Predestination, Foreknowledge and the Beatles

Sometimes the most profound truths can be hiding right under your nose. Like when at the end of a great party, soon after you’ve fallen asleep, your friend comes along and shaves E=MC2 into your moustache. Of course, sometimes we read truth into things that are nothing more than meaningless and random occurances. If I was an evolutionary biologist I might make some illuminating comments here about how our brains have developed over generations to be order-applying machines, dragging control out of chaos, so we could expect to often come across total disorder appearing in our eyes to be meaningful truth.

Thankfully, I am not an evolutionary biologist so I am going to attempt to apply a famous 60’s pop song to one of the hardest nuts to crack in the hall of delicious and protein-rich Christian puzzles. I am sure you are all familiar with the 1967 classic All You Need Is Love, written by the 2nd best Beatle. You may not have realised this, but it deals beautifully with the problem of Predestination and Foreknowledge. I may only have realised this while sitting slumped half-asleep in a multi-storey car park at some ungodly early hour on a Saturday morning before training some insanely eager students from RCSI, but that shouldn’t cast shadows on the obvious genius of my discovery.

Predestination is basically the idea that everything that happens is in some sense, the will of God. Foreknowledge is the idea that God knows everything that is going to happen, no matter how far into the future you want to push it. The problem arises because a lot of people fear these two characteristics, if they truly are of the Christian God, negate any real sense of free will. If God knows what you are going to do before you do it and if what you are going to do is his will, does that mean you have no control over what you are going to do? It is often expressed in the problem of election, which holds that at the end of time, some people will go to heaven and some won’t. God knows in advance that certain people will choose paths in life that lead back to Him, “through the narrow gate” and that will be His will. He knows that everyone else is going through the stupid wider gate and that too will be His will. In that case, does God only love some people? Are the only ones God really cares about the ones who end up going through the narrow gate?

This is a problem that has exercised the great minds of theology and some pretty sharp folks from the philosophical world but I think John Lennon solves it in 3 minutes of pop majesty (marred only by the end of that song which is like a Union Jack converted into sound).

First of all, look at the words of a less famous but more gifted John, John the Beloved Apostle, in his 1st letter:

God is love.

If you take that as a good foundation principle for any discussion of God and then look again at the problem of election through the eyes of John Lennon, everything becomes clear. In a tripping on LSD at the back of a London nightclub in 1968 clear. John, Father of Julian writes in the song:

No one you can save that can’t be saved… It’s easy. All you need is love.

Or in other words, affirming a Calvinistic belief that those who go through that narrow gate are the only ones who could ever go through the narrow gate because they are the only ones who go through the narrow gate. But unlike Calvin, Lennon has a cure for any discomfort we might feel at such a hard and tautological saying- why its all about love. No need to worry about election folks- God is a God of love so He has it all in hand.

Foreknowledge, the other element that causes all this headache is dealt with just as cleanly:

There’s nothing you can know that isn’t known… Nowhere you can be that isn’t where you’re meant to be. It’s easy. All you need is love.

Lyrically speaking, Lennon is putting a pastoral arm around the faithful’s shoulder and reassuring them that were we to be as full of Love as God is, we would easily understand that knowing everything that is going to happen, knowing everything that will happen will be in accordance, in some way with how He wants it, doesn’t in anyway impinge on our free will as individuals. It’s easy. It’s all about love.

Sure you might be sitting there thinking this doesn’t really satisfy your need for a robust solution to the problem but in that case you really have to check yourself before you wreck yourself. Pop music would never ever lie to you. Especially on spiritual issues. It might be a hard day’s night of work to accept this but authority is authority. And The Beatles are an authority. Imagine if John Lennon was wrong! You could trust no one in that sick and twisted world created by your warped imagination. Shame on you. Maybe you can come back and challenge him when you have 27 number 1’s.

Seriously though, I know of at least one regular reader who I recently failed to really explain the central tents of Calvinism to and so should you care, you can download this mp3 by Rev. Dr. Tim Keller of Redeemer Presbyterian Church in Manhattan on just this issue. You’d have to be stupid not to seeing as it is an easy to understand and thought-provoking (and mercifully short) discussion on an issue that is interesting to anyone who fancies theological or philosophical conversations, regardless of your belief.

Your Correspondent, Do I Have To Keep On Talking Till I Can’t Go On?

2 Responses to “Predestination, Foreknowledge and the Beatles”

  1. L says:

    Hey maybe it extends to more than the extent of our free will, but also because of his divine foreknowledge combined with divine creation he must knowingly create people whom he will hate (or at least not love), as at least some people go to hell. And so if the solution ventured is that of an all-swamping ‘love’, there is the problem of God knowingly creating people (whose essential nature he is the author of aswell) who will burn in hell. So in order to do such a thing he must surely have a strong dislike for such people (and pushing it, a malicious intent in creating them in the first instance): and perhaps this damages a solution based on a superlative notion of love?

  2. zoomtard says:

    Or maybe its just a question of there being nothing you can see that can’t be shown? Altogether now?

    God doesn’t create things He hates. In the same letter I quoted in my post, 1 John, you can read This is the message we have heard from him and declare to you: God is light; in him there is no darkness at all.

    The solution ventured was in jest. Leave dead Liverpudlian megastars to their glib imagined world and turn to the likes of Keller for theology.

    And I clap myself on the back for answering this without reverting to J3:16.

    Thanks for the comment L. Good to see you’ve made it at last. Hope you stick around!