Free Will And Predestination

This thread by @ARus gave me the go ahead to create my own.

Predestination, in Christian theology, is the doctrine that all events have been willed by God, usually with reference to the eventual fate of the individual soul . Explanations of predestination often seek to address the paradox of free will, whereby God’s omniscience seems incompatible with human free will.
Islam and other religions have their own idea of this. I remember in Islam Allah choosing who goes to heaven from the time they are born

Since scientists as the thread says per see arrived to the conclusion we have not “free will” it would seem to me that predestination is what is reality and Calvin was right?
There are different forms of predestination (further read about double predestination here Predestination) but besides some componets beign changed the outcome is real. As @ARus have said this calls in serious question Christianity and more likely the nature and character of God(jhis omnipocent and his goodness)

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This topic has been addressed a few times on the forum. So existing threads might be a good place to start in answering your question:

If there is one you really like the look of you can reply there and reopen the conversation.

Or there are these other Biologos resources:

Or the following resources…

For example, DA Carson’s Divine Sovereignty and Human Responsibility: Biblical Perspective in Tension is a good place to start for one Calvinists deep dive into the issues around free will and predestination. Or there is Basinger & Basinger’s Predestination & Free Will: Four Views of Divine Sovereignty and Human Freedom it is s a bit dated but helpful for a more broad slice of the options.

If you are interested in more of an overview of the Calvinist take on predestination, then you may wish to read what some Calvinists and Reformed types have to say on the subject of predestination. A good place to start would be RC Sproul’s Chosen By God which is an easy-to-read, relatively short, and a pretty good introduction. Either that or pick up a copy of Bavinck, Berkhof, or Bird’s Systematic theologies for a deep dive.

My own take, I don’t think neuroscience neither confirms nor denies God’s sovereignty since the former is to do with genetics and biology and the latter is to do with divinity and, in my opinion, the Biblical witness.

Lastly, despite what some may imply, I would point out that Calvinism and Reformed Theology are not monolithic in how they view issues like free will and predestination. Some lean more towards Calvin’s take, others towards Augustine’s view, and others towards other theologians still. But one of the questions that lie at the heart of the internal conversations is ‘What do we mean by free will?’.

Hope all that helps. :slight_smile:


The ability to choose your destiny .The effect of choise as i call it.That two different choised would lead to two different outcomes and not one

What a bibliography! It’s beautiful. Thanks for pulling this all together!
It’s clear no one ever has questions about this matter </ironyfont>.
Like you, Liam, I wonder what precisely, is meant by “free will.” While the terms may seem the same, the details are essential to understanding. Often we find ourselves heated arguments without understanding that we are talking about different things. An impossoble situation.


Great answer. Do you mind if I dig a little deeper into the concept of being free to choose your destiny? Does the ability to choose X over Y really mean that the will is free?

Let’s say for sake of argument, I am faced with the choice to take a job as an accountant or to try to make it big with my struggling rock band. On the surface, it might seem that I have absolutely free choice to pick one or the other. Maybe people even say to me, it’s your choice Liam, do whatever you like.

But how free am I to choose my destiny really? Let’s think about some of the things that might be influencing my decisions.

  • My desire for a steady income over my desire for eternal fame
  • My view of 9-5 work vs creative work
  • the opinions of my family, friends, mentors, and significant other (if I have one) and my tendency to conform or rebel against their perceived authority in my life.
  • My sense of responsibility and my willingness to choose stability over personal fulfilment.
  • How risk-averse or prone I am.
  • How culture presents the work of accountants and rock musicians in TV, Films, and books and which I find most attractive/repulsive.
  • How much I can offset the instant gratification of a steady income over the delayed gratification of possible wealth at a later date.
  • How my religion and culture have shaped how I think, act, and work (eg. the western follow your dreams approach vs. the more eastern get a job, work hard, do what is expected approach)
  • etc., etc.

In the above example, all of these things have a bearing on whether I desire to become an accountant or stick at it as a rock musician. Ultimately, the impact on which path I will or choose to take. If that is the case, how free is my will really? Ok, I could kick sand in the face of everyone and choose option number 3: none of the above. But, I am sure a lot of the reasons for that choice could be explained with the list above too.

This applies to arbitrary choice too, of course. There are a whole host of reasons why I choose a BigMac, fries, and Fanta at the drive-thru over a Chicken Legend with salad and a bottle of water. My will is no less free of influence at Mcdonald’s than it is when choosing a career.

At the end of the day, I make the choice and yet my choice is hardly made in a vacuum. So how free is it really? In the above examples, my will is free from being forced or coerced into a choice, but it is hardly free from external or internal influences.

This is one reason why I think the term free will doesn’t actually mean much in practice. It is ingrained in our culture from the time of Greek philosophy, but it exists much more in the cultural imagination than reality. But this doesn’t mean I am some Nietzschean fatalist either who says we all just matter in motion.

Personally, I prefer the term Moral Responsibility or Moral Agency over free will. We are all agents who make choices and decisions for which are responsible, our circumstances help make our actions understandable, but they do not invalidate our moral responsibility. Maybe that is what you mean by free will, if so… that’s good with me.


Well first of all how much you are influenced by others or external things is a character thing ,which a lot of factors come to play to shape it (ex childhood,bad influences,low self esteem etc etc) . All of the above you stated are minor inconviniences when it comes to the big picture which is .

You choose the band .You ended up with a great career
You choose the styable job.You got fired next year

That example is free will. 2 choises 2 different outcomes

You chose the band .You ended up broke
You chose the job.You ended up broke as well.

