Back to the Future by: Brian Sorgenfrei

Posted: September 14, 2012 by jperritt in Action, Comedy
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Never has an old, beat-up Delorean been cooler than in the hands of Marty McFly in the “Back to the Future” movie trilogy. The movie(s) success is due to numerous factors.  A young Michael J. Fox speeding along on a skateboard enhanced his heartthrob image.  The acting is solid with Christopher Lloyd, playing the crazy but loveable mad scientist known as “Doc,” and the dialogue between the characters is wrought with comedic flair.   Due to the time travel aspect, the older audience was able to relive their childhood as Marty Mcfly zooms back to the 50’s.  But as with most successful movies, the real success is due to the over-arching story and concept.  The mass appeal of Back to the Future is found in the always-appealing aspect of time travel.   The concept of time travel enflames our imagination with “What-if’s.”

What if I really could travel back in time and change some of my decisions? What if I really could travel into the future and see my life 30 years from now?  Time travel, while being an endlessly fun and fascinating concept, also taps into something deep within all of us.  It appeals to something within our hearts, something that has been there almost as long as the world has existed.

The “possibility” of time travel (especially in a Delorean) is so seductive and always will be on this side of glory because it taps into the age-old temptation presented back in the Garden of Eden.  Satan brings the final hook of temptation to Eve when he deceitfully says, “You will not surely die.  For God knows that when you eat of it (the forbidden fruit) your eyes will be opened and you will be like God…”  Satan gave Eve the final blow when he suggested there was a way for her to no longer be “just” a finite, dependent creature, but instead God-like.

There is of course nothing inherently wrong with the fun concept of time travel.  However, much of the appeal is because it opens the possibility to be more “like God.”  It tempts us to break the first commandment, and be unsatisfied as dependent creatures.  It offers the possibility of being our own, self-sufficient and independently wise god.

I have many conversations with college students and often what paralyzes them is their inability to change the past or the inability to know the future.  In other words, they have a hard time resting in God’s knowledge and wisdom.  We all think our lives would be so much better, and that real life and satisfaction would come if I could only change my past with better decisions or have a certain measure of clarity regarding my future.   We all want to be able to say with Marty Mcfly “history is going to change.”

But the Bible reveals that the root of this kind of thinking is sin.  It is sin, because it is unbelief in God, His power, and His Wisdom in running His world.  How often do we end up resisting and resenting the limits God has wisely put upon humanity and instead rebel by saying, “I would rather have no limits and be God?”

How many of us would rather have a flux capacitor at our finger tips so that we could go back in time and change our foolish decisions, or avoid some of the trials that came into our lives?  The possibility of “fixing” our lives by erasing a shameful past is alluring.  Deep within the deceitful heart of man is the idea that I could do life better, make life better if given the chance to repeat history.  Deep within the deceitful heart of man is the belief that God’s wisdom does not reign over our past.  Yet, thankfully, over and over the Bible attests to the infinite Wisdom of God and says that all the days of man’s life have already been written by Him(Psalm 139:16).  He is running this world, and all events are happening to bring about praise to Jesus Christ and the building of His church (Eph. 1:11, 22-23).  I’m sure Joseph by Genesis 40 was wishing for a time machine. While in prison in Egypt, he must have been thinking…If only I had not been sinfully arrogant to my brothers, if only they had not sold me into slavery, if only Potipher would believe me and not his crooked wife…if only…”  Yet, God was ceaselessly at work.  By Genesis 50, Joseph realizes that there was a bigger story going on, and that God in his infinite wisdom was using suffering and even his own failures to ultimately heal his brokenness and save his own family.  Joseph’s confession to his brothers pushes back the unbelief in God’s wisdom and joyfully receives the limits of his finiteness.  He says (in contrast to Eve) “Do not fear, for am I in the place of God?  As for you, you meant evil against me, but god meant it for good, to bring it about that many people should be kept alive, as they are today…”

What we now know is even better than what Joseph knew.   In what seems like foolishness to man, God’s wisdom would be put on display has He takes on flesh and walks this earth for 33 years.  And that life ends in a crucifixion on a Roman cross outside the city.  Yet the cry of Jesus, far from it being a cry of defeat, in utter irony, he shouts out a cry of victory and accomplishment.  He cries out, “It is finished.”  And Jesus accomplishes something on the cross that no amount of man’s doing will ever accomplish.  He takes the penalty and the shame for all the past, present and future foolishness and sin of His people.  For all those who finally quit trying to “make up” for past failures and receive the death of Jesus Christ, the Scripture says he is a new creation and now free from the slavery of the past.   The way to be free from a shameful past is not found in going back in time and re-doing life, but in the One who takes the full penalty of sin upon Himself, and declares us clean in His sight.  The immense mercy of God that has covered all sin is one of the things that ushers forth eternal praise in glory (Rev. 5:12).  Think about it, He is a God, who works no apart from our sin, but even through it to bring about love and praise.  He indeed is wise.  He is a God you can trust with your past, present and future.  Seeing the love and wisdom of God should make us joyfully say with Joseph “Am I in the place of God?”


Rev. Brian Sorgenfrei was born and raised in Jackson, MS, and attended Ole Miss from ’99-’03. After graduation, Brian worked for two years with RUF as an intern at Auburn.  He married Liza Thompson in the summer of 2005 and moved to Jackson to attend Reformed Theological Seminary.  While in seminary, he worked with college students at First Presbyterian Church and Millsaps College. Their daughter, Shelby, was born in Jackson during the fall of 2008.  After graduating in the spring of 2009, Brian and Liza moved to Starkville, MS to work with RUF at Mississippi State University.  Their second daughter, Annie, was born in October of 2010.

  1. […] to change the past, and the sovereignty of God (Brian Sorgenfrei has already written an excellent post on the latter topic, and I recommend it to you). Instead, I am going to briefly analyze the use of […]

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