Here’s what I’m saying:
- Robert Langdon is a great symbologist. This is a field that doesn’t actually exist, so perhaps his ascent wasn’t as competitive as it could have been, but never mind. He’s at Harvard, lecturing to a bevy of nubile strippers, I mean, co-eds, and he gets a call from the CIA: “We need you in Paris.” He doesn’t want to go.
- Augustine drops into a church in a North African town called Hippo to attend mass. He’s a good Christian by now, planning a life in his hometown of Thagaste, 45 miles away, as a monk and freelance writer. Being realistic about the writing career, he’s taken a vow of poverty. But the bishop in the region has heard of Augustine: he starts a movement, during the mass, to get him to stay in Hippo as a priest. He doesn’t want to do it.
- Indiana Jones is a great something. He’s also at Harvard, although he doesn’t know Robert Langdon, because Indy lives 60 years earlier, and they are both fictional. The U.S. government conscripts him to go find the Ark of the Covenant before the Nazis. He doesn’t want to go.
- Karl Barth is pastor of a small parish in Safenwil, Switzerland. World War I has ended and the crushing treaty of Versailles makes German-speaking Europe gloomy. Barth has a reputation based on a few books and lectures, and he’s offered a honking post as Professor of Reformed Theology at the University of Gottingen, Germany. This is kind of like some bitter management consultant getting a TV series made out of his pain. He’s reluctant.
- Gideon is some kind of poor farmer in the time of the Judges, before 1000 BCE, and he’s hiding some snacks in a wine press when an angel appears, calls him a “mighty warrior,” and tells him to lead the people of Israel in battle against the Midianites.
Gideon’s response is kind of funny. It can stand for all these examples: unlikely, talented people forced to do extraordinary things against their will. Gideon says:
“Please, sir, how should I be the one to save Israel? My clan is the poorest in Manassah, and I am the least in my family.” (Judg. 6:11-15)
We’re talking about themes of It: what God, if It exists, seems to want. One is for us to live in the Now! Another seems to be to do things we don’t want to do.