Tag Archives: belief

Much ado About Fate- The Adjustment Bureau

Q. As a theologian, what do you think about the movie “The Adjustment Bureau”? Fate or Free Will?
Watch the trailer *Spoilers below*

A.  A new couple goes on their first date and they watch a romantic comedy starring beautiful actors who despite all the odds end up together breathless and happy. This new couple watches the movie and love it because they would like to think their own story will end up similarly. After 10 years of being together our same couple has a date night and goes to another romantic comedy, different movie, same story, same breathless happy ending. This time when our couple leaves they love it because they understand having to overcome the odds and can appreciate the tenacity the on-screen couple felt towards one another. This time they also feel a silent longing they still had the same fire the new couple showed and miss the fireworks from the beginning of their relationship.  Fast forward 40 more years, same couple, same scenario. Romantic comedy, ridiculous circumstances, fabulous happy ending and everyone is winded from the “surprise” these two people actually ended up together at the end of the film.  Only now almost 50 years later they leave the theater hand in hand and laugh. They still enjoyed the film but at this stage in their relationship they have a depth to their relationship younger couples could only dream of and they have tasted what true lasting love really is. Because of their knowledge they leave knowing the movie on the screen only captured a few of the more entertaining bits, but really has no idea what love is actually like.

When I watched “The Adujustment Bureau” I enjoyed the movie for what it was created to be, entertaining. I felt similarly to how the old couple felt with the understanding of how the movie really did not understand what my God is like or how predestination works. While I am by no means an expert on predestination, this is not my first dance with the idea either. We hear it all the time, but has the truth sunk in yet? Hollywood is a valuable tool that shows us a version of reality that will entice people to watch it. Movies regarding the question of fate or free will are no exception to this rule.

The movie did a fabulous job of depicting a reality where angels follow people around to ensure they spill their coffee at the right time, make a specific speech at a crucial junction in their lives, and freeze conscientiousness so they can manually go into our brains and change our minds for us. The reality depicted on screen showed us what life would be like with a “chairman” (this character is meant to depict God) who chooses to force his plan on the world through angels and by forcing us to choose certain things. As a movie consumer I liked the movie and agree to the point of, if I were to live in that reality that is how it would play out. The problem is I don’t live in that reality.

The reality I live in has a creator who’s plan is much larger than whether or not I spill my coffee at the right time. The “Chairman” in our world only has to speak a word for something to happen. His angels, while capable of spilling my coffee, typically do more important things like tell Mary she will have a child that will revolutionize the world. His angels will pour bowls of his wrath on mankind in the end days. His angels stand before His throne worshipping Him, all the time.

As for “the plan” I am of the persuasion that it will be fulfilled through the Church (universal church, meaning believers everywhere throughout time and history). I get that from the idea when Jesus is praying before going to the cross and He asks for us to love one another and to be united in that love (John 17). I get that idea when I read Paul’s prayers throughout his epistles continuously asking for us to be strengthened together so all of us may have wisdom in regards to God’s love (Eph 3:14-20). The idea that the church are His people and He will see them succeed is found throughout, an old testament example is one that many christians use today, Jeremiah 29: 13, “For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, ” plans to prosper you you and not to harm you, plans to give you a hope and a future.” This was spoken to the Israelites in exile and is followed up in chapter 31 with a promise of a new covenant with Israel and Judah, when God himself will write His law on their hearts and the entire nation will know Him. This applies to every christian when it is reiterated in Hebrews 10 when we are being reminded that Jesus’ sacrifice was for all people and all sins. He has finished His work and sits down at the right side of the Father.

The “plan” was to save humanity from itself by the giving of a perfect sacrifice and it was accomplished on the cross. When we start thinking that the plan is to make sure we spill coffee on ourselves at just the right moment we have forgotten the entire point of the plan. Regardless of fate or freewill I can type this in assurance that His plan is already accomplished. The only question is what do you plan to do with that knowledge?

For Thursday: a youtube scandal!

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Love Wins: Too Bad I Don’t Know What Love Is

Q. What do you think about the hype of Rob Bell’s new book Love Wins, specifically the suspicion that the book (yet unreleased) will advocate universalism?  (video) http://www.livestream.com/lovewins see also http://www.albertmohler.com/2011/03/01/universalism-as-a-lure-the-emerging-case-of-rob-bell/

A.  What the hell do we as Christians do with Rob Bell? After reading a review from Kevin DeYoung (who has read the book which became available March 15th, the review is a 20 page PDF form and can be found here) I’m afraid to say there is no question about  it’s pro-universalism content anymore. His review is extremely thorough and eloquent while making his case against universalism and Rob Bell’s new book well. Even a few days after the  launch it sits at the #3 bestseller list on Amazon due to the controversy surrounding it. His marketing team has done a fabulous job insuring it sell out quickly. Just watch the video you posted in your question, or watch the video he posted directly. The brilliant part of this is how he has opened the market up for all sorts of people to buy it just so they can disagree with it and others who just want to read what all the hubbub is about. If there is one thing people love its controversy, the drama. Universalism will be dragged into the spotlight with Bell as the poster-child and every conservative will be up in arms for it.

