Fate and the Paradox of Free Will: PART 6

August 11, 2012

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

Every one of us loves to play the game of “what if?” whether we like to admit it or not. We have all thought back on choices we’ve made and thought about what our lives might be like had we made a different choice. Your life could be drastically different even from something as small as spending an extra five minutes brushing your teeth in the morning. Imagine the ripples through time our tiny minute decisions make. Then imagine millions upon billions of ripples throughout time and across the world touching and running into each other and creating waves moving and tossing in seemingly chaotic directions. God sees every ripple individually and can write his story of redemption from beginning to end threading it in and out of each our lives as he calls out to us to hear his voice and read his love letters of forgiveness. Movies like The Adjustment Bureau attempt to explain this phenomena; movies like Sliding Doors pose the question of “what if?” and make us consider the possibility of another fate; and countless science fiction works explore the idea of alternate time streams and parallel universes.

I absolutely love Sci Fi! When I was younger, the idea that there might be another me out there somewhere who didn’t completely screw up his life brought me comfort. Parallel universes, in a way, offer us second chances, or maybe even endless chances and possibilities: Maybe somewhere I am a famous rock star! But maybe somewhere some ancestor of mine made different choices and I don’t even exist. Parallel universes are fun to imagine, but if they do exist, am I truly an individual? Do my choices even matter? No, I believe this universe and this age is all we have to work with, but the concept of parallel universes can help us to understand how predestination might work.

We all know that our universe is multidimensional, but the average human is only aware of three dimensions. However, some scientist theorize there may be endless dimensions (which would result in the possibility of parallel universes), however most put the number somewhere between 7-11 (at least that was numbers the last time I read up on the issue). Most consider time to be the fourth dimension which is how we can imagine the possibility of time travel in science fiction. If time is simply a dimension of the created universe, then that would mean that God, the Creator, exists outside of time. This is why he calls himself the Alpha and the Omega, the beginning and the end. It something beyond our comprehension, but God has no beginning or ending. He just exists, that’s why he calls himself “I AM.” If God exists outside of time, that would mean when he looks down on his creation, he can see all points of time at the same time. When he looks at you, he can see the moments of your birth and your death at the same time. What does this have to do with parallel universes and predestination? I think this is one possibility of what God means when he speaks of individuals being predestined to do certain works, and how his prophecy continually comes to pass over thousands of years despite human free will. God, before he spoke the Word of creation, saw all the possible outcomes of the different realities of existence should he create beings with free will. In his wisdom, love, and mercy; he chose the one with the best possible outcome for his children to become reconciled to him after giving them the ability to freely rebel against him. We can still ask, why bother with existence if even one person ends up suffering? Alas, we must trust that God is good and knows what he is doing. While I’ve had my fair share of suffering, my personal experience leads me to believe he is just in his ways. Paul puts it this way:

Oh, the depth of the riches of the wisdom and knowledge of God!
      How unsearchable his judgments,
      and his paths beyond tracing out!
“Who has known the mind of the Lord?
      Or who has been his counselor?”
“Who has ever given to God,
      that God should repay them?”
For from him and through him and for him are all things.
      To him be the glory forever! Amen. (Romans 11:33-36)

The truth of God’s inherent goodness helps me to understand some of the more difficult passages that support predestination. Consider King David’s prayer to the Lord:

For you created my inmost being;
      you knit me together in my mother’s womb.
I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made;
      your works are wonderful,
      I know that full well.
My frame was not hidden from you
      when I was made in the secret place,
      when I was woven together in the depths of the earth.
Your eyes saw my unformed body;
      all the days ordained for me were written in your book
      before one of them came to be. (Psalm 139:13-16)

And later the Lord himself says to the Prophet Jeremiah:

“Before I formed you in the womb I knew you,
      before you were born I set you apart;
      I appointed you as a prophet to the nations.” (Jeremiah 1:5)

We use these scriptures to expose the sin of abortion, and rightly so, but if we take them in the most literal sense of predestination, and apply them to all humanity, could we not conclude that God is really the one behind the abortions? In this sense, he created all the lives who were aborted and purposed them only to die. But why stop there? If he preordained every single moment of our lives doesn’t that mean he designed, created and purposed every evil thing that has ever happened? And if that’s true, doesn’t that mean God is ultimately the author of evil as well as good? It is no stretch to imagine from here that this God could create and purpose some to be saved and create others with no choice but to be bad and fated for eternal damnation, even though they had no choice in the matter whether or not to rebel!

