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Schroedes13's avatar

How do you feel about the concept of predestination?

Asked by Schroedes13 (3896points) July 15th, 2011

This is a religious term meaning that God has chosen a set of people who will go to heaven and the set who will go to hell. These people live their lives in the manner acceptable for the path which God has chosen for them. Even in a non-religious sense, do you believe in the concept of fate? Or do you find yourself more a free will lad/lass?

I personally do not believe in a predestination. My view of the subject is that God already knows every choice that a human will make. So therefore, even though He knows the pathway, He still gives the human the choice. However, that brings about a whole other topic on whether you still have a choice, if the answer is already made!

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51 Answers

athenasgriffin's avatar

I don’t believe in predestination. But I do like a similar idea: destiny. I believe we have a purpose in life. But I’m pretty sure we have control over whether we conform to our purpose or not. Maybe I was meant to be a serial killer or a neurosurgeon, but I haven’t made the decisions to be either of those things. So basically, I think we have a path, but we can choose to stray from it.

Schroedes13's avatar

@athenasgriffin do you feel that this path “pulls” at the subject in order to follow it? Or is the person completely impartial?

Hibernate's avatar

@Schroedes13 Calvin was wrong here when he explained it.

I support your non believing in it because it’s wrong. Though God prepared our good deeds in which we were suppose to walk. Not many chose to follow the path [because of the free will] thus some will end up in different places.

athenasgriffin's avatar

@Schroedes13 I think that if we are destined to do something, we would find ourselves wanting to do it, feeling empty without it. But people are pretty good at ignoring the obvious, so I don’t think there would be any sort of assurance that we would know what our purpose was.

Have you ever found yourself drawn to an activity, or to a person? I have, and I interpreted that pull as fate.

Schroedes13's avatar

@athenasgriffin I have, but it comes down to semantics. You use “fate”, I use “God’s will or plan”. Whatever floats your boat I guess!

athenasgriffin's avatar

@Schroedes13 I don’t really believe, so I’m forced into using the word fate. A couple of years ago I would have said I thought God wanted me to go that way too, but I’m at an impasse in my life.
But I love your questions. Really interesting and funny.

Schroedes13's avatar

@athenasgriffin I like the abstract questions a lot. I enjoy seeing humanity pushed to the boundaries of their faith/belief/intellect.

marinelife's avatar

I don’t believe in predestination. Chaos enters into life just like it does everything else.

flutherother's avatar

I believe there is a perspective in which there is no past and no future only an extended present moment that contains everything. I also believe that we have a certain amount of free will. These two ideas seem contradictory but I think they are each true.

Hypocrisy_Central's avatar

Those who believe in predestination, others just believe it was inevitable occurrences do to evolution to an end that means virtually nothing, I think they miss the mark slightly. I don’t believe God is up there like a puppet master guiding the lives of everyone at all times. Just stretch your mind to the concept that God created us. That makes Him way more smarter than the smartest genius that ever lived. People love science because of its predictability, knowing the rate of decay something will go through or an expected chemical action, etc. So, God has a very good idea how man will act and more so how certain individuals will act. The whole purpose of Jesus would have been nil of man had no choice and those who are saved were going to be saved by default whether Christ died or not. Man has free will but that doesn’t mean to a much smarter entity like God, he is not also as predictable as what a cat would do if you toss some chicken breast meat in front of it.

JLeslie's avatar

I don’t believe in predestination. I believe religion uses it to help people feel less burdened when life takes unexpected turns or when they feel powerless. Fate sometimes has a magical connotation when used for positive experiences. Not that God does not have magical powers, but God seems in control, while I think fate has changed over time. It is not used anymore like the Fates are in control in the same way I don’t think? Plus, God has this afterlife pay-off, especially in Christianity, not sure about other religions? In Judaism we don’t really think much about afterlife. Fate, as far as I know is about the earthly world, unless I misunderstand.

But, I agree it is mostly semantics.

