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The Will of God – A Reflection

January 16, 2020

Do you want to make this Presbyterian squirm? Mention Predestination tied into the Will of God! Unfortunately, these two concepts which Presbyterians inherited from John Calvin’s interpretation of Augustine have been around a long time and have crossed the eyes of many a student and theologian, including me.

For me, Predestination (God selects, at the beginning of time those who will be “saved”) runs counter to the whole concept of Free Will and Grace. This really gets ugly in my eyes when you add in the not so nice sibling to Predestination, Double Predestination. This is a concept where God also selects those who will be damned to the fires of Hell for all eternity. Talk about no room for grace or mercy at the table!

What is especially galling to me is how some in the church spout the concept of Predestination and Double Predestination with an air of condescension. After all, in their minds they are obviously in the camp of the Elect (those who are saved) while others who are “not like them” are going to burn in the lake of unquenchable fire. I have never understood how this can bring anyone comfort… their comfort at the expense of someone else who was made in the Image of God just like them. Is that really the Will of God? I know I have a difficult time balancing that with the God of Love, Peace, Mercy, and Compassion whom I see in the life and teachings of Jesus.

If this was indeed the case, there would be no need for confession, reconciliation, or forgiveness. Why forgive when someone is obviously going to burn for all eternity. Unless that person is you… then all bets are off and you demand new rules for yourself!

I have also struggled with some of the concepts floating out there about God’s Will. So often today it seems (as it has in ages past) that God’s Will always lines up with our own beliefs and against the other… you know, a sort of religious “in-crowd” and “out-crowd.” In order to feel good about one’s self; a person has to be in at the expense of another who is out (aka burning in the lake of fire).

This afternoon has been a time of reading, study, and reflection for me. As I read and reflected on the writings of Thomas Merton in New Seeds of Contemplation, this specific thought from the chapter “Seeds of Contemplation” caused me to stop and to ponder. How am I to know the will of God?… whatever is demanded by truth, by justice, by mercy, or by love must surely be taken to be willed by God. (p. 18)

This weekend we remember and honor the Rev., Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Dr. King spoke the following words in his I Have a Dream speech delivered at the Lincoln Memorial in 1963. Dr. King was inspired in part by one of the great Prophets of the Hebrew Scriptures, Amos–We cannot be satisfied as long as a Negro in Mississippi cannot vote and a Negro in New York believes he has nothing for which to vote. No, no, we are not satisfied, and we will not be satisfied until “justice rolls down like waters, and righteousness like a mighty stream.” Amos 5:24 states: But let justice roll down like waters, and righteousness like an ever-flowing stream.

This, dear reader, is what I believe is the centerpiece of the Will of God. In the words of that other great prophet, Micah: He has told you, O mortal, what is good; and what does the Lord require of you but to do justice, and to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God? (Micah 6:8)

What is the Will of God? Thomas Merton, Martin Luther King, Jr., and the Prophets offer much to contemplate. I believe that the cornerstone of this will is found in Jesus’s summary of the Law and the Prophets–“He said to him, ‘You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind. This is the greatest and first commandment. And a second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself.'” (Matthew 22:37-39)

This to me is food for thought as we reflect on how we can better serve God and God’s Creation this weekend. For that matter, how we are called to serve God each and every day!

*The first picture in this blog was taken by a parishioner at the Christmas Eve Service held at Presbyterian Community Church of the Rockies in Estes Park, Colorado in 2019.

The second is from the pilgrimage Denise and I took to the Civil Rights Memorial that sits in front of the Southern Poverty Law Center in Montgomery, Alabama.

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