Category Archives: Prayer

ETS/EPS 2017

I’m heading to Providence, Rhode Island for my first ETS/EPS Annual Meeting.

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I will be presenting a paper titled: “Peter Martyr Vermigli’s Account of Petitionary Prayer: A Reformation Alternative to Contemporary Two-Way Contingency Accounts.” Basically I present a view of petitionary prayer which bucks contemporary trends and is faithful to classical theism and Reformed theology. You can see me present it on Thursday, 11am at the Omni as a part of the Evangelical Philosophical Society.

On another note here are a few sessions I’m looking forward to:

  1. Jonathan Rutledge -Wesleyan Sanctification and Purgatory: Solutions from the Philosophy of Time
  2. Joshua Farris – This is My Beloved Son Whom I Hate, A Critique of Penal Substitution
  3. William Lane Craig – Eleonore Stump’s of Reformation Penal Substitution Atonement Theories
  4. C. Stephen Evans – Why Reformation Christians Should Be catholic Christians
  5. Trinitarian Theology Panel – Sanders, McCall, Stamps,
  6. Engaging Diverse Views of the Church’s Mission – Sexton, Leithart, Leeman, Wright, Frank
  7. Analytic Theology: Prayer – Wessling, McCall, McMartin, Inman

If you are there and want to connect at some point, contact me through Twitter: @CWoznicki

 

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Analytic Theology in Pastoral Ministry

Last week a group of pastors from across denominations gathered at Fuller Seminary to explore the prospects of analytic theology for pastoral ministry. For many of the pastors there, this was their first exposure to analytic theology; so there was a lot of discussion on what exactly analytic theology is. The colloquium on analytic theology and prayer witnessed serveral presentations from Fuller’s AT team, including Oliver Crisp, Jordan Wessling, and James Arcadi. However my favorite presentation was not by anyone on the

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Bryan Fergus serves as a pastor at Calvary Community Church and as adjunct faculty at Phoenix Seminary.

AT team, it was by a pastor from Arizona: Bryan Fergus from Calvary Community Church. Bryan presented on the topic of Analytic theology in pastoral ministry. Here are my notes from his talk.

  • Why a D.Min?
    • Conviction that we need more middle men – pastor/theologians who can reach down from the academy from the churches and to reach up from the church to the academy w/issues that really face the church.
  • How can AT enhance my pastoral ministry?
  • Thinking this way theologically is good for us who are in the everday business of pastoral ministry.
    • Characterized by rigorous thinking – this is a good thing!
  • What are the benefits of AT for our role as pastors?
    • The precise, rational thinking encouraged by AT facilitates the responsive presentation of truth
      • Isn’t this an obvious given? Couldn’t we engage in any number of intellectual pursuits that hone these skills?
      • AT is uniquely equipped to help us with this part
      • Facilitates the ability to think more critically
        • Helps us grow in responding to “yeah… but what about this?” when we are preaching
        • Learn to anticipate the objections
      • Teach from the pulpit in a more logical and responsive way
    • AT presents a rational path to the faith that many need in our age of skepticism
      • AT is well equipped to walk the middle path between rationalistic faith and experiential faith
    • AT is uniquely equipped to address the “gaps” in our theological understanding.
      • Even those who affirm the authority of scripture, still have to deal with some “gaps” i.e. hell, why would a good, omnipotent, omniscient God create a world with a possibility of hell. We know THAT but we don’t know WHY or HOW of many things in Scripture work.
      • AT is friendly for the exploration of these gaps
      • Why not explore the how/why? Why not invest the same kind of energy we would with friends & family to really get to know God?
      • The endeavor of of exploring these gaps is an act of worship
    • Prayer – Petitionary Prayer and “Gaps”
      • Scripture calls us to pray…
        • Jesus tells his followers to ask their Heavenly Father for things that are important to them.
        • Jesus teaches his disciples a model prayer that includes petitions.
        • Jesus himself prays a prayer of petition.
      • Why or What difference does PP make?
        • God is omniscient… how do our petitions change anything if God already knows it happens?
        • God is perfectly good… why won’t he do the best thing anyway?
        • God is immutable…. How do our prayers make any difference to what God does?

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Does God Pray? – Katherine Sonderegger

Last week Katherine Sonderegger came in to deliver a paper to the Analytic Theology Seminary. She put forth the provocative question: Does God Pray? Here are my notes from her talk.

