By Spencer D Gear
I was flabbergasted to see the language of ‘fate’ being used by a Christian on an Internet Christian forum when he started a topic, ‘Fate vs Free Will’. For any Christian to use such language, he or she is making a statement about a lack of knowledge of biblical doctrine. Let’s investigate to examine if my statement is true.
This person wrote:
The seed has been planted in my heart! I believe that we have free will which in turn is our fate.
Do you believe one way or the other?
I believe in Fate so much so that it comes down to the very moment you wake up everyday to the very moment you go to bed. I believe our whole lives are predestined and everything that happens to us, the good the bad and the ugly, is all a package God wrote in his Book long ago.
“Is there anything of which can be said this is new? It has already been here in ancient times before us.”
TELL US WHAT YOU THINK.
Can you come up with bible verses?
He clarified further:
‘To clarify why I believe in our free will becoming our fate, I give you this example:
You wake up in the morning and you sit in front of the stove and you are deciding whether or not to eat a banana. Should I eat the banana or not? I believe that God knows the “outcome”; this word is key! God knows the outcome!.. of either and both choices. Thus our free will becoming our fate’.
A. Fate equated with predestination
The original poster clarified: ‘Very briefly, I believe that our every action (free will) is known and predestined by God … even though it is our free will’.
B. Other Christian responses
This is a sample of responses to this post:
‘I am interested how you can reconcile free will, with being fate? I never heard it quit (sic) mentioned like that before’.
‘Calvinists believe God creates those to be roasted in hell and God makes those who won’t have to roast in hell. Man has no free will. If they get sick, God already planned that. I am not so sure they go as far as to what color tooth brush you picked in 1984.
Arminianism believes man has a free will, but the Sovereignty of God is kept by God knowing what choices that man will make. Man has free will, but God knows what those choices will be.
Molinism believes God gives man free will, unless man is about to do something to alter a time line God does not want. God then intervenes so that the time line is the way he planned it, otherwise man is free to do what he wants as long as it does not cross over into God’s plan for the man and change the time lines. God knows the outcome of all alternate realities, and gets involved only if a reality is not what God wanted.
If you have come up with a new one, we should at least name it after you, right? Might as well get the credit and create that Wiki page with your name’.
‘People seem to make the word fate more then it really is. Some say it takes away will but, that couldn’t be any more wrong. Fate is just the predermination (sic) if our will, choices, ect (sic)’.
Take a read of this kind of content from a Christian: ‘Most [of] the scriptures you posted are not related to fate, and God just knowing something is not fate. Fate would be more Election, Predestination. Foreknowledge or knowing opposes that doctrine.
How does God know what choice we are about to make? Would God know what choice we might make say 10 years from now?’
‘Keep in mind, God is not tracking everything. Lots of things happen, that the Lord is not aware of, or even cares to know. Things that get his attention, he check it out.
‘And the LORD said, Because the cry of Sodom and Gomorrah is great, and because their sin is very grievous; I will go down now, and see whether they have done altogether according to the cry of it, which is come unto me; and if not, I will know’. (Gen 18:20-21).
‘How is it free will if it’s already predetermined, the two are mutually exclusive’.
‘God doesn’t plan everything, indeed Scripture even states such. ‘And have built the high places of Baal to burn their sons in the fire as burnt offerings to Baal, which I did not command or decree, nor did it come into my mind’ — Jeremiah 19:5 (ESV)
God states that the sacrificing of children by Baal worshipers did not even enter his mind, which seems to me a clear indication that God was not casually responsible for planning that it come to pass’.
C. The challenge of Jeremiah 19:5
This verse is a particular challenge to the teaching on God’s sovereignty if it is true that the burning of children as offerings to Baal did not come into his mind, thus inferring that it was outside of God’s sovereign will.
Let’s check a few English translations of this verse:
ESV: ‘and have built the high places of Baal to burn their sons in the fire as burnt offerings to Baal, which I did not command or decree, nor did it come into my mind’.
NIV: ‘They have built the high places of Baal to burn their children in the fire as offerings to Baal – something I did not command or mention, nor did it enter my mind’.
NLT: ‘They have built pagan shrines to Baal, and there they burn their sons as sacrifices to Baal. I have never commanded such a horrible deed; it never even crossed my mind to command such a thing!’
NRSV: ‘and gone on building the high places of Baal to burn their children in the fire as burnt-offerings to Baal, which I did not command or decree, nor did it enter my mind’.
NET: ‘They have built places here for worship of the god Baal so that they could sacrifice their children as burnt offerings to him in the fire. Such sacrifices are something I never commanded them to make! They are something I never told them to do! Indeed, such a thing never even entered my mind!’
