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Posts Tagged ‘fate’

A lot of Christians talk about the will of God.  Whether they are talking about a “call” for their lives, or direction for day to day choices, a lot of people are curious how they can know God’s will.  Part of the mystery is that whatever process we use for determining the will of God doesn’t seem to work.

We pray, sometimes using a specific method or for a scheduled amount of time.  We submit ourselves, “Thy will be done.”  We seek counsel.  We study.  And then a choice comes, and we listen closely.  Nothing.

We throw out a fleece, like Gideon, and still get nothing.  We put God in a box, making deals with Him, and however it works out we take it as confirmation that we should do whatever we want.  “God, if you want us to build that new sanctuary, supply the 1.2 million dollars for the down payment.”  Only $750,000 comes in, and we decide that God wants us to step out on faith. “I mean, it’s a big thing for God to bring in so much money for the project.”  Or we say, “God, if you don’t want me to do this, close the doors; stop me.”  And months later, we look back thinking, “The devil sure was resisting me in my service to God.  Look at all the persecution I went through!”  Which is the correct view?  Should we make deals with God?  Which voice is limiting Him?

Some people claim to know the will of God.  They get a sign.  They have dreams.  A quiet voice whispers to them.  How can we trust these mystical revelations, when the Bible has so many examples of people being influenced by other powers in the spiritual realm?

Why did the life of a prophet seem so much simpler?  How did he hear God’s voice?  When the early church gathered to pray, what did it look and sound like for the Spirit to say, “Set apart Paul and Barnabas”?  Men in the early church could not be stopped by chains or prisons or even stonings.  We see in these instances the disciples pressing forward, confident that God desires them out on the streets and in the courtyard, preaching the gospel.  What does it mean when Paul said that He tried to go to Bithynia (Acts 16:7) but the Spirit prevented Him?  If Paul wanted to bring the gospel somewhere, but God wouldn’t let him, he was obviously not just trusting that his desires were from God.  So how did Paul know?

But keep reading, because in 2 easy paragraphs, I’m going to solve the problem of the will of God!…  No, I’m not making that claim.  I think part of our problem is that we don’t want to walk by faith.  We want to know every step way in advance.  We want a list of do’s and don’t’s.  When we wait to hear from God, we get impatient and conclude that we won’t hear from Him.  God gave us brains.  Maybe we should work it out.  Or maybe God doesn’t care what we decide.

Some people really do take finding the will of God that far.  Should you give $50 to feed the poor, or $50 to send a missionary, or invest the $50?  None of those uses are sinful.  All can be good and God-honoring.  So it doesn’t matter which you choose.  God will bless you anyway.  God has a will for the big things, but the little things are up to us.  (People have to decide where to draw the line between big things and little things:  Prophecy must be a big thing.  Jesus coming to die for us had to happen.  Sometimes big things are whom we marry or where we go to school.  For other people, they consider those life-changing decisions to be some of the little ones where God leaves us to decide on our own.)  In any case, it takes a lot of study and extreme moral clarity to make sure that one of the options we’re considering is not sinful.  We’re left to make a score sheet for each choice.  And how do you add in factors like selfishness or vanity, good stewardship or discernment?  What is wisdom anyway?

Or maybe we should stop worrying about the will of God.  God’s in control, so everything that happens is what is meant to happen.  We’re not going to change that, so why stress?  Que sera, sera.  There’s an easy way to figure out God’s will: hindsight.

Here’s what I believe.  God is in control, and no one will change His plan.  His plan covers the details, even the details of how we decide and that we sought to please Him in our decisions.  His plan includes His guidance and revelation.  Wisdom is not knowing the tally sheet for all the different options.  It is a dependence on God’s perspective, even when His way doesn’t seem to be practical or likely to work out.  Part of having a relationship with God is waiting on Him.  He is faithful to provide the guidance we need, and merciful enough that, if we are seeking Him and asking for His help, our feet will not stumble; our lives won’t be ruined by our God-submitted choice.

Some things are clearly revealed as the will of God.  He desires our sanctification.  He desires us to be thankful and to pray to Him.  He tells husbands to love their wives, and disciples to preach the word.  To trespass those instructions would be sinful.  So the possibilities are narrowed down.

