God’s Plan

The above Pie Comic illustrates the danger of responding to tragedy, or anything else perplexing and troubling, by invoking God’s plan. The impression conveyed is inevitably of a highly anthropomorphic God whose benevolence and/or competence are placed in serious doubt.


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  • http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Censorship Censored

    “The being described in his 5 points is not the God whom you and I acknolege and adore, the Creator and benevolent governor of the world; but a daemon of malignant spirit. It would be more pardonable to believe in no god at all, than to blaspheme him by the atrocious attributes of Calvin….Of the nature of this being we know nothing.”

    ~Thomas Jefferson, letter to John Adams, from Monticello, April 11, 1823

    I think St. Hicks and St. Carlin have got as much handle on God as any theologian.

    “It doesn’t punish, it doesn’t reward, it doesn’t judge at all. It just is. And so are we. For a little while.” ~George Carlin

  • David Evans

    I’ve been reading Rebecca Goldstein’s Plato In The Googleplex. Very entertaining so far. So I got thinking about the Euthyphro dilemma, and imagining that a theist might answer it with “But God is good by definition”. Then the imaginary dialogue went something like this:
    Me: How do you know that the God you worship is the same as the God who is good by definition?
    Theist: But…
    Me: Come to think of it, even if God is good, how do you know his purposes are good for us? Maybe the whole point of life on Earth is to provide material for a great epic poem, which will give such pleasure to untold trillions of beings in the future as to far outweigh our suffering. Our tragic misunderstanding of our purpose would be just part of the story.
    Theist :But…
    I wonder what God’s purpose was for the Amalekites and the Canaanites.

    I’m sorry the theist didn’t get better lines. That often happens in my internal dialogues.

    • http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Censorship Censored

      Excellent, David! Yours is much more poetic than the theory that we humans evolved on the earth to make plastic.

      • David Evans

        It may look like that now, but just wait. In a few years it will all be graphene.

    • R Vogel

      I thought Socrates practiced dialectic not soliloquy….

      • David Evans

        I’m sure Plato reported only the best dialogues. Choosing 31 from a 71-year life span gave him plenty of room to be selective.

  • Judy Redman

    The thing is, though, that this theology works for some people. The notion that it was all part of God’s plan was the thing that helped my friend hold things together when her 21-year-old son was killed by a car, and there was no way I was going to try to dissuade her from this even though it seriously *didn’t* and *doesn’t* work for me.

    • JenellYB

      I know it can seem like it works for some, but I really have trouble believing that it really does. At least not deep inside. I suspect they say it does because that’s what they’ve been taught others expect them to say. For the one saying it, its a crappy way of avoiding extending any real compassion or sorrow for the hurting person, it seems to me.

      • Judy Redman

        I think that a couple of things come into play here. First, James Fowler some time ago proposed a series of stages of faith development and while I have some problems with the notion of pigeonholing people and more with the idea that people whose faith sits in Fowler’s stage 5 are somehow superior to those in stage 4, people who are at different stages will find different things genuinely comforting. For some people, when their world is spiralling out of control, it is more comforting to believe that everything is part of some grand plan and it will be OK in the end, even if that means that the thing that has caused the spiralling was actually planned. For others, it has the opposite effect.

        Second, If you want to be a Christian, no matter what understanding you have of it, there are going to be some parts of Scripture that make you intensely uncomfortable from time to time. Those points of discomfort are different for evangelical Christians and progressive Christians. I have no problem with the notion that bad things happen randomly and God helps us to cope with them. There are days, though, when I wonder exactly how I can justify my strong belief in religious tolerance when I say that the Scripture that tells me that Jesus said that no-one comes to God except through him.

    • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/religionprof/ James F. McGrath

      I appreciate your point, which is a really important one. While I definitely encourage people to talk about these matters, I think that should probably not be done when one of the people in the conversation is in the midst of suffering. I think that even those who see the theological problems with Job’s friends can be every bit as poor comforters as they were, if we prefer to debate theology rather than simply sit quietly and provide a shoulder to cry on.

  • Steve

    There is no plan. My life experience has disabused me of any such notions.

  • randomfactor

    It’s not a plan, more of a horrible spasm. (Without apologies to McNamara, who got this one right.)