Tuesday, May 31, 2005

Misleading Hope : A Critique of Reuters' Theology of Prayer

I have received a forwarded email today. It contains an article of Fr.James Reuters with a specific plea. This entry is my personal response to that article. You are free to disagree.


Reuters Words in this format.

My Response in this format.

My Quotes in this format.

by Father James Reuter, S.J.

The signs are clear. Our nation is headed towards an irreversible path of economic decline and moral decadence. It is not for lack of effort.

We can label the above description as: The Second Law of Thermodynamics. To understand this law better, here's a definition of it.

Second Law of Thermodynamics
Heat can never pass spontaneously from a colder to a hotter body. As a result of this fact, natural processes that involve energy transfer must have one direction, and all natural processes are irreversible. This law also predicts that the entropy of an isolated system always increases with time. Entropy is the measure of the disorder or randomness of energy and matter in a system. Because of the second law of thermodynamics both energy and matter in the Universe are becoming less useful as time goes on. Perfect order in the Universe occurred the instance after the Big Bang when energy and matter and all of the forces of the Universe were unified.[1]

In layman's terms, this universe is spiraling down to destruction. I believe that this law is applicable not only to the physical realm but even to intangible realms like morality. The Apostle Paul described this tendency of men for the worse in his letter to the Romans chapter 1. Peter even declared to the churches that

But by His word the present heavens and earth are being reserved for fire, kept for the day of judgment and destruction of ungodly men.[2]

He understood the temporality of this world. The question "what will happen to the ungodly?" that we raise today might have been raised in the first century. Peter responded,

The Lord is not slow about His promise, as some count slowness, but is patient toward you, not wishing for any to perish but for all to come to repentance. But the day of the Lord will come like a thief, in which the heavens will pass away with a roar and the elements will be destroyed with intense heat, and the earth and its works will be burned up.[3]

The circumstances that we experience at present is normal and is to be expected. This however, does not mean that we resort to apathy. What it does mean is that a Christian who knows his Lord and reads his Bible can recognize the signs of the times.

We've seen many men and women of integrity in and out of government,NGOs, church groups & people's organization devote themselves to the task of nation-building, often times against insurmountable odds. But not even two people's revolutions,bloodless as they may be, have made a dent in reversing this trend. At best, we have moved one step forward, but three steps backward.

Another precise description of the situation here.

We need a force far greater than our collective efforts, as a people, can ever hope to muster. It is time to move the battle to the spiritual realm.

Here is where we can find agreement. The physical efforts we exert are just not enough. The battle is beyond what we see and feel.

It's time to claim GOD's promise of healing of the land for His people.

Here is where we start to part ways. Reuter has a different assumption on Who God is and What he does; albeit a confused one. We who are familiar with our Scripture know that he is alluding to 2 Chronicles 7:14. Reuter is quick to equate several contemporary things with that verse without qualifying the equivalence he put up.

First he equated the ancient Israelites (i.e., God's people) with today's God's people as if there's no problem with that. His argument is that since the promise is to God's people, then it must follow that today's God's people can claim that same promise. But who are God's people?

Reuter did not elaborate on the composition of God's people. Being a Catholic himself, I believe he means Catholics all over the world. I am not sure if he includes evangelicals or muslims to that category. Born-again Christians would raise protests regarding this categorization. God's people for today is the Church (not the Catholic Church) composed of regenerate believers around the world.

Second, he equated "the Land" (i.e., Israel) with "our nation" (the Philippines). This is quite a stretch. This same argument is used by the Iglesia ni Cristo to prove that the sugo will come from the Philippines.

If we take that text out of its context, then we can do with it whatever we want.

Reuter needs to be careful in his exegesis of the text.

It's time to gather GOD's people on its knees to pray for the economic recovery and moral reformation of our nation.

This is a noble deed, i.e., praying for economic recovery and moral reformation. However, is it really our number one obligation as God's people? Or is it tangential to the mandate of the church? I am not advocating the neglect of such. Jesus was also concerned with the physical state of the people he was ministering to. He ministered to the people of his time holistically. The apostle James spoke in practical terms when he encouraged believers to practice the right kind of religion. So there is nothing wrong about this. However, we need to always remember our commission from the Lord Jesus

"Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age."[4]

Is prayer really the answer?

We can turn around and ask the question "Answer to what?" From the context of this article, Reuter is positing that prayer is the answer towards economic and moral recovery. If we think that God's hand would move this nation towards greatness because we prayed, then we have to stop and think about its implications.In the following sections, he would show several "proofs" of this theology.

Before you dismiss this as just another rambling of a religious fanatic, I'd like you to consider some lessons we can glean from history.

England's ascendancy to world power was preceded by the Reformation, a spiritual revival fuelled by intense prayers. The early American settlers built the foundation that would make it the most powerful nation today - a strong faith in GOD and a disciplined prayer life. Throughout its history, and especially at its major turning points, waves of revival and prayer movement swept across the land.

In recent times, we see Korea as a nation experiencing revival and in the process producing the largest Christian church in the world today, led by Rev. Paul Yongi Cho. No wonder it has emerged as a strong nation when other economies around it are faltering.