Duty is another way to make our decisions easier, by limiting our options.  We make a commitment (according to the will of God), and follow through.  A father may wonder whether to take a job in New Jersey or Texas, but he knows he must provide for his family.  A conference speaker may get to choose his topic or his wording, but he’s obligated to speak.  A mom must change a diaper.  My friend volunteered at an orphanage.  Once she was there, she had to do what she was told.  Her duty made the will of God for her simpler.  When Paul decided to heed his vision and go to Macedonia, he didn’t have to ask God:  “Should I move my left foot?  Now right?  What about my right foot?”

Of course God is helping us just as much to accomplish what we know He wants us to do as He helps us find out what He wants us to do.  It is easy to be relieved at knowing we are where God wants us, and forget to excel, forget to walk in the Spirit as we obey.  We think God sent us on an errand and now our own intelligence and strength will get it done.  There’s danger in duty, the danger of empty legalism.  But there is peace, too, in knowing what one ought to do: what must be done.

To God be all glory,

Lisa of Longbourn

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Passive.  Active.  Force.  Manipulation.  Choice.  Fate.  Death.  Freedom. 

Does God mean for something to be?  Is the only way to tell God’s will through hindsight?  “Whatever will be, will be”? 

For perfect free will, one must be not only all-powerful, but completely omniscient: to know all possible actions and outcomes and to be able to cause any one of those. 

Humans tend towards arrogance, assuming that their knowledge comprises available knowledge of the world, and that if we seem to ourselves to be in control, we must truly be. 

Though “love changes everything,” knowledge certainly helps. 

Faith is not dependent on what we can comprehend with our own minds, but on the love of God. 

If prayer influences God, does that make prayer powerful? 

Can those who “love their neighbor” kill them?  How much animosity, and how much humility, is required of Christians dealing with Muslims? 

Read Blink of an Eye by Ted Dekker, the story of Seth the surfer-genius who receives a form of clairvoyance that enables him to see possible futures, when he meets a fugitive Saudi princess named Miriam.  What do they learn about the world, each other, themselves, and God?  If there’s a way to happily ever after, they will find it.

To God be all glory,

Lisa of Longbourn

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The other night I watched a movie with a friend. It was a thinking movie, the kind I love. Do people ever tell you a movie is “about” the plot? I mean, a movie or book is rarely about what happens. The events and characters are about something else. Jane Austen was kind enough to tell us in her titles what her books were about. Some people don’t realize the subject of their art until they themselves step back to view the metaphor against the big picture.
This movie, it quoted Shakespeare. And even though I’m familiar with about two Shakespeare plays (a comedy – translate: happy ending and a tragedy – translate: everyone dies, but only in the end) and a sonnet, I’ve figured out that Shakespeare wrote about things. I don’t always know what. And so to quote a line from Shakespeare is to imply the subject of his play.
Because my examples are limited, I’m going to use the one I can think of. In Hamlet, the title character arranges for a pointed stage drama designed to convict his mother of her sins. (He ruins the effect by talking straight through the play; Shakespeare should have better appreciated the power of art when left to speak for itself.) In this drama within a play is a woman who worries aloud about whether she is making the right decision. She hesitates to give into temptation. At the end of the play, Hamlet asks his mother for her review of the performance. “Methinks she doth protest too much,” says the mother. And so we have a commonly quoted phrase of Shakespeare.
When someone quotes that line, they are often and most correctly implying the context, too. They’re even bringing with them the end of the tale, with its vilifications and justifications. Being familiar with the anthologies referenced in works of art can go a long way towards comprehension. Another advandage to interpretation is to have already made a thought venture or two into the subject. The Matrix, I believe, is about fate. How powerful is the human will? Whether I agree with The Matrix’s statements on this subject or not, I can more readily grasp those statements because I’ve spent a lot of time investigating free will and the sovereignty of God.
These references to shared philosophical questions, literary experiences, etc. make up a story-mosaic within the larger story. And it can be done in a movie, in a poem, in witticism, in art, and even in everyday conversation. A frequent form of Context Matrix is the inside joke phenomenon.
 

Image from DiyHappy

 

My brother writes poetry. Sometimes he just writes whatever is in his head that jumbles into verse form. Some evolutionists wrongly suggest that organisms acquire additional DNA information (to change them into new species) by sort of colliding with other organisms with different DNA (we have the eye factory organism over here, going through generations of natural selection to finally reach vision, and he’ll share someday with the organism working out wings and flight). This is not a sufficient mechanism for biology, but it seems to happen in the thought realm of my brother’s mind. But he isn’t in control of his mental context matrix, of all the things he encounters in his life to fuel his thoughts and shape his experiences. I believe there is a designer at work on each of our lives, and sometimes before we are even aware, He is writing patterns into the mosaic of experiences. Those patterns come out like (good) toxocology reports on my brother’s thoughts.

