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Predestination Vs Free Will
Predestination Vs Free Will: Opening Thoughts
Predestination Vs Free Will is one of the oldest and most intriguing philosophical arguments in human history. Many philosophers also consider it among the most important questions. Does predestination, also known as determinism, rule our every decision or our very cosmic fate even before we are born? Is the universe determined and mechanical, or not?
Or does free will make more sense than predestination? Do we have the ability to make individual choices? Is there nothing actually set in stone? Is this a question that demands quantum physics, or a distinctive line between omnipotence and omniscience? These bring up incredible questions of the role of destiny, whether all life is destiny or can there be bits of destiny among a life filled with otherwise free will based decisions?
Are the Calvinists right about predestination, or are the adamant free will believers correct? Is there any way to really truly know?
There's not a chance of me offering a stunning breakthrough to these questions that are as old as philosophy itself, but maybe this will be a great starting point to get some great open thought going about both sides of this eternal struggle between free will and determinism.
Thoughts on Predestination
By predestination, we go by the definition that an individual does not make their own decisions, big or small, but that every decision is already decided upon whether by spiritual or cosmic forces. Predestination is not solely a Christian doctrine, but it is most often associated with Calvinism.
There are many other denominations and theologians who believe in the doctrine of predestination, or the reformed doctrine of predestination, but it is often associated with Calvinistic schools of thought.
There are many famous theologians who strongly believe in predestination in some form or another, including:
- St. Augustine of Hippo
- St. Thomas Aquinas
- John Calvin
There are many others, but these are some of the most major names. Of course the argument on predestination predates Christianity, indicating that man has always struggled with questions about his place in the universe.
This was the Calvinist form of predestination, as it was explained to me (while the person was a theology student, I'm not vouching for complete accuracy of this interpretation, but this seems at least near the mark):
"It's predestination because no person is capable of making the choice to accept God because God is perfect and people are sinful. Therefore, people are naturally going to be repulsed by perfection. The only way for them to choose God is for God to choose them to choose Him. That's why it's predestination, because only those who God chooses to be saved can accept Him and become saved. You can't make that choice if you had free will."
Being the well adjusted and respectful individual you all knew me to be, I proceeded to not accept that explanation and argue for several hours, my point being how could this possibly be more loving that allowing free will?
There are some problems with this theology. The obvious being that if only people pre-chosen by God can be saved, and if there is a Hell, then God has created people knowing that no matter what they do, no matter how much they might want a relationship with God, they can't have it and they're going to burn for all eternity. That's a complete contradiction to the idea of a loving God, though it can work if you throw away the idea of an all loving or all just God.
Personally, this idea repulses me. That may not be fair, but the idea of a Deity like that who creates souls to torment them for eternity (keeping in mind this is based on the ideas of Calvinist theology of the afterlife) makes me want to actively go against everything that Deity stands for rather than embrace it.
I also think many of the serious problems with "Christians" who go around with "Holier than Thou" attitudes and who are fanatical about being "right" or better than others is because of this type of theology that makes them feel entitled and justified no matter what. There's never any personal responsibility because in their minds everything was already predetermined.
I think this is radically missing the point. There have also been scientific arguments on the nature of predestination, suggesting that no human action can be independent, but every choice is based on hundreds if not thousands of influences that can be from past situations to upbringing, to an imbalance in the strings of the universe - although many also argue that the inherent "fuzziness" of the Universe on the Quantum level suggests that maybe this is not a completely mechanical universe, which at the very least would make free will possible.
Thoughts on Free Will
Free will is the theological idea that all actions by individuals are not controlled or forcefully coerced by a Deity or higher power, but that individuals have the right to choose right or wrong and make every day choices in the direction their path will take (although this doesn't mean that the decisions can't be heavily influenced).
The Christian philosophy of free will is often also referred to as Arminianism, based on the thoughts and writings of Jacobus Arminius, a 16th and 17th century Dutch pastor and theologian. This is not a completely correct assumption, as Calvinism and Arminianism have a lot in common, but disagree mainly over predestination and free will.
In Christian thought, free will still acknowledges that salvation comes from the grace of God alone, but they reject the notion that this means that all salvation is predestined. Otherwise, what about "backsliders?" If these guys seemed to become saved, then fell back into old ways, are they saved despite living bad lives? Were they never saved to begin with (which leads to the question of why or why not and did God just use this individual with no intention of ever allowing him salvation)?
Free will is naturally going to be the more popular choice for many people just based on the fact that many individuals hate the idea of being controlled. From the pure philosophical standpoint, many say that free will is the only theology that makes sense with a just or loving God, and that the choice has to be there to accept or reject salvation.