Schroedes13's avatar

@JLeslie are you a Judaist? Isn’t the Jewish afterlife Shaol? or something like that? I don’t know much.

Thammuz's avatar

Omniscience precludes freedom of any form. Simple logic, if there is something that knows what is going to happen in advance, without any room for error, then there is no room for any freedom whatsoever. Therefore, basically, if we take the bible’s word for it, everything is god’s fault.

Since there is no such thing as God, though, the point is completely meaningless.

Which doesn’t mean we are free, afterall we are very complex machines, but machines nonetheless. And just because we’re incapable of determining the outcome of a dice roll, that doesn’t mean that you couldn’t calculate it in advance by knowing strenght, trajectory and surroundings of the roll. In fact, if you could measure them accurately, you could calculate the result perfectly. And the same goes for the universe, the fact that we can’t possibly make heads or tails of the chain of events that leads up to every event doesn’t mean that the events are random, nor that we are choosing our course of action, however strongly we might be convinced of it.

poisonedantidote's avatar

I would say that predestination, destiny, fate, whatever you want to call it, is real. However, not set in stone.

You are destined to freely choose one of several destinies at any given time. Some times the ball is already rolling, and there is less choice, some times there is more.

It’s like walking a path with many crossroads, while you can pick what path to do down, the path and all its turnings and crossroads are already layed out.

kess's avatar

Just as the sum total of your choices equals the present you today,
In the same way all your life choices equals the you, that was present from the very beginning… so we say its destiny….and that cannot change….

So it is impossible to make choices that would negate you.

Predestination but not as your original description.

starsofeight's avatar

Of all that is adrift upon a river, most are bound to the river’s course. Some few find their way to shore somewhere along that course. Of those, most find themselves as helpless inhabitants in a stagnant cul-de-sac, where, along with all the rest, they turn in mind numbing cycles of small, and dare I say—insignificant, repetitions. Those who overcome the course of the river, and the stagnant cul-de-sac, are not the common flutherer.

Blondesjon's avatar

We are all only predestined to die one day and stay that way.

Heaven or Hell? God, Buddha, Mohammed, Satan? Doubt it.

maybe somebody will come back and personally tell me i’m wrong but until then, well, cheers

josie's avatar

Too many opportunities to equivocate. No answer.
Like @Blondesjon says, we all have a partcular destiny. It is called death. So in that regard, the program is pre-written.
But if destiny refers to the will of mystical spirits, I don’t waste a second’s thought on that.

anartist's avatar

It is really not a religious term. It is another word for fate, the fate so well described in such Greek tragedies as Oedipus. As I get older I believe in it more and more, seeing so many instances of the rippling effect of what would seem completely random events in early life shaping character and character shaping choices which further defines character which defines fate. And whether this is all a fluke or written in the stars, who can say?

crisw's avatar

“My view of the subject is that God already knows every choice that a human will make. So therefore, even though He knows the pathway, He still gives the human the choice.”

But who created those choices? Who created the choices of a mass murderer, a child abuser, a rapist? If God created the choices, then he committed great evil. If he didn’t create the choices, but humans did, then not only did he create an extremely flawed creation, which he need not have done, but he allows great evil to exist that he could prevent. It is difficult to contend that the perceived notion that freedom of choice is paramount over all trumps the rights of innocents to freedom from death and suffering. A perfect God could create beings who freely chose wisely.

Russell_D_SpacePoet's avatar

It is total BS. People need to make their own way. Their own decisions. Not wait on an invisible god to show them the way. Or, to think that this is their lot in life and there is no changing, because it is the will of some god.

JLeslie's avatar

@Schroedes13 I am Jewish. I was speaking more from as a Jewish person my experience and perception. We never, or rarely, focus on death, it isn’t mentioned much in daily life. However, I grew up in an Athiest family, not religious, so it is even less likely, and I would be unaware to some extent of the exact teachings of the Torah, and what the Rabbis teach.

I found this link which I found interesting and supports what I said.

This speaks of heaven.

