Predestination vs Free Will Paradox
Predestination vs Free Will is a paradox created by men and the heavenly predestination is one of the most inaccessible mysteries, locked in the realm of YHVH’s reason and wisdom. The human mind, falling short on comprehension and limited in its ability to grasp what is inconceivable to grasp, will never be able to understand this mystery of predestination and free will.
There is nothing as proud or as curious as the human mind or what the human mind thinks of itself. The human mind attempts to explore the very intangible depths of the Creator’s will and works, as if it is his to know and capable to know the highest providence of the Creator YHVH.
Often this desire of the human mind to penetrate to the incomprehensible will of YHVH crosses the line of arrogance. This sin of pride consists in assuming that we are the ones who choose YHVH and that YHVH chooses us because we had already been predestined to choose Him. That is the paradox of predestination vs free will.
What indeed is predestination?
Predestination is a doctrine that all events happen by the will of the Creator, i.e. determined in advance. According to this doctrine, the omniscient Elohim has foreordained every event throughout eternity (including the final salvation of mankind). With this regard, predestination is a form of predetermination.
However, the doctrine of predestination seems to be in paradox of free will of humans, according to which, humans have the free will to make choices unconstrained by external agencies.
In this paradox, predestination of the Creator seems incompatible with the human free will, hence predestination vs free will.
There are disagreements among theologians regarding the views on predestination, as the predestination vs free will debate has been in the focus of these disputes, especially since the Christianity came into existence.
Predestination vs free will in the religions
During the first century there were three main Jewish sects that differed on the issue on predestination vs free will: the Essenes, Pharisees, and Sadducees.
The Essenes being an ascetic sect viewed the Creator’s providence as preordained will for all human events; a view maintained by the Pharisees, as well. But the Pharisees still maintained that humans are able to choose between right and wrong, while the Sadducees did not seem to have a doctrine of predestination as they did not believe in resurrection either.
In the Rabbinic literature, there is much discussion as to the apparent contradiction between Elohim’s omniscience and free will of humans. The representative view of the Judaism can be summarized in Rabbi Akiva’s comments in Pirkei Avoth 3:15, “Everything is foreseen; yet free will is given”. Based on this understanding, the problem is formally described as a paradox, beyond human understanding.
As a whole, Judaism does not put so much weight on the predestination vs free will debate as much as the Christian theology does, expressed in the doctrines of the three main branches of the Christianity: Roman Catholicism, Eastern Orthodoxy, and Protestantism.
Catholicism teaches the doctrine of predestination holding the view that those whom God has elected to eternal life will infallibly attain it, and are therefore said to be predestined to salvation, while those who perish are not predestined to damnation.
According to the Catholic Church, The Creator has predestined no one to go to hell: “God predestines no one to go to hell; for this, a willful turning away from God (a mortal sin) is necessary, and persistence in it until the end. In the Eucharistic liturgy and in the daily prayers of her faithful, the Church implores the mercy of God, who does not want any to perish, but all to come to repentance”. [Catechism of the Catholic Church, section 1037]
Catholics do not believe that any hints or evidence of the predestined status of individuals is available to humans.
Augustine of Hippo, who laid the foundation for Catholic teaching on predestination, wrote in “In What Respects Predestination and Grace Differ”: “God promised not from the power of our will but from His own predestination. For He promised what He Himself would do, not what men would do. … it is not they that cause Him to do what He has promised. Otherwise the fulfilment of God’s promises would not be in the power of God, but in that of men”.
The sister-church of the Catholicism, the Eastern Orthodoxy, believes that from the beginning man was created totally free. God leaves man to live according to his own will and places no constraint upon his freedom. God is omnipotent in His authority. Man is omnipotent in his freedom. The entire difference lies in that God does all that He desires, and no power can impede Him in this, while man does nothing that he desires not to. Thus, just as man cannot be saved without the grace of God, likewise God will not save man without the free will of man.
But, the most heated and at the same time most confusing debates are in the camp of the daughter-churches of the Catholicism: The Protestant churches. According to some in the Protestantism, the Bible teaches that all who come to Jesus Christ by faith have been chosen, or predestined, by God to come. Therefore, every Christian has been predestined by God to go to heaven. There are no un-predestinated Christians. God has decided beforehand who will come to Christ by faith (John 6:37). Others claim that Jesus Christ died only for the elect.
Below are the classical views of three different Protestant beliefs.
