The family is grieving the death of a young family member. At the funeral home, people come forward in the receiving line to pay their respects.
You know…it is hard to come up with the “right” words. For many this is one of the most uncomfortable conversational situations that you will ever have to face.
Sometimes I have heard people say things like: “It is God’s plan”, “Everything happens for a reason,” or “This is God’s will.”
In my last post, I described the view that God got the world started and then left it to run on its own [a crude explanation of deism, better explained on August 15 in “God: Not Related to the Bad Things in Life at All?”].
Today we are going to begin exploring the opposite view: that God is very much involved in our world. This view is called “theological determinism”. Pastor Adam Hamilton defines this as “God is not only involved in our world but has predetermined everything that will happen on earth. God is sovereign; He controls all things, knows all things and is all powerful. God has a plan and everything that happens does so according to His plan.”**
Unlike deism, theological determinism is the most commonly accepted way that Christians deal with the things that happen to us in life.
It is so easy to accept determinism when life is good but when life gets tough and we see tragedy, pain and just plain evil in the world we have to ask: is God part of all that?
Most Christians do think that God is a good, loving and just and the horrible things that happen are just us not understanding His plan. If things are not working out the way we want, we just need to trust God and be patient. We cannot understand His plan because we are so present-centered. God’s view is a long-term view and He will ultimately work out things for the best eventually. We just have to hang on and wait until our loving God does His work.
There seems to be a problem with theological determinism and it is this. If God controls everything, God directs everything, and God knows everything, then God becomes an agent bringing about action. God is the ultimate cause for an event.
God is the cause of the tragedy, the pain, the evil of the world?
If we say “everything happens for a reason” that means that God wills everything.
Stop for a minute and think…
Is your God really the originator of tragic times?
One of the most horrific things that ever occurred in my life was the death of my brother Mike at the age of 35. He died as the result of a scuba-diving accident on a Crittenden County, Kentucky farm. His death was a shock to my whole family, especially my Dad and Mom. We can all point to terrible occurrences in our lives and we can try to place God in the midst. Mike knew God and he was a member of his church. He was a good man who would help anyone who needed his assistance. In fact, he died aiding a farmer who had a plugged drain on his pond. Did God promise Mike he would never get hurt when he claimed Christ as his Savior? No. God just promises to prepare a place for us when we die.
Was God there when my family was going through the grieving process? Yes, I believe He was as He found a way to help us survive this tragedy. Several of us felt Mike’s presence in the days after his passing [see the post from October 16, 2015 “My Angel?”]. We found many ways to comfort each other as we drew together as a family and God was in that comforting process.
Here it is…
Was God responsible for Mike’s death?
Not my God…
Things happen. Mike’s death was the result of a set of circumstances. Maybe the best way to say this is, his death was accidental.
Not God’s will.
I was so busy trying to help Dad and Mom that I did not grieve his death. That came years later. But there was one thing that I did not do as a result of Mike’s death.
I did not lose my faith because I became bitter and blamed God.
[My discussion of theological determinism will be continued in the next post].
*Theodicy: the defense of God’s goodness and omnipotence in view of the existence of evil.
**From: Seeing Gray in a World of Black and White [p. 122]