Reasoning with God
But Moses sought the favor of the Lord his God. "Lord," he said, "why should your anger burn against your people, whom you brought out of Egypt with great power and a mighty hand? Why should the Egyptians say, 'It was with evil intent that he brought them out, to kill them in the mountains and to wipe them off the face of the earth'? Turn from your fierce anger; relent and do not bring disaster on your people. Remember your servants Abraham, Isaac and Israel, to whom you swore by your own self: 'I will make your descendants as numerous as the stars in the sky and I will give your descendants all this land I promised them, and it will be their inheritance forever.'" Then the Lord relented and did not bring on his people the disaster he had threatened.
— Exodus 32:11-14
A plot point where a mortal persuades the Powers That Be
to come to their aid or postpone/abort an act of divine wrath.
Compare Did You Just Punch Out Cthulhu?
, where mortals manage to defeat something infinitely more powerful. This trope is about mortal wits (or emotions) finding the right words to convince a superhuman intelligence. Compare/contrast Bargain with Heaven
, Deal with the Devil
, Egocentrically Religious
. Also not to be confused with Pals with Jesus
, where the character has stable working relationship with higher powers.
Also compare with Wowing Cthulhu
. In that trope, the being is able to surprise or amaze one that is far superior to them in some respect. These two tropes overlap when the lesser character is able to wow the godly being with
Anime & Manga
- In the end of Scrapped Princess, Pacifica Casull convinces Lord Mauser to give humanity another shot at the aliens.
- In Magic Knight Rayearth, Fuu and Umi plead with Mokona to let them help Hikaru. They then manage to somehow pass the gate to the other world (earth), so it's implied he let them
- Laurie talks with Dr. Manhattan on Mars in Watchmen and convinces him to come back to Earth to help with the current crisis. Of course, it's exactly what he told her would happen at the end of their conversation and why he swung back to Earth to pick her up when the time camenote .
- There was an issue in Spider-Man where Spidey dies along with a little girl he was trying to save. After a brief fight with Thanos, he talks to Death herself, convincing her to allow a little girl to come back to life. In honor of his bravery, Spider-Man comes back as well.
- In the end of Kingdom Come, Reverend McCay talks down a rampaging Superman by appealing to his human side ("Man", as opposed to "Super" that has taken him over).
- In the pages of The Sandman, as indeed in the original story, Orpheus manages to convince Hades and Persephone - the god and goddess of the land of the dead - to allow his lost love Eurydice to follow him back to the land of the living through the beauty of his music. It still doesn't end well.
- Cassidy makes a deal with God towards the end of Preacher: he distracts and arranges for Jesse to get killed, forcing Genesis to leave the host and thus no longer posing any danger to God. In exchange, God brings Jesse and friends Back from the Dead, minus vampirism in Cassidy's case. All goes as worked out, with the minor detail that while God was away and thus non-omniscient, the Saint of Killers went One-Man Army on the armies of Heaven, sitting on the Throne of Paradise before God could get to it and killing God.
- Jake in Avatar communes with Eywa and asks her to help the Na'vi fight off the human invaders. Neytiri doesn't think she'll intervene, until the battle reaches its Darkest Hour, and then...
- Xanadu. Sonny, upon finding out that Kira is a muse, goes to this strange neon dimension and tells Zeus off for forcing Kira to come home. Hera and Zeus discuss it but decide not and dismiss him. Kira begs, and they reconsider.
- Bill & Ted's Bogus Journey has them going to heaven to ask God for help, rather than to intervene and act himself, directly.
- Big Bird in the Sesame Street movie Don't Eat The Pictures: when an Egyptian boy who died young and was forced to stay on Earth of thousands of years, goes before Osiris for judgment to ascend into the heavens, he initially fails the test. Osiris pronounces judgment, at which point Big Bird gets him straight with a reason the system sucks speech, causing the boy's heart to get lighter and thus pass the test. Read: Big Bird told the big boss of Egyptian Mythology he didn't know what he was talking about, and got an afterlife verdict reversed.
- Conan manages an unusual variant when he prays to his patron, Krom, just before the final showdown. Krom is a stoic and aloof warrior god, one who teaches that his followers should be strong enough to solve their own problems (and thus asking for his help displeases him, so he never grants it). But Conan's heartfelt prayer strikes just the right balance of humility (I probably can't win this fight), honor (I'm going to fight anyway), and bravado (If you won't help, screw you anyway!) that Krom actually sends him a minor miracle, just enough to give Conan a chance.
- Multiple examples in The Bible (particularly in the Old Testament—see Jews Love to Argue):
- Such as when Abraham persuaded God to spare Sodom if ten righteous men were found in the city (there wasn't). Which actually spawned an interesting theological debate that still continues to this day. If God is omniscient, then he already knew there weren't ten righteous men to be found, so God's agreement to the pact merely delays a divine punishment he already decided on - in other words, God deceived Abraham. Conversely, if God did not deceive Abraham, this implies that God is not omniscient. Doesn't seem that complex. "I know there aren't ten good people in there. But if there were, I wouldn't destroy the city." Those in Favor of omniscience tend to argue that the discussion was for Abraham's benefit, he was having a crisis of faith over God's destruction of a city full of (presumed) innocents so God talked the issue over him and reassured him that he would spare the city if it wasn't really rotten to the core. The theological debate kind of glosses over the reason why Abraham was reasoning with God in the first place, not only did he not want God to kill righteous men but specifically wanted God to spare his nephew Lot who was living there. While God did not think Sodom had enough righteous inhabitants to warrant sparring it, he did warn Lot and his family and tell them to leave beforehand. Moreover, God did not deceive Abraham because he kept their agreement; the Abraham did not know the specific conditions of the agreement were not met is irrelevant. And even if Abraham's and God's specific agreement on how many inhabitants would be necessary to spare the city was pointless, God still spared the righteous that were there, which was the whole purpose behind Abraham's reasoning in the first place.
