I’m not proposing that people who pray lose, or give up, their free will. I am proposing that Evangelical Christians might be moving away from the other Christian interpretations of the relationship between god’s omnipotence and free will. The idea is that, other christians pray when they need to take an important decision, so that they can ask god for advice. and that, the evangelical swapping “to decide” for “to pray” might suggest that they dont ask god for advice, but ask god to decide for them, or to discover what god has already decided for them. and this, i was suggesting, might make a difference to their interpretation of free will.
Let’s say you are at work and you encounter a dilemma, so you go to your boss and ask him what he wants you to do. Have you given up your free will? Ultimately are you not free to either do what your boss tells you or not? True, the consequences of not doing as your boss says may be bad so you are more likely to do what the boss wants, but the decision to do as you are told is ITSELF an act of free will, right?
Prayer in the context of having to make a decision is intrinsically a request for guidance – what else could it be? Even supposing that one gets an answer and will always does as he is told, the decision to pray is an act of free will and the decision to obey is an act of free will, because the option to disobey is available no matter how unlikely.
The Beast knows a few Evangelicals – he fishes with a posse of them and several are very good friends. None are Determinists. Do you know any who are?
As for “Evangelical Christians might be moving away from the other Christian interpretations of the relationship between god’s omnipotence and free will.”, that depends on the “other Christians”, right? There are many Calvinists about who would take the position that a move toward Determinism on the part of Evangelicals would be a move toward them, not away.
I agree that, even in the case in which you pray in order to ask God what He wants you to do, you are not thereby giving up your free will. the worry is that, by swappin ‘deciding’ and ‘praying’, you might be doin more than that: praying to find out, for example. and one could say that, once you have found out, you could do differently. but the point is that, if that was the reason why you prayed in the first place, then it might mean you are a determinist.
i dont have any other evidence than that bit of footage, and ‘praying’ instead of ‘deciding’. also, i dont know any evangelicals, so i take your word on the fact that those you know are not determinists.
in fact, there are bits in the documentary where one gets the opposite impression: that evangelical are much more pro-active christians than many others – politically, for example. or on conversion. and with you generations. clearly, thogh, this is not incompatible with them being determinists.
one last thing: this issue is complicated by the fact that i would not take a person’s word on whether they are determinists
One of the consequences of having buddies who are Evangelicals is that sooner or later they are going to bring up religion and try to talk to you about it – especially if you are standing around with fishing lines in the water and nothing else to do until the tide gets right and the fish come in. It’s fairly harmless because their motives are always good; they want to get you to go to church, they like you and want to see you saved.
So what they do is they “testify” to you, meaning they talk about their own experiences with faith and sin and redemption. They talk and they talk and they talk.
The Beast is determinedly NON-religious but he has always believed that to be educated one must know the tenets of Christianity and the history of faith in the world so one of the ways he copes with this testifying is break it down internally as he politely nods away. This prompts a kind of internal monologue as he ticks off the various high points: “Ok – problem of evil, nicean creed, infallability issue, scripture, scripture, scripture, telological argument, cosmological argument, scripture, scripture, scripture, scripture…”
None of this ever comes across as determinist. The evangelicals embrace free will with ferocity. They are so impassioned by it all The Beast doubts they are making any of it up.
As for not taking a person at his word about his beliefs, that just seems a bit odd and impolite. Why not accept it? A man of good faith will always assume a person is telling the truth unless he has reason to believe that man is lying. We may not think Calvinists and their ilk are correct, but there’s no reason for one who does to hide it from people. Determinism is not like a pile of porno in the spiritual closet is it? Believe me, Evangelicals are more than happy to communicate every tiny boring detail of their faith to anybody who will listen.
I do believe you. As I said, I don’t know any, and I haven’t read much about them – my only evidence being the way they use the word ‘praying’.
The point about not taking their word for it is not about thinking that they might lie, or that they might be mistaken about themselves. The idea is that it is not the belief ‘I am a determinist’ that makes you a determinist but your relationship to God. And, again, there might be ways of praying, and motivations for praying, that are determinist.
But I do take your word for it that Evangelicals aren’t determinists.
Oh, by the way, I wasn’t taking being a determinist to be a bad thing – determinism is very likely to be true, after all. It just happens not to have anything to do with God.