Thoughts, Prayers, Amens and Lies

Praying-Child
Jacques Hnizdovsky (1915-1985) Praying Child Notecard

I had a discussion about prayer with a few individuals online that brought up some interesting ideas, this is just part of that conversation. It all started when this statement was made:

Person A “Any of us who tweet or post “prayers” for people in tragedy and do not follow through on them are in sin. Any of us who merely tweet or post “thoughts” going out to people in tragedy are painfully mistaken. And any of us who broadly dismiss the honest prayers for people in tragedy are tragically blind to true power.”

Now this first statement seemed pretty straight forward to me and a rather truthful statement as well but the conversation that ensued brought up some interesting questions about prayer.

Person BJust making the statement “you are in my prayers” requires the conscious thought in reference and affirmation [of] a higher power and if sincere IS in essence ……a prayer

So as I see it, here is the “theory” being presented for lack of a better word;

A Christian’s thought is a prayer.

If someone has a prayer request and you say to them “You are in my prayers”, because you think it, agree with what they are saying, and have a relationship with God, because God knows your thoughts, you in essence just prayed. Let us continue…

Me “Person B, your statement is an interesting one, at first thought I’ll admit it sounded like a cop-out to actually taking the time to say a specific prayer but when I thought about it, I’m wondering if there could be a little something to that statement…

Person A “Not sure that I agree with that person B. Tacitly referring to a higher power and affirming the existence of a higher power is not in essence communicating with that higher power. Prayer is directed to God. Telling someone “you are in my prayers” is directed toward that person. Also, what is the content of this “prayer” when you say “you are in my prayers”? It seems rather vacuous. In other words, when you say “you are in my prayers”, what are you actually praying for or about on behalf of that person?

Person BIf a person is in your thoughts even and you have a personal relationship with God – any conscious thought of that person while thinking of God would be as sincere and direct a petition to God as any plastic prayer one could muster.

One could go to church and pray every prayer in the book standing or kneeling or arms raised….it matters not.

I would say the almighty needs not for you to do that. Your own relationship with God and your conscious and heartfelt sincere thought is enough. …”

Person A “…When you say “my prayers are with you,” there is no specific petition attached to that, and that is directed at the person and not to God. Prayers can be communicated all sorts of ways, but there must actually be a communication, which implies specific content. So, I’m not sure in what sense simply saying it makes it true…

So, what is being presented now is that saying you will pray for someone is not a prayer because prayer is a conversation between you and God, but that conversation has not happened yet when you simply tell someone you will pray for them. A valid point.

Person BDo you believe God knows your intent? God has grasp of your conscience? God is aware of your conscious and subconscious? That God knows exactly what you are thinking?

Person AIf you do not actually pray, did you have intent to pray?

Person BI agree that if you say that (with intent to pray) and never pray- you’re right (right about not praying being a sin). However if you have a conscious contact with God- and you tell someone you will keep them in your prayers- God can take it from there- you just prayed.

MeThe one point that has not been specifically brought up is that the Bible, and Jesus Himself, commands us to pray specific prayers beyond just agreeing with others needs. The agreement is basically the amen part of the prayer. I personally think that person B is onto something if the comment to someone’s request for prayer was “amen” because that implies “I hear your need, I agree with you and stand with you and believe God’s will will be done.” But if someone were to say “I’m praying” since the Bible is clear on what prayer is, that person should actually take the time to say a prayer.

A few more things were said but one last statement stood out to me:

Person BIf God already knows your specific content whether it be verbalized or not- what need there be for an Amen. God already knows you are in agreement. God already knows if you’re NOT in agreement!!

So one last point I would like to make is that by this logic, one could argue that prayer is not needed at all. If God knows all and is all powerful, then who are we to think that making requests to God in prayer will make any difference?

Well, the problem with this line of thinking is that, like I brought up in the conversation, the Bible and Jesus Himself commands us to pray. Prayer is for our benefit not Gods and is specifically defined. Prayer allows us to grow closer to God, and while God is unchanging by nature with His immutability and impassibility, we can change, so the outcome of a situation can change because we pray.

An example of this is in Genesis 6:6

“And the LORD regretted that he had made man on the earth, and it grieved him to his heart.

Did God make a mistake in making men on the earth? Did he change his mind about his creation? If he was grieved in his heart, does that mean he has changing emotions the same way we have changing emotions?

No. No. And no.

The simple answer is that God does not change, we do. God is holy and we are not. When sin enters the picture, God must act, he is unchanging in this way. So the same principle can be applied to prayer. While we cannot change God’s mind, I believe prayer can move God to act in ways we cannot fully understand and no matter what, prayer lets us become more intimate with the one who made us, we can draw closer to him through our prayers. Who wouldn’t want that?

By Clark Campbell with quotes from a random online conversation
Theologetics.org

Thoughts, Prayers, Amens and Lies

Option c: The Time-Salvation Paradox

Calvin-and-Arminius
Portraits of John Calvin and Jacobus Arminius

There is one aspect about God and our understanding of Him that I felt compelled to write about. This one area has divided Christians for centuries, and that is the subject of God’s sovereignty in relation to man’s free will.

