Definition: An inevitable and often adverse outcome. Fatalism is the belief that all events are determined by the divine will or by some force greater than man, that every event must take place as it does because it has been predetermined. Not a Bible word or teaching.

Does everyone have a predetermined “time to die”?

This belief was popular among the Greeks and Romans. According to pagan Greek mythology, the Fates were three goddesses that spun the thread of life, determined its length, and cut it.

Ecclesiastes 3:1, 2 speaks of “a time to die.” But, showing that this is not a predetermined fixed moment for the individual, Ecclesiastes 7:17 counsels: “Do not be wicked overmuch, nor become foolish. Why should you die when it is not your time?” Proverbs 10:27 says: “The years themselves of the wicked ones will be cut short.” And Psalm 55:23 adds: “As for bloodguilty and deceitful men, they will not live out half their days.” What, then, does Ecclesiastes 3:1, 2 mean? It is simply discussing the continuous cycle of life and death in this imperfect system of things. There is a time when people are born and a time when they die—usually at not more than 70 or 80 years of age, but sometimes sooner and sometimes later.—Ps. 90:10; see also Ecclesiastes 9:11.

If each one’s moment and manner of death were already fixed at the time of birth or earlier, there would be no need to avoid dangerous situations or to care for one’s health, and safety precautions would not alter mortality rates. But do you believe that a battlefield during war is as safe as one’s home far away from the war zone? Do you care for your health or take your children to the doctor? Why do smokers die three to four years younger, on an average, than nonsmokers? Why are there fewer fatal accidents when automobile passengers wear seat belts and when drivers obey traffic laws? Obviously, taking precautions is beneficial.

Is everything that happens “the will of God”?

2 Pet. 3:9: “Jehovah . . . is patient with you because he does not desire any to be destroyed but desires all to attain to repentance.” (But not all respond to his patience. Clearly, it is not “the will of God” when some fail to repent. Compare Revelation 9:20, 21.)

Jer. 7:23-26: “This word I did express in command upon them [Israel], saying: ‘Obey my voice, and I will become your God, and you yourselves will become my people; and you must walk in all the way that I shall command you, in order that it may go well with you.’ But they did not listen . . . I kept sending to you all my servants the prophets, daily getting up early and sending them. But they did not listen to me, and they did not incline their ear, but they kept hardening their neck.” (Obviously, the badness taking place in Israel was not “the will of God.”)

Mark 3:35: “Whoever does the will of God, this one is my brother and sister and mother.” (If whatever anyone did was “the will of God,” then everyone would have enjoyed the kind of relationship with Jesus that he there described. But he said to some: “You are from your father the Devil.”—John 8:44.)

What accounts for many seemingly unexplainable things that occur?

Eccl. 9:11: “Time and unforeseen occurrence [“chance,” NE, RS] befall them all.” (Thus, not due to any foreseeing of a person’s life, but due to chance he may become a victim of unfortunate circumstances.)

Do humans bear responsibility for much of the hardship suffered by themselves and others of humankind?

Rom. 5:12: “Through one man [Adam] sin entered into the world and death through sin, and thus death spread to all men because they had all sinned.” (Imperfections, including inclinations toward wrongdoing, are inherited from Adam by all of us.)

Eccl. 8:9: “Man has dominated man to his injury.”

Prov. 13:1: “A son is wise where there is a father’s discipline.” (What parents do has a great influence on the lives of their offspring.)

Gal. 6:7: “Do not be misled: God is not one to be mocked. For whatever a man is sowing, this he will also reap.” (Also Proverbs 11:17; 23:29, 30; 29:15; 1 Corinthians 6:18)

Are there superhuman forces that also cause woe to mankind?

Rev. 12:12: “Woe for the earth and for the sea, because the Devil has come down to you, having great anger, knowing he has a short period of time.” (Also Acts 10:38)

Does God foreknow and foreordain everything?

Isa. 46:9, 10: “I am the Divine One and there is no other God, nor anyone like me; the One telling from the beginning the finale, and from long ago the things that have not been done; the One saying, ‘My own counsel will stand, and everything that is my delight I shall do.’” (He makes known his purpose, foreordains certain matters in connection with its accomplishment, and has the almighty power to assure that these will be fulfilled.)

