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Reasoning with God

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But Moses implored the LORD his God, saying, "Let not Your anger, O LORD, blaze forth against Your people, whom You delivered from the land of Egypt with great power and with a mighty hand. Let not the Egyptians say, 'It was with evil intent that He delivered them, only to kill them off in the mountains and annihilate them from the face of the earth.' Turn from Your blazing anger, and renounce the plan to punish Your people. Remember Your servants, Abraham, Isaac, and Israel, how You swore to them by Your Self and said to them: I will make your offspring as numerous as the stars of heaven, and I will give to your offspring this whole land of which I spoke, to possess forever." And the LORD renounced the punishment He had planned to bring upon His people.

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 reason.


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    Anime & Manga 
  • 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.

    Comic Books 
  • Watchmen: Laurie talks with Dr. Manhattan on Mars and convinces him to come back to Earth to help with the current crisis. 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 came. Still, it wasn't pointless: he wouldn't have changed his mind if she hadn't convinced him to, he just foresaw that it would happen.
  • Spider-Man: There was an issue in 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.
  • Kingdom Come: In the end, 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 (1989), 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.

    Fan Works 
  • Forged Destiny: Jaune to Salem in Book 4. He proposes that, as her presence naturally paralyzes those around her, her orders to Tyrian to kill them would be unfulfilled as she would be the one responsible for their deaths, not her servant, and such an act would not prove said servant's worth. [Double subverted as Salem does not care for how worthy Tyrian is, so a fair fight doesn't matter. Nonetheless, while the fairness of the fight doesn't matter, how entertaining it is does so she agrees to remove her presence from three heroes of Jaune's choosing.
  • A Boy, a Girl and a Dog: The Leithian Script: One main subplot involves Luthien arguing with the Valar to get her husband Beren back, convincing them to turn her into a mortal and bring them both back to life.
  • Hellsister Trilogy: When Supergirl is mortally wounded in battle, Captain Marvel suggests to beg a boon from the gods who grant his powers. The original Captain Marvel warns that begging a favor of them for a mortal is a difficult thing, since they don't regard death the same way that mortals do...but they must try anyway. After a brief argument, Supergirl's lover manages to talk Zeus into getting her healed.

  • Avatar: Jake 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 (1980): 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 the Barbarian (1982): 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 (which blocked a single enemy blow at just the right moment), which is only enough to give Conan a chance.

  • Tolkien's Legendarium:
    • The Silmarillion: Eärendil successfully convinces the Valar to abandon their isolationist policies and save Middle-Earth from Morgoth.
    • Beren and Lúthien: 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.
  • Percy Jackson and the Olympians: Percy and Co. often convince the gods to either a, help them, or b, at least not to destroy them completely.
  • In Unsong, Henry Kissinger assures Richard Nixon that an alliance with hell against communism, despite any celestial opinions, is rational.
    Kissinger: The idea behind the alliance was sound. We did not entirely understand how things stood at the time, but even if we had, I would have made the same suggestion. Brezhnev was getting too strong, especially with the Vietnamese and the South American communist movements. We did what we had to do. If the good Lord disagrees with me, I will be happy to point out His tactical errors.
  • Discworld:
    • Towards the end of 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 the Death-based book Reaper Man, Death, is removed from his position by the Auditors of Reality, who replace him, in pure bureaucratic fashion, with hundreds if not thousands of hyper-specialized Deaths for every kind of living being. After defeating the worst of them all — the newer, unfeeling, and uncaring and self-aggrandizing Death of Men — the original Death then goes to one of the Eight Old High Ones, Azrael, Death of Universes, and pleads his case:
      "What can the harvest hope for, if not for the care of the Reaper Man?"
  • 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.
  • Isaac Asimov's "The Last Trump": Archangel Gabriel announces that it's time for Judgement Day, but Etheriel, a junior angel, points out 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.
  • Release That Witch: Roland fights with 'God' in mental space, only to discover she is an artificial intelligence tasked with re-seeding the universe with life after an intergalactic science experiment warped all of reality. During the second 'fight', Roland uses the AI's memories to reason that the method she used to test civilizations was inherently flawed because it ignored the empathy required for progress. 'God' decides to leave and gives Roland administrator privileges.
  • Scrapped Princess: At the end, Pacifica Casull convinces Lord Mauser to give humanity another shot at the aliens.

