Is Our Future Written in Advance?
CHRISTIAN, Muslim, Jew, Hindu, or believer of another religion—people of all faiths experience tragedy and grieve over such.
For example, on December 6, 1997, a terrible tragedy occurred in the Siberian city of Irkutsk. A huge AN-124 transport airplane had barely lifted off when two of its engines failed. The plane, fully fueled, plunged into a residential complex. Flames engulfed a number of apartment houses, bringing death and injury to scores of helpless occupants, including innocent children.
In the area in Siberia where that accident took place, there are likely people with differing religious views. Some might express belief in Christianity, yet they could still think that the tragedy was a result of fate. They and others might feel, ‘It was God’s will, and if those who were killed did not die in this way, they would have died in another manner—it was their fate.’
Such thinking, whether vocalized or not, reflects a concept that finds a place in many religions around the globe—fate. Many people believe that our future, from the day of our birth to the day of our death, is somehow written in advance.
Belief in fate takes various forms, making an all-encompassing definition difficult. Fate basically conveys the idea that everything that happens, every act, every event—whether good or bad—is inevitable; it is destined to occur because it has been determined in advance by a higher force, beyond the control of man. Such a concept can be found in astrology, in Hinduism’s and Buddhism’s karma, as well as in Christendom’s doctrine of predestination. Back in ancient Babylonia, men believed that the gods controlled fate and the future by means of a written document. Supposedly, any god who controlled these “tablets of destiny” could decide the fates of men, of kingdoms, and even of the gods themselves.
Many believers hold that by divine decree before humans are born, God determines all that will happen to people, including the length of their life, whether they will be male or female, rich or poor, miserable or happy. All of this is said to exist in God’s mind or to be written in a book before it comes to be. Thus it is not uncommon for a believer to say when calamity strikes, “mektoub,”—it is written! It is reasoned that since God knows everything beforehand, he must also determine who will obey him and who will disobey. Many adherents thus believe that even before a person is born, God has already determined whether he is destined for everlasting bliss in Paradise or he will receive everlasting doom.
You may feel that this sounds very much like the doctrine of predestination taught in some churches of Christendom. The foremost Protestant proponent of predestination was the 16th-century French Reformer John Calvin. He defined predestination as “the eternal decree of God, by which he determined what he wanted to do with each man. Not all are created in the same condition, but eternal life is foreordained for some and eternal damnation for others.” Calvin also asserted: “God not only foresaw the fall of the first man, and in him the ruin of his posterity; but also at his own pleasure arranged it.”
Yet, not all members of religions that teach predestination or fatalism believe it personally. Some rightly point out that the religious writings mention man’s free will. In fact, there has been great controversy over human actions, whether they are the consequence of a free human choice or they are predetermined by God. Some, for example, have argued that man must be free to choose and act, since God, who is just, holds man responsible and accountable for his acts. Others have said that God creates the acts of man but that man somehow “acquires” them and becomes responsible for them. Generally speaking, however, many hold that every event, large and small, in our daily lives has been decreed by God.
What do you believe? Has God already determined what your future will be? Do humans truly have free will, the ability to make real choices about their future? To what extent is our destiny contingent upon our own actions? The following article will seek to give answers to these questions.
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