Thats predestination

Of course the second applies as long as you didnt do anything false that resulted in this .Which again still has the same equation as i stated above

If it was predestined you werent responsible.You just became a scapegoat for someones elses responsibility “ahem” looking at God lol

We’ll have to agree to disagree on that one, Nick. Ultimately, from a human perspective, character is socially constructed. In one part of the world, the one who carves his own path despite what others think or expect of him shows true character. In other part of the world, the person who sets aside what he wants and sacrifices his desires for the good of the tribe is the one who shows true character. Moreover, if you character influences your decisions, then your will is subject to your character.

Sure, that is one opinion on the matter. I don’t personally see it that way. Hopefully, you’ll check out some of those resources and get a better understanding of the views.

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Doesnt character makes us who we are? If my character its tough and strong for example my will is gonna be like that as well. And thats how you get forward in this ring called life .

I will but i dont understand how you cant see it that way If and only if we are indeed predistined.Can you explain further? If we are predestined(again the if here plays a big role) then whose responsibility is for the actions we take besides God?

That is the definition of chosing. Free will is not about constraint, or consequence, it is about choice within whatever parameters exist. You cannot expect to be be able to choose the impossible, but as long as there is an option then that is freedom to choose. Even Hobson had a choice of sorts. Sometimes circumsgance does not give you an ideal solution, but you are still free to choose within the boundaires set.


Well, as I said, what defines a strong character is a matter of perspective. And, more importantly, if your character determines you will, then your will is subject to your character and therefore not free.

But I don’t believe the Bible teaches that my actions are predestined. What is predestined is whether I will become a Christian or not, and the lengths and events of my life to name a couple of things. In fact, I don’t know many Calvinists who believe that a persons actions are predestined, eg. I sipped my tea because God willed me to do it or i robbed a bank because God willed me to do it.

For example, consider what the Heidelberg Catechism (one of the standard Reformed Confessions) has to say:

Question 27: What dost thou mean by the providence of God?
The almighty and everywhere present power of God; whereby, as it were by his hand, he upholds and governs heaven, earth, and all creatures; so that herbs and grass, rain and drought, fruitful and barren years, meat and drink, health and sickness, riches and poverty, yea, and all things come, not by chance, but be his fatherly hand.

The emphasis here is that God governs the events of heaven, earth, and even our lives. But nowhere does the catechism say that God makes me punch myself in the face or put on my trainers rather than my shoes when I leave the house. Events are in view, how we respond in those events is down to us.

Besides, generally most Christians will agree that the Bible teaches that God is sovereign (in some sense) over universe, history, and salvation but humans make real choices for which they are responsible. Calvinists emphasise the former, Arminians emphasise the latter. Other Christians say it is a mystery that can’t be resolved. Others say that these are two contradictory theological witnesses within the Bible and we shouldn’t worry too much about it. But nearly all Christians, whether they recognise it or not, believe that free will has a sell by date. For, in order for the New Creation to be free from sin and human caused suffering for all eternity, God must at some point remove from us the capacity, or the desire to choose, what is contrary to his holiness.


Sure. My point is that some don’t like the idea that an external factor might be influencing their choices and thus invalidating their free will. In this case a divine agent, but if you remove that divine agent the external influences don’t just vanish leaving your will free to merrily choose whatever takes its fancy. There are still a myriad of influences, eternal and internal, that are influencing the choices we make all the time. Given these influences pulling us this way and that, how free is our will really? That’s all. :slightly_smiling_face:

Two of my favorite quotes from household names in reformed theology:

“God’s providential direction as an unseen, behind the scenes, ‘primary cause,’ should not lead us to deny the reality of our choices and actions.”

Wayne Grudem, Systematic Theology

“This divine activity accompanies the action of man at every point, but without robbing man in any way of his freedom. The action remains the free act of man, an act for which he is held responsible.”

Louis Berkhof, Systematic Theology


Depends whether you are thinking in black & white or shades of grey.

The abiltiy to choose is a given. How you define freedom is a world of grey…



This post reminds me of what I’ve always thought: that between having perfect freedom to make any choice I like and having perfect clarity to recognize what I ought to choose given all my cares and commitments - I would choose the latter hands down. Of course we never have 100% of either freedom or clarity. Life might be challenging at times but it rarely dull.


Man ffor real though?Look around you.Look at what people can do .Do you think really God prevents us from choosing whats contrary to his holliness? I must have misunderstood what you were trying to say

I think you have, but that’s OK. I probably wasn’t clear. Here’s the quote in context.

Christians believe that one day Jesus will return and that suffering and sin will no longer be something that people have to deal with ever again, right? I appreciate you are not a Christian anymore, Nick, but for sake of argument, let’s say this is what is going to happen. Then in order for eternity to be free from sin and human caused suffering, God will have to have some mechanism to prevent us from choosing what is sinful or results in suffering for humans and animals. In that sense, in Heaven or the New Creation, or whatever we might call it, there must logically be no free will in the absolute sense. Since, we’d be free to choose what is right, but not free to choose what is wrong. Does that make more sense?

Yes now it does .Thanks for clarifying.Sorry for the problem caused

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No problem, Nick, always happy to clarify :+1:t2:

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Most people seem t think that free means selfish, so that a free choice is to get what you want. But, we are not always given a choice that is desirable or even good for us. So, in practice, free is just the ability to choose which ever we want at that moment, regardless of futurre constraint or consequence.


Most of this list, but these most obviously, touch on traits which for better or worse go to the core of who we are. Sometimes to say I could have done otherwise is tantamount to saying I could have been otherwise. At some point the only “I” it would be true to say could have done otherwise would really have to be someone else. Better not to put too fine a point on it. There is a range of traits and actions which could flow from any one person which could be described as authentic, but there are limits too.

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