Predestination and Free Will
Predestination and Free Will

Predestination and Free Will

The sword of destiny does hang but God’s love and grace are available to those who are willing to reach out to take hold of His proffered hand and change their destiny.

“A God less than sovereign could not bestow moral freedom upon His creatures. He would be afraid to do so.” 
― A.W. Tozer

                        An astrologer predicted that I was not likely to be hit by a bullet and my life would change drastically and really start after my retirement from the Army. For an Infantry officer regularly deployed in insurgency affected areas this was good news but I was skeptical till I experienced the same coming true- the first part many times over and the second part after leaving the army. I was presented a beautifully illustrated Holy Bible in June 1979 and I never opened it again after enjoying the maps, photos and other details on the day I received it. I have always wondered if God had predestined my future to serve God why did He let me wander all over for so long. Prophet Isaiah echoed the same question “Why Lord do You make us wander from Your ways and harden our hearts so we do not revere You? (Isaiah 63:17). A.W.Tozer aptly answers the question that God is sovereign and has given His creation enough freedom to exercise their choice about their way of living.

What is predestination? – God is Omniscient and Omnipotent and His name as given to Moses “I AM” clarifies His deity further. He was, is and forever shall be and before Him all past present and future is alike- like an open book containing no secrets. Nothing will ever surprise God for He is aware of every situation since eternity past into eternal future. “Your eyes saw my unformed body, all the days ordained for me were written in Your book before one of them came to be” (Psalm 139:16).  The All-knowing God as Creator of the universe knows in advance every detail of the future and Prophet Jeremiah is informed as such “I knew you before I formed you in your mother’s womb” (Jeremiah 1:5). Since God is in control of every power and authority in the whole universe He predestines the entire life sequence of every individual before He is born. Logically then He destines some people to go to heel even before they are yet born on the earth. This selection or rejection of others to be in the presence of God eternally is predestination.

                         Doctrine of predestination – Historical perspective – The earliest Jewish literature provides evidence of this in the writings of Josephus who in the first century A D wrote that the three main sects of the Jews had different views on this. While the Sadducees had no definite view on this the Pharisees maintained that God in His sovereign authority control all that happens in the universe but He gives power to choose between right and wrong to the people. The Essenes agreed on the first part but did not accept the idea of the authority to choose good and evil to man. Augustine (354-430) is the first Christian scholar offering a view on this doctrine. During the initial years he believed that God destines all events but human freedom is also assured but later he changed his stance to agree to the fact of God’s foreknowledge and not on individual choice. He argued that God is aware in advance the reaction of man and in that knowledge decides the future events. His view is articulated thus “God promised not from the power of our will but from His own predestination. For He promised what He Himself would do. Because, although men do those good things which pertain to God’s worship, He Himself makes them to do what He has promised. Otherwise the fulfillment of God’s promises would not be in the power of God, but in that of men” (In What Respects Predestination and Grace Differ).

                       John Calvin considered the act of predefined damnation of some by God to be sinful and not an act of God for God cannot be guilty of sin. He maintained that it is a mystery and God’s predestination to hell fire for some and salvation of others is ordained by God alone. Damnation as per him is earned by man by his choice but salvation is by God. Martin Luther declared that salvation alone is predestined for those who seek God while eternal damnation is a result of people’s choice of sinful living, rejection of Lord Jesus and forgiveness through Him due to unbelief. Salvation on the other hand is predestined only through the acceptance and faith in Christ’s suffering, death, resurrection and ascension. The two disagreed on the aspect of freedom of choice given to man versus sovereignty of God.

Thus the two views emerged- Conditional election is for those who are chosen by God in accordance with His foreknowledge of who will believe in His Son while exercising their free will. The other view of Unconditional election pertains to God’s choice as per His superior authority and solely for His purposes independent of individual’s free will. Thus the eternal fate of each individual as per this view is decided by God even before he is born.

Predestination and other religions – AS per Islam, Almighty Allah is all Powerful and Just and He is neither answerable to anyone nor can be questioned by any of His creation. He wills what He wills and decides the fate of all individuals through His Divine decrees and commands. This is written in Arabic as al-qada wa al qadar- meaning Fate of man is ordained By Allah and this is the sixth pillar of Islamic faith. As per this Allah is Just but also Compassionate and forgives whom He wills. The Holy Quran declares “Verily this is no less than a message to (all) the worlds: (with profit) to whoever among you wills to go straight, but ye shall not will as Allah wills; the Cherisher of the Worlds” (Holy Quran 81:27-29). The declaration is that God has ordained your will to be in conformity with His will and not otherwise.

