See P. Maury, Predestination (1960); J. H. Rainbow, The Will of God and the Cross (1990).
In Christianity, the doctrine that God has long ago determined who will be saved and who will be damned. Three types of predestination doctrine have developed. One doctrine holds that God singled out the saved because he foresaw their future merits. A second doctrine (often identified with John Calvin) states that from eternity God has determined the saved and the damned, regardless of their merit or lack thereof. A third doctrine, set forth by Thomas Aquinas and Martin Luther, ascribes salvation to the unmerited grace of God but links the lack of grace to sin. In Islam, issues of predestination and free will were argued extensively. The Mutazila held that God would be unjust if he predestined all human actions; the Ashariya advocated a strict predestination that became the mainstream Islamic view.
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For example, some may speak of predestination from a purely physical perspective, such as in a discussion of time travel. In this case, rather than referring to the afterlife, predestination refers to any events that will occur in the future. In a predestined universe the future is immutable and only one set of events can possibly occur; in a non-predestined universe, the future is mutable. In Chinese Buddhism, predestination is a translation of yuanfen, which does not necessarily imply the existence or involvement of a deity. Predestination in this sense takes on a very literal meaning: pre- (before) and destiny, in a straightforward way indicating that some events seem bound to happen.
All conceptions of an ordered or rational cosmos have determinist implications, as a logical consequence of the idea of predictability. But predestination usually refers to a specifically religious type of determinism, especially as found in various monotheistic systems where omniscience is attributed to God, including Christianity and Islam.
It is also the concept of destiny in a path to religious freedom.
Within Christendom, there is considerable disagreement about God's role in setting ultimate destinies (that is, eternal life or eternal destruction). Christians who follow teachers such as St. Augustine and John Calvin generally accept that God does decide the eternal destinations of each person, so that their future actions or beliefs follow according to God's choice. A contrasting Christian view maintains that God is completely sovereign over all things but that he chose to give each individual free will, which each person can exercise to accept or reject God's offer of salvation and hence God's actions and determinations follow according to man's choice.
Judaism may accept the possibility that God is atemporal; some forms of Jewish theology teach this virtually as a principle of faith, while other forms of Judaism do not. Jews may use the term omniscience, or preordination as a corollary of omniscience, but normally reject the idea of predestination as being incompatible with the free will and responsibility of moral agents, and it therefore has no place in their religion.
Islam traditionally has strong views of predestination similar to some found in Christianity. In Islam, Allah both knows and ordains whatever comes to pass. Muslims believe that God is literally atemporal, eternal and omniscient.
In terms of ultimates, with God's decision to create as the ultimate beginning, and the ultimate outcome, a belief system has a doctrine of predestination if it teaches:
There are numerous ways to describe the spectrum of beliefs concerning predestination in Christian thinking. To some extent, this spectrum has analogies in other monotheistic religions, although in other religions the term predestination may not be used. For example, teaching on predestination may vary in terms of three considerations.
Furthermore, the same sort of considerations apply to the freedom of man's will.
On the other end of the spectrum is the position that the Creator (or a foreign Being, object, etc.) exercises absolute control over human will and/or that all decisions originate with some outside cause, leaving no room for freedom..
It is important to note that there is no significant representation among predestinarians, for the idea that human choices are unreal, merely the direct expression of the Creator's will. The analogy implied here, means that however else human and divine freedom may be comparable, there is an unlikeness between the free will of the Creator and human freedom which is dependent upon the Creator for both, existence and power. With no significant exception, when predestinarians deny that man has freedom of will, it is in order to deny that man's will is free in the same sense as the Creator's will, or to affirm that man's choices are entirely subject to divine causation. Men are responsible without being absolutely original. This is particularly true in these systems, if they acknowledge a doctrine of Original Sin, whereby every person is understood to be born into a condition of helplessness under the power or the effects of sin; for whom, either through inherited guilt, or the inherited consequences of guilt, a purely free choice of the good is not possible without the aid of God's undeserved grace.