    Live-Action TV 
  • 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 out of the galaxy and leave the younger races alone, and they comply. Making it better is that they aren't actually convinced by his argument, it's by the fact that he'd managed to broadcast it and them admitting they don't care to everyone else including their former proxy races; they essentially left the galaxy out of sheer embarrassment.
  • Mystery Science Theater 3000 spoofs 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.
  • Star Trek:
    • Star Trek: The Next Generation: "Justice": Captain Picard — interfering with a local planet's pending execution of Wesley because he stepped over a literal line, and in apparent defiance of a largely unseen entity they see as their god — appeals to any "creature that might be listening" that "there can be no justice so long as laws are absolute," that is, that All Crimes Are Equal (and here unto death). The surrounding scene says it worked.
    • Star Trek: Deep Space Nine:
      • "Prophet Motive" has Quark of all people do this when convincing the Prophets to undo a change they made to his own spiritual leader (regressing him to pre-Planet of Hats state). First he tries to argue that greed is a virtue and essential to corporeal beings, but they don't buy it and declare they'll just do the same thing to him and send him on his way too. He manages to convince them by pointing out that if they do, it will just attract more of his kind to come looking for answers. They recognize his "linear" logic, concede to undo their changes to his leader, and make him promise that neither he nor anyone else from his species will come bother them again.
      • "Sacrifice of Angels": Ben Sisko gets the Prophets to intervene during the climax. They wipe out a Dominion fleet entering the wormhole. Another episode has his Bajoran first officer, who reveres the Prophets as something like gods, point out how special his relationship with the Prophets is; they not only speak to him directly, but also listen when he tries to talk or argue with them.
  • Supernatural:

  • Old Harry's Game: Being as it is set in Hell has a bit of this, usually involving people trying to reason with Satan on the nature of human morality. He's something of a Sore Loser, but he's nothing compared to God Himself. Satan insists to this day the Fall was God overreacting to Satan presenting an entirely reasonable proposal for a top-down management restructuring. A few times through the series, whenever God is called up for assistance, He's typically bad-tempered, and responds to any criticism of His designs by turning the one responsible into something unspeakable or giving them leprosy.

  • The Bible:
    • Abraham persuades God to spare Sodom if ten righteous men are 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 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 sparing 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; that Abraham did not know the specific conditions of the agreement were not met is irrelevant. 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, talks 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. Based on the structure of God's threat against the Israelites and how Moses responds, some scholars believe that the conversation between God and Moses is more play-acting for the benefit of the Israelites than any kind of actual debate. God threatens to massacre the Israelites because they have started worshiping the false gods whom they believe brought them out of Egypt, while Moses responds by "reminding" God of His promises and the fact that He is the one who brought them out of Egypt.
    • The opening chapter of Isaiah includes the line, "Come, let us reason together."

  • In El Goonish Shive, Tedd, Arthur and Van are tasked with advising the Will of Magic on whether it should make severe or minimum changes to the rules of magic.
  • 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.
    • This is played at in the "Church of Banjo", where a Cargo Cult built around a puppet named Banjo has its turning point in its original owner, who's put up to talking Banjo out of a ritual sacrifice but has to be reminded of why he's talking about something more specific than "some prophet-y stuff", and a ninja manipulating the puppet who admits to crushing on him so hard she barely knows what he's saying.
  • In Return to Player, Sehan can log into the Gods' chat room. They just think he's another God, so they don't even realize they are trading information with a Player.