Fatal Thoughts

21 04 2010

Installment 3 from my episode with the police.

I was driving to Publix to buy a paper and eat breakfast with Andrew at the Country Kitchen. My original plan was actually to take my car and go the other direction to Wal*Mart. This is significant because there is no school zone on the way to Wal*Mart. So, had Andrew not been awake so early I might not have driven through the school zone, but without Andrew I would have been in my car which still is not registered in Florida. Even before that was the baseball game Saturday where the paper came to take pictures. Had they not taken the pictures and published them I would have no need of the early morning paper run. And on and on we go.

What are we to make of the contributing factors to our situation in life. An optimist might say, “good thing I had Andrew because it ensured that I had a properly registered car.” While a pessimist might say, “Oh that Andrew, he made me get a ticket.” A fatalist would say, “it was inevitable because I am powerless and my decisions are determined.” What is a Christian to say?

After 9/11 we heard stories of someone spilling coffee and being late for work which ended up keeping them from the WTC and saving their life. Maybe not that exact story, but similar accounts. People would then say, “God spared them” or “God was looking out for them.” This begs the question… What about the people who died? Was God not looking out for them, was he so preoccupied with saving some that he overlooked others?

These scenarios bring to mind the question of free-will vs. predestination. There are at least two levels to this question. On one level is the idea that God predestines some to be saved and others for damnation vs. every person has the free-will to choose or reject God. I will not be addressing that level here. The second level is that of our day-to-day lives. Do we get to make choices freely? Or are all of our steps and sneezes predestined. The 2nd option is that of fatalism. I am not aware of a “name” for the first option, but it is irrelevant. I would like to offer that we are looking at a false dichotomy and that the truth is found in a synthesis of the two. We have the capacity to choose freely and God determines our lives.

I believe that the Bible teaches that we absolutely have the free-will to make our daily choices while at the same time God is directing. It may sound paradoxical, but we must not limit God by our limited understanding. I am ill equipped to thoroughly address this issue but I would like to reccommend someone much better to listen to than me. Dr. Timothy J. Keller is the pastor of Reedeemer Presbyterian Church in New York City and author of several books. He addresses this issue of the free-will vs. fatalism in one of his sermons on the book of proverbs titled, “Your plans, God’s plans.”

If you have ever pondered these issues or found yourself struggling with God about your situation in life I would like to strongly encourage you to listen to that sermon. It will be 40 minutes well spent.

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2 responses

26 04 2010
Brampup

“We have the capacity to choose freely and God determines our lives.”

What is the application of the word “determines”? On one hand it could be classified as predestination, or determinism.

Or the implication might be, we make the decisions and God determines if we have obtained enough grace to enter into the Kingdom of Heaven.

God knows our fate. He gives us direction but it is our decision to follow.
He knows the decision we are going to make but we determine the life we live and consequently our eternal fate.

26 04 2010
ryansprague85

It sounds like your comment is in regard to the question of salvation which I wasn’t addressing here.
You will have to listen to the sermon from Keller to hear this explained better but, it isn’t pure determinism (where we are mindless robots), yet we are still guided. Maybe the illustration of live bait on a hook would help. The bait fish is free to move around but at the same time is guided along. Contrast that with a rubber worm on a hook. Obviously not a complete illustration and quite morbid actually, but maybe it helps.

“God determines if we have obtained enough grace” – Maybe I am messing with semantics too much but… Obtain has a connotation of assertive accumulation, which would entail effort on our part. If that were true, then “Obtaining grace” would be a contradiction. Grace is freely given and only to be received. Our “effort” is insufficient to rescue us, grace is vital and absolute; and that is received by faith alone.

I wish there were a spell checker in the comment area…




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