As for the universalism he preaches to the masses, I can not agree with it. Lately I have been reading a blog by Richard Beck in a series he’s writing titled Musings on Universalism and his opening blog resonated with me in a way many other religious blogs have not. He builds his case for universalism on the problem of pain, not the problem of hell, but of pain. His ending statement is a summary of a universalism that appeals to my emotions deeper than many of my well-meaning Bible professors did.

Innocent suffering is the open wound of life and the real task of faith and theology is “to make it possible for us to survive, to go on living, with this open wound.”
Now here’s the deal.
You either get that, or you don’t.
And if you don’t, well, I’m sure you’re a very nice and devout person. But you’ll never understand why I believe in universalism.

Essentially when we understand the pain people suffer, we understand where universalists are coming from. We may not agree with them, but we comprehend the need to come up with a solution that involves a happy ending. Well, Richard Beck, I get that. The reason I ultimately can not accept it as my own theology is found in Job 42. After Job has lost everything, after being rebuked by his wife, his friends, and a young man who is standing by listening, he finally hears from God in a whirlwind. God reminds Job just who He is, and who Job is, and after hearing this Job replies:

“I know that You can do everything, And that no purpose of Yours can be withheld from You. You asked, ‘Who is this who hides counsel without knowledge?’ Therefore I have uttered what I did not understand, things too wonderful for me, which I did not know. Listen, please, and let me speak; You said, ‘I will question you, and you shall answer Me.’

“I have heard of You by the hearing of the ear, But now my eye sees You. Therefore I abhor myself and repent in dust and ashes.”

Job was a good man and in the end he doesn’t get an answer to his questions like “why do bad things happen to good people?” and “do people really go to hell?” What he got was a reality check from his Maker. The same Maker who is the ultimate Judge of every man, woman, and child (Rev. 20:11-15) while still being at the same time the ultimate essence of  love (1 John 4). This is a concept I have heard of but have yet to see. I will however take my cue from Job and respond in humility. If seeing God is all the answer we need to these questions, then I will be, “patient in affliction, faithful in prayer” and with others I will “mourn with those who mourn” (Romans 12:12 & 15). I will not demand answers, I will not deny the Word of God, and I will not take an easy out.

So, how does love win?

For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him. Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe stands condemned already because he has not believed in the name of God’s one and only Son. (John 3:16-18)

We all need saving. All of us. We can’t do it by ourselves, so He did it for us. We’re all terrible people, yet the perfect illustrator of love made a way for us to be with Him. That is a love I do not understand. I don’t know what love is, but I do know it saved me. I do know, it can save you. Rob Bell did get one thing right: Love Wins.

Please help keep this blog going and send me your questions!

For next Thursday: Much ado About Fate- The Adjustment Bureau movie review

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What would you change in the world if you could change anything?

Q. What would you change in the world if you could change anything?

A. This question immediately brought to mind the song “If I Could Change the World” by the one and only Eric Clapton. If you have not heard this song, you need to. The entire song is about his love for this woman and how he would change it so she felt just as strongly for him as he does for her. Sappy romance songs by fabulous guitarists are like bread and butter to me.  What I love the most is how he chooses one person to change because his priority is to be loved as much as he already loves. Would I choose the same thing? Some days I would. Today, I would not. Today, I don’t think I would change anything.

There are a lot of things in this world I do not agree with and am not happy about, and things in this world that are worth changing. Things like violence, greed, selfishness, loneliness, natural disasters, all of these things are worth changing. Because I believe all these things will be restored to an even better condition than I could wish for I would leave those wishes for someone actually capable of doing it. For now, here, today, part of what our society needs is to be able to find peace and contentment with all of these terrible things going on. It is a struggle which proves to provide a steady character and nature which is something to be desired in everyone. World peace is a desire worthy to seek after, but will only happen when all individuals are dedicated to it. Dedication typically comes with time and effort, not in an instant. The good things in this world are worth fighting for and even more so they are worth the time it takes. Time is in limited quantities on this earth and has a positive correlation to how valuable something is.  To change something for the better in an instant is to devalue the very thing you’re fighting for. If I may refer again to Clapton’s song, I do want a man eventually who wants me that much, but it would mean all the world for him to prove it instead of magically wishing it. If you like  you can think of this blog as a cop-out answer, but this is my answer: I would change nothing.

Let’s keep the questions rolling, I only have a few left to answer!

For Monday: Love Wins: Too Bad I Don’t Know What Love Is. A look at the up and coming book by Rob Bell.

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Sola Scriptura: What Does It Even Mean?

Q: If sola scriptura is the only proper foundation for biblical interpretation, how would you justify or explain the diversity and division between Christian denominations? Does sola scriptura leave room for differences of interpretation, or is really as simple as Catholics, Baptists, and Methodists make it out to be?