I believe God uses and manipulates sin and evil for his purposes, consider the stories of Job and Joseph, and consider Paul’s famous statement in Romans 8:28, but he does not initiate or design it. That is against his nature. When God delivered the Law to Moses, he proclaimed of himself: “The LORD, the LORD, the compassionate and gracious God, slow to anger, abounding in love and faithfulness, maintaining love to thousands, and forgiving wickedness, rebellion and sin. Yet he does not leave the guilty unpunished; he punishes the children and their children for the sin of the parents to the third and fourth generation” (Exodus 34:6-7). And later the Apostle John simply declares, “God is love” (1 John 4:8). You may ask why God would punish children for their parents’ sin? But I don’t think that he punishes anyone for anything they didn’t do. This is a proclamation of love. Think about how many times you said you would never turn out like your parents, but how often do you really act like them? The influence of our fathers is strong. I think it just takes three to four generations before the sin that gets passed down can really be rooted out once a man decides to follow God. God is also stating to us that while he forgives sin, he will not allow it to continue for very long. We humans confuse discipline and training with evil. We think that anytime we experience discomfort there are demons behind it, when usually we are simply paying the consequences of bad choices. There is a war in the heavens that we are caught in the middle of, but it is not until you truly begin to do good for the Kingdom of Heaven that Satan takes any notice of you, and we can ultimately trust that, like Job and Joseph, God will use the evil that others bring upon us “for the good of all those who love him and are called according to his purpose” (Romans 8:28).

This brings us back to the concept of parallel universes. God had the option of creating a multitude of different realities before he chose ours and spoke it into existence. I believe he chose the one with the optimum amount of good for as many of his sons and daughters as possible. He knew creating beings with free will would inevitably cause pain and suffering once these beings began to rebel against his ways, yet he determined that having true relationship with his created beings was worth the risk of rebellion. He knew sin and rebellion would separate us from him, so he designed a way for us to be reconciled to him through his plan of the cross, and he gives us each the opportunity to accept his gift and enter into intimate relationship with him and allow him to develop our character into the true potential of our callings, or we have to choice to reject his gift and stay eternally separated from him, continue to live selfishly and pay the consequences of our actions.  Because he exists outside of time, he knows the end game, and he knows every choice we will make, and being a loving father, he is deeply and intimately involved in our lives, but all our choices are still our own to make.

It is much easier for me to believe that God lit the spark of creation aware of the suffering that rebellion against him would cause, and therefore designed a way out to be saved for those who would choose to seek him and follow him. I believe that God gives every human being ever conceived the opportunity to make the choice for salvation, because he deeply loves every one of us enough to experience death for us. Paul instructs his protégé, Timothy that “God our Savior…wants all people to be saved and to come to a knowledge of the truth. For there is one God and one mediator between God and mankind, the man Christ Jesus, who gave himself as a ransom for all people” (1 Timothy 2:3-6).

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

Peter L Richardson, 2010-2012

Something from the experts:

“Is it not frightfully unfair that this new life should be confined to people who have heard of Christ and been able to believe in Him? But the truth is God had not told what His arrangements about the other people are. We do know that no man can be saved except through Christ; we do not know that only those who know Him can be saved through Him.”  -C.S. Lewis, “The Practical Conclusion,” Mere Christianity

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One Response to “Fate and the Paradox of Free Will: PART 6”

  1. peterrock12 Says:

    epilogue:

    The debate between predestination and free will really is a moot point. The Bible teaches that both are reality, and followers of God need to simply trust that while both seemly can’t be true, that God in his power and wisdom has somehow made this existence in such a way that both are true and we simply cannot comprehend this truth with our human minds. Even the great poet Dante Alighieri, who wrote extensively of medieval theology in his masterpiece, The Divine Comedy, bowed out gracefully on this issue. While in heaven, he asks one of the saints to explain the truth behind this paradox and this is the answer he puts into the saint’s mouth:

    “But in all Heaven, the soul granted most light,
    the Seraph that has God in closest view,
    could not explain what you have asked to know.

    The truth of this is hidden so far down
    in the abyss of the Eternal Law,
    it is cut off from all created vision.

    Report what I have said when you are back
    in the mortal world, that no man may presume
    to move his feet down so profound a track.

    On earth the mind is smoke; here, it is fire.
    How can it do there what it cannot do
    even when taken into heaven’s choir?”

    Alighieri, Dante. The Divine Comedy, “The Paradiso,” Canto XXI, lines 91-102. Translated by John Ciardi.


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