God’s control in the process of salvation is often debated in Christian circles – a debate with a very long history. For those outside of the church, it seems like an oddity. Peter J. Thuessen’s recent book Predestination: The American Career of a Contentious Doctrine, for example, basically portrays the doctrine as a persistent theme inherited from the days of Christendom. Yet the belief in God’s authority over all that happens – particularly over those who come to faith – has persisted in Christianity, even in the culturally unfriendly waters of post-Enligthenment Western thought. I’ve recently re-read J. I. Packer’s masterful little book Evangelism and the Sovereignty of God. Packer makes this insightful comment about Christian prayer and the inescapable belief in a God who controls even the details of the universe:
How, then, do you pray? Do you ask God for your daily bread? Do you thank God for your conversion? Do you pray for the conversion of others? If the answer is “no,” I can only say that I do not think you are yet born again. But if the answer is “yes” – well, that proves that, whatever side you may have taken in debates on this question [of God’s sovereignty] in the past, in your heart you believe in the sovereignty of God no less firmly than anyone else. On our feet we may have arguments about it, but on our knees we are all agreed.