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Nicodemus

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A Religious Question [Feb. 2nd, 2005|01:34 pm]
Nicodemus
[Current Mood |curiouscurious]

This is an honest question, NOT a troll. I really don't understand this one.

I heard the other day, in a news report about the Pope's recent health problems, that local faithfuls at a church were praying for him to get better. Not just praying "for him", but specifically "for his recovery".

If you believe in predestination or that God has "a plan" for our lives, is there a purpose in praying for his recovery? It would seem that this was either an exercise in futility or hubris, since God has already determined when the Pope should die.

Can someone out there enlighten me on the issues? Is my supposition incorrect?
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Comments:
[User Picture]From: melskunk
2005-02-02 02:02 pm (UTC)
Well, it's two-pronged. You can think God has a 'plan' for you, without assuming everything that happens to you is pre-determined.

Calvinism, for example, says your life is planned out, even the fact on whether or not you accept Christ and God, so God automatically has determined a certain number of damned in the world (after all, how could you NOT find God if God wanted you to?)
Most other Christian groups feel man has a certain amount of free will in the grace department, which means not all things are unchangable by your actions.

Catholics hope this is a case of a not yet set in stone thing, that by 'bending God's ear' they can ask for grace in this particular instance. If it doesn't work, they can say it was God's plan to call back His servant at this time, but most people wouldn't want to take the nilistic view of doing nothing, therefor they're praying for him and his recovery.

Basically it assumes:
God listens His people.
God will intercede unless there is a reason, (which you can't know because you don't know everything He does), that it's not a good idea to.
It's important to actually ask.
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[User Picture]From: melskunk
2005-02-02 02:04 pm (UTC)
(add a 'to' before His people) <:)
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[User Picture]From: genhusky
2005-02-02 02:05 pm (UTC)

Let's see how to explain in my opinion.

See, many who believe in God do not seek to question God's decisions. We do not even try to determine or to suppose that we even know what his decisions. We are also taught to treat others as we wish to be treated and to support our fellow neighbor (although some do not take these teachings to heart).

Therefore, because they do not truly know or would not even try to assume that they know the true will of God & with the teachings of support and treatment, they would want if they were in his position that others would be praying for their own improvement. I hope that makes since. If not, I'll try another way.
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[User Picture]From: nicodemusrat
2005-02-02 02:43 pm (UTC)

Re: Let's see how to explain in my opinion.

Therefore, because they do not truly know or would not even try to assume that they know the true will of God & with the teachings of support and treatment, they would want if they were in his position that others would be praying for their own improvement.

This is the bit that confuses me, actually. :)

If (and it's a big "if", granted) you believe in predestination and Calvinism, then it seems that you'd also believe that your prayers cannot alter the course of events.

I understand the concept of praying as a show of devotion and faith, even empathy. But to pray for a change of events would seem futile, regardless of whether you would want to receive the same (since you would believe that your fate is also predetermined). This proposition isn't based on knowing the will of God, just the belief that you cannot alter it.
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[User Picture]From: vakkotaur
2005-02-02 02:07 pm (UTC)

I'll preface this by saying I really don't know and can only guess. I suppose it's a typical response, wishing well of another. Or it could be taken that if there is a Grand Plan and the Time is Up, why not just get it over with? Since that didn't happen, the hope for recovery makes some sense. I suppose a more logical prayer might be for an end to suffering, leaving the means of the end open. But even that might be an intrusion on a Grand Plan, if there is one.

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[User Picture]From: vakkotaur
2005-02-02 02:37 pm (UTC)

Another rambling of mine on speculative religion is here.

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[User Picture]From: chairoraccoon
2005-02-02 02:28 pm (UTC)
Inconsistancies abound in Religion. Including "wrath of God" who aparently forgives and love all of his "childern". I recently heard that the bible is always being updated, to allign with the current times and beliefs. Not to mention political reasons.
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[User Picture]From: nicodemusrat
2005-02-02 02:49 pm (UTC)
There are inconsistencies. But I'm also just curious about different aspects of belief and how people's belief structures are assembled. It is, to me, a strange and mysterious facet of humanity.

the bible is always being updated

What, didn't you download the latest patch? ;)
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[User Picture]From: dakhun
2005-02-02 02:33 pm (UTC)
...Or maybe he's sick, and since he's someone they feel close to, they wish he'd get better.
I honestly don't think most people are analysing the situation any deeper than that. Most people don't think very deeply about their actions at all. :-)
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[User Picture]From: _wastrel
2005-02-02 03:37 pm (UTC)
You're aware, of course, that belief in God and belief in predestination are completely different things, yes. :>
In fact, given the increasingly widespread notion of genetic determinism, I seem to have noticed many looking at things from a secular viewpoint moving away from free will as a scientifically valid concept lately, and it saddens me, a little.
Since you asked, I kind of think of God as a scientist, of us human beings as rats ^_~, and life as an experiment. There's a positive outcome that we're supposed to reach, which is what some people refer to as the divine "plan" for us, but whether we reach it or not is entirely up to us, otherwise, if the result is predetermined, what's the point of the experiment?
(This also has the benefit of making the religious person constantly challenged to progress instead of complacent in pre-established beliefs)
I see God as not intervening in moral affairs the vast majority of the time, especially not where the decisions of sentient beings like humans (and, if you ask me, animals as well) are concerned.
But then if you move to an animist viewpoint, even natural forces like disasters and diseases have a will of their own that God wouldn't be interfering with...
Religion would be the encrypted instructions we're given to try to figure out the real meaning of to help us reach the goal to start with. Science would be our own notes on what we actually figure out about how things really work as we go along.
Now, if one views God as the Jungian Collective Unconscious, a planetary "overmind" that links everything together, prayer is really asking the diseases, disasters, animals or humans that might cause death to someone to refrain from it indirectly through it, begging for its sympathy by attempting to convey that you care about the potential victim more than they do about doing what would result in causing it harm.

