Directing the Impossible Play


paulrademacher.com
Today the Republican Convention was to begin in Tampa, but the approach of hurricane Isaac has postponed it. Who knows what effect that will have on history.

On April 20th 2010 an explosion on the Deepwater Horizon oil platform in the Gulf of Mexico killing 11 men.  As a result U.S. oil production has dropped precipitously and dependence on foreign oil is now up to 66%.

In 715 B.C. Sennacherib, King of Assyria laid siege to Jerusalem, but they were unsuccessful – the Jewish accounts say that an Angel of the Lord killed 185,000 Assyrian soldiers. Some historians think it was cholera that killed them, but Sennacherib withdrew and Jerusalem – and therefore Israel – was preserved.

Jesus Christ controls history. Jesus Christ, as the Second Person of the Godhead, manages all the stories of all our lives so that history will come out in the end just as He wants it to, just as it has been prophesied. He is directing this play, this impossibly complicated play.

Yes, but don’t we have free will? Can God control history if He is not controlling each of us? Isn’t history merely the record of human decisions? So how is it possible then for these two ideas – individual human free will and God’s collective plan to coexist? 

News flash: human free will is not all there is. We don’t like to admit that, but it’s true. We don’t get to choose everything that happens in our lives – I didn’t choose to have my baby grandson die. I did not choose to have my new car run off the road at 70 miles an hour. I did not want my husband’s body to develop cancer cells. But those things happened nevertheless. I could still choose how to react to each situation, true, but the situations themselves I didn’t choose.

So how does God interact with human history and still leave our free will intact?

God still controls a great deal of what goes on here, even though Satan runs this world and even though we still have volition; God ultimately controls the entire universe, which includes the earth itself and its weather systems. He controls the animal world – every being from microbes to blue whales. Remember Jonah and the leviathan that dumped him on the shore and sent him back to Nineveh? The history of Nineveh was drastically changed because of the action of that “whale.”

History, over and over again, is changed by mere weather. Napoleon met his Waterloo (aptly named as it turned out) because a storm had left the battlefield so soggy that he postponed his attack, giving his enemies time to launch a surprise assault on his flank.  The British were not expecting Washington to attack on that Christmas in 1776 because the weather had been so extremely cold, but attack he did, resolutely crossing the Delaware and killing almost a thousand British troops while losing only 4 of his own men.

But, wait a minute – human free will was still in play here. Yes – had Napoleon not waited and had Washington decided to sit by the fire nothing would have happened. True. But don’t forget that God is not only omnipotent – able to control the weather, He is also omniscient – fully aware of just how the leaders of these troops would react to the weather He created. Jesus Christ controls history.

nationalgeographic.com
He also controls other aspects of life on this earth. Earthquakes, forest fires, whatever it was that burnt Sodom and Gomorrah to a crisp. Look at the plagues that ravaged Egypt just prior to the Exodus. What would history have been like if the Jews had been held forever in the land of the Pharaohs? Whether the flies and the frogs and the river of blood were supernatural or natural, doesn’t matter – the effect is the same – the Jews went back to the land of their fathers and nearly 2500 years later Israel is a major player on the world stage. And, I haven’t checked lately, but is the rotten U.S. economy still the fault of the Japanese tsunami?

We can’t forget in this discussion the place played by human free will and how God arranges all those wills in history. In June, I published a piece my son wrote using a Rube Goldberg machine as a metaphor for the will of God and for His omniscient ability to weave together all those independent volitions so that they work in concert for His good. Rube Goldberg machines are amazing in their complexity, but imagine how hard it would be to design one if some of the parts could do whatever they wanted to do. Part of how He manages that is choosing which of those volitions He splices into history when.

We don’t decide where or when we show up on the stage. God does that. In His omniscience He has selected for each of us the perfect time to enter history. He has placed us in the perfect place. I came into this world at the end of WWII. My father was still captaining his PT boat in the Philippines; my mother was staying with her parents in a small town on the edge of the Nebraska Sand Hills. I can’t say I know why I turned up there and then, but I know God chose that for me and for whomever, whatever, I was supposed to affect in history. As with most of us my role has been a small one in a cast of billions, but it has been a necessary one or I wouldn’t be here.

Now we have to play what if? What if Henry Ford had been born in 1563 instead of 1863? His idea of mass production would have died of neglect. What if Hitler hadn’t been born? Ironic, true, but without Hitler’s butchery, the Jews would not be back in their land. What if Jesus had been conceived of a 14-year-old in Brooklyn last year? He may not have made it past the Planned Parenthood clinic. I’m pretty sure that had I been born a hundred years ago I wouldn’t have lasted long enough to accomplish anything – I’m too much of a wimp. 

Lastly we need to consider that just because we have free will doesn’t mean we can’t choose to do God’s bidding. Just because we can choose to go against His will doesn’t mean we will. Millions of people follow His commands – at least some of the time.

Our nation’s founding fathers leaned heavily on their knowledge of the will of God as they went about making the decisions that would set our nation on its meteoric rise to power and prosperity. Our governing officials no longer take the will of God into account as they ponder our country’s policies and perhaps something meaningful is happening as Isaac roars up the Gulf – who knows?

We do know, though, that in spite of the willfulness of man and the evil machinations of fallen angels, God’s plan is still chugging right along. Each of us is doing what God knew (not what He caused, but what He knew) we would do and everything that needs to be controlled is well in hand. Jesus Christ is directing this play. Rest easy; it ends well.