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God Test

"So you are the Christ, yes the great Jesus Christ!
Prove to me that you're divine; change my water into wine!"
Jesus Christ Superstar, "Herod's Song"

Extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence. Therefore, when an ordinary-looking character claims to be God, Satan, a wizard, time traveller, robot, or alien, skeptics nearby will often demand a God Test to prove those claims. This will typically be a fantastic feat of some sort, something to be done that a regular person would never be able to do. The challenged party succeeding at the test is fairly rare, but they may respond with an explanation as to why they won't or why the test isn't meaningful. Thanks to Jesus' classic example there's a fair chance in the story this means they're on the level. Coming up with a test and having the God fail it is a good way to expose an impostor.

Often expressed as "If you're <X>, then do <Y>!"

Note that, despite the name, the test is not limited to deities; any character claiming extraordinary abilities can be challenged with such a test.

Might overlap with Give Me a Sign. Contrast with Secret Test. Also see Trust Password and If You're So Evil, Eat This Kitten.


Examples

    open/close all folders 

    Comic Books 
  • During Peter David's run on Supergirl, with the "angel" version of the character, she meets a little boy who claims to be God, come to speak to her. She asks for proof, and He asks what sort of miracle would prove anything in an age of superheroes who can fly, transmute elements, etc.; so she's just going to have to take it on faith.
  • During the "Heroes Return" story arc in Marvel Comics, most of Marvel's heroes have had their memories of their "real" lives erased and they lived in a pocket universe for a year. They are confronted by a Celestial who demands that they return to a home they don't remember. If they don't, either the pocket universe will be destroyed, or the regular Earth will. Thor objects, saying that he thinks all of them together could take her. In response, she snaps her fingers and turns Thor, a god in his own right, into a frog. He retracts his objection.

    Films — Animated 
  • In The Road to El Dorado, the Doradans challenge the explorers to a ballgame... two gods against 15 mortals.
  • Aladdin pulls a very clever version of this on the Genie. He challenges him, dismissively, "I bet you couldn't even magic us out of this cave!" The Genie does it, then tells Aladdin he has two wishes left. "Oh, no... I never wished to be out of the cave. You did that on your own..."
  • Near the end of Hotel Transylvania, when the monsters are at an annual Monster Festival, one of them asks them to prove that the Dracula they're with is the real deal. Dracula then hypnotizes him to smash his mug against his forehead. He casually accepts this as proof.

    Films — Live-Action 
  • In Oh, God!, Jerry Landers asks the old man claiming to be God to prove it by making it rain. On cue, it suddenly starts to rain... inside Jerry's moving car.
    • Later, God proves His divinity in a courtroom by making a deck of cards appear and disappear in plain view. He concludes his visit by vanishing in full view of the audience, and there are no recordings (audio and written) of His testimony.
  • Played with in Bruce Almighty, when Bruce tries to catch God (the other one) with a How Many Fingers? test. After God guesses correctly every single time, Bruce manages to fake him out by very quickly putting two fingers away when God says "Seven." When Bruce triumphantly holds up his one hand, it suddenly has that many fingers. Apparently, God also pulled the same stunt on Gandhi, who took it a lot harder than Bruce.
  • M. Night Shyamalan's The Last Airbender has one of these.
    "The Avatar would be an Airbender. Can you Airbend, boy?"
    • The test goes on to show the elements reacting to Aang's presence- ie rocks moving towards him, water falling into a perfect circle, etc. The scene is infamous for making very little sense, because it doesn't explain why the elements don't do it all the time, suggesting that Aang did it on purpose, allowing himself to be captured.
  • In Back to the Future: Part II, young Biff challenges his future self to prove that the Sports Almanac knows the results of every sporting event in the next 50 years. So old Biff turns the radio to a college football game which ends exactly as the Almanac says.
  • Bill & Ted's Excellent Adventure: Invoked when Bill and Ted challenge their future selves:
    Ted: "If you guys are really us, what number are we thinking of?"
    Future Bill and Ted: "69, dudes!"
    Bill and Ted: "Whoa..."
    [quadruple air guitar]
    • Double subverted in the sequel; when the heroes' Evil Twins arrive, Ted is suspicious, but Bill convinces him to trust them. Then Ted trusts his robot counterpart after it passes a How Many Fingers? test.
  • In The Man from Earth, John Oldman quietly foils his friends' attempts to prove him wrong by explaining that most of his knowledge WOULD fit in with textbooks because that's what happened. Then he starts explaining that he was both a student of the Buddha and the resulting inspiration for the biblical Christ, to everyone's dismay, but he still cannot (or at least will not) give them true proof of his immortality. At the end, he unwittingly exposes himself to be the father of his psychologist friend, (said friend looks to be twice John's age) giving the man a heart attack and proving, in the viewer's eyes, that his story was true.
  • Angel-A eventually proves her claims to André.
  • Just Like Heaven has David convincing Jack that Elizabeth's right behind him. Jack pulls a How Many Fingers? that concludes with him Flipping the Bird. And despite this, it still takes a Something Only They Would Say moment to convince him
  • The Man Who Would be King, Daniel Dravot, is acclaimed a god when struck by an arrow which fails to penetrate his uniform. When he arrives at a temple, though, the priests want to see if he can duplicate the feat for them.
  • In Bewitched, Isabel's attempts to prove she's a real witch fail because Jack assumes they're extremely clever tricks, until she propels him high in the air and pulls him back down.
  • In Hook, Smee and Hook confirm Peter's identity as Pan, but see that he seems to have changed quite a bit. They tell him they'll give his kids back if he merely flies a little. (Upon failure of such, and at Tinkerbell's urging, they extend the challenge by giving him both more tasks and more time.)
  • In Ghostbusters, Gozer performs a god test on Ray by... asking him if he's a god. Despite being the most poorly thought out god test imaginable, Ray fails anyway.
    • Though for all we know, Gozer would have taken him at face value if he'd said 'Yes' and blasted him anyway (An evil god likely doesn't like competition), except probably harder because Ray'd just said he was a god...Winston, maybe your advice wasn't so good after all.
  • Inverted and utterly subverted in Monty Python's Life of Brian, where no evidence can disprove Brian's divinity:
    Brian: I'm not the Messiah, now go away!
    Female follower: Only the true Messiah would defy his divinity.
    Brian: Oh, what sort of a chance does that give me? All right, I AM the Messiah!
    Crowd: He is! He is the Messiah!
  • The Day the Earth Stood Still (1951). As a demonstration that he is a powerful alien, Klaatu is asked to stop traffic so a man can cross the street. He does so by cutting power all over the globe for exactly half an hour, with the exception of hospitals and airplanes in flight, which has the additional benefit of demonstrating the incredible degree of control he has over this effect.

