POC Blog

The random technotheolosophical blogging of Reid S. Monaghan

Providence and the Question of Fate

The other day my daughter was watching an old Disney movie and one of the characters, an old bird, was explaining to some mice about the nature of fate. Not wanting my daughter to buy into what was being said, but with you a reactionary move to condemn and turn off the film I engaged my little girl in a short discussion.
Kayla, is what that bird saying true? Is something called fate in control of our lives? Daddy…God is in control of our lives Right kiddo...God is a person who loves us, and he is in control of our lives. Fate cannot do or control anything, it has no will at all. Fate is not a person who can choose.
Now this was at a 3 ½ year old level, but the question is very relevant to us all. Many in our society, in fact, most people around the world have some concept of all things happen for a reason Western cultures, with the influence of the Christian Gospel and the biblical witness have held in the past to the concept of Divine Providence, that God is working all things out in this world according to a loving and good plan. In the East, the pantheistic worldviews have believed in the concept of Karma, which means action, will, or destiny. In the west today, many have held on to the notion that all things happen for a reason by clinging to concepts such as fate or destiny. Indeed, many of us are disciples of darth Vador - Luke, this is your Destiny Many cultures have wrestled with various flavors of Determinism we will look at just a few. Mechanistic Determinism
  1. The Universe is Out of our Control -- Mechanistic determinism flows from the worldview of philosophical or metaphysical naturalism. That nature is all there ever was, all there is, and all there will ever be. The universe is like a big box. Inside the box is matter and its relationships to itself. Matter operates according to the laws of nature and all of history and reality is a link of causes and their attendant effects, marchiblindlyess into the future. This worldview held by some philosophers and scientists (and many others) holds that the idea of a "self" and "consciousness" and "free will" are illusions created by our brains. What we actually are is determined matter operating blindly according to physics, and biochemistry, the mere bumping around of the brain.
  2. What is actually controlling the world? Nothing actually is controlling anything in the world. The only true law active is the laws of matter and natural interaction. Human choices (which is a result of this same blind, mindless, irrational process) are small ways in which we can attempt to place our own control upon the universe
  3. What does it mean for Human Beings? Humans beings looking at this reality have three choices. First, one can despair, this was the move of nihilism. Second, one can realize the real world cares nothing for you, and it is empty of all value and meaning, but you can then choose, against reason, to create value and meaning for yourself. This is the move of existentialism. Third, you can whistle zippy di do da, and remain ignorant. Some have
  4. suggested noble lies - stories to trick ourselves into believing that we have value - the only problem is that lies have no effect on those who know the truth; and I never find lies to be noble
Pop Destiny in the West
  1. The Universe is Out of our Control? Seeing that a world of meaningless despair does not help optimism (nor the economy) many in the West want to maintain belief that though the world is not in our control, it is itself in control.
  2. What is Actually Controlling the World? Not trying to be funny, but many of us actually believe in something akin to the force in Star Wars. That there is a great unknown, that somehow makes every thing work out "right" - whatever right means.
  3. What does it mean for Human Beings? Many people who think this, actually still believe in some conception of God. But this god is not actually willing and controlling the Cosmos, he is just there on our pillows at night so that we know everything will be OK as I direct my own life. So who is control in this pop-providence. Usually the autonomous self - ME - at least when things go wellWhenhen they do not go well, which is often, the pillow awaits us and we can say "all things happen for a reason." What and who has a reason for this or that coming to pass is left like a blank stare. Like the reflecting eyes of Darth Vador - we are left but looking at ourselves
The Cycle Goes Around in the East
  1. The Universe is Out of our Control? Death, Disease, and Suffering - this is common to the world, and especially known in the east. We are part of a great ultimate, infinite, unchanging, reality known as Brahman and we know that we are in no way in control
  2. What is Actually Controlling the World? We are all trapped in the endless cycle of reincarnations (samsara) where the law of Karma determines the level of our rebirths. This law is impersonal and cares nothing for us - it is a built in factor to the universe, that our post apositionion in life is due to some transgression in past lives. If you are of a low caste or lot in society, you deserve it, you are working out past Karma and ought to suffer as you do.
  3. What does it mean for Human Beings? Human beings must aspire to escape the endless cycle of birth and rebirth and move towards the oneness of Brahman. One may take many paths to this - works, knowledge, devotion to a manifestation of a god. Others (in Buddhist paths) may meditate to absolve personality and merge into the oneness of the void thereby escaping all desire and suffering. As Yoda once said "desire leads to anger, anger leads to hate, and hate leads to suffering"
Is there another way? The Christian Scriptures do present another alternative, a view fused with the beauty of God, and the happiness of his people, the view of Divine Providence. How does a view of providence measure against our three facts/questions? Divine Providence
  1. The Universe is Out of our Control - Yes, this is so, we feel the immensity of all things around us. The course of nature, the hopelessness and finality of death, and our having but a small play in it all.
  2. What is Actually in Control? Here is where the gospel answers quidifferentlytly, there is not a WHAT in control at all, but a magnificent WHO. This world has been created, is sustained, and governed by God. A person of infinite love, power, and wisdom accomplishing his desires for the world.
  3. What does this mean for Human Beings? Our intuition that all things happen for a reason is quite correct. And things do happen according to reason - an actual mind of a person (not a human person, but a personal God), that there is a will, a reason, and desired end for all things. This makes our intuition far from empty - we know that things appear purposeful because they actually are. We need not despair as the nihilist, tell our selves noble lies with the existentialist, nor flay our bodies before idols like many in the East. The doctrine of providence holds a different key - one of relationship, one of mystery, one of worship. The amazing truth of the gospel is that the one who is working out all things after the council of his will (Eph 1:11), actually should be loved and worshipped. The gospel, the good news, is that the God who made the world, is saving a people out of this world to be his very own. If you sense His call on your life, respond, indeed It is Your Destiny. Whosoever calls on the name of the Lord, will be saved. And all things do happen for a reason. The reason of the one who does all according to his own good purposes - to bring glory to his Name on the earth.