I watched a portion of an interview with Nevada senate candidate Sharon Angle in which she was asked whether there could ever be any justification for abortion. Her answer was that she is a Christian, and that God has a plan for every person’s life.
It bothered me that, apart from the obvious evasion of a direct answer, she would dare to make a bold statement linking Christianity with the doctrine that God has a plan for every life. It’s not simply because she said it, but because I often hear the same thing said around town, in response to most any tragic event or condition in life, as if it was an undisputed biblical truth and core Christian belief. Well, I am a Christian, and I do not believe that God has a particular plan for each person’s life. The idea strikes me as naive silliness believed by the dreadfully misinformed.
Scripture certainly records many plans. Most of them are human plans, all known to God, that usually result in one sort of disaster or another. Others are God’s plans: God’s plans for constructing the tabernacle and building the first temple; God’s plans for Israel’s future; God’s plans for the world’s future; God’s plans for salvation. Not God’s plans for every human life.
To be sure, God has called, and continues to call, particular persons into his service for certain purposes, but each person so called is able to choose whether to go along or not. More to the point, scripture makes clear that God has provided us with what we need to know and do to live in godly harmony with one another, and has made it pretty clear that that is what God would like us to do. None of us is forced to live that way and for the most part we don’t.
What scripture most clearly reveals is that God is ever engaged with human kind. God participates with us in the events of our lives. My own experience is that the more I engage with God the more I am aware of how much God is engaging with me. The obverse of that is to have no awareness at all of God’s presence in one’s life, and, therefore, to have no response to God’s urging, counsel, or even goading. None of that has anything to do with the idea that I am a rather hapless person careening through life controlled by a predestined fate that includes all the events and conditions I might encounter.
I’m not sure where this “God has a plan for your life” stuff comes from, but I hear it often enough coming out of the mouths of popular preachers. I guess it’s a sort of perverted latter day Calvinism. It produces persons filled with daily anxiety as they desperately try to figure out what that plan is while scared to death that they will burn in hell if they fail, which, by that doctrine, they were destined to do anyway, so it’s a godly gottcha all the way round. Others are proud of their achievements in life, earned by the sweat of their labor and beholden to no one, but eager to lay any misfortune at the feet of God as evidence of God’s plan. And then there are those who wallow in their predestined misfortunes with the attitude that this is the life God assigned to them so get used to it.
How does any of that square with the gospel of Jesus Christ? It doesn’t.