Traditional Islam holds to the powerlessness of human will, apart from the aid of Allah, and yet without a doctrine of Original Sin. Thus, Islam has the simplest version of predestination, viewing all that comes to pass as the will of Allah. And yet, the Qur'an affirms human responsibility, saying for example: "Allah changeth not the condition of a people until they change that which is in their hearts". There is no significant view of predestination that entirely relieves man of responsibility for his own choices.
Therefore, all significant versions of predestination account for the differences between people (perhaps in life or, in death, or both) by reference to the will of the Creator. Also, all versions of predestination incorporate into the doctrine various concepts of human responsibility, which differ from one another in terms of the kind of volitional freedom possible for the creature.
In these terms, The Eastern Orthodox Church tradition has never adopted the Augustinian view of predestination, and formed a doctrine of predestination by another historical route, sometimes called Semi-Pelagianism in the West. The Western Church, including the Roman Catholic and Protestant denominations, are predominantly Augustinian in some form, especially as interpreted by Gregory the Great and the Council of Orange (a Western council that anathemitized Semi- Pelagianism as represented in some of the writings of John Cassian and his followers). This council explicitly denies double predestination.
In Roman Catholic doctrine, the accepted understanding of predestination most predominantly follows the interpretation of Thomas Aquinas, and can be contrasted with the Jansenist interpretation of Augustinianism, which was condemned by the Catholic Church during the Counter-Reformation. The only important branch of Western Christianity that continues to hold to a double predestination interpretation of Augustinianism, is within the Calvinist branch of the Protestant Reformation. The meaning of this term is discussed under the subsection on Calvinism, below.
In broad Christian conversation, predestination refers to the view of predestination commonly associated with John Calvin and the Calvinist branch of the Protestant Reformation; and, this is the non-technical sense in which the term is typically used today, when belief in predestination is affirmed or denied.
This view is commonly called double predestination, although within a Calvinist system this term is usually accepted only with qualifications, and many reject the term altogether as being incompatible with the pastoral use of the doctrine of election.
Double predestination is the eternal act of God, whereby the future of every particular person in the human race has been determined beforehand, by God. Whatever the individual wills or does, for good or for evil, is conceived as performing a functional part, or outworking of that ordained purpose. This prior determination applies to both, the elect and the reprobate. This idea is formed on an interpretation of various Scriptures in the Old and New Testaments. Romans 9 is frequently quoted in explanation of the doctrine.
Calvinist groups use the term "Hyper-Calvinism" to describe Calvinistic systems that assert without qualification that God's intention to destroy some is equal to His intention to save others. Some forms of Hyper-Calvinism have racial implications, against which other Calvinists vigorously object (see Afrikaner Calvinism).
Expressed sympathetically, the Calvinist doctrine is that God has mercy or withholds it, with particular consciousness of who are to be the recipients of mercy in Christ. Therefore, the particular persons are chosen, out of the total number of human beings, who will be rescued from enslavement to sin and the fear of death, and from punishment due to sin, to dwell forever in His presence. Those who are being saved are assured through the gifts of faith, the sacraments, and communion with God through prayer and increase of good works, that their reconciliation with Him through Christ is settled by the sovereign determination of God's will. God also has particular consciousness of those who are passed over by His selection, who are without excuse for their rebellion against Him, and will be judged for their sins.
By implication, and expressed unsympathetically, the number of the elect subtracted from the total number, leaves an exact number of those who are consciously passed over by the mercy of God, who will dwell forever away from His presence, without regard to anything that otherwise distinguishes people from one another. All are believed to be undeserving, whether they are rich or poor, male or female, murderers or philanthropists, or any other difference. In other words, God determines the exact numbers of the damned and the saved, and these numbers are consciously known and indeed, decided upon by God, before any of these individuals have begun to exist.
Thus, Calvinists may acknowledge with qualifications that, double predestination is a legitimate position, logically deduced from any form of single predestination that does not include universal salvation.
