“I was meant to do this”.
I admit that over the past few summers my lunchtime entertainment has been watching the television show America’s Got Talent. One of the things I have observed after seeing hundreds of hopefuls perform is a recurring sentiment, the claim that “I was meant to do this.”
This reveals something interesting to me about people. That is that most people at the end of the day do not have any problem with an impersonal, sovereign force. Fate, if you will. People talk about existing for a purpose when their worldview would affirm that they really have no purpose. They deny the existence of God or at least they deny the idea of a God who is sovereign and “works all things according to the counsel of his will” (Eph. 1:11). Yet, when they reach their goals they are eager to attribute their success to some deterministic “meaning” for their life.
Despite this almost innate openness to the idea of fate, even many so-called Christians reject and are downright offended by a God who determines their destiny. But if not God then what? A materialistic universe has no plan to execute. So tell me, if you were meant to do something, then who meant it? If you believe there is a God who has “a plan for your life”, then how will he bring it about? Who formed you with your skills and talents?
What this shows us is that when people speak of how unthinkable the idea is that God is sovereign over everything, their problem isn’t with determinism, but with the person behind it. People have no problem with the idea of something setting the course of their lives. People make determinism out to be the big issue, but it isn’t the big issue. They aren’t troubled with the logic of how free choice interacts with “destiny” when they step on the stage or when their fate hands them their dreams. The problem they have is not an impersonal, determining force – but a personal one. A being that chooses their destiny for them – and not always the destiny they want.
The problem people have with a divine sovereign is because “Although they knew God, they did not honor him as God or give thanks to him, but they became futile in their thinking, and their foolish hearts were darkened.” (Romans 1:21 ESV) People embrace the idea of fate, but put God as the power behind the fate and they deny it. This is because in our sin we do not “honor him as God”, instead we bring him down to our level. And who wants an equal determining their destiny? A friend can’t even tell me what to do!
There is a selfishness behind this that is clear. For when people’s dreams come true they say “I was meant to do this” or “I feel this is why I am on earth.” But when our dreams crash and burn we turn to the God we ignore and ask “why?” or we simply say “This isn’t how life was supposed to go.” So in our sin and self-idolatry what we want is an impersonal force choosing a brilliant destiny for us where we are successful and happy – where we are a god. We want a universe that serves us as god, rather than seeing ourselves as part of a universe that was made to serve God.
Christians do this as well. I meet so many Christians who despise “Calvinism” and by that they mean the idea of total sovereignty, yet when facing the unknown they take comfort that God “has a plan” for them. But when things go bad they don’t respond with “The Lord gives and the Lord takes away” instead they either ask, “God, why would you let this happen?” or if they are more spiritual, yet want to retain their best-buddy view of God they say, “The devil did this”.
A charge sometimes brought against the total sovereignty of God by Christians is that this belief leads to passiveness in our Christian lives. In response to that charge it should be noted that even those that deny God and are pursuing their “destiny” actually use their belief in an impersonal, sovereign force as an impetus to pursue their dreams. They pursue their dream because they believe it is their destiny to reach their goal. Likewise, as a Christian my destiny is to be conformed into the image of Christ, that is the goal. The knowledge of that, if I have a new heart, should be a sufficient impetus to pursue what I was “meant to do”. To labor to the end that I would reach my destiny! If that logic works with wanna’be pop-stars, why not with us as well who have the promises of God to boot?
I know this is a very scattered post, so let me condense my point. People don’t have a problem with sovereignty, they have a problem with a sovereign God. Why? Because if they want a God at all, they want one whose plans to coincide with theirs. Today our rejection of God’s sovereignty is a manifestation of our rebellion, as it was for Adam and Eve in the garden when they despised the idea of a God who would choose their destiny for them. It is my desire that many would come to see the folly of their logic, that I would see my own, and that we would honor God as the sovereign God that he is and embrace the destiny he has chosen as good and right, even if understanding it is beyond us.