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Religion

WAS IT PART OF GOD’S PLAN

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Last week I linked to my Park Cities People column questioning the pop-theology of the moment. Naturally, I received many comments, which I will try to reproduce below. If I left yours out, sorry about that. Many were too long to post, and others got lost in the tidal wave.

Bravo….I personally appreciated reading a reasoned response to the ‘fundamental’ Christianity info-mercial tripe I listen to, read or hear everywhere these days about ‘God’s Plan’, much of it from the Evangelical ‘charismatic movement. Plain Jane (Episcoplal/Catholic) belief in God as I grew up worshiping is now regarded as passé, like listening to ‘Frampton Comes Alive’ since American theology (and more) became co-opted and overwhelmed this last quarter century by everyone’s ‘personal relationship with Jesus’. To this point; can I expect to read Bible Girl’s Thursdays response?

Quite possibly the best op-ed I have read in a long long time. Thank you for your beautiful words of spiritual insight.

I wonder if that minister really meant what he said, or if he was just resorting to the most simplistic explanation of what is actually a very complex theological question. It seems to be the grossest kind of anthropomorphism of God possible. Our responses to the problem of suffering say much more about the way that we think than the way that God is. Of course the answer given is a bad answer to a worse question, “Why did God do this?” That sort of question leads us absolutely nowhere and it predicates an absolute suspension of free will — we’re all just marionettes in the hands of a petty puppeteer. The better question might be, “What does God want me to learn from this experience?” There is meaning, but not the facile superficial kind of meaning.

I just read your editorial that I linked to on FrontBurner.com. So well said. I’m not a particularly religious person (because of statements such as “God’s plan”), but I want to be & your article really helped me out. I was having a bad day & your words turned it around.

Ok, I’m more of a theo-idiot than theologian, but I respectfully disagree with Wick’s statement: “In the entire Bible, there is no statement, not even an inference, that God has a “plan” for our lives.” Jeremiah 29:11 states: 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.” Furthermore, the entire book of Job deals with how God allowed Job (and his apparently innocent family) to suffer. But God also richly rewarded Job for his faithfulness.

“’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
I think that pretty much clears up the argument that “the notion about God’s plan….is nowhere to be found in the Bible”. That particular verse hangs on the crib of my 2 ½ year old who suffered a stroke in utero, has ½ of a functioning brain; neither walks nor talks, and is fed by a feeding tube. Do I always understand “Why?” No, I don’t. And I probably won’t have those answers this side of eternity. But I do know that “in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.” Romans 8:28. And the Toons know it too. I recall a statement from Elizabeth’s father that stated, “We know exactly where she is right now. We’re certainly heartbroken, but we’re not confused”. I heard it said that her memorial service might as well have been a wedding as her 2 sisters dressed like bridesmaid’s escorted their sister down the aisle and gave her as a bride to Christ. Although we may mourn here on earth, the Lord does not mourn that one of His own has been called home. The Lord grieves the sin and suffering that happened as a result of the Fall; but because of His love for His creation he offered Jesus as the path to redemption. Someday, all things will be made new; and until that day I will trust in God’s plan; rest in His grace and mercy; and long for the day that He takes me home too.

You’re going to hear from a lot of people giving you grief, and saying God’s plan is well-spelled out in Jeremiah 29:11, which in the New International Version says, “‘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.'”
That verse has become too popular in evangelical Christianity, and is poor exegesis, as the chapter clearly begins, “This is the text of the letter that the prophet Jeremiah sent from Jerusalem to the surviing elders….” It wasn’t written to indiviudals, it was written to the captive Israelis in the heart of Nebuchadnezzar’s Babylon. While I don’t agree with you that God doesn’t have a plan for your life, or my life, or my son’s life, or my wife’s life, I do agree that too many ministers are too quick to try to explain away the difficult parts of life and Scripture with flippant remarks like the minister at the funeral of your daughter’s friend. Tough times, like the loss of a loved ones, deserve far more than bumper sticker theology.

I’m sure that you’ve received quite a few e-mails on the subject. I’m not terribly religious. But I would find it to be quite disturbing if God was not all-knowing and in control of everything. I believe that that’s what separates God from humans — God knows everything and is in complete control. Seems a little disturbing if God is just like the rest of us humans.

What a wonderful piece.

I really appreciated reading your editorial today. You took on a hard topic that most people would avoid at all costs and you did a great job. Thank you for expressing what would be nearly impossible for many of us to articulate. Thank you for your courage and your thoughtful & educated writing.

Several more people relied on the Jeremiah verse, which as noted above, was in a letter from the prophet to the Jews in Babylonian captivity about the providential role of Israel. And several cited the Book of Job, revealing to me that they have never read it. I do urge people to read that extraordinary book, where the usual explanations of God’s mysterious workings that one might hear from certain pulpits in Dallas are given to Job and dismissed out of hand. Thanks to all for the correspondence, and apologies to those not included.

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