Saturday, May 28, 2011

First (and Second) Causes

“For I know the thoughts that I think toward you, saith the Lord, thoughts of peace, and not of evil, to give you an expected end.” (Jeremiah 29:11)

One of the theories of the origin of the universe put forward by philosophers is called the “First Cause.” If you are not familiar with it, here is an excerpt from an overview:

The first cause argument takes the existence of the universe to entail the existence of a being that created it. It does so based on the fact that the universe had a beginning. There must be something that caused that beginning, a first cause that consists of a series of events stretched across time in a long causal chain. Each one of these events is the cause of the event that comes after it, and the effect of the event that comes before it. If we trace this series of events back in time, then what do we find? There seem, at first glance, to be two possibilities: either we eventually reach the first event in the series, the cause at the beginning of the universe that set everything going, or there is no first event in the series and the past stretches back into infinity. The first cause argument tells us that the second of these is not possible, that the past cannot stretch back into infinity but rather must have a beginning. The argument then proceeds by suggesting that if the universe has a beginning then there must be something outside it that brought it into existence. This being outside the universe, this Creator, the first cause argument tells us, is God.[1]

I’m sure, you and I, as Bible believers (and rational beings), know that this is not a theory, but a fact. This is true for the universe and all God’s creation, including you and me. George McDonald said it beautifully: “Thou art my life—I the brook, thou the spring/Because Thine eyes are open, I can see/Because Thou art Thyself, ‘tis therefore, I am me.”

But as lofty and beautiful as all this may seem, I am forced to ask, do we really believe it? Do we really see God as the First Cause, or are we more focused on those second causes, people or circumstances that seem to have precipitated our woes. Can we honestly see like Joseph that what is truly evil, God means to be for the good of His children? Not just sickness and heartache, but treachery, injustice, abuse, and sin. God was not the Creator of sin, but he was not unaware of it when He chose to manifest His creative and redemptive power. To say that when bad things happen to good people, it is in spite of God is to miss the point. His vision is long range, and His compassion for us goes beyond our present distress to the future glory…His and ours (2Cor.4:17).

The verse in Jeremiah says God is always thinking about us (if you change “thoughts” to “plans,” as the NIV does, you’ll miss that sweet truth); and those loving thoughts are never thoughts of evil, only of peace. It is safe to say that if you and I can allow this truth go from our heads to our hearts, we’ll experience that same peace.

God is not only the First Cause in the universe; He is First Cause in everything that happens in our lives, as well. Believe it!

[1] "The First Cause Argument." N.p., n.d. Web. 28 May 2011.

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