Does Everything Happen for a Reason?

This week we began our summer study which follows Adam Hamilton’s book, Half Truths. We began our study by introducing the idea of half truths and the place they hold in our lives. For more information on that check out our introductory blog post. After discussing the idea of half truths we dove into our first half truth: “Everything Happens for a Reason.” We discussed howthis phrase could cause some problems with the people who hear it.

We began our study by reading through six articles from news headlines the day we met. After reading through these articles we asked ourselves how these articles fit in with God’s plan. It was very difficult to see how such tragic things could be planned by a loving God so we immediately launched into a conversation about the three problems that arise when we treat the phrase, “Everything Happens for a Reason,” as a full truth.

The Problem of Personal Responsibility

The first problem that arises is that of our own personal responsibility. If everything happens according to God’s unchangeable plan, then whatever I do must have been God’s will. This could easily manifest itself in a few diiferent ways. If someone were todrink and drive, and someone else is killed, rather than the drunk driver taking resposibility, it must have been the other person’s, “time”. This is clearly not the case.

The Problem of God’s Responsibility

The second problem with this half truth is I f God actually intended for everything to happen, then God is responsible for every terrible thing that happens in our world. For instance, when a two year-old took a handgun out of his mother’s purse, thought it was a toy, pointed it at his mom and pulled the trigger, it must have been God’s plan for the child’s mom to die and for the toddler to go through life carrying the emotional burden of killing his mother. If this way of thinking is true, every bad thing (rape, murder, child abuse, war, terrible storm, earthquake, or child who dies of starvation) is part of God’s plan. This too is difficult to reconcile with a loving God.

The Problem of Fatalism or Indifference

The final major problem with the phrase, “Everything happens for a reason,” is the idea of fatalism and indifference. More commonly this sentiment is expressed as, “Whatever is going to happen, will happen. Whatever will be, will be. We are powerless to change it.” If one subscribes to this notion there can be dire consequences. Diagnosed with cancer? Don’t waste time seeing an oncologist. To seek treatment is to resist God’s will. In fact, the entire medical profession, rather than being God’s instruments of healing, seem to be working against God’s plan.

God’s Providence an Soveriegnty

Im response to all these problems, we introduced two ideas which we will explore further next time.  The first idea is God’s Providence (governance of the universe, including our world and everything in it). Christians believe that God superintends the universe and oversees everything that happens to our planet. The second idea is God’s Sovereignty which typically expresses the idea of authority or rule. Christian’s believe God’s authority encompasses all of creation.

Though Christians share a belief in God’s providence and sovereignty, they often interpret these concepts in very different ways. Some tend toward a view of God as micromanager – involved in every detail of the world’s operation Others believe that God follows a hands-off approach – like an absentee land-lord. Still others believe that the truth lies between these two positions.

Next time we’ll explore further into what some Christian responses to the phrase, “Everything happens for a reason,” might be, and how we begin to formulate our own ideas on the issue.

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