Hi, I watched a CosmicSkeptic video awhile back where he argued that when we pray either the thing we pray for happens or it doesn’t and if it is already predestined or not then it is pointless. I don’t remember the full video but I have not come up with an answer for that. I am especially interested in a response from a Calvinist viewpoint if that makes sense.
I don’t think we have the capacity to explain it, for resolving it, to get it to make sense. There is an apparent paradox that we cannot get our heads around, and it involves God’s sovereignty and our free will and God’s relationship to sequential time – he is not bound by it, and that is counterintuitive to our thinking. (We’ve been talking about it in another thread – you may already be following it.)
It is wonderfully and delightfully mysterious. Here is an account of an immediately answered prayer (not that I don’t have a lot of ‘unanswered’ ones or that are pending). It will be familiar to several, since I have posted it here before…
I’m not a Calvinist, but I understand that the extreme Calvinists didn’t do any evangelism whatsoever, because it would be pointless.
I’ve heard of the hypothetical hyper-Calvinist. I ain’t one.
You don’t have to be I’m looking for answers for the main question about prayer and predestination
Even if prayer was “pointless” in the sense of praying to, say, get something, prayer would still be an act of obedience because Jesus essentially commanded it (Matthew 6:5-15). So we should pray, first and foremost, because of Jesus, not because of what we might obtain.
If God is omniscient, then He knows everything. Meaning everything. Here, I would say selah. Predestination does not exclude God’s response to our prayers, because He would know them ahead of time and foreordain an answer, whether that answer was yes or no. So in that sense, God would act as a response to our prayers, even if everything was predestined. Because He would know ahead of time anyway.
I guess I would say that predestination of individuals would undermine free will and prayer. I personally don’t believe in predestination of individuals and the verses concerning it in the Bible to me is best explained as being used collectively for the church and not individuals making up the body.
I’m not a Calvinist in that I find much of systematic theology to be arrogant, but in as far as Calvinism is based on the Bible, and the Bible clearly exhorts us to pray, Calvinists believe praying to be consistent with predestination and still not pointless. I think most would consider coming to God in faith is evidence of election.
If God has predestined the end, he has also predestined the means to those ends, and thus why could God not incorporate our prayers, and his response to them, as part of his overall plan?
Lewis has a brilliant article that touches on the subject…
He gave us small creatures the dignity of being able to contribute to the course of events in two different ways. He made the matter of the universe such that we can (in those limits) do things to it; that is why we can wash our own hands and feed or murder our fellow creatures. Similarly, He made His own plan or plot of history such that it admits a certain amount of free play and can be modified in response to our prayers. If it is foolish and impudent to ask for victory in a war (on the ground that God might be expected to know best), it would be equally foolish and impudent to put on a mackintosh—does not God know best whether you ought to be wet or dry?
Sorry, what was the miracle?
I’m not a Calvinist, but I suspect the person who created the CosmicSkeptic video has fallen into the trap of dualistic, either-or thinking patterns about God and prayer and free will. As humans, we often squirm with discomfort when we have to deal with ambiguity and non-algorithmic approaches to life’s Big Questions. We want our answers to be simple, obvious, 100% “true,” and carved in stone like an Ancient Near East stele. But life isn’t like that, and God isn’t like that, either.
Calvin’s rather ruthless algorithmic answers to life’s Big Questions may have helped people be consistently obedient and worshipful to God, but Calvin’s answers on free will and predestination have done a lot of damage to people’s ability to be in relationship with God in the way that Jesus taught.
Since we can’t know everything that God is thinking and feeling about our choices, the best we can do is keep trying to be relationship with God through quiet, respectful, open-hearted prayer that leaves the solutions up to God rather than to our own limited human minds. We called upon to help with the solutions, but not to dictate to God what every solution will look like.
It really boils down to a question of trust. Are we willing to trust that God is smarter than we are, or do we believe we’re so clever that we have the right to micro-manage God’s actions in the world through our prayers and religious laws?
Trust can be scary because it means we can’t predict what will happen, when it will happen, or why it will happen. From our point of view, it’s unpredictable, like love. But that doesn’t mean it’s unpredictable from God’s point of view.
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