[I wrote this after getting some inspiration while watching some beautiful footage of rivers and ocean waves. I intentionally did not use a bunch of Scripture because I wanted to try and explain this complex idea in terms and metaphors that everyone could grasp. I also understand that no metaphor can fully explain this concept; they all crumble eventually. This is my best attempt.]
There are ancient currents, forces that move slowly but affect every moment of history, whose only visible manifestation are its current effects on the present. Do we really understand what is being unfolded before us? Can we fathom with the necessary depth to understand why things must be they way they are? Why do we long for something better? Why do we compose songs and write books and create narratives that speak with delighted hope about a world that has yet to arrive? Even our science speaks boldly that if we survive our technological adolescence, humanity will evolve to something better, more able, better equipped to endure. Unconsciously those ancient currents direct our thoughts, our concepts, our ambitions, even our hopes and visions of the future in all areas of life, across the spectrum of human ethnicities, toward something better; something different; something entirely new; something redeemed from what we perceive as ruined humanity.
On this we perceive correctly. Humanity is ruined. The longing we have to arrive at something new comes from the faded collective memory of paradise lost. We instinctively know that something is amiss. Why all the suffering? Why must we endure so much pain in life? And even the few among us who live blessedly easy lives sometimes question the inequality: why am I blessed while others suffer? We know, so we entertain ourselves to soften the unpleasant reality we face. We fill our moments with as much pleasure as humanly possible to deaden our senses to the unpleasant truth of our existence. But even pleasure becomes exhausting, and when the hope of pleasure is exhausted, for some suicide becomes a hopeful means to end the pain. To cope, humanity needs hope that comes from without, not within.
God is at the helm of these ancient currents. The currents are His will, and all of creation is moved slowly by its rhythms. We make our free will choices, because God would have it no other way. Yet all the while we are pushed, our choices are nudged, each decision, no matter how seemingly insignificant influenced by the ancient current. But before you protest, consider that a nudged choice is still a free choice; in fact even if God did no nudging at all other lesser forces would influence us. Choices always have influences. If there were no influences, we would never make choices, but would be forever entrenched in indifference. Perhaps it is our understanding of freedom that needs revision rather than our understanding of God’s will.
To what end does God drive this current? The end God has in mind is a redeemed people and a redeemed creation. By what means? He is redeeming both through His Son, Jesus Christ. The ancient currents are moving all of creation toward a redeemed future. Redemption awaits those who choose to follow Jesus Christ and trust Him as their only Redeemer. And from each person who chooses Christ, God is building a new humanity. Once the new humanity is complete, He will redeem all of creation so that His new humanity has a new creation, a new home in which to dwell.
What about those who do not choose Christ? The ancient currents of God’s will move them along as well. Their free choices to refuse Christ, to suppress the truth, will compound and as the waves nudge them toward Christ, the way they do not wish to go, their rebellion against the current only increases. This is why it is written that because they suppressed the truth about God, they were given over to their desires. Rebellion against the ancient currents only serves to push you evermore toward your own destruction. And so it is true that God never condemned anyone to Hell, but by their own choices the current of God’s will delivered them to their chosen destination.
The waves carry us all. God’s will is the substance in which all of creation drifts. And this ancient current that affects every moment of history carries us to our freely chosen destination. We either move with the current, or we rebel against it. And all of humanity’s free choices, nudged by the ancient currents, accomplish God’s perfect plan for a redeemed people living in a redeemed city placed in a redeemed creation, lovingly ruled by their Redeemer.
“The heart of man plans his way, but the Lord establishes his steps.” (Proverbs 16:9, ESV)