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The Magazine of The Evangelical Lutheran Church in America

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How do you see God?

Some imagine God as the controller of the world who plans our accidents--and causes evil

My friend's husband was killed by a drunk driver who ran a red light--at 9 a.m. on a Saturday. A warmly compassionate man, he had been on his way to work with children in a poor neighborhood.

Intending to be helpful, someone told us, "He was so good. God needed him in heaven."

Really? Was it God's plan that the other driver be drunk, that he disobey the law, that he kill this special person who made the world a better place? Was God responsible for the drunken man? Or was this a senseless, irresponsible act that didn't need to happen?

The same kind of questions surfaced last week in the theology class I teach at a university. A young mother painfully asked, "Why does God take little babies?" And a young man challenged, almost cynically, "Did God make Eden's serpent evil?"

They remind me of another student who, in the midst of a discussion on the Persian Gulf War, poignantly questioned, "When is God going to step in and stop this war?" And why shouldn't a student ask this? After all, doesn't God control the world?

No, I don't think so. I don't think God controls us or nature or history. If that were true, faith would be unnecessary. Prayer or listening for God's guidance wouldn't be needed. We would have no need of the commandments or Jesus' teaching. Everything would be decided by a greater authority.

To me, that's fate. And there's a big difference between fate and faith.


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