This verse raises a potential dispute. If God is absolutely sovereign over everything in the universe (see below), then how can something not ‘come into my [the Lord’s] mind’? What’s the meaning of this statement in relation to what the Lord says, ‘I did not command or decree, nor did it come into my mind’?
The NET Bible translation of Jer 7:31 is, ‘They have also built places of worship in a place called Topheth in the Valley of Ben Hinnom so that they can sacrifice their sons and daughters by fire. That is something I never commanded them to do! Indeed, it never even entered my mind to command such a thing!’
The footnote in the HCSB (Holman Christian Standard Bible) gives us a clue. The statement in the text is, ‘I never entertained the thought’. The footnote at this point is, ‘‘Lit mentioned, and it did not arise on My heart’. So, the meaning of that sentence is that the Lord never mentioned it and it did not arise on his heart – his inner being.
Wayne Grudem’s explanation seems reasonable and consistent with the remainder of biblical revelation:
Another objection to the biblical teaching about God’s omniscience has been brought from Jeremiah 7:31; 19:5; and 31:35, where God refers to the horrible practices of parents who burn to death their own children in the sacrificial fires of the pagan god Baal, and says, “which I did not command, nor did it come into my mind” (Jer. 7:31). Does this mean that before the time of Jeremiah God had never thought of the possibility that parents would sacrifice their own children? Certainly not, for that very practice had occurred a century earlier in the reigns of Ahaz (2 Kings 16:3) and Hoshea (2 Kings 17:17), and God himself had forbidden the practice eight hundred years earlier under Moses (Lev. 18:21). The verses in Jeremiah are probably better translated quite literally, “nor did it enter into my heart “ (so KJV at Jer. 7:31, and the literal translation in the NASB mg.—the Hebrew word is l?b, most frequently translated “heart”), giving the sense, “nor did I wish for it, desire it, think of it in a positive way” (Grudem 1994:192, emphasis in original).
Grudem explained further about the relationship of God’s sovereignty, omniscience and providence to a human beings ‘freedom’:
Another difficulty that arises in this connection is the question of the relationship between God’s knowledge of everything that will happen in the future and the reality and degree of freedom we have in our actions. If God knows everything that will happen, how can our choices be at all “free”? In fact, this difficulty has loomed so large that some theologians have concluded that God does not know all of the future. They have said that God does not know things that cannot (in their opinion) be known, such as the free acts of people that have not yet occurred (sometimes the phrase used is the “contingent acts of free moral agents,” where “contingent” means “possible but not certain”). But such a position is unsatisfactory because it essentially denies God’s knowledge of the future of human history at any point in time and thus is inconsistent with the passages cited above about God’s knowledge of the future and with dozens of other Old Testament prophetic passages where God predicts the future far in advance and in great detail.
How then are we to resolve this difficulty?… Note the suggestion of Augustine, who said that God has given us “reasonable self- determination.” His statement does not involve the terms free or freedom for these terms are exceptionally difficult to define in any way that satisfactorily accounts for God’s complete knowledge of future events. But this statement does affirm what is important to us and what we sense to be true in our own experience, that our choices and decisions are “reasonable.” That is, we think about what to do, consciously decide what we will do, and then we follow the course of action that we have chosen.
Augustine’s statement also says that we have “self-determination.” This is simply affirming that our choices really do determine what will happen. It is not as if events occur regardless of what we decide or do, but rather that they occur because of what we decide and do. No attempt is made in this statement to define the sense in which we are “free” or “not free,” but that is not the really important issue: for us, it is important that we think, choose, and act, and that these thoughts, choices, and actions are real and actually have eternal significance. If God knows all our thoughts, words, and actions long before they occur, then there must be some sense in which our choices are not absolutely free (Grudem 1994:192-194).
D. Fate is not biblical teaching
I do not find ‘fate’ to be a biblical doctrine. Nowhere in Scripture do I find such language as God’s doctrine of fate. So, my response was:
The idea of ‘fate’ is not a biblical doctrine. However, the teaching on God’s sovereignty of the universe is core Christian teaching as the following verses demonstrate:
- In the parable of the labourers in the vineyard, Jesus said: ‘Am I not allowed to do what I choose with what belongs to me? Or do you begrudge my generosity?’ (Matt 20:15 ESV).
- To the Romans, Paul wrote: ‘But who are you, O man, to answer back to God? Will what is molded say to its molder, “Why have you made me like this?” Has the potter no right over the clay, to make out of the same lump one vessel for honorable use and another for dishonorable use?’ (Rom 9:20-21 ESV)
- Could anything be clearer than Eph 1:11 (ESV)? ‘In him we have obtained an inheritance, having been predestined according to the purpose of him who works all things according to the counsel of his will’.
