I am a sucker for good sci-fi.
Star Wars hit the scene when I was five, and that was all she wrote. I was hooked. From there I dove deep into the original Star Trek and Battlestar Galactica series and have been thrilled to see both successfully re-launched in recent years. There’s no doubt about it: I have embraced my inner geek.
The latest craze to captivate me on the sci-fi front has been the television show Heroes. I’m a bit of a late-comer to the program, having just started the first season on DVD as the fourth is airing on NBC. The show follows seemingly unconnected, ordinary people from around the globe who discover they have extraordinary powers. One of these heroes is a Japanese man named, *ahem*, Hiro Nakamuro. Hiro has the ability to bend space and travel in time.
As he learns to master this amazing ability, he must completely focus, often inspiring the most intense, squinty-eyed of facial expressions just before accomplishing his goal. Sometimes I wonder if his little Japanese head is just gonna pop. So far, so good.
Time travel is a pervasive theme in science-fiction. It’s hard to find a sci-fi series or franchise that hasn’t given the subject a whirl or two…or three.
Star Trek has done it more times than I can count.
While such a basic human fantasy as time travel is perfectly suited for fiction, a troublesome development seems to have overtaken the church.
The “corridor of time” has come to Christianity.
“Examine everything carefully; hold fast to that which is good”
1 Thessalonians 5:21 (ASV)
“When you find Christians who show antagonism toward the doctrine of election, you may be sure that it is a carry-over from their old carnal mind which is enmity against God. They are forced to delete great sections from the Word of God in order to eliminate the doctrine, and, what is more, they are forced to deny the doctrine, which is found throughout all the Bible, that man fell all the way, not part way, and that he is dead, totally dead, in trespasses and sins. But we must not be astonished, for it is merely an illustration of the great desire of fallen man to be exalted and to take some of the credit for salvation to himself.”
Donald Grey Barnhouse
Standing alongside the wounded sinner as one of the most pervasive and destructive misconceptions impairing the contemporary Christian’s understanding of God’s sovereignty is the notion of the “corridor of time”. This bit of necessary invention was spawned in an attempt to reconcile the clearly taught doctrine of election in Scripture with fallen man’s desire for a seat at the table of power in that election process.
In this view the elect are chosen based upon what God knows they will (or would) do in the future. God looks into the future, sees what choice man will make there, and then bases His decision to elect upon this future expression of man’s will.
This demonstration of man’s persistent quest for credit and denial of God’s complete sovereignty over the election process harkens back to some of the Father of Lies’ earliest masterworks.
“Now the serpent was more crafty than any other beast of the field that the LORD God had made. He said to the woman, “Did God actually say…”
Genesis 3:1 (ESV)
“You are of your father the devil, and your will is to do your father’s desires. He was a murderer from the beginning, and has nothing to do with the truth, because there is no truth in him. When he lies, he speaks out of his own character, for he is a liar and the father of lies.”
John 8:44 (ESV)
Imagine, if you will, a god.
Imagine also a person; a person created by this god. The person in question will ultimately live forever and ever in a place of abundant life and joy or in a place of unending torment. These are the two great options available to him. He must choose between them. The god in question plays the role of ratifying that choice, but before he can fulfill that obligation, he requires additional insight into the character of the person.
This god has the power to seal the person’s fate, but in order to make a right judgment he must know more. He needs more information. He must consult with the person making the decision before placing a seal on the fate in question. He must know whether the person has chosen a path that will justify the happy ending or the sad one.
Surely the person’s fate must hinge on the person’s action. This is only fair, after all. It’s only right.
Now since this particular god is apparently unwilling or unable to take action based exclusively on the person’s choice in the present moment of time, he devises a remarkable work-around. In a fit of pure genius, the god accesses a sort of tunnel through time.
This portal allows the god to attain any bit of information from the future. It really is quite amazing! It’s just the sort of tool that the god needed. (Necessity is the mother of invention, after all, and I can think of no greater example of this truth than the necessary invention of the “corridor of time”.)
So the god uses this portal – this corridor of time – to look into the future and see what the person whose fate is under consideration will choose there in that future place. Then, and only then, based on what the god sees the person do in the future, the god will act with regard to the person’s ultimate fate.
If the god sees a good future decision made by the future person, then the present person is rightly assigned a good fate. But if the god sees a not-so-good future choice by the future person, well then the fate assigned to the present person by the god is also not so good. This god wants to be completely fair to the present person of course, so ultimately it is the person’s own choice – his future choice – that determines his fate.
Are you with me? I know it’s rough to follow, but hang in there. We’re almost finished.
And yes, it gets even better.
So the god reacts to the future choice of the future person to determine the fate of the person in the present. He waits politely as any good, respectful god should. Thus, the god is absolved of ultimate responsibility for imposing a choice or destiny (or a choice destiny, as the case may be), and the person is given due credit for the [future] good choice he [would have] made. Everybody wins. Everybody’s happy.