                         In Hinduism there are two sets of beliefs- one, that human ‘Karma’ or destiny is the sole point of determination of one’s destiny and there is no other authority to set this in motion in human life. The other view is that the fruits of the good or evil ‘karma’ lie in the hands of Vishnu who is the supreme enforcer of this while the individual is solely responsible and answerable for his deeds

                   My View – I have based my view on the basis of the Scriptures where Lord Jesus defines the commission of sins by an individual. Having sinful thoughts would amount to commission of the act and since this is about the kingdom of heaven this law has wider ramifications. Having sinful thoughts in itself is considered a sin and equated with committing a sinful act and with the same anomaly a thought is as good as committing an act. Connected to this is the character of God which has moral as well as natural attributes. His moral attributes are justice, holiness, goodness, righteousness, truth and faithfulness while the natural are seen in creation, wisdom, omnipotence, omnipotent etc.

God in His name as ‘I AM’ is God of the present since eternity past to eternity future is all laid open before Him and nothing is hidden from His scrutiny. God created the heavens first and at that time when the thought of creation of angels crossed His mind the rebellion of Lucifer and with him a third of the angels also became evident. At that stage God could have either stopped the creation of Lucifer and other partners of his or created only those angels that were to be only loyal to His authority or continue doing what was planned despite the rebellion. God is just and stoppage/alteration of the creation process would have amounted to denial of a chance to them. God chose justice over His love for the creation and allowed completion of the process. In like manner in the process of creation of mankind the same question about Adam and Eve disobeying and committing sin would arise and God allowed the process to continue leaving the choice to the creation.

Free will versus predestination – God in His foreknowledge is well aware of everyone’s way of life in future and allows them to live that life. It cannot be said that God has committed the sin of allowing sin to be committed by man but has been just to allow free will to His creation. In heaven the angelic beings as seen by Prophet Isaiah do two specific things- one is to cover their faces and feet with two wings each and the other is to glorify God through their worship. After being created the angels would not have been specific commands to do this for God did not create them for His glory but as an act of expression of His love. Each angel is mighty in his own way and the six wings represent the power of very fast movement when not in direct presence of God and with such speed is other might in them. On seeing the greatness of God and His creation and their own smallness in comparison with nothing to offer God as thanksgiving- for they have no right over anything in heaven- the angels offer themselves before God by concealing their person glory and their walk before God. This worship is an act of free will and not of compulsion.

In like manner God did provide man with a choice to opt for the tree of life with dependence and allegiance to God or the tree of knowledge of good or evil and self dependence. A man has been given the choice of coming to Lord Jesus and partake of the offer of forgiveness and salvation or continue in sin and eternal damnation. God is well aware before a man is placed in the womb of a woman the choice that he will make but being just does not interfere in his choice. Every human being is given two or more calls to choose- the first call is direct and overt like I was given through presentation of the Bible. The second call and more afterwards are indirect as an option to receive various blessings like healing from disease, financial, social or spiritual issues. The Old Testament is replete with various instances of punishment being heaped on the Israelites to make them turn to God. Like angels either we can decide to submit to His throne casting aside our own feelings, desires, status and ego and depend on Him or carry on with self effort through ‘good works’ to seek and find Him.

Can we change destiny? – The sacrifice of Lord Jesus has opened the door of God’s grace for all and His promise is categorical “Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find, knock and it will be opened to you” (Matthew 7:7). The promise does not specify that the offer is only available to those already chosen by God and in any case how do I know that I am jot the chosen one. My duty is to ‘ask, seek and knock’ and keep at it till an answer is received. Likewise we must pray for others that God Himself may relent and lead them to His throne for grace and not justice. God’s love is an equally prominent attribute as justice and He did offer up His Own Son as propitiation of our sins. This was not done for a select few but to all “those who believed in His name, He gave the right to become the children of God” (John 1:12). The unknown mystery is being fated but God has given us the freedom to fulfill or not what is predicated- in the end it depends on us. God is willing and waiting for the prodigal son to come back- rather ‘He comes knocking on the door’ to bless us and change His decision. His love and mercy will definitely override destiny if we seek and will that/

                         “God will not hold us responsible to understand the mysteries of election, predestination, and the divine sovereignty. The best and safest way to deal with these truths is to raise our eyes to God and in deepest reverence say, “0 Lord, Thou knowest.” A.W.Tozer

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