Saturday, March 10, 2007

Mongo Theology

Reading Toph Beach's adventures in RobBellLand, and addressing the question of predestination with our limited, finite little brains reminded me of several conversations I've had over the years of my walk, following Jesus Christ. So many of us struggle with the oxymoronic puzzle of how to reconcile our free will (and all of the difficulties that come with it), and our Lord's sovereign will and plan for each and every one of us. How do we make this work? How do we understand?

I'm often drawn to one of my favorite characters in a fine, biblical film released back in 1974 (whew!) by that esteemed theological producer, Mel Brooks. I refer of course to "Blazing Saddles." There is a sage character in the film who, sometime after punching a horse in the nose, utters the incredibly insightful and profound pronouncement, "Mongo merely small pawn in great game of life."

Small pawn indeed. In our exercise of free will and our dominion over the world around us, we often mistake ourselves for knights, bishops, or even kings and queens. I think it's important to remember that, although we are each loved, esteemed, and valued more than we can ever possibly comprehend or appreciate... we're all just pawns of the Father who created us... we serve at His bidding, at His pleasure, and at His will. We move, breathe, think, and exist because of His grace. To believe in our own importance and ability is supreme arrogance.

That is not to belittle or underestimate the value of His gift of free will and choice for us. Indeed, we'd be incapable of loving our God if not for that gift. It is, of course, a double-edged sword, for with the ability to love comes the ability to reject... and each of us has felt the pain of rejection as well. I guess I believe that it's not nearly so important for us to reconcile or unravel this mystery, so much as to embrace and understand His phenomenal love for us, and to understand how a pawn can play a strategic and tactical part in His grand plan... being alert to his words and available to be moved in accord with His will.


Toph said...

What I've been drawn to recently is the satisfactory answers Christianity gives in the face of philosophy's floundering attempts to reconcile the situation. If I logically decide that free will is true but not predestination, then I live in a world that is not controlled by anything, swayed in any which way. This isn't comfortable - I desire some grounding to life. Yet if I reject free will in favor of predestination, I cease to be a free being. I can't accept that alternative either.

And somehow, in Christ they work together, so that I am free, and He is still in complete control. I can use my free will to trust in His providence, and I don't think I could live with it any other way.

Toph said...

Hmm, perhaps I shouldn't say that is Christianity's position, since Christians haven't agreed on any stance. So let me rephrase: As I best understand the Bible, I have been satisfied with its answers in regards to predestination and free will.

Danilo said...

Just to take umbrage with the premise :-)
Not pawns - never pawns.
Always sons and daughters.
We are valued because we exist.
We do not exist for work's sake but for the sake of love.
When we are bid it is out of love, when we are sent it is out of love.

Even "The Great Commission" is only truly possible for those who have experienced transformation to some significant degree because to the degree that you have been loved is the degree to which you can love – and if the Great Commission is not rooted in love it is no longer Great – it is merely a device for the acquisition of converts.
If converts are not embraced by a real and genuine community, they will never become disciples because they will never have been loved.
In “Let the Nations Be Glad” a book about missions, John Piper writes: “Missions exists because worship doesn’t.”

Thought I would chip in here :-)
Nice blog

Danny B.

Old_Guy said...

And for the sake of anti-umbrage!

Thanks, Danny for your sage thoughts and perspective...

I believe even more, the reverse of what you said is true, that, "we exist because we are valued..." that, if you will, our existance is a reflection, if not a result of the value our creator places upon us.

Sons and daughters indeed, and always. But, in humility, always subject to the plans and purposes of our maker and the "one who moves the pieces." Even as sons and daughters, we are most effective when in complete subjugation to His plan. I might suggest that this even applies to our role in the game... not to look ahead, to engage in formulating strategy and tactics, but to move "in the moment" at His beck, call, and leading.

Rick Dexter said...

I do not believe God moves around us like pieces on a chess board. This isn't love. When I treat my kids like that, they don't love me, they rebel.

I believe He deals in circumstances - putting choices in front of us, not like three curtains on The Price is Right, but in ways that allow us our free will. He already knows our choice in advance, and no matter which way we go, He uses it to further His will, even if it is teaching us a lesson in love. This is different than predistination, because in true predistination we don't take an active role, and we might as well be a pawn. And being in control is an entirely different concept than controlling. I think the struggle most people have is spending a lot of time trying to discern what they feel is the "right" choice (often associated with the phrase "seek God's will"). In many choices the path is simple and clear: sin or not. It is not always that cut and dry. Living each and every moment in our hearts, motivated out of love for God, ourselves and our "neighbors" is the life I believe God wants us to experience. I think the majority of us, particularly in the valley, spend our lives in our heads, trying to "discern God's will"). This has certainly been my greatest struggle, particularly recently. I'm not advocating making choices based in feelings, but since love is a feeling, how can we not?

By the way, I enjoy reading these blogs a lot.