Annie and I went to see The Adjustment Bureau several weeks ago because it looked like an intriguing movie dealing with a deep subject. It is rare to find a movie that addresses real philosophical or theological issues that affect the way in which we view the world. The Adjustment Bureau attempts to tackle the tension between free will and predestination. Matt Damon plays a young politician who is quickly rising up the ranks. Along the way, he falls in love with a woman who brings a change of direction to his life. The problem is that the plan for his life had already been determined and it does not include her. An “organization” of agents exist to make sure that the plan determined by “the chairman” becomes a reality. They make “adjustments” to circumstances when a person begins to veer off course. In Matt Damon’s case, they find ways to separate him from the woman he loves in order to steer him back toward the path of political success. However, Damon begins to figure out the system and fights back. He finds the chairman’s plan to be stifling and seeks out freedom to make his own plan.
First things first, I really enjoyed this movie. It was not dull or cliche. It dealt with something that matters more than most people think. It raises good questions about the world and reality. And I have had a few conversations about God and freedom after seeing it. However, I think that it really misses the mark concerning the sovereignty of God and the freedom of humanity. It casts God as a dictator who only cares for human beings in so far as they accomplish his plan. He does not love them but instead uses them as a means to an end. As a result, humanity is subject to bondage by the chairman and his bureau. Yet the problem does not lie with God but with humanity. Bondage does not come from an outside force imposing his will upon us but rather a corruption that lies within us. Colin Smith’s review sums this up quite well.
- But what if it’s entirely the other way round? Suppose the dark, sinister power is not above us but within us. What if that dark power has attached itself to you and become part of who you are? What if it has infiltrated your choices so that they are no longer as free as you would like to think, but are weighted and biased against your own best interest? What if the enemy is not above but within?
If that were true, everything would be reversed. Instead of finding freedom from the power above by exercising the power within, your hope would lie in finding freedom from the power within by the intervention of the power above. And that gets to the heart of the gospel.
The problem we face does not lie in God but in us. Our battle is not against a sinister sovereign but against the dark power of sin that lies in our own nature, affecting our thinking, feeling, remembering, imagining, and choosing.
The Adjustment Bureau suggests that you need to make choices that will deliver you from a dark and sinister God. But the real story is about how you need the sovereign God to deliver you from the dark and sinister power that inhabits your choices. The film suggests that your will is supremely good and that God cannot be trusted. But the real story is that God is supremely good and that you dare not trust your own will. The Adjustment Bureau suggests that the best plan for your life is the one that originates with you. The real story is that pleasures beyond anything you can imagine are at God’s right hand, and he is able to deliver you from the self indulgent choices that would keep you from them.
Colin had many of the same thoughts that I did after seeing the movie. So go read his review about how The Adjustment Bureau “puts God in the place of man and man in the place of God.”