By Edward Sulpice
I like going to the beach and watching the sunset. For some reason, the moments leading up to the sun disappearing under the horizon contain both hints of exhilaration and melancholy, all bound up in an awestruck reverence concerning the wonder of God being displayed on a natural canvas full of color and glory.
More than once the thought has occurred to me, “Am I choosing to enjoy this sunset, or is my enjoyment of the sunset a symptom of God living through me?” Did I choose to go to the beach to meet God’s beauty or did God draw me to the beach to reveal himself to me? Usually, I push the thought away in favor of sticking my feet in the water or just walking along the shore. But when I do entertain the questions of determinism or freewill, the writings of David in Psalm 139 come to mind, especially verses 1-18, but specifically verse 16, which says, “You saw me before I was born. Everyday of my life was recorded in your book. Every moment was laid out before a single day had passed.”
I’m sure many Biblical scholars from around the world have determined, through exegetical exploration, that David was engaging in some sort of hyperbolic poetry in an effort to define God’s indefinable existence, and that the thought of God actually laying out every moment of everyday in advance is an absurd thought. Why? I think it’s because the world that we live in seems to come at us in a flurry of choices that all need to be settled by…yesterday. We are forced to choose, and because of that, we feel that our choices are organic in nature, originating from our own thoughts. And maybe they are.
But I think David was on to something. It seems to me that as he sat writing under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, he realized that God did know him. David KNEW that God had created him. David KNEW that God sustained him. What about the rest of the world? What about it? God KNEW David and David believed that God had laid out every moment of his life before a single day had passed.
Does this thought make David a Calvinist? Did David oppose Arminian theology? What were David’s thoughts on Open Theology or Process Theology? Would David speak to the concept of Possible Worlds? Could it be that David just loved God and had a deep desire to know Him? Would that be enough? I have a sneaking suspicion that all of these conversations about determinism versus freewill have their genesis in the question that ponders what a person must do to be saved. The quest to have our eternal ticket stamped with a heavenly seal seems to permeate everything. Why not this discussion?
Usually, when my thoughts arrive at the point of systematic salvation, I turn back to the sunset. I soak in the vibrant red streaks of sunlight intersecting with the purples and blues of the darkening sky. I see the sharp line of the horizon glowing with a fiery orange thread of sunlight, highlighting, with golden tones, the underside of puffy white clouds standing guard over the scene. And I smile.
I think to myself, “Would I enjoy or appreciate this scene more if it were a product of my choice to be here, or would the scene being created in front of me be more precious if I knew that it was God who had directed me to the shore to enjoy His creation?”
Could I tell the difference?
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