One of the Calvinist cornerstones of Prosperity Theology is the idea that God has a plan for each person living. This idea is comfort to some and a torment to others. Many people have told me of the anguish they felt begging God night after night to reveal the plan to them. Where do I go in life? What should I do? How can I know I am doing the right thing in my life? Other people can revel in their success taking no thought for the plight of others by claiming, “It is God’s plan for me.” But well-meaning teachers attempt to comfort their listeners with this claim too. “God loves you and has a plan for your life.” Unfortunately, this is a disastrous approach to giving comfort. It is not good for us to hear it. No one should believe it.
A Plain Verse About A Plan
“‘For I know the plans I have for you,’ declares the LORD, ‘plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.'” (Jeremiah 29:11) This verse is found on stationery, get-well cards, framed wall-hangings, and email signatures. As the old saying goes, “a text without context is a proof-text.” The text contains words of comfort to God’s people exiled to Babylon. They were taken away. They will be brought back. But first seventy years must go by before they return. Jeremiah tells them to settle down and make a living. They are staying for a while. The people should not be listening to false prophets making contrary claims. No one knows what God is doing for the people. Anyone claiming to know is a liar.
Someone will argue, “But I know this verse is speaking directly to me.” Why should it? A verse is a collection of words and sentences. The chapter and verse divisions are later additions. It cannot speak directly to anyone today. We do learn from it. We learn God asks people to be patient when it comes to divine justice.
Some What Abouts
What about callings? What about patterns I see happening in my life? People like to say something that happens “is meant to be.” If it is something good, then it is said in satisfaction. If it is something bad, then it is said in resignation. This is an unfortunate result of thinking there is an individual plan for some individuals. Experiencing either satisfaction or resignation is giving in to justifying the unjustifiable. When prosperity preachers claim God wants them to be wealthy, they are justifying the Rich Young Ruler. When the same people claim other people’s misfortunes are the result of ignoring God’s plan for their lives, they are shifting blame away from providence.
Clergy of all types are said to have a calling from God. “God prepares the called and does not call the prepared,” is utter nonsense. Experience shows over and again, that the people called have natural talents or gifts given in advance. So, we can ask, is this not a part of God’s plan for that person’s life? Let me give an old example to explain this problem.
One Calvinist preacher took part in a formal debate with an Arminian one in front of an audience at a church. Before the debate, an elderly woman presented the Calvinist preacher with an apple from her trees. The preacher began his talk by saying how God had always intended for her to give him the apple. And that he would enjoy it because ultimately God gave it to him. He was destined to eat it. The Calvinist left the apple on the podium and sat down after making his homey remark. The Arminian preacher approached the podium and immediately began eating the apple. When he was accused of stealing, he replied it was obviously God’s plan for him to have it instead. Which preacher was following God’s plan for his life?
Following The Plan
Following a plan is difficult when one does not see it. Some instruction must be available. If I jumbled together a bunch of random parts and told you to build a bicycle from them, you would ask me how to do it. If I reply, “By questioning me, it demonstrates you do not want to follow my wishes,” you could simply shrug and walk away. But the person who trusts there is a plan will also want to know what it is. Few people will try building the bike anyway. There is something wrong with me in this scenario and not the people whom I tell to build a bicycle.
Children are born and eventually learn to live. Telling people God has a special plan for them is taking away their free choice before it can be exercised. They are essentially given blinders that tells them how things are always done is how God planned it. This is simply not true. It is important for human beings to learn from doing. The Creation story of Genesis 2 shows God makes no such plans for an individual life. God waits to see what Adam calls the animals. God gives no directions. Adam must see he needs another person in his life. When God teaches, it is by experience.