Wednesday, March 29, 2017

Why Pray if God is Sovereign?

I came across the above sermon by John Piper, in which at 7:55 minutes into the video he starts the following monologue:

“Sometimes people try to put prayer over against the sovereignty of God and say, Why pray if God is sovereign? Then I respond by saying, Why pray if he is not?”

That is a disingenuous question. How you answer it will depend on how you define “sovereignty of God”. If you define it as the Calvinists do—that everything has been predetermined and predestined by God—then there would be no point in praying. Pray for what, that God wouldn’t make any mistakes while carrying out what he had predestined? He then continues:

“Because you are asking … all the things that I care about God doing he doesn’t have a right to do if you believe in absolute freewill.”

I hope that made sense to him, because it didn’t to me. He continues:

“By absolute freewill I mean you have ultimate self-determination. If you have ultimate self-determination, and that is what it means to have freewill, ultimate self-determination, God has no right to intrude on you at all and change you. You call the last shot. So why pray?”

I don’t know where he gets “ultimate self-determination” from. Freewill in biblical terms is expressed in these words:

Joshua 24:

15 And if it seem evil unto you to serve the Lord, choose you this day whom ye will serve; whether the gods which your fathers served that were on the other side of the flood, or the gods of the Amorites, in whose land ye dwell: but as for me and my house, we will serve the Lord.

That is the biblical meaning of freewill. It means the ability to freely choose between good and evil—and be rewarded accordingly. And we pray because the Bible tells us that life is not predestined, and that “The effectual fervent prayer of a righteous man availeth much” (James 5:16). He continues:

“But if you believe that God has the right to break into any of your lives, overcome your will, make you his, take out the heart of stone, put in the heart of flesh, cause you to walk in his statutes, then you pray.”

Pray for what, that he won’t make any mistakes in doing what he had predestined? Or that he will change his mind, and won’t do what he had predestined? He continues:

“You have got people you have been praying for for decades who are not believers and you are frightened that they may not be elect, you are frightened that they might go to their grave unbelieving, I do, and there is no hope if God is not sovereign for those people.”

I see no hope for them if God IS “sovereign”—according to his definition of sovereignty. If God has already predestined them to be damned, pray for what, that he will change his mind? If God has already predestined them to be saved, pray for what, that he won’t change his mind, or make a mistake? He continues:

“If there is any hope for the most hardened​ sinner you care about, if there is any hope that that person will be saved, it is this, God can save them.”

“Can,” or already has? If he has already determined, “can” is meaningless and irrelevant.

“God can just stop them in their tracks, take out the heart that have been rebelling for fifty years and put back in a new heart. He can do that, which is why we pray.”

He can? Amazing! I would have never guessed. And “pray” for what, that he won’t change his mind, or that he won’t make any mistakes? All I see is a lot of silliness coming through, and not much light.

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