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Fatal Illusion

• Greg Boyd

This is our first week of the new sermon series, Moving Pictures. In this series we will look at different movies that show a particular theology. This week we were entertained with the film, Bruce Almighty, a film which highlights the question of free-will. Greg takes us through the illusion of fatalism. The foundation of fatalism (also understood as determinism and/or Calvinism) suggests the world and all its happenings are determined. All that unfolds, including all suffering, is a result of fate, a pre-determined destiny of events established by God. But, there is a different way of understanding the world and God’s relationship to the created order. God created a world with free-will; where humans have the capacity to freely choose life or choose death. God is a relational God and longs for relationship with humans who freely choose love. With the free-will understanding of the created order we discover God is not the author of all that unfolds in the world, but that humans play an integral role in what comes to pass.

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Is all suffering the result of God’s predetermined plan? Is everything that unfolds in this world simply according to the will and hand of God? Throughout history fatalism has been a dominant way of understanding the world and God’s relationship to the world. According to fatalism (also known as determinism and/or Calvinism) everything that happens in the world, every good and every suffering is a determined event. “Whatever may be, may be”, says the fatalist. Human activity is undermined because, in accordance with fatalism, everything has been set in motion before time began. Every death, suffering, war, tsunami, tornado… all of it was in precise accordance with the predetermined plan of God. There are 2 fatal implications to the determinist worldview. First, it is difficult to see that God is all good and loving. If everything happens according to a pre-determined set of events, one must ask how God can be all good and loving. Secondly, the life of humans. If everything is determined by God, then humans determine nothing.

But, as we look to the first film on our new sermon series, Bruce Almighty, we find a different way of understanding the world. In this film is a scene where Bruce asks of God, “How do you make someone love you without affecting free-will?” Such an inquisition reveals the reality of free-will. You cannot force someone to love you, nor can God make a person love God. Love must be chosen. We were created with the power of choice. We can freely choose life or death. Deuteronomy 30:19 says, “I call heaven and earth to witness against you today that I have set before you life and death, blessings and curses. Choose life so that you and your descendants may live.” Here we see that God allows for a choice. We as human agents can choose life or death and it is God’s desire that we choose life.

In Isaiah 30:1 we see yet another example of humans as free agents. “Oh, rebellious children, says the Lord, who carry out a plan, but not mine; who make an alliance, but against my will, adding sin to sin.” Isaiah tells us that there is a way brings life, and a way that brings death. As free agents we can go our own way, which is why it’s sin! Or we could look to Matthew 23:37, where Jesus weeps over Jerusalem, lamenting, “Jerusalem, Jerusalem, the city that kills the prophets and stones those who are sent to it! How often have I desired to gather your children together as a hen gathers her brood under her wings, and you were not willing!” Here Jesus longs to gather his people, yet people were not willing and, instead, chose their own way.

According to these passages we find a view of God and God’s relationship with the world that is not one of fatalism. With a free-will worldview, God is not the author of every suffering. Instead we see that human agents play a significant role in the way the world unfolds. There is great risk in creating a world with free-will. With free-will God does not always get God’s way. Humans have a significant role in what happens in this world.

But, with free-will, human beings are liberated to experience a true relationship with God, a relationship that is freely chosen. God does not want a world of programed robots, all moving according to a set of predetermined plans. God longs for a bride with authority, a bride who creates with God. We are co-workers with Christ! Our actions and choices make a difference in the world. Our lives carry incredible significance in partnering in the coming Kingdom. The Spirit of the living God is always moving and influencing. We have the choice to partner with the influence and bring forth life!

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Topics: Culture, Free Will, Love, Pain & Suffering

Sermon Series: Moving Pictures

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Focus Scripture:

  • Deuteronomy 30:19

    I have set before you life and death, blessings and curses. Now choose life, so that you and your children may live...

  • Matthew 23:37

    Jerusalem, Jerusalem, the city that kills the prophets and stones those who are sent to it! How often have I desired to gather your children together as a hen gathers her brood under her wings, and you were not willing!

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4 thoughts on “Fatal Illusion

  1. Erin says:

    How do Biblical prophecies fit into the “free-will understanding of the created order”? Aren’t those “pre-determined” events and relationships? How can we reconcile that without the fatalist perspective?

  2. Donald McKay says:

    One passage on your question helped me, Erin. In Matt 19, Jesus told the 12 – which means Judas Iscariot too – that they would be given 12 thrones, judging the 12 tribes of Israel in His coming Kingdom. When Judas made his final choices, he obviously forfeited this assigned privilege. So what did that make Jesus – a false prophet? I was devastated by the possibility. When I asked the Lord about this, He answered that Jesus had not predestined Judas to that position; rather Jesus had informed them that it was His Father’s will for them. Prophecies can be predetermined, where God says, “I will do ___” or contingent, such as when Jesus will return (2 Peter 3) where God tells us that we can “hasten that Day.” Hope this helps.

  3. diana obrien says:

    So does Philippians 4:11-13 lend itself to a “que sera sera”, fatalistic perspecitve? That we just accept what comes/happens to us? How do these verses align with our directive to pray for and intercede and ask God for things according to His will?

  4. Love ya Greg! If you can’t SHOW the movie clips, then PLEASE just give a quick description of each one after you play it because we have NO IDEA what you guys just saw, since we are watching the podcast! Also- tell the video staff that the abbrev. of Deuteronomy is DEUT or DT, NOT DUET!! (See first 5 minutes of the Bruce Almighty sermon). Sorry I’m particular on that kind of stuff! -David Vancelette

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