Christians don’t like the idea of Fate. It smacks of fatalism, there might be a hint of gambling in there, we could stray into the realms of astrology. It’s tricky territory. In fact it seems that Fate as it plays with our lives and Fate as we play with it are the antithesis of what Christians are encouraged to believe.
The play of Fate can be a seductive approach to the world – it absolves us of responsibility, it states that it doesn’t matter what we do, in the end our live’s path is mapped out for us and could not have been played any other way. This is destructive of our humanity and our dignity and results in blaming everything on circumstance and nothing on personal responsibility. One societal reflection of this can be seen in a focus on the background and upbringing of criminals as the reason for their actions absolving them of any responsibility and belittling the lives of 1000s of others who live in the same conditions and live law abiding lives. The unpalatable realityaccording to David Moore is that our lives are a combination of both “fate” or circumstances and our own choices.
How then can we approach God’s statements that “before you were born I knew you, I formed you in your mother’s womb.” or “I know the plans I have for you, plans to prosper and not to harm you.” (Jeremiah 29.11) That seems like God has things pretty well worked out. And in fact Calvinists claim that you are either saved or not and that it is predestined. What we are essentially asking is – how do we square omnipotence with freewill? Can we play the universe?
Omnipotence and omniscience don’t mean a character of meddling. Instead I believe that God responds to our own activities for good, in other words at any moment, even in the darkest moment, there is a good outcome that can emerge if we turn to God. By turning to God I don’t mean having a conversion or even consciously committing to God, I mean deciding that the wrong way is not your way at that moment. Our lives are not set from the moment we are born, there is no great destiny, there are instead infinite possibilities. But as a Christian they may take a certain path or reject another. Lives are a work of art created by you and God together. After all if God had a plan mapped out for you do you really think that plan would involve rape, imprisonment, starvation? Do you really believe that people in poorer countries have had lives of poverty specifically mapped out for them? I hope not.
The truth is that if we view our lives as determined by Fate we are putting Fate in the place of God – there is no need for prayer, you can’t change anything. There is no need for charitable action – everyone else’s fate is also determined you can’t do anything about it. We become automatons. Perhaps this is why gambling is discouraged in Christian circles – it develops a mentality around the supremity of Fate that drifts into other areas of life and begins to justify the eventual thefts and lying that attracts to a true gambling habit.
We are responsible for our own lives, our glories are our own, our failures are our own. But as Christians we make those choices together with God to the benefit of his world and our souls.
Things to think about:-
How often do I read my horoscope? Does it matter?
Do I ever stand by because I think that an outcome is predetermined?
How do I feel when I am told that the outcome of my life is my own responsibility – scared, free, angry, indifferent, empowered? Why? (any of these answers or any others are perfectly fine, the point is to look at the Why? of those answers – don’t worry about them)