You’ve heard it a million times. Usually people say it when job opportunities disappear, when people get sick, when someone dies suddenly, when comfort is needed many of us take comfort in believing that “everything happens for a reason”. But this expression isn’t only reserved for trying situations, we even say it when in situations of kismet and fortunate strokes of serendipity. “Everything happens for a reason” is a comfortable cultural cliché but is there any truth to it? Should we actually find comfort in it? Is it true or is it just something we say? I believe this prominent cliché is epistemological borrowed capital of a biblical worldview and it still arises in conversation because of it’s metaphysical actuality.
I dressed that sentence up on purpose so I’d sound smart but let me put that in English. The common expression: “everything happens for a reason” fits nicely in a biblical understanding of the universe. if the God of the Bible exists and is guiding history like the Bible teaches, then everything does happen for a reason: God’s plan.
- If the God of the Bible exists, everything happens for a reason
- The God of the Bible does exist
- Therefore everything happens for a reason.
One explanation for the popularity of the cliché is that much of the west was founded and developed on the Judeo-Christian understanding of reality and so the idea that everything happens for a reason has permeated our western societies and is still hanging around today despite rapid and even aggressive secularization. If this is the case then as the west grows more secular the belief that everything happens for a reason will diminish more and more.
I don’t buy it though. I don’t think we’ll outgrow this cliché because I believe it’s the truth. I believe that everything does in fact happen for a reason and that God made this metaphysical reality we inhabit so that even if we continue to suppress the truth of His existence, since we live and move and have our being in His universe, His truth will continue to pop up in expressions like “everything happens for a reason” even if we actively try to suppress our knowledge of Him.
The idea that everything happens for a reason presupposes an Ultimate Personality who is separate from this universe yet able to interact with it, i.e. the God of the Bible. From now on I’m going to abbreviate the idea as EH4R (everything happens for a reason) because typing that over and over is going to make me throw up. So why does EH4R presuppose the Ultimate and Personal God of the Bible? Well for anything to happen there must first be something, I know that some people want to say that everything came from nothing, but if there was only nothing then it would produce more nothing, nothing comes from nothing. So since there is something it follows that something came from something. For something to then happen for a reason implies that there is a plan. A plan depends on a planner and a planner presupposes the personality, for impersonal forces don’t plan things (is it reasonable to say that Gravity has a plan to keep us down?). So for EH4R to be true there would have to be an Ultimate Personality who created everything and planned for everything to happen according to his reason.
I’m not seeking to prove the truth of EH4R here, what I’m trying to show is that if you believe everything happens for a reason then you are presupposing the existence of the God of the Bible who is unique from other religions in that He is an ultimate personal Creator, separate from His creation and able to interact with it. If He were not separate from His creation then He would be his creation, He would be everything and everything would be him. This would destroy the diversity that this universe so clearly evidences for all would be ultimately one. How could we then distinguish objects from other objects and objects from events to even know that things are happening? If He were not personal then the “for a reason” aspect fails because there would be no planner to set the plan in motion and make sure everything happens according to it.
- If everything happens for a reason, the Ultimate Personal God of the Bible must exist
- Everything does happen for a reason*
- Therefore the Ultimate Personal God of the Bible exists
So I’ve tried to demonstrate that if you believe that everything happens for a reason you’re presupposing the existence of the God of the Bible. If you really believe EH4R but you say you don’t believe in the God who must exist in order for it to be true, then I think you’re experiencing some cognitive dissonance. Romans 1 says that we suppress the truth about God because we don’t want to believe it, we don’t want to acknowledge him as Creator and Sustainer of life, and we don’t want to submit to His authority or give thanks to Him. Although we know He exists because this reality we inhabit depends on His existence, we’d rather believe the lie that everything happens for a reason without the God of reason sovereignly controlling His creation.
These inconsistent thoughts are not just the result of bad reasoning or ignorance but as the Bible describes it, it’s the result of active choices. Humans don’t want to believe in their maker because they have inherited a sinful heart that despises the idea of owing each breath to God. The answer to this problem then is not just intellectual assent but rather we need a new heart, one that doesn’t hate God but loves God, and we need a new mind like Christ’s that submits to God’s authority and takes every thought captive to His will.
I believe everything happens for a reason, God is in control and has a plan for everything, apparently that plan included you reading this blog post. If you’re reading this and you don’t know God through His son Jesus, then I’d urge you to turn from your self sufficiency and believe in the One who makes all things happen according to His good plan.
*(I believe that even the negation of premise two presupposes the God of the Bible because in order to say that not everything happens for a reason you’d still have to presuppose that there is a reason or purpose, that certain things are not acting in accordance with and thus the negation of premise two would still depend on the presupposition of the Ultimate Personal God of the Bible. if you were to say that nothing happens for a reason then you’ve eroded your own statement, because your objection would then have no reason behind it. But I’m not as confident in this assertion so I’ll just hid it here in parentheses)