It all makes perfect sense, right? It couldn’t be more clear, really: Present self is elected (or not) by future self’s choice and God just kind of watches and waits for future self to clear it all up by making the determinative decision. Then God honors the wishes of future self and imposes them on present self.
All of this is of course, in a word, asinine. Appealing to our fallen human nature, to be sure, but completely nuts from a biblical perspective nonetheless.
“The substance of the Gospel is that man is dead in sin and that divine life is God’s gift. You must go contrary to the whole meaning before you can suppose that a man is brought to know and love Christ apart from the work of the Holy Spirit.”
“The supposition seems to be that you cannot evangelize effectively unless you are prepared to pretend while you are doing it that the doctrine of divine sovereignty is not true.”
Why do we find such comfort in our fate being “future self” determined? Why is our future self so trustworthy? When did (or will) he become so bright and dependable? What made him such hot stuff?
And why is this future self trusted so blindly over our present self? And which future self will God be consulting with, anyway? The future self of one year from now perhaps, or maybe the future self of three years and two weeks down the road? Or what about the future self that comes fifteen minutes after that?
And why not a past self? Didn’t your four-minutes-in-the-future self of five minutes ago become your present self about sixty seconds ago on his way to becoming one of your past selves? Did he have a serious impact on anything at all when he was still out there somewhere in the future and apparently had a much better chance, since future selves seem to get all of the credit around here? At some point our present self has be wondering why he’s apparently been demoted to the lowest ranking of all selves when he should be the one self we have the best feel for and knowledge of at any given moment. It really is all quite confusing and, somewhere in there, should make a present self angry. I know it does mine.
It all has a decidedly Theology by Abbott and Costello vibe about it, which is not reassuring. And why, oh why, is the will of this future self (whichever one we settle on) so much more comforting and appealing to us than that of the sovereign, holy, loving God we claim to worship? Why is the notion of an eternity sealing decision made by our future self revered while the thought of the same decision being made exclusively by our perfect, Holy God so reviled? The answer is really quite clear…glaring even…
The answer is self.
By our fallen nature, we would choose the will of our self in any form, in any place and in any time over the sovereign will of God. The glory – at least some of it – must go to our precious self, you see, if not now then at least in the future. It simply cannot all go to God.
Some inept, unholy, finite, man-inspired and generally pathetic pseudo-god may well choose to work his magic through something as ridiculous as a “corridor of time” scenario to appease the ego and thirst for glory of man, but the God of Scripture will have none of it. He no more requires the consultation of your future self than he did with your present self before He sovereignly chose you out for good works to His glory and according to His pleasure.
He haggles with His chosen over their election just as he haggled with Saul on the road to Damascus, which is another way of saying, “not at all.”
God has chosen His elect from the foundation of the world. Their actions had nothing to do with His choosing them out. He first chose to give them His Spirit so that they would then choose Him.
Deal with it.
The sooner we embrace this beautiful, liberating truth, the quicker we will find the peace and boldness required of us in this dark time. The longer we linger in the illusory sea of self-centered, synergistic salvation, the more impotent and comical we become, all while maligning the sovereignty and holiness of the very God we claim to love.
There is no “corridor of time” as we have come to understand it. Our fertile, self-glorifying imaginations have merely crafted an interesting bit of science-fiction.
There is no “future me” or “future you” to whom God will look in order to decide our paths.
The future is His. Everything in it is His.
The present is His. Everything between this present moment and any future point is precisely as He has ordained it to be from the very dawn of creation.
What could possibly be more comforting than this?
Copyright 2009 S.A. Buss – Feel free to re-post this piece, but only with the copyright included and a link to Fire Breathing Christian whenever possible. Thank you!
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I think that I would disagree with what I see as your primary paragraph:
“God has chosen His elect from the foundation of the world. Their actions had nothing to do with His choosing them out. He first chose to give them His Spirit so that they would then choose Him.”
I have discovered in Romans 9:1 through 11:36 that salvation is the sheer gift of God’s grace. It cannot be earned and it can be forfeited by unbelief (see Perkiser/Exploring Christian Holiness pg 130. Also, pg 169: “God’s eternal purpose for His people is strongly stated: “For He chose us in him before the creation of the world to be holy and blameless in his sight” The choice (Election) is not unconditional and arbitrary, for “the elect are constituted,not by absolute decree, but by acceptance of the conditions of God’s call.
E. F. Scott says, “Those who are ‘holy’ are also to be morally blameless. Their calling by God lays on them the obligation to lead a life which God Himself will be able to approve.”
Willard H Taylor says, “Holy expresses the positive experiential purpose of God’s choice. Holy expresses the inner moral difference which prevails when God’s grace is operative in the heart. This fact is abundantly indicated in the second word describing the result of the choice, namely, blameless.”
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