Isa. 11:1-3: “There must go forth a twig out of the stump of Jesse; and out of his roots a sprout will be fruitful. [Jesus was born in the line of Jesse.] And upon him the spirit of Jehovah must settle down, . . . and there will be enjoyment by him in the fear of Jehovah.” (Jehovah could confidently foretell this regarding his Son because He had observed his attitude and conduct in the heavens since the beginning of creation.) (Regarding Jesus’ prehuman existence, see pages 216, 217, under the heading “Jesus Christ.”)

Deut. 31:20, 21: “I shall bring them [the nation of Israel] to the ground that I have sworn about to their forefathers, which flows with milk and honey, and they will certainly eat and be satisfied and grow fat and turn to other gods, and they will indeed serve them and treat me with disrespect and break my covenant. And it must occur that when many calamities and distresses will come upon them, this song [recounting how they acted because of failing to appreciate God’s favor] must also answer before them as a witness, . . . for I well know their inclination that they are developing today before I bring them into the land about which I have sworn.” (Note that God’s ability to discern the outcome of their course did not mean that he was responsible for it or that it was what he wanted for them, but on the basis of what they were doing he could foresee the outcome. Similarly, on the basis of what is observed, a weather forecaster may predict the weather with a great degree of accuracy, but he does not cause it or necessarily like it.)

Does God’s ability to foreknow and foreordain events prove that he does this regarding all the actions of all his creatures?

Rev. 22:17: “Let anyone hearing say: ‘Come!’ And let anyone thirsting come; let anyone that wishes take life’s water free.” (The choice is not foreordained; it is left to the individual.)

Rom. 2:4, 5: “Do you despise the riches of his kindness and forbearance and long-suffering, because you do not know that the kindly quality of God is trying to lead you to repentance? But according to your hardness and unrepentant heart you are storing up wrath for yourself on the day of wrath and of the revealing of God’s righteous judgment.” (There is no forcing of individuals to pursue a prescribed course. But there is accountability for what one does.)

Zeph. 2:3: “Seek Jehovah, all you meek ones of the earth . . . Seek righteousness, seek meekness. Probably you may be concealed in the day of Jehovah’s anger.” (Would a just and loving God encourage people to do what is right, in hope of a reward, if he knew that they were foreordained not to succeed?)

Illustration: The owner of a radio can listen to the world news. But the fact that he can listen to a certain station does not mean that he does. He must first turn on the radio and then select the station. Likewise, Jehovah has the ability to foreknow events, but the Bible shows that he makes selective and discretionary use of that ability, with due regard for the free will with which he has endowed his human creation.—Compare Genesis 22:12; 18:20, 21.

When God created Adam, did he know that Adam would sin?

Here is what God set before Adam and Eve: “Be fruitful and become many and fill the earth and subdue it, and have in subjection the fish of the sea and the flying creatures of the heavens and every living creature that is moving upon the earth.” “And Jehovah God also laid this command upon the man: ‘From every tree of the garden you may eat to satisfaction. But as for the tree of the knowledge of good and bad you must not eat from it, for in the day you eat from it you will positively die.’” (Gen. 1:28; 2:16, 17) Would you encourage your children to undertake a project with a marvelous future, knowing from the start that it was doomed to failure? Would you warn them of harm, while knowing that you had planned everything so that they were sure to come to grief? Is it reasonable, then, to attribute such to God?

Matt. 7:11: “If you, although being wicked [or, “bad as you are,” NE], know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more so will your Father who is in the heavens give good things to those asking him?”

If God foreordained and foreknew Adam’s sin and all that would result from this, it would mean that by creating Adam, God deliberately set in motion all the wickedness committed in human history. He would be the Source of all the wars, the crime, the immorality, the oppression, the lying, the hypocrisy, the disease. But the Bible clearly says: “You are not a God taking delight in wickedness.” (Ps. 5:4) “Anyone loving violence His soul certainly hates.” (Ps. 11:5) “God . . . cannot lie.” (Titus 1:2) “From oppression and from violence he [the One designated by God as Messianic King] will redeem their soul, and their blood will be precious in his eyes.” (Ps. 72:14) “God is love.” (1 John 4:8) “He is a lover of righteousness and justice.”—Ps. 33:5.

Did God predestinate Jacob and Esau?

Gen. 25:23: “Jehovah proceeded to say to her [Rebekah]: ‘Two nations are in your belly, and two national groups will be separated from your inward parts; and the one national group will be stronger than the other national group, and the older [Esau] will serve the younger [Jacob].’” (Jehovah was able to read the genetic pattern of the unborn twins. He may have considered this when foreseeing the qualities that each of the boys would develop and foretelling the outcome. [Ps. 139:16] But there is no indication here that he fixed their eternal destinies or that he predetermined how each event in their lives would turn out.)

