Is there a reason for everything?


#1

Some people say there’s a reason for everything (and there’s no such thing as luck or chance), but is that true?

What does Ecc. 9:11 mean?

Does everything have a purpose, or are some things truly random–and how can anything be random in a universe governed by omniscience and foreknowledge?


#2

The word translated “chance” in Eccl 9:11 (pega‛) can be understood to mean an unexpected event, and need not convey the idea of something happening without a cause. In 1 Kings 5:4 the same word is translated “occurrence” (NKJV, ASV, Young’s). Moreover, if we look back to the beginning of the chapter we can see that “time and chance happening to all” is just another example of the working out of God’s providence: “But all this I laid to heart, examining it all, how the righteous and the wise and their deeds are in the hand of God. Whether it is love or hate, man does not know; both are before him” (Eccl 9:1). Similarly, we read in Proverbs 16:33 that “the lot is cast into the lap, but its every decision is from the LORD.”


#3

That isn’t the real problem. Omniscient foreknowledge, or top-down omniscience, either one (the former would be omniscience from within the stream of events, the latter would be omniscience ontologically superior to the stream of events), would have no problem foreseeing, or eternally seeing (respective to the type of omniscience) truly random events.

The real problem is how anything can be random, and to what extent, in a universe governed by omnipotence.

Trinitarian theism offers a unique solution to this: the 2nd Person of God is eternally submitting to the 1st Person in the highest possible death, as well as eternally receiving life from the 1st Person. This dynamic action of subordination, on the part of the 2nd Person, would result in the creation of an effectively neutral-behavior field of reality if God ever acts to generate something other than Himself. A system of Nature, such as what we find around us, would be the first result of the creative action of God; but it would happen by the self-sacrificial of God in the 2nd Person. The Lamb is slain not only from but as the foundation of the world.

I’ll be talking more about this later in the 300 set of entries of that ongoing metaphysical thingy I’ve been posting up in this category of the forum. :mrgreen: (I expect to start that section of chapters more-or-less mid-November.) The “intentionally random” scatting of an expert jazz musician is one (weak and distant) analogy, though.


#4

Hi Michael,

It’s me, your favorite sparring partner! (Just kidding.)

There is a certain sense I give to the idea that God is always meaningfully and redemptively at work in all things. But I don’t think this means God has a specific reason (i.e., goal) for either (a) determining (in the Calvinistic sense) all that occurs OR (b) providentially allowing (in the Arminian sense) all that occurs. So I don’t look for a specific divine reason “behind” all things that explains them in terms of (a) or (b). I think that sometimes God (given the sort of world he’s created, i.e., one with libertarian free-will in it) dosn’t get the outcome he wishes or works to achieve and in such cases there’s ‘no’ sense in which some particular evil plays a necessary but unfortunately painful role in bringing about some specific good that couldn’t have been gotten except through such evil. There is in THIS sense gratutious evil in the world. I’m not saying God NEVER finds himself in a situation where he is (and there’s too much to explain here, so I’ll likely be misunderstood) ‘complicit’ in allowing some evil. I’m saying I don’t think ALL evil needs to be explained this way. But of course should some such gratuitous evil occur, THEN God has the resources to respond to it in ways that redeem and heal. We often assume that the healing or blessing that later is ours is the REASON WHY God either determined or specifically allowed the pain. But it doesn’t follow that in every such instance that is what’s going on.

This is about evil isn’t it?

Tom


#5

Let me first address the question in the subject, “Is there a reason for everything?” Yes, certainly there is a reason for all events. Mrs. Jones’ little girl was run over by a truck for a reason. The little girl ran into the street without looking. But it seems that this is not the real question.

I would guess that every human action has a purpose. If not, the person would not perform that action, would he? Or would some people perform random actions without a purpose? I can’t think of any examples. Even if a person flings his arms up into the air and flails them around, he has a purpose in doing so.

But I don’t think this was the real question either. I suspect that the real question is, "Is God the cause of all events? Or are some events random? What is meant by random? Do you mean events which have no cause? If that’s the case, I say there are no random events. But this does not imply determinism. Some events, are caused by human beings (or perhaps by animals). Events are not necessarily caused by other events (as in contemporary philosophy).

