Monday, February 22, 2010

Fortune and Fate

So often in our culture we attribute unexpected events to "fortune" or "fate" without even thinking about it.  In the John Cusack movie Serendipity, Kate Beckinsale is a psychologist who tells her patients that there is no such thing as chance or fate, but lives her life - even making major decisions like who to marry - based on tests of fate.  Although we may see this movie as a silly romantic comedy, there are people out there today who really believe that "fate" guides the circumstances around them.

Calvin could not stand the idea of fate.  In fact, he believed that it was hateful to attribute God's providence to fate.  For, in Calvin's words, God is the "ruler and governor of all things."  If we start attributing to fate, fortune, or chance things that happen in our world, God is not ruling those things but a fictitious god or energy or something else is ruling them.

Basil the Great wrote about fortune as well.  Calvin wrote of Basil's writing by stating, "Basil the Great has truly said that 'fortune' and 'chance' are pagan terms, with whose significance the minds of the godly ought not to be occupied.  For if every success is God's blessing, and calamity and adversity his curse, no place now remains in human affairs for fortune or chance."  There is no room in a Christian's life for fortune or chance.  All things are from God, no exceptions.

Augustine taught "if anything is left to fortune, the world is aimlessly whirled about."  How scary would that be in the mind of a Christian that the world had no direction?  Calvin continues discussing Augustine's writings by saying, "And although in another place he lays down that all things are carried on partly by man's free choice, partly by God's providence, yet a little after this he sufficiently demonstrates that men are under, and ruled by providence;taking as his principle that nothing is more absurd than that anything should happen without God's ordaining it, because it would then happen without cause."

Even though we know that God is in control of everything in heaven and earth, we do not know the plans that God has for us.  "As all future events are uncertain to us, so we hold them in suspense, as if they might incline to one side or the other.  Yet in our hearts it nonetheless remains fixed that nothing will take place that the Lord has not previously foreseen."  Therefore, we must trust that God will take care of his people and all of his creation.  And whatever God has in store for us will occur.  Calvin writes, "But what God has determined must necessarily so take place."

We take comfort in the fact that God is ruler over all creation and all its inhabitants.  Unlike the pagans, we resist the notion that things happen randomly or by chance.  We know that God directs our lives and everything around us.

Tomorrow's reading: 1.17.1-1.17.3

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