Predestination in Lutheranism
Lutheranism holds the doctrine of unconditional election to salvation only. Its founder Martin Luther’s teachings on predestination are based on his own views on Ephesians 2:8-10. His followers hold to unconditional election to salvation. Lutherans believe Christians should be assured that they are among the predestined. However, they disagree with those who make predestination the source of salvation. Lutherans do not believe in a predestination to damnation. Instead, they teach that eternal damnation is a result of the sinner’s sins.
This is the same Luther whose work “The Jews and their little lies” (openly anti-Semitic) was a desktop book of another notorious anti-Semite, Adolf Hitler.
Predestination in Calvinism
The Belgic Confession of 1561 affirmed that God “delivers and preserves” from perdition “all whom he, in his eternal and unchangeable council, of mere goodness hath elected in Christ Jesus our Lord, without respect to their works” (Article XVI). Calvinists believe that God had picked those who he will save, and they had already been chosen to Heaven even before the world was created; but the others will go to Hell (this doctrine is known as double predestination). John Calvin, the founder of this doctrine, taught that those who were saved could never lose their salvation and the “elect” would know they were saved because of their actions. Today, his doctrine is known as “Once saved, always saved” which is very popular among the Baptists.
Like the Lutherans, the Calvinist hold the doctrine of unconditional election. However, they also believe in both the sovereign control of God and the responsibility and freedom of human decisions.
Predestination in Arminianism
Arminians hold that God does not predetermine, but instead infallibly knows who will believe and be saved. This view is known as conditional election, because it states that election is conditional on the one who wills to have faith in God for salvation. Although God knows from the beginning of the world who will go where, the choice is still with the individual: the counter-view of unconditional election of the other two camps that holds the belief that God chooses whomever He wills.
On predestination, Calvinism is the strongest form among Christians today. Another way to sum up the different Protestant views despite their differences is to say that, according to them, God chose the Church to be saved.
Needless to say, all three main Christian doctrines hold that the Church of Jesus has replaced Israel and all blessings of God (nothing is told about His curses) belong to the Church, the New Israel.
Also, all Christian theologians claim that their teachings are Biblical, that this is what the Bible says, although they quote mostly from the so-called New Testament and primarily from Paul’s letters, rather than the whole Scripture. Also, needless to say, they all claim that their teachings are true and all others’ are false.
The most quoted verses to defend their views on the predestination is taken from Ephesians.
According as he hath chosen us in him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and without blame before him in love: Having predestinated us unto the adoption of children by Jesus Christ to himself, according to the good pleasure of his will, (Eph 1:4-5 KJV)
Not confused yet?
Paradox of predestination vs free will
What the protestant theologians are actually saying is this. From the very same clay the Creator created two vessels, one had already been predestined for honor and the other for dishonor. This means He generously grants grace to one, while not the other. According to this dilemma, He had predetermined some to go to heaven and others to hell.
How can it be that God wants salvation for all, if He pours all His grace on some, and all His wrath on the other? If God despised some before birth as He did Esau, if He hardened their hearts like Pharaoh’s, if He created them as vessels for dishonor with a corrupt disposition, where is their freedom to walk in righteousness?
This is what is called the paradox of predestination vs free will.
The paradox continues to ask questions such as, if God knows ahead of time that a human is predestined for heaven or hell, then there is no need for him to work out his own salvation (see what the apostle says in Php 2:12). If one is predestined to hell, it is completely futile for him to get saved. In neither case is he free, if he does not have the choice of free will.
If human is not free to choose, then when he is called to repentance by the words of the prophets and apostles most definitely he will have no freedom to repent. And if he is not free to repent, he is trapped in his own predestination not to choose salvation.
Yet, God has bound up all humans to adhere to His commandments, but in their predestination they are deprived of power to choose between good and evil. And if humans are not free, then why would their failure to repent be a sin?
What the Lutherans, Calvinists, etc., etc. are saying is this, according to their interpretation of Eph 1:4-5.
In their futile philosophy, before the foundation of the world God created a huge “database” in which the souls of those who will go to heaven and those who will go to hell are stored. When a person is born on the earth, God gives the predestined soul to the body according to His will: heaven or hell.
On the Judgement Day the body is resurrected to find out that its soul had already been predestined for hell and the body will suffer exceedingly.
It is like a father who according to his will puts an enormously heavy weight on the shoulders of his little son, knowingly that he will fail (predetermination), and when the son does fail, he punishes him severely (predestination).
