A past-directed prayer is one that petitions God either (1) to have brought about some state of affairs at some time in the past or (2) to bring about some state of affairs (now or in the future) that would require God to have brought about some (other) state of affairs at some time in the past.
In this paper (submitted for publication in this forthcoming book) I argue that past-directed prayers can be answered by God only if God has foreknowledge of our future free choices, and therefore any evidence of answered past-directed prayers constitutes evidence against open theism (which denies God’s foreknowledge of future free choices). I also suggest (to complete the argument) that there appear to be actual cases of answered past-directed prayers. In the penultimate section of the paper, I make reference to a remarkable story related by Helen Roseveare in her book Living Faith. Her account is too long to quote in full in the paper, but since it’s such a striking (and encouraging!) testimony I thought I would reproduce it here instead (see below).
This post serves as a follow-up to my last post, in response to the comments that my new Arminian friend posted here (on-site) and then here (off-site). (Since he goes here by the username ‘Arminian1’, I will use that name below.) I’m not going to respond point-by-point to his second set of comments, because (i) I simply don’t have the time and energy at the moment, (ii) it would end up so long that I doubt anyone else would have the time, energy, and interest to actually read it, (iii) Steve Hays has already raised some excellent points with which I concur, and (iv) I’m confident enough that anyone who reads Arminian1’s second response, and understands the metaphysical problems I raised for his position, will recognize that his rebuttal consists largely of hand-waving non-answers (e.g., appeals to divine transcendence, eternity, and omnipotence that somehow function like magic wands to dissolve away, without any further explanation, the paradoxes raised by backward/circular causation).
So for now I will simply address the issue he raised in his first comment. (Since he repeats this point several times in his second response, I suppose this will count as a partial reply to that too!)
This is a follow-up to my earlier post, in response to some comments.
To recap: on Justin Taylor’s blog, a commenter called ‘Arminian’ took issue with an article by John Piper by contending that Calvinism is incompatible with the claim that our prayers can be “genuine causes” of God’s decisions about how to answer those prayers. As he put it, “the person’s request for God to do the thing cannot reasonably considered a cause of God doing the thing.” I responded (here and here) that (1) this is correct, but Piper wasn’t making that claim in the first place, and (2) it’s hard to see how our prayers could be “genuine causes” (in the sense intended by ‘Arminian’) on the classical Arminian view either. This post is an elaboration on (2).
Uber-blogger Justin Taylor recently posted an excerpt from an online article by John Piper in which he explains, by way of a fictional dialogue, how God’s foreordination of all things doesn’t imply that petitionary prayers are pointless. One commenter going by the moniker ‘Arminian’ took the opportunity to fire some shots over the fence. I pointed out that this brother was in danger of shooting himself along with the Calvinists, which inevitably drew some more shots in response.
I later posted some follow-up comments, but for some reason they haven’t appeared, even after re-posting them. Since I took the precaution of saving a copy, and since I think Piper’s point is important and worth defending, I’m going to post them here for anyone who might be interested (including ‘Arminian’, whoever he may be). But they’ll only make sense after reading the original post and comments.