Which do you feel is true: God's predestination or our free will?

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In the Bible, there are indications of how God predestines or determines things to happen. But, at the same time, there are examples where people's free will or personal options are what matter. These two concepts—predestination and free will—seem to be completely contradictory to each other. Which of the two do you feel is the case?

Ted’s Response:

It is impossible for the human mind to grasp sufficiently, much less to understand fully, the complex ways of God. For instance, it is difficult to grasp the simultaneous singular and multiple nature of God. We are three-dimensional beings bounded by space and time; God is an infinite Being unbounded by space or time. His thoughts and ways are incomprehensibly higher than ours (Isaiah 55:8,9).

Likewise, it is not easy to fathom how our actions are a perfect balance of

  1. predestination by God and
  2. our own free will choices.
These are two seemingly contradictory concepts, both of which I am convinced are true simultaneously. In fact, there is a one-to-one correspondence between the two; one is not present without the other. Those whom the Lord calls are the same ones who will call on the Lord (Joel 2:32; 1 Corinthians 1:2).

God's predestination and human free will both take place, equally, and in tandem. There are numerous examples of each in the Bible:

Predestination    • Free Will    • Predestination and Free Will

Even if, in a given passage, God's predestination and a person's free will are not both evident, we still must assume that both are present. For instance, when God hardened Pharaoh's heart (Exodus 4:21), we know that Pharaoh made his own free will choice not to let the Israelites leave Egypt (8:32).

As pertaining to our relationship with God,

  1. all those whom God chooses ("the elect") will embrace Him; and
  2. all those who receive God have been pre-selected, by Him, to do so.
On the contrary,
  1. all those whom God rejects (the "condemned") will deny and oppose Him; and
  2. all those who renounce and turn away from God have been predetermined, by Him, to do so.
In fact, the apostle Paul alluded to these two categories of people in the following statements:
What if God, choosing to show his wrath and make his power known, bore with great patience the objects of his wrath—prepared for destruction? What if he did this to make the riches of his glory known to the objects of his mercy, whom he prepared in advance for glory...? (Romans 9:22,23)
It is not with "reckless abandon," but rather with great attention and precision, that God "shapes" and "crafts" even those on whom His wrath will fall—those fated for destruction. Indeed, this is a telling illustration of God's perseverance and patience (which also were present, to a virtually infinite degree, during His Creation of all things).

It should be noted, in the passage by Paul, that the main reason why God has preordained a segment of humanity for destruction is for the benefit of those He has chosen for salvation and glory. Ultimately, having seen the destiny of the ones prepared for wrath (Revelation 6:16,17, 11:18, 14:9, 15:1, 16:1), those who are saved (the "elect") fully will grasp and understand the eternal love God has for them.

The saved will appreciate that God could have chosen them for destruction as well but did not. Instead, He will have chosen to reveal the eternal riches of His glory to them, something for which they never will cease loving Him—fulfilling God's ultimate goal of receiving willful love and adoration from those whom He has created.

Peter noted examples of predestination:

To God's elect...who have been chosen according to the foreknowledge of God the Father.... (1 Peter 1:1,2)
The elect have been chosen—that is, predestined—by God for salvation. Even Jesus Himself was chosen:
He was chosen before the creation of the world, but was revealed in these last times for your sake. (1 Peter 1:20)
Thus, it was predetermined, by God the Father, that Jesus would come into the world. Furthermore, before the creation of the world, it also was predestined for Jesus to be slain (crucified):
All inhabitants of the earth will worship the beast—all whose names have not been written in the book of life belonging to the Lamb that was slain from the creation of the world. (Revelation 13:8)
Interestingly, this last verse also includes a reference to the predestination and the free will (choice) of the lost, whose names have not been written in the book of life. Not only is it predestined for them to be lost, but they will choose to be lost by worshipping the beast (Antichrist). We know that these individuals will be lost forever because
If anyone's name was not found written in the book of life, he was thrown into the lake of fire. (Revelation 20:15)
Other examples of both predestination and voluntary choice, at the same time, are shown here:
But just as he who called you is holy, so be holy in all you do; for it is written: "Be holy, because I am holy." (1 Peter 1:15,16)
To this you were called, because Christ suffered for you, leaving you an example, that you should follow in his steps. (2:21)
In the first case, God called certain individuals to be holy; conversely, they will desire to be holy in the things that they do. In the second case, many have been called by God (to suffer for doing good—1 Peter 2:20); likewise, they have decided to follow in the footsteps of Christ, who suffered for them. Another example of both predestination and free choice, within the same verse, is here:
"A stone that causes men to stumble and a rock that makes them fall." They stumble because they disobey the message—which is also what they were destined for. (1 Peter 2:8)
For these unbelievers, it was destined for them to stumble; concurrently, they will choose to disobey the message, causing them to stumble. Thus, they will be lost. There is a one-to-one correspondence; neither predestination nor free choice can be present without the other.

