Predestination (pre-cognition) vs faith.

Well, it came up again. In this
I’ve had many face-to-face discussions about predestination, and have yet to hear a reasonable explanation of how christians can believe that god know’s everything, but we are free to guide our own fates.
Same old arguement, really. But it does get a little complicated.
God has known, before Adam and Eve even, what the ultimate fate of everyone is. But then christians believe that we have free will to do as we chose.
I’m not wording this very well. :frowning:
Ok. If god’s knowing our fate locks it in, as of course it would, how can one believe that we each set our own destiny? We will do what god know’s we’re going to do. Right?
BTW; I am not a christian, As if you couldn’t tell. :slight_smile:

Errr… why does the fact that God knows what we’re going to do mean that He makes us do it?

I mean, I know Lee Harvey Oswald shot Kennedy, but that doesn’t mean I made him do it. (And I can prove that. I distinctly remember not doing it and I have fifty witnesses who didn’t see me.)

Now, you can argue that I am not God (seems likely), and that God has a special responsibility in that He creates free-willed creatures knowing “in advance” what their choices will be. But, in order to be logically consistent, if God is going to give us free will, He has to accept that we may use it wrongly. To create exclusively perfect beings - beings incapable of making wrong moral decisions - would be to abrogate the concept of free will.

I think you also have to consider the difference in viewpoint here. We are creatures of the temporal world, and we perceive and understand cause and effect sequentially. God operates sub specie aeternitatem; He sees everything in space and time, all at once. (Which is why I put “in advance” in quotes in the preceding paragraph.)

(Just my opinion. I’m only an armchair theologian.)

Another armchair theologian checking in here;

I’d see it as being a side-effect of the fact that God is outside (or at least independent of) time and space), the future simply wouldn’t be ‘future’ for God, it’s just there, in a sense, it’s already happened from his perspective, but that doesn’t mean that it’s fixed from ours.

We could take this to the absolute extreme and suggest that by nudging one tiny quantum widget, he caused the whole big bang and resulting universe, knowing that the nudge had exactly the right parameters to result in a(n) universe in which intelligent life would arise and meet him, but again, the nudge and the end result would be equally present to him.

OK, it’s not easy to get your head round, but I think it’s no more or less tricky than trying to comprehend that the universe is like the three-dimensional surface of a four-dimensional balloon, or that there was no ‘before’ the big bang, or that the universe isn’t expanding ‘into’ or contained within anything. it’s just one of those concepts that will never properly fit inside our time-limited three dimensional monkey brains.

Interestingly, the apostle Paul doesn’t always work terribly hard to make the ways of God all that well-known to man, where the question of predestination is concerned. (I am talking here about predestination in the narrow soteriological sense, as opposed to the broader God-knows-everything sense from the OP.) I don’t know if that diminishes the applicability of this answer or not, but at least it will provide an anchor to actual Christian scripture, which – unfortunately – these kinds of discussions sometimes lack.

Paul’s understanding of The Way Things Are does not appear to presuppose a universe that has been tailored primarily to engender the greatest possible degree of creaturely choice, or even happiness. Instead, he seems to view the universe simply as a vehicle for the exercise of God’s sovereignty and his (God’s, not Paul’s) final glorification.

Here’s Romans 9 (in part):

“…You will say to me then, ‘Why does He still find fault? For who resists His will?’ On the contrary, who are you, O man, who answers back to God? The thing molded will not say to the molder, ‘Why did you make me like this,’ will it?
Or does not the potter have a right over the clay, to make from the same lump one vessel for honorable use and another for common use? What if God, although willing to demonstrate His wrath and to make His power known, endured with much patience vessels of wrath prepared for destruction? And He did so to make known the riches of His glory upon vessels of mercy, which He prepared beforehand for glory, even us, whom He also called, not from among Jews only, but also from among Gentiles…”

That pulls a few verses out of the middle of a much longer argument, but at least it gives you a flavor. I’m not sure that it says much about the relationship between foreknowledge and free will, explicitly, but it certainly doesn’t seem to accept the notion that foreknowledge absolves us of answerability for our actions.