Introduction

  • Does God pray?
    • Answer to this question (exploration of God in prayer) has potential to answer a lot of Trinitarian and Christological questions.
  • Can the Triune God pray?
    • Instinct – We pray, God does not.

The Traditional Account

  • Prayer (tradition says) is a form of lack
    • Human creatures need to pray, their prayer is need.
    • This would make it seem as though God could not pray, b/c God does not lack whatsoever
    • (In one sense prayer can never be answered, our lack – b/c of creaturelyness – will always be)
  • Prayer seeks the unseen (think of it as simply asking)
    • Distinctive part of prayer: seeking out of the unseen
      • What distinguishes prayer from other forms of asking is who it is directed to, prayer stands alone
      • Human act of asking is analogous to prayer
    • Prayer is relation to God, the unseen stands in the realm of eternity, God is the goal of creation
      • To have relation with such reality is to have the formal relation to prayer
    • God’s realation to the creature in prayer is “idea/notional,” ours to God is “real.”
  • It seems we must affirm that prayer belongs to creatures, the Tradition has seemed to define it in such a way that places it in the domain of humanity
    • Places prayer in to the creator/creature distinction
    • Prayer simply marks out that distinct line b/w Creator & Creature

The “Alternative” Account

  • Could it be said that the one almighty God could pray? We are brought to this question through Scripture.
  • Is divine prayer an instance of “accommodation” i.e. of humanizing God, for our sake?
    • The bible does not simply refer, the word of blessing which is just God himself lies within this book.
    • Holy Scripture will convey and contain a teaching about God in human words and for human ears.
  • Romans 8
    • Spirit intercedes with sighs too deep for words, Spirit intercedes for the saints according to the will of God
    • This is the Spirit who prays with us and for us
    • Language – emphasizes mystery.
    • The characteristic description of the creaturely act here is ascribed to the Holy Spirit
    • Its eschatological
  • What shall we make of this for the doctrine of prayer and for the doctrine of the Trinity?
  • In Romans 8 – Paul has given us a glimpse of the economy
    • This entire section of the letter concerns those who are in Christ Jesus
    • Non condemnation rests on the Father giving the Son for us
    • Christ gives himself for
    • Its anchored in the divine sending and being sent to rescue and redeem
    • This just seems to be the pattern of the divine economy
    • Through Romans 8 – are verb forms which mirror this economy
  • This illuminates how the sending of the Son and Spirit can be a new event in the life of God.
    • Thomas – we should not speak of processions and missions, rather they have eternal and temporal end.
    • According to Scriptural witness something has taken place in the life of God toward us
    • Seems to imply that God experiences something “new” which is only possible with us – God hands himself over to us, undergoes this new even with us.
      • Apart from creation God could not have these events for his very own
    • The temporal missions are the birth of the new for God himself
    • But the Tradition firmly asserts that God is eternal, perfect, complete, does not lack, become, does not undergo something new
  • Consider Jesus at prayer (alongside passages of Spirit praying)
    • Quite striking is Jesus steady rhythm of being at prayer both privately and publically
  • In Scripture – Spirit and Son are wrapped up in seemingly same characteristics of creaturely prayer
  • How does this shed light on the inner life of the Trinity?
  • Might we suggest that the divine processions are prayer?
    • Father “utters the word”
    • Father “breathes, spirates, expresses”
    • This reflects prayer

The Mystical View of Prayer

A few weeks ago James Gordon from Wheaton College came to visit us at our weekly Analytic Theology seminar. He presented an insightful paper title “Thdq-4lckb_400x400e Mystical View of Prayer: Friedrich Schleiermacher in Dialogue with Analytic Theology.” Yes you may be wondering…. Schleiermacher and Analytic Theology? What the!?!? But yes James showed that the two are not as incompatible as one may think. Regardless, here are my notes from his lecture.

You can follow him on twitter at: @JRGordon13

  1. Methodology of Prayer
    1. Challenge 1 – Impracticability of Analytic Theology
      1. Does AT have nothing to contribute to piety?
      2. To talk of prayer through AT is to attempt to get clarity on the act itself and what one is doing
  • What about Novice prayer and prayer without belief? What’s going on there?
  1. Challenge 2 – Improvement upon Scripture… does AT attempt that?
    1. Some genres of scripture are narritival and AT attempts to reduce to propositions
    2. We can use Theological Interpretation of Scripture in order to address this objection
  2. Challenge 3 – Choosing a Starting point
    1. Prayer from Below
      1. Takes the on the ground practices of the church as basic and works backwards towards God to make sense what we know about God in prayer.
      2. Take Wolterstorff’s Liturgical Theology as an example
      3. Liturgy is a fully legitimate source for doing theology
        1. There is a God who is a hearer… what is the understanding of God in our liturgy?
      4. Take Biblical Theology
        1. Looks at Biblical examples as a starting point – healing for prayers àhealing, etc.
        2. Takes these biblical examples and concludes something about God and prayer
      5. Constructs account of prayer AFTER not before active prayer
    2. Prayer from Above
      1. One begins not with practices, but with account of God’s being, then what can be said about prayer can be fit subsequently with what one can say about God
        1. e. why petition an omnipotent, omniscient God?
      2. Prayer seems to be an afterthought after what we already know about God
      3. Starts w/ what we know about God then moves to how we can understand prayer
    3. A Third Way: Schleirmacher’s Alternative Method
      1. The Mystical Account of Prayer
        1. Looks like “From below” – starts w/ concept of God based of religious consciousness/experiences that all people supposedly have
        2. Gordon suggests he has a third way, not above or below, but a mystical account (Christological/Soteriological Method)
  • What does he mean by Mystical? Not what we mean typically… He means: Lies between magical view and empirical view
    1. Magical – Prayer affects God… But If prayer affects God, it’s a lapse into magic
    2. Empirical – Prayer doesn’t do anything… But No. Just No. He rejects a therapeutic account of prayer.
    3. Mystical – supernatural does become natural in the person of Christ, but just b/c it doesn’t bring about divine intervention, that doesn’t mean that prayer is ineffective. Prayer in other words does something – in and through human agency in the natural system of nature.
  1. To say Schleiermacher rejects magical and empirical doesn’t mean he rejects the effectiveness of prayer. Prayer is not a tool to be used like a magic wand nor is it something that one can just forego entirely since God’s ends come about not because of our prayer
  1. Schleiermacher’s Sermon on Prayer – The power of prayer in relation to outward circumstances
    1. Begins w/claim – to be a religious man and to pray are one and the same thing
    2. Prayer creates existential angst – if a person petitions God to heal someone, they may be healed or not. On the former outcome, the temptation is to see it as a mark of divine favor, on the later, the temptation is to have one’s peace disturbed
  • He appeals to the prayer of Christ himself – if answering to petitionary prayer is proof of one’s prayer then you would think all of Christ’s prayers were answered! But what about Christ in Gethsemane?
  1. S urges them to not feel as though what you ask must necessarily take place because of your prayer. We shouldn’t assume our petitions made in faith will by necessity be answered.
  2. True prayer comes only when it is done in the name of Christ
  3. Ends sermon by saying petitionary prayer is not the mark of true piety, entreating prayers are dictated by weak human heart, and a sign of an underdeveloped God-consciousness
  1. Schleiermacher’s Dogmatic Account of Prayer
    1. The fact that humans experience God-forgetfulness – it characterizes the community’s consciousness as a whole and individuals will experience God-forgetfulness as a society – thus one is born into a web of “God-forgetfulness” and it needs someone outside of this web to pull us out
    2. Jesus communicates his God-consciousness to the redeemed (for example see how he does it with the 12 disciples – its not just teaching propositions, its communication of his Spirit)
  • Prayer is the means through which one integrates one’s self-consciousness to God-consciousness
  1. Since the church is an imperfect community it vacillates between SC and GC
  2. One’s ceaseing to pray is expressed in the complete integration between SC and GC
  3. Praying in the name of Jesus = praying the concerns of Jesus in his Spirit and Consciousness
  1. Remaining Challenges
    1. What does “I will pray for you?” mean in this account. Typically we think this means that I am petitioning God for a particular effect, but if this isn’t the case then why say this?
      1. Schleiermacher may say… the sense that we are praying carry’s on GC onto others in the community. So far from superfluous, it has a person and community forming function.
    2. Novice prayer – Kid saying the Lord’s prayer, etc.
      1. Schleiermacher allows for Novice prayer…
      2. (It seems he is saying that Novice prayer creates some philosophical problems. But What’s the problem with Novice prayer?)