I’m going to start in today on a big subject, not related to gender, that I’ve been thinking about a lot lately. In studying Lewis’s work, I’m a bit perplexed by the way he advocates the idea of Free Will (as in The Problem of Pain), and denigrates the idea that we aren’t fully in control of our own destiny (as when Ransom becomes convinced that the Green Lady can fall, and he can choose not to kill the Unman), and yet he makes it clear that, for instance, Ransom’s name was chosen because he was to be an echo of Christ’s ransom and this naming was planned hundreds of years before he was born. The Great Dance at the end of Perelandra also seems to symbolize God’s total control over all things; it’s beauty is in its intricate and over-arching design.
Personally, I tend toward a view that focuses more on God’s sovereignty. I like Spurgeon’s concept that faith is a door. On one side the lintel reads, “Whosoever Will May Come.” The other reads, “Chosen Before the Foundation of the World.” We speak and act and live as though we are in control, and the Bible is full of people making choices. But it is also full of indications that God is ultimately sovereign over those choices – he hardens Pharaoh’s heart, even as Pharaoh hardens his own. “The king’s heart is in the hand of the Lord, as the rivers of water: He turns it whithersoever He will.” The significance of that becomes clear when you realize those “rivers of water” are in actuality irrigation ditches, whose course the farmer changes by the flip of a switch.
So, how does this all fit together?
Well, I suppose everybody has their view. I’ve just finished reading the Divine Comedy, and Dante seems to see it kind of like time in Dr. Who. In his discussion of Free Will, he seems to indicate that God creates some things and lets them create others, and the things he creates directly are fixed/predestined, but the things they create are unfixed. It’s like in Dr. Who – many things in time are changeable, but others are ‘fixed points’ which cannot be altered without, well, destroying time. Like the episode that has Winston Churchill ruling as Caesar . . .
And the idea of time brings me right to where I was going. The issue is time, at the heart of it; the nature of time, God’s relation to time, our relation to time. And a book that really helped me look at it from a different perspective is The Physics of God. It’s written by a physicist – not a Christian. Actually, he doesn’t really believe in God – he believes in, well, something that links everything that exists outside space and time. Call it a fourth dimension, though I don’t think he does. His point, essentially, is that the materialism – the idea that if I can’t see it or measure it or prove it mathematically, it doesn’t exist – of our age doesn’t explain what physics teaches modern physicists. It is literally impossible for a good pianist reading a difficult piece of music to have the notes from the page enter their eye, travel to their brain, then travel back down to their fingers as quickly as it does. It’s practically instantaneous. And it’s impossible given the limitations of the natural, observable, physical world.
So, that got me to thinking. There are several indications in the Scriptures that God exists outside time. “A day is with the Lord as a thousand years and a thousand years as one day,” for instance. In the creation story, God creates the heavenly bodies “for times and seasons and for days and years” – to set up time. He essentially created time when He created the stars and moons and planets. And He tells us specifically that that’s why He made them.
That brings us to God as Creator. He created everything intimately, purposefully, intentionally. Jeremiah says that he was intended to be a prophet from the womb. Psalm 139 talks about God knitting David, knowing him intimately, in his mother’s womb. God knows how many hairs we have on our head at any given moment.
With all that being so, then God, existing outside time, as He creates people, has every moment of their lives, every thought in their minds, every good deed and every sin, before Him, in all its detail. I believe that He creates us in such a way that we will make the choices we will make, in every situation in which we find ourselves, situations He saw even as He was creating time itself. How can He not? If He is outside time, and He is Creator, and He is sovereign, how could He not plan/know/choose all the acts of His creation?
Now, let me say that I realize this brings up the whole problem of evil and it rubs the wrong way against American individualism and the idea that we are in control our own destiny. I’ll just say that I absolutely disagree with some of what Lewis says in The Problem of Pain, especially about Free Will and about creation, but I think he hits the nail right on the head when he talks about God loving us and knowing that we will never be happy until we trust Him and grow in Him to perfection, and that requires us to experience pain. Even Jesus learned from pain – He “learned obedience through the things which He suffered.”
And when it comes down to it, Paul answers the whole question of what we should do with this in Romans 9. “But who are you, O man, to answer back to God? Will what is molded say to its molder, ‘Why have you made me like this?’ Has the potter no right over the clay, to make out of the same lump one vessel for honorable use and another for dishonorable use? What if God, desiring to show his wrath and to make known his power, has endured with much patience vessels of wrath prepared for destruction, in order to make known the riches of his glory for vessels of mercy, which he has prepared beforehand for glory?” (ESV)
We do choose, from our perspective. We do strive against sin. Whosoever will may come. But God has ultimately placed us in that position and given us the mind and emotions and will that will choose what He has also chosen/is choosing/will choose (if you’re outside time, tense doesn’t matter ) for us. The real joy, the real trust, the real freedom from worry and fear, come when we acknowledge that God is completely, fully in control, and that we will trust Him. “Shall not the Judge of all the earth do right?” And when I remember that He made me to be exactly as I am – not as I wish I were, not as others expect me to be, not as I think others would like me if I were, or if they thought I were, I experience complete freedom. Yes, I sin. But He has a redemptive purpose for allowing me to sin, like teaching me the wonders of His grace and His marvelous use of even my sin to bring Him glory.
My favorite illustration of this truth is from Jim Berg. He compares it to a dog show. He says, say there’s this awesome dog trainer whose dogs always win. But some people say it’s just because he always gets the best dogs to train. There’s not much glory in that. But what if he takes the worse, scruffiest, dirtiest, sickest, ugliest dogs who bite and scratch and kick him while he’s trying to clean them and care for their wounds and feed them and teach them? If he trains them to love and obey him how much greater the glory will he receive?
God is “endur[ing] with much patience” our sin and our fighting against him so that he will receive much greater glory than would have been possible if sin had never existed. And on questions of faith, I try to lean toward the explanation that brings God the most glory – that makes Him look bigger and stronger and more beautiful. And I think this does. It’s also why I believe in a literal six day creation. Evolution was developed as a way to explain the universe with God taken out of the equation. And if God is all-powerful, of course He could create a universe that looks billions of years old. He could have done it over billions of years. But if you’re looking for the explanation that makes him look most powerful, most creative, then I’ll stick with a week – and the evening and the morning were the first day, after all.
Now, please understand that I don’t think everyone has to agree with me on this. We can go to church together and disagree. We can be friends and disagree. I’ll discuss it with you if you want. I’d love to hear other perspectives – after all, I love getting as close to the truth as I can through discussion. And, really, that is part of why I love this view. I think God leads us to what particular branch of Christianity He wants us in. I love Lewis’s picture of a hallway filled with doors, and each door is a different branch of Christianity. And sometimes He leads us out of one door and into another. I can only go into the door that He created me to enter – the one he made my mind to agree with and my heart to respond to in love. And I can love others with whom I disagree, trusting that God has led them into the door He wants them to enter. And maybe they’ll stay there, and maybe they won’t. And maybe I’ll stay here and maybe I won’t. I’m keeping my hands open 😉
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