So, this past week I’ve been playing this video game called Bioshock: Infinite. Some of you may have heard of it, but I’ll have to fill many of you in. For those that don’t know, Bioshock is a popular video game series. You run around, collect weapons, get strange powers, and blow away the bad guys. What I find intriguing about the game is its detailed plot.
Growing up I got most of my video game stories from the back of the box. I read about how Mario needed to save the princess and that’s how I knew what was going on in the game. Modern games like Bioshock have intricate storylines and characters, though. I have even heard of one game that is based on Joseph’s Conrad’s Heart of Darkness. Basically, many modern games are like playing through a movie or book.
So, as a result, these new video games come along with deep themes, plot twists, and meaningful conflict. The characters want something and are willing to suffer for it. It is just like any other well thought out story. And Bioshock: Infinite’s theme revolved around fatalism. The main character was living one of many different possible lives he had lived, but there were points a long the way he couldn’t change. He always made the same choice at a point and the events would always happen the same way. For example, there is one point where he flips a coin and he chooses heads. As the game progresses you realize he has flipped that coin many times and always chose heads.
Anyway, it got me thinking about how many people debate if people are fated or free. Does life just happen to us or do we have the ability to choose? Then recently I revisited a popular section of scripture that gave me some insight on the topic.
TURN, TURN, TURN
In the mid-sixties The Byrds released a song called Turn, Turn, Turn. It was a hit and I remember hearing it when I was growing up. I remember my Dad always telling me that the lyrics to that song were from the Bible. They come from Ecclesiastics 3:1-8.
To everything there is a season, and a time for every matter or purpose under heaven:
A time to be born and a time to die, a time to plant and a time to pluck up what is planted,
A time to kill and a time to heal, a time to break down and a time to build up,
A time to weep and a time to laugh, a time to mourn and a time to dance,
A time to cast away stones and a time to gather stones together, a time to embrace and a time to refrain from embracing,
A time to get and a time to lose, a time to keep and a time to cast away,
A time to rend and a time to sew, a time to keep silence and a time to speak,
A time to love and a time to hate, a time for war and a time for peace.
There is a time for all these things. The good and bad, but you have to remember that they should come with purpose under heaven. Yes, there is a right time for everything as long as it is in line with the will of God. Otherwise, we can take these verses and manipulate them into doing whatever we want. We can convince ourselves that it is a season to kill or a season to hate. These things must line up with a heavenly purpose, though.
I have met some people who see these verses as the opposite, too. They question if the good or bad can happen at anytime then why care. Seasons will come and go so just take in each moment and deal with it, but that is fatalism and a dangerous form of thinking. Fatalism allows apathy to seep into our hearts and can cause us to draw apart from God.
So, these verses can support both being fated and free.
THE PITFALL OF FATALISM
I never thought about fatalism too much until lately. It reminds me of when people say, “I was suppose to be married by now.” or “I was suppose to have this great job by now.” Those people believed they were fated to have those things and when they didn’t come along they devastated. So, they live with bitterness in their hearts because they feel owed. All because they believed in some sort of specific fate.
These are just vague examples, though. Some people are fatalists because they believe they have no control over what happens to them. If drugs come their way they use them. They think the drugs wouldn’t of come if they weren’t suppose to use them. They completely take free will out of the equation and submit to everything that comes their way.
Here is the real problem with that mind-set. If we are fated then there is no place for the grace and mercy of God in our lives. That’s not actually an original idea from me. I heard Dr. J. Vernon McGee say this during a study and you can listen to many of his lectures and sermons online. What he said is remains true. If there is no choice in our lives then how can God give us grace. If we never have the chance to make the choice we can never receive mercy. We’d only be victims of chance and luck and we would never be able to experience the joy that comes from God’s grace.
SEASONS WITH A PURPOSE
That brings me back to Ecclesiastic 3:1-8. If we are not fated to only have these seasons just happen to us, then we must be free. We are free to choose the times we dance, plant, love, war, laugh, weep, and all the others. So, how to we know when they are purposed under heaven? How do we know when the right season for a thing has arrived?
The answer is simple. We study. We learn and become wiser. We spend time in the word and when we are done we do it again. Then we go to God in prayer and ask for wisdom. And we keep doing this over and over until we know the season to hate, the season to kill, the season to break down, and the season to build up. Soon enough it’ll just seem like common sense. The first farmer may have planted seeds in the winter and had no growth, but the next time he knew the right season to plant.
It is the foolish man who acts without thinking. He commits to actions without consulting God. He believes in chance more than a gracious God. He takes wild gambles and rarely sees them pay off. Then he either blames his luck or he blames God. He avoids taking responsibility because he doesn’t believe he’s wrong. Foolish people feel owed. Wise people see they owe God for their salvation.
I’ll finish up with a video from a band I just discovered. Besides being a good song, it talks about how seasons change. It isn’t directly related to what I’m writing about here, but it still has a reminder in it for me. It reminds me of how the seasons will change. The good comes and so does the bad, but seeking out the good seasons through Christ makes life much easier.
So, there is a time for everything. To be more specific there is God’s time for everything. Because of our flawed human nature we may fail to see God’s timing once and awhile, but that’s okay. We are sinners and it is bound to happen from time to time, but we can rejoice that God has a plan for salvation. We can have peace and joy because we are eligible to receive God’s mercy and grace. We are not fated to have the world just happen to us.