Good morning, y’all. It’s really good that we’ve got all of the Brexit news to take our minds off of our own problems. I guess if the loss of liberties and the financial ruin being enacted on the British people serve as a caution to the American people about what happens when we vote our worst fears, then the non-stop coverage is warranted. It would be refreshing to see the same type of in depth analysis applied to any of America’s issues. How great would it be to have reporters in the face of Mitch McConnell 24X7 like they are now with the British leaders? Great fun, in my opinion.
Speaking of opinions brings us back to our retelling of the history of the church formally known as the Little Church in the Valley. It is Thursday morning, August 20th, and the Right Reverend Dale E. Bread has been released to the care of his wife, and by extension, the Ladies Auxillary of the church. Reverend Dale was up on his feet, more or less, and was able to eat “smooth foods” without the effort cracking the skin on his face. The swelling in the Reverend’s face was still hideous. It was clear to the Elders that the Reverend would not be able to perform services on the upcoming Sunday.
There was some concern how long the rehabilitation period would take. There was an even greater concern for how the young Reverend looked, even when he healed. The Elders reasoned there was no point in turning people off to coming to church because they couldn’t bear the sight of their pastor. Weighing their options, the Elders decided to take the Church of God’s recommendation for replacement pastor. The Elders contracted with Reverend Bill Foldes to fill in while Reverend Bread was convalescing. Elder Wiley had voiced his concerns to the pastor referral service, but was assured that Reverend Foldes had matured greatly in the last five years.
Figuring “what the hey”, the Elders set the booking for Reverend Foldes for the coming Sunday, and updated the billboard in front of the church. They had left open their options to commit to more dates. The memory of nearly losing their dear friend Hugh Morris to the Reverend Foldes’ ministrations was still fresh in their minds. Elder Wiley promised to frisk the reverend before the service and to put “the fear of God” into the visitor. There was just so much liability a self insured entity could bear, and the little church was skating close to the edge.
As it turned out, the Elders fears were unfounded. Reverend Foldes had indeed matured in the past five years. Matured, or he was heavily medicated. Either way, Reverend Foldes was able to lead the church through the Testament of Faith and the altar call without incident. Reverend Bread was in attendance for the service, but sat peacefully out of sight with his family. The Elders encouraged Reverend Bread to not head to the door after the benediction, as was customary. The Elders handled the goodbyes, and gave the faithful their blessings as the congregation headed for home. “Out of sight, out of mind”, thought Revered Diggum.
The Elders waited with great interest for the next issue of the North Georgia Gazette. Apparently the young intern, Howard Doohan, had been given the dubious distinction of being the religion reporter. Fortunately, the reporter was painting in much larger strokes in this week’s column:
Today, I’d like to take last week’s events and explore a religious precept that will create a deep philosophical discussion with any religious scholar you might encounter, either in a church or a bar. The precept is predestination. Predestination, loosely translated, means that everything is foreordained. To further define the concept, an omniscient God knows in advance everything that will happen, throughout time. The much ballyhooed “free will” we hear so much about does not come into play.
For example, while Reverend Bread, pastor of The Full Gospel Original Church of God, thought he chose to pick up Old Ben, and thought his actions were his own thoughts, the outcome was predetermined. God knew Old Ben was going to take a hunk of the Reverend’s nose whether Reverend Bread picked up the snake with his right hand or his left hand.
Taking my point of view, if God is all-knowing, then knowing the future has to be part of the package. How can one place limits on all-knowing? The contrarian viewpoint is expressed by the “free-willers”. The free-willers say that while God knows everything, the individual still has a choice, that the individual can change their mind, and, therefore, change their destiny. So the ambiguity is, does God know you’re going to change your mind?
To me, the concept of free will plays to the strength of revivalists and the born agains. If one presumes that God knows you from birth to death, and the course of your life is as a road traversing the cosmos, then calls to the altar will not change your final destination. Calls to the altar will increase the membership of a preacher’s congregation, though. Arguing that the initiate can change the course of their life through the use of their “free will”, allows pastors the opportunity to establish a pattern of behavior for the initiate. That pattern of behavior can be molded to the specific needs of the denomination.
All other issues aside, free will allows the clergy to slip free from the question, ”if God knows that the newborn will die from some horrible disease, why does He allow it to happen?” If God is not omniscient and man’s free will is the actual determiner of our lives on this planet, then God didn’t know the baby was going to die. The concept of free will also creates a need for a counselor to keep all of us pilgrims on the straight and narrow. Free will certainly reduces the power and culpability of God for life here on this mortal plane, doesn’t it?
Admittedly, there are a lot of minor league doctrines that can produce discussion. For example whether baptism requires full immersion, or whether women can lead a congregation. Both are good topics, but if you want to bang brains with a Biblical scholar for hours on end, try predestination.
Elder Cheatum chuckled out loud after reading the article. “Well, thank goodness he’s gone on to frying bigger fish.” Elder Cheatum said to Elder Diggum. “I was afraid he was going to do a full expose, come out for more pictures.” “If he starts dragging folks into the theoretical, they’ll get bored with his column pretty quick.”
“Yeah, and nothing will turn off a believer like questioning free will.” said Elder Diggum. “Could you imagine the chaos if teenagers used predestination as the reason they snuck the car out?” “It would be like giving a machine gun to a six year old.” “I can’t wait to read the letters to the editor next week about this column.” “It should draw all of the interest away from us.”
“I agree, we may have weathered the storm on this one.” Elder Cheatum said as he continued to tidy up the auditorium for that evening’s prayer meeting. “We’ll see how Dale handles the service tonight and then make the decision to whether he’s ready to come back or not.” “His looks have improved, and I’m encouraged that he’ll be eighty to ninety percent by Sunday.” “Psychologically is another issue.” The Elder said as he placed the last hymnal, in the last row, face up. “We’ll just have to see how tonight goes.”
“Amen, brother” said Elder Diggum as the two friends turned to leave for a quick dinner before returning for the evening service.
“Denny’s?” asked Elder Diggum.
“Denny’s.” answered Elder Cheatum.
The Elders scratched out of the church parking lot headed to Blairsville for a predictable meal at a popular price.