There can be a lot of discussion in (and out) of the “religious” community about predestination and free will. I thought that I would share my thoughts on the subject and see if anyone else cared to share theirs.
The discussion (or arguments, depending on who you are talking with) seems to revolve around the fact that the Bible does not explicitly say “you have complete free will” or “your entire life is predestined.” Although, it does come pretty close to stating both.
Free Will (the ability to choose in any way desired without external circumstances getting in the way. This relates to the Christian faith in that God allows people to choose for themselves if they will accept salvation. Self-Determinism): These words never actually appear in the Bible but their concepts do. The Bible often suggests that we should conquer sin by choosing to repent from it and choose righteousness and follow Christ. The following verses definitely give rise to the thought that we do indeed have free will to choose things and that we do, indeed, need to choose Christ and repentance in order to be saved: Col 3.5 – John 3.16 – John 12.48 – Rom 10.9ff – 1 Peter 5.1ff
Predestination (all things are preordained, there is a sovereignty that has planned history and it is unfolding as time goes on, fate. More specifically, this relates to the Christian faith in that God has predestined, or already chosen, everyone that will or will not accept, and receive, salvation. “election”): The term “predestined” does appear in the Bible and does refer to the foreknowledge and sovereign power of God. The following verses lead directly to the conclusion that we are, in fact, predetermined to be (or not be) saved: Rom 8.28ff – Gal 1.15 – 1 Cor 2.7 – Eph 1.4f, 11 – 2 Thess 2.13
How does the Christian (or non-Christian, skeptic, atheist, agnostic, whomever) ratify the two seemingly paradoxical beliefs? The way I see it is that they are not paradoxical at all. Predestined means that God is sovereign and omniscient (has complete knowledge). Free will means that He has brought us into relationship with Him and has allowed us to choose Him or not. The two distinct beliefs only become paradoxical if we think 4 dimensionally. We would be confining God to our space-time. We are very used to things going forward in a linear fashion and, I think, have put God in the box of our timeline. What we fail to realize is that God is above that and does not have to be confined to the 4 extended dimensions that we are familiar with. String theory (which I who to write about at another time) suggests that there are actually 11 dimensions (10 space – the 4 that we know and 6 additional, very small, curled up ones – and 1 time). I will loosely apply a metaphor to this discussion that Brian Greene talked about in “The Elegant Universe” in describing other dimensions:
God is above time and can therefore see all choices (that we are free to make) at any point in time. Look at it like this (I discussed that a bit in another post): We walk along a string in one direction and from our vantage we can only see down the string. We can only walk in that one direction (like time). God, as he is above all dimensions, can see the entire string and therefore our entire life displayed before him. His foreknowledge is such that He can see the entire string and all of our choices. God knows who will choose Him and has known since before we were born. The fact that He knows does not me that we are REQUIRED to choose Him. Predestination, many people seem to think, means that we are forced into things and that therefore we have no freedom and then there would be no point. I believe that free will and predestination on their own lack completeness. If they are put together there is less chance we will but God in a box.
I think I have left some stuff out that I wanted to discuss and may remember it later. And yes I know I have rambled a bit, but deal with it. Please feel free to comment or add anything.
The discussion on multiple dimensions is pretty interesting and hopefully I will discuss that later along with string theory.
A side comment about “predestination” and “foreknowledge.” The words are very closely related but are subtly different. Foreknowledge seems to merely refer to a knowledge about something before it happens. God does have foreknowledge but, more importantly, he has indeed predestined things to happen. The subtle difference is that knowledge is just an understanding that something will happen where as predestination is that God has indeed laid things out in a particular way. Predestination does mean that history will unfold in a particular way that God has described. This, to me, in no way takes away from our free will to choose.
Predestination has once been described in this manner (which I believe incorporates free will): God is like a chess-master. When a chess-master is on top of his game (which God always is) he can see every move that his opponent will make and see the outcome of the game. Each move can still be made by choice but ultimately the chess-master knows what will happen. I like this analogy because it implies at least one important thing: God helps guide us, if we listen. A chess master can make certain moves that will lead his opponent where he wants him to go, in a similar way, God allows us to choose but will also make certain moves (this can manifest in different ways in our life) that lead us a certain way. We can completely ignore those things and make other moves, but if we listen to God he will lead us where we enter into a deeper relationship with him. The analogy does break down here because a chess-master makes his moves so that his opponent will lose the game, real life is not a game and God makes His moves so that we will draw closer to Him.
EDITOR’S NOTE: This post is from a previous blog so the original comments no longer exist.