- Moses, on several occasions, talked God successfully out of enacting his wrath of the Israelites. Most notably, when God becomes angry with the Israelites, Moses reminds God of his promise to Abraham to make his descendants as numerous as the sand of the desert, and thus talks God down from killing all the people of Israel.
- The opening chapter of Isaiah includes the line, "Come, let us reason together."
- Eärendil in The Silmarillion successfully convinces the Valar to abandon their isolationist policies and save Middle-Earth from Morgoth.
- Lúthien also convinces Mandos to bring Beren back to life, in exchange for turning her into a mortal.
- The conclusion of The Black Tattoo.
- In the backstory for the Belgariad, Gorim got UL to accept the would-be Ulgos as His chosen people with a combination of nagging and guilt-tripping.
- The Percy Jackson series is the definition of this trope. Percy and Co. often convince the gods to either a, help them, or b, at least not to destroy them completely.
- Towards the end of Discworld novel Small Gods, the seemingly simple-minded Brutha, who has just been made high priest of his religion, talks his own god Om into letting Brutha take the religion on a radically more tolerant and open-minded course. Many years later in other books, characters occasionally mention that the religion is very popular because of those principles.
- In Vernor Vinge's A Fire Upon the Deep, individuals and civilizations sometimes try to petition one of the Powers for intervention, and sometimes it works.
- Subverted in Arcia Chronicles, where Roman (an immortal elf but still far from divine power) seeks the aid of the Lightbringers who abandoned Tarra: the only one (of seven) he ever finds, the War God Anges, is barred from returning to Tarra.
- In "The Last Trump" by Isaac Asimov, God announces that it's time for the Judgement Day, but a junior angel notices a loophole in the declaration, plucks up his courage, and successfully argues for the whole thing to be postponed. (God's reaction to the argument turns out to be, more or less, "Oh good, I was hoping somebody would bring that up".)
- Several instances in Incarnations of Immortality of mortals at least attempting to convince Incarnations to intervene and change an event, most notably Niobe's efforts to reverse first husband Cedric's death in With a Tangled Skein. In Under a Velvet Cloak, when Kerena can't get any Incarnation to listen to her (she's trying to save her baby's life), she becomes Nox, Incarnation of Night, and launches a centuries-long series of plots and manipulations not only to get revenge on the Incarnations of her time, but to help place Incarnations she considers better for their jobs and to eventually gain back her child (sort of).
- The protagonists of Everworld meet gods quite often, and usually try to reason with them to some degree. This rarely works, but the Greek pantheon proved marginally more cooperative (at least when they got Athena on their side).
- In the resolution of the Mithgar series by Dennis L. McKiernan, one of the protagonists essentially reasons with god that his "separation of the realms" directly contradicts his vow "to not interfere with the mortal realms", so he undoes the sundering/separation.
- In Prince Caspian, Reepicheep manages to convince Aslan to miraculously restore his severed tail. In a slight aversion, Aslan is persuaded not by Reepicheep's arguments or appeals to dignity, but by the love the other talking mice show for Reep when they prepare to cut off their own tails rather than have an honor that is denied to the chief mouse.
- Star Trek: Deep Space Nine: Ben Sisko gets the Prophets to intervene during the climax of the episode "Sacrifice of Angels"; they wipe out an entire Dominion fleet entering the wormhole. Another episode has Quark of all people do this, by pointing out that if they erase his memory of the conversation and send him back he'll just keep having the same idea and coming back, but if they do what he asks (undoing something they'd done to another visitor for wasting their time) instead the story will spread and nobody will bother them with mundane matters again.
- Supernatural: Dean asks Death to restore Sam's soul. Death has a price: Dean has to be Death for one day. Dean fails, but Death's a nice guy and does it anyway.
- On Mystery Science Theater 3000, they spoof this trope while watching Jack Frost, specifically the scene where the girl has to finish her sock before the sun rises, and the girl asks the sun to wait.
- In Babylon 5, Captain Sheridan manages to convince the Vorlons, an ancient powerful race so far beyond the younger races as to be nearly gods in comparison, to directly intervene on behalf on the younger races against the Big Bad race called the Shadows. The Shadows are as powerful as the Vorlons and are their chief rival, however previously, the Vorlons would only use younger races as proxies against them rather than involving themselves directly in the fight. In season 4, he tops himself by calling out the Vorlons and the Shadows for losing sight of why they are fighting their war in the first place. He even points out that they no longer have answers to their own questions anymore (the Vorlons no longer know who they are and the Shadows no longer know what they want). He orders them to get the hell out of the galaxy and leave the younger races alone, and they comply.
- Subverted in The Order of the Stick. Roy gives a moving speech to the Northern Gods at the Godsmoot... but the moot chamber is set up for the gods to communicate through their priests, not for them to listen to mortals. As a result, none of them can hear Roy, and none of the priests have the heart to inform Roy of this.