The Adjustment Bureau— God's Divine Plan?

The Adjustment Bureau— God's Divine Plan? March 7, 2011

 Greg Bandy from Asbury University called me, and asked me to join a preview of this movie over a week ago.  Unfortunately I was on a plane to New Orleans when it was being shown.  There were no divine adjustments in my schedule permitting me to see it then.   And that brings us to our movie, which is well worth the time and money to see.   Is it about predestination?  Well,  not exactly, though it has been billed that way.   Matt Damon is once again the hero of the film and he is joined by a very winsome performance by Emily Blunt.  The chemistry between these two is worth seeing even if there was nothing else to like about the film,  but there is.

Here is the Universal synopsis of the film— “Do we control our destiny, or do unseen forces manipulate us? Matt Damon stars in the thriller The Adjustment Bureau as a man who glimpses the future Fate has planned for him and realizes he wants something else. To get it, he must pursue the only woman he’s ever loved across, under and through the streets of modern-day New York. On the brink of winning a seat in the U.S. Senate, ambitious politician David Norris (Damon) meets beautiful contemporary ballet dancer Elise Sellas (Emily Blunt)–a woman like none he’s ever known. But just as he realizes he’s falling for her, mysterious men conspire to keep the two apart. David learns he is up against the agents of Fate itself–the men of The Adjustment Bureau–who will do everything in their considerable power to prevent David and Elise from being together. In the face of overwhelming odds, he must either let her go and accept a predetermined path…or risk everything to defy Fate and be with her. The Adjustment Bureau is written for the screen and directed by George Nolfi (writer of Ocean’s Twelve, co-writer of The Bourne Ultimatum). It is based on a short story by Philip K. Dick (“Total Recall,” “Minority Report” and “Blade Runner”). — (C) Universal Pictures”

For about an hour and forty minutes we are asked to contemplate how exactly human existence on this planet really works.  Is it all rigged from above? Are we just marionettes?   Actually the answer of this movie is no.   Human beings do have some control over their destiny.   But at the same time,  this movie is not an ode to free will either.  There is a divine plan, it is being worked out,but it is constantly needing adjustments by agents in suits and hats (Wall Street’s vision of angels I suppose).  The Chairman,  aka, the man upstairs has far more control than we do,  but interestingly, he does not control our impulses or emotions.  So despite the best efforts of programming angels, sometimes people go off track, off the grid,  off line, off kilter, prompting house calls by said agents/angels.   If one gets way out of line, then an archangel named Thompson is called in.   This story must have been written by someone who has a businessman’s vision of what angels and God and heaven are like— God the great CEO in the sky.   But interestingly, even angels can get out of line.  I found the presentation of God and the angels too clinical, cold, and lacking empathy, with the exception of  David Norris’s guardian angel.  Otherwise the angels come across as manipulators, “ours is not to reason why, ours is just to do or …..”

This movie reminds me of an early Jewish saying— “all is forseen (by God), but free will is granted”.   True freedom to make conscious wise and loving choices seems to be a rarity, but still, despite the opposition of angels and plans,  apparently it can happen.    I will not spoil the ending of the film for you, but I will definitely say this—- in terms of the idea of the divine plan and divine supervision while still leaving some room for important and viable human choices,  I think this film gets it about right from a Biblical point of view.  Neither total predetermination nor complete free will, but something in between these extremes which makes both humans and the divine active participants in the human drama.  Christians in the end, should not be fatalists, those who believe in Fate.  Intended destiny perhaps, but not Fate.   And doubtless we will debate until the second coming to what degree the will of God and the wills of humans decide important matters in this world.

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