Or maybe people are only desperate and to be unable (or unwilling without admitting it to themselves) to take direct action to help the person they care about, but still want to feel like they're making a contribution, whether to placate their consciences or so they don't allow their hearts to grow cold because of all the situations like it that come up.
Hey, if Salvador Dali got to call himself a Catholic agnostic, then why couldn't I do the same thing, right? *smirks*
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[User Picture]From: nicodemusrat
2005-02-02 03:48 pm (UTC)
You're aware, of course, that belief in God and belief in predestination are completely different things

Yes indeed. Hence the prominent "if".

Religion would be the encrypted instructions we're given to try to figure out the real meaning of to help us reach the goal to start with. Science would be our own notes on what we actually figure out about how things really work as we go along.

This makes more sense to me than the viewpoint of predeterminism, I'll say that. Calvinism is not something I think I've ever fully understood, in the religious context; it seems self-contradictory.

Or maybe people are only desperate and to be unable to take direct action to help the person they care about, but still want to feel like they're making a contribution, whether to placate their consciences or so they don't allow their hearts to grow cold

I want it noted that *I* didn't bring up the "religion as opiate" factor... :)

Really, the question I'm asking is not about "reality" or which religious view is correct, but about the underpinnings of these specific religious practices and belief structures.
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[User Picture]From: nicodemusrat
2005-02-03 01:42 pm (UTC)
My plan, obviously, would be subject to change.

But this violates the precept of predeterminism. Hence the questions. :)
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[User Picture]From: brokkentwolf
2005-02-02 11:20 pm (UTC)
Here's a panel from the Jack Chick Parody site that pretty much sums up my view on the subject:


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[User Picture]From: qatar
2005-02-03 02:43 am (UTC)
The pope isn't inviolate. He's not even infallible. The official doctrine is that, since Jesus promised to protect the church from error, the pope (as heir to St. Peter) is given has the ability, under certain circumstances, to say things that are guaranteed to be infallible. This doctrine was only defined in 1870, and since then only one statement has been made that most Catholics agree met the definition of infallible. (It was, if you care, this statement by Pope Pius XII: "The Immaculate Mother of God, the ever Virgin Mary, having completed the course of her earthly life, was assumed body and soul into heavenly glory.")

I don't agree with this doctrine, but it is at least not as silly as most people think it is.
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[User Picture]From: qatar
2005-02-03 04:23 am (UTC)
"If you believe in predestination or that God has 'a plan' for our lives, is there a purpose in praying for his recovery? It would seem that this was either an exercise in futility or hubris, since God has already determined when the Pope should die."


Well, first of all, that's not technically what predestination means. Predestination is the doctrine that God knows beforehand whether a given person will be "saved"; it evolved as an extreme version of the idea that salvation comes through God's grace and not through our own actions. Predestination does not say that God, for example, knows what I'm going to have for dinner tonight. And anyway, to answer your later question: the Catholic Church falls more on the free will side of the equation.

To a certain extent I'm splitting hairs, because many Christians *do* in fact believe that God knows what I'm going to have for dinner tonight. Then again, as Foobart pointed out, there are theologians who dispute this. The Bible never claims that God is omnipotent. (And a process theologian would argue that if "omnipotent" means knowing everything there is to know, it's still quite possible that things that haven't happened yet are not available to be known, so God can be omnipotent without knowing them. I love process theologians!)

I suspect that, on the whole, most Christians would answer something more like: "Well yes, God already has a plan for the pope's life, but that plan takes into account my prayers. And if God knows everything ahead of time, God also already knew I was going to pray, so it's already factored in."

Personally, I don't think the main problem with intercessory prayer (that's the technical term for praying for somebody else's wellbeing) is the question of determinism. I think the main problem with intercessory prayer is the idea that God COULD save the pope's life, but would choose not to do so unless enough people asked. That makes life a pretty twisted popularity contest, IMHO.

But, perhaps like Foobart, I have faith that these questions my brain is too small to answer do have answers somewhere. In moments like this I like to think of my favorite Greek philosopher, who could not come up with a logical explanation for the origins of the universe and thus came to the thoroughly logical conclusion that the universe doesn't exist. Sometimes you just gotta admit you don't have enough data to use logic.
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[User Picture]From: qatar
2005-02-03 04:24 am (UTC)
BTW, his name was Parmenides, if anyone cares.
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[User Picture]From: arrowtwolf
2005-02-03 06:56 am (UTC)
I'm a Donniedarkoist when it comes to predestination. :)
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[User Picture]From: nicodemusrat
2005-02-03 02:02 pm (UTC)
What, that fate involves bunny suits?
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