The Bible’s Viewpoint
Is Your Life Predestined?
One morning two men were driving to work when they decided to take a shortcut along a street where one of them used to live. On the way they saw flames shooting out of the windows of a house. They stopped their truck and used a ladder they had with them to rescue a mother and five children. “Maybe it was fate,” said a newspaper report of the incident.
MANY people feel that whatever happens to them, good or bad, has been decided by a force greater than themselves. For example, the 16th-century Reformer John Calvin wrote: “We define predestination as the eternal design of God, whereby he determined what he wanted to do with each man. For he did not create them all in the same condition, but foreordains some to everlasting life and others to eternal damnation.”
Does God really ordain ahead of time what our actions and our final destiny are going to be? What does the Bible teach?
The “Logic” of Predestination
Some who believe in predestination reason basically as follows: God is omniscient. He knows everything, even what is going to happen in the future. He knows what each person is going to do with his life, and he already knows the exact moment and manner of each person’s death. So, according to their thinking, when the time comes for an individual to make a decision, his choice cannot be other than the way God has foreseen and foreordained it; otherwise, God would not be all-knowing. Does this reasoning seem sound to you? Consider what its logical consequences would be.
If some force has already determined your future, then trying to take care of yourself is useless. Choosing to smoke or not to smoke would make no difference to your health or that of your children. Wearing a seat belt while riding in an automobile would have no effect on your safety. But this is faulty logic. Statistics show that people who take precautions suffer fewer fatal consequences. Carelessness can result in tragedy.
Consider another line of reasoning. If God chooses to foreknow everything, then even before he made Adam and Eve, he would have known that they would disobey him. But when God told Adam that he must not eat from “the tree of the knowledge of good and bad” or he would die, did God already know that Adam would eat from it? (Genesis 2:16, 17) When God told the first couple: “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,” did he know that their wonderful prospect of life in a paradise was doomed to failure? Of course not.—Genesis 1:28.
Taken to its logical conclusion, the idea that God foreknows all decisions would mean that he is responsible for all that happens—including wars, injustices, and suffering. Is that possible? A clear answer is provided by what God says about himself.
“You Must Choose”
The Scriptures state that “God is love” and that he is “a lover of justice.” He has always urged his people: “Hate what is bad, and love what is good.” (1 John 4:8; Psalm 37:28; Amos 5:15) On numerous occasions he encouraged his loyal ones to choose a virtuous course. For example, when Jehovah concluded a covenant with the ancient nation of Israel, he said to them, through Moses: “I do take the heavens and the earth as witnesses against you today, that 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.” (Deuteronomy 30:19) Did God establish ahead of time the choice that those individuals would make? Evidently not.
Joshua, a leader of God’s people in ancient times, exhorted his countrymen: “Choose for yourselves today whom you will serve . . . As for me and my household, we shall serve Jehovah.” (Joshua 24:15) Similarly, God’s prophet Jeremiah said: “Obey, please, the voice of Jehovah in what I am speaking to you, and it will go well with you, and your soul will continue to live.” (Jeremiah 38:20) Would a just and loving God encourage people to do right in the hope of receiving a reward if he knew that they were destined to fail? No. Such encouragement would be hypocritical.
So when good or bad things happen in your life, it is not because these events are inevitable. Very often, ‘unforeseen occurrences’ are simply the consequences of other people’s decisions—whether wise or unwise. (Ecclesiastes 9:11) No, your future is not planned out before you, and your own decisions determine what your everlasting future will be.
WHAT DO YOU THINK?
◼ What responsibility do you have?—Joshua 24:15.
[Blurb on page 13]
Statistics show that people who take precautions suffer fewer fatal consequences