There is the old joke about the 12 rabbis 12 different opinions, so I am sure there is a certain amount of variety in the interpretation of these things. I don’t want to have you click on a bunch of links, but if you google afterlife judaism, or afterlife belief religions, or something similar you get a wole bunch of stuff.

@Thammuz Why does omniscience preclude freedom? Even if God has the power to control or alter your life, if he does ot exercise the power you live freely I wouod think? God as the creator might set everything down necessary for the universe, and then the laws of nature that He created could take over. It does not have to be that he is an interfering God.

crisw's avatar


“God as the creator might set everything down necessary for the universe, and then the laws of nature that He created could take over. It does not have to be that he is an interfering God.”

The deistic concept pretty much precludes most of the aspects that people attribute to the Christian God, at least if they are consistent. A non-interfering god is one that doesn’t respond to prayers, create miracles, punish the wicked, or interact with its followers in any way. The paradox of Epicurus neatly sums up the problem with the standard interpretation f the Christian God:

“Is God willing to prevent evil, but not able? Then he is not omnipotent. Is he able, but not willing? Then he is malevolent. Is he both able and willing? Then whence cometh evil? Is he neither able nor willing? Then why call him God?”

Hibernate's avatar

@crisw how are we supposed to know God exists if He didn’t want to contact us? If He just sat and not answer to prayers and not perform some miracles then He wouldn’t be a god He’d be just an observer.

crisw's avatar


That’s kind of my point. (In case you aren’t aware of this, I don’t believe that gods exist.)

So back to the paradox of Epicurus. If a god just sets things in motion and then observes, “Is he neither able nor willing [to prevent evil]? Then why call him God?” If you have a god that does interfere in the ways of the world, then “Is God willing to prevent evil, but not able? Then he is not omnipotent. Is he able, but not willing? Then he is malevolent. Is he both able and willing? Then whence cometh evil?” Either way, ther’s a problem.

ANef_is_Enuf's avatar

I don’t believe in god[s], heaven or hell… so I do not believe in predestination, naturally. Is it supported somewhere in the Bible?

Hibernate's avatar


Most clearly in Romans 8:29–30 and Ephesians 1:3–6. Romans 8:29–30 declares: “For [those] whom He foreknew, He also predestined to be conformed to the image of His Son, that He might be the firstborn among many brethren. Moreover, [those] whom He predestined these He also called, whom He called these He also justified; and whom He justified, these He also glorified” (NASB). Ephesians 1:3–6 teaches: ‘Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ who has blessed us with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places in Christ, just as He chose us in Him before the foundation of the world that we should be holy and blameless before Him in love, having predestined us to adoptions as sons by Jesus Christ to Himself, according to the good pleasure of His will, to the praise of the glory of His grace, by which He has made us accepted in the Beloved”.

And a few more. The Bible also teaches about predestination in Acts 13:48, Ephesians 1:7–8, 2 Thess. 2:13–14, and 2 Tim. 1:9. The “elect” are mentioned in Matthew 24:31, Mark 13:22, Luke 18:7, Romans 8:33, 11:7, Colossians 3:12, 2 Timothy 2:10, Titus 1:1, I Peter 1:2, 1 Peter 5:13; 2 John 1:1, 13. Not gonna add all of these so the post won’t be way to long. You can look for them yourself if you wanna see them.


But this is just the way Calvin saw it and some aspects in his doctrine are somewhat wrong here.

[ the post was copied from a Lutheran church site ]

SavoirFaire's avatar

I believe in neither God nor predestination. This leaves the question of free will open, however, since one could believe that all things are determined by basic physical laws of causation and still not believe in predestination. For predestination implies ordination and foreknowledge by some entity, whereas determinism does not.

But this also leaves the question of free will open insofar as there are many ongoing debates about what must obtain for us to say we have free will. In short, I’m saying that not believing in predestination doesn’t entail believing in free will, but it also doesn’t entail not believing in free will.

ANef_is_Enuf's avatar

@Hibernate thanks. I have been slacking for a while, and I forget so much anymore.

