FIRST-PERSON: A prof's dream, an 'open God' & what to do about Sept. 11

EVANSTON, Ill. (BP)--Professor Plum began to nod as the conference speaker droned on about the "openness of God," the claim that good Bible believers could doubt that the future was settled in God's eyes. These after-lunch sessions were tough on the listeners, particularly those whose body clocks were still set on another time zone. The old prof was fortunate to have a back row seat beside by a wall where he could lean his head. Lean he did, and before long, he was dreaming.

He found himself in the throne room of heaven. A calendar on the wall read Sept. 10, 2001, and God was pacing. Plum watched quietly for awhile and then ventured a question. "Lord, what is it?"

"Well, I have a very bad feeling about tomorrow. Some terrorists are planning to crash planes into American buildings. I think they're really going to do it."

"Why not stop them?"

"I could, of course, but I try to stay out of the way when men are making choices."

"But I thought the Bible said you hardened Pharoah's heart and opened Lydia's heart. Why not tinker with the terrorists' hearts?"

"I was afraid you'd say that. I wish I hadn't worded those two passages just that way. It seemed harmless at the time. What I really meant to say was that I didn't interfere with Pharoah's hard heart or stop the opening of Lydia's heart. But as they say, hindsight is 20/20. Be that as it may, I'm hoping that my law, written on the terrorists hearts, will dissuade them at the last minute. Still, it's unlikely that all of them will repent of their scheme. But, miracles can happen."

"I thought you were the miracle worker."

"I am, when it comes to physical things -- weather fronts, brain tumors and such. But human decisions are strictly out of bounds. Speaking of human decisions, maybe a lot of people will pray for the safety of New York and Washington this evening. Not likely, but if it happens, I'll have good cause to step in. For instance, I could throw a glitch into the planes just before takeoff."

"What sort of terrorists are we talking about?"

"Muslims from the Middle East. It just kills me that we haven't done a better job in defusing Islam. Sure, we've had some earnest missionaries over there, but I was hoping we'd field a better team. If I could just land a Christian Ted Turner or Donald Trump -- a real go-getter with a lot of savvy, then I think we could make more headway. But I have to work with the cards I'm dealt.

"Listen, I'm going to have to get back to my contingency planning. I noticed that one of my own, Todd Beamer, is booked on United flight 93. Who knows, Todd might take advantage of the hijacking to witness to those around him. Maybe I'll switch the seat assignments, putting him by a seeker. The chemistry might just be right for a last-minute conversion."

"Say, what about those two Baylor girls in Taliban captivity? Will this impact them at all?"

"I don't think there's much chance for them. The Afghan connection to the terror is so strong that the Americans will probably retaliate there. If that happens, I bet those girls are goners. I can distract some of their captors, but it just takes one with a gun to do them in -- and they all have guns. I've heard a lot of prayers from and about them, so I'm definitely concerned, but there are limits. I'll just have to play it by ear."

Applause snapped Professor Plum to consciousness. He glanced about to see if he'd been noticed and wondered how long he'd been out.

As folks gathered up their coats and bags, he took a deep breath and reflected on his dream. It struck him that the openness of God was more like the fecklessness of God. And what of that favorite verse of his from Psalm 139? -- "All the days ordained for me were written in your book before one of them came to be." Surely God wrote in ink and not pencil.


Coppenger is pastor of Evanston (Ill.) Baptist Church. Other reflections by Coppenger can be viewed at www.comeletusreason.com.

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