I went to a wedding last weekend and one phrase in the ceremony smacked me upside the head. I wrote it down on my checkbook to make sure I remembered it. That got me some weird looks since it is not really normal behavior to take notes at a wedding.

The pastor said, “With your prayers you move the hand of God.”

That perfectly expresses a theological conundrum that I could never figure out about Christianity. If their God is all knowing then he knows the future. If he knows the future then he knows what he is going to do in the future. If the prayers of people convince him to change his mind, wouldn’t he have already foreseen that? If there is a perfect divine plan and will how can it be changed and still be perfect?

For the pastor’s statement to be true you either have to believe that you are powerful enough to bully God into doing what you want instead of what he planned or you have to believe that God is making it up as he goes along and is willing to go along with what people want. Neither of those are consistent with the other teachings of the church.

Am I totally missing something? Is there a way to make that statement logically fit with evangelical Christian teaching?

3 Replies to “The Hand of God”

  1. *grin* Tell ya what, the ability to “talk the talk” has gotten me out of explaining myself, sometimes. And it helps me to keep myself out of other situations where I ask somebody else to explain themselves. I’ve heard the arguements all my life, so I can just nod & smile when somebody makes those stupid remarks like “moving the hand of God with your prayers” or something being a miracle instead of good medicine/science. (Not to say that medicine & science can’t be miraculous, but it’s not an “out of the blue” miracle as often as it is somebody’s devotion to their discipline that saves the day.) So, knowing how to talk the talk keeps me from arguing points when I’m better off keeping my mouth shut, and keeps me from asking stupid questions that I already know THEIR answer to anyway. One of these days, when I don’t have to worry about my dad hearing something decidedly heretical that I’ve said to so-&-so, I’d love to argue some of those points, but I’m too much of a chicken-shit to do so while my dad lives in the same, small town as me. *wry smile*

    Glad I’m not the only one who’s still able to “talk the talk” years after I’ve stopped believing the bunk. *wink*

  2. That’s pretty much the same explanation as I would expect from the denominations that I was raised in also. I think it is sort of funny that we can still “talk the talk” with the best of them.

  3. Ok, having been raised Baptist, I’ll give this one a shot, though I don’t know about the statement itself.

    Moving the hand of God, by their prayers…. Yes, and No. The Baptist (not sure if it is the same or similar for ALL evangelicals) belief is that while God does know everything, sees everything, hears everything, time is NOT laid out in a straight line for Him. For us, we see only the nearest fork in the path, if we go one way, one out-come, if we go the other way, a different outcome.

    (Kindof like the Parallel universe theory that at each decision is a fork, and at that fork, 2 different universes are created, but the Christians believe that at each fork, the unpicked option is void & the next step in the plan is laid down firm, no belief in an alternate universe having just been created.)

    So, God sees ALL the options, sees where things are going to end up, but also knows that with taking the left path (not “evil left” just differentiating one path from the other) instead of the right, you’ve changed what could have been. And maybe God isn’t inclined to act one way, but with our beseaching (sp?) prayer, he decides to act in our favor instead of the other way.

    Of course that’s kind of human arrogance, assuming that JUST because we pray it, God will answer as we want. I personally think that there are 3 (at least!) answers God/dess can give to prayer “Yes, No, or Maybe Later.” The preacher’s comment is assuming that God will give the couple exactly what they want, just because they prayed for it, even if he wasn’t previously inclined. That doesn’t take into account all the fantastic people who pray for years for a child only to be told time & again that they’re infertile. Or the prayers of all the little girls across the world that pray for their very on pony (or puppy, or kitten) but never see that prayer made manifest. LOL God/dess doesn’t answer our prayers just because we pray so convincingly. In reality, if you’re going to believe in Divine answer to prayer, you’ve got to believe that the Divine sees all the possibilities on the many roads ahead and denies one prayer because they see something better up ahead if you don’t get that one prayer answered affirmatively NOW.

    I hope I’ve given you some insight into the Baptist line of thinking (which may or may not be the same or similar to other Evangelicals) on this. And, my little disclaimer…. Just because I still can talk the talk, doesn’t mean I believe what is preached. Please don’t take the above “insight” as a statement of what _I_ believe. (Except the one statement where I said that “I think…” which really IS what I think.)

What Do You Think?