Wednesday, April 12, 2006

Prayer in Light of Causality and Sufficient Conditions...

If I were to stand before a child and yell in an angry voice the child would most likely cry and become afraid. Given such a state of affairs it could be rationally inferred that I would have caused the non-volitional action and emotion of another. In the like manner, the actions of one person can even cause another person’s will to be inclined to choose contrary to how he would.

It is often said by Calvinists that prayer cannot change things (or cause things to occur) but rather that prayer can only change the person praying, bringing him into submission to what God has decreed. Those who say such things are willing to call prayer a “means” to an end, yet they deny the causal “power” of prayer. They are reluctant, in other words, to say that prayer can actually cause things to occur (or cause things not to occur). Yet these same Calvinists are quick to maintain that had the gunman been wrestled to the ground the innocent person would not have been killed. What distinction are they drawing between "means" and "cause" after all?

Obviously we cannot know with certainty anything that is inferred by inductive inference. Consequently, we cannot know with the highest degree of warrant that one actually caused a child to cry; for such is believed by inference not deduction and certainly not by revelation. How much more the case with prayer given that it is increasingly more difficult to duplicate states of affairs in order to rationally infer seemingly causal relationships between prayer and what might be inferred to be a necessary consequence of prayer! Notwithstanding, the question is not whether we can know that prayer causes some things to occur (or not to occur) but rather whether prayer can indeed change things. In other words, the question is not whether we can know whether prayer actually changed a course of events but rather whether prayer can effect change.

It can be said that one event is caused by another when one event is either logically or temporally prior as well as a sufficient condition for another event. As we’ve seen on a previous entry, sufficient conditions are not always causes since logical conditions (whether sufficient or necessary) are only concerned with states of affairs and not order, whether logical or temporal. With that in mind, is it not true that prayer precedes future events and that it is biblical to maintain that prayer can bring to pass deliverance (Philippians 1:19)?

If we are to maintain that causality is in view whenever a sufficient condition that is introduced into a relevant state of affairs is logically or temporally prior to a consequent of that same sufficient condition and state of affairs, then we must also maintain that God ordains prayer to change the apparent direction of things. Prayer stands in stark contrast to other causes of change since with prayer the immediate effect of the action is upon God not men. Effectual prayer, as a cause, immediately precedes God’s action of acting due to prayer. Effectual prayer does not immediately act upon the person for whom the prayer is offered. Rather, when effectual prayer is offered God, the mediator of prayer, in turn acts upon a state of affairs causing men to act. Therefore, it can be properly maintained that prayer often "moves" the hand of God but always according to God’s will, which precedes and transcends prayer. Prayer changes things indeed. God has entered into time and has seen fit to allow prayer to change the direction things were previously going. God is sometimes pleased not to act unless his action is beseeched.{Maybe we should consider how men are culpable for not praying, since we know that men are often culpable for not physically preventing certain acts.}

Lastly, with respect to normal providence without prayer, we need to be careful not to take God out of the equation. It is God who ultimately causes the reaction to any action. He is the one who gives intelligiblilty to sequence. It seems to me that those who claim that prayer doesn't change things are most likely leaning toward a view of autonomous providence with respect to natural causality. Something to think about.


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