Let me tell you, though, that unless you know my brother on a day-to-day basis, interpreting his poetry is impossible. He doesn’t care. For whatever it’s worth to you, whatever the words mean to you, take them or leave them. I suppose a lot of art is like that, subjected to the needs and interests of the connoisseur.

I’m really bad at getting metaphors. There is probably a common representative language among poets into which I, for lack of study, have not been initiated. When I do catch on to a metaphor, I’m really excited.

One breakthrough recently is the willingness to admit my ignorance and ask for help in understanding things. (For years I’ve been trying to help my “blonde” – literal or figurative – friends appear smarter by teaching them to wait a while and see if they catch on before they admit themselves to teasing by that inimitable expression, “Huh?” Now they’re teaching me to learn by being willing to ask.) Having a brother like mine helps. Sometimes, you just have to ask the source. Such was my plan of action for a blog I read.

A friend told me that his friend was disappointed in the lack of response to his blog. I’ve been blogging for two and a half years, and let me tell you, the blog world is big; finding an audience is hard. Out of compassionate curiosity, I found the blog and read it. It didn’t make any sense. I mean the words made sense, but they were the plot, not the subject. Months later I checked it again. This time I was convinced that the blog was more than the product of bored hours of creatively mimicing archaic literature. The author was getting at something flying over my head at light speed. So I asked.

And today the author answered. By now I forgot most of what I read, so I have to re-read the post, too. Here it is: The Perilous Journeys of St. Upid I dare you to leave comments (on my blog as well as his) with what you think it’s about.

My point here is that my friend understood his friend’s blog because he knew the context matrix his friend was using. They’ve talked in unambiguous language about these topics. They’ve also both seen Monty Python, which may have helped me if I’d seen more of his stuff. That’s your only hint.

To God be all glory,

Lisa of Longbourn 

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A couple years ago I heard a radio interview with an author who wrote novels based on Bible prophecy and current events.  He had the uncanny knack of predicting world events.  The first chapter of his first book, written before 9/11 (and published right after) described an airplane hijacked by terrorists to fly kamikaze into a target in the US.  So when I remembered his name long enough to find his newest book, Ezekiel Option, I grabbed it.  And then I read a fascinating intersection of prophecy and foreseeable world events. 
 
The scientific method requires a scientist to make a hypothesis and then to conduct a series of tests.  If x is true, then y.  If x is false, then no y or z instead…  Joel Rosenberg is a sort of scientist.  His hypothesis is that the Bible is true, and that certain of its prophecies are next on the prophetic timeline.  His test is that if this were so, international politics would be moving in a certain direction.  I don’t regret picking up in the middle of his series.  The first two books describe an attack on America that leads to a war with Sadaam Hussein, which at its conclusion produces an increasingly prosperous Iraq.  Ezekiel Option picks up about where we actually are in world events, and predicts a Russian alliance particularly with Iran, but with other Middle Eastern and Mediterranean countries as well. 
 
I pay attention to these parts of world news like a scientist testing a theory.  Joel Rosenberg, who, it turns out, doesn’t just see these things in visions but actually does a huge amount of research through personal interviews and worldwide newspapers and Bible study, helps me to stay up to date on potentially prophecy-related news items through his weblog.  Last night scrolling across the bottom of Hannity and Colmes or the O’Reilly Factor (late repeats of both) was the casual report: Russia, Iran & Qatar move towards oil cartel, would force EU to rethink energy policies.  Russia has sold arms to Iran.  Putin is moving more and more to be the strong central leader of his country, a requirement of the Ezekiel prophecies. 
 