Man was created in the image of God. One of the ways in which man is the image of God is that man has free will. Normally God does not interfere with free will. So when an evil man rapes and kills a little girl, God does not cause this to happen for a “deeper purpose”. Nor does He “allow” the event to occur for a deeper purpose. Yet, in spite of the horror of the event, God can bring good out of it. The evil act was not “random”; it was done purposely ---- not God’s purpose, but the evil man’s purpose.

I affirm that God does not cause or “allow” every event for a purpose. Rather God has nothing to do with most events. They are the result of human choice. I think even natural disasters are not directly caused by God, but are the result of “the fall” of man through Adam and Eve. What about mosquitoes? Did God create them to bug people? I don’t think so. My hypothesis was that the original mosquitoes did not suck the blood of animals to produce their young, but sucked the juices of plants. Then one day, about a year later, I happened to read in a science book that an experiment was done in which mosquitoes were isolated in a green house where they had no access to animals or people. It was found that they sucked the juices of plants and were able to produce their young just as well! I was truly amazed to read of this experiment.

This is not to say that God is not involved in affairs here on earth. He even occasionally interferes with people’s choices, or intervenes to protect some one through a miracle. But such events are rare.

God’s choice usually not to act in human affairs, or to prevent the many atrocities which some people commit, does not imply that God is not sovereign or does not direct the affairs of the universe. But it does imply that He does meticulously control every event. This fact demonstrates how wise and powerful God really is! He can bring about His will ---- even the reconciliation of all people to Himself, without interfering with free will, or forcing Himself upon mankind.


#6

I know someone whos sees a great deal I’ve never seen in license plates, numbers, the scripture references on devotional calanders, even street names and addresses.

He’s a Bible student, a charismatic, and a universalist (with a generally good understanding of the Bible).

Are such things he sees signs in random, or are they messages from God (as he reads them to be)?

Is anything not caused by humans (or human freewill) caused by God for some purpose?

What about odd or unusual circumstances (or even fortune cookies)?

Given God’s sovereignty and foreknowledge (and the fact that He’d know how individuals would interpret things), does everything that might seem to have some message for us contain such a message?

Was Ronald Wilson Reagan a forerunner of the antiChrist because he had six letters in each of his names?

God knew people would see this and make that equation.

I voted for Reagan, and I think he was a good president, so I’m not seriously suggesting that he was a forerunner of antiChrist, but was this a coincidence (and what does “coincidence” mean in a universe governed by a sovereign and all-knowing God)?

If my friend is right about God speaking to us in signs (in his case almost daily), why would God cause (or allow) misleading, confusing, or contradictory signs.

I understand “The Bible Codes” can be read to say that Jesus is the Messiah, or a false prophet.

Are these “codes” random, and (again) what does that mean in a Theistically ordred universe?


#7

Here’s an example of what I’m talking about (and I don’t know what it means, if anything.)

I had my father discharged from Lauralwood Care in Elkton (where he was recovering from a stroke) Friday.

Earlier, when I was driving to our old doctor’s office in Delaware (to pay a bill, and make sure his records were transfered to a doctor in Rising Sun), I noticed that I was following a car with a Maryland tag having the numbers 666.

I noticed this because it’s the kinda thing that that internet teacher I mentioned on this thread might see something in (but noted that the numbers were not in the hundreds, tens, and ones columns.)

Saturday night my dad became very confused, and I drove him down here to John Hopkins (in Baltimore) because I was afraid he was having another stroke.

(There’s no new bleesding, his shunt is working properly, and they believe his confusion is caused by a urinary tract infection that their treating with antibiotics–but prayers are welcome.)

Today, his nurse told me that he keeps saying that today’s date is 6,6,1966.

This is an unusual circumstance that would seem (I hope) to have no meaning, but if God is in control of everything, and foreknows everything (including our psychological reactions) how can it be “coincidence”?

What is “coincidence” in a universe governed by the providence and foreknowledge of an all-knowing God?

BTW: My question here is addressed only to those who believe in “the providence and foreknowledge of an all-knowing God” (not those who believe in process theology or open Theism.)


