Monday, November 25, 2013

Election and prayer

I'm going to comment on this post:

Recently I heard of a well-known Calvinist pastor, author, speaker, who, on a podcast, testified that he often goes into his little son’s bedroom after he’s asleep and prays over him that he be among the elect.While I certainly understand the pastor’s sentiment and desire, I wonder if this is consistent with Calvinist theology? 
Is it logically consistent for a Calvinist to believe that prayer can play a role (even as a foreordained means to a foreordained end) in bringing it about that a person prayed for be included among the elect?
This seems very different to me from the common Calvinist claim that prayer for the unsaved can be a “foreordained means” to help bring it about that the person, if he or she is elect, comes to repent and believe.    (Although I admit having qualms about the logic of that as well!)
According to Calvinism, God elects individuals unconditionally. Salvation itself is not unconditional, so Calvin argued, because it depends on repentance and faith. However, according to Calvin and most Calvinists, an elect person will come to salvation. God will assure it via irresistible grace. But God uses means which he has foreordained to bring it about that the elect repent and believe.
But is it consistent with Calvinism to believe that God uses human means to decide who will be elect? I don’t think so. I do not remember any Calvinist theologian saying so.
If God used means to decide who is among the elect (e.g., prayer), then election would not be strictly unconditional. 

i) To begin with , what makes Olson think praying to God to do something is equivalent to God using human means to decide what to do? Does Olson think God is undecided unless and until we pray for something? Does God think prayer helps God decide what to do or not to do? 

ii) Since every event is predestined, and some events are causally or teleologically contingent on other events, some divine decrees presuppose other divine decrees. For instance, you can't have a fallen world without a world to fall. In that sense, the decree to create is logically prior to the fall. On the other hand, if the rationale for the fall is to reveal God's justice and mercy in redemption and judgment, then the fall is teleologically prior to creation–as an ends/means relation. 

God decrees our prayers, God decrees our election. Assuming (ex hypothesi) that our prayers factor in divine election, election isn't directly conditioned on what we pray for, but on God's decreeing what we pray for. Put another way, our prayers are conditioned on God's decree that we pray. Predestination is still the cause, while prayer is the effect. God decided who and what we'd pray for in the first place. If we pray that God elect a loved one, that prayer is, itself, the result of God's decree. 

I think there are Calvinists who simply cannot stomach the implication of Calvinism that a loved one, especially a child, might not be elect, so they revert to inconsistency.

Since Olson is not a universalist, his own statement is inconsistent. 

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