These proofs are to be expected. Although we can agree with Reuter about the historicity of the events, we cannot fully agree with his interpretation of it. Reuter equates God's answer to prayer the ascendancy of England to world [political] power and the United States' being the most [politically] powerful nation in the world today. Then in the case of Korea, the revival (whatever the area, he did not mention) brought about economic prosperity. Again, there is nothing wrong for a nation to seek economic revival. But the church seeking prosperity is a questionable one.

If we again examine Reuter's examples, we will wonder about the spiritual condition of the two world powers right now. Let us just take England for example.

Many of the churches in England are closing their doors. This is due primarily to the fact that fewer people are attending church each year. According to a recent survey, only about 7% of the population of the UK attend church on a given Sunday. Pictured below is what is left of a church in the city of Birmingham. It is now abandoned and boarded up. The picture below this one shows the "Danger Keep Out" sign that is placed on the church. Right next door is a fairly new Sikh Gurdwara (temple) that continues to attract people.[5]

Even from a purely secular viewpoint, it makes a lot of sense. For here there is genuine humbling & seeking of GOD through prayer, moral reformation necessarily follows. And this, in turn, will lead to general prosperity.

The logic is flowing that there seem to be no seams joining them. And that is,

  1. Genuine humbling and seeking in prayer results in,

  2. Moral reformation which in turn will lead to,

  3. General prosperity.

I don't disagree with number one and two. I have a problem with number three. Reuter is bold enough to use the words "will lead to ..." as if it is always the case. In my entire Christian life, I have practiced both number one and two. I have yet to experience number three. Yes I am blessed immensely by the Lord. But I am not that prosperous as Reuter defines prosperity.

We need to be careful with this kind of thinking that Reuter espouses and is trying to promote.

I was just wondering why the Lord Jesus missed this item when he prayed for the saints in John 17. And I think, you should be, too.

YES, we believe prayer can make a difference.

Prayer to the Father by the true believers in Christ, who does the will of the Father, done through the Spirit, in Jesus' name MAKES the difference. Reuter is dangerously assuming that all people, especially Filipinos who would receive his email-article, are Catholics just like himself.

I don't think that it will be an exaggeration if we quote the apostle Paul at this juncture

Do not be bound together with unbelievers; for what partnership have righteousness and lawlessness, or what fellowship has light with darkness? Or what harmony has Christ with Belial, or what has a believer in common with an unbeliever? Or what agreement has the temple of God with idols?[6]

It's our only hope.

Hope to Economic prosperity I presume. Christians have a different hope.

Today, we launch this email brigade, to inform Filipinos from all over the world to pray, as a people, for the economic recovery and moral reformation of our nation. We do not ask for much.

Here goes Reuter's appeal.

We only ask for 5 minutes of your time in a day, to foward this email to your close friends and relatives.

I thought he was to ask 5 minutes of prayer from each one. He is asking that you sit for 5 minutes in front of a computer and start forwarding his article to close friends and relatives. Reuter here sounds like one big Spammer to me.

This is the kind of unity which can make a big difference. Of course, if you feel strongly, as I do, about the power of prayer, you can be more involved by starting your own prayer group or prayer center.

We have tried people power twice; in both cases, it fell short. Maybe it's time to try prayer power. GOD never fails. Is there hope? YES! We can rely on GOD's promise, but we have to do our part. If we humble ourselves and pray as a people, GOD will heal our land.

See discussion above about Reuter's mishandling of the Biblical Text.

By GOD's grace,we may yet see a better future for our children. GOD bless and GOD save our country (from stupid and corrupt politicians)!

Reuter has just exposed the kind of salvation that he is hoping for.

[1] http://www.physicalgeography.net/fundamentals/6e.html
[2] 2 Peter 3:7 NASB
[3] 2 Peter 3: NASB
[4] Matthew 28:19-20 NASB
[5] http://www.peopleteams.org/englandnow/birmingham.htm
[6] 2 Corinthians 6:14-16


Nathan Montenegro said...


It might interest you to know that this call to prayer for the country was sounded during the Franklin Graham Festival May 23-27, 2005. Thus, I take a more sympathetic reception sa article na ito. I appreciate this priest's recognition of the sin of this country and of the need of someone to pray. If the Filipino nation is utterly corrupt, who shall pray? Who shall be qualified, if indeed the nation is disqualified, to approach the holy throne? A smug assertion that we who call ourselves "Christian" are worthy to enter the presence of the Holy God presents a presumtion of our spiritual fitness. Are we? Positionally. But is it reflected in how we deal with each other in terms of the more mundane matters? Nag-aaway pa rin ba tayo? Nang-aapi ba tayo ng kapwa kapatid? Look at our churches, our workplace, our communities. Look at how churches deal with their pastors, and pastors with their congregations. I feel for those who are struggling.

Let us look carefully to the purpose of this article, and discover bridges, if you will, to sharing the gospel. For my part, I perceive a quiet desperation in Christian friends, colleagues, churches, and institutions. The call to prayer is appropriate and timely.



MhacLethCalvin said...

I agree that we should pray. I am not against prayer per se. It's the kind of prayer Reuter is promoting that I am wary to. And to quote a scripture out if its context to support his agenda. Are we really practically saying that the Philippines as a political entity would experience God's salvation as that of Israel in the Old Testament times? I am not pessimistic. I believe that God saves. And I am not optimistic of the number. But we who are in the light must do all we can.