Thammuz's avatar

@JLeslie Why does omniscience preclude freedom? Even if God has the power to control or alter your life, if he does ot exercise the power you live freely I wouod think? God as the creator might set everything down necessary for the universe, and then the laws of nature that He created could take over. It does not have to be that he is an interfering God.

1) Omniscience == Knowing everything =/= Omnipotence

2) If someone somewhere knows, with no room for error everything, past, present and future, then, being “your choices” a subset of “everything”, it knows all your choices in advance.

Which means you’re not actually choosing, because they’re already determined, otherwise it wouldn’t be able to know them, and the outcome is not at all dependent on you choosing, because you have no option but to choose what was already known to the being that knows everything, for certain, in advance and with no room for error.

Sacrifice this and you would violate the supposition that there is no room for error, which an omniscient being does not make.

Therefore, by accepting the existence of a truly omniscient being, aka a being that knows everything, past, present and future, you must also accept that any choice you make is merely an illusion, because in the end it was already carved in stone that you would pick that particular option and face those particular consequences, otherwise the being wouldn’t know the future, which would make it not omniscient. Q.E.D. (Look at me, I know latin!)

JLeslie's avatar

@Thammuz I see. I was not aware if the distinction between the two words, thank you.

@crisw I guess what I meant was it was not that he does not have the power to interfere, but that he might not, depending on the situation.

Maybe God does know where the individual is supposed to wind up in the end, but allows the person free will to choose, and so the specific experiences are determined by the individual leading up to a final fate so to speak. Kind of like there are many paths to the same point.

snowberry's avatar

For those of us who believe in God, God was here before we were created. That means that God exists outside of time, for he created time itself. He sees the whole time line from beginning to end…That’s where you get the idea of predestination. It makes sense if you look at it this way.

Hibernate's avatar

Interesting way of seeing things :)

Schroedes13's avatar

The one thing I sometimes doubt is when I actually begin to see it logically. Since God’s ways are so much higher than man’s ways. So whenever I think I’ve figured it out, sometimes I realize that maybe I should consider that I’m not supposed to understand it? lol just another idea!

atlantis's avatar

@Schroedes13 You’re right on. God is not known by human understanding.

snowberry's avatar

@Schroedes13 I’m Always trying to figure God out. And as soon as I think I’ve got it all sorted out, He just goes and changes things up. It serves to keep me from getting a big head about things. :)

Schroedes13's avatar

@atlantis @snowberry ya that happens a lot to me too! My mind gets all muddled! lol

SavoirFaire's avatar

@snowberry There are numerous philosophical problems with the “existing outside of time” attempt at solving this problem. Augustine wrestled with them, and contemporary philosophers of religion do as well. A perhaps superficial issue is that God cannot be both omnipresent and separate from space-time. That is, if he is outside of space and time, it makes no sense to say that he is present at all times and all places. One of these must be given up, though perhaps it is no big deal to give up the thesis that God is omnipresent so long as he remains omniscient and omnipotent.

A deeper issue has to do with the Creation, which seems to be an act in time. How can there be a “before Creation” and “after Creation” if there is no time outside of Creation? How can an act such as the Creation even begin if there is no time in which it may start (or occur at all)? There are various responses to these questions, of course, but they are complicated and often unsatisfactory. Suffice it to say, then, I don’t find it warranted to say that thinking of God as outside of time clears everything up nicely. It may be true, but a lot more work is needed for it to all make sense.

