At the risk of starting a theological debate, I’d like to ask why so many of us seem to be buying into the philosophy of fatalism. Most people seem to say they don’t believe that all events are predetermined, but then they go and drop a bomb like this one:
Everything happens for a reason.
Well, duh. Of course everything happens for a reason. (Sometimes the reason is we didn’t use our brain.) But that’s not exactly what they mean. When someone says, “Everything happens for a reason,” they usually mean that it’s part of God’s master plan. In other words, he wrote the script a long time ago and we’re just acting it out.
Usually people use this line when they’re trying to make us feel better after something bad happens.
“Sorry your house burned down. But I guess everything happens for a reason. Sometimes we don’t understand why...”
Could it be that the house burned down because the wiring was faulty? Or maybe rebellious Junior was smoking behind your back and got a little careless as he was getting rid of the evidence. Perhaps the cat knocked over one of your scented candles. You know, the ones you left burning when you went to your weekly Bible study.
Would it disappoint you terribly if you discovered that your house fire wasn’t part of God’s master plan from the beginning of time? Could it be that God doesn’t micromanage things to that degree?
We recognize God’s omniscience, and rightfully so. And we know he knows the future. The problem is, we say those things, but we think of them in our terms. To us, knowing the future is the equivalent of watching a movie we’ve seen before. When we think of God knowing the future, we think of a linear timeline, and we imagine God processing things the way we do. We may say stuff along the lines of, “God is outside time,” but truth be told, we haven’t a clue as to what that means. God is basically a big version of us with superpowers. And that's where we go wrong.
Suppose the whole concept of time is just too much for us to grasp? Trillions of events and choices happen on a daily basis and those things shape time as we know it. Yet God in his omnipotence and omniscience is still more than able to accomplish whatever he wants. I heard someone say once that God can win every hand, even if he only has a pair of 2’s. That seems much more impressive to me than a god who is a control freak.
I have no idea how God’s foreknowledge affects actual outcomes and events. But I do know two things: God values human free will and he trusts his people with expanding his kingdom. The fact that good things happen even when human beings mess up indicates that God is actively involved, but it also shows he’s not a micromanager. He’s neither the God of the Deist nor some celestial screenwriter who forces everyone to stick to some unalterable script.
Thank God for that.