    Literature 
  • A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur's Court plays with this one memorably: a charlatan claims to be able to tell people whatever is happening anywhere in the world. After listening to various plausible tales of the doings of foreign potentates, the main character takes his turn: "Tell me what I'm doing with my hands behind my back right now."
  • In The Last Hero the Silver Horde try to sneak into Dunmanifestin by claiming to be 'new gods'. The locals know what's going on but, being who they are, decide to have some fun by demanding Cohen prove his bonafides by rolling a seven on a six-sided die. He does.
  • During the Horus Heresy series, the Emperor repeatedly and vehemently denies any godhood. This trope gets inverted, however, because half the stuff he does SEEMS like it should take a god to accomplish, so no matter how much he denies it, the "true believers" just say "only a true god would deny his divinity while also demonstrating it."
  • In Will of Heaven, the Guest of Canghai asks Han Xin what he has to do to make the latter believe he serves a real god. Han Xin offhandedly tells him to make a river disappear. He does.

    Live-Action TV 
  • Battlestar Galactica (1970s) episode "War of the Gods Part 1''. Count Iblis claims to have great powers and knowledge. The Council of Twelve gives him three challenges: to deliver their greatest enemy (Baltar) to them, to lead the fleet to Earth, and one more to be named later.
  • Mystery Science Theater 3000 parodies this: When the gang land in Roman Times, Pearl claims they are gods, and Brain Guy has to use his powers to demonstrate. "Behold! From nothing I produce this... spoon."
  • Inverted in the Star Trek: The Next Generation episode "Who Watches the Watchers." A primitive alien tribe has come to believe that Picard is God (despite his protests), and to prove it one of them shoots him with a bow to prove that The Picard can't be killed. Fortunately for Picard the alien misses his heart, but does hit him in the shoulder, injuring him and thereby proving to the aliens that he isn't God.
  • Quantum Leap: Sam has leaped into an illiterate murderer on the run who is holding a woman and her daughter hostage. He decides to drop The Masquerade, telling her he's a doctor from the future in a Time Travel experiment. She doesn't believe him. Then he notices her medical textbook, and she reveals that she's in medical school. So he has her quiz him on medical stuff to prove that he's telling the truth. At first she still doesn't believe him saying that he looked at the book already, so could have memorized the information. Sam quickly fires back: "When was the last time you met an illiterate speed-reader?"
  • Doctor Who
    • In "Smith and Jones", the Doctor met companion-to-be Martha Jones. At the beginning of the episode, she was walking to work when the Doctor came up to her, took his tie off, and said, "Like so!" Later in the episode, they met and he had no memory of this. At the end, Martha asks him to prove that he's a time traveller. He takes his TARDIS and disappears, reappearing seconds later...without his tie.
    • In the two-parter "Human Nature"/"The Family of Blood", Martha Jones, a medical student from the future, uses her knowledge of anatomy to prove that she's not "just" a maid, which she's currently disguised as.
  • Joan of Arcadia has Joan ask the teenage boy claiming to be God to prove his divinity. He gestures behind himself to show... a tree.
    Joan: "...that's a tree."
    God: "Let's see you make one."
  • Red Dwarf: Lister's comments have been misinterpreted over the years as the promises of a god, leading to this hilarious exchange:
    Lister: "I am your god."
    Cat: "If you're god, turn this into a woman."
    Lister: "I'm serious."
    Cat: "So am I!"
  • For a show that dealt with fake gods, Stargate SG-1 only ever used this test once, and indirectly at that. When Gerak becomes a Prior of the Ori and is asked to destroy Jaffa who refuse to believe, Teal'c asks him what makes him believe they are gods, citing various impressive miracles they could have performednote . He then posits that the measure of a god is not how they display their power, but how they apply it. If they were gods, they wouldn't need Gerak to kill anyone on their behalf, or even ask such a thing of him.
  • The Bionic Woman: Jaime Sommers has been replaced by her evil twin, and dropped into prison in her place. After escaping, and getting cornered by the cops, who have been joined by her boss, she tells him to whisper any question he wants, across a hundred yards of open field, to prove who she really is.
