He's Got The Whole World In His Hands

He's Got The Whole World In His Hands

“It’s a great analogy: the novel that God writes and the novel that we write. It shows how there can be predestination and free will at the same time. And it also shows how the Incarnation is not illogical, because it shows how a novelist can put himself in his own novel as one of his characters—and then he has two natures…History is a broken marriage and God puts it back together again.”  –Peter Kreeft

Just yesterday I got to participate in God telling one of his daughters that he still loves her, despite the overwhelming pain in her life. Earlier in the day my mom e-mailed me and invited me to dinner with her, my father and my brother’s family: fresh caught home fried beer battered fish. Trouble was, they were eating at 4:15. I’m not accustomed to eating so early, usually I’m just getting around to leaving work at that time, but who can resist home fried beer battered fish? I decided to rush through my afternoon duties and go straight to their house. In the meantime, my son called me from his mom’s house and asked for a ride to take his girlfriend out to dinner, and her parents would pick them up. They wanted to catch the early bird special, so they needed to get there before 6pm. My parents are not offended when I eat and run, so I told him I’d take care of him. On my way out of my parents’ neighborhood, there was a woman pulled over with front end damage and a flat tire. As I slowed down, I noticed she had her head down on her steering wheel. I pulled over and knocked on the window. Startled, she looked up with tears streaming down her face. I asked if she was okay, and she blurted out: “I don’t know how to change a tire!!”

She was physically fine, but her day started off bad and seemed to only get worse. Turns out her husband of 21 years had left her that morning, and the day was now ending with an accident. I let my son know I was going to be late, and began to work on her tire. I didn’t have the right kind of jack, so I called my father, and he came down to help. We got her set up to drive home, but advised her to get her car to a mechanic as soon as she could. My son gave up on me, and had to find a ride with someone else. As I drove home disappointed that I had let him down, I realized something. I would not have been there to help her if he had not asked for the ride in the first place, I would not have even been in the area if my mom had not invited me to dinner. Here was this woman, distraught and depressed, really in need of something positive to happen, and it just so happened that I came riding by and felt guilty enough to stop and help her. I’ve been in her shoes before, and I know what a little kindness does. Did God move time and the universe in such a way that I would be there and be willing to help her out? Not that I did anything to really be applauded for, a better man would probably have done more, but how much worse would her day have been if I had just decided to drive past? Because I almost did.

These are the moments when God’s sovereignty and our free will come into contact. I have to admit with shame that more often I choose to take care of my business and find ways to justify. Does God bring others to help when I choose not to? How much control do we have in our own fate? Does God allow us to blow it for others when our free will mostly leads to selfishness? But then, how does he seem to control the pulse of the universe despite us running around screwing things up? The Bible makes it clear that God is all powerful and sovereign, yet it is also clear that we human beings, from the very beginning of creation, have the freedom to make our own choices by which we are judged. The Bible teaches both predestination and free will. Some look at this as a contradiction, and proof that Christianity is a false religion, but there are many other paradoxes in the universe that science cannot explain.  If you choose to believe the Bible, then you have no choice but to believe that both predestination and human free will are true. But how? I am no expert, but these are some of my thoughts on the matter.

In Ephesians 1:3-14, the Apostle Paul states: “Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in the heavenly realms with every spiritual blessing in Christ. For he chose us in him before the creation of the world to be holy and blameless in his sight. In love he predestined us for adoption to sonship through Jesus Christ, in accordance with his pleasure and will— to the praise of his glorious grace, which he has freely given us in the One he loves. In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of sins, in accordance with the riches of God’s grace that he lavished on us. With all wisdom and understanding, he made known to us the mystery of his will according to his good pleasure, which he purposed in Christ, to be put into effect when the times reach their fulfillment—to bring unity to all things in heaven and on earth under Christ.

In him we were also chosen, having been predestined according to the plan of him who works out everything in conformity with the purpose of his will, in order that we, who were the first to put our hope in Christ, might be for the praise of his glory. And you also were included in Christ when you heard the message of truth, the gospel of your salvation. When you believed, you were marked in him with a seal, the promised Holy Spirit, who is a deposit guaranteeing our inheritance until the redemption of those who are God’s possession—to the praise of his glory.”

There are those in the church who teach that the predestined in this passage are those humans that God has decided to hand pick for salvation. There is nothing in them that deserves this honor, apparently God in his mercy just randomly chooses who gets to go to heaven and the rest of us get the punishment we deserve. According to this philosophy, if humans make a choice to follow God on their own, that is a work, and we are only saved by grace. I believe the “we” who are predestined here is the collective church, not individuals. In this scripture, Paul says “And you [speaking to individual believers] were also included…When you believed, you were marked…with a seal, the promised Holy Spirit.” Thus, we can conclude that these predestined were not chosen by God until they made the choice to believe in Christ and therefore bear the mark of the Holy Spirit.

When God created the universe and decided to create beings that could think for themselves, he wasn’t surprised when our ancestors decided to do just that and rebel against him by not following the laws he set up in the universe. These laws were created out of love for our protection. It is not like God is up in heaven with a stick waiting to beat anyone who screws up; God’s moral laws are more like his laws of physics. If you walk off a cliff there will be consequences for trying to defy the law of gravity. God knows the boundaries of his creation, and if we are obedient to his principles, we will live happier and more fulfilling lives. However, just as God knew free will would allow individuals to reject him, he also knew many of us would choose to seek obedience to him and return the love that he offers to all humanity. It is when the individual chooses to “believe” that he joins the ranks of God’s people who are “predestined.” Therefore, it is not the individual who is predestined—or predetermined by God to be saved or not saved—but rather it is the way to salvation that was predestined from God’s first thought of the creation of our universe and age. And that way is Jesus.

I tell the story of the woman with the flat tire because this is the proof for me that not only is God  sovereign, but he rules his creation in and through love. I have been that woman more often than I have been the one being used for the rescue. This is why I know that I have free will also. Rebellion is in my heart even though I know following God’s will is better. I know I have a choice because I frequently make the wrong choice, yet I know that God is in control because when I call out to him, he is always there to catch me in my fall and lift me back up again.

“Obey God and leave all the consequences to him.”  –Dr. Charles Stanley

-Peter L Richardson 2011-2012

Something from the experts:

“We know that we can act and that our actions produce results. Everyone who believes in God must therefore admit…that God has not chosen to write the whole of history with his own hand. Most of the events that go on in the universe are indeed out of our control, but not all. It is like a play in which the scene and the general outline of the story is fixed by the author, but certain minor details are left for the actors to improvise.”  -C.S. Lewis, “Work and Prayer,” God in the Dock