The Bible’s Viewpoint
Fate—Does It Shape Your Future?
A HAND delicately brushes aside dirt from the face of a child, a tender act common to many parents. Only this situation is ghastly different. The child, about to be buried, is one of the more than 2,000 killed in a disaster that shocked all India into grief as the rest of the world gasped in horror. The scene was the aftermath of a cloud of oozing, poisonous white gas that left injury and death as it settled over the city of Bhopal.
Some Indians look at this tragedy and cry out, “Fate!” Others resign themselves to such thoughts as, ‘It was decreed,’ or, ‘It was written.’ But not all Indians pin the blame for Bhopal’s disaster on blind fate.
What do you believe? Was fate responsible? Does fate shape our future?
Does Fate ‘Pull Your Strings’?
Fate’s associated doctrine of fatalism teaches that “events are fixed in advance for all time in such a manner that human beings are powerless to change them.” By whom? “An impersonal supernatural force,” some fatalists will answer. Others believe that a god has determined one’s whole life pattern, including the time and manner of death, and nothing can be done to alter it.
The Bible, though, presents a contrasting view. It says that some events and the fate of the good and the bad are predestined, but the destinies of individuals are not fixed. The Dictionary of the Bible, commenting on the word “fate” as used in one translation, states: “An examination of the context shows that nowhere is a blind fatalism presented. Sometimes the reference is to the common lot of men, and sometimes to the doom which men bring on themselves or which is brought on the community.”—See Numbers 16:29 in the Revised Standard Version as one example.
Note how the Bible upholds the basic reasonable rule of cause and effect, as it says: “Do not be misled: God is not one to be mocked. For whatever a man is sowing, this he will also reap.” (Galatians 6:7) This verse is an axiom. It needs no proof, no “because.” Hence, since we reap what we sow, is it not evident that we are responsible for the results of many things that happen to us? Blind fate does not decide.
Freedom of Choice
We have freedom of choice. That a choice does exist is evident from the following scripture: “I have put life and death before you, the blessing and the malediction; and you must choose life in order that you may keep alive, you and your offspring, by loving Jehovah your God, by listening to his voice and by sticking to him; for he is your life and the length of your days.” (Deuteronomy 30:19, 20) Why would Jehovah God encourage us to choose life if no choice existed?
If we were merely fleshly robots whose actions had been predetermined by some celestial programmer, what value would there be in Jesus’ advice to “exert yourselves vigorously to get in through the narrow door” that leads to everlasting life? Or what significance would there be in his statement: “He that has endured to the end is the one that will be saved”? None whatsoever! A spiritually sluggish person would have no reason to exert himself to serve God or to endure in holding fast to Biblical guidelines.—Luke 13:24; Matthew 24:13.
If Jesus’ follower Paul believed that his final destiny was already firmly set, then these words of his become meaningless: “Not that I have become perfect yet: I have not yet won, but I am still running, trying to capture the prize for which Christ Jesus captured me. I can assure you my brothers, I am far from thinking that I have already won. All I can say is that I forget the past and I strain ahead for what is still to come; I am racing for the finish, for the prize to which God calls us upwards.”—Philippians 3:12-14, The Jerusalem Bible.
Would it make sense for a Christian to “strain ahead” and ‘race for the finish’ if fate had dictated who would win even before the race began? Really, why enter the race at all? The ‘whatever will be, will be’ creed just does not measure up with the Bible’s viewpoint.
Therefore, we are not merely puppets on strings in the hands of a superior power who governs our every action. Our destiny was not sealed before our birth.
Why Bad Happens to the Good
If fate does not shape our lives, then why does it seem that bad things happen to good people? “Time and unforeseen occurrence” affect all of us is one answer the Bible gives. (Ecclesiastes 9:11) People can become innocent victims by coincidence. They may be in the wrong place at the wrong time.
Another answer found in the Bible is that mankind has inherited sin, thus imperfection. “Through one man sin entered into the world and death through sin, and thus death spread to all men because they had all sinned.” (Romans 5:12) Therefore, not only are the actions of people subject to error and defect but so are the things they build or manufacture. Safety precautions sidestepped, warnings sounded but not heeded, good intentions overcome by greed, and the like, can be charged to mankind’s imperfect nature.
Therefore, fate does not shape our future; we are free to choose our own destiny. The British poet William Ernest Henley expressed a similar conviction when he said: “I am the master of my fate; I am the captain of my soul.” Yet more than 3,000 years earlier than Henley, a Bible writer penned it more accurately. He knew that a good or a bad future was in his own hand. It depended on whether he elected to obey God or not. He wrote: “Choose for yourselves today whom you will serve . . . But as for me and my household, we shall serve Jehovah.”—Joshua 24:15.
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Did fate cause Bhopal’s tragedy?
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Many believe that one’s whole life has been determined and nothing can be done to alter it
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The Bible says that some events are predestined, but the destinies of individuals are not fixed