This is where people often try to resort to the “God is mysterious and/or beyond human understanding” line. This undermines all theistic arguments, however, insofar as it admits that we cannot understand God enough to make the arguments we’re trying to make. This is fine, I suppose, and it seems to emphasize the role that faith plays in religion. But it also means that you cannot call anyone irrational for not believing in God. Indeed, it means that God could not call anyone irrational for not believing in Him. For saying that one must have faith is an admission that the evidence is insufficient to ground belief. This is the problem that Kierkegaard wrestled with, ultimately deciding that his faith was irrational—but also declaring that this was not a good enough reason to give it up.

snowberry's avatar

@SaviorFaire If you say so…But who are you-or I to say how God gets to be? Sounds presumptuous to me, which is what I was saying before. As soon as I think I have God all figured out, He goes and changes it up, probably to keep me humble. It’s our finite minds that create all these hoops and problems for God to jump through anyway. I notice that God has never jumped through any hoops I’ve set up for Him, and I doubt He’ll jump through hoops for an atheist either. I don’t pretend to understand God or how He makes it happen. I just know that He loves me.

flutherother's avatar

I believe in predestination and I also believe in free will. Somehow, I think these two ideas are not mutually exclusive. Think of a composer writing a piece of music. This is Man at his most creative making something completely new and every note he writes is a judgement call, or an act of free will if you like. Any yet once the music is written there is something inevitable about it. There is not a note that can be changed without spoiling the effect. The result you could say was in a way, predestined. This is like the Universe, or like our lives. Predestination and free will are beautifully combined.

Schroedes13's avatar

@flutherother I don’t know if I completely believe in your idea yet, but it is quite a beautiful analogy!

snowberry's avatar

Thanks for the analogy. Lurve to you, @flutherother

SavoirFaire's avatar

@snowberry I’m not sure how it is presumptuous. All I am pointing out is the logical consequences of taking a certain position. If God exists and wants to be irrational, I cannot stop Him. My inability to stop Him, however, does not change whether or not His actions are rational nor the legitimacy of Him calling me irrational.

The fact is, the moment we say that God is one way or another, we set standards for the truth of that statement. If we say that God is loving, there is a threshold of unloving things He can do before we must abandon that claim. It’s simply a function of the meaning of the word and our application of it to God. To say otherwise is to say that all statements about God are nonsense—even your own statements to the effect that He exists and loves you.

As such, God is either subject to analysis or theists have to keep their mouths shut about Him. What is presumptuous is putting forth claims about God and trying to disallow all examination of those claims.

@flutherother Your analogy operates on equivocation. The sense in which the completed composition is inevitable is not the same as the sense in which predestined events are inevitable. In fact, calling a musical composition “inevitable” seems to take a rather inordinate amount of poetic license. The word doesn’t really fit, and it serves only to confuse people who are predisposed to accept any means of fitting together incompatible beliefs.

snowberry's avatar

@SaviorFaire You’re the one who defines irrational.

Years ago when we were very poor I tried to save money by not buying a garbage can, and instead I put my garbage directly into a plastic trash bag that we kept under the kitchen table. It worked out quite well until two opposing colonies of ants discovered that trash bag. Every night hey tore up the entire bag and fought a huge civil war over possession of territory and food that they claimed as theirs. Every morning as I swept up dead ants and bits of black trash bag I mused over this concept of ownership. I maintained the place they were fighting over. I provided the food they were carrying away- in fact I owned it! Yet they were totally unconscious of me, even as I put out poison to destroy their colonies. It would have been impossible for me to communicate anything to them of these facts because in their world I did not exist. Yet if I were actually able to have a philosophical discussion with them, in their minds I suppose they might have called my destruction of their colony unjust and irrational.

In some ways these circular discussions remind me of that time.

SavoirFaire's avatar

@snowberry No, I am not the one who defines “irrational.” The word has been around much longer than I have been. Rationality is a human concept, but it is not a relative one. Compare “circular.” This is a human concept, but it is not relative. Once defined, things either are or are not circular. They either do or do not fall under the concept. God might not care about being rational, but it remains the case that He either does or does not meet the requirements for being rational.

As for your ant colony story, it strikes me as overly indulgent with regards to its anthropomorphism. Ants have no concept of ownership, they do not fight civil wars, and they do not claim food. They simply sense and take. If we made them into rational creatures, they might initially hold that your destruction of their colony was unjust and/or irrational. After discussing the matter, however, the more intelligent among them would see that we simply have incommensurable standards and systems.

