A Letter to a Reformed Episcopal Minister About a Bad Book

Dear Frank:

In almost every religious bookstore you may find the S.D. Gordon “Quiet Talks” books.  “Quiet Talks” have been published on many diverse topics, two of which I have allowed myself to become familiar with:  “Quiet Talks on Jesus” and “Quiet Talks in Prayer.” What do you think of the following statement on the question “Does Prayer Influence God?”  “Prayer does not influence God.  Prayer surely does influence God.  It does not influence His purpose.  It does influence His action.  Everything that ever has been prayed for – every right thing- God has already purposed to do.  But He does nothing without our consent.  He has been hindered in His purposes by our lack of willingness”  (“Quiet Talks on Prayer,” p.54).  The author of this book never seems to be quite sure of himself, nor is he any too clear on what the purpose of God is.  In his “Quiet Talks on Jesus,” he implies that it never was the purpose of God to sacrifice His Son; that was an emergency action God was put to!  But here he states that prayer does not influence the purpose of God, yet does influence His actions.  But we should remember that God’s purpose is inclusive of His purpose to act, in whatever” also denotes an outgoing power which modifies that to which it is directed.  Our prayers do not modify God’s actions, but are themselves part of the actions God has purposed.  Our prayers have no power over against God’s exercise of power, but are themselves part of the power God exerts.  For all true prayer is uttered not in the energy of the flesh, but in the power of God.  Nor does God command us to pray that we may somehow exert some influence on His preordained actions, and so excite Him to act on our behalf.  He commands prayer as the means whereby we submit to His power, rest in His acts, and obtain the things He has promised in His Word!

But notice that remark, “He does nothing without our consent.”  What can the author mean by such words?  This statement cannot refer to God’s works in creation, providence or grace.  How then can it have a place except on the lips of the most frivolous?  God does everything without our consent.  God and His purpose to act are always first, prior to our consent.  “He giveth not account of any of His matters”  (Job 33:13) to us, but rather, does as HE pleases.  “Our God is in the heavens; He had done whatsoever He hath pleased”  (Psalm 115:3). God does not seek first our consent as to when we shall be born, or when we shall die (Job 14:5).  Nor is God concerned with our consent with respect to the weather, and all the works of providence; much less with respect to who shall be saved and who not.  “But He is in one mind, and who can turn Him?  And what His soul desireth, even that He doeth”  (Job23:13,14).  For “as many as were ordained to eternal life believed”  (Acts 13:48).  “The election obtained it and the rest were hardened” ( Romans 11:7, ASV).

When the writer says,  “He has been hindered in His purpose,” we wonder why he would say, in the same breath, that prayer does not influence His purpose, when there is evidently, as he thinks, something that does influence His purpose, namely the hindrance of our lack of willingness.  God is no more hindered by our sins than He is helped by our good works (Job 22:2-5).  This conception of God is an insult to His omniscience, as though He did not have enough foresight to see that a certain move would cause Him to be checkmated.  It also implies a contradiction.  For since God’s knowledge of things beforehand is infallible and certain, then He certainly foreknew that what He purposed to do free of hindrance would be hindered!

The real hindrance to God, then, is man’s unwillingness.  “Prayer does change the action of God because He cannot give against our wills” (p.57,58).  This implies that God can change His actions from that which He has ordained (purposed).  But if God’s actions are ordained (purposed), then they occur as ordained, and otherwise.  Man’s very unwillingness is embraced in God’s purpose.  True, He does not force us like a stock or a block; but He does purpose to make us willing, or there would not be one willing to will His will!  Our quiet talker denies this.  He says, “our willingness… gives Him the opportunity to do as He has already planned” (ibid). He believes man condescends to allow God to proceed with His original plan!  God is dependent upon  the will of mighty man!  This is to forget that God has a will, that His will alone is absolutely free, and that our willingness comes from His will (John 3:27).  Sometimes God, because of the obstinate will of man, is not able “to do as He has already planned.”  “Emergencies change all habits of action, divine and human….The greatest event on earth, the Cross, was an emergency action” (p.55).  God becomes a victim of emergency!  The Reformed have always denied this, as does Scripture.  Emergency for man;  never for God.  And what a horrible thought – the Cross an emergency! a mere afterthought on the part of God!  This is not the historical, orthodox doctrine of the atonement.  “Something, not a part of God’s plan, has broken into life…Sin… has made an awful emergency…  This emergency has affected God’s life and God’s plan tremendously.  It has broken His heart with grief, and radically changed His plans for His own life” (pp.28,29).  This is the lowest view of the Fall of man we have found anywhere.  It put God in a terrible predicament!  The Fall was a crushing blow to God, and it necessitated His quickly forming an emergency plan.  God was all set to sit down and enjoy His beautiful Garden of Eden; but the flame of sin entered and He was soon beset with the ravages of a forest fire in paradise.  If we did not have so much contempt we could almost pity the frustrated, finite, effeminate god . S.D. Gordon.

