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Sovereignty // Anne Jackson

This post is a part of the Sovereignty of God Blog Series going on throughout the months of July and August. You can read about the series and see a schedule of the posts here. You can subscribe to all the posts here.

Today’s post is from Anne Jackson. Anne blogs at Flowerdust.net and works at Cross Point Church in Nashville, Tennessee. She also recently published her first book, titled Mad Church Disease. Anne is a wonderful writer and one of my favorite bloggers because she has the innate ability to talk about sensitive topics and allow for conversation to happen despite that.

Fighting in the Pastor’s Office

Currently, I work on a creative team at my church, Cross Point Church, in Nashville, TN. A series we did in the month of June was on questions our members and guests had about anything faith related. One of the most frequently asked questions we received was on prayer.

Our pastor, Pete, decided to do an entire message focused on prayer. Several of us gathered in his office and shared our own thoughts on prayer.

Why do we pray? Does prayer change God’s will? If a five year old has a brain tumor and God already knows that child is going to die from it, why should we pray for healing? Is it really for healing? Is it to encourage the parents as a form of intercession or community? Is it about strengthening the bond of believers – the communion of saints? Or is it to commune with God? Maybe not change His mind, but help us understand, to some degree, His will?

There were a lot of (passionately) discussed answers to these questions, and it was great because none of us agreed on any specific answer unanimously. And it was interesting that those of us brought up more conservatively believed more in the “literal” power of prayer — that prayer can change God’s mind. Those of us raised more liberally believed strongly that prayer is more of aligning our spirits to God’s and that we may not have the power to change the mind of God.

One thing is certain – it’s a difficult topic to answer. I don’t know why my friend Brandon battled cancer as long and as painfully as he did. I don’t know why I didn’t die when I had a tragic car accident. I don’t know why some answers are handed to us on silver platters and others are never within reach.

But I do know that beyond our comprehension in a universe we can’t humanly begin to figure out, we are called to pray. To intercede. And to believe.

I guess the rest…well, it’s up to God.

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  • http://www.aworshipfulheart.typepad.com Jan Owen

    It’s all very much about trust I guess. Sometimes that is hard.

  • http://www.shapingthespace.net David

    The conservative v liberal thing is interesting.

    My view (and it is undoubtedly a hard subject) is that we are told God changed his mind in Exodus 32:14 and Jeremiah 26:19, and possibly other places too. They just spring to mind.

    I’ve seen lots of discussion that if God’s mind can be changed, He can’t know all things. My issue with that is we’re trying to constrict God…creator of all things…into the confines of something he created : time, the human mind, science ‘laws’…etc

    If ever we needed evidence of God’s sovereignty, it’s got to be in this subject.

  • http://flowerdust.net anne jackson

    @david – what about this?

    God is not a man, that he should lie, nor a son of man, that he should change his mind. (Numbers 23:19a, NIV).

    • http://www.thegodtheyneverknew.com Preston Nesselrotte

      Anne – Then how does one harmonize that verse with verses like these:

      – God’s regret Regarding Pre-flood humanity (Gen 6:6)?

      – God’s regret that he ever made Saul King (1 Sam 15:10-11,35) – Note that even Samuel prayed all night trying to change God’s mind. Does it appear Samuel was embracing this theological concept that God was frozen and unable to change his mind? Yet even after praying God did not change his mind. Was it because God “Couldn’t” or that he “Wouldn’t”? There is a big difference between the two.

      – Isa 5 where God explains he expected Israel to do one thing and yet they did another. God confronts the unexpected – yet how could this be so if God is fixed and unable to change his mind?

      – Jer 19:5, 7:31; 32:35 – where God says “it never entered His mind that Israel would morally behave the way they did”? This shows us that God has a mind and that he never thought Israel would be so foolish and vile.

      – 2 Kings 20:1-6 King Hezekiah – whereby upon Hezekiah’s appeal God changed his mind to allow the King to live another 15 years! Was God just lying to Hezekiah when he told him he was really going to die, but in the end really knew he wasn’t going to allow him to die or did Hezekiah’s plea’s (prayer?) appeal to the tender warmheartedness of the Father’s heart?