Regardless, if God is nothing more than a giant guy looking down on us as we do on ants, He would seem to have no special authority. That means it would be rather presumptuous of Him to tell me how I get to be. The fact that you can step on the ants doesn’t make it right to do so, and neither does the fact that you created your child make it acceptable to smother it with a pillow.

Hypocrisy_Central's avatar

OK people, lets try injecting a little of what we all know and some prefer, science. Thinking hypothetically, imagine there was a load of concrete beams at a construction site. However, the smaller stack was flawed, the rebar was not ties correct, or the wrong rebar used, and the concrete ill mixed, something. Then somehow, both these loads of concrete beams were transported back to some ancient society. Women gathering berries seen these ”strange long rocks” and rush back to town. The elders and authorities come out and deem them from the gods. Jubilant they set forth to use these ”stones of the gods” to erect a temple to these gods. They have no way to know some of those beams are flawed, won’t pass muster, and are not safe to use. They have no way to see what the beam is like on the inside. They do not have x-ray, chemical analysis, or any history or experience knowledge dealing with concrete beams, had they known that they could tell by the texture or color of the concrete that some were poured incorrectly, or in the wrong temperature, or that the rebar was not wired right, or too thin of rebar was used. They would have know way to know some would fail or under what condition. Today we do because we have the combination of learned experience, lab experiments, and technology such as x-ray to know what the flaws are and what can likely trigger a failure. We are like the ancient society because we don’t have all the tools to know what will likely happen in a greater sense, and God is like we would be to the people of Ancient Rome. What looks to man something that has to be directed and set in stone, is in reality is superior knowledge and experience.

flutherother's avatar

@SavoirFaire Don’t all analogies operate on equivocation? An analogy is never exact but that doesn’t mean it has no value. Can we be sure that pre destination and free will are incompatible? To use another analogy the distribution of the prime numbers is both unpredictable and ordered. If we only ever talk of things in terms of those same things would we ever say anything original?

snowberry's avatar

Excellent point, @flutherother It was intended to be an analogy, not an exact representation of @SavoirFaire‘s model.

SavoirFaire's avatar

@flutherother No, not all analogies operate on equivocation. They operate on abstraction. Equivocation is a linguistic fallacy that arises out of the misleading use of a word with multiple meanings. In an analogy, one must abstract in order to understand the similarity of the cases compared. No one-to-one correspondence is expected. Equivocation occurs when one tries to use a word in different ways as if it meant the same thing in each context. So in a certain way, equivocation operates in the opposite direction of an analogy. This is why equivocal analogies are poor tools for an argument.

@snowberry I know it was an analogy. I even called it an analogy when I noted the flaw in it. The problem is the equivocation, not the fact that an analogy was used.

snowberry's avatar

@SavoirFaire God made me and you and the rest of us. That’s what Christians believe.

Now you want to take out a tape measure and see if God measures up You quickly find you can’t put God in a box or put him through an experiment, he won’t respond to your taunts either, so as far as you’re concerned, he doesn’t exist. That’s an arrogant mentality, but that’s all between you and God.

However you can’t stop there. It seems you can’t stand it when other people believe in a God that cannot be manipulated. What’s up, bub?

SavoirFaire's avatar

@snowberry I know what Christians believe. I used to be a preacher. I am not trying to see if God measures up to some standard of mine. I am taking claims that others make on His behalf and testing them to see if they could possibly be true. Some could be, others could not. Sometimes it’s only certain combinations of claims that could not all be true at once. In most cases, I am investigating human claims about God, so I don’t see what problem you have with a human testing them to see if it makes sense to claim them in the first place. In other cases, I am investigating whether or not certain claims are logically compatible. Perhaps you think God can do the logically impossible. You would not be alone in that assertion. But there would be no way, with the tools available to humans, to prove those claims. And since all I am claiming is that certain positions cannot be reasonably defended—that is, they cannot be defended using the tools reason gives us—I am saying nothing incompatible with even with such an extreme assertion. There is a difference between what beliefs are warranted and what beliefs are true.

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