Calvinists typically divide on the issue of predestination into infralapsarians (sometimes called 'sublapsarians') and supralapsarians. Infralapsarians believe that God chose his elect considering the situation after the Fall, while supralapsarians believe that the Fall was ordained by God's decree of election. In infralapsarianism, election is God's response to the Fall, while in supralapsarianism the Fall is part of God's plan for election. In spite of the division, many Calvinist theologians would consider the debate surrounding the infra- and supralapsarian positions one in which scant Scriptural evidence can be mustered in either direction, and which at any rate has little effect on the overall doctrine.
Some Calvinists decline from describing the eternal decree of God in terms of a sequence of events or thoughts, and many caution against the simplifications involved in describing any action of God in speculative terms. Most make distinctions between the positive manner in which God chooses some to be recipients of grace, and the manner in which grace is consciously withheld so that some are destined for everlasting punishments.
Debate concerning predestination according to the common usage, concerns the destiny of the damned, whether God is just if that destiny is settled prior to the existence of any actual volition of the individual, and whether the individual is in any meaningful sense responsible for his destiny if it is settled by the eternal action of God.
Arminians similarly hold that God does not so much choose, but instead infallibly predicts, who will believe and, persevering, be saved. Although God knows from the beginning of the world who will go where, the choice is still with the individual.
Barthians provide a view of predestination by which it is hoped that the antithesis between Augustinianism and Pelagianism is entirely circumvented. In this scheme, predestination only properly applies to God Himself. Thus, mankind is chosen for salvation in Jesus Christ, at the permanent cost of God's self-surrendered hiddenness, or transcendence. Thus, the redemption of all mankind is a devoutly to be wished for possibility, but the only inevitability is that God has predestined Himself, in Jesus Christ, to be revealed and given for mankind's salvation.
Lutherans: Drawing on Luther's "Bondage of the Will" written in his debate over freewill with Erasmus, Lutherans hold doctrinally to a view of single predestination. That is to say, desiring to save all fallen human beings, God sent his Son Jesus Christ to atone for the sins of the whole world on the cross. Those God saves have been predestined from eternity in Christ. Those who are condemned are condemned because of their fallen will. While these statements may seem like they contradict each other, this is what Luther saw as THE major story-line within scripture and didn't attempt to systematically or logically "fix" it. The underlying question here is, of course, if God wants all to be saved and Jesus died for everyone, why doesn't God convert the fallen will of all? This is a question that Lutherans, following Luther, put into the category of the "hidden God", the God "behind the cross" who we don't know everything about. The answer to the question lies within God's "hidden counsel" that we are to have nothing to do with. If we doubt our own predestination, we should look for it in the God who has revealed himself in the wounds of Christ on the cross and there see a God who loved us enough to die for us. For Lutherans, systematic treatment of predestination follows the Gospel (What God has done for us in Jesus Christ) rather than being a topic discussed prior to the Gospel. As such, the sole purpose of predestination is to reinforce "Justification by Grace through Faith soley on account of Christ". Believers are reminded "you didn't choose God, God chose you in Christ!"
Nevertheless, these belief systems may retain an idea of God's decision eternally determining the present or future, in the sense of God's decision being logically prior, or "transcendentally necessary" to all existence. Time is not a "thing", but rather, a succession of the intersections of God's manifold purposes being revealed in the creation. Time is the succession of events, identified as moments by an intentional, mental act of setting one event apart from another and noticing their relation to one another - but, otherwise time does not exist as irreducible, discrete moments. Time is coherent, because God consistently acts according to his own character.
Strong predestinarian views are basically undisturbed by these assumptions, because strong predestination is based upon God's knowledge of Himself and of His own purposes. The effect of these new views of time are more clearly seen among those who reject strong predestinarian views, because those views classically share a comparable conception of the relation between time and eternity.