Was Judas Iscariot predestined to betray Jesus?

Ps. 41:9: “The man at peace with me, in whom I trusted, who was eating my bread, has magnified his heel against me.” (Notice that the prophecy does not specify which close associate of Jesus it would be. Jehovah knew that the Devil had used David’s counselor Ahithophel to betray him, and He had that recorded because it demonstrated how the Devil operated and what he would do in the future. It was not God but “the Devil . . . [who] put it into the heart of Judas Iscariot, the son of Simon, to betray him [Jesus].” [John 13:2] Instead of resisting, Judas yielded to that satanic influence.)

John 6:64: “From the beginning Jesus knew . . . who was the one that would betray him.” (Not from the beginning of creation, nor from the time of Judas’ birth, but “from the beginning” of his acting treacherously. Compare Genesis 1:1, Luke 1:2, and 1 John 2:7, 13, in each of which texts “beginning” is used in a relative sense. Take note also of John 12:4-6.)

Does not the apostle Paul speak of Christians as being “predestinated”?

Rom. 8:28, 29: “We know that God makes all his works cooperate together for the good of those who love God, those who are the ones called according to his purpose; because those whom he gave his first recognition he also foreordained [“predestinated,” KJ] to be patterned after the image of his Son, that he might be the firstborn among many brothers.” (Also Eph. 1:5, 11) Yet, to these same ones, 2 Peter 1:10 says: “Do your utmost to make the calling and choosing of you sure for yourselves; for if you keep on doing these things you will by no means ever fail.” (If the individuals were predestinated to salvation, they could not possibly fail, regardless of what they did. Since effort is required on the part of the individuals, it must be the class that is foreordained. God purposed that the entire class would conform to the pattern set by Jesus Christ. Those selected by God to be part of that class, however, must prove faithful if they are actually to attain the reward set before them.)

Eph. 1:4, 5: “He chose us in union with him [Jesus Christ] before the founding of the world, that we should be holy and without blemish before him in love. For he foreordained us to the adoption through Jesus Christ as sons to himself, according to the good pleasure of his will.” (It is noteworthy that, at Luke 11:50, 51, Jesus parallels “the founding of the world” with the time of Abel. Abel is the first human who continued to have God’s favor throughout his life. Thus, it was after the rebellion in Eden but before the conception of Abel that God formed his purpose to produce a “seed” through which deliverance would be provided. [Gen. 3:15] God purposed that associated with the principal Seed, Jesus Christ, would be a group of his faithful followers who would share with him in a new government over the earth, the Messianic Kingdom.)

Do the stars and the planets influence events in our lives or provide omens that we should weigh when making decisions?

What is the origin of astrology?

“Western astrology can be traced directly to the theories and practices of the Chaldeans and Babylonians of the 2000’s B.C.”—The Encyclopedia Americana (1977), Vol. 2, p. 557.

“Astrology was based upon two Babylonic ideas: the zodiac, and the divinity of the heavenly bodies. . . . The Babylonians credited the planets with the influences that one would expect of their respective deities.”—Great Cities of the Ancient World (New York, 1972), L. Sprague de Camp, p. 150.

“In Babylonia as well as in Assyria as a direct offshoot of Babylonian culture . . . astrology takes its place in the official cult as one of the two chief means at the disposal of the priests . . . for ascertaining the will and intention of the gods, the other being through the inspection of the liver of the sacrificial animal. . . . The movements of the sun, moon and five planets were regarded as representing the activity of the five gods in question, together with the moon-god Sin and the sun-god Shamash, in preparing the occurrences on earth.”—Encyclopædia Britannica (1911), Vol. II, p. 796.

What is the viewpoint of mankind’s Creator toward this practice?

Deut. 18:10-12: “There should not be found in you anyone who . . . employs divination, a practicer of magic or anyone who looks for omens . . . For everybody doing these things is something detestable to Jehovah.”

To the Babylonians he said: “Let your astrologers, your star-gazers who foretell your future month by month, persist, and save you! But look, they are gone like chaff . . . So much for your magicians with whom you have trafficked all your life: they have stumbled off, each his own way, and there is no one to save you.”—Isa. 47:13-15, NE.