Is everything that happens in my life set? I am sitting here typing. Was it foreordained that I would be doing this at this time on this day?
The theology of Job’s 3 friends who judged him instead of praying with him and for him suggests a world in which the rules are fixed. Furthermore, it suggests that all that we know about God is set and there is nothing new to know. God doesn’t change. God’s plan for the way the world will turn out is already set and is unalterable. Men and women cannot change it.
Here’s what got me thinking about this. My 2-year-old son Henry wakes up before 5:00AM often. This morning, the lazy rascal slept until 5:35. Usually, I take him for a walk in the stroller. He’s pretty happy and talkative at that time. He smiles before 6:00AM more than most people do all day. I need to get him out of the house, so my wife and our 7-year-old don’t wake up. They’re not as chipper in the pre-dawn AM.
So, I am pushing the stroller through the morning fog. It’s dark. The fog is thick. My sleepy mind is on autopilot. I am running this scenario in my mind about how the Detroit Tigers can win the World Series. I can see it all. I might as well be sleep-walking. As we come around the curvy sidewalk along an isolated part of the road, I am rudely jolted to reality by the sound of a snarling pit-bull, furiously barking his head off.
I jump right into the air and it is amazing at how many thoughts run through your mind in a nanosecond. “I am going to land in the road. It’s a main road with heavy traffic often moving at 55MPH. No cars coming – it’s barely past 6:00AM. O my God, I let go of the stroller! What’s that pit-bull going to do to Henry?”
It all shot through my mind. I am not sure how I composed my self to step out of the road and continue pushing stroller. The pit bull stopped at the driveway entrance and just barked. He never noticed Henry! And Henry thought it was cute that a doggie was saying ‘hello.’
I don’t know why that dog didn’t grab onto my leg or Henry’s arm. I have no idea. For a few seconds I was blanketed with the shame that in an instinctual effort to save my own skin I jumped and left my boy to the pit bull. But, I recovered and realized before I could know what was happening the canine had broken off his charge and commenced barking as we walked away.
And here’s the thought that went through my mind. Did that dog not bite me because it’s not my time or Henry’s time to die today? Are our deaths fixed? Is every thing in life pre-set?
As I have read Job, I have thought over and over that the theology of Job’s friends sounds a lot like Calvinism to me. I am more of a free-will guy than a predestination guy. But, do those two thought-systems have to be mutually exclusive? I remember a wise pastor I knew in Arlington, VA. He told me the two theologies (reformed and Armenian) are both equally attested in scripture. The word of God forwards both ideas.
I am going to read about Armenian theology and Calvinism toward the end of this year or early into next year. I have 3 or 4 books on the subject. The divide between the two thought systems can be wide, schismatic. Since I land on the side of free-will, I find myself recoiling when someone advocates for reformed theology. Inside me, a defensive reaction begins as if I and all I believe are under attack.
That has to stop. I have to come to grips with what I actually believe. And I have to appreciation, respect, love, and peace with my friends who love Jesus and believe in reformed theology. Some of the most missional committed, evangelistic Christians I know are hard-core Calvinists. And, that’s OK.
I don’t if Henry and I came out of our close encounter with a pit bull unscarred because that was plan all along. I don’t know if we are OK because God intervened at that moment. Or maybe, that’s just a dog that barks a lot and then curls his toes when you rub his tummy. I don’t know. I know the incident makes me thankful my son is well. And the incident reminds me to give love and grace to Job’s friends, Calvinists, and myself.