Thursday, March 20, 2008

Making Vows

My name is Bill, I am a student at local college. A member of your congregation and I have been discussing a theological topic. Concerning oaths made to the Lord. Say a young college student prays to God and says "Lord if you give me a 4.0 this semester I vow to attend medical school instead of pursuing a degree in psychology. And Lord, please make it obvious that this is Your will by making that 4.0 nearly impossible to attain." Say that the man looses all of his notes before the finals, breaks his writing hand, and still gets all A's and obtains his sought after 4.0 (aka sign from God). Is the oath/vow/promise (whatever) binding? Did God work such a wonder, or is it superstition to think so? I know that the man did not follow the proper form of taking an oath or vow, but none the less, should he now pursue medicine instead of psychology (even if he does not want to)? I know this question may seem trivial, my friend is always teasing me about how superstitous Catholics are (it's often too true). None the less, I would greatly appreciate a response-thanks-Bill

Hi Bill,

You raised some good questions.

First is the question of vows. The Bible requires that we keep we vows we make to the Lord it (Deut. 23:21). So in your illustration, if the young man makes a vow to go to medical school if he gets a 4.0, and he gets a 4.0, he should do what he said he would do and go to medical school.

Things get a little more complicated if the vow is a dumb, or ignorant vow. (Please understand I’m not saying that vowing to go to medical school is a bad vow, but it might be a little bit immature. You also might be testing God in a way that isn’t very healthy.) In this case, if God brings the condition to pass, the young man should keep the vow anyway. He should learn something about making these kinds of vows—and not make this kind of vow anymore—but he should keep it nonetheless.

Then things are further complicated if the young man vows to sin if such and such happens. A man may not sin therefore he may not make vows in which he says he will sin if thus and thus happens. If he should make such a vow to sin and the condition is met by God, he should repent of making a foolish vow and not sin.

Another issue in your letter is whether God will do the thing needed to cause the fulfillment of the vow. The basic question is: Does God do things? The Bible says that our God is a living God and thus, of course God does things. It also says he answers prayer and so, yes he does do things that will bring joy to our hearts. In Numbers 21:2-3 we have an example of God doing his part (it says God obeyed the people) and left the people to fulfill their vow.

You asked if God does things or if it superstitious to think so. As I just said, God is living and active and thus he does things in our lives and in our world. He is also sovereign, choosing whatever happens and causing them at the same time. So nothing that happens that cannot be attributed to God's holy and righteous hand. What you do with his actions in this life is another question, but that God does things is indisputable.

I hope this helps.

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