Jean-Francois Lyotard, a leading postmodern philosopher, once defined Postmodernism as “incredulity towards metanarratives.” Though he would later lament that the particular work in which he offered this definition was “simply the worst” of all his writings, it has, perhaps to his disappointment, come to be regarded by many as possibly his most significant work. In other words, it stuck.
Remember this phrase, “incredulity towards metanarratives.” It reflects, at its simplest, a rejection or disbelief in the idea that there is a grand scheme, or an ultimate purpose.* How hopeless. In contrast, a thorough reading of Scripture reveals a metanarrative of epic proportion. From the creation of the universe itself, to the fall of man and the means of his redemption, and ultimately, all eternity, the Bible overflows with purpose, and of that, supremely the glory of God. And the good news for you and me is that in God’s “God-centeredness,” He determined a plan—a purpose for all things that included the saving of sinners who might even be granted an eternity of cosmically captivating fellowship with the Creator Himself. How fantastically hopeful!
One peculiar thing about this metanarrative is the fact that we are actually characters in the story, and the story isn’t finished. The Divine Author however, in contrast to the conventional wisdom of all our English Lit teachers, has decided that He wants us to know how it ends even before we get to the final “chapter.” Have you ever wondered why? I have, and I can’t help but think God must have a pretty good reason for this too.
We have an English phrase, often employed by those freshly sobered by one of life’s hard-learned lessons, that “hindsight is 20/20.” Or of equal sentiment, “If I only knew then what I know now,” may perhaps be the phrase of choice. So what exactly is it that God wants us to see now about things to come, especially as it relates to salvation and the Free Will/Divine Sovereignty issue? What exactly does God want us to have the opportunity not to learn the hard way?
I’ll offer a few thoughts in brief. I’ll leave the deeper reflection to you:
- Salvation is God’s prerogative. It’s His plan, not ours. We need to get used to that. See Romans 9 and Ephesians 1.
- Life on earth can be bad . . . really bad. But the ending is perfect. Not only will God deal with sin decisively and ultimately, he offers fellowship for all believers, and rewards for the faithful. This is why we can call the gospel “good news.”
- Our confidence in God is to be promise-based. God’s track record through history demonstrates His trustworthiness. Our present and future belief is justified on the basis of God’s past faithfulness. Hence, we “live by faith, not by sight” (2 Corinthians 5:7). And apart from faith, “it is impossible to please God” (Hebrews 11:6). In other words, no good thing, if accomplished apart from trusting in God, is ultimately pleasing to God. God wants my works, but He wants my trust first. See 2 Corinthians 5.
And there’s one more. Someday, that faith will become sight. Someday, the grand metanarrative comes to its final chapter. Someday, the greatest climax the world has ever seen will be upon us. What will be learned on that day if not before? That Jesus Christ is Lord? Yes. That the story isn’t just . . . a story? Yes. But here’s the part that I find really sobering, because it’s more than just sobering, it actually offers one of the clearest insights into my own soul. At the end of all things the glory and majesty of the Great I Am will be on its fullest display, for His crowning achievement will be finally revealed.
While the grand scheme of history is a redemption narrative, the final revelation doesn’t point to man, the saved—it points to God, the Savior. The more I learn, the more I am convinced of this truth: that in the end, ALL who are saved give ALL of the glory to God, while those who perish retain ALL the culpability for their sin, and ultimately, their death. Hence, the divine sovereignty/free will tension demonstrates its necessity. Divine sovereignty means that God retains all the glory for the salvation of the elect. Free will means that no one is off the hook for rejecting the free gift of God.
That’s difficult to swallow, and I know that doesn’t sit well with many (any?) of us. And it just so happens that this leads me to my final reflection for next week . . . What does my struggle with divine sovereignty/free will say about me?
(Note: In fairness, it should be stated that Lyotard’s position was not an all-out rejection of objective truth. It was more a rejection of the ability to correctly discern this truth. Philosophy recognizes this in part as a difference between ontology and epistemology. In short, the former is the “is,” while the latter is the “how we know the is.” What Lyotard’s view undermines is not the existential reality of objective truth. Rather, it undermines a whole host of “truth bearers” such as reason, experience, empiricism, Scripture, etc. I know, I know . . . Zzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz.)