Summary: The Terminator is like a parable about God's creation of humans.
Thursday of Holy Week 2013
Did God Make a Mistake?
I think one of the levels of meaning of the “Terminator” movies incorporates a parable. Think about it. Americans, wary of human beings’ ability to push the nuclear button, create something called “Skynet,” a robotic system with robotic machines to fight our wars for us. Shortly after the system is turned on, it becomes “self-aware,” gets paranoid and starts World War III to destroy the human race. The small number of human beings then use every possible weapon, including time travel and Arnold Schwartznegger, to destroy the machines.
God made humans in His image and likeness, and made us out of love with the intention of bringing us into everlasting union with Himself. Think of it–a participation of the incredible beauty, truth and love of the Trinity. That was our destiny. But we discovered our free will and used it to say “no” to God, thus creating a hell on earth for ourselves. We rebelled, much as the machines of Terminator did. So we ask the question, “did God make a mistake in creating us in the first place?”
The Bible offers two possible solutions to the problem of man’s rebellion, and both are failures. We read the story of Noah, the just man. God got sick of man’s revolt and decided to press reset and start over. He drowned everybody except Noah and his family, and started over. But the story doesn’t get past page two before Noah gets drunk and is abused by his sons. With Abraham, God does start over, and makes for Himself a people. But the people are still weak and rebellious. Moses comes and no sooner has he gotten the Law from God that the people rebel and God threatens to wipe them out and start all over again with Moses. But Moses stands in the breach, as the Bible puts it, and convinces God that such a plan wouldn’t work. Violence and destruction are external threats that never seem to work for long. I’ve found that the threat of a zero on a lab grade works for about forty minutes to keep a class in line. No longer.
So Moses had the Law. Perhaps this external force, the Law, could get people to behave in obedience. Enforce the law on people and they’ll behave. But no matter how tough the Law, how rigid the police force, people who want to will disobey and go their own way. That happened generation after generation with the Jews. Even when the anarchy of the period of the Judges was over, and the Jews had kings, the human heart still rebelled. In fact, the kings themselves, including the model king, David, were rapacious and proud and too weak to resist the temptation to worship false gods with their foreign wives. The few good kings made bad choices. Hezekiah bragged to foreign emissaries about all the cool stuff he had, and a few generations later those foreigners destroyed Jerusalem and carted it off. Josiah believed his own press and went off to battle Pharaoh, and came back dead. In the more modern era, Calvin and his Puritan successors thought you could force people to be good by creating communities like Geneva and the Puritan settlements in America, but they found the truth. You can’t force people to be good, even if you force them to act good.