Foreknowing, Causing, Allowing…

In my Lenten small group, this morning, we were debating if God allows tragedy, causes tragedy, or both.  Though the word wasn’t used this morning, God’s foreknowledge also comes into play.  If God knows everything, then God knows what is going to happen in advance.  If God knows a tragic event will occur, does that mean God caused it?  Is foreknowledge the same as causality?

Undeniably, God has caused bad things to happen.  The ten plagues unleashed on Egypt during the Exodus would fit that category.  But, does that mean that causes ALL plagues and maladies?

Undeniably, God allows bad things to happen.  Every moment of every day, evil is at work around the world – war, crime, injustice, etc…  God allows that.  But, is allowing the same as causing?

Where is the place of free will and choice in this debate?  How much choice does God allow?

I, for one, believe in free will.  I believe that God gives us the gift and responsibility of choice.  We can choose to love him, serve him, and honor him.  Or, we can choose to be selfish, and do unspeakable evil.  And, of course, there are a wide range of choices, good and bad, in between. I believe that every human is capable of choosing remarkable good and unspeakable evil.

I also believe that God is intimately at work in his created world – blessing, sustaining influencing, hearing and answering our prayers, and, more often than not, redeeming for good the many, many things that have gone wrong.

Can God control the events of this world, like a chess player moving the pieces on a chess board?  Yes, of course.  God is God, which means God can do whatever God wants to do.  But, it seems to me that God has imposed self-limitations upon himself, in order that we have the freedom to choose.  We aren’t chess pieces.  We move ourselves.  We choose.

After all, love is a choice.  Relationship is a choice.  Obedience, really, is a choice.

I’ve heard it said, “Why did God allow…?  Why didn’t God stop…?”  When tragic things occur, such questions are inevitable.  “God, why don’t you intervene when you know something terrible is going to happen and people are going to suffer?”

But, my question is, if we believe that God gives us choice, and that we are responsible for our choices, and if we can connect someone’s choice to the tragedy-in-question, where would we draw the line?  What choices do we think God should allow?  What choices do we think God should stop?

Should God stop the drunk driver from running into someone innocent?  Should God stop me from adjusting my car AC, or changing radio stations, if that potentially distracts me and leads to the same kind of accident, and the same result?  Should God stop me from driving if I’m ever sleepy, irritated, distracted, in a hurry, etc.?  Should God stop me from riding in cars, at all, if I might be a potential distraction for the driver?  Should God just keep me locked up in my house – safe and sound – where I can’t be a danger to anyone but myself?

Where’s the line?

Do we believe that God is ultimately the cause and responsible party for every tragedy?  Or, is tragedy a reality of living in a fallen world where people make unfortunate choices?

I, for one, don’t blame God for the ill that happens in this world, or specifically in my life.  But, I do look to God to comfort my pain, strengthen my weakness, redeem my failings, and restore what get’s broken.

I do wonder, sometimes, why God doesn’t move a little faster.  Why does he take so long to answer my prayers, to give me direction, and to fix my problems?  But, those are questions for another blog.

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