Predestination, in theology, is the doctrine that all events have been willed by God, usually with reference to the eventual fate of the individual soul. Explanations of predestination often seek to address the "paradox of free will", whereby God's omniscience seems incompatible with human free will. In this usage, predestination can be regarded as a form of religious determinism; and usually predeterminism.
New Testament period
There is some disagreement among scholars regarding the views on predestination of first-century AD Judaism, out of which Christianity came. Josephus wrote during the first century that the three main Jewish sects differed on this question. He argued that the Essenes and Pharisees argued that God's providence orders all human events, but the Pharisees still maintained that people are able to choose between right and wrong. He wrote that the Sadducees did not have a doctrine of providence.
Biblical scholar N. T. Wright argues that Josephus's portrayal of these groups is incorrect, and that the Jewish debates referenced by Josephus should be seen as having to do with God's work to liberate Israel rather than philosophical questions about predestination. Wright asserts that Essenes were content to wait for God to liberate Israel while Pharisees believed Jews needed to act in cooperation with God. John Barclay responded that Josephus's description was an over-simplification and there were likely to be complex differences between these groups which may have been similar to those described by Josephus. Francis Watson has also argued on the basis of 4 Ezra, a document dated to the first century AD, that Jewish beliefs in predestination are primarily concerned with God's choice to save some individual Jews.
In the New Testament, Romans 8–11 presents a statement on predestination. In Romans 8:28–30, Paul writes,
We know that in everything God works for good with those who love him, who are called according to his purpose. For those whom he foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, in order that he might be the first-born among many brethren. And those whom he predestined he also called; and those whom he called he also justified; and those whom he justified he also glorified.
Biblical scholars have interpreted this passage in several ways. Many say this only has to do with service, those he chose of service and is not about salvation. Catholic biblical commentator Brendan Byrne wrote that the predestination mentioned in this passage should be interpreted as applied to the Christian community corporately rather than individuals. Another Catholic commentator, Joseph Fitzmyer, wrote that this passage teaches that God has predestined the salvation of all humans. Douglas Moo, a Protestant biblical interpreter, reads the passage as teaching that God has predestined a certain set of people to salvation. Similarly, N. T. Wright's interpretation is that in this passage Paul teaches that God will save those whom he has chosen, but Wright also emphasizes that Paul does not intend to suggest that God has eliminated human free will or responsibility. Instead, Wright asserts that God's will works through that of humans to accomplish salvation.
Origen, writing in the third century, taught that God's providence extends to every individual. He believed God's predestination was based on God's foreknowledge of every individual's merits, whether in their current life or a previous life.
Later in the fourth and fifth centuries, Augustine of Hippo (354 - 430) also taught that God orders all things while preserving human freedom. Prior to 396, Augustine believed that predestination was based on God's foreknowledge of whether individuals would believe, that God's grace was "a reward for human assent". Later, in response to Pelagius, Augustine said that the sin of pride consists in assuming that "we are the ones who choose God or that God chooses us (in his foreknowledge) because of something worthy in us", and argued that God's grace causes individual act of faith. Scholars are divided over whether Augustine's teaching implies double predestination, or the belief that God chooses some people for damnation as well as some for salvation. Catholic scholars tend to deny that he held such a view while some Protestants and secular scholars have held that Augustine did believe in double predestination.
Augustine's position raised objections. Julian, bishop of Eclanum, expressed the view that Augustine was bringing Manichean 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. Pelagius denied Augustine's view of predestination in order to affirm that salvation is achieved by an act of free will.
The Council of Arles in the late fifth century condemned the position "that some have been condemned to death, others have been predestined to life", though this may seem to follow from Augustine's teaching. The Second Council of Orange in 529 also condemned the position that "some have been truly predestined to evil by divine power".
In the eighth century, John of Damascus emphasized the freedom of the human will in his doctrine of predestination, and argued that acts arising from peoples' wills are not part of God's providence at all. Damascene teaches that people's good actions are done in cooperation with God, but are not caused by him.
Gottschalk of Orbais, a ninth-century Saxon monk, argued that God predestines some people to hell as well as predestining some to heaven, a view known as double predestination. He was condemned by several synods, but his views remained popular. Irish theologian John Scottus Eriugena wrote a refutation of Gottschalk. Eriugena abandoned Augustine's teaching on predestination. He wrote that God's predestination should be equated with his foreknowledge of people's choices.
In the twelfth century, Thomas Aquinas taught that God predestines certain people to the beatific vision based solely on his own goodness rather than that of creatures. Aquinas also believed people are free in their choices, fully cause their own sin, and are solely responsible for it. Aquinas distinguished between several ways in which God wills actions. He directly wills the good, indirectly wills evil consequences of good things, and only permits evil. Aquinas held that in permitting evil, God does not will it to be done or not to be done.
In the thirteenth century, William of Ockham taught that God does not cause human choices and equated predestination with divine foreknowledge. Though Ockham taught that God predestines based on people's foreseen