Anyway, all of that is preliminary to this actual review of Joel Rosenberg’s fifth novel, Dead Heat.  When I first picked this book up from the library, my dad read it.  He said a lot of people died, and was mum about the rest.  So I wasn’t really in the mood to read about people dying.  After the elections last week, however, I remembered a quote on Joel Rosenberg’s weblog from this book, “What Bennett had never really considered carefully until now was the possibility that something else might devastate the American people, rendering them ineffective heading into the last of the last days. A financial downturn on Wall Street. The sudden collapse of the dollar. The beginning of another Great Depression. A series of devastating earthquakes. Or hurricanes. Or other natural disasters, like a tsunami… None of it was clearly prophesied in the Scriptures. Not that he could find. But perhaps he should have foreseen the neutralization of America by more carefully reading between the lines. If so, what else was he missing? What exactly was coming next?”(edited for spoilers)  Since it looks to me like this is happening to America, this economic depression and weak leadership essentially neutralizing us as a Superpower, I figured now would be the time to pick up Dead Heat.  I was in the mood for a depressing book. 
 
Except we hadn’t purchased the book like I thought.  Our collection of secondhand Joel Rosenberg novels had an empty spot at the end.  So I couldn’t just pick it up and read it last Tuesday night.  I read Lady Susan instead, a much more cheerful response, I must say.  But Mom found Dead Heat at a thrift store over the weekend, so I set about reading it. 
 
374 fast-paced pages led me from a close presidential election to the rapture and  beginning of the tribulation.  No book I’ve ever read has made me feel more vulnerable.  Waking up after dreams (casual dreams, not nightmares) continuing the book in my imagination, and as I read, I had to keep telling myself that there is no safer place than where God wants me.  There’s this temptation when I read Joel’s books to pack up and move either to Israel or some place safe like Antarctica.  God has given no guarantees on my life either way.  I could die, or I could suffer pain, or I could have a peaceful life like many have experienced in the past.  To be honest I don’t think I could run.  I like to be a part of things going on, even if they’re dangerous. 
 
Spoiler:  The book essentially opens with five nuclear bombs taking out four major American cities and the President and at least half the government.  No one knows who is responsible for the attacks.  Like the movie Crimson Tide (whose plot fascinates me), ignorance could be fatal for most of the world.  And in Dead Heat, there are virtually no voices urging caution. 
 
How do you know which world leaders to believe?  Are the more aggressive ones just equally afraid, or are the opportunistic, or are they part of a mega-conspiracy to destroy you?  Why is this happening?  What are the motives of the world leaders, or of the people sitting next to you?  Who has the answers?  How does one make such huge decisions when you haven’t had any sleep and you’re grieving the loss of millions of lives? 
 
Once again the book weaves the stories of fictional world leaders with that of the main character, Jon Bennett.  He and his wife have cashed in their portfolios to help an exponentially needy world.  And convinced that time is running short, they invest their lives in helping others and spreading Jesus’ love one encounter at a time.  This book is filled with references to salvation, to the love of God and the peace of accepting His provision for our sinfulness.  When any character asks, “what should I do?” the answer is always something Jesus says.  The answer is what Jon and his new wife Erin did: love people and tell them about Jesus. 
 
A theme of Jon Bennett’s story is responsibility.  Is he responsible for things that happen or don’t happen?  He asks a lot of if-only’s, and other people point blame-filled fingers at him.  Should he have stayed involved in politics, shared what he knew?  Should he have taken his wife to the infirmary sooner?  What about the choices facing him in the future?  What’s his responsibility?  How on earth do you decide?  The answer, of course, is to do the right thing, including loving even your enemies.  And God had blessed Jon with the answers when he sought Him. 
 
Near the end of the book, Jon has a revelation: his whole life he’s chased after measurable results.  He’s wanted to be a part of important things.  He wanted control.  And spending months in a refugee camp helping the poor wasn’t so measurable.  People weren’t responsive to the gospel like he thought they should be.  What difference was he making?  Was it worth it?  Could he have done something more productive?  What about now, when he was helpless as the world slipped into war and there was no one even to talk to about Jesus.  What is God’s purpose in that? 
 
Isn’t it our responsibility to do something?  Didn’t God put us here to get results?  Isn’t Jon to blame if his wife isn’t safe?  Isn’t that his job?  Jon’s to-do list had two columns: done or to-be-done.  But he learned something through his helplessness, a miniature of the helplessness felt by all the world at such a time.  Erin said God wanted her to “do the loving; I’ll do the converting.”  Love is not measurable.  People are not ever checked off your list as done.  And grace isn’t about accomplishments or blame.  Jesus says well done because we’ve been good and faithful, not competent and productive.  Jesus isn’t a CEO or a president.  He knows the end result, and He knows how He’s getting it there. 
 
