A question of “freewill or predestination”

Hi Lara, I watched a YouTube clip the title of which is “freewill or predestination”. Sorry but unless I missed it, you don’t cover the latter?
I like the analogy of watching a junction from a tall building. Very good.
Can you please exapnd on both of these topics?
PS Do you ever get to East London? (SA of course.)


Hi Bill!

Thank you for the message. Philosophical and theological questions about free-will and predestination are both fascinating and complex!

I think I found the clip that you were referring to, If I’m right it’s the one from our youth apologetics conference in Belfast? My answer only lightly touched on the philosophical question of how it might be possible for the existence an all-knowing God to be compatible with human free-will. If you are interested in reading a little more about the particular perspective I was drawing from (known in Philosophy as ‘molinism’ or ‘middle knowledge’) I would recommend reading Professor William Lain Craig. He has a helpful summary in his popular book ‘On Guard’. I’ve also included a links that might be of interest!

I’ll just touch briefly on the question of predestination and leave a link to an article which might help to provide a more thorough academic answer. I must to start by saying that there are significant differences of opinion on this issue within Christianity. While most Christians do believe in free-will, there are differences in understanding exactly what free-will actually means. In broad brushstrokes, the Libertarian understanding of free will does not satisfy the Calvinist who believe that this version is not actually possible. For some Calvinists the Libertarian view is in danger of moving towards the Pelagian heresy. However the Calvinist position (Compatibilism), the Libertarian claims, is not truly free-will as they understand it.

Interestingly there is a similarly in-depth discussion happening with the atheistic world. Some atheists will contend that free-will as we usually understand it, is an illusion, not because of the existence of an omniscient God but rather because of the fact as human beings we are simply responding to our genetic predispositions. Fascinating arguments are of course lobbied both from theists and atheists alike.

This discussion is important for a number of reasons: it bears upon our understanding of ethics and moral responsibility and of course for the Christian, the discussion can feel vital as it touches on questions of God’s nature.

I will refrain from getting into too much Biblical exegesis, however what I will say is that what seems to be underneath the angst surrounding this issue is a concern that one or other side will let go of a foundational Christian belief. For Calvinists it seems concerns can be that the other side will undermine belief in God’s sovereignty, that the depravity of sin is diminished and some also feel that the scriptures which are debated are so clearly in favour of their understanding of predestination that to hold the opposite view would be to deny scriptural authority. On the other side, non-Calvinists often express a concern that to espouse predestination is to undermine central tenets of the Christian faith; namely that God is truly loving to all and that he is also truly just in the normal way that we understand justice.

Personally, learning more about Molinism has helped me to make sense of some of these complex ideas. I’ve found it useful in helping me to make sense of how God’s sovereignty and human free-will could be compatible; allowing me to see one way to understand God as both sovereign and the all-loving, just father of all that I see scripture picturing. But there are many good friends of mine who would view things differently and I think it is always important to continue to think deeply and listen to a different point of view.

One last thought that might be helpful. In Genesis 12 we read that Abraham was chosen by God. Growing up I struggled inwardly to think that God had a ‘chosen’ people, it felt to me like he had favourites! However, that is not at all what the scripture implies. Both Abraham and the people of Israel are chosen not ‘out of a group to be God’s favourite’ (I read that into the text) in fact what it says is that they were chosen for a specific purpose. And what was that purpose? To be a blessing to all the families of the earth. What is explicit is that God predestined Abraham to be someone who would show the whole world how much God loves each and every family on earth.

I hope those reflections are useful!