Predestinarian version: God, in comparison to temporality, always is. Temporal things however, exist from each fleeting moment of being to the next, only in the present. Such a conception of reality may be thoroughly predestinarian, if God is the personal cause of continued existence and the orchestrator or determiner of the relationship between each present event and each subsequent present event; but, it is only predestination if in this conception God acts with absolute freedom and entire knowledge of Himself. God brings to pass each moment in its turn by a continuous, timeless act of self-revelation. God sustains the effectiveness of all secondary causes and choices, and so on. Thus, each moment is a disclosure of God's character. The meaning of time and experience is disclosed not in the subjective relation of the present to the past and the future, but rather, because of the relation of all created things, in every aspect, to the will of God. As a logical consequence, the meaning of history is known only through the knowledge of God (an idea similar to this can be found in the speculations of Augustine of Hippo and some Calvinist philosophers, such as Herman Dooyeweerd).
Anti-predestinarian version: If the idea of absolute freedom and entire self-knowledge is absent from this kind of idea of God's acts in time, then God Himself is (to express the idea anthropomorphically) becoming something new, or discovering something new about Himself with each new moment, just as we are. It's as though God is waking up to the possibilities that are inherent in temporally limited acts, and like an artist developing his ideas in dynamic interaction with an ever-changing medium, He is making new discoveries about himself every day. A summary of such a view might be that, the present is an encounter "in God" with new possibilities (where "God" is sometimes not understood "theistically", in the sense of a "person"), and the past is thus a record or remembrance "by God" of the experiences of existent beings. Or, put another way, the past is what God has thus far become in the process of all experience, and the future is pure possibility. Predestination is completely excluded from such a system, except possibly in the most broad outlines of God's intentions. God's decision, on such a view, is an inventive experience, almost precisely equivalent to the unfolding process of historical events (thinking like this can be found in modern process theology and Open Theism).
There are other types of Christian or Christian-influenced belief, which exclude the personality, or the volitional aspect of the personality of God, so that even if they express some form of determinism, it is not predestination in a theistic sense.
The early church fathers consistently uphold the freedom of human choice. This position was crucial in the Christian confrontation with Cynicism and some of the chief forms of Gnosticism, such as Manichaeism, which taught that man is by nature flawed and therefore not responsible for evil in himself or in the world. At the same time, belief in human responsibility to do good as a precursor to salvation and eternal reward was consistent. The decision to do good along with God's aid pictured a synergism of the human will and God's will. The early church Fathers taught a doctrine of conditional predestination.
Augustine of Hippo marks the beginning of a system of thought that denies free will and affirms that salvation needs an initial input by God in the life of every person. While his early writings affirm that God's predestinating grace is granted on the basis of his foreknowledge of the human desire to pursue salvation, this changed after 396. His later position affirmed the necessity of God granting grace in order for the desire for salvation to be awakened. Augustine's thoughts thus took a more determinist (or "unconditional") direction as he wrestled with the implications of the writings of the Apostle Paul.
Augustine's position raised objections. Julian bishop of Eclanum, expressed that Augustine was bringing Manichee thoughts into the church. For Vincent of Lérins, this was a disturbing innovation. This new tension eventually became obvious with the confrontation between Augustine and Pelagius culminating in condemnation of Pelagianism (as interpreted by Augustine) at the Council of Ephesus in 431. The British monk Pelagius denied Augustine's view of "predestination" in order to affirm that salvation is achieved by an act of free will.
The influence of Augustine also then showed in translations of the bible from that time on. Variations which are not in themselves visible in the syntax or grammar of the New Testament Greek text. Perhaps the best example of this in the Vulgate is the addition of 'prae' to 'ordinati' in Acts 13:48 which is there only to give the idea this was God who did this. Later translations show this influence of the doctrine by the additions of the word 'his' in Romans 8:28 and 11:22 all suggesting an interpretation consistent with unconditional election.
Augustine's formulation is neither complete nor universally accepted by Christians. But his system laid the foundation onto virgin ground for the then later writers and innovators of the Reformation period.
