Is God Absolutely Responsible for Every Event?

Apparently, at a key moment in a football game, a wide receiver for the Buffalo Bills (Steve Johnson) dropped a sure touchdown pass that would have won the game.  He then apparently tweeted his blaming of God for the drop according to a story here.

Those of us who watch sports once in a while are familiar with the praise that winners frequently give to God for their victory.  Very interesting to now see someone blame God for the dropped pass and the loss.  This strikes at a key theological topic regarding the absoluteness of God.  If we believe that God is responsible, or in total control, of every event, then we must not only praise Him when things go well, but blame Him when things do not.  At least Steve Johnson is being logical and consistent here.

My guess is that God does not catch or drop every football, and likely does not care who wins or loses most games.  I would rather contemplate a God who is not in absolute control over everthing, than one who is absolutely and ultimately responsible for everything.  Blaming God for a dropped pass (and things even more evil) is the logical result of believing in an absolute God who is literally everywhere, everywhen, omni-this, omni-that, in absolute terms.

If it is God who catches or drops every ball, then what is the point of the game?

13 Responses to “Is God Absolutely Responsible for Every Event?”

  1. 1 Paul November 29, 2010 at 1:17 pm

    “If we believe that God is responsible, or in total control, of every event, then we must not only praise Him when things go well, but blame Him when things do not.”

    Tongue-in-cheek though your comment may be, it’s not correct. John’s lament is that he could not learn anything from his misfortune. In fact, many faithful do not blame God in adversity. One reason may be that the do not believe that he caused their specific adversity. But another is that they believe there is a greater good to be served by their difficulty (a lesson to be learned, a silver-lining blessing to be realized, for instance)

    All that said, I’m with God. God isn’t playing football. If he were BYU would win more often…

  2. 2 Paul November 29, 2010 at 1:18 pm

    Er, that would be “Johnson’s lament”. Fingers faster than brain…

  3. 3 Matt W. November 29, 2010 at 1:57 pm

    Interesting, I just posted comment along these lines over at NCT.

    I said

    “I don’t think of God as punishing at all. Rather, in my conception of Mormonism, where law is eternal and uncreated, it is not God that gives out the punishment for an action, but the natural consequences of those actions which are the punishment in and of themselves. I see God as doing everything within his power to help us to avoid the natural punishments of the universe and to grow up in a way where we will, of our own volition, avoid these negative consequences on our own capacity.

    On the flip side, this does mean I am more skeptical of giving God credit for the good as well. “

  4. 4 Eric Nielson November 29, 2010 at 3:36 pm


    I think the silver lining is a consequence of the idea of God being absolute. Thus there is nothing that is evil. All is good, or at least potentially good. No matter how evil something may seem, it is always a blessing in disguise. This is more difficult when it happens to you, or appears to be a very significant evil.

  5. 5 Eric Nielson November 29, 2010 at 3:38 pm


    Thanks for sharing the comment here. So many things have flip sides. If we think God is not absolute, then there will be those who will say that concept makes God inept and weak.

  6. 6 Thomas Parkin November 29, 2010 at 4:10 pm

    I don’t even think God was watching the game. Let alone watching sparrows fall.

  7. 7 Eric Nielson November 29, 2010 at 6:07 pm

    Sparrows falling is an excellent point in this discussion.

  8. 8 Jakob J November 29, 2010 at 9:34 pm

    Great post Eric. The idea that God is ultimately responsible for everything is not the least bit appealing to me. A watered down version of this attitude is that God is ultimately responsible for everything *good* but not everything bad. I don’t think that works either if we really believe in agency or that people are every genuinely praiseworthy.

  9. 9 Eric Nielson November 29, 2010 at 9:39 pm

    Thanks Jacob. I think the watered down thing is trying to have it both ways. It doesn’t work for me.

  10. 10 Mark D. November 30, 2010 at 1:11 am

    In classical Calvinism, God is not only responsible for every event, he causes every event to happen, including our own “free” decisions. If anything happens that we think is puzzling, that is only because we don’t understand.

    In classical Arminianism, on the other hand, God can stop any event (and is thus in some sense responsible for allowing it to occur), but he finds it better to grant us freedom to act in a manner that he does not dictate.

    Joseph Smith was neck deep in this debate in his early years – it is the ultimate point of dispute between Methodism (which is Arminian) and Presbyterianism (which is Calvinist). It is not an accident that he and many of the other early leaders of the church preferred Arminian theology.

    Mormonism adopts the basic Arminian point of view on this issue, and much of our theology depends on it. That is why we say “foreordination” instead of “predestination”, for example, even though to a Calvinist those terms are synonymous.

    I think that there a number of other points about the Atonement, the plan of salvation, and theodicy in particular that do not make sense if you go further and adopt the Arminian point of view that divine power is absolute to the degree that goodness is metaphysically impossible without divine assistance, i.e. even if someone freely wills to do good, he cannot lift a finger in that direction without enabling grace.

    Or as some have it, he cannot act at all, which puts God not only in the position of non-interference with regard to evil acts, but in the position of actively subsidizing them from moment to moment. The difficulty of that point of view weighs in favor of a number of natural relationships which are not a matter of divine discretion. And it would seem the ability to act even when the light of Christ is completely withdrawn is one of those things.

  11. 11 Eric Nielson November 30, 2010 at 7:47 am

    Mark D.

    I’m with you man.

  12. 12 Mark D. November 30, 2010 at 10:28 am

    Thanks Eric. I do think the idea about enabling grace makes an awful lot of sense as long as it is not taken to metaphysical extremes, because God certainly inspires and directs everyone who tries to do what is right, at least if they pay attention. The hymn “Let us all press on” I think expresses the general Mormon point of view on this subject better than anything:

    We will not retreat, though our numbers may be few,
    When compared with the opposite host in view;
    But an unseen power will aid me and you
    In the glorious cause of truth.

    If we do what’s right we have no need to fear,
    For the Lord, our helper will ever be near;
    In the days of trial His saints He will cheer,
    And prosper the cause of truth.

    There is an implied ideal of delegation here. God is not dictating every event, but has delegated the cause of truth in these parts to his saints, who he cheers, aids, and prospers. There is also the implication that the war against evil is real, rather than some sort of artifice or exercise.

  13. 13 Eric Nielson November 30, 2010 at 12:47 pm

    You are singing my song dude.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s


Enter your email address to subscribe to this blog and receive notifications of new posts by email.

Join 363 other followers

The Author



  • An error has occurred; the feed is probably down. Try again later.

Blog Stats

  • 197,212 hits

%d bloggers like this: