Thursday, October 30, 2014

God and Corn Flakes

One is the question of free will and salvation. Reformed theology is often identified with determinism—the idea that God determines everything, and we don’t really have free choice. From my eating Corn Flakes for breakfast to my having faith in Christ, all of these decisions are determined by God, and if we’re not automatons or robots at least, my decisions are only free in some very minimal sense. Well, historical material suggests there is a broader way of thinking about this within Reformed theology.
Critics of predestination use examples like one's choice of cereal to belittle predestination. Does God really predestine what I eat for breakfast? How silly! Surely God has more important things to predestine. He can leave the little choices up to us. 

The problem with that objection is that it's so shortsighted. Small innocuous changes in the present can generate huge changes in the future. In a case/effect world, changing a variable in the past can snowball. 

Corn Flakes is a Kellogg's product. Kellogg's is headquartered in Battle Creek, Michigan. That makes it the largest local employer (in Battle Creek). But the primary production center for Corn Flakes is Manchester, England. In the US, corn production is centered in illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Minnesota, Nebraska, and Texas. 
Compare that to Wheaties. That's a General Mills' product. General Mills is headquartered in Golden Valley, Minnesota. In the US, white wheat production is centered in Idaho, Michigan, New York, Oregon, and Washington.

If more people eat Corn Flakes, that benefits the economies of Battle Creek, Michigan, Manchester, England, and corn-producing states. If, by contrast, more people eat Wheaties, that depresses the the economies of Battle Creek, Michigan, Manchester, England, and corn-producting states, but benefits the economies of Golden Valley, Minnesota and white wheat-producing states.

If Kellogg's is prosperous, that benefits its employees and shareholders. If General Mills is prosperous, that benefits its employees and shareholders. If Kellogg's does better, it can hire more people. If General Mills does better, Kellogg's has to lay people off. 

People usually live within commuting distance of where they work. As a consumer, you will patronize local businesses. The local supermarket will benefit from your presence. And so on and so forth. 

Where you live impacts who you meet and mate with. If you grew up in Battle Creek, Michigan, you will probably have kids by someone else from Michigan. If, by contrast, you grew up in Golden Valley, MInnesota, you will probably have kids by someone else from Minnesota. Same thing with corn and wheat producing states. 

How many people choose Corn Flakes over Wheaties, or vice versa, affects who will or will not be born. It affects where various crimes like murder will occur. If affects where–or whether–you will attend church. That, in turn, can affect whether you go to heaven or hell. 

This generates two diverging timelines. The existence or nonexistence of some humans in relation to other humans who take their place. Increasingly different events the further into the future past changes ramify. Alternate histories. What might seem like a trivial choice in the present has vast, complex consequences down the line–for good and ill. 


  1. Fascinating view. Kind of like "The Butterfly Effect" within the will of God. We have no idea the ramifications of every decision we make every day. If God is NOT in charge, I would be afraid to get out of bed.

  2. Also explains the futility of trying to drive a "command economy" from the White House.