Arminius used a philosophy called Molinism (named for the philosopher, Luis de Molina) that attempted to reconcile freedom with God's omniscience. They both saw human freedom in terms of the Libertarian philosophy: man's choice is not decided by God's choice, thus God's choice is "conditional", depending on what man chooses. Arminius saw God "looking down the corridors of time" to see the free choices of man, and choosing those who will respond in faith and love to God's love and promises, revealed in Jesus.
Arminianism sees the choice of Christ as an impossibility, apart from God's grace; and the freedom to choose is given to all, because God's prevenient grace is universal (given to everyone). Therefore, God predestines on the basis of foreknowledge of how some will respond to his universal love ("conditional"). In contrast, Calvinism views universal grace as resistible and not sufficient for leading to salvation--or denies universal grace altogether--and instead supposes grace that leads to salvation to be particular and irresistible, given to some but not to others on the basis of God's predestinating choice ("unconditional"). This is also known as "double-predestination."
In common English parlance, the doctrine of predestination often has particular reference to the doctrines of Calvinism. The version of predestination espoused by John Calvin, after whom Calvinism is named, is sometimes referred to as "double predestination" because in it God predestines some people for salvation (i.e. Unconditional election) and some for condemnation (i.e. Reprobation). Calvin himself defines predestination as "the eternal decree of God, by which he determined with himself whatever he wished to happen with regard to every man. Not all are created on equal terms, but some are preordained to eternal life, others to eternal damnation; and, accordingly, as each has been created for one or other of these ends, we say that he has been predestined to life or to death..
On the spectrum of beliefs concerning predestination, Calvinism is the strongest form among Christians. It teaches that God's predestining decision is based on the knowledge of His own will rather than foreknowledge, concerning every particular person and event; and, God continually acts with entire freedom, in order to bring about his will in completeness, but in such a way that the freedom of the creature is not violated, "but rather, established"
Calvinists who hold the infralapsarian view of predestination usually prefer that term to "sublapsarianism," perhaps with the intent of blocking the inference that they believe predestination is on the basis of foreknowledge (sublapsarian meaning, assuming the fall into sin). The different terminology has the benefit of distinguishing the Calvinist double predestination version of infralapsarianism, from Lutheranism's view that predestination is a mystery, which forbids the unprofitable intrusion of prying minds.
Calvinists seek never to divide predestination in a mathematical way. Their doctrine is uninterested, in the abstract, in questions of "how much" either God or man is responsible for a particular destiny. Questions of "how much" will become hopelessly entangled in paradox, Calvinists teach, regardless of the view of predestination adopted. Instead, Calvinism divides the issues of predestination according to two kinds of being, knowledge, and will, distinguishing that which is divine from that which is human. Therefore, it is not so much an issue of quantity, but of distinct roles or modes of being. God is not a creature nor the creature God in knowledge, will, freedom, ability, responsibility, or anything else. Calvinists will often attribute salvation entirely to God; and yet they will also assert that it is man's responsibility to pursue obedience. As the archetypal illustration of this idea, they believe Jesus in his words and work humanly fulfilled all that he as part of the Trinity had determined from the Father should be done. What he did humanly is distinguishable, but not separate, from what he did divinely.
Generally speaking Reform Judaism has no strong doctrine of predestination. Some critics claim that the idea that God is omnipotent and omniscient didn't formally exist in Judaism during the Biblical era, but rather was a later development due to the influence of neo-Platonic and neo-Aristotelian philosophy. Many modern Jewish thinkers in the 20th century have resolved the dialectical tension by holding that God is simply not omnipotent, in the commonly used sense of that word. These thinkers are primarily not Orthodox Jews. Orthodox Jewish rabbis generally affirm that God must be viewed as omnipotent, but they have varying definitions of what the word omnipotent means. Thus one finds that some Modern Orthodox theologians have views that are essentially the same as non-Orthodox theologians, but they use different terminology.