      – Another great verse that maybe gives us some great insight to what occurs when we pray is in Daniel 10. Here in v12-13 the angel Michael explains to Daniel that he was delayed in answering Daniels prayers – why? Was it because God would not change his mind or something else? It becomes clear to the reader that Micheal was delayed because he was battling the “King of Persia”. It is to be noted that this was not an earthy King, but a spiritual one. In other words, the angels where engaging in spiritual warfare.

      – 2 Peter3:9 – Peter writes about “hastening the Lord’s return”. How does one harmonize this verse that God is fixed and never changes his mind? Could it be that God is paitent in his return so that others may come to be saved???

      – Ex 32:33, Rev 3:5, 22:18 – speaks about people being “blotted out of the Book of Life”. Again is this another example of God “changing his mind”?

      The verse you mentioned Anne is to be viewed with sound hermeneutics and one can come to the conclusion that this verse is not saying God never changes his mind, but that God never changes his character. We as students of the Word, must harmonize verses that seem to contradict one another as they seem to do here. A little study of the Greek or Hebrew will often give light as to what is truly being said here.

      Note: For this who wish to say these verses I mentioned are anthropomorphic, then we need to consider this. If these verses are not true expressions of who God is, but merely God using terms we can understand him by, then we need to ask ourselves this. Why is God using terms to describe himself, yet he isn’t really at all like the descriptive terms he is using? Isn’t this much like lying to someone???? If God wants to describe himself as having the ability to change his mind to the people of Israel – yet all along he really doesn’t have the ability – then what’s the point? God is telling people something about himself that isn;t really true??? Points to ponder.

      • Tyler

        Preston- I don’t think the point here is to argue over Bible verses that speak to this issue. Clearly there are plenty of verses that support almost any main theological position. There are Godly people that disagree on this and use the Bible to support their position. This isn’t to say the Bible is a contradiction, it is to say that we cannot fully know at this point.

        It would be nice if you had some arguments that Greg Boyd hasn’t already outlined for you as well. Everything you listed is outlined in chapter 2 of “The God of the Possible.”

        • http://www.thegodtheyneverknew.com Preston

          Tyler – Why come up with a new argument when the one Boyd presents is so hermeneutically sound? :)

          I do find it interesting that when this subject matter comes up folks always run to the position of “Its a mystery!” or “we just can’t know” (I find this is more so of folks of a Reformed background than any other). For me this is a cop out. When the bible is matter of fact on this issue. It seems to me the real problem here is not that the Bible or God is so “mysterious” that we can’t figure this out, but when people are faced with what the bible really has to say about this issue it challenges people’s systematic theology and presuppositions. Truth be told this subject is the underpinning for many peoples systematic theology and if this falls, so too does the house upon which it is built. With diligent study and intellectual honesty, people like Boyd, Pinnock and many others have shown us that this mystery can solved- if we simply pick up our bibles and read them without some preformed concepts or presupposition.

          For me the bible is straight forward when looked upon as a whole and that is God is not fixed and rigid, but He is dynamic and free and He can and does change his mind and that there is spiritual warfare to boot. As the above verses clearly show, God does change his mind. Yes, God doesn’t always answer our prayers, but its not because he is somehow “fixed and rigid” or has predetermined the outcome, but has to do more with God’s ability to see the big picture and infinite wisdom. All I am saying is the scriptures for me are pretty clear as provided above.

          BTW – Glad to see you’ve actually read Boyd! Another one I would add to that list is Michael Saia’s “Does God Know the Future?” For me it answers and addresses many more questions that Boyd does not.

  • http://manofdepravity.com Tyler

    @david and @anne-

    What you brought up Anne is what makes this whole discussion a difficult one from a Biblical standpoint. There is no question, the Bible talks about God changing and not changing. I think the key is to take a look at the whole of what the Bible says about God and to rely on that when thinking about verses like the ones you have listed.

    Of course, the key to all this for me doesn’t work for everyone else.

  • http://kassota.wordpress.com tam

    all i can say about prayer, specifically for healing (thinking kate mcrae right now) is if it is Gods will to not grant full healing, then what prayer can do is bring us closer to His will, therefor providing that peace that passes all understanding.

    i guess we’ll never know if He changes His mind. we all just see it as His will anyway, right. maybe it was in His will to change His mind. Hes God, He can pretty much do whatever He wants.

    and now, i have thoroughly confused myself.

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