Did God Do That? Announcing a New Series

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God-sovereign-series

Did God intend for me to write this blog post?

I’m not so sure about that, and that partially is what this new series is all about.

Christians have a habit of saying things like:

“It was all just God’s timing…”

“This is his plan, not mine…”

“It just wasn’t God’s will…”

While there are points in my life where I genuinely sensed that God was intervening in my life in order to lead me in a particular direction, there have been plenty of times when I’ve also figured that, simply by default, God must be up to something.

My question is this: what if we’re attributing the wrong things to God?

In other words, I’m not attempting to downgrade God. Rather, I’m concerned that someone like me, who received a heavy dose of Calvinism in his formative years, developed an inaccurate picture of God. Is God literally ordering my every step? Is every situation really just the result of God’s behind the scenes orchestration?

Perhaps those statements sound like overstuffed straw men, but honestly: Christians really talk like this. I talk like this.

There is an assumption I run into among some Calvinists and also among other denominations that goes something like this: the biggest, most powerful God you can imagine, must be the right God. If a sovereign, all-powerful, all-knowing deity who must be glorified at all times by his creation is at the center of your theology, that makes sense. If God surpasses our imagination and is indeed all-powerful, we may as well heap it on him.

There are some things that Calvinism has done well, and I’m even going to write about them in my next post (so there!), but folks like me have taken a theme like the sovereignty of God and used it to develop some questionable theology. There’s a kind of deistic fatalism where we shrug our shoulders and say, “Well, what can you do? It’s just God’s will.”

This fatalism affects everything from our personal holiness, to our relationships, to how we make decisions each day. This impacts how we view God during a tragedy.

I am not necessarily setting out to challenge Calvinism. Laying my cards on the table, I am no longer a Calvinist. However, everything I write about has a lot more to do with misapplying Calvinism to our lives rather than taking on the doctrines in a toe to toe theological tussle. When it comes to blogs and theology, I’ve always felt that the short-story based form of a blog is not suited to theology debates that demand context, glossary, history, and careful presentations of complex ideas.

So we’ll look at the ways Calvinism has impacted the way we live each day in relation to God’s sovereignty. We’ll ask the hard question over and over again as we look at stories in the Bible and in life today: Did God do that?

I’ll begin tomorrow by addressing where Calvinism can prove helpful to us as we ask this question.

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7 thoughts on “Did God Do That? Announcing a New Series

  1. Paul VanderKlay

    There are lots of Calvinisms of course. What I think you are trying to critique is something closer to what you describe as a deistic fatalism. Such a fatalism of course runs into the difficulty of taking us off the hook for all kinds of responsible behaviors, good or bad. The irony of course is that some who embrace this kind of fatalism also often embrace a rather strong view of our own depravity. It’s a rather delicious irony that escapes many.

    Having said that the question of responsibility for things is always a knotty problem, not just for Calvinists. Is the maker of the highway responsible for the accidents that happen upon it? Is it the maker of the car, or the driver of the car, or the maker of the weather, or the maker of the physics, etc.

    The doctrine of Providence (not predestination BTW) deals with God’s part to play in common events in our world. Providence is not a particularly Calvinistic doctrine. It is often Calvin’s emphasis on Divine Election that tempts followers and critics alike to associate it with the word “predestination” rather than “providence”.

    Providence is particularly subject to “god of the gaps” thinking that often underlies the kind of fatalism you’re describing.

    Some contemporary atheism and evolutionary psychology ironically also lead towards a heavy determinism. Check out Alvin Plantinga (a Calvinist) and his critique of Sam Harris’ “Free Will” http://www.booksandculture.com/articles/2013/janfeb/bait-and-switch.html

    1. ed Post author

      Thanks Paul! You’ve hit on some important points of clarification. And you’ve also provided a bit of a preview for what I’ll be discussing tomorrow. So I’m glad we’re on the same page and I appreciate what you’ve added here!

    1. ed Post author

      Ha! I’m so glad to hear others have struggled with this. I mean, not “really” glad but just glad I’m not alone.

  2. Ray Hollenbach

    To me, there’s a world of difference between “Everything happens for a reason,” -and- “God brings reason out of everything that happens.” The first is Christian Fatalism; the second proclaims the glory of God.

  3. Laura

    Such a hard, but engaging topic! I look forward to learning also! One related image that someone shared with me once to depict the challenge of understanding free will/our responsibility and God’s sovereignty is two trees whose trunks are completely parallel on the ground where we’re standing. They seem to be completely separate, distinct from each other. It’s only when we look up that we see the branches intertwined above us. That’s not to say we shouldn’t grapple with this…just a picture :)

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