A:  I want you to think about two garages; one is a single car garage filled with gages and tools required to help the car run the other is a two-car garage with one stable car used for the majority of transportation but with another car sitting next to it ready to go should the need arise. These garages represent two different approaches to the uses and means of the Judeo-Christian book known as Scripture and both have their place amongst fabulous people within the Christian community.  The first garage with only one car in it represents Sola Scriptura and the two car garage represents Prima Scriptura. Sola Scriptura literally means: Scripture only, while Prima Scriptura typically means: Scripture first. It is a slight difference in wording with untold amounts of pragmatic differences. The first garage with only one car shows us the only way the owner of the car will get anywhere. In this scenario they have no alternative means of transportation and the car is the only thing they will use. They do however have tools and equipment in the garage to help them take care of it appropriately and help the owner in understanding how his car is running. This demonstrates to a point how Sola Scriptura works. It takes Scripture to get to all theological understanding but the owner has tools available to use at their discretion to ensure the car is working properly. For most these tools involve Bible dictionaries, word studies, christian tradition, etc. These things all help the car of Sola Scriptura to run smoothly. Prima Scriptura differs in how there is now another vehicle in which the owner can take to theological understanding. It works just as well as Scripture but is an alternative way to get there and the real key point is how this other option is just as valid as Scripture.

This distinction is important because the few denominations listed at the end of this question two of them go by Prima Scriptura and the other stands with Sola Scriptura. Part of how I would answer the first question is many denominations do not rely solely upon Scripture to get to theological truths. Roman Catholicism and Methodism typically rely on other means along with Scripture to help believers get to where they are going. Roman Catholicism relies heavily upon Christian tradition and the Pope’s teachings to determine theology and Methodists come from a background of using personal experience and basic human rationale to bring people theologic truths. Baptists, however, sprung from the reformation with the belief that only Scripture can speak to us about the deeper things of God and everything else is a tool for helping us. It is differences such as this which have created the beginnings of many new denominations.

As for why there are multiple denominations within denominations, a lot of it has to do with preferences. Individual churches are typically made up of a community who share a common goal or ideal they wish to see uplifted. For instance the Acts 29 and Foursquare denominations places a high value on church planting and creating christian communities while a local church in Eugene named Ekklesia places a high value on discipleship and being a part of helping christians mature. All are correct in what they do and I think we would all agree these are important, but their emphasis is different. Another example of preferences would be worship style, Lutheran Churches are known to be a high tradition church meaning they follow rituals throughout the ceremony, the congregation typically dresses up for service, and they sing hymns with simple instrumentation while many Baptist churches now incorporate various service types, have full bands, and many of the congregation brought their Starbucks with them.

If it’s not preferences it’s politics. Some denominations allow the church to run its internal affairs autonomously (ie. most Baptist denominations) while others have a hierarchy overseeing much of the services rendered by the church (ie. Episcopalians).  Neither of these policies are bad in and of themselves. Both have been found to be successful models of church implementation. These are just a few main reasons why churches will create an offshoot denomination. Some make more sense than others, but the church is after all made up of humans who are still learning what it means to follow God.

In the end, Sola Scriptura while a major player in church relationships, it is not the only horse pulling the cart of believers around. Church splits, denominations, beliefs, and practices are confusing and often heart wrenching for those involved. After years of growing up in the church as (an associate) pastors kid and then helping to start a church while getting a degree in Biblical studies and being surrounded by future pastors, it’s been my experience that there are some hills worth dying on and some hills worth walking by.

Next Monday: Let’s Lighten Up the Mood: Do Blondes Really Have More Fun?

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Why I do (and don’t) believe in Soul Mates

Q: Do you believe in soul mates?

A:  A lot of different beliefs are braided into the idea of a soul mate.  In order to believe in soul mates, as in there is only one perfect person out there for everyone, there has to be a belief in destiny. For soul mates to truly happen, there has to be a bigger plan than just wandering around on the earth for the sake of wandering around. There also needs to be an entity or force in charge of creating two perfectly compatible people. Following this logic, it is also required for a specific purpose or reason for these two people to be together in the first place, otherwise the planning involved in creating a soul mate would simply be a micro-management of people. Last but not least, with all the planning involved there would need to be a plan of how these two people would meet. Why create one soul in two bodies if they’re never going to have a chance to meet? It would be pointless. I believe in soul mates on the grounds that there is an entity far superior to my being, who has prepared and planned not only a perfect mate for me, a time for me to meet them, and a reason for coming together. Without all these elements, having a soul mate would be pointless and therefore a moot point.

As a Christian my faith gives a foundation for all criteria to be met. I believe God has a plan for this earth and I am somehow involved in this plan (albeit in a small way) and He has taken the time to see His plan carried out. This may or may not allow for me to find a soul mate, His plan might involve me being single the rest of my life, in which case I am my own soul mate I suppose. If however His plan involves me meeting someone, this person will meet me at the right time for us to come together and carry out His purpose on this earth.

While some who read this will disagree with my Christian background, I want to point out the question was directed to my personal belief, and Christianity is not on trial here, my views on soul mates is. Loved how challenging this question was, please keep the questions coming!

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