- This verse from the OT makes it clear that not fate, but God’s sovereignty, rules the universe: ‘Yours, O Lord, is the greatness and the power and the glory and the victory and the majesty, for all that is in the heavens and in the earth is yours. Yours is the kingdom, O Lord, and you are exalted as head above all’ (1 Chronicles 29:11).
I conclude that the biblical teaching is that God, as Creator of the visible and invisible world, is the owner of all there is and he has an absolute right to rule the universe according to his holy and wise counsel. This includes God’s designated use and affirmation of government. Romans 13:1 (ESV) states of government: ‘Let every person be subject to the governing authorities. For there is no authority except from God, and those that exist have been instituted by God’.
And that includes the evil governments of the Roman emperors in the early Christian centuries AD, Hitler, Eichmann, Stalin, Pol Pot , Idi Amin, and corrupt governments around the world. God has not told us why he has allowed this evil to reign in world governments. But this we know:
(1) God is sovereign. He ‘works all things according to the counsel of his will (Eph 1:11),
(2) God will be glorified in all that happens in our world. ‘To him belong glory and dominion forever and ever’ (1 Peter 4:11), and
Augustine 1887. On grace and free will (online). Tr by P Holmes & R E Wallis, rev B B Warfield. From Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers, First Series, Vol. 5. P Schaff (ed). Buffalo, NY: Christian Literature Publishing Co. Rev & ed for New Advent by K Knight. Available at: http://www.newadvent.org/fathers/1510.htm (Accessed 8 July 2015).
Grudem, W 1994. Systematic Theology: An Introduction to Biblical Doctrine. Grand Rapids, Michigan: Zondervan Publishing House. An online copy is available at: http://storage.cloversites.com/firstbaptistchurchoffairburn/documents/Systematic_Theology_-_Wayne_Grudem.pdf (Accessed 9 July 2015).
 JesusBoy86#1, Christian Forums.net, ‘Fate vs Free Will’, June 20, 2015. Available at: http://christianforums.net/Fellowship/index.php?threads/fate-vs-free-will.60076/ (Accessed 8 July 2015).
 Ibid., JesusBoy86#18.
 Ibid., JesusBoy#3.
 Ibid., Brother Mike#2.
 Ibid., Brother Mike#4.
 Ibid., JoJoe#11.
 Ibid., Brother Mike#12.
 Ibid., Brother Mike#14. This poster had lots of other Scripture with which he interacted briefly. I recommend a read of his post online.
 Ibid., Butch5#22.
 Ibid., Doulos Iesou#25.
 A footnote stated, ‘Lit heart’.
 The footnote here was, ‘Lit mentioned, and it did not arise on My heart’.
 The footnote was: ‘The word “here” is not in the text. However, it is implicit from the rest of the context. It is supplied in the translation for clarity’.
 The footnote here stated: ‘The words “such sacrifices” are not in the text. The text merely says “to burn their children in the fire as burnt offerings to Baal which I did not command.” The command obviously refers not to the qualification “to Baal” but to burning the children in the fire as burnt offerings. The words are supplied in the translation to avoid a possible confusion that the reference is to sacrifices to Baal. Likewise the words should not be translated so literally that they leave the impression that God never said anything about sacrificing their children to other gods. The fact is he did. See Lev 18:21; Deut 12:30; 18:10’.
 The footnote at this point was, ‘Heb “It never entered my heart.” The words “to command such a thing” do not appear in the Hebrew but are added for the sake of clarity’.
 Grudem’s footnote at this point was: ‘The same phrase (“to have a thought enter into the heart”) seems to have the sense “desire, wish for, long for” in all five of its occurrences in the Hebrew Old Testament: Isa. 65:17; Jer. 3:16 (where it cannot mean simply “have a factual knowledge of” ); 7:31; 19:5; 32:35; as well as in the equivalent Greek phrase in Acts 7:23.
 Grudem discusses this question further in his chapter on God’s providence (chapter 16, in Grudem 1994:347–349).
 Grudem did not at this point provide a bibliographic reference for this citation (Grudem 1994;192). However, Augustine does use the language of human beings having ‘free choice’ with this statement: ‘Now He has revealed to us, through His Holy Scriptures, that there is in a man a free choice of will. But how He has revealed this I do not recount in human language, but in divine. There is, to begin with, the fact that God’s precepts themselves would be of no use to a man unless he had free choice of will, so that by performing them he might obtain the promised rewards’ (Augustine 1887:2)
 Christian Forums.net, OzSpen#35.
Copyright © 2015 Spencer D. Gear. This document last updated at Date: 8 January 2019.