Predestination and Praying for non-Believers
#1
I've never really felt like I understood the Church's teaching on predestination very well, but from what I know, it basically says that with God being outside of time, he is able to foresee everything before it happens.  Thus, he knows who will be saved and who will be damned.

My main question is why it is still efficacious or necessary to pray for people who don't believe.  If God already knows whether they will cooperate with His grace or reject it, and this knowledge is immutable, then it doesn't seem like prayers can do much.  But given the fact that the Church teaches both predestination and the efficacy of prayer, I've got to be missing something.  What is it?
Reply
#2
It's a confusing theology, but rational nonetheless. God's omniscience seamlessly coexists with our free will. It is yet another one of God's great mysteries.

It would almost be like me, Person 1, offering you, Person 2, two objects: X and Y. Person 2 tells Person 3 that they are going to choose X. Person 3 then tells Person 1 that Person 2 chose X. Although Person 1 knows that X has already been chosen, this does not eliminate Person 1's ability to choose freely.

Now if Person 2 changes his/her mind before they have officially chosen, and likewise tells Person 3 who in turn tells Person 1, the same free will applies. While these events occur sequentially to us (they are queued along a time-scale), God, Himself, has created this encompassing dimension and watches us sort out our own separate time-lines moment by moment.

Substitute Person 1 with God, Person 2 with yourself, and Person 3 with God's omniscience.

Maybe you could try thinking of it like a giant puzzle. God gives each and every one of us all the pieces to our own puzzle, which, when combined with all others, forms one great picture. God alone knows the picture of the puzzle, but it is up to us to put it together. There is a perfect way, which we could have achieved had we complied with the directions, but because of our infidelity, we have lost the directions and must work together to complete the puzzle. It won't look the way it was supposed to look when God gave it to us, but God, in His infinite wisdom, having foreseen our infidelity, provided us with a means of assembling the puzzle without the directions. Due to His omniscience, He knows that there are X number of ways to assemble the puzzle. And He also knows which method we will choose. Nevertheless, it is still our choice and we are free to assemble it any way we will.

Our minds our limited the parameters of sequence. We cannot see something clearly until it has left he future and entered the present. Therefore, we are forced to make choices one at a time. But what if we could stop time and assemble our puzzle before the clock started ticking again? Such is the nature of God.

May God bless you!
Reply
#3
StabatMater Wrote:I've never really felt like I understood the Church's teaching on predestination very well, but from what I know, it basically says that with God being outside of time, he is able to foresee everything before it happens.  Thus, he knows who will be saved and who will be damned.

My main question is why it is still efficacious or necessary to pray for people who don't believe.  If God already knows whether they will cooperate with His grace or reject it, and this knowledge is immutable, then it doesn't seem like prayers can do much.  But given the fact that the Church teaches both predestination and the efficacy of prayer, I've got to be missing something.  What is it?

Here's an explanation from the Internet Encyclopedia of Philosophy: (read the parts in bold first)

Quote:Jewish sages warn against 'prayer in vain' (where "in vain" does not mean "futile" but "contemptuously" or "profanely" [as in the Third Commandment, "Thou shalt not take the Lord's name in vain"]):

... to cry over the past is to utter a vain prayer. If a man's wife is [already] pregnant and he says, "[God] grant that my wife bear a male child", this is a vain prayer. If he is coming home from a journey and he hears cries of distress in the town and says, "[God] grant that this is not in my house", this is a vain prayer.[14]
Such prayers were regarded as blasphemous since they were taken to be supplications to God that He change the past from the way it was. But not even an omnipotent God can violate the logical principle of the (law of) non-contradiction.
And yet, God-fearing persons frequently do utter such prayers. How natural it is, for example, for Believers, when knowing that their child was on board a particular ship, and learning that the ship has met a terrible calamity and sunk – with some passengers being lost and some others being rescued – to pray to God that their child is among the survivors. Is there any way to rationalize such behavior and render it non-blasphemous?