  • The Christ-figure in the ITV (UK) drama The Second Coming written by Doctor Who writer Russell T Davies and starring Christopher Eccleston proves who he is by creating daylight around Manchester City's football stadium during the middle of the night - he is not explicitly asked to show his powers, but decides the only way to prove it is to do something on a significant enough scale to be believed from the outset.
  • Subverted in the Supernatural extra when the angel Castiel meets the Ghostfacers. To prove his divinity, Castiel breaks a piece of glass, and states that it is made whole again...except that it is not.
    Castiel: "Oh, come on!"

    Mythology and Religion 
  • The Bible features many examples and some of them very old. In general, the Old Testament is much more okay with God Tests than the New Testament. Old Testament God was very active, with his miracles ranging from the subtle, such as ensuring Isrealite victory in battle, to the obviously supernatural, such as raining down fire. In the New Testament, God was much more subtle, his only direct miracles being the impregnation of Mary and the resurrection. Jesus was generally willing to perform miracles, but he often asked that word of his miracles not be spread around, particularly his miraculous healings, and only engaged in one 'large scale' ritual, the feeding of crowds with only a few loaves of bread and fish.
    • God provided Moses with some evidence of Who sent him, starting with giving Moses temporary leprosy and turning his staff into a snake and back (with enough time for it to eat the Egyptian priests' staff-snakes), followed up by the Ten Plagues.
    • Gideon has a inversion; He was unsure that he (Gideon) was really The Chosen One and wanted to make sure before he went off starting a war. He leaves a fleece on the floor overnight; once, having the fleece be wet with dew while the floor is dry, and once vice versa. Both are performed without objection.
    • Satan tries to invoke this by suggesting Jesus prove he was the son of God by turning stones into bread. Jesus refused, saying "It is written; Man does not live on bread alone, but on every word that comes from Godʼs mouth." Not to be put off, Satan told him to jump from the roof of the temple, saying "If thou be the Son of God, cast thyself down from hence: For it is written, He shall give his angels charge over thee, to keep thee: And in their hands they shall bear thee up, lest at any time thou dash thy foot against a stone." Jesus refuses again, saying "Again it is written, 'You shall not put the Lord, your God, to the test.'"
    • Also invoked in the New Testament letters. The Apostles instruct Christians to test any spirit claiming to be from Heaven, by verifying that the spirit in question confesses Jesus is Lord and that He came in the flesh, because demons will masquerade as angels of light to try to deceive people, but will never confess Jesus' Lordship or Incarnation before mortals, because doing so would defeat the point of the deception.
    • When Jesus is on the cross the authorities challenge him, "If you are the Son of God, come down from the cross."
    • Played straight by Jesus and Thomas. When Thomas hears of the resurrection, he refuses to believe the story, thinking it incredible. It is not until Jesus shows Thomas his crucifixion wounds that Thomas believes. Jesus then says that it would have been better for Thomas to have believed without seeing his wounds.
  • According to the Koran, Mohammed refused to perform any God Tests to prove that he's a prophet, since there are several such stories in The Bible and in every one of them the prophets passed the tests but the crowds still didn't believe them. Since it never works, God wouldn't perform any more miracles only for the entertainment of disbelivers.
  • As the tales where this trope does pop up can tell you, it's generally very dangerous to ask The Fair Folk to prove themselves to you. Partially because, if they are of the kind that Cannot Tell a Lie, they are likely to get insulted by the fact that their word is not good enough for you; cue Disproportionate Retribution, and partially because, well, they are The Fair Folk: If the only thing you wish for is to know if they really are the beings they claim to be, don't blame them if the knowledge that they really were the beings they claimed to be is the only thing you're left with.