Free will is also used in a more general sense, for individuals who may be asking through psychology or even science like quantum physics or metaphysics, do humans make independent choices? Is it even possible? At what point does an influenced choice become controlled or destined? Is it free will, or predestination, or somehow both, when a person has two choices, but their inherent beliefs, past experiences, and world view will always cause them to choose choice A over choice B?
Free will is easy to jump to in a knee jerk, "I make my own choices," reaction in the same way that predestination is easy to jump to by individuals who are obsessed with being set apart, always right, or don't want to take personal responsibility.
Can the Concept of Destiny Be Invoked by Pictures?Click thumbnail to view full-size
Philosophy Video Blog: Free Will vs. Determinism
Great Conviction of Church on Free Will/Predestination Paradox
Predestination or Free Will Links
- Why I Hate Predestination
A great blog post on one person's thoughts on why she hates predestination. This is Christian theology based, but it's a great practical look at one person's beliefs on the necessity of free will.
- Predestination Paradoxes in fiction
Great works of literature listed by Wikipedia as featuring a predestination paradox as part of the plot.
Free Will and Predestination: What Are My Personal Beliefs?
Personal Thoughts on Free Will Vs. Predestination
My natural instinct is to jump on the Free Will bandwagon. I hate the idea of predestination as it has been described to me in various Bible studies, philosophy classes, or other theological conversations. Yet, that wouldn't be open thinking by me if I just patched together theology based on what I felt like without challenging those beliefs and giving the other side a fair shake.
So what have 200+ theology books (and yes, Richard Dawkins counts because choosing to not have faith is an expression of a belief based system in itself), philosophy books, and other books across every spectrum and ten years of concentrated study taught me? Well these are my beliefs at this point. My guess is at this point the bulk of it is more or less set, as you don't spend a decade of intense study and not form an opinion strongly backed by philosophy, thought, theory, and fact.
But that's the beauty of the free will v predestination argument: there's always more evidence and argument that you can add to both sides. As of right now, here's a somewhat simple description of what I believe in regards to this argument:
I believe both are true in a working functioning paradox, but the extreme of both is not true. I do not believe that every moment of every soul's life is predetermined prior to it happening. This does not mean that there can not be an omniscient deity. There is a huge difference between omniscience (knowing what will happen based on knowing the choices that individuals will make) and predestination (knowing what will happen because all of it is set in stone).
Some argue otherwise, but I respectfully disagree. You might see a relationship and know that it's going to end because you know the guy will get bored and cheat after six months, but seven months later that relationship ended not because you knew it was going to, but because the man made a choice that ruined it.
You knew what was going to happen, but it wasn't set in stone. So if that can be possible on the human level, how could it not be possible on a larger scale involving God?
But I don't believe in the extreme of free will, either. Sometimes there might be destiny, but when I say destiny, I mean a moment or event in which it was meant to happen, but choices must still be made. For example, not to get cliché, but if you believe in the "one true love" thing (before I get any e-mails, no, I don't believe that there is only one true love for every other person, but this is a great example).
Suppose on October 25, 2012 that person will be a bummed out freshman at "C" college taking a walk wishing there was a funny stranger to show up, cheer the person up, and then talk deep philosophy. Maybe you're meant to be that person. Maybe that moment is destiny, so to get there things are "bent." One college administrator just has a gut feeling to offer you more scholarships, another less. Colorado starts calling your name instead of Maine, for some reason an interest in the meaning of life hits you in high school and you learn to think deeply, etc. Maybe there are two hundred small influences that get you to that moment, where based on your beliefs and the other person's, it's love and happy ever after.
Or you take a walk, choke up, and don't say anything and he/she walks on by.
That moment might have been intended (predestined, even), but choices still have to be made. I'm okay with the idea that in my life there might be times, places, certain conversations I'm supposed to have that change what would otherwise be, but then I'm otherwise allowed to make my choices of my own free will the rest of the time. I'm not even convinced that these "predestined" moments are set in stone.
I might hide behind the fuzziness of "paradox" until further notice on that one :D
I find too many "coincidences" to ever fully believe in completely uninfluenced and total free will, but by the same token to believe in any type of deity that isn't evil, cruel, petty, or vindictive then some type of free will has to exist. And if you're atheist, then I would assume based on the metaphysics of the universe that free will is the more obviously defensible choices of a universe that is not 100% clear and mechanical.
So that's where I stand on the free will/predestination argument. In a working paradox both exist to some extent, though day to day I believe it is overwhelmingly free will, however heavily influenced.