One noted Jewish philosopher, Hasdai Crescas, resolved this dialectical tension by taking the position that free-will doesn't exist. Hence all of a person's actions are pre-determined by the moment of their birth, and thus their judgment in the eyes of God (so to speak) is effectively pre-ordained. However in this scheme this is not a result of God's predetermining one's fate, but rather from the view that the universe is deterministic. Crescas's views on this topic were rejected by Judaism at large. In later centuries this idea independently developed among some in the Chabad (Lubavitch) sect of Hasidic Judaism. Many individuals within Chabad take this view seriously, and hence effectively deny the existence of free will.
However, many Chabad (Lubavitch) Jews attempt to hold both views. They affirm as infallible their rebbe's teachings that God knows and controls the fate of all, yet at the same time affirm the classical Jewish belief in free-will (i.e. no such thing as determinism). The inherent contradiction between the two results in their belief that such contradictions are only "apparent", due to man's inherent lack of ability to understand greater truths and due to the fact that Creator and Created exist in different realities.
One does not have to be a Chabad Hassid to believe in this, however. It is enough to read the statement in Pirkei Avot: "Everything is predetermined but freedom of will is given." The same idea is strongly repeated by Rambam (Mishneh Torah, Laws of Repentance, Chapter 5).
Many other Jews (Orthodox, Conservative, Reform and secular) affirm that since free-will exists, then by definition one's fate is not preordained. It is held as a tenet of faith that whether God is omniscient or not, nothing interferes with mankind's free will. Some Jewish theologians, both during the medieval era and today, have attempted to formulate a philosophy in which free will is preserved, while also affirming that God has knowledge of what decisions people will make in the future. Whether or not these two ideas are mutually compatible, or whether there is a contradiction between the two, is still a matter of great study and interest in philosophy today.
In Rabbinic literature, there is much discussion as to the apparent contradiction between God's omniscience and free will. The representative view is that "Everything is foreseen; yet free will is given" (Rabbi Akiva, Pirkei Avoth 3:15). Based on this understanding, the problem is formally described as a paradox, beyond our understanding.
This is a difficult concept to understand and translate. In Islam, God's omniscience doesn't suggest that we have no free will. God's advance knowledge of what each human will choose with his/her free will is said to not in any way negate the freedom granted to humans. This simply means that God has the foreknowledge of all human action, however, this divine knowledge does not prevent humans from doing whatever they desire.
Some suggest that free will doesn't actually exist in Islam. They argue that God is omniscient and so has the power to prevent or allow any action from occurring. Therefore, if God does not prevent an act from occurring than that act is thought to be God's will. People can believe they have control over their lives, but they are not able to do anything without it being God's will first. Nothing is allowed to come to pass unless it is the will of God, hence the phrase inshallah, Arabic for "if God wills". When referring to the future, Muslims frequently qualify any predictions of what will come to pass with this phrase. It recognises that human knowledge of the future is limited, and that all that may or may not come to pass is under the control of God. A related phrase, mashallah, indicates acceptance of what God has ordained in terms of good or ill fortune that may befall a believer.
In Hinduism, which consists of four schools, predestination does not play an important role, as most followers believe in karma, associated with free will. However, in the Dvaita school of Vaishnavism, the philosopher Madhvacharya believed in a similar concept. For example, Madhvacharya differed significantly from traditional Hindu beliefs in his concept of eternal damnation. For example, he divides souls into three classes, one class which qualify for liberation, Mukti-yogyas, another subject to eternal rebirth or eternally transmigrating due to samsara, Nitya-samsarins, and significantly, a class that is eventually condemned to eternal hell or Andhatamas, known as Tamo-yogyas.
He has hypothesized (based on vedic texts and yukti) that souls are eternal and not created ex nihilo by God, as in the Semitic religions. Souls depend on God for their very "being" and "becoming." Madhva has compared this relationship of God with souls to the relationship between a source (bimba) and its reflection (pratibimba).