I’m reading another media account of a horrible shooting- again. A New Mexico teen shot and killed his family early in the morning last week, then went to the church they attended and spent the day there. His father, who was among those he murdered, used to be on staff at the church. I have nothing to say about the what’s and the why’s of this incident; another in a seemingly endless string of violent crimes in our nation. There is nothing I can add to the debate there. I am out of words…

What did strike me as I read this account was a comment by a church employee who first talked to the youth. After the young man had confessed to killing his family, he apparently told the authorities that he had been planning to go to a Wal-Mart and randomly shoot people there. Then I read this:

“That sends chills down my spine,” Harrison said. “But obviously, God had a different plan.”

This was the quote from the story that I stared at for a long time. Incredible.

Here’s what that statement implies: God involves himself in our daily affairs, and he sometimes intervenes and protects us from harm- or even death. And this man believes that God somehow intervened in this situation and prevented the young man from going to Wal-Mart and randomly killing people. Really? Was God asleep early that morning when the boy was shooting his mother and father and siblings? Was that God’s plan…but he had a different plan for the shoppers at Wal-Mart? So God can stand a little bit of murder, but- not a whole lot?! Do we think he is watching mayhem like that and then at some point- like an exasperated parent when the kids are bickering, he bellows out, “ok, that’s enough! no more!”

Do we even stop to think about statements like that when they come out of our mouths? “God had a different plan”. Yeah, maybe he had a plan for those little children to grow up and have a good, full life.

You might be inclined to say that was just one guy’s opinion; or that he spoke without thinking. But in all my years in Christianity I have heard that sentiment expressed a dozen different ways in hundreds of situations. God has a plan. God is in control. God’s will is going to be done. I have heard it over and over again.

In a recent discussion about the sovereignty of God and the free will of man, the opinions of those in the room were varied. Who’s in charge down here? If God is in control, how does that account for free will? He supposedly gave man free will in the garden so that we could choose to serve him or not- and he wouldn’t have just created a bunch of puppets who have no say in the matter.

But if we have free will, then God is really not in charge is he? And if he is in charge, and these kinds of things keep happening, then he’s not doing a very good job. No, I have to say I believe he’s not in charge. We are. And we don’t do a very good job sometimes. And it causes pain and suffering for others- and sometimes ourselves.

I just think it might be better if we didn’t try to imply that God had a plan when we mess it up time after time. God didn’t have a plan there. He wasn’t involved in any of it. Can we just admit that what goes on is just us being us?  People are people. Some have some serious issues and need help. Some of us are meaner than others; some are nicer than others. Why do we have to try to find a way to attribute any of that to God?

It’s just broken people doing the best we can and often failing.

God isn’t involved in that. It’s just us.

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7 Responses to Plans

  1. jeanette says:

    sometimes I blurt out words in anger and I REGRET IT. I do it with words–it seems some process more harshly with anger in knives, guns, etc. Is it a solid foundation in Christ that holds me? Yes.
    I know chapters can be written to explain but simply, yes. On Christ the solid rock I stand all other ground is sinking sand, all other ground is sinking sand…..still thinking of what you said…..still thinking…

  2. Keith Kitchell says:

    God does have a plan for man, but each man can chose a different plan for his life. Much like you can have a plan or desire for which direction your children will go, but they can, by their own will, choose another direction. You would be disappointed but they would still be your children. It would be even more heartbreaking for you to see the continue to make decisions that causes more pain & suffering for them and others. Especially when you know they would have been far better off if they had followed your original plan for their lives. I’m confident that God is for us and only wants the best for us, but so often our choices result in less than that.

  3. Cathy says:

    One aspect of the Christian view of life that does not seem to be important is accountability. There is a lot of emphasis on forgiveness and the comfort of embracing the teachings of Christ. In the discussion around sin the focus on forgiveness moves us quickly to the Christian happy ending; we do not spend time discussing the meat of the story – what as men and women of God we are capable of. There is a quick jump between sinning and redemption – accountability and the impact “sinful” behaviour has on others and society is side stepped. The ugliness of human behaviour vividly illustrated in the trial and crucifixion of Christ highlights the consequences of our behaviour. With forgiveness God doesn’t offer us more than a way to live with our conscience after we have done wrong.

  4. I do agree that when that person said “God had a different plan..” I about spit my coffee. Although I think there are times God works in the world I think saying that was insensitive to those who were killed.

    As Christians we believe that God does not will us to do evil. We believe that we have the freedom to do evil. We believe God can act in the world. But how exactly it all works together is not so clear. Like you said in your blog about pain, “I think perhaps in order to be able to experience the great joys and pleasures of life, we have to take the back side of that deal; and that is called pain.”

    • davewarnock says:

      I appreciate your comment, Joe. The problem I have with the idea that God sometimes works in the world- to ease pain or suffering; or to assist someone in trouble, is this: What about the times when he doesn’t? If we believe that God “worked” in a particular situation, maybe to save someone from death or pain, or to ease someone’s suffering- or to do any good thing on behalf of some human somewhere, then why doesn’t he always do so. As has been said before: If God can ease pain and suffering and doesn’t, then he is cruel. If he cannot do so, then he is not God. When we believe that sometimes he works in humans’ lives and sometimes he doesn’t, leads to generic statements like “well that was God’s will”, or “God had other plans”.

      • I agree with you that saying things like “it was God’s will” are often inappropriate. How would we know what God’s plan was in relation to a specific event? I think all Christians speculate what he might be thinking. But like you I have no idea why they just can’t admit it, and say “I don’t know.”

        Of course, every time a religious person claims they don’t know atheists often say “well its just “mystery” because it doesn’t fit your Christian worldview.” But I don’t necessarily think that is right either. Sure there are things that poorly fit my view of a Christian God. But its not the case that every time I lack knowledge it is due to it not fitting that model. We can all speculate but we should call it that and admit its just speculation.

        I am not so sure that God’s failure to immediately relieve every pain means he is cruel.

        Plus you are only addressing how God acts in this life. Christians believe there will be another life in which God does address every wrong.

  5. Rodney R Thompson says:

    There is no logic involved in this kind of thinking. You will never be able to convince people that God doesn’t really have a plan at all. If the fall back argument is that God is all knowing and we are essentially ignorant of his plan, then God will always be right in every situation. “All knowing” trumps human reason. Abrogate your responsibility to think and happiness will ensue. Exasperating!

    It is a lot harder to pull away from this kind of thinking if you allow yourself to stop questioning the veracity of religion. Never underestimate the power of weekly brainwashing.

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