Which is correct?
Actually, both are correct and co-exist without contradiction. Now, that’s a statement that would get the attention of John Calvin, Jacobus Arminius and a whole host of commentators on the subject.
One of the major controversies among Christians is the extent of predestination or free will that God has ordained. At the extremes are those who claim that God uses only one to the exclusion of the other. Either extreme is wrong, since the Bible clearly indicates that both predestination and free will are in operation. Rich Deem, http://www.godandscience.org
Free Will: Arminianism is based on the theological ideas of the Dutch Reformed theologian Jacobus Arminius (1560–1609).
Free will teaches that, when presented with the facts of God’s plan for salvation, every individual person has a choice to make, to either accept or reject God’s gift of salvation. David Bennett http://www.freewill-predestination.com
I would also add that Free Will includes all choices made regardless of significance, not just in relation to salvation.
Bible verses that support Free Will. There are so many, so just the most obvious are cited:
Deut. 30:19 “I call heaven and earth to witness against you today, that I have set before you life and death, the blessing and the curse. So choose life in order that you may live, you and your descendants…”
Josh. 24:15 “And if it is disagreeable in your sight to serve the LORD, choose for yourselves today whom you will serve: whether the gods which your fathers served which were beyond the River, or the gods of the Amorites in whose land you are living; but as for me and my house, we will serve the LORD.”
2 Peter 3:9 “The Lord is not slow in keeping his promise, as some understand slowness. He is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance.”
1 Timothy 2:3-4 “This is good, and pleases God our Savior, who wants all men to be saved…”
Although God wants all men to be saved, we know that not all men will be saved. Therefore, there must be something that overrides God’s wants (will), which can only be man’s free will. This is one of those awesome attributes that mirrors God when He made man in His image. It is so powerful that God could not allow man to exercise it in heaven. He created an environment, earth, so that He could deal with the aftermath of evil choices.
Predestination: Calvinism or Reformed Theology is based on the theological ideas of John Calvin (1509-1564).
Predestination is a doctrine which teaches that God predetermined who would go to heaven and who would spend eternity in hell. Furthermore, it teaches that each person has absolutely no choice in accepting or rejecting salvation through Christ. Every move you make and everything that happens to you, good or bad, was predetermined by God. If you reject Christ, it is because you never had a chance or option to believe. Those who espouse predestination claim that if we have the free will to accept God’s salvation then we have earned our way into heaven. Therefore, we’re not saved by grace but by our own merit—we caused our own salvation, not God. David Bennett http://www.freewill-predestination.com
Predestination in its extreme form teaches that the destiny of man is determined beforehand by God. The predestination doctrine hinges on one thing, “free will choice is a work by man.” Eph. 2:8-9 “For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God: Not of works, lest any man should boast.” Since man cannot obtain salvation by his own works, it is God that has predestined man’s choice. The concept that a man’s decision is an act of works has no support or reference in scripture.
Bible verses that support Predestination. There are so many, so just the most obvious are cited:
Matthew 22:14, KJV “For many are called, but few [are] chosen.”
Jeremiah 1:5, NIV “Before I formed you in the womb I knew you, before you were born I set you apart; I appointed you as a prophet to the nations.”
Eph. 1:3-5, NASB “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 would be holy and blameless before Him. In love He predestined us to adoption as sons through Jesus Christ to Himself, according to the kind intention of His will…”
Rom. 8:28-30, NASB “And we know that God causes all things to work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose. For those whom He foreknew, He also predestined to become conformed to the image of His Son, so that He would be the firstborn among many brethren; and these whom He predestined, He also called; and these whom He called, He also justified; and these whom He justified, He also glorified.”
Eph. 2:8-10, NKJ “For by grace you have been saved through faith and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God, not of works, lest anyone should boast. For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand that we should walk in them.”
Acts 13:48, ESV “And when the Gentiles heard this, they began rejoicing and glorifying the word of the Lord, and as many as were appointed to eternal life believed.”
