–Do you believe God can be surprised?–
Perhaps I should begin by fleshing out just a bit more of what I mean by surprised. There’s the kind of surprise that comes out of nowhere, and is fully and truly a surprise. Then there’s the more common kind of (milder) surprise, where you simply don’t know what will happen next, but it’s one of the expected possibilities. “Will all the lights be red as usual?…NO! By golly, I got a lucky string of green’s! Yay!” Not exactly earth-shattering surprise, and yet, different from your normal experience perhaps.
Or if you’ve been a Packer fan over the last several years, there’s the surprise of Brett Favre’s return to football. A surprise, in that he publicly wrestled with and announced his retirement, and now he’s back on a team. But a moderate surprise, at best, given his history of vacillating decisions and ponderings over retirement.
So I ask: Is God surprised by Brett Favre’s return to football? Would he have been surprised if Brett stayed in retirement, if you believe Brett is following God’s will for his life? If so, was God surprised when he retired? Is God surprised by a string of lucky green lights? If so, does he take advantage of them?
Another way of asking this: Does God have a plan that’s all predetermined? Do we have free will? Could God’s will be thwarted by that free will? Could God’s will be advanced, or even enhanced by some of our choices? Do we have that kind of power? Do we have any power?
Is any of this evidence of coping with surprise by God? I think so.
We can take a very mundane example like those stoplights. And we can take a more historically significant example like Judas’ betrayal of Christ.
Okay. Those lights. I don’t know about you, but I seriously doubt God has a predestined, predetermined schedule for the changing of our traffic lights. So many factors come in regarding how I might hit these lights, and how I react to the yellow’s…do I slow down and stop, do I punch it and run the red?
These choices, small as they may be, impact when I arrive at my destination, and who I might meet, what mood I’ll be in…etc., etc.
My time of arrival is not necessarily a trivial thing. It affects who I might touch, and who might touch me. These ripples have an unknown and, I would also argue, an unpredictable effect and magnitude.
Does God predetermine each and every event that impacts when I leave the house (early, punctual or late?) for my driving destination to ensure his will is properly carried out? I doubt it.
I guess for me, I believe in the possibility but decidedly infrequency of miracles. Meaning, if God needs something to slow me down to encounter something required for his will to be carried out, he’ll step in and make something happen. I’ve got my doubts that he’s got it all micromanaged that closely and on that tight of a timeframe that he would exercise that privilege very often. I believe God can be surprised, and yes, ADJUST!
(no, no! Stick with me a little while. Don’t jump to throwing “Hey, loser! God is unchanging!” protests at me just yet. Stick with me while I keep tumbling about in the playground of my amateur theological mind.)
Take the example of Judas now. I do not believe that our loving God creates evil and betrayal, even for good (i.e. willed) ends as simply the necessary but regrettable means, as some literalists might argue.
I believe Judas, like MANY of us thank you very much, felt snubbed and made a mistake he deeply regretted later. I have a feeling he was, like MANY of us thank you very much, an otherwise “good” person and faithful disciple, following Christ as best he could. His mistake had huge consequences, and sure, he probably should have recognized that and chosen his course more prudently. But was he predestined and “programmed” to betray Jesus to “fulfill the Scriptures?” I don’t think so. I think he, like MANY of us thank you very much, made his choice, and had to live with the consequences and guilt.
What would have happened if Judas hadn’t handed Jesus over? Would God’s plan for redemption fall through and have God wringing his hands in helpless impotence? No, of course not! He ADJUSTS. He is “surprised” and keeps his big picture on course even if a surprise shadow here or an unexpected highlight there slips in, due to the exercise of our free will.
God’s in it all the time.
(But at a respectful (loving), “gentlemanly” distance concerning the reins of control.)
That’s probably more than enough for tonight. I’ll be back with more on this crazy notion of mine of God adjusting to our choices. Macro-will and micro-will are what I call it. Stay tuned!
Peace! – Karla