Some Religious Points I’ve Been Mulling

The times they are a-changin’.

This post seems to be older than 12 years—a long time on the internet. It might be outdated.

A couple of Christian-related things I’ve been mulling over recently:

First, Karl Barth, a twentieth-century theologian, said, “No harm must be done to the critical choice.” This is interpreted by Rev. Earl Palmer as, “No harm must be done to our freedom, and no harm must be done to God’s freedom.”

Second, Karl Barth talks about prayer, saying, “He is not deaf, he listens; more than that, he acts. He does not act in the same way whether we pray or not. Prayer exerts an influence upon God’s action, even upon his existence. That is what the word ‘answer’ means. … The fact that God yields to man’s petitions, changing his intentions in response to man’s prayer, is not a sign of weakness. He himself, in the glory of his majesty and power, has so willed it.”

Finally, 1 Thessalonians 5:19-22:

19Do not put out the Spirit’s fire; 20do not treat prophecies with contempt. 21Test everything. Hold on to the good. 22Avoid every kind of evil.

I stumbled upon this passage when we were going over Matthew 7:1-6. Matthew 7:1 reads:

“Do not judge, or you too will be judged.

The footnote in my bible for 7:1 says:

The Christian is not to judge hypocritically or self-righteously, as can be seen from the context (v. 5). The same though is expressed in 23:13-39 (cf. Ro 2:1). To obey Christ’s commands in this chapter, we must first evaluate a person’s character – whether he is a “dog” (v. 6) or a false prophet (v. 15), or whether his life shows fruit (v. 16). Scripture repeatedly exhorts believers to evaluate carefully and choose between good and bad people and things (sexually immoral, 1Co 5:9; those who masquerade as angels of light, 2Co 11:14; dogs, Php 3:2; false prophets, 1Jn 4:1). The Christian is to “test everything” (1Th 5:21).

The Christian is to “test everything”. I’m relishing 5:21. The footnote in my Bible for 5:21 reads:

Test everything. The approval of prophecy (v. 20) does not mean that anyone who claims to speak in the name of the Lord is to be accepted wihtout question. Paul does not say what specific tests are to be applied, but he is clear that every teaching must be tested – surely they must be in agreement with his gospel.

I wish that more people would be objective, in general.


11 thoughts on “Some Religious Points I’ve Been Mulling”

  1. “Prayer exerts an influence upon God?s action, even upon his existence.”

    Hmm..what the heck is Barth saying here? How I interpret that does not seem like anything Barth would believe..nor is it anything I can accept.

  2. I’m kind of interested in who’s been non-objective lately and how so.

    I’m also confused about how these points are related, in your mind.

  3. Andrew, I first want to say I’m excited you’re looking at scripture and doing your own research and forming your own opinions!

    Secondly, I have no idea who this “Barth” guy is and what relevance he has to core christian doctrine. But’s that’s ok!

    As far as Jeff’s question about how you think these points are related, I didn’t get the sense, from your writing, that they were related at all… merely, “religious points” being mulled over…

    I am also glad to see you “looking further into” what a verse may mean. Too many people get hung up over the words without looking into the context, style and audience, etc in which they were written!

    Carry on my good fellow!

  4. @quinn:

    How do you interpret it? I take it to mean that it matters if we pray. However, God will not fulfill our request just because enough people people pray or we pray hard enough.

  5. @Jeff:

    I don’t have anyone in particular I wish to call out. I just wish society as a whole would be more rational and objective.

    As for my ideas, they are all separate ideas. The Barth quote on “critical choice” came from listening to Earl Palmer’s sermon from several weeks ago. In researching it, I stumbled across the second Barth quote. The third point about testing everything is important because it says that we should blatantly test everything we come across and not just accept it because it was purported to be the word of God. I wish that kind of scientific method was instilled more.

  6. ?Prayer exerts an influence upon God?s action, even upon his existence.?

    I was more concerned with the part after the comma..

    I think “Prayer exerts an influence upon God’s existence” means something entirely crazy, namely, that prayer can change whether or not God exists, or the degree to which He exists (though clearly there is no middle ground, either He exists or He doesn’t). I don’t think Karl Barth would believe that, which is why I’m saying, “What the heck does he mean?”

  7. I interpreted that to mean that prayer exerts an influence on the nature of God’s existence, rather than on the fact of God’s existence. So prayer doesn’t change whether or not God is, but who God is. The way I read it, Barth is saying that through prayer we can play an active part in the Being of God. I’m still not wholly sure I agree with that, but it sounds more likely than what your interpretation would mean.

  8. It would be contrary to the perfections of God for our prayers to have any sway over the action that is taken. It depends on how far down the rabbit hole of predestination you want to go, but St. Anselm does some of the earliest quality work in both the perfections tied in with proving the ontological existence of God. Basically, for God to be good and right, there is one correct action that will be taken, and should God change in any way, it would alter the status of the perfections, making God less perfect by altering the best way of acting.

    Barth talks about our prayer as a catalyst not for change but for influence. Without having the time to properly research it, he could mean any number of different things here without saying anything necessarily contrary to orthodox belief.

  9. Katharine-
    If our prayers have no sway, then it seems that “the prayer of a righteous man is [not] powerful” (James 5:16) I cannot accept that. It seems believable enough to me that the one correct action in every situation can be affected by who’s praying what.

    You said “The way I read it, Barth is saying that through prayer we can play an active part in the Being of God”
    And I have no idea what you mean.

  10. Quinn:
    Well, if a major part of who God IS is tied to what God DOES, and prayer influences God’s actions, then prayer influences who God is. Hence, prayer exerts an influence on God’s existence.

    I’m not sure I agree with the idea that there is only one perfect course of action for any given circumstance and that all other courses of action are by definition imperfect (having not studied Anselm past the basics of the Ontological Argument for the existence of God). There are plenty of situations where there can be a multiplicity of good and/or bad choices.

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