Predestination: Fatalism or Free Will?

by Sarah Boghosian August 5, 2014

This past Sunday morning (8/3) Liam Goligher continued his summer sermon series Christ the Controversialist (Jesus Confronts His Critics) with "Predestination: Fatalism or Free Will?" (John 6:35-48). 

Predestination, or election, was, indeed, a controversial topic in Jesus' day, and it continues to be in our time as well. So controversial, in fact, that as a child Liam realized that the Bible talks a lot about predestination, and yet when he would bring it up with Christian friends, youth leaders, and even his mother, he would get blank stares at best or dismissal at worst. It was, he felt, a conspiracy of silence. And yet Jesus talks about predestination all the time. People ask in response, “Well what about fatalism and free-will?”

Fatalism is a blind principle behind the universe. There is an impersonal dimension to fatalism. You can't get your mind around it. The role of humanity is to just accept what comes your way with a shrug and a comment, "It's God's will." Mind cannot act upon matter. Humans are merely conscious automatons. Mental states are merely byproducts of material changes but don't modify those changes. If you logically reason it out, fatalism demands belief in the incredible proposition that the thoughts and feelings of humanity have had no real influence on human history.

Free will, on the other hand, suggests a random series of events that lie at the mercy of human choices. The future is full of possibility but is dependent on the choices you make. Everything is up in the air. The future of the world is up in the air as millions of people make millions of choices. There is no script to human history. There are open theologians who believe that God himself is making it up as he goes along and is rewriting the script as we make our choices and decisions. These ideas influenced the French existentialists who were famous for this type of thinking. It’s a depressing worldview. An open future is not a hopeful future. Life is a void. There is no significance. There is no security.

So either you’re convinced of some cosmic system of determination or you’re at the mercy of human free will. Into the picture comes predestination which rests not on blind determination on the one hand or random freedom on the other, but rather, upon a relationship. It says that human experience, the world, history, the future rests upon a fundamental relationship at the heart of everything. Everything is traced back to the very heart and nature of the God who is there.

This passage is about the Son of God. Predestination as a theological concept demonstrates that:

  • The Son is the Father’s love-gift to the world (v 35 and 48).
  • Believers, or the chosen, are the Father’s love-gift to his Son.
  • Eternal life is the Son's love-gift to his people.

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