Now, I know this is a topic which has been perpetually argued, but it is because of this fact that I had felt so passionate about the subject. I would love to end the debate, although I am not that naive to think that the argument I am about to outline could do so but it is my hope that it might possibly provide Christians who take a strong stance for Calvinism or Arminianism a more common ground and that is Option c.

To preface the argument, there are two reasons I think it is so important that Christians (notably Christian apologists) come to some agreement on the subject of God’s will and man’s will.

The first reason, is that when skeptics see how different Christians, churches, and denominations disagree and possibly even argue about God’s omnipotence, it builds a wall instead of providing a door.

The second reason, is that if the subject comes up when witnessing to someone who has doubts about how God’s will and man’s will can be understood, I feel taking a strong stance for Calvinism or Arminianism has the potential to hurt one’s witness, allow me to explain this:

For the Calvinist, “IF” he is wrong about the elect and we do have free will when it comes to choosing Christ, this can cause people to reject Christ when presented this view because they may feel their decision doesn’t matter when really it does (remember this is “IF” the Calvinist is wrong, similar reasoning is used in Pascal’s Wager).

On the other hand, a skeptic may argue against an Arminian’s views stating those views place God in a position of diminished authority, which causes logical inconsistencies with the Christian’s beliefs of God. So what I suggest is the third option which is my argument, so let’s examine Option c and what I like to call the Time-Salvation Paradox.

In my studies and thoughts about salvation, human will, and God’s transcendence, I have realized I was limiting God by thinking that what God has decreed is in the past. For example–when God chose the elect. And as it turns out, this is a very important detail with some surprising consequences. The idea occurred to me one day after reading this passage in the Bible:

“But do not forget this one thing, dear friends: With the Lord a day
is like a thousand years, and a thousand years are like a day.”
2 Peter 3:8

This is not a verse one typically sees referenced when God’s sovereignty and man’s free will is argued, but stick with me. The one conclusion that I have come to is that the only people who choose God are the ones He elects, but God only elects those who choose Him. This statement alone may not sound logical but the reasoning behind it however, I believe, makes all the difference.

Option-c-

If you take into account the fact that God did choose those He elected before the foundations of the earth, and since God exits outside of time, what has happened with God may not have happened yet with us. To say that it did would mean that God is subject to the same confines and laws of time as we are. Because God is outside of time, what has already happened, (i.e. His choosing the elect) can be said to have not yet happened until we choose God (illustrated in the symbol above).

What I like about this stance is that it focuses on what God can do instead of what God cannot do. Calvinism says that God cannot make man with free will because that would compromise His authority. Arminianism says that God cannot choose people unto salvation because that would compromise His love and justice. Option c says that God can do both of those things, the paradox, if it can even be called that, is understanding how.

Again, God exists outside of our laws of time and space, and thus, outside of our understanding. God’s “time” is not faster or slower than ours, it is nonexistent as He is the creator of it and not bound by it. This is a foundational Christian belief about God, so with that in mind…

A summary of the argument is as follows:

Time-Salvation-Paradox 1.36.13 AM

God is spirit and He is eternal. God exists outside of time.

Man is physical and he is temporal. Man exists inside of time.

Because God exists outside of the laws of time, a moment that has already happened to man could be said to be happening right now with God.

But because man is temporal, a moment that has happened inside of time has already happened and will not happen again with man.

Also, since God exists outside of time, a moment that has not yet happened to man could be said to have already happened with God.

Similarly, consider how God had chosen the elect outside of time before the foundations of the Earth were even set. (Eph 1:4)

Because man is temporal, a moment that has not yet happened inside of time has not yet happened with man. (1 Cor 7:18, 20, 22, & 24)

And because man exists inside of time, man has not yet been chosen inside of time until the moment he chooses God. (1 Tim 6:12 & 1 Pet 5:10)

So it can be demonstrated that people who do not choose God are personally responsible for their choice for eternity, while people who do choose God do so because they were called by God.

This is because everyone has a God given ability to choose God inside of time, while God has chosen the elect outside of time.

So, brothers and sisters, I hope at the very least this argument has brought you another way to look at God’s sovereignty in conjunction with man’s will. Whatever view you feel fits God’s Word and His character best, let it unify us as the Body of Christ. We are not labeled Calvinists, Arminians or a combination of the two; we are Christians, “Little Christs” saved and loved by God. Let our views bring us together for the sole purpose of glorifying God and spreading the Good News. As long as we are doing that, what else could possibly matter?

By Clark Campbell
This blog was written from multiple papers on our List of Theologetics Papers page posted here and here.

Option c: The Time-Salvation Paradox

Omitted verses. Omitted message?

king_james
King James I of England and VI of Scotland
by John Smith, after Sir Anthony van Dyck
mezzotint, 1721 (1617)

One common objection to newer Bible translations like the NIV is that some verses appear to be missing. And when compared to the King James Bible, there are missing verses. One such list that I saw on social media stated the following verses were missing from modern translations.