With both doctrines clearly supported by scripture, how can they be reconciled? How do they work together?
If it can be demonstrated how we humans can do the same thing, it certainly would be no problem for God.
Our virtual reality games that we program into computers are defined by “if then” statements. The game programmer (creator) defines all parameters including the shape, size, color, etc., of objects and how they are going to move in response to certain actions. He then presents the player of the game with choices of actions. The result of a choice is controlled by a “if then” statement. If the player chooses action A, then a sequence is initiated which is played out until the next choice is presented. If the player chooses action B, then a different set of sequences is played out to a different conclusion.
The point is that the game creator has programmed all possibilities from beginning to end with multiple choices and multiple consequences of those choices. The game player makes the choices, some of which may lead to an early end of the game; other choices may lead to higher levels of difficulty; and making all the right choices may lead to a reward for playing all the way through the game.
By this explanation you’ll note that the programmer has predetermined all paths and choices throughout the game to multiple endings, some good and some bad. The programmer has complete control of the game, and the player cannot deviate outside the boundaries of the game. Now note that it is the player of the game that makes the free will choice, not the creator of the game. It is the player who has complete control of how he is going to make it through the game.
Transfer that thought process to God’s realm. When God created the universe, He defined all the laws of physics and how they are going to control the objects of the universe. He created and defined all the objects. He then created man (the player) and presented him with multiple choices. He also predetermined the consequences of those choices. So it is true that man gets to make a free will choice, the results of which are predetermined by God.
God has already predetermined all consequences of any free will choice. By predetermining any path you choose, God controls the outcome of individuals, the whole of humanity and the destiny of the world according to His plan.
Thoughts to Consider:
- Analysis by Extremes:
With the exception of Jesus, it could be said that all mankind is predestined to hell as the result of the disobedience of Adam and the instilment of a sinful nature resulting in total depravity. If no one made the right choices, no one would be saved. Rom. 5:18, NIV “Consequently, just as the result of one trespass was condemnation for all men…”
So why don’t all men go to hell? Free will choice.
It could also be said that all mankind is predestined to salvation since all consequences of choices are predetermined by God; one only needs to make the right choices. If everyone made the right choices, everyone would be saved. Rom. 5:18 “…so also the result of one act of righteousness was justification that brings life for all men.”
So why don’t all men go to heaven? Free will choice.
- Predestination Only:
If it were only predestination, that is, if it was totally God’s choice as to who is saved, then there would be no reason to allow evil in the world. In other words, if one cannot choose by one’s own free will between good and evil, then why have evil?
If it were only predestination, that is, if it was totally God’s choice as to who goes to hell, then on judgment day that person would have an excuse. “Why must I go to hell; I was not able to choose for myself.” Or that person could say, “By choosing what you wanted me to choose, I obeyed your will which should entitle me to heaven.”
- Free Will Only:
If it were only free will, that is, if God had no predetermined results planned for any choice, God would have no control of his creation and would not know the final outcome.
Most free-will-only advocates posit that predestination is merely God’s foreknowledge of choices made. Well, this is true in the sense that God has predetermined the consequences of the choice either way; therefore, He knows the results.
- God Caught Unaware?
Gen. 6:5 “And GOD saw that the wickedness of man was great in the earth, and that every imagination of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually.”
So, was God caught unaware by the total depravity of man? No, not at all. Remember that God presented each individual with good or bad choices, the results of which would be wholesomeness or wickedness. In Noah’s day, too many people were making the wrong choices, resulting in the statement of Gen. 6:5.
Gen. 6:6 “And it repented the LORD that he had made man on the earth, and it grieved him at his heart.”
Did God change His mind about creating man? No, not at all. It grieved God that so many were making the wrong choices, thus the Gen. 6:6 statement. Consider that He had all the results of choices mapped out, and since nearly all those choices were wrong, it reached a point that, in computer terms, would say “if 99% of the choices are wrong, then remove them.” God was grieved that it reached that point which He allowed for in his predetermined plans.