Now, although there is a difference between God's "predestination" and His "foreknowledge," there is a one-to-one correspondence between these two concepts as well (just as there is between "predestination" and "free will"). One reason God has foreknowledge of all things is because, from the beginning, He has predestined all things to happen, and in the order in which they will come to pass.

If God has foreordained all things to occur, does that mean that he has predetermined all of our choices before we make them? As difficult as it is for many to believe and accept this, I do feel that it is the case. Of course, it is human nature not to want for this to be true—whether an individual has been chosen for eternal salvation or for eternal destruction. Yet, Paul stated this:

For it is God who works in you to will and to act according to his good purpose. (Philippians 2:13)
This sounds to me like God controls our will and our actions. Of course, our pride is a barrier to our conceding that any of our choices are not, strictly and completely, our own—that we have been "pre-programmed," as it were, to make them.

Evidently, and incredibly, it seems that even our sins are pre-ordained. God caused his faithful servent, the great King David, to take an illicit census of Israel and Judah. Yet, in doing this, David recognized that he had sinned and had done a foolish thing (see more in Who caused David to order the illicit census of Israel, Satan or God?):

Again the anger of the LORD burned against Israel, and he incited David against them, saying, "Go and take a census of Israel and Judah." ... David was conscience-stricken after he had counted the fighting men, and he said to the LORD, "I have sinned greatly in what I have done. Now, O LORD, I beg you, take away the guilt of your servant. I have done a very foolish thing." (2 Samuel 24:1,10)
Furthermore, it would not seem to make sense, to most people, that God would cause people to disobey Him, being that He so adamantly detests being disobeyed. However, for His ultimate goal to be achieved, God Himself must endure an unfathomable amount of heartache, disappointment, and pain, while this present creation is in place and before the new Creation comes into existence, for all of His objectives to be accomplished.

This concept cannot be fully comprehended by human minds—that is, unless we recognize and realize what is God's ultimate goal: to assemble all of those He has chosen, in this creation, to enter the eternal Creation to come (see old and new Creations). God knows it is of paramount importance that those He takes with Him into that brand new, pristine Creation will have a solid, air-tight understanding that all evil and iniquity must be forsaken for eternity. Anyone who ultimately embraces even the slightest hint of impurity will be unable to enter that perfect, sin-free realm (Revelation 21:8,27). Thus, we must be exposed to the "worst of the worst" of all things, in this life, to know for certain that every form of evil eventually leads to ruin and destruction.

We must be careful not to feel "self-righteous" when someone else sins and gets punished for it. If it was predetermined for that person to do wrong, we must realize that it very well could have been ourself who could have been pre-programmed to choose to do wrong in a similar manner and to receive the just penalty for it. "There but for the grace of God go I."

If God has chosen all who will enter the new Creation (which will materialize at the end of the Millennium, after the present heavens and earth have passed away—Revelation 20:11, 21:1), then He must convince them that He is worthy to be chosen by them, for all eternity. He could have caused all of humanity to know only goodness; then, by default, we all would have "chosen" Him, because He alone is good. But there is a difference between choosing to follow someone and choosing to love that person. God wants not only the devotion and loyalty of those whom He has chosen but, more importantly, their adoration and affection.

Love is not genuine and sincere unless one has a choice of those to love. Therefore, humanity had to be made aware of evil as well as of good (Genesis 3:22), so as to be able to make a choice between loving evil (represented by all that this deteriorating world has to offer) and loving good (epitomized by God and His incomprehensibly wonderful, eternal blessings).

In essence, this present existence is like the ultimate "Play" for which God has written an all-encompassing "Script." It is the greatest drama, comedy, and tragedy—all at once—ever told. In fact, not only is God the Writer but He plays the Lead Roll, and He also is the Director of all the events that take place. Furthermore, he "funded" and "supervised" the creation and production of the entire "Play." As such, He is the Writer, Lead Actor, Director, and Producer. I believe that everything is under God’s control and influence, down to the lines that each actor (including every angel and human being) speaks. This is my concept of God's Grand Design.

None of us will understand, completely, why it must be this way until after we see Him face-to-face. As the Samaritan woman at the well correctly stated,

I know that Messiah [called Christ] is coming. When he comes, he will explain everything to us,
to which Jesus replied,
I who speak to you am he. (John 4:25,26)

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