Do All Things Happen For A Reason?

Does everything happen for a reason?

When we ask this question we are setting ourselves up for disappointment. If we say that everything does happen for a reason, that God is ordaining every good moment and every bad moment, we are left having to accept divine involvement in things that are so horrific that to attribute them to God’s wisdom is tantamount to taking the Lord’s name in vain, of misusing the name of God. To assert that God is the author of every rape, every murder and every act of abuse toward a child is to blame God for the work of the devil. God is not bound to a law higher than himself but it seems contrary to his character to rule such acts as the ones listed above as abominable and then to make those things happen for his higher purpose. If God commands us not to sin why would he break his own law?

On the other hand, if we say that there is no purpose behind difficult experiences we run a different kind of risk that leaves us feeling like the events of our life, whether they be good or bad, are random accidents and that God has nothing whatsoever to do with them. God doesn’t have to be the initiator of every experience we have in order to initiate some of them. In spite of this, however, we are confronted with a greater concern which is why did God allow something bad to happen to us, and what do we do with the memories of our past that are so painful? What do we do about fears of the future? Bad things may yet happen to us. How is God involved in our future if we say he isn’t involved in our past?

One “middle way” in this circumstance is to recognize that while God does not cause every thing that happens, and some things happen for no clear reason, God remains connected to us in the experience in such a way that he will redeem it. Rather than orchestrating every moment of our life, programming us like computer code, he is allowing our experiences, our stories to unfold, and through his omnicompetence he redeems every sadness, every injury, every loss no matter how great or devastating.

Does everything happen for a reason? No. Everything does not happen for a divine reason. Yet everything that does happen remains a thread of grace that God weaves in the fabric of a life of grace and redemption.


Lent: Beginning Again, and Again

“So our sins become not stopping points, but starting points. They can be the occasions of constantly fresh, constantly wider visions of the grace of God. It’s often been said, boldly, that the saints in heaven rejoice over their sins, because through them they have been brought to greater and greater understanding of the endless endurance of God’s love, to the knowledge that beyond every failure God’s creative mercy still waits. We have a future because of this grace.”  ~  Rowan Williams

Talking About The Atonement

“The single central thing is the conviction that for us to be at peace Jesus’ life has to be given up. It isn’t that a vengeful and inflexible God demands satisfaction, more that the way the world is makes it unavoidable that the way to our freedom lies through the self-giving of Jesus, even to the point of death. In the kind of world that you and I inhabit, the kind of world that you and I make or collude with, this is what the price of unrestricted love looks like. Hang on to that, and the jostling images and theories are kept in perspective.” – Rowan Williams, Tokens of Trust

Tokens of Trust #1

Our Wednesday night men’s group is reading Tokens of Trust by Rowan Williams. I’ll be posting some thoughts on the book over the next few weeks. I highly recommend it.

Archbishop-of-Canterbury--007-1Rowan Williams is many things. Poet, pastor, playwright, Welshman, and, until recently, the leader of the third largest Christian Church on the planet. As Archbishop of Canterbury he served the Anglican Church worldwide in the midst of turmoil and division. While serving in that capacity, Williams was able to avoid the fragmentation of his church. Now retired, he is serving as the Chancellor of the University of South Wales.

Williams’ Tokens of Trust is a small, pastorally minded book. It is an introduction to Christian faith not unlike C.S. Lewis’s Mere Christianity. Writing seventy years after Lewis, Williams speaks to a new generation that is less likely to be convinced as the audience of C.S. Lewis. For the modern person Williams eloquently sets out what “Christians can expect each other to take for granted.”

In his first chapter, Rowan outlines the crisis of trust in today’s world. His vantage point in Great Britain doesn’t keep him from understanding life here in the States. Most of us are skeptics, distrusting other’s motives, and cynical about those institutions, like government and the church, that are supposed to exist for the common good.

The problem of belief in God, trust as Williams describes it, is clear. It is hard to trust in a benevolent and almighty creator when those who represent that creator have behaved so untrustworthily. In a world as our own why would anyone want to believe?

He meets this crisis of confidence with a description of a good God who creates humankind not out of need within himself but out of unselfish love. This is the traditional conception of God. Perfectly content as Father, Son and Spirit, God needs nothing. Therefore, whatever he does beyond himself is simply because of God’s desire to do so. Though we may doubt it from time to time, creation itself is a sign that God is good.

... this means that God can’t have a selfish agenda, because he (God) can’t want anything for himself except to be the way he is. So if the world exists because of his action, the only motivation for this that we can even begin to think of is sheer unselfish love. He wants to give what he is to what isn’t him; he wants difference to appear, he wants an Other to receive his joy and delight. He isn’t bored and in need of company. He isn’t frustrated and in need of help. (pg. 12)

This raises some important questions for people who believe in the God described in Scripture and  Christian history. Can we trust someone that doesn’t expect us to fulfill their own needs? What motivation does this kind of someone (in this case God) have? 

The best reading raises great questions. In the weeks to come I hope to see you raise some of your own.

Here’s one last quote for the road:

What the Bible puts before us is not a record of a God who is always triumphantly getting his way by doing miracles, but a God who gets his way by patiently struggling to make himself clear to human beings, to make his love real to them, especially when they seem not to want to know, or to want to avoid him, and retreat into their own fantasies about him. (16)