Welcome to the intersection of theology, physics, psychology, literature, and improv.
Welcome to my world. All we would need to add is motorcycling and computers.
There's a long-running theological debate regarding predestination and free will.
On the one hand:
If the outcome of events rests on the free will of humans and, perhaps, other beings, then these beings have power over creation that overrides God's will, and God is no longer supreme. Free will weakens God.
On the other hand:
If all things are predestined, then humans have no free will. Aside from our own pride of person, there is the problem of punishment for sin - how can we be guilty of that which was predestined?
One solution, sort of, is universalism:
If God predestines the entirety of creation, then God cannot punish any of creation because God is the cause of everything creation has done. Therefore, everything must be redeemed, or God is found guilty.
Not satisfied? How about process theology, where God and creation affect each other as they both grow?
I'm not really happy with process theology, and here's why:
While I was still in grade school, I decided that God was creator of space and time and therefore could not be a servant of space and time. (Yes, I was that
kid.) So God is not on the timeline.
In High School, I started considering that God might be on a different timeline - one external to ours. We sometimes call God "The author of creation", and it made a handy metaphor for me: if God is the author and we are the characters in the story, God can see how the story ends.
If you have ever written a story, you may have found that, as you write, the characters begin to take on attributes that prevent your making certain choices for them without violating their, um, character. For example, in an episode of M*A*S*H, B. J. Hunnicutt was to conspire with Hawkeye Pierce to do unnecessary surgery on an officer to save a life. The actor Mike Farrell said his character, Hunnicutt, would not do such a thing, and the script was altered to meet the morals of the established character.
When the attributes of a character prevent the story from ending the way you want, you may choose to go back and rewrite the beginning so that the story still ends the way you want. You can do this because you're not on the same timeline, and the characters never know the difference.
But if we are to believe in free will, we can't be mere characters, can we? Even if Shakespeare has Jacques, in "As You Like It", drop the (already in Shak3espeare's time) tired phrase "All the world's a stage", are we merely acting out prewritten parts?
Enter improvisational theater.
I am blessed to have had the opportunity to be a part of ComedySportz Chicago's "Improv Open Mike" and to have taken classes at both ComedySportz and Second City. In improvised theater, the players do not have scripts. Instead, they are at once playwrights and players, creating as they go, with near absolute free will.
Scenes are often launched by one or more suggestions from the audience. These are jumping-off points, but the suggestion in no way determines the outcome. There is a kind of uncertainty here as no one contributor to the scene - suggester or player - controls what will happen.
In the beginning was the word, and the word was a suggestion...
But what kind of creation is it where God makes a suggestion and then lets the universe run amok? Perhaps a Deist one, but wait: what if, as mentioned before, God is outside the timeline?
Now we have a God who can at once see the end of the scene and offer the suggestion that prompts it. Choices in the future would affect the state of things in the present or past.
Wait, that's just crazy. We know time only goes one direction. We understand causality. Nothing we choose now can affect the past.
Two articles that crossed my path today suggest that the future can
affect the present.
The first, today's post by Robert Krulwich on NPR, is "Could It Be? Spooky Experiments That 'See' The Future
". In it, psychological experiments show that it is possible that future events - even our own choices - can affect us in the present.
The second, an article from last April in Discover magazine, is "Back from the Future
". A set of experiments with subatomic particles shows that observing particles can affect the behavior of the particles before they are measured.
We, as creation, can contemplate the creator, but have the same difficulty in imagining the creator that the characters in Animal Farm might have imagining George Orwell. Still, these stories suggest to me that, whoever and whatever our Creator is, that Creator is adjusting the past to draw us to the best possible future, regardless of our choices. We still have responsibility for our choices, but God has the final outcome in hand.
I find this reassuring.