#8

I was thinking about this today Mike, and it dawned on me that a big change I’ve undergone in recent years (but am only now able to begin to express) is that where I once looked for the purpose IN the events of my life as something I had to discover, or as something that inhered IN the events, i.e., something the world brought TO me…I now tend to derive my purpose exclusively from God’s infinite love for me demonstrated on the Cross and then bring this TO the events of my life. In other words, my purpose (and the purpose of the events in my life) is something I now attempt to GIVE TO the events of my life as opposed to DERIVING IT FROM those same events. We live purposefully by seeking to respond in Christlike ways TO the events of our lives (having already derived ou purpose and significance in Christ) rather than seeking to extrapolate from the events of our lives what our purpose in life is.

Don’t know if that means anything to others.

Tom


#9

Yes, but (as an open theist) you believe in randomness.

My question is addressed to those who believe in a universe governed by the sovereignty and foreknowledge of an all powerful, all knowing God.

Where does randomness fit in such a universe, and does everything that happens in it have a purpose?


#10

Mike: My question is addressed to those who believe in a universe governed by the sovereignty and foreknowledge of an all powerful, all knowing God. Where does randomness fit in such a universe, and does everything that happens in it have a purpose?

Tom: There’s no possibility for randomness in such a worldview. It’s ruled out by God’s all-embracing determinations (whether in the Calvinistic sense of unconditional decrees or the Arminian sense of some sovereign decrees being informed by foreknowledge).

There are open theists who don’t believe in randomness understood as “uncaused” events. We’re not required to embraced such a view. Personally, I don’t believe in randomness if it means God’s loving purposes and presence aren’t figured into the factors that influence outcomes. I think Eastern Orthodoxy’s belief that the logoi of created entities naturally year for and desire God is a nice framework in which to work out the implications of freedom and sovereignty (yes, as an open theist too). Certain Process insights could contribute as well. Fr. Tom Hopko did his PhD diss comparing Eastern Orthodoxy and Process theology and didn’t have a problem appropriating certain Process beliefs with traditional Eastern beliefs. Greg Boyd’s work too makes some really helpful points (he develops a dispositional ontology in which freedom and creativity exist without conceding a random purposelessness). Too much to unpack!

But if one posits an understanding of sovereignity and divine power that requires us to suppose that God ultimately decides EVERYTHING that occurs and does so purposefully, then the obvious answer to your question is “Yes.” There has to be a specific divine reason/purpose behind everything that occurs if God ultimately decides THAT it occur. As for attempts to argue that God uses foreknowledge to inform his choices and determinations, they seem to fail in the end. Such foreknowledge would be providentially useless to God. But that’s another question altogether.

Have a blessed Christmas Mike.

Tom


#11

Well I’ve started Series 300 now (about a month later than I was expecting). So I’ll be talking about things like randomness along the way.

I want to point out that I, who am not an open theist (in the usual sense of that phrase anyway), believe in natural randomness, in God’s true omniscience, and in God’s constantly active upkeep of the natural system. As noted earlier, I don’t consider natural randomness and God’s omniscience to be problematic for one another, due to the categorical difference between the propositions: randomness is about behavior, omniscience would (in this case) be about knowledge of behavior. The two categories are not mutually exclusive in operation. (Nor is randomness quite the same thing as free action.)

Natural randomness does involve the notion that not all events are specifically directed by God, and so do not necessarily have communication meanings intended by God (although God could add direct contribution to an otherwise naturally random event–or a naturally determinate event, either one!–and so add communication meaning to the event.)

The major metaphysical problem is how Nature could have behaviors not specifically directed by God, its ‘own’ behaviors in a derivative sense, while yet being dependent for existence on God’s active upkeep (a dependence that on the other hand cannot involve cosmological dualism, even a created one!)

This is closely related to the problem of how there can be any not-God reality at all. And also closely related to the problem I mentioned at the end of Series 200: how can there be any derivative not-God persons at all?

As I indicated in my previous comment of this thread, I believe the answer is provided in binitarian (and eventually trinitarian) theism, especially in the distinction of the Person of the Son in the singular Unity of ultimate Deity: a topic I am quickly approaching by the route of considering the self-existence of God as God and what this does and does not logically involve.