Who is that wicked father who would possibly do that to his child?!
The problem is not that such absurd theories are out there; the problem is that there are people who believe them. And why would someone wants to believe them? Because it is easy. It is easy to believe them and it is easy to sell them. (Read more)
They say what the Christians want to hear: they are predetermined to go to heaven, because they had already been predestined to go to heaven before they have done any good or bad.
Hence, it is very likely that they will boast in their “predestination”, as the Christians indeed boast.
People want easy and fast salvation. A short cut to heaven.
This view of the predestination vs free will is definitely a stumbling block upon which many have tripped and fallen, as the apostle warns in Romans 11.
So, there is something wrong in this interpretation the theologians want us to believe in.
What indeed is predestination?
Albert Einstein said, “If you cannot explain something in a simple way, you do not understand it very well”.
YHVH gave His Word at the mountain so that all Israel, from the noble to the common people, can understand it, from Mosheh and Aharon to the last shepherd in the desert. YHVH Himself says,
For this command which I am commanding you today, it is not too hard for you, nor is it far off. It is not in the heavens, to say, ‘Who shall ascend into the heavens for us, and bring it to us, and cause us to hear it, so that we do it? Nor is it beyond the sea, to say, ‘Who shall go over the sea for us, and bring it to us, and cause us to hear it, so that we do it?’ For the Word is very near you, in your mouth and in your heart – to do it. (Deu 30:11-14)
YHVH’s words are very easy to understand, unlike the doctrines of men. What YHVH is saying is probably better explained (if there is a need for a better explanation) by Nachmanides. He says,
Heart does not mean the organ that pumps blood, but the soul. Circumcision of the soul means to remove the surplusage; soul will no longer be pulled between what is fleshly and what is spiritual—namely resurrection. (referring to Deu 30:6)
From the time of the creation of the universe, man had the choice to be righteous or wicked. So it was for the entire duration of the Torah, in order that there be merit for us in choosing good and punishment for desiring evil. But in the days of Moshiach choosing good will be in our nature, and the heart will not lust for that which is not proper for it, and will have no desire for it at all. This is the “circumcision” spoken of here, as lust is a “foreskin” blocking the heart, and the “circumcision of the heart” is the removal of lust. In those times man will return to what he was before Adam’s sin, when he naturally did what is proper to do, and there were no conflicts and contradictions in his will . . .
This is the meaning of what our sages said, interpreting the verse (Ecc 12:1) “There shall come days of which you shall say: I have no desire in them”—“These are the days of Moshiach, in which there is neither merit nor guilt” (Talmud, Shabbat 151b). For in the days of Moshiach there will be no desire [of evil], and thus no merit or guilt—since merit and guilt are both the products of a free will. (Nachmanides)
But because of their rejection of the Torah of YHVH, all those ancient and modern Christian theologians have missed the Word of YHVH. YHVH continues with what is the key answer to the artificially created debate of predestination vs free will. We read,
Behold, I have set before you today life and good, and death and evil, in that I am commanding you today to love Yehovah your Elohim, to walk in His ways, and to guard His commands, and His laws, and His judgements. And you shall live and increase, and Yehovah your Elohim shall bless you in the land which you go to possess. But if your heart turns away, and you do not obey, and shall be drawn away, and shall bow down to other gods and serve them, I have declared to you today that you shall certainly perish, you shall not prolong your days in the land which you are passing over the Yarden to enter and possess. I have called the heavens and the earth as witnesses today against you: I have set before you life and death, the blessing and the curse. Therefore you shall choose life, so that you live, both you and your seed, (Deu 30:15-19)
Here are the commentaries of Rashi on “you shall choose life” which may help us better understand the will of YHVH, “God says: ‘Even though you have free choice, nevertheless, I instruct you to choose the portion of life’.” It is like a man who says to his son, “Choose for yourself a fine portion of my estate” and then directs him to the best portion, saying to him, “This is the portion which you should choose for yourself!”
In the passage above, we find the will of YHVH, the predestination and the will of the people.
Predetermination: I have set before you today life and good, and death and evil, in that I am commanding you today to love Yehovah your Elohim, to walk in His ways, and to guard His commands, and His laws, and His judgements. is the predetermination which YHVH set before the people. This is also His will for all mankind to do: “choose life or death”.
Free will: But if your heart turns away, and you do not obey, and shall be drawn away, and shall bow down to other gods and serve them, is the choice of His people; the power of free will to choose.