A similar scenario can be seen in Sodom and Gomorrah when Abraham bargained with God.
Gen. 18:26 “And the LORD said, If I find in Sodom fifty righteous within the city, then I will spare all the place for their sakes.”
Gen. 18:28 “Peradventure there shall lack five of the fifty righteous: wilt thou destroy all the city for lack of five? And he said, If I find there forty and five, then I will not destroy it.”
This “if then” computer technique can be seen from 40 to 30 to 20, and finally to 10 righteous as being the first condition to meet. Since the first condition was not met, the second condition of the “then” argument was destruction.
- Saul’s Wrong Choice:
Here is an example of God’s predetermined plan that was never realized because of Saul’s free will. In 1 Samuel chapter 13, we find King Saul in Gilgal preparing to fight the Philistines. Prior to battle, Saul was supposed to wait seven days for Samuel to come and offer sacrifices.
1 Sa. 10:8 “And thou shalt go down before me to Gilgal; and, behold, I will come down unto thee, to offer burnt offerings, and to sacrifice sacrifices of peace offerings: seven days shalt thou tarry, till I come to thee, and shew thee what thou shalt do.”
After seven days had passed and Samuel had not yet arrived, Saul became over-anxious and decided to perform the sacrifices himself.
1 Sa. 13:8 “And he tarried seven days, according to the set time that Samuel had appointed: but Samuel came not to Gilgal; and the people were scattered from him.”
1 Sa. 13:9 “And Saul said, Bring hither a burnt offering to me, and peace offerings. And he offered the burnt offering.”
1 Sa. 13:10 “And it came to pass, that as soon as he had made an end of offering the burnt offering, behold, Samuel came; and Saul went out to meet him, that he might salute him.”
1 Sa. 13:11 “And Samuel said, What hast thou done? And Saul said, Because I saw that the people were scattered from me, and that thou camest not within the days appointed, and that the Philistines gathered themselves together at Michmash;”
1 Sa. 13:12 “Therefore said I, The Philistines will come down now upon me to Gilgal, and I have not made supplication unto the LORD: I forced myself therefore, and offered a burnt offering (KJV).
Notice this last verse… “I forced myself therefore”…. Saul knew he wasn’t supposed to offer the sacrifices himself, so this was a willful act of disobedience, a wrong choice. What was the result of this sinful wrong choice?
1 Sa. 13:13 “And Samuel said to Saul, Thou hast done foolishly: thou hast not kept the commandment of the LORD thy God, which he commanded thee: for now would the LORD have established thy kingdom upon Israel for ever.”
1 Sa. 13:14 “But now thy kingdom shall not continue: the LORD hath sought him a man after his own heart, and the LORD hath commanded him to be captain over his people, because thou hast not kept that which the LORD commanded thee.”
Up to this point, God intended to have Saul’s kingdom reign over Israel for ever. This would have been the predetermined consequences of Saul’s free-will right choice. Had he done so, we may never have heard of David, nor would there be a kingdom of David, and Jesus would have been born of the descendants of Saul.
However, God’s predetermined consequences of Saul’s free-will wrong choice was to establish David, a man after his own heart, to be king over Israel for ever and Jesus to be of the line of David, not Saul. And so it is.
- David’s Right Choice:
There’s another interesting passage in 1 Samuel chapter 23 that illustrates the wrong choice that was never made by David. David had just finished defeating the Philistines in the city of Keilah. King Saul, who was out to kill David, found out that he was in Keilah, a walled city with gates, and thought he would trap him there. David, after learning that Saul was on his way, had a choice to make: should he stay and fight or should he leave the city. David asked the Lord if Saul would come down to the city to destroy it. The Lord said he will come down. David again asked the Lord if the men of Keilah would give him up to Saul. The Lord said they will deliver thee up. Knowing the results of the choice, the wrong choice would be to stay in the city. David believed the Lord and understood the predetermined consequences of a choice, and chose by his own free will to leave the city.
