A twenty-nine-year-old entrepreneur awakens before dawn to meet the challenge of a new day. Across town, a house painter goes through much the same ritual. The two men do not know each other, but, without realizing it, they will soon meet.
The young man heading east in a late-model Datsun and the painter traveling south in a Toyota pickup truck are destined to become participants in a one-in-a-million accident. At approximately 6:30 a.m., as the early morning sky is beginning to reveal a hint of color on the horizon, they arrive at a major Los Angeles intersection at precisely the same instant.
Had either of them taken just a few seconds longer to get dressed or start his car, he would have missed his catastrophic appointment with destiny. Unfortunately, the timing was perfect and the two men ended up on the wrong side of the law of averages.
Both parties were traveling at speeds of at least thirty-five miles an hour, and because it was so early in the morning, there were no other cars on the road to impede their progress. Also, the traffic light at that intersection was inoperative as a result of a severe windstorm the night before.
One of the paramedics who arrived on the scene shortly after the accident told me he was certain the young man never knew what happened, because the Datsun left no skid marks — meaning that the pickup truck must have slammed into it broadside without braking. The investigating officer told me it was one of the worst collisions he had ever seen.
The young man whose life ended so abruptly that morning was my nephew. He was intelligent, hardworking, and ambitious, with a great future ahead of him. I’ve been thinking a lot about him since last September, because he would have turned sixty on September 23. That’s thirty-one years of life that most of us take for granted that he never got to experience.
It’s also caused me to think a lot about whether or not cynics are right when they insist that the universe — and thus all events here on earth — are random. Or should the fate of my nephew and, say, school shooting victims be classified under the heading of “predestination”? All too often, it seems that bad things happen to innocent people for no other reason than they were in the wrong place at the wrong time.
Which raises another question: Is the concept of free will in conflict with the concept of predestination set in motion by a Conscious Universal Power Source? On the surface, I would have to say yes. But that yesis based on a number of secularly based assumptions. Consider George Smith’s argument in his book Atheism: The Case Against God.
Briefly, the problem of evil is this: If God does not know there is evil, he is not omniscient. If God knows there is evil but cannot prevent it, he is not omnipotent. If God knows there is evil and can prevent it but desires not to, he is not omnibenevolent. If … God is all-knowing and all-powerful, we must conclude that God is not all-good. The existence of evil in the universe excludes this possibility.
Smith’s argument is compellingly logical — by secular standards, that is. But what about the possibility that God knows there is evil in the world, yet chooses not to stop it for reasons that are beyond our understanding? I respect the right of a person not to believe in a Supreme Being. However, if a Supreme Being does exist, only He would know the reasons for His actions.
Almost by definition, anything supernatural would be unknowable and indefinable in secular terms. Thus, I feel it would be the height of arrogance for me to believe I should be able to understand the motives of a Supreme Being. The human brain is guided by secular knowledge and logic, thus it has no frame of reference for anything that is metaphysical in nature.
It’s clear that there is a great deal more to life than that which we can see, hear, touch, smell, and taste. We cannot see infinity — or even begin to comprehend it — yet we know it exists. How can we possibly know what other dimensions exist in the universe? Or parallel universes?
About the only way I know of to avoid a conflict between the concept of free will and the concept of predestination determined by a Supreme Being is to consider the possibility that some events are predestined but others are not. And because man possesses free will, he has the capacity to make choices that can shape those events that are not predestined.
But let’s push the envelope. Is it possible for man to use his free will to influence events already set in motion by God? What if God is just testing us and actually wants us to intervene in “predestined” situations? What if there are things we can do to stop or reverse “evil.” From Columbine to Newtown, from the Holocaust to 9/11, from Saddam’s gassing of the Kurds to Assad’s massacre of his own people in Syria, one cannot help but wonder if such violence is predestined and, if so, whether man can use his free will to intervene.
Chew on that question a bit, then let me know what you think. Everyone’s opinion on this one is equal.