For my part, I am left wondering if the apostle Paul would even accept that the premise for Mangeorge’s question is worth pursuing. Mangeorge’s question – I think – places humanity at the center of understanding: “How does this or that fact about God measure up against my presuppositions about the universe?” Paul, on the other hand, seems much more concerned about thinking theocentrically: “How can I begin to understand the outworkings of God’s sovereignty in the course of human events?” There are – of course – foundational differences between the two approaches.

If that’s an accurate characterization, then I think it becomes more difficult for believers and nonbelievers to find common ground on which to discuss these matters in any manner that is likely to be satisfying for both sides.

Nevertheless, if folks insist that Christians must abandon Christian epistemic distinctives in discussions with non-Christians, then I would cast my lot with the very excellent answers already given by Mangetout and Steve Wright.

Here’s one version of the problem as I see it:

At the instant God creates the world he knows the exact fate of every individual: he knews that John Smith is going to hell, because of actions he freely chose. (This example also applies to the problem of evil: he also knew about all the unnecessary suffering in the world.) Now, if he’s God, and therefore omnipotent, surely he can say to himself ‘No, I won’t create that world, but rather one where John (and loads of other people) don’t get damned for eternity, but still freely choose their actions.’ He’s God for Chrissake, he can do ANYTHING.

And yet he didn’t do this apparently.
Alex B

Okay, I’m not a theologian, even of the armchair variety, but I haven’t posted anything yet today, and I’m getting itchy…

The way my philosophy teacher in college expalined it to us:

If, at a given point in time, God knows that I am going to do Thing A, then I must do Thing A. Although I believe I had the option of doing Thing B, this is an illusion.

Obviously the OP had this in mind, but perhaps it needed to be laid out more specifically.

A river always flows into the ocean, we know that it will eventually end up in the ocean, it is inevitable, but we don’t know which path it will choose from it’s source.


Your question is the one that causes some Christians to hedge their bets whenever this topic comes up. There’s something about predestination that feels mean.

However – and this is what I was getting at earlier – it is not necessarily so that the universe has been created in order to bring about the greatest possible degree of creaturely happiness. Rather, the universe can be viewed primarily as a vehicle for the exercise of God’s sovereignty, as well as his final glorification. If that sort of universe requires that certain “vessels” be created for “destruction” ("…in order to make the riches of his glory known…"), then God – being its creator – would be within his rights, justice-wise, to do so.

It’s the difference between a God-centered view of events and a human-centered view. I won’t tell you which one you have to take, but in Rom 9, Paul seems pretty clearly to put forward a God-centered view of things.

I don’t know if that makes it any clearer or not.

Now wait a minute here. You’re saying that God can allow some people to go to Hell for all eternity for the glory of God? Do you believe that God is omnibenevolent? And if so, how do you reconcile these two statements?

The whole dilemma seems to hinge on the fact that God is omniscient, and therefore does know exactly which path will be chosen. Analogies between limited and limitless beings never seem to work too well.

Where does this leave the doctrine of free will? What you’re describing seems to be determinism, which very few Christians seem to like.

I’m not trying to get into a great big argument, but I’d like to understand how problems like these are solved.

All right…now, according to the Bible, all of creation is held together by “the word of His power”. Paul talks about the elect, Jesus talks about the elect, and even in 1 Peter 2:8 it says that those who “stumble” are APPOINTED to do so. It says that the good deeds that Christians do are prepared beforehand for them to do by God himself, and that everything in salvation from Jesus’ sacrifice to the calling and election of the saved is an act of God, nullifying any claim by a human that they chose God themselves…to me it seems that the majority of the verses in the New Testament support the idea of “ultimate soveriegnty” for God, and not a whole lot of free will. So I would think that either free will is an illusion, or the ultimate soveriegnty of God is an illusion. Personally, I’d choose free will…but then again, I’m no longer a theist…

I still think this is beacause we’re trying to make the divine perspective fit into the human context, which cannot be done.

You have free will, for example, a minute ago I had no idea that I was about to type:
“Piano trouser mousetraps and onions”
but (assuming his existence for the sake of this discussion)God did, did that mean that God made me type those words? no, it was definitely me that typed them, so were they inevitable? - no, I could have typed something else, would that have made God wrong? - no, because in that case he’d have foreseen me typing something else, although I believe that the word ‘foreseen’ is misleading as it makes us think that God is experiencing time in the same limited sequential way that we are.

