Calvinist Prayer (and many other things) Explained

Application 2: God ordains means as well as ends. God is the Author. This is his story. We are his characters. Therefore, Be a faithful character in God’s story.*

Taken from a sermon by Joe Rigney defending the purpose of prayer in a world exhaustively pre-determined by eternal divine decree [you can find a link to it here].

Interesting that he calls on us to “be a faithful character in God’s story” as if we had any choice about what kind of character we will have or be in “God’s story”.  Oh wait, I’ll bet that his saying “Be a faithful character in God’s story” is the ordained “means” for causing those God ordained to be “faithful character[s]” to be “faithful character[s]”.  But what of those God ordained to be unfaithful?  Is this message not for them?  If not, shouldn’t we make that clear?  If so, how can he call on those God ordained to be unfaithful to “be faithful” based, somehow, on the fact that this is God’s story and He is the author and we should “Therefore [???], Be a faithful character in God’s story”?  If God has written that they be unfaithful, then who is he to tell them to act or “be” contrary to what the author has written for them to act or “be”? 

Ahhh, but God has ordained him to say such seemingly nonsensical things because that is what God wrote him to say.  And when I pray that God will help people see the absurdities of Calvinism and reject it, why would God write me to pray such things?  I’m so confused.  But hey, God wrote me to be confused.  He ordained my confusion from eternity in such a way that I cannot possibly not be confused.  He wrote that confusion for me.  In fact, God wrote all of the confusion in this world and all of the contradictory opinions and all of the debates and disagreements between Christians on issues like these (despite Scripture saying that God is not the author of confusion, which is further confusing since God authored that He is not the author of confusion and also authored confusion of every kind).  He authored our every thought, desire, and action, whether holy or wicked.  He ordained our evil thoughts as well as the desire behind the evil thought, as well as any other “means” to our evil thoughts.

No doubt some Calvinists will have something to say about this and get a little mad at me, just as God authors them to do.  But I hope that God will author them to remember that He authored me to say all of this and to find Calvinist prayer and explanations of Calvinist prayer, like this one, to be absurd and self-defeating.  And I can’t help but wonder why God would cause one of His children to reject Calvinism and to reject explanations like the one by this good pastor as absurd.  Why didn’t God write me to understand Calvinism and embrace it if it is true and the purest form of Christianity?  No doubt Calvinists wonder such things as well.  Maybe that is why they can so easily take the step that non-Calvinists are probably not regenerated or at the most sub-Christians.  But then again, God wrote them to think such things just as He wrote me to think that Calvinism is unbiblical.  Maybe I should just say “God ordains the means as well as the ends” and leave it at that.  Yeah, that should answer things well enough.


In the comments section of Justin Taylor’s post “Arminian” gave the following appropriate response: “While God knowing everything is consistent with prayer, God planning everything in the Calvinistic sense of unconditionally decreeing it is not. Calvinism cannot account for the Bible’s portrayal of prayer as a cause of God’s answers to prayer because it holds that God unconditionally decides all that he wants to happen and then irresistibly causes it to come to pass, including the prayer that supposedly causes him to respond to it with action that grants the request. It would be like saying that with putting a sock puppet on your hand and having the puppet ask you to do something, that the request made by the sock puppet is a cause of you doing what you had the sock puppet ask you to do.”

9 thoughts on “Calvinist Prayer (and many other things) Explained

  1. Ben, I have asked Calvinists if you should pray for the lost and actually gotten the response of “no, you should not because how can you know if they are elect or not?”. I was shocked by the response but then it hit me that this response is actually in line with consistent Calvinism. If God has decreed that one be damned from eternity past, no amount of praying will change that and it would actually be us going against God’s will. If your children were predestined to be objects of God’s wrath I could do nothing about and would actually have to rejoice in it as it brings God glory as Piper teaches. Conversely, if one is elected to Salvation even apart from faith, then even if I did not pray once or try to convert that person, it would not matter because he will be saved anyway.

    In Calvinism, praying for the lost is really hard to fit into their system which is why you always get the “well God told us to do it so we are doing it” response.

