Addressing Questions About Predestination and Free Will?

Predestination and Free Will

National Association of Christian Ministers Manual to Ministry: Planning

The doctrines of predestination and free will have been subjects of deep theological reflection and debate within Christianity for centuries. These concepts touch on the very nature of God’s sovereignty and human agency, raising questions about how divine foreknowledge and human freedom coexist. Addressing these questions requires a careful and nuanced exploration of biblical teachings, theological traditions, and the implications for faith and practice. This article aims only to provide a brief introduction of how to approach these complex doctrines, fostering a better understanding and dialogue within the Christian community.

Understanding the Doctrines #

Predestination #

Predestination refers to the belief that God has foreordained all that will happen, including the salvation of some and, in some interpretations, the condemnation of others. This doctrine is often associated with the writings of Paul in the New Testament, and has been significantly developed in the theological traditions of Augustine and John Calvin. Central to this doctrine is the sovereignty of God in salvation, emphasizing that God’s grace is the decisive factor in human redemption.

Free Will #

Free Will, conversely, emphasizes human beings’ capacity to make choices that genuinely affect their destiny. This view upholds the moral responsibility of individuals in accepting or rejecting God’s offer of salvation. It is closely linked with the concept of God’s prevenient grace, which enables humans to respond freely to God’s invitation. Arminian theology, following Jacob Arminius, is a prominent advocate of this perspective, highlighting the role of human response in the process of salvation.

Biblical Perspectives #

The Bible contains passages that can be interpreted to support both predestination and free will, contributing to the complexity of reconciling these doctrines.

Scriptural Foundations for Predestination #

      • Romans 8:29-30, Paul speaks of God foreknowing and predestining individuals to be conformed to the image of His Son.
        • (29)  This is true because he already knew his people and had already appointed them to have the same form as the image of his Son. Therefore, his Son is the firstborn among many children.
          (30)  He also called those whom he had already appointed. He approved of those whom he had called, and he gave glory to those whom he had approved of.


      • Ephesians 1:4-5, Paul mentions that God chose us in Christ before the foundation of the world and predestined us for adoption to Himself.

(4)  Before the creation of the world, he chose us through Christ to be holy and perfect in his presence.
(5)  Because of his love he had already decided to adopt us through Jesus Christ. He freely chose to do this

Scriptural Foundations for Free Will #

      • Deuteronomy 30:19, God presents the choice of life and death, blessing and cursing, thereby implying human capacity to choose.

(19)  I call on heaven and earth as witnesses today that I have offered you life or death, blessings or curses. Choose life so that you and your descendants will live.

      • Revelation 3:20 depicts Jesus standing at the door and knocking, indicating that the individual inside has the freedom to open the door.

(20)  Look, I’m standing at the door and knocking. If anyone listens to my voice and opens the door, I’ll come in and we’ll eat together.

Theological Interpretations #

Calvinism and Arminianism #

The debate over predestination and free will has historically been framed by Calvinism and Arminianism, representing theological systems that emphasize sovereignty and human freedom, respectively.

Middle Grounds #

There have been attempts to find a middle ground that acknowledges both God’s sovereign control and human freedom. Molinism, for example, proposes God’s middle knowledge (scientia media) as a way to reconcile divine sovereignty with human free will, suggesting that God knows what individuals would freely choose in any given circumstance.

Addressing Common Questions #

How Can God Be Sovereign and Humans Still Have Free Will? #

This question lies at the heart of the tension between predestination and free will. A nuanced approach recognizes that God’s sovereignty is not a coercive control, but a comprehensive oversight that includes human freedom as part of His divine plan. God, in His omniscience, foreknows and incorporates human choices into His providential guidance of history, allowing for genuine human agency within the divine purpose.

Is Our Salvation Entirely Predestined, or Do We Have a Choice? #

The answer varies among Christian traditions. A balanced perspective might suggest that salvation involves both God’s sovereign initiative and human response. God, in His grace, initiates the process of salvation, drawing individuals to Himself, yet He allows for a genuine human response of faith. This view respects the mystery of divine-human interaction in the process of salvation, affirming both God’s grace and human responsibility.

How Do We Reconcile God’s Love with the Doctrine of Predestination? #

This question often arises in discussions about predestination, especially regarding the concept of double predestination (the idea that God predestines some to salvation and others to damnation). A compassionate approach emphasizes God’s desire for all to be saved (1 Timothy 2:4) and His patience, not wanting anyone to perish but everyone to come to repentance (2 Peter 3:9). It suggests that God’s judgment is always fair and just, based on His infinite wisdom and love, beyond human understanding.

What Does This Mean for Evangelism and Christian Living? #

Understanding the interplay of divine sovereignty and human freedom should motivate rather than discourage evangelism and ethical living. It affirms that our efforts in sharing the gospel and living according to God’s will are meaningful and instrumental in God’s plan. The knowledge that God is sovereignly at work, drawing individuals to Himself, provides hope and assurance in the ministry, while the recognition of human responsibility underscores the urgency and importance of responding to God’s call.

Conclusion #

The doctrines of predestination and free will present a profound mystery that has puzzled theologians and believers alike. In addressing questions related to these doctrines, it is essential to approach the topic with humility, recognizing the limits of human understanding and the vastness of divine mystery. A balanced view that upholds the sovereignty of God in salvation while affirming human responsibility can foster a deeper appreciation for the grace of God and the dignity of human choice. As Christians navigate these complexities, they are called to rest in the assurance of God’s love and justice, engage in faithful witness, and live in the freedom and responsibility that come with being made in the image of God.