That’s not what I said, Steve. At least it’s not what I meant. I said that because god know’s what’s going to happen, it will. Or, because it’s going to happen, he know’s it. Either way, our fate is pre-ordained. God cannot be wrong. If I’m hell-bound, I cannot change and become heaven-bound.
Of course I’m seeing this from a human perspective. I’m human. That’s how I was made. Whether by divine creation or by mutation. And I’m the one following my path. To the sea, as it were. :slight_smile:
If there is no omniscient being, then I do truly enjoy free will. Otherwise? I don’t think so.
Now if there is a supernatural being who doesn’t know the future, well then that’s a different question entirely.
The absolute knowing is the crux of the matter.

Y’all do realize, of course, that since Free Will always leads to sin, and since there is no sin in Heaven, there can be no Free Will in Heaven, either…

If God is bound by logic… that is, if he cannot do anything illogical, it is possible that he created a non-computable system… that is, he couldn’t set it up to get an outcome, but with his godly powers he still knows what ends up happening anyway.

Then the question: can god see his own future? How omnipotent is omnipotent?-- Is it knowing everything, or simply knowing everything that can be known?

That analogy always worked for me. <shrugs>


I also don’t believe in the existance of time, so in that vein pre-destination is kind of a moot point, as everything that has existed or will exist, exists simultaneously.


Mangeorge you have hit upon the most divisive dilemna in all of Christendom in my opinion. the attempt to compromise predestination with free will has spawned so many various dogmas and creeds and the permutations are endless.
I have learned that the early church was not faced with this problem, because the early preachings claimed that salvation was universal, that is all men are saved. Mind you, we do have a free will, but ultimately, in the time designated by God we will all subject ourselves to Him and swear our allegiance to Him. If one can imagine the most sinful person let’s say Hitler, even Hitler will enjoy the salvation that was foreordained before Adam, even though he was a vessel of destruction up till the death of his body. The judgement to come will not consign him forever for the lake of fire. Many a white robe will be singed. I say this, because the concept of eternal torment in view of a glorious host in heaven is based on mistranslation of the Greek circa 100 CE. Both Preston Eby, a Texas bible scholar and the Tentmaker link in my signature address this issue.

Pursuant to God’s oath to all of us as quoted in my signature are the following comforting scriptures.

Now how many Christians worry about someone failing to accept Jesus as a prerequisite to salvation.


So there you have it. God is in complete control! All the pain and suffering we endure at His hands will one day become apparent as right and just and yes compassionate.
But yes I know it takes faith to believe in Christ and God’s plan, but even if you don’t there is no reason to despair for you, because He loves you unconditionally.

In addressing the question of whether God deliberately created people knowing “in advance” (I’m still putting that one in quotes) that they would go to hell, I think we need to consider the nature of hell. And I think we need to reject the “traditional”, burning-lakes-of-fire, demons-sticking-pitchforks-up-you, view of hell. Entirely.

I take the view (others may take other views, it’s a free country) that hell is the state of a soul separated from God. And that’s all it is. And that it is entirely voluntary - it is chosen by the individual, who either rejects God deliberately, or puts something else before Him.

To a believer, this state of separation is something to be avoided at all costs, and they might well choose to speak of it using burning-lakes-of-fire type metaphors (yes, metaphors, dammit, I am not a Biblical literalist). However, someone who sincerely does not want to be with God might see it entirely differently.

So, the question “Does God create people knowing they will go to hell?” can be effectively rephrased as “Does God create people who don’t want to be with Him?” Which may be more consistent with the concept of an omnibenevolent God.

Or, alternatively, as AlexB pointed out:-

I think the key word there is “apparently”. It may well be the case that God has organized the Universe in such a way that every free-willed being in it will find salvation. Some of them may travel some pretty strange paths to do it, but, well, that’s life. Of course, this would make all debate over the “One True Faith” entirely pointless. And it would mean that we Christians would have to go around treating non-Christians (and other Christians with slightly divergent viewpoints) as being just as “saved” as we are. Hmm. There may be a downside to this, but I’m not sure that I see it.

I definitely can’t see a downside to it.