The Adjustment Bureau

adjustment-bureau-planToday’s Redeeming Culture post is about the 2011 film The Adjustment Bureau.  It’s a beautiful romantic action film, and I love it quite a lot.  In fact, back in 2011, I did a Film and Theology event about it.  Here are the notes (be aware, there are spoilers!); let me know if you think today’s article is any better.

Film and Theology #9: The Adjustment Bureau


Welcome and Explanation

  1. Welcome to F+T #9!  To start, a strange question: Why are you here?
    1. Did you choose to come here?  Were you forced, coerced?
    2. Or has your presence here been planned from the beginning?
  2. The Bible: all of history has been a story, told by a Master Storyteller
    1. Even your life has been a part of that story from the beginning
    2. Not a story about you, you’re only a character
    3. Grand epic; action-packed thriller; fantastic romance
  3. Everything we create echoes the story we’re a part of
    1. That’s what F+T is all about:
      1. Examine culture
      2. Discover: what can we receive, reject, redeem?
    2. Exploring entertainment: it’s not mindless, it’s a reflection of the author
      1. Create and Enjoy: reflections of the story God has put inside each of us.
      2. Intentional or not, everything images that.
  4. Tonight: The Adjustment Bureau.
    1. Released this year, short story written in 1954.
    2. Tackles questions that humans have been wrestling with since forever.
  5. What are those questions?
    1. Why do things happen the way they do?  (That is, is it chance or a plan?)
    2. If there is a plan, do I have a part in it?
    3. Do I have free will?


— Prayer —

— Movie —




  1. Based on Philip K. Dick’s 1954 story “Adjustment Team”
    1. Dick’s work often focuses on the nature of reality, humanity, life.  (Existential)
    2. His sci-fi work inspired Blade Runner, Total Recall, Minority Report, etc.- all works about the question of what reality is, what the point of life is, and what it means to be human (or a complete human).
  2. This movie raises some interesting questions.  Surprisingly, that’s the point.
    1. Writer/Director/Producer George Nolfi – “The intention of this film is to raise questions – that’s what art should do.”
    2. Doesn’t have to be a Christian movie to raise questions that matter eternally.
      1. Perry Noble: “Jesus didn’t die to make songs Christian” – or movies.
      2. God writes desires & stories on our hearts – what we create/enjoy expresses them, explores them.
    3. What questions?
      1. Some films raise very basic questions: Am I loved, Can I be rescued?
      2. Some are tougher/deeper: React when I’m wronged, abandoned?
      3. Some are even philosophical: What is truth, what is worship?
      4. We’ve looked at all of these over the past year.  But this one:
        Is there a plan?  What is my part in it?  Do I have free will?


  1. Is there a plan?
    1. Many would say no.  (Chaos Theory, random chance, etc)  But the Bible says there is, and there’s proof all around.
      1. Psalm 19:1: “The heavens declare the glory of God, and the sky above proclaims his handiwork.”
      2. Romans 1:19-20: “For what can be known about God is plain to them, because God has shown it to them.  For his invisible attributes, namely, his eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly perceived, ever since the creation of the world, in the things that have been made.”
      3. Creation is a testament to God, His existence, and His hand in the creation of the universe.
        1. Darwin: “To suppose that the eye […] could have been formed by natural selection, seems, I freely confess, absurd in the highest degree.”
        2. Einstein: “Try and penetrate with our limited means the secrets of nature and you will find that, behind all the discernible laws and connections, there remains something subtle, intangible and inexplicable.”  Beauty, elegance, impossible complexity were proof enough for him.
      4. The Bible, scientists, the sky itself all agree: God exists, and has made a plan for the world.
    2. What is the plan?
      1. David is told that the plan is just to keep the world together.  True?
      2. Habakkuk 2:14: “For the earth will be filled with the knowledge of the glory of the Lord as the waters cover the sea.”
      3. Romans 11:36: “From him and through him and to him are all things. To him be glory forever. Amen.”
      4. Plan: That the glory and goodness of God would cover the earth, and that everyone would understand that God is good.  So much bigger than survival, which is the Adjustment Bureau’s (Chairman’s) plan.
  2. Do I have a part in the plan?
    1. David had a part in the plan the Chairman wrote.  But while it was the best for the world, it may not have been the best for him.
    2. But Jeremiah 29:11 says God’s plan is a good one; peace, hope and a future.
    3. Colossians 1:23, Matthew 28:18-20 say that God’s plan for our lives is to be ministers of His gospel.
    4. 1 Corinthians 10:31 says everything we do should be to His glory.  (dinner, movies, games, work, etc)
      1. What does this mean?
      2. Love, trust, thank, obey Him.
      3. Advance the cause of the Gospel
      4. Do everything He commands


  1. So, (in light of that) is there such a thing as free will?
    1. Thompson: “You don’t have free will, David.  You have the appearance of free will…you have free will over which toothpaste you use or which beverage to order at lunch, but humanity just isn’t mature enough to control the important things.”  Is this true?
    2. What we see as “free will” isn’t actually.
      1. Romans 8:7-9: “The mind that is set on the flesh is hostile to God, for it does not submit to God’s law; indeed, it cannot. Those who are in the flesh cannot please God.”
      2. 1 Corinthians 2:14: “The natural person does not accept the things of the Spirit of God, for they are folly to him, and he is not able to understand them because they are spiritually discerned.”
      3. We’re not free to do whatever we want.  We can’t follow God, even if we want to, on our own.  We’re slaves to our sin.
    3. No way out on our own.  Our power is insufficient.
      1. We are trapped, chased from all sides by an enemy- our sin – which is more powerful than we are.
      2. And there’s no chance of “getting to the blue door” without the help of a being greater than us.  We need more than a hat.
    4. Good news: He has given us power (Holy Spirit) to do all He has commanded (Acts 1:8) – not only power but desires and guidance.
  1. So what does this all mean?
    1. In the end, David gets what he wants.  He and Elise get to write their own path.
      1. But if we’re slaves to sin, is that the best outcome?  I don’t think it would.
      2. Our own path would lead us directly to death.
    2. There is an author:  All-powerful, all-knowing, all-loving.
      1. He can spin the universe into existence, he can give us what we need
      2. The future isn’t an unknown for Him, it’s a place where He is
      3. He loves us more than we could comprehend.
    3. Here’s how much.
      1. When He proposed that love to His people, the forces of Satan did all they could to keep Him from us.  They sent all of their agents to adjust His path.
      2. But He sent His son into existence and made a mad dash for us.
      3. We were moments from giving in (marrying less); He came for us, showed us the truth behind the curtain, a land of wonder and amazement.
      4. And then He made His own way, dying on the cross, sacrificing everything to be with us.  (I’d rather die than live forever without you)
      5. Then He rose!  And with that, He was given a blank page.  His path has become our own.  Join Him, the one who loves us – and be free!


— Prayer —

–Discussion Questions —


  1. Do you believe that you have free will?
  2. What sins are keeping you from being a part of His plan?
  3. He sacrificed everything for you, for love.  What will you risk for Him?
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