-By Michael S. Smith / 4-9-17
Scott said I should write an article on the Christian doctrine of Predestination. So I decided I would ask the question, “is it logically defensible?” Spoiler Alert… It’s not! But before we get into that, let me address something really quick. Proponents of this doctrine will quote bible passages that talk about God knowing the end from the beginning and having a divine will for human history. However, I’m not disputing that. In fact, I would agree with that. What I’m addressing is whether or not we have free-will. And to talk about that, I’m going to introduce a definition of predestination that I found on Wikipedia…
“Predestination, in 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. In this usage, predestination can be regarded as a form of religious determinism; and usually predeterminism.” (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Predestination).
Now what that’s saying, basically, is that we don’t have free-will (the same thing that many atheists will claim); that we’re essentially robots enslaved to God’s whim. So it’s basically a cop-out for Christians. Instead of answering the question, “How can God know the future and we have free-will at the same time?”, which is a really easy question to answer, they just throw up their hands and say, “Well God planned everything.” Now as much as I would love to get into the relationship between God’s foreknowledge and our free-will (the two are not at all incompatible), it’s a topic for another time. For now, I’ll stick to the question I posed at the beginning of this article.
So, is predestination logically defensible? I’ll argue “No” for two reasons. First, it would violate our ability to even know whether or not it’s true.
Suppose I said to you, “I just learned that there is no such thing as the English language.” Now, suppose you replied back, “Wait, didn’t you just say that in English?”… then I say to you, “well it’s more complicated than that. Here! this is the book that convinced me. Take a look at it.”… then you, after taking a quick glance say, “THIS BOOK IS WRITTEN IN ENGLISH!” finally, I say, “the arguments in the book speak for themselves. Keep it! Get back to me after you read it.”
Question, would you even have to look at the arguments in the book to know whether or not my claim is nonsense? Of course not! My claim violates the law of non-contradiction. If it were true, I couldn’t even say it, much less read about it in a language that doesn’t exist.
It’s the same when we come to the claim, “free-will doesn’t exist.” Now, I know this can constipate your brain if you think about it long enough, but if we don’t have the free-will to reason to a conclusion, and everything we think is determined by the laws of chemistry, then any thoughts or conclusions we have about anything cannot be trusted; whether those thoughts be about free-will, predestination, or even God. Therefore, if free-will doesn’t exist, we can’t know that it doesn’t exist. As Frank Turek says, “We’re not really reasoning, we’re just reacting.”
Now I could write on and on about this but I’ll include a link below to a short video where Frank Turek describes this much better than I do.
Second reason, it would make God purposeless and cruel. I think the purposeless part is pretty obvious. If we’re simply pre-wired to love God, and we don’t really have a choice, then what’s the point? But the point I really want to drill down is the cruelty of Predestination. Notice the definition above included God predetermining the fate of each person in the afterlife. That would mean that God deliberately creates people bound for hell, and they have no say in the matter. “But doesn’t God get His will done even through unbelievers?” one may ask. Yes, but again we’re talking about a world of robots.
Take the example of Joseph in the bible. Joseph is sold into slavery by his own brother; but then eventually rises to a position of prominence in Egypt; he stores grain in case there’s a famine; then when the famine comes, his own brothers come to him for food. Joseph says to his brothers, “You intended to harm me, but God intended it for good to accomplish what is now being done, the saving of many lives” (Genesis 50:20). Now, if you believe in free will, that makes perfect sense. God can do great good and save lives, even through those who disobey Him. But if we’re just moist robots, why not preordain everyone in Egypt to just intuitively know to store grain? Predestination makes Joseph’s entire experience nothing more than a cruel joke played by God.
Suppose in another instance how an atheist can impact someone’s life so that they become a Christian… take free-will out of the equation and it becomes unintelligible to even suggest why God would do that, rather than preordain both people to become Christians.
Ultimately, those who subscribe to Predestination may do so to avoid what they think is a credible question regarding omniscience and free-will, but what they ultimately do is destroy, not only the entire meaning of Christianity and God’s character, but also their ability to even know anything about God, Christianity, or free-will.
If you’re reading this, and you believe that you freely chose to read it, and that you can either accept or reject my conclusion based on your own reason, then you reject Predestination.
Then again, maybe you were just preordained to think that.