We must not think of this “doctrine” of God (?) as even man-centered, for it is degrading to man.  “And that emergency (the Cross, RCH)… affected our Lord Jesus, life on earth.  The whole plan of His life was radically revolutionized by it.  The Father’s plan gripped Him.  He turned away from the true, good, natural life which it would have been proper for Him as a man to have lived another sort of life.  It was an emergency life, a life fitted to His Father’s plan…” (ibid).  This apprizes us a number of things.  1)  Jesus as man did not live a natural life (Arian heresy).  The implication is not that He lived a supernatural life, but an unnatural life, begin forced to it by circumstances beyond His control.  2)  It was not Jesus’ purpose to enter this world of sin to die as God’s sacrifice for His people.  His death was only an emergency occurrence.  3)  So Jesus was deterred from the “true, good, natural sort of life” He had intended to lead.  Is this not blasphemy, to so speak of the only begotten Son of God who is Himself over all God, blessed forever!  As God’s Divine, co-equal Son He never lived any other “sort of life” but that which from eternity He had purposed to live.

Then under “God’s Will in Connection with Prayer” (p.183) he says that God “is continually doing the very best that can be done under the circumstance for the best results…”  What a travesty of truth to make God subject to circumstances when He is the Creator of circumstances!  He is the Controller of all circumstances!  He ordered and directed all the circumstances pertaining to the death of His Son; yet sinful man was responsible for that crime (Acts 2:23).  The Almighty is not harried nor hemmed in my circumstances of whatever kind.  The Creator is not limited by the creature.  But this view implies that God could do much better were it not for man.  God’s greatest problem is the human race!

“God has a first and second will for us; a first choice and a second. He always prefers that His first will shall be accomplished in us.  But  (Specks of dust adding “buts” to the sovereign, transcendent, independent God! RCH) where we will not be wooed up to that height.  He comes down to the highest level we will come up to, and works with us there… the human king (Saul, RCH) and line of kings was not God’s first will, but a second will yielded to because the first would not be accepted…” (ibid.).  Since we are by nature fallen into the pit of death, what is “the highest level” to which we will come up to God?  The dead cannot come up to any level.  They can only go farther into putrefaction.  Besides, “there is none that seeketh after God.”  If we ever come to Him, it is not because we are responsible to come, but because He draws.  If Christ did not become responsible for us, none of us would come unto Him.  But when the Father  efficaciously draws, we come, and willingly, gladly.  But what a caricature of the Almighty God to teach that He offers us a first and highest will yet holds off in reserve a second rate plan which He half-heartedly advances in the event that man should rebel against the first.  By this same ludicrous and pathetic line of reasoning we might conclude that God has a first and second salvation for us.  The first is through the narrow way of the Cross where Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures.  The second is that in which He comes down to our level, and seeks by pampering and pandering to our spiritual imbecility to bring us to the “magnanimous” frame of mind where we shall thrill God with our long-awaited “yes.”  “Quiet Talks.” perhaps, but better if they had never been heard.  For the false doctrine is always noisome whether uttered by a lion (the devil), or a mouse (S.D. Gordon).  Whether book dealers will do so or not, let us to ourselves, and to our people list such trash under “Heterodoxy.”