  2. I will grant that what you describe here, is the view some Calvinist hold. I will also grant, this view is absurd. However, I do not believe all Calvinist hold this, view, although I can not speak for Calvinist since I do not consider myself as such. I do hold the Calvinist view of election, God chooses those who are saved. But holding this view does not necessitate that you believe God determines every move one makes. I have a free will in that I can choose to do what ever I wish. I can choose to do good, or I can choose to do harm, however apart from Christ, whatever I choose to do is sin. You see, I believe sin is not just acts we commit, rather sin is our condition. In other words, the acts we commit, are just symptoms of our condition. As I’ve heard it said from someone else, we are not sinners because we sin, rather we sin because we are sinners. So as I said earlier I can use my free will to do good or harm in mans sight, however in God’s sight, it is all sin because of my condition. Therefore I can choose to do whatever I wish here in this life, however, because of my condition, I have no ability to choose God without God first changing my condition. So you see, my problem is not that I do not have free will, I have that, my problem is my condition. This means that I can pray that God would also be at work to change the condition of others. Having said this, whether you hold the Calvinist view on election or not, certainly you believe God already knows all those who will eventually be saved. If this is true, knowing this could have the same effect on praying for the lost, as you say the Calvinist view has.

  3. Jack, there is a very big difference between God know who will be saved, and God defines ‘before any evil or good’ who will go to Heaven or Hell. Foreknowledge does NOT entail predestination. Even because in the Molinist/middle-knowledge view, the pray we do has very great power, isn ‘t it?

  4. Jack,

    What you describe certainly seems to be a hybrid view of Calvinism which traditional Calvinists would find abhorrent and an affront to God’s sovereignty. However, if you reject exhaustive determinism, I commend you for that.

    I can agree with much of what you say except what you seem to imply by saying God must change our condition, if that means that one cannot put faith in Christ until they are first regenerated. That is plainly unbiblical in my opinion. If you mean that prior to faith and being indwelt by the Holy Spirit, we cannot really do true “good” (obey God’s moral law) in the sense that God is fully pleased with it, then I fully agree. You may want to read this post and some of the comments to see how our views are similar, if not the same, in that regard:

    But there is no reason to see faith as a “good work” in the Pauline sense, since it does not earn or merit anything (Rom. 4), but receives a free and undeserved gift from God. Faith makes obedience to the law in a way that God finds pleasing possible, but faith is not a good work in that it merits salvation or “earns” God’s favor. Rather, God freely and sovereignly decides to show favor towards and save those who put faith in Christ. He reckons it for righteousness. If it were intrinsically righteous in the fullest sense, then God would not need to “reckon” it so.

    In other words, God grants life and salvation to those who trust in His Son. He didn’t have to, but He did. That’s why it is gracious. Putting faith in Christ doesn’t make us deserve to be saved. That’s ridiculous. Faith is the God ordained condition for coming into saving relationship with His Son, but it does not make one deserving of that relationship, nor does it earn anything from God.

    On the foreknowledge issue, one would need to prove that we act because God foreknows we will act (i.e. that foreknowledge is causative) for your point to stand. But that is not what we believe. God’s foreknowledge is based on what we will freely do. God has foreknowledge of His own actions as well, including His responses to prayers we will make. That doesn’t make the prayer or God’s response illegitimate. Our prayer and God’s reaction to that prayer are still real and genuine, even though He foreknows that interaction and the results of it. That is quite a bit different than God from all eternity determining that so and so will be saved and determining that someone else pray for that salvation. In that case, God has already determined that the person be saved and then just determines that someone pray for what God has already determined would happen. As Arminian pointed out, that would be like someone deciding to do something and then putting a sock puppet on his hand and making the sock puppet ask him to do the thing he was already going to do. You wouldn’t say that the sock puppet was a factor in the person’s decision making, or that it was an influence or cause of the action in any sense, would you? But if God foreknows that He will freely answer a prayer that was freely offered by one of His creatures, the prayer can still be a sort of cause that moves God to freely act on that person’s behalf. God foreknowing all of it doesn’t change that.

    God Bless,

  5. Ben,

    From your perspective what is a Calvinistic definition of regeneration?

    And what does it mean to be indwelt with the Holy Spirit?

  6. Hayden,

    Are you asking me to tell you what Calvinists believe regarding regeneration?

    And what does it mean to be indwelt with the Holy Spirit?

    It means the Holy Spirit dwells within us. That seems pretty self explanatory, or are you looking for something else?

    (sorry, I thought you were Jack for some reason. I changed the name in the response)

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