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!