The Good Word  

 March 1999

It's about the future.  And our places in it.  As the old song says:

    "When I was just a little girl,
        I asked my mother,
            What will I be?"

When mother answers, "What will be, will be," she expressed an attitude that dominates many people, and at least one major world religion.
The belief in the inevitability of particular future events is driven by the belief that we do not control the future, someone else does.  For many, this someone else is God.

To the Muslim, submitting to the inevitabilities put before us by God is a virtue.  The fatalism that is a dominant motif of the Muslim religion is called "kismet" (or fate) and the very term Muslim means "one who submits."
Are there similarities here to the view held by many Christians that God has a plan for your life?  What about explicit efforts to learn what this plan is, and then to conform to it?

Whether we realize it or not, our views of the future shape and mold our lives in the present and lay down the history that becomes our past.  There may be serious flaws in our views of the future, particularly as relates to God's actions and place in our lives.  A recent review of Charles Hartshorne's, Omnipotence and Other Theological Mistakes, emboldens me to suggest an alternate paradigm of the future.  A view that may more adequately express the Biblical dictum,

    "So if the Son sets you free,
        You will be free, indeed." (John 8:36)

First, let's have a little humility when talking about the character of God.  Remember that Job, that perfect soul, was rebuked by God for attempting to speak authoritatively on God. (Job 38:2)  And the great apostle concludes:

    "How unsearchable his judgments,
        And his paths beyond tracing out!" (Romans 11:33)

It is not with arrogance, but with determination to do him honor, that we essay to comment on his character and being.

It is not helpful to conclude that God knows the future to the furthest, unlimited generation.  To know every event, in every detail, for the next 47 billion years: how dull, how uninteresting.  Even a human would hope for the time to pass quickly so that one could learn something new, in the time beyond.

But what do the scriptures say about God's relationship to the future?  It is interesting that most of the talk about God's knowing the future is in the Old Testament.  In fact, his ability to foretell the future is almost an acid test.  Then listen to the language:
    "I am going to do something in your days that you
        Would not believe, even if you were told." (Habakkuk 1:5)

    "My word . . . will accomplish what I desire
        And achieve the purpose for which I sent it." (Isaiah 55:11)

    "Surely the Sovereign Lord does nothing
        Without revealing his plan . . ." (Amos 3:7)

The God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob is an active God.
History doesn't happen to him.  He creates history through the actions he takes.  He does have a plan.  But it is not unchangeable.

    "I will relent and not inflict on it the disaster
        I had planned." (Jeremiah 18:8)

In fact, this was a principal complaint of Jonah:

    "Is this not what I said when I was still at home?
        I knew that you are a God who relents . . ." (Jonah 4:2)

The picture that emerges is of a great and powerful God who not only plans the future, but has the power necessary to accomplish his plans.  How exciting!  How personal!  This we can relate to.  A real being, like us, but God.

You and I, dear friend, are like this free God, for we are created in his image.  We are not exactly like him, for our visions and dreams are stunted and cloudy; and our power to accomplish them is limited.  But the limitation is not so great as we might have thought.

After all, it is God himself who prompts our dreams and visions and strengthens us for achievement.

He has no other plan for your life than that you would use the talents and abilities he gave you, properly.  As a proud parent you delight and surprise him by taking a constructive initiative.  He is not surprised that you are doing so, but he is pleasured by the unfolding of your creative mind and energies.

God does not know all that he himself will do in the future.  Nor does he know all that you will do.  The future is a canvas that he invites you to join in painting.

Seize the day.  Go ahead and learn the truth,

Today is the tomorrow that I planned yesterday.


    "If the Son sets you free,
        You will be free indeed."

Your friend, Herb Sorensen