Screenshot_2015-05-18-12-44-46

Now, my purpose here is not to argue if the verses are omitted in the original manuscripts or even why they are omitted in modern translations (Biblical scholars have agreed that newer translations have omitted many verses that the KJV included because older and more reliable manuscripts that have been found after the KJV was written do not have these verses. http://www.gotquestions.org/missing-verses.html). I also do not intend to recommend one version over another. My reason for writing is to dispute the claim that modern Bible translations purposefully omitted the messages these passages would have otherwise conveyed. In fact, often the same phrase is found and included elsewhere in the Bible.

So let’s put these verses to the test. For this blog I will be comparing the King James version to the New International version. The verses in italics are omitted from the NIV but included in the KJV. The bold verses are included in the NIV.

Luke 17:36 (omitted)
Two men shall be in the field; the one shall be taken, and the other left.
Matthew 24:40 (included)
Two men will be in the field; one will be taken and the other left.

Luke 23:17 (omitted)
For of necessity he must release one unto them at the feast.
Matthew 27:15 (included)
Now it was the governor’s custom at the festival to release a prisoner chosen by the crowd.
(Also included are Mark 15:6 and John 18:39)

Acts 8:37 (omitted)
And Philip said, If thou believest with all thine heart, thou mayest. And he answered and said, I believe that Jesus Christ is the Son of God.
(This verse is an area of contention because of the obvious Christian doctrine; particularly believing that Jesus is the Son of God. However:)
Romans 10:9 (included)
If you declare with your mouth, “Jesus is Lord,” and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved.
(Also included Acts 16:31, John 5:18, 1 John 4:15, 5:5)

Matthew 18:11 (omitted)
For the Son of man is come to save that which was lost.
Luke 19:10 (included)
For the Son of Man came to seek and to save the lost.

Matthew 23:14 (omitted)
Woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! for ye devour widows’ houses, and for a pretence make long prayer: therefore ye shall receive the greater damnation.
Luke 20:47 (included)
They devour widows’ houses and for a show make lengthy prayers. These men will be punished most severely.
(Also Mark 12:40)

Mark 7:16 (omitted)
If any man have ears to hear, let him hear.
(A common phrase that’s included at Mark 4:9, 23; Matthew 11:15; Revelation 2:7, 11, 17; 3:6, 13, 22)

Mark 11:26 (omitted)
But if ye do not forgive, neither will your Father which is in heaven forgive your trespasses.
Matthew 6:15 (included)
But if you do not forgive others their sins, your Father will not forgive your sins.
(Also Matthew 18:35)

Matthew 17:21 (omitted)
However this kind does not go out except by prayer and fasting
(Mark also chronicles this account yet Mark says Jesus only mentioned prayer.)
Mark 9:29 (included)
He replied, “This kind can come out only by prayer.”

Mark 15:28 (omitted)
And the scripture was fulfilled, which saith, And he was numbered with the transgressors.
Luke 22:37 (included)
It is written: ‘And he was numbered with the transgressors’…

Mark 9:44 and Mark 9:46 (both say the same thing and are omitted)
Where their worm dieth not, and the fire is not quenched.
Mark 9:48 (included)
where “‘the worms that eat them do not die, and the fire is not quenched.’

Romans 16:24 (omitted)
The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you all. Amen.
2 Thessalonians 3:18 (included)
The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you all.
(Also similar phrasing in 2 Corinthians 13:14, Revelation 22:21, and Philippians 4:23)

And for good measure, a verse not on that original list:
Colossians 1:14
In whom we have redemption through his blood, even the forgiveness of sins.
The underlined portion is missing in modern translations. Does that mean modern versions maliciously leave out the importance of Jesus’ blood? No. We find the same message (with Christ’s blood included) in other passages of newer translations.
Ephesians 1:7
In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of sins, in accordance with the riches of God’s grace.
(Also Romans 3:25, Ephesians 1:7, Ephesians 2:13, 1 Peter 1:19, Revelations 1:5)

The following verses were also included on the list but none of these verses change the message that writer was conveying if they are not included:

John 5:4 For an angel went down at a certain season into the pool, and troubled the water: whosoever then first after the troubling of the water stepped in was made whole of whatsoever disease he had.
Acts 15:34 However, it seemed good to Silas to remain there.
Acts 24:7 But the commander Lysias came by and with great violence took him out of your hands.
Acts 28:29 And when he had said these words, the Jews departed, and had great reasoning among themselves

So, while some may hold a sense of allegiance to the KJV, the “missing” verses in other modern translations is due to evidence and archaeological discoveries which not only make the newer translations likely closer to the original manuscripts but it clearly doesn’t take away from theological meaning and message of Scripture! This is not to put down the KJV which is a great translation and has accomplished much for God’s kingdom but as believers, we must remember that God’s Word is perfect in it’s original form. There are good translations and there are better translations. Some versions convey certain passages better while others do a better job with other passages.

For information on picking out the best translation for you click here.

By Derrick Stokes and Clark Campbell
Theologetics.org

Omitted verses. Omitted message?