- Corporate choices are also in play:
Many times throughout Israel’s history, the people made wrong choices that went against God’s commands, and the people as a corporate entity suffered the predetermined consequences. There is a great example of a corporate free-will right choice that changed predetermined destruction to predetermined salvation. The prophet Jonah was instructed to tell the inhabitants of Nineveh, a great city of evil, that in forty days their city was going to be overthrown. The people of Nineveh, from the king down to the least of them, believed the warning, repented of their sins, and God spared the city. Note that the predetermined destruction of Nineveh was changed to predetermined salvation due to the free-will choice of the people to repent.
- “If then” Arguments in Scripture:
There are hundreds of examples of “if then” arguments throughout the scriptures. Many times, you’ll see “if you do this… (followed by an action), then you will… (followed by a consequence).”
Exo. 19:5 “Now therefore, if ye will obey my voice indeed, and keep my covenant, then ye shall be a peculiar treasure unto me above all people: for all the earth is mine:”
Jos. 24:20 “If ye forsake the LORD, and serve strange gods, then he will turn and do you hurt, and consume you, after that he hath done you good.”
Jdg. 4:8 “And Barak said unto her, If thou wilt go with me, then I will go: but if thou wilt not go with me, then I will not go.”
John 8:31 “Then said Jesus to those Jews which believed on him, If ye continue in my word, then are ye my disciples indeed;”
As you can see, the “if” implies a choice you have to make; the “then” is the predetermined results of the choice.
There are also hundreds of verses that do not have the “if” or “then” words but obviously imply a choice and a consequence.
Gen. 12:3 “And I will bless them that bless thee, and curse him that curseth thee: and in thee shall all families of the earth be blessed.” Here is an implied choice: you either bless or curse Abraham; the result of your choice is already predetermined, but it is still your choice.
- Quantum Mechanics Parallel:
God’s plan of free-will choice followed by predestined consequences has a parallel in physics called quantum mechanics. Quantum mechanics teaches that while the general path of a reaction may be predictable, the exact path is not. There is a probabilistic spread in the path that connects cause and effect. The divergence opens a window of opportunity for what might be choice. (The Hidden Face of God by Gerald L. Schroeder pg 40-41)
We know God created man, and we know what the final outcome of man will be; either he will reside in hell or heaven, but the exact path as to how he gets from point A to B is not known to man, only God. As each person throughout history makes their individual free-will choices (from Adam to the last man) and the predetermined consequences play out as set by God, the intervening pathways are so varied and interconnected that only God is capable of knowing the paths.
As you can see, it is not an “either” “or” argument but a complete compatibility of the two. In fact, one cannot exist without the other. God presents us with the choices and controls all the consequences of our choice, but we are free to make the choice.
Does God have a perfect plan for your life? Yes, He does. Do we always make the right choices to achieve that plan? Unfortunately, no. We often miss it by coming to salvation too late, by not consulting God about it, not recognizing it, or we start on the path and then run afoul.
However, God can still redeem a near-perfect plan by taking you from where you are, presenting you with the choices that will lead you to a really good plan, but you still need to make those right choices. You can still screw it up with wrong choices.
An example of this is the thieves on the cross with Jesus. All their lives they made the wrong choices, the consequences of which put them on the cross. God presented them with one final opportunity to make a decision. One chose correctly and was rewarded paradise with Jesus. The other chose wrongly and suffered hell. God had predetermined the choices and the end results of those choices, but each made their own choice. God did not choose which one was going to hell and which one to heaven.
Nowhere in the scriptures does it say that God makes decisions for a person. As we have seen in the case of David, God may advise when consulted. We all have the ability to consult God for advice with a decision. All the “if then” statements throughout scripture are God’s advice, telling us the results of our decisions: good decisions, good results; bad decisions, bad results. But always our free will to decide.