Modern modal logic again comes to the rescue. Remember, on traditional accounts, God is (along with being all-good) omniscient and omnipotent. God, being omniscient, will have known, since the beginning of time, that the parents would pray (at such and such a time) for the survival of their child. In particular, God would have known at the time of the ship's sinking that the parents would pray sometime later, and God could have chosen to answer those prayers in advance of their being uttered. On this view, God is not changing the past at all; God is making the past one particular way among the infinite number of different ways it could have been. One must attend to the modalities. Under this view, God does not change the past from the way it was (which activity would be a violation of the principle of non-contradiction), but rather God makes one possibility (the child's surviving) actual, and makes another possibility (the child's perishing) nonactual. There is no violation of the principle of non-contradiction, and the parents' prayers are not blasphemous.

And it bears emphasizing that it is not God's knowing beforehand that the parents would pray in a certain manner that 'brings it about' ('necessitates', 'forces') their praying that way. It is, quite the contrary: it is the parents praying of their own free will that God have saved their child from death that moves God to do (have done) as he did.

Similar freedoms and constraints apply to the present. On pain of inconsistency, one cannot change what is happening at this very moment. In some circumstances, and in a certain sense, one can change what is about to happen next (i.e. in the immediate future). But one cannot change what is happening now, i.e. at this very moment.

What about the future? Most of us believe that we can, to a certain extent, change (or affect) the future. But then we recall the proverb, "Que sera, sera" ("What will be, will be"), and we begin to have doubts. If the future will be what it is going to be, how can we change it?

Not surprisingly, the response is: "It all depends on what you mean by 'change'".

"I cannot change the future – by anything I have done, am doing, or will do – from what it is going to be. But I can change the future from what it might have been. I may carefully consider the appearance of my garden, and after a bit of thought, mulling over a few alternatives, I decide to cut down the apple tree. By so doing, I change the future from what it might have been. But I do not change it from what it will be. Indeed, by my doing what I do, I contribute – in a small measure – to making the future the very way it will be.
"Similarly, I cannot change the present from the way it is. I can only change the present from the way it might have been, from the way it would have been were I not doing what I am doing right now. And finally, I cannot change the past from the way it was. In the past, I changed it from what it might have been, from what it would have been had I not done what I did.


"We can change the world from what it might have been; but in doing that we contribute to making the world the way it was, is, and will be. We cannot – on pain of logical contradiction – change the world from the way it was, is, or will be."[15]


http://www.iep.utm.edu/f/foreknow.htm
Reply
#4
StabatMater Wrote:I've got to be missing something.  What is it?

Read the Bible and see how Judas is treated. He is not judged until he acts even though Jesus always know what will be.

It is fully our choice what we do. Also, only God knows the future, not the angels or saints (but like humans, it can be revealed to them).
Reply
#5
Our prayers are taken into account from eternity. All moments in time are present to God in their immediacy, so He is able to discern the ultimate effect of every act.
Reply
#6
Quote: Originally Posted by Dauphin
 
Our prayers are taken into account from eternity. All moments in time are present to God in their immediacy, so He is able to discern the ultimate effect of every act.

Very good. Keep it simple.
Reply
#7
StabatMater Wrote:If God already knows whether they will cooperate with His grace or reject it, and this knowledge is immutable, then it doesn't seem like prayers can do much.

We don't pray to change God's heart, but rather to change ours.
Reply
#8
Quote:Originally Posted by Credo

We don't pray to change God's heart, but rather to change ours.

Very good point. I've never thought of it that way.
Reply
#9
StabatMater:-

I think what you're missing has already been thrashed out between the Jesuits and Jansenists.
Reply
#10
Two observations
1: With regard to free will generally, the statement "Whatever will happen, will happen" does not work as an argument against it. Things are predestined insofar as certain things will in fact end up happening. Yet this is as a result of free choosing to result in what will happen as a result (of choosing).
2: Praying for non-believers does have merit in God's eyes. It's true He infallibly knows who in fact will be saved and damned. Yet this does not mean prayer has no effect on the eventual outcome. Within the whole context of Divine Providence, prayers for the  conversion of non-believers are foreseen by God in advance as well. Prayer is a factor considered within the context of Divine Providence. Thus it truly does have value.

I'm no theologian. But I'm pretty sure the above notions present the case accurately.

Reply




Users browsing this thread: 1 Guest(s)