Do you believe god has a unique plan for us all?

My interlocutor from yesterday has asked me another very good question on twitter.

As I discussed your blog with other Christians its led me to another big question Do you believe god has a unique plan for us all?

The first thing to note is that Mark is very good at asking questions. I came to meet him because he was wanting to do a video interview with me on the usual topic. What made it memorable was that his questions then were so much more thoughtful than they generally are in such circumstances. Generally when I do those kind of interviews I get asked the usual questions and reply with the usual answers, however Mark’s interview was much more interesting than that. So, I know he asks good questions.

So what about God’s plan for us all.

Well, by and large I sit light to the doctrine of providence, which is what we are talking about. Like yesterday, I’d have to say I don’t believe in it on a superficial level. However the complicated thing is that I think that is sometimes what life feels like. However, we must beware of mapping our own feelings onto a presumption of God’s intent. Life is much more interesting than that.

Generally speaking I find it easy to talk about providence in any given moment but not in terms of a life-story. I find it easy to think about what God would have me do in this choice or that choice. I find it much harder to make sense of the idea that there is a grand plan and that somehow either God needs to push me through that plan or I need to find my way into that plan in order for the universe to work.

I tend to be able to say much more about vocation than providence. Vocation is where we have a hunch about the direction of life which is then confirmed by the outside world. The hunch without the confirmation isn’t a vocation, it is a notion.

Suppose someone wants to be a Doctor and has the passion and the committment to try to do it. If they don’t get accepted onto a doctoring course or don’t pass enough exams or for some reason don’t make it to the end, then the truth is, their sense of vocation has not been affirmed by the world and without that affirmation it ain’t going to happen.

Things get a bit more complicated when folk introduce God into that kind of conversation. After all God is supposed to be the great authority figure that none can argue with.

However, wise institutions don’t let people become doctors (for example) simply on the premise that they believe that God wants them to do that. They still need to pass their exams and so on before that vocation will be affirmed, whether or not they express it in religious terms.

So, do I believe that God has a plan for us? Not in the simple sense, no. However I do believe it often feels as though that is true or even worse, should be true. That does not make it so. It does perhaps make it confusing.

We have general hints about God’s intent for our lives – “Do justice, love kindness and walk humbly with your God” ought to be a good enough vocation for most of us. However, it doesn’t answer the question of what career I should follow.

Those questions are best answered by looking at our passions and desires, our hopes and our dreams.

Do I believe that God dances around in the midst of our passions and desires, our hopes and our dreams?

You bet I do.


  1. Tony Whatmough says

    On a macro level, God does have a purpose for my life, and my purpose is to love him and enjoy him for ever. My own personal skills are part of that larger pattern. On the micro level, I find WH Vanstone helpful, as always, in Love’s Endeavor, Love’s Expense. He talks about God as an artist: when the chisel slips or the paint smudges, incorporates the fault into the over all design. ISTM that one can talk about overall purpose without discounting individual responsibility.

  2. Rosemary Hannah says

    I do rather live in hope that God will usually have some suggestions about what I might do next – if that counts.

  3. Rosemary Hannah says

    Seriously, if God did have a plan for us, it would be continually thwarted by human limitations and human evil.

    Let us suppose that in England, now, God wants an able woman as a Bishop in his Anglican church there. He can’t have her. I’m with Tony, he will find something good for her to do, put it into her head or heard to do something else fulfilling. But it won’t be his first choice.

    Or a young man who he wants as an athlete is hit by a drunken driver, or, or

    Human blindness must wreck his first choices at every turn. But I believe, I hope, there will always be something else to do. A crucifixion and a resurrection, again and again.

    • I struggle so much with a God who can be thwarted that I struggle to think there must be plans.

      What does it mean to have plans if you are unconstrained by time and space?

  4. Rosemary Hannah says

    that should be ‘head or heart’

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