Jean Calvin, the killjoy French barrister cum Swiss theologian, inaccurately if nonetheless fairly has been painted as the author of that most insidious of Christian dogmas: predestination.
When filtered through the teleplays of Lost or the predictable permutations of a rom-com, predestination strikes one as a romantic plot device. The logical assertion of ‘god’ as all-knowing and our felt need for lives with a
‘purpose’ inexorably leads to some form of predestination. It’s what you get when you cross Aristotle with Rick Warren.
When applied to our own individual narratives, predestination can feel more like a brown bag of turds stamped straight to you from the Almighty himself. Purpose, fate and destiny only sound appetizing so long as your life doesn’t veer too far from the complexity of a Joel Osteen dust jacket.
Much like the other JC, Jean Calvin shouldn’t be blamed for the trespasses of those who followed him. After all, when it comes to predestination, Jean was only continuing a strain of thought that began with the Old Testament and included Augustine and Aquinas along with it.
However, in their less Calvinistic hands predestination was less a mechanistic explanation for every jot and tittle of our lives and more a grasping after the paradox of how a presumably unchanging, all-knowing God has made creatures with, as in his image, free will of their own. It’s like the proverbial tree forever falling in the forest: can an omniscient God make creatures who nonetheless surprise and delight him?
In abjectly un-Calvinist fashion I can only answer by way of anthropomorphism.
Survey courses of Augustine and Aquinas et al will often explain predestination by comparing God to a script writer who knows the contours and conclusion of the play but whose characters- played by actors- can still improvise and, ocassionally, surprise.
Like the Father with a capital H, I know my boys in and out. I may not know their fate but 9/10 I know what they’ll have for dinner next Tuesday and how they’ll react in a given situation. Their lives with me are not programmed but they are predictable. And yet, every now and then they’ll do something to deviate from the script that is our lives and delight me. Like affixing finger tattoos to their lips and doing Chaplin impersonations sans prompting for their father.
And harder in love.
And could only think that this is exactly how our Heavenly Father must feel over every stupid, silly but sacred detail of our lives.