God knows how the world is going to come to the last days.  Joel Rosenberg’s hypotheses aren’t all right.  He’s waiting like the rest of us.  It is possible that the time between the Ezekiel prophecies and the classic end times events (world government, temple in Israel, rapture) is longer than a book series will allow.  The rapture could come earlier than these devastating wars.  Or later.  Or the wars may not happen at all.  Given his reputation for correctly predicting the future, Joel opens his book with a sort of disclaimer: “I pray to God the novel you hold in your hands never comes true.” 
 
The idea of prophecy is an interesting one.  For centuries if a man sought to unite the world, he failed.  He was doomed to do so, because the time was not fulfilled.  Other elements of prophecy were not in place.  But at some point things are going to happen, and nothing will be able to stop them.  There will be that one-world government.  Any superpower or leader or ministry that stands in the way will be removed.  We put off disaster, continue peace negotiations about Israel, etc.  One day none of that will work.  Will it be that no one is left who wants anything different, or will God remove them from power?  Is there any difference? 
 
I (Lisa of Longbourn) am willing to say plainly that I think Obama’s presidency (based on the Dead Heat quote above) weakens the prophetic necessity of a violent neutralization of America.  But it increases other likelihoods.  When our enemies think we are weak, those who want us destroyed because they hate us (not because we’re in their way) are emboldened to attack.  Persecution may arise from inside, as it has in other countries that drifted toward socialism as we are doing.  Obama is ardently pro-abortion, and the longer our country massacres its innocents, the more likely we are to incur natural consequences (economic, military manpower) and supernatural judgment.  Dead Heat makes my final point, that it is possible America is prosperous because it supports Israel.  If we stop being their ally, we remove from ourselves the Genesis 12 blessing of God.  And if we ally ourselves with Israel’s enemies, we incur the curse of Genesis 12.  So we might be asking for bad things to come to America. 
 
I’m having a hard time shaking my mind free of the story.  I look out my window and wonder why people are so casual.  Why is my church doing ministry as usual?  Why am I sitting at my desk reading or writing when people are dying and, truly, millions could die at any minute?  Shouldn’t I say something?  Doesn’t the whole lost world (of which I’m increasingly aware) need to hear the gospel?  I watch the news and have to remind myself they won’t mention President MacPherson or UN Secretary Lucente or Iraqi leader Al-Hassani.  So this is a vivid piece of writing.  But I pray that its impact has more to do with my character and less to do with my imagination. 
 
This book challenges me to be urgent about the Father’s business, and to live out love, ministry, and faith all the more radically.  The more I feel helpless, and am humbled by my lack of control, the more I need God.  I need His direction and His peace.  I need to believe in His goodness.  And I need to lean on His instructions. 
 
To God be all glory,
Lisa of Longbourn

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I watched the Matrix for the second time last night.  Actually I sped it up a bit, skipping the scenes with interminable punching, kicking, and creepy stuff (like the bug).  This movie was the constant topic of conversation for a few months when I was in high school.  Friends said they had to see it several times just to get it. 

 

Many years removed from its debut, the Matrix is not difficult for me to understand.  Maybe our concept of computers has changed, or the plot has been so absorbed into common philosophy that it is no longer shocking and new.  Either way, watching it the second time was pleasant.  I got to enjoy the exceptional writing, the whole thrust of the story being set up by small comments early in the movie. 

 

The Matrix is about fate and choice.  For example, near the beginning of the movie, Neo asks, “Why is this happening to me?  What did I do?”  The answer is nothing.  Things happen to us outside of our control or choices, and quite often whether we deserve them or not. 

 

In the story, there is an Oracle.  She predicts the future: that a special human will be found; who will find him; how the people will know.  This special human is supposed to rescue humanity from the Matrix.  There is a strong idea of fate in this.  Even if it were naturally possible to predict the future, she was predicting a supernatural event, the appearance of a human being with super-human mind power. 

 

The mind is important in the story.  Almost everything that happens is mental, through the Matrix.  And the epic conflict is the irrepressible human mind (or spirit) that is not bound by a programmed response as machines are.  Humanity can survive and once again prevail because the mind is creative and adaptive. 

 

Yet the mind is not the ultimate reality in the story.  (Spoilers of a ten year old movie coming up.)  At the very end of the movie, Neo dies in the Matrix.  Anyone else who dies in the Matrix dies in reality, too.  The body cannot live without the mind.  And the mind inside the Matrix cannot keep so much a hold on reality that the death blows cannot reach it.  Nevertheless, the physically and mentally dead Neo responds and revives as a matter of will.  There is something else in him that will not die, that will not submit to what the mind senses.  Ultimately it is that will, informing the mind, which enables him to overcome the Matrix. 

