God is responsible for everything that happens in the Universe. Discuss.
‘God is responsible for everything that happens in the Universe.’ Discuss.
Christians believe that God is the Creator of the Universe. He is the one who brings the Universe into existence; in the same way a car designer brings a car into existence. This is why some people believe that God is responsible for everything that happens in the Universe, both good and evil, in the same way that a car designer should be held accountable for the merits and faults of the car. Obviously Christians have no problem in believing that God is responsible for all the good things that happen in the Universe, as God is regarded as source of all goodness, as written in James 1:17 “Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from God our Father.” However, whether God should be responsible for bad things that happen in Universe is open to debate.
Some people hold the view that God should be responsible for everything that happens within the Universe because in the Bible, God is depicted as a skilled craftsman who clearly knows exactly what he wants to create. Everything in the Universe, both good and bad, is therefore a part of God’s plan, as written in Isaiah 45:7 “I form the light and create darkness; I bring prosperity and create disasters. I the Lord do all these things.” They also believe that if God is omnipotent and omniscient, then he must be responsible for everything that happens within the Universe. This is because the fact that he is omniscient proves that he knows everything that is happening and because he is omnipotent at the same time, he also has power over everything. Therefore God is responsible for the bad things that happen, since he knows they are happening and has the power to stop it but chooses not to do so. Moreover, since God is regarded as the Sustainer of the Universe, nothing could have existed/ happened without him willing it. Natural disasters, therefore, could not have happened if God does not intend for them to happen. If God intends for natural disasters to happen, them he must be responsible for the human suffering that are caused by the natural disasters.
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Other people see it differently. They believe that God cannot be blamed for human suffering as often it was humans’ own choices that led to their suffering. Earthquakes are natural occurrences and they only affect people who live in earthquake zones and if people voluntarily choose to live there, God cannot be responsible for their suffering from the impacts of earthquakes. It is just like a car designer cannot be blamed if someone stands in the way of a moving car and gets injured as a result.
The idea of choice also links to the Free Will Defense. Christians believe that God has given his creation, in particular humans, free will, as written in Deuteronomy 30: 19 “Today I have given you the choice between life and death, between blessings and curses. Therefore choose life.” This means that they can make both good and bad choices. Bad choices have negative consequences, as Augustine states in his theodicy that ‘all evil is either sin or punishment for sin’. Moral evil, such as the Holocaust, is a result of sin. God cannot be responsible for it because it is humans that choose to do so out of their own free will. God is also just and has to punish humans when they make wrong choices, often in the form of natural evil, for example the cities of Sodom and Gomorrah were destroyed by fire and brimstone (Genesis 19) because the men in these cities were ‘wicked’. In fact, Augustine also believed that the Universe was created perfect, which we can see from the way the Bible describes Eden. Evil only entered the Universe through the Fall (Genesis 3), which was the result of men’s misuse of free will. Even though it could be argued that God is responsible for natural evil, i.e. natural disasters as he is essentially the one who decides to let them happen; however God is only acting in response to humans’ sins. God cannot therefore be blamed for inflicting pain on humanity because he is only punishing them according to the weight of their sins. It is just like a judge cannot be responsible for a criminal suffering for his crimes in prison.
Some people argue against the Free Will Defense by saying that since God is omniscient, he should have known that if he gave men free will, men would make wrong choices; therefore if God still chose to give men free will, he should be responsible for the negative consequences of men’s wrong choices. Augustine explained in his work, On Free Choice of the Will, that free will was a necessity. If God did not give humans free will, then all punishment or reward would be unjust as humans did not really make any decision. Since justice is one of God’s qualities, he must have given humans free will. It is not to say, however, that God gave humans free will so that they could choose to sin against him, because if this was his purpose, then humans could not be justly punished whey they sin as they are only putting free will into one of its uses. In fact, free will is given to humans so that they can do all that is good and reward is given for doing so. Therefore when humans sin, they are abusing this gift of God, and so they can expect just punishment.
Other people stand in between these two views. They believe that God is responsible for everything that happens within the Universe, but he is not responsible in the sense that he should be blamed on. We, as humans, can never fully understand God’s plan for the Universe. God might have allowed bad things to happen for a good reason. For example, it is through suffering that humans can learn their lessons and avoid making the same mistakes in the future. More importantly, they can also have a fuller understanding of God and come closer to God. Mother Teresa, for example, is a firm believer of this idea. She once told a patient that he should consider himself fortunate and said to him, “You are suffering like Christ on the cross, so Jesus must be kissing you.” The ultimate Christian vision is a new world with no more suffering, as written in Revelation 21:4 “He will wipe away every tear in their eyes; and there will no more death, crying or pain.” However, human souls are not yet ready for this new world. It is only through suffering that human souls can reach moral perfection. Suffering, in other words, is a soul-making process, as suggested by Irenaeus’ theodicy. So God is responsible for the suffering of humans, but he only brings it in for the benefit of humanity.
In conclusion, I think that ultimately, God is responsible for everything that happens in the Universe, since he is an omnipotent and omniscient creator and sustainer of the Universe. However, I do not think that God is responsible in the sense that we can blame our suffering on God, because often it is our own selfishness and ignorance that cause suffering in the world. Moreover, God might be using suffering to achieve greater good for humanity.