    Newspaper Comics 
  • Nine Chickweed Lane: Monty (who may or may not be God in Human Form) asks Cloud Cuckoo Lander Thorax for advice on how to deal with his God Complex ("It started around the time I created the universe"). Thorax's recommendation? "Try prayer, and see if you get a busy signal."

    Theater 
  • Jesus Christ Superstar. Quoth Herod to Jesus, "Prove to me that you're no fool/Walk upon my swimming pool." Of course, Jesus in the Gospels also comes up against demands for miracles to prove his status, and refuses to play along with them.
  • In Aristophanes' The Frogs, The god Dionysos and his servant both claim to be the real Dionysos, and the gatekeeper of Hades decides to tell them apart by flogging them. Supposedly, a real deity can't feel and won't react to pain. This being a parody, they both fail.

    Videogames 
  • Escape from Monkey Island: Guybrush asks his future counterpart to guess what number he's thinking of. Since you 'remember' what future-Guybrush said to past-Guybrush, you can answer him.
  • Repeatedly in Ōkami, since faith in the gods is at a low ebb and gaining "praise spheres" plays a vital role in the gameplay's RPG Elements. Amaterasu sometimes displays a wicked sense of humor in answering them.
  • In Dragon Age: Origins, the Lyrium-addled Templar, Carroll, repeatedly refuses to believe that the protagonist is a Grey Warden;
    Templar: Go on then, kill some Darkspawn! Lets see some righteous Grey-Wardening!
    Warden: *Irritated* There aren't any Darkspawn here!
  • The Neverwinter Nights 2 fan module The Maimed God's Saga has a cleric of Tyr as the Player Character. At one point a mob assembles in the town square demanding that you prove you're really a cleric. You can blow them off without consequence, or if you have the spell remove disease prepared, you can cure a sick woman in the crowd.
  • In Futurama: The Game, Leela ends up encountering the Sun God, who was lauding his powers over the local underdeveloped civilization living on the Sun. Leela asks that he prove that he is a God, but this angers him and causes a boss fight. After defeating him, he admits the truth.
    "You found me out... I'm not really a god... I'm *cough* *cough* just an ordinary... eternal, omniscient, superintelligent being."

    Webcomics 

    Web Original 
  • In episode 55 of Yu-Gi-Oh! The Abridged Series, Yami asks Noah to prove that he's a god.
  • Tennyo of the Whateley Universe was forced to prove she was The Captain (i.e. The Star Stalker). The test involved opening a box but to open that box, a hand must be sacrificed.

    Western Animation 
  • Spoofed in Beavis And Butthead. The duo meet a cult leader claiming to be God, and try to do the test. The problem is that the guys asking the questions are, well, Beavis and Butt-head.
    Butt-head: Like, If you're God, then like, what's the name of that guy who built that ark?
    "God": Noah!
    Butt-head: Whoa!
    Beavis: Yeah!
  • In God, the Devil and Bob, after several attempts God makes to prove his divinity, Bob still brushes him off causing God to play hardball. Cue the entire bar split apart, growing to fifty feet, bathed in heavenly light and surrounded by doves... with a bear in a fez riding a tricycle with the banner; "It's really Him!!!"
    Bob: Uh, so, God... what are you drinking?
  • In Family Guy, when the Griffins have Jesus over for dinner, Brian asks him to prove that he is Jesus. So Jesus instantly turns everyone's dinner into ice cream.
    • And, at the request of Peter after the above incident, enlarged Lois' breasts.
  • It doesn't come up all that often, but in Avatar: The Last Airbender , Aang has had to prove he is the Avatar on one or two occasions. For him, it's rather easy; just do a little Airbending, as the Avatar is the Last Airbender. He did this once on purpose on Kyoshi Island, and then King Bumi tricked him into doing it again by throwing a chicken leg at him the first time they visited Omashu.

    Real Life 
  • As with many Native American peoples, the Tainos of Puerto Rico were told that the Spaniards invading their land were gods. To make sure, they caught one and tried to drown him... and succeeded. Even then they had no chance against the invaders.
  • As shown above, Carl Sagan's famous quote, "Extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence," is an excellent summary of skeptics' treatment of claims of this magnitude.


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