 

That’s the framework.  But inside the story, as events unfold (a beautiful word image for an idea of fate), these various perspectives on the will, the mind, the feelings, all interact.  One character would rather live based on what makes him feel good.  All of the questions represent a belief about truth.  How do you know truth if what you’ve experienced and believed your whole life is a lie?  How can you tell you’re not suffering a lie again?  What is your definition of truth, and does it matter to you? 

 

The Oracle tells Neo not to worry about a vase, which he curiously turns to see, and knocks it off.  Is this pure prophecy, or manipulation based on possible futures?  The Oracle also gives Neo the impression that he is not the One (special human able to defeat the Matrix), but tells him that he will have to make a choice between his life and the life of his mentor, Morpheus.  The mentor is trying to give his life for Neo.  Whose will wins? Why?  While Neo believes he isn’t the One, he’s actually proving that he is.  His motivation, his will, is stronger than what he believes in his mind. 

 

Neo makes decisions based on what is right.  He goes to save Morpheus because it is the loving thing to do.  We can never let a sense of destiny interfere with what we know is right.  He lets Trinity escape the Matrix first out of love as well.  And these are the decisions that define his fate, that empower his will. 

 

Machines may be the epic enemy in this movie, but they aren’t the bad guy.  However much they try to convince you that they care about something, that they feel emotion and make choices, it’s all a façade, an intimidation tactic.  No, the real bad guy in the story is the man who wants to live by his feelings instead of by truth and justice.  It is he who is willing to betray his companions, even to kill them and sacrifice the human race. 

 

What defeats him is the justice and sacrificial love and determination of two brothers.  The bad guy shoots at one, whose brother jumps between him and the next shot.  The second brother dies.  Greater love has no man than this…  Brother number one survives to defend the lives of his friends by necessary force.  Whoso sheddeth man’s blood, by man shall his blood be shed: for in the image of God made he man… 

 

The story isn’t all that new.  A pure heart sacrifices itself for love.  The will is superior to the feelings.  Love conquers all.  Truth and love are inseparably connected.  It’s this very fact, that the story isn’t new, that it is filled with eternal truths, which make The Matrix such a good movie. 

 

To God be all glory,

Lisa of Longbourn

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Two Spaniards took a break from the sauna-like heat of the borderlands between Arabic-influenced Moorlands, and fiercely Roman Catholic Spain, to play a game of chess on the shaded veranda.  Both men were enthusiasts for the game that by this time was popular on three continents and most of the classical “known world.”  Time was short this afternoon, with demands of the plantation promising interruption of the historically slow-paced, strategic game.  Rather than pausing their game, both were interested in options to shorten their match. 
 
In other parts of Europe, more liberal rules were proposed as solutions to the same problem.  However, these serious players, comfortable with the legal moves of the present game, had a different idea.  They could introduce dice to the first game in history that was played entirely without chance. 
 
Philosophers and aficionados of the game appreciated the raw intellect of chess.  Human minds and wills warred with each other, ignoring fate, defying the existence of fate, and asserting a freedom.  Unlike other popular games in each country prior to the introduction of chess, there was no element of chance.  The game always began the same way, with the same rules to each player.  Then it proceeded matching man to man, mind to mind. 
 
So why would any serious chess players submit their glorification of the human mind to dice?  The answer may have been that they were not creative enough to try modifying rules to shorten their game.  They may have liked the challenge afforded by the limitation on their control of the game (dice were used to regulate which piece had to be moved each turn).  Or, the first answer that occurred to me, it’s fair.  
 
A skilled player might approve the challenge of thriving under such constraint.  The common man would submit to his lot in the game, as he seemed to do in life.  Do you see the distinction?  We all have the choice between being dominated by the circumstances of our life, and responding to the circumstances in a strategic way.  Profoundly connected to this option is our decision to endure all of life in the sinful nature bestowed upon us as heirs of Adam, and God’s offer to be saved.  God offers the power we were without, to live and to resist sin.  This is relational, the mystery of the Holy Spirit indwelling a disciple of Christ in a way that affects his choices. 
 
