Erin asked me if I believed in providence. I'd never really thought of it.

Erin describes providence as the belief that everything occurs for the best, for a reason. For example, her step-father (a Vatican-trained theologian) believes that it was providence that Erin was the runner-up and not the winner of the Rhodes scholarship because, had she won, she'd have been in England at the time she learned that she had a brain tumour. It was lucky that she was at home, then, and could count on the support of family.

And I suppose that this same brain tumour eight years ago is one of the reasons why Erin and I are now married. Without the shock of the news, the sudden reevaluation of our priorities might never have occurred, and we might never have admitted that we were in love with each other, even though we were a thousand miles away, and had only ever seen each other in photographs.

I still find it hard to believe that something like a brain tumour, which ruined Erin's PhD studies, plunged her into debt, and even today causes her fits of blinding pain, could be divine will. I side with Dan when he expresses a view of a God who set up the board, laid out the pieces, and then rolled dice with the universe. The nature of free will almost demands this view of the universe, as any interference which nullifies our actions, makes us puppets of God, subverts our free will and mutes the concepts of good and evil into the performance of scripts written at the universe's creation.

But there is no getting around the fact that Christianity believes in miracles, and not just the metaphorical miracles of life, the universe and everything, or the miracle that all of our sins could be forgiven. I have seen miracles. Erin has Lourdes water, and I have no problems with her using it. But miracles are evidence of God's intervention in his creation, and if there is no discounting them, then why do miracles occur in some places and not in others? Why do bad things happen to good people? It all starts to become frighteningly arbitrary.

Sometimes it's easier for me as a Christian not to believe in miracles at all.

There's no answers in this column. Theologians have wrestled with this paradox for centuries without coming up with universally accepted conclusions. But I do have my conclusions on other things. I accept the place of faith in one's life; I'd be a fool to reject hope when facing all of the trials of the future. But I reject the corrolary: that if faith alone doesn't help, then something is wrong with you -- somehow, you deserve your fate.

If the universe was universally run by chance, half of humanity would be evil, but I don't believe this is so. Something is tilting the balance in our favour, even while we are being left to tilt.

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