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September 20, 2011

Baylor Study: The Politics of God's Plan for Your Life

Those who agree strongly that “God has a plan for all of us” are least supportive of government programs that help those out of work.

A new study by Baylor University finds that belief that God has a plan for your life leads to less support for government programs. The Baylor Religion Survey found that nearly three-quarters of Americans agree that “God has a plan for all of us.” Those who agreed more strongly were more likely to see financial success as the result of hard work and ability. As a result, they were also least supportive of government programs that help those out of work.


The Baylor survey found that 41 percent of Americans strongly agreed that God has a plan for everyone; another 32 percent merely agreed. Holding the belief appears to shape views of poverty and government. Those who strongly agree that God has a plan for everyone were much more likely to “some are meant to be rich and some are meant to be poor.” This is still a minority view: only 15 percent of those that strongly agree believe in poverty being fated. Still, this was three times greater than for those who did not strongly agree that God has a plan.

Those who believe God has a plan for everyone apparently see this plan including the rewarding of hard work and ability. Those who strongly believe in God's plan were twice as likely to also believe success is achieved by ability rather than luck (39 percent vs. 17 percent).

As belief in a divine plan grows, so does belief in a major part of the American dream. The survey asked if Americans agreed that “anything is possible for those who work hard.” A majority who strongly agreed in God's plan also agreed with this statement about hard work. Support was lowest among those who did not believe in a divine plan. Those who do not believe in God's plan were half as likely to agree that anything is possible with hard work.

If people strongly believe that God has a plan for their lives, then they are more likely to see government as doing too much. Those with strong beliefs in God's plan were the most likely to see government overreach (53 percent). Views of government playing a large role diminishes as belief in God's plan wanes. Only a third of those who do not believe in God's plan say government is doing too much, compared to one-in-five of those who strongly disbelieve say the same thing.

A majority of those who strongly believe in God's plan also believe that “able-bodied people who are out of work shouldn't receive unemployment checks.” As a belief in God's plan grows weaker, so does agreement that those out of work should be helped by government. Three-quarters of those who do not believe in God's plan believe that government should provide unemployment aid to those out of work.

Holding a belief in a divine plan does not result in greater material success in life. Of those who strongly disagreed, 30 percent made over $100,000 a year in family income. For those who strongly agreed, only 17 percent made this much money. Those who agreed were also less likely to finish college than those who disagreed.


I believe God has a plan for my life and for the life of every human being. Romans 8:29 states: "For whom He foreknew, He also predestined to become conformed to the image of His Son, that He might be the first-born among many brethren..." (ASV) The call is to everyone. The purpose is clear. The beggar Lazarus was the one who went to heaven. The rich man who scorned him ended up in torment. Shame on "Christians" who adopt worldly standards.

The survey based on how strongly people believe that God has a plan for my life and everyone's like is a survey that does not appear to be prompted by any ideas of biblical christianity as revealed from a reading of the New Testament. First of all it sounds like having some elements of determinism and has nothing to do with the ideas of christianity as expounded by Jesus Christ. There is certainly no admonition in the Bible to refuse assistance if it comes from the government, so the whole survey amounts to little more than begging the question, or perhaps it is a strictly secular study for political reasons. The content of the belief is another of those beliefs that consist of words but the true meaning can be whatever a person wants it to be.

For a long time I have wondered why so many evangelicals seem to rally around politicians who may say some contentless statement about how America needs prayer and then do what Jesus upbraided the Pharisees for doing when he was on earth. Those who have read some of the works of Francis Schaeffer well remember his warning of the importance of truth, and I feel so sad to see evangelicals rallying around politicians who have no respect for truth. It appears that today's rich evangelicals have forgotten the words of Jesus in Matthew's gospel chapter 25 verses 34 to 46. The belief on which your survey has been done is a contentless belief and of no value to thoughtful students of the bible, except to document how politicized so much of evangelical christianity has become.

informed Catholics would understand that God's will - even predestination to salvation - does not in any way limit the exercise of our free will. His will is accomplished through our decisions. It can be accomplished perfectly, or imperfectly. Sin is an act in opposition to God's will - yet, our human wills cannot negate the will of God. Satan thought that by having Jesus killed that God's will would be thwarted.
In fact, the crucifixion perfectly accomplished God's will. The New Testament affirms that the will of God is inscrutable, beyond our ability to imagine. Because God's will is so profound it includes all the acts of our wills, more perfectly when we do GOOD, but also when we hen we sin. That is why Catholics have GOOD FRIDAY, and call the sin of Adam and Eve the HAPPY FAULT because it led to Jesus giving us His Body and Blood as our Food and Drink.

I believe God has a generic plan for my life, "to conform us to the image of His Son", so that everything that happens to us is geared to making us Christ-like. Romans 8:28,29 Whether we respond accordingly is up to us. I do not believe that God has a specific, detailed plan for each person's life. If He did, just one mistake (like marrying the wrong person) would mess up His plans forever. To allow this belief to influence whether Govt should help the poor is a non sequitur. Theologies of Work and of Generosity and of Government should inform that decision, independently of whether or not God has a plan for each person. We must not fall into C F Alexander's fatalism of "the rich man in his castle, the poor man at his gate, God made them high or lowly and ordered their estate." (Now thankfully omitted from "All things bright and beautiful" in today's hymnbooks). For the record, I believe the Government should ENABLE opportunities for everyone equitably, and legislate to curb extremes of super-wealth and super-poverty for the good welfare of all. Romans 13:4

The irony in the survey results is that the politically conservative give 80% of all charitable giving and do 80% of all volunteer work according to a Gallup survey a decade ago. Other surveys have confirmed those results.

Political/religious conservatives correctly understood Jesus' commands. He directed them at the individual, not Caesar.

Jesus never told disciples to have Caesar take money from their rich neighbors and give it to the poor; he said give your own money to the poor.

In other words, if God has a plan for me, they grow too many peanuts in Georgia.

This is reason I don't understand. Perhaps it's not reason. God always has a plan for us, no matter what government we're under. God had a plan for Daniel in Babylon. God had a plan for Moses, even when his people refused to go into the land. God has a plan for every Christian in China. As long as we look to God for the plan, we can realize it under any conditions. But when we say things like, "I need less government to do God's work," isn't that like telling God you need an air-conditioned home if you're going to be on the mission field? What if you lived under a totalitarian government? Do you think you could not find God's plan for your life under those circumstances? What happened to gratitude for the things we have? I've never seen a generation of more entitled young Christians.