But that isn’t what made me stop to write.  A simple solution to a fundamental question about the story The Immortal Game’s historian told of Europe provides an apt illustration of the very God whose sovereign rule of fate has drawn so much attack.  Why would two competitors of chess introduce dice into the game of sublime skill?  I for one hate games that are entirely chance, and am immensely frustrated by those games which are mostly chance.  Take Yahtzee.  The substance of the game is five dice.  I cannot control the outcome of each roll, but I am required to choose after each roll which dice to set aside, for what purpose.  At the end of each turn I make a decision where to fill in points.  With hindsight one sees that any number of decisions could have been wrong.  I had nothing, so I zeroed the coveted 50 point Yahtzee, only to roll five of a kind my succeeding turn.  This is too frustrating for me. 
 
For me, chess is humiliating.  I’m not good at it, and unless my challenger is an amateur, I lose.  But I would rather, if a loss is to be credited to my name, have earned it entirely myself.  So what strange Spaniard (it was a Spaniard quoted explaining the use of dice with chess) pair sat at their board and decided to inflict chance upon themselves?  Even if one man suggested it, why would the other agree? 
 
The answer that struck me was fairness.  Neither player was controlling the dice.  Each submitted equally to the fate of the roll.  Were there other fair rule changes that could have sped up the game?  Yes.  So my answer doesn’t entirely explain the emergence of dice with chess. 
 
However, think about the fairness of dice.  If any of you have played Yahtzee, or some other dice- or card- dependent game, no doubt you sensed at some point that the fair chance of the dice had dealt you an unjust blow.  The outcome of a game did not rest on your choices or your merits.  Winning by chance was occasionally unjust.  The better player could lose.  Do we really want fair?  The same fate to everyone?  Each person equally born, equally bred, equally fed?  Storms of the same number, death at the same age?  
 
See, God isn’t about fairness.  He is about justice.  And justice means when something is earned, it is granted.  The marvel of Christianity is that Jesus became the propitiation, complete substitution, for our sins so that He might be just toward Himself and justifier toward us.  What we earned, death, was executed. 
Being justified freely by his grace through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus:  Whom God hath set forth to be a propitiation through faith in his blood, to declare his righteousness for the remission of sins that are past, through the forbearance of God;  To declare, I say, at this time his righteousness: that he might be just, and the justifier of him which believeth in Jesus.” – Romans 3:24-26
To God be all glory,
Lisa of Longbourn

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I just watched The Matrix for the first time last night. When I was in high school, I remember, a couple friends were crazy about The Matrix and would sit apart from the group talking about it. And my friends said that everyone had to see it at least a couple times to “get it.” The concept just blew their minds. Well now I’m twenty-three, which is a lot older than the friends I had in high school, but I can’t figure out what is so hard to get. Are there any questions I should be asking, but didn’t think of?

Over all, I guess I liked it. The story was well-thought. There were warring philosophies, which the movie choreographed into one cooperative plot. This philosophical war fit well with what God’s been teaching me of late: something about our plans and His plans. Also in reading The Immortal Game, I’ve been contemplating the ideas presented by chess: does fate govern your life, or are your choices supreme? Can you win by intellect, or is there something to be said for brute force? Is it every man for himself, or every man for the collective goal? Should life be lived tactically (moment to moment, choice by choice) or strategically (long term)? How well can any one person’s decisions manipulate another’s? These were the various positions and questions dealt with in The Matrix as well.

Of course trench coats, leather, and machine guns were rather glamorized. There was violence, and I didn’t watch some parts (not because anyone warned me or they were getting too gruesome, but I had been multi-tasking, and felt the long violence/chase series were missable). In fact, I asked my brother what the point of the long fight scenes was, as everyone knew what would be the outcome (of some parts). He told me that the movie makers got their awards and notoriety for the filmography of the sequences and the special effects. I still protest that they did not add to the movie.

Anyway, at one point I was also curious whether anyone spoke regular English, or if all the humans used bad language to express themselves. So I’m not really endorsing The Matrix, but it didn’t bother me enough to make me dislike the movie.

If I were to identify the central theme of the movie, after this first viewing, I would eschew the philosophical questions and say it was about the power of the mind over the body (and delving back deeply into philosophy, over destiny).

One thing I noticed: it didn’t end. The sequel is probably at the library right now waiting for me to watch it, and I might have to get the last one on hold. Do the next two get better or worse?

To God be all glory,

Lisa of Longbourn

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