Free Will and Predestination: why we need both 100%

The Bible clearly backs both of these points of view.  Therefore it is imperative that we exclude neither.  But how to do so, when they seem so opposed?  Are they?  And why are both included in scripture?  How essential are they?

Predestination

Romans 8:29-30 states “For those God foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, that he might be the firstborn among many brothers and sisters. And those he predestined, he also called; those he called, he also justified;those he justified, he also glorified.” (See also: Ephesians 1:5-12).  In other words, God not only foreknew all that would happen, He also caused it to be so.  This is actually amazingly good news: everything from the actions of the most glorious angel to the worst devil is subject to God’s will and can not escape from it: this means evil can not win, and that though many of its plans may come to fruition, it will only be those that God allows and knows every consequence of from now until the end of time.  It also means that we can fully rely on Him to do things exactly according to His plan: He will not be caught out or surprised, and He can always rescue us and will not tempt us beyond our ability to bear, etc etc.

Free will

Freedom is important to us, and in Galatians 5:1, we see that it is also important to Him: “It is for freedom that Christ has set us free.  Stand firm, then, and do not let yourselves be burdened again by a yoke of slavery.”  Furthermore, God also judges us by what we do and commands that we “do not use [our] freedom to indulge the flesh ; rather, serve one another humbly in love.”  In other words: we have a choice about what we do, and God therefore has a right to judge us (Galatians 5:13).  Or to give another example, consider what God said to Cain in Genesis 4:6-7, where Cain is commanded to overcome his sin, something which he then fails to do.  In other words: he had a choice.   We can also see that throughout history God judges people and nations and indeed Jesus will preside over the final judgement over all of us, because of what people have chosen to do.  This is fair and right, because we had the freedom to choose either way.

Resolving the Paradox

How then can we resolve this?  Imagine this: you are an all-knowing being and you create a legion of robots, programming them to obey your every command, or you create a huge number of machines that have a simple set function.  You are the only free agent.  The machines have no true freedom but are utterly predestined: they can not escape the destiny you set for them.  Now this is clearly not the case for us!  God can not help but know all things and can not help but have set all things with a certain destiny, or He would not be all-knowing and all-powerful, yet He is.  However, God made the animals by creating them with a word (Genesis 1:24) but mankind was made differently: in the “likeness” and “image of God” (Genesis 1:26-27).  We also have Genesis 2:7: “Then the Lord God formed a man from the dust of the ground and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life, and the man became a living being.”  How could the machines in our example be given any choice, or true freedom?  If you were the only truly free agent, the only way you could give it to them, would be by putting a part of yourself into them, breathing your life into them, making them something like you!  And that is exactly how the Genesis account reads!  God has given us the amazing freedom of being more than machines and having within us a fraction of Himself (and no I do not pretend to fully understand how this works- save your questions for Heaven)!  Of course He has the greatest freedom and all foreknowledge, but though He knows what we will choose, He has given us genuine freedom to choose, because of the “breath of God” that lives in all people!

Predestination, 1951 (Escher)

Predestination, 1951 (Escher) (Photo credit: POLISEA)

Action

So let’s use this freedom for good, loving and serving God, spreading the word and building up one another in love.  We have a choice and it matters.  We can not know what God has predestined (I am glad to be spared the burden of knowing everything), so we must have faith in Him and carry out His commands, but we can not pretend this is surrender to blind fate.  We do not know who is predestined for Heaven, so there is no room for an excuse not to evangelise.  Since we do have free will, we have a responsibility to use it wisely!

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One thought on “Free Will and Predestination: why we need both 100%

  1. Pingback: Heaven, Hell, annihilation and procrastination | An Old Hope

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