Monday, October 28, 2019

Anonymous Asks (64)

“Does everything happen for a reason?”

That ominous yellow ticket under your windshield wiper: did God do that?

Just curious.

Some Christians are determinists. They think everything that happens, no matter how minuscule or insignificant, is a product of God’s deliberate calculations; in effect, that God micromanages the universe. In believing this, they feel they are glorifying God, because they are acknowledging his sovereign rule.

In their view, yes, God gave you that ticket. You will thank him later.

The Principle of Delegated Authority

I have my doubts. Not about the thanks, but about the ticket’s origin. The God I read about in scripture is a God firmly committed to the principle of delegated authority. For delegation to be meaningful — rather than simply an empty gesture — necessitates that most of the time God allows things to carry on subject to the authorities he has established rather than getting personally involved.

And in fact this is what we observe. It is why genuine biblical miracles are, well, miraculous ... and exceedingly rare. Delegated authority is the principle on which God’s creation operates.

Natural laws are a form of delegation. They do not require trillions of individual acts of God’s will; rather, they are upheld by the merest powerful word of his Son.

Delegated Authority in Action

Thus when I drop my pen I know that, all things being equal, it will fall down and not rise up. I know that, absent a willful act from some created being, the things in my environment that are presently organized will tend toward disorganization over time, and not the other way around. I know that snow will be cold and water will be wet. Good thing too!

My own self-awareness is a form of delegation. I am conscious of a “me” that can choose X and reject Y, and thus I exercise a measure of delegated authority over my own body and mind; in theory, the more the better.

Further, God has been granting to some of his created beings power over other creatures ever since he began creating. Heavenly authorities existed long before mankind was ever on the scene. Some theologians will disagree, but I believe these principalities and powers operated (and continue to operate) without God leaning over their shoulders 100% of the time.

All Kinds of Possibilities

If I am correct and we live in a universe full of God-given delegated authority, that ticket on your windshield may have come from many different places.

For example, it may have arrived there because you woke up after 9:00 a.m. on the sixteenth of the month, by which time your car was supposed to be moved to the other side of your street. While you were rubbing your eyes, groaning and brewing coffee, some lovely young lady in a blue uniform was outside writing you up.

That’s on you, bub. Own it, and pay up.

Alternatively, the ticket may be on your windshield because you have a Make America Great Again! sticker on your bumper, and the lovely young lady in the blue uniform is a dyed-in-the-wool progressive with a major hate-on for Republicans.

Take that, you filthy racist patriarchal scum!

Budget Constraints and One Too Many

Or again, the ticket may be on your windshield because of City budget constraints. Blue Uniform Lady has been given very high quota to meet this month, and you’re very slightly more than six inches from the curb, a borderline infraction she would normally prefer to discreetly overlook.

Maybe next month you’ll catch a break.

Perhaps the ticket is on your windshield because your roommate borrowed the car late last night after you went to bed, had a few pints at the corner pub, and accidentally parked your vehicle backward before falling into bed.

We hope not.

Possibilities from the Spiritual Realm

Getting into the spiritual realm, it is not entirely impossible that, as a servant of God, you have drawn the ire of the god of this world or, more likely, one of his minions, who is hoping that when you see that yellow ticket on your windshield, a curse will escape your lips or at least momentarily flash through your mind, disturbing your fellowship with your Heavenly Father.

You’re not Job, or even a character in The Screwtape Letters, so maybe not. But we can’t completely rule it out, can we?

And yes, there’s even (what I think is) a small chance that the Creator of the universe, the Sovereign God himself, determined to make you over in the image of his Son, has nudged one or another of his millions upon millions of delegated authorities out of their normal routine to test you to see (or, really, to enable you and the rest of his creation to see) just how well that transformation is coming along.

The Only Thing That Matters

Morally, of course, none of this is on you. You didn’t deliberately oversleep. You didn’t intentionally tick off the Blue Uniform Lady with your political leanings (okay, maybe that bumper sticker was the tiniest bit inflammatory). You didn’t suggest to your roommate that having a few and driving home was a brilliant idea. You definitely have nothing to do with the machinations at City Hall.

In the moral realm, it is irrelevant whether the ticket is the product of your own exhaustion, your buddy’s drinking habits, the parking attendant’s malice, governmental wheeling and dealing, the connivances of spiritual enemies or even the loving hand of your God. It doesn’t matter if you know where the ticket came from. Knowing wouldn’t help; the fact is, it’s still sitting there on your windshield, and it still has to be paid.

Where the kingdom of God is concerned, the ONLY thing that matters right now is what you think, do and say as you pull that ticket out from under your wiper, and whether or not those things please or displease your Heavenly Father.

Discerning the Reason

So does everything happen for a reason? Sure, absolutely. But this side of heaven, as with most things that happen in our lives, good and bad, we can rarely be 100% sure precisely what that reason is, or whose agenda it serves. And even if we knew, what happens and how it goes down is almost entirely out of our control.

What is not out of our control is what we do in response.

1 comment :

  1. Actually I would interpret the question "does everything happen for a reason" somewhat differently. The question was obviously asked because the underlying premise is that God is involved in all possible aspects of reality. One famous answer is that the universe is like a clock built by God and he winds it up and let's it run. In that case, yes, God is the reason for everything. Even if it is not so and God instead built in some, or a lot of, randomness then, with God outside of time, he would still know everything that's going on to the most atomic detail. The answer still is, that all things happen for a reason and the reason being in this case that God is happy with the random events occuring and working out their way (happy not implying approval here) but satisfaction that things are running their course based on God's natural and spiritual laws. Hence, everything is indeed happening for a reason which should not be construed as approval.