No, Marco Rubio, Terrorism is Not Part of God’s Plan

December 2nd, 2015 / 6 Comments

“We are children of an all-powerful God,” Marco Rubio told an Iowa audience recently. “Everything that happens is a part of His plan.”

I think Rubio is wrong.

In his campaign speech, Rubio said he has been asked about God in light of terrorism. People wonder, “Where was God on 9/11? Where was God in Paris?”

In response, Rubio says God is “where God always is — on the throne in Heaven.” Explaining further, “What we may interpret as bad — and most certainly is in the case of Paris or 9/11 — even that is part of a broader plan for the universe and for our lives.”

How is terrorism part of the plan of a loving God, we might wonder? “We are just not going to know the answer,” says Rubio. “God’s ways are not our ways.”

Rubio compared major terrorist attacks to him taking his children for vaccination shots. “It hurts,” says Rubio, “But that is going to prevent something much more dangerous, much more painful, and much harder later on.”

God is infinitely powerful, wise, and loving, believes Rubio. This means that “sometimes God does allow pain into our lives for reasons we don’t understand.” Appealing to future explanation, Rubio assured his audience that “one day it will make sense. Just not now.”

But should we believe Rubio’s theology of terrorism?

Marco Rubio said recently. “Everything that happens is a part of God's plan.” I think Rubio is wrong. Click To Tweet

An Alternative View of Providence

For centuries Christians have clung to the view that God’s providence is fundamentally based upon all-powerful control. A sovereign God has a foreordained blueprint, many Christians thought, and history simply unfolds according to that foreknown design. Based on his remarks, this also seems to be Rubio’s view.

But there is another way to understand providence. This alternative view rests fundamentally on God’s love, instead of the belief that God is or could be all-controlling.

This other view of providence says life is not the result of sovereign blueprint meticulously unfolding as divinely foreordained. Rather, life is an adventure of love: God’s wooing love and creaturely responses.

Sometimes creatures respond wrongly to God’s loving call. The Paris attacks, 9/11, and other terrorist activities are examples of such sinful human responses. They are not part of God’s master plan.

A theology of providential love offers a more plausible explanation of terrorism.

A theology of providential love offers a more plausible explanation of terrorism. Click To Tweet

To be fair, in his speech to his Iowa audience Rubio offered positive and sound insights for dealing with adversity and pain. His words about the importance of peace are wise. Rubio seems takes his Christian faith seriously and attempts to live accordingly. I commend him for this.

But I cannot recommend his theology.Oord - Uncontrolling Love of God

I subscribe to this alternative providence of love. My view is summed up in the title of my new book, The Uncontrolling Love of God: An Open and Relational Account of Providence.

Rather than say God endorses terrorism as part of a master plan, I argue that God neither causes nor allows evil.

As I see it, God’s providence is not one of meticulous control but one that invites our cooperation in love.

God’s providence is not meticulously controlling but rather invites our cooperation in love. Click To Tweet


(For more on the book, see the short video introduction.)

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Mark Vaughan

Thank you for a well written response to a current conversation. I have many talks with a friend about evil, pain, and God’s sovereignty. My friend brings up the question of God knowingly creating a world of natural disasters: earthquakes, Tsunami’s, and such. These cannot be explained as a result of free will choosing to do evil. They are a result of the laws of physics in action as designed by the creator. Do you have any thoughts on this?


hey Thomas, enjoying yer exchange with homebrewed Tripp, but was wondering about why we should assume that God is the kind of phenomena/being/whathaveyou that is available to human reason-ing/calculations, perhaps given our alltoohuman response-abilities we are not faced with a Mystery (in some conservative/orthodox sense) but with the limits of our grasps,and that God is not reducible in the ways that say gravity has turned out to be?


Thanks, Dirk. I address this in my new book. But my basic answer is that we have good reasons to think God has some characteristics and abilities based on upon various forms of revelation. We cannot know this with certainty, so there’s always the need for faith and humility. But we know in part.


Thanks, Mark. I address this in the book and say that what we call “laws of nature” that are the primary factors in natural evils are instead the law-like regularities that derive from God’s uncontrolling love for ALL creation. Consequently, God cannot stop natural evils. Doing so would require God to interrupt God’s being-giving love for others, and God’s nature of self-giving, others-empowering love prevents God from doing so.


thanks for the reply TJO, tho as you know we always have to interpret revelations and so they aren’t quite the anchor (at least to thought/philosophizing) that we might hope for, perhaps a degree of Kierkegaardian leap taking (with fear and trembling) is in order?
have you had a chance to look into Jack Caputo’s sense that we should be a people hoping/praying for the Im-possible (not just more of the same and not just some super-human effort) to happen?

Mark Vaughan

Allow me some more musings. Let’s consider God’s relationship to time. I believe there is scriptural support to consider God to exist outside of the confines of time. This could mean that he exists at all times at once. He would then know the consequences of his creative acts as he speaks the universe into being. He would know how an earthquake or tsunami would occur and how it would hurt people. An earthquake or tsunami is not the product of anyone else’s will but God’s alone. It is hard to reconcile this with an all good being.

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