Friday, June 11, 2004


Keith Burgess-Jackson had a post recently which questioned why people say "It was meant to be" or "It happened for a reason". Such expressions appear to be versions of the original Calvinist doctrine of predestination, which was a founding doctrine of the Presbyterian Church and which is also given guarded approval in the 39 "Articles of Religion" of the Church of England (See article 17). The puzzle, then, is not that Christians believe it but that others do. "It was meant to be" was certainly a common expression in my generally irreligious but nominally Protestant family as I was growing up and, on occasions when it was particularly heartfelt, it would be expanded to: "It was all laid down long before we were ever thought of". And I know many other people of Protestant background but only the vaguest of personal religious convictions who make similar utterances with some regularity. Why? Does it really indicate religious belief? I don't think that it always does. When I ask people "who laid it down?" or "who meant it to be?", I not infrequently get a denial that it was the doing of God. What I think happens among unbelievers is that they perceive a non-random patterning of events in their lives and instinctively feel that there are unknown forces or influences at work (generally beneficial ones) which have brought that patterning about. It reflects a sense that something was inevitable for some reason or at least part of a larger whole. I myself have never had the slightest twitch of predestinarian thinking or feeling but many good and wise people certainly see such patterning in their lives all the time.


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