Predestination: I have declared to you today that you shall certainly perish, you shall not prolong your days in the land which you are passing over the Yarden to enter and possess. I have called the heavens and the earth as witnesses today against you: I have set before you life and death, the blessing and the curse. This is the predestination of a wrong choice.
The will of YHVH: Therefore you shall choose life, so that you live, both you and your seed, is the will of YHVH that no one should perish but live, if the right choice is made.
The will of YHVH could not be any easier to understand. No doctrines of men; no doctrines of theologians who have rejected the very words we just read.
Can predestination vs free be plainly explained?
The will of YHVH can be explain with the following simple to understand example.
You are on the road on a destination according to your own will. A moment comes when you face the choice to make at the fork of the road whether to go to the right or to the left. You choose to go to the left. Your decision is your choice, your free will. The path you have chosen is your predestination; because you have chosen this path, you will get to the destination that road leads.
Down the road you will be given another choice to make at another fork of the road. This time you choose the right path. This again is your decision of choice, your free will, and the path you have chosen is your predestination; because you have chosen this path, you will get to the destination that road leads.
Any time we exercise the free will, we will be given the due predestination according to our will, whether good or bad. If we sin and make a bad choice to go against the will of YHVH, we choose the road to destruction paved with curses. If we choose to do His will, we have chosen the road to heaven paved with blessings, but we may come to the fork of the road where we will be in the situation to make another choice and this may well be a test whether we will keep on going on the right path.
Predestination vs free will or predestination and free will
YHVH most definitely foresees whether a human will be in heaven or in hell. In His pure foreknowledge we appear as we are in actuality, as a mirror reflects our appearance: either written in the Book of Life or destined to eternal separation from Him. Therefore, YHVH’s foreknowledge reflects our will as in the mirror.
The righteous judgement of Elohim grants to us according to our deeds, as the mirror gives us our reflection of what we really are, and likewise the foreknowledge of God: those who are predestined for righteousness and others for condemnation, all depends on the choice humans have made. As the mirror does not force the reflection on us, neither does YHVH force salvation or condemnation on us. If He does, it would not be a free choice for us.
One is saved or condemned, not because YHVH has predestined or predetermined his salvation or condemnation, but that either by choice he obeys Him and He foresees his salvation, or that by choice of evil deeds he avoids the grace of YHVH and will suffer for it, and He foresees that, too.
Thus, the cause of future predestination or predetermination is not foreknowledge, but foreknowledge is the result of the predestination. The future does not flow forth from foreknowledge, but foreknowledge from the future.
If we choose life, it will be pleasing to YHVH and we will be saved. If we lead a corrupt life, we have chosen death and we will perish. He foresees both, but neither of them predetermines His foreknowledge.
In other words, when we choose life, YHVH foresees it, but if we choose death, He will foreordain us for hell. If we turn back to Him, we are foreordained for salvation. As we change our lives by our free will, so the righteous Judge changes His decision which reflects in our destination. His judgement follows our will and conforms to our inclination to do good or evil.
YHVH is determined to save us, but He requires that we conduct our lives accordingly.
It was Israel whom YHVH destined to leave Egypt and inherit the Land. That was the predetermination for the descendants of Avraham, Yitschak and Ya’akov according to the promise. But by their disbelief and by free will, many of them did not want to leave and chose to stay in exile and perished.
It was Israel whom YHVH destined to enter the Land. That was the predetermination for the nation according to the promise. But by their disbelief and by free will, more than 600,000 did not want to take the Land and perished and the rest were sent into the Arabian exile.
It was King Hezekiah whom YHVH destined him to die (2Ki 20:1-6). That was the predetermination for the king. By his free will the king asked YHVH for more days to live and He granted his request and the king’s predetermination was changed. By His will, YHVH changed the king’s predestination to die that day.
It was Israel whom YHVH destined to return to the Land from the Babylonian exile. That was the predetermination for the nation according to the promise. But by their disbelief and by free will, many did not want to return and rebuild Jerusalem and were about to perish by the hand of Haman.
It was Israel whom YHVH destined to return to the Land from the Roman exile. That was the predetermination for the nation according to the promise. But by their disbelief and by free will, many did not want to return and rebuild the Land and six million perished by the hand of Hitler.
For more insight on the four exiles of Israel, read the article “Did Israel reject the Messiah?“.
Likewise, it was the Church whom YHVH destined to be grafted into the olive tree of Israel. That was the predetermination for the former gentiles according to the promise given to Avraham. But by their disbelief, arrogance and by free will, most of them do not want to be grafted in, boasted against the natural branches and may not be spared by Elohim. (Read Romans 11)
Even though we are all predetermined to die, if we walk in sin, when we repent we will be saved despite the predetermination of eternal punishment. The righteous judgement of YHVH takes into consideration our will and grants to us according to our free will expressed in our deeds.
With all that being said, YHVH’s will in His grace and our own free will form predestination. YHVH desires our salvation and if we desire it also, we will be predestined to it. If we do not desire it expressed in our free will, we will be predestined to lose it.
Just as a potter can fix a broken vessel, so YHVH can raise us when we fall into sin, but we need to exercise our free will to repent and do good, as the Messiah said to the woman, “Go and sin no more!” Likewise, YHVH can change the predetermination of a whole nation (read Jeremiah 18).
Again, what is predestination? Predestination is the grace of YHVH and the will of man together. YHVH desires no one to perish but find an eternal life, if a man desires also, for he is free to make choice.
If a man desires to choose life, then that man is predestined to eternal life. But the opposite is also true. If that man chooses death, he is predestined to death.
In conclusion of the paradox of predestination vs free will, is man predestined for life or death? Who can tell this in his own wisdom? No one can know what will take place in the future and what choice he will make.
But the end will be revealed on the Judgement Day, according to whether we have chosen life or death.
However, there is something we can know. It depends on us to decide. Our predestination depends on the will of YHVH and our own will. YHVH is always ready to forgive and our destiny is determined by our will.
As if our Father is saying to us, “Even though you have free choice, nevertheless, I instruct you to choose life. Choose for yourself a fine estate in my kingdom!” And then directs us to the righteous path to His kingdom, saying, “This is the portion which you should choose for yourself!”
YHVH desires our salvation, if we desire it also, and then we are predestined for eternal life, but He will not force us to it.
How can we reconcile the unchangeability of the Creator’s predetermination with the free self-determination of humans?
No one who is born of YHVH has any doubt in Shaul’s writing in Eph 1:4-5 that presents a statement on predestination,
According as he hath chosen us in him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and without blame before him in love: Having predestinated us unto the adoption of children by Jesus Christ to himself, according to the good pleasure of his will, (Eph 1:4-5 KJV) (See also Rom 8:28-30)
The human mind is murky. This is because our intellect, weak and blind, cannot reach the invisible and incomprehensible. The predestination vs free will was not even understood by the apostle himself, who after he had ascended to the third heaven, at the height of the heavenly providence saw only indescribable and unsearchable depths of YHVH’s wisdom surpassing human mind (see Rom 11:33).
So, what did the apostle mean in his statement?
The theologians who deliberate on predestination do not understand that the Omniscient Creator is beyond time and space, that He foresees all that people do within time, and within time and space humans are free to do their works.
Therefore, did Shaul literally mean, He has chosen us in Him before the foundation of the world?
Does anyone really believe that before the Creator separated light from darkness on the first day, He had created the souls who had been predestined for either heaven or hell?! Does anyone really believe that the Creator created heaven and hell before the stars?!
Did Shaul literally mean it or the apostle used, to his best comprehension, a metaphor? Or, what we call today “metaphysics”. From the Creator’s view point everything is in the past, present and future. Indeed, He sees beyond time and space what for us is past, but for Him it is in His “time” (for the lack of better expression).
We must remove ourselves as far away as possible from these artificial paradoxes theologians have created, because they do not edify, but only confuse the mind.
In this realm which defies comprehension, we understand only one thing: predestination is the combination of the grace of YHVH who calls for repentance, and the will of man which follows this calling. (Read more about “What is Grace?“)
The Book of Life is incomprehensible to us. We do not know what is being written in this book. However, what we certainly know is what YHVH has already told us, “I have set before you life and death, the blessing and the curse. Therefore you shall choose life!” and all teachings of men are futile.
The Creator has never told us to explore the unknown. The hidden matters are His.
Let us hear the conclusion of the entire matter: Revere Elohim and guard His commands, for this is for all mankind! For Elohim shall bring every work into judgement, including all that is hidden, whether good or whether evil. (Ecc 12:13-14)
We will continue the controversial issue of predestination vs free will in the next article “One saved always saved delusion“.
May we merit seeing the coming of our Mashiach speedily in our days.