The Corner

Prayer Vi: Chesterton


The issue you raised is basically the theme of G.K. Chesterton’s Orthodoxy. That is, you point out the tension between the fact that God is ultimately sovereign and so doesn’t have to care what people think, and that yet people are encouraged to pray in numbers to affect God’s will. Or, put more broadly, the conflict between sovereignty of God and free will of man. So, given your suggestions, the latter (mass-politics entering religion) is dubious because this conflict has existed since the beginning of the Church, way before populism became all the rage. As for your other suggestion, Chesterton- by my reading of him- would say you’re wrong because you are forcing one rational end (the sovereignty of God) to preclude the other (that prayer can influence God). He’d also say that the other end- saying that prayer influences God to the exclusion of God’s ultimate sovereignty- is equally wrong for the same reason. The answer, according to Chesterton, is that the essence of the faith is in the balance between the two choices, which we cannot resolve wholly ourselves.


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