"Unity without verity is no better than conspiracy." - John Trapp

Friday, July 20, 2007

On Choices (and Harry Potter)

Reading the following quote the other day, it struck me as a great description of the difference between a Biblical understanding of predestination and a functionally pagan understanding that turns predestination into fatalism:
It was, he thought, the difference between being dragged into the arena to face a battle to the death and walking into the arena with your head held high.

The context of the discussion is between a professor and a student. This particular student has been singled out to have a significant future, which he feels has trapped him. The professor is trying to show the student that what seems inevitable is still the result of choices of all those involved.

Sometimes, in reaction to a preceived rejection of God's sovereignty by those not in the Reformed camp, we go to far and effectively deny the reality of human choice (free will is such a loaded term I'll avoid it for now). But the Bible is clear that we make our own choices. So whatever the future holds for us is not a fatalistic future.

What this means is we can either actively engage the world around us, which is what the Bible calls us to do, or we can passively let life happen to us. A Biblical view of sovereignty does not encourage the latter (whatever will be, will be) but instead encourages us in the former that God is able to take even our failures and ultimately bring about good.

Continuing the quote:

Some people, perhaps, would say that there is little to choose between the two ways, but Dumbledore knew - and so do I, thought Harry with a rush of fierce pride, and so did my parents - that there was all the difference in the world.

- Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince p. 512

I was not expecting theological statements from a Harry Potter book, but this fits well a Biblical approach to predestination. What the second part of the quote makes clear is that it matters immensely whether we are fatalistic in our understanding of predestination or whether we believe we are participants in what God is doing.

Yes, I understand that their is a huge gap between Biblical predestination and the fictional prophecy in the Harry Potter books. But Harry has been struggling with a fixed future, the way many of us, or at least I know I did, struggle with what it means that God has already foreordained everything that comes to pass. Some today have reacted so negatively to this idea of predestination that they have become open theists, denying that God knows the future.

But the Bible says both that God knows (and ordained) whatever will happen and that our choices are signficant. What I hear in Harry Potter's thoughts is an echo of the Biblical statements that God works in us to will and to do; that human actions can be meant for evil, but God means them for good; that we are to make our calling and election sure; that both God and Pharaoh hardened Pharaoh's heart, etc. Predestination does not deny that we make choices. It means that God has woven those choices into His plan in a way too mysterious for us to understand.

PS: Yes, I'm somewhat anxiously awaiting the release of Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows. On why I don't think this is inappropriate for a Christian, I'll blog about later.

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Blogger Even So... said...

Just because God is sovereign doesn't mean we are static...we are elected to action not apathy

4:44 PM EDT  

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