suspicious of Gothard's stories. The reason they're unreliable isn't necessarily because they're untrue, but because they're selectively chosen. You could prove the opposite thing by merely selecting different stories. [Some people call Gothard's method "cherry picking."] But let me mention a few of the reasons I'm suspicious even of the reliability of these anecdotes.

First, I'd just be very impressed if one person could remember that many stories all illustrating the same point. I was impressed with the sheer volume of stories until I got to p. 86 where he gave the address to a web site where you could submit your own "crying out" stories. That [possibly] explains where he got all those stories. But that throws the stories into doubt because of their questionable origin. It's impossible to verify them. The only anecdotes that really count in his favor are the ones that he was personally involved in. The rest are just hearsay and don't differ substantially from the urban folklore you see being passed around on the internet through email forwards.

Another reason that I'm suspicious of his anecdotes is because of the wording he uses in them. Notice the similarities in all of these episodes of crying out:
"O Lord, Abba Father, deliver Anna from cancer and raise her up for your glory, in the name of Jesus!" p. 10
"Father in heaven, hear my cry and deliver me from this present evil..." p. 16
"O God, deliver Dima from death and raise him up for your glory." p. 29
"O God, save me!" p. 38
"O God, deliver me!" p. 39
"O God!" p. 40
"Abba, Father, in the name of Jesus, deliver me from anger and lust!" p. 46
"O Lord, Abba, Father, deliver us from this situation!" p. 50
"O God, deliver me from being overweight and give me self-control!" p. 52
"Oh God, Abba Father, give us another child--and make it a girl!" p. 57
"Abba, Father, convict the thief and return the truck." p. 61
"O God, deliver my daughter from this boy!" p. 62
"O Lord, abba, Father, deliver this property to us for Your work!" p. 81
"O Lord, deliver this man from his infirmity!" p. 84
Notice the repetitive use of "O God" "O Lord" and "Abba Father" followed by "deliver." Now don't you get the impression that all of these prayers were authored by the same person? It would be hard to account for their striking similarities otherwise.

[I suppose Gothard could've written a book proving that the use of "O God, "O Lord," "Abba Father," and "deliver" causes prayers to be more effective than prayers used without them. He could write such a book with all the same stories as this book to prove his case.]

One last reason to question at least the majority of these stories is that he doesn't cite his references, where he got the stories, or even the names of the people involved. In the first anecdote (the woman healed of cancer) he says that God answered their prayer with a medical miracles, and he says, "Just ask her doctor," but he doesn't tell us who her doctor is! And the only thing we know about her is that her first name is Anna, which for all we know could be a pseudonym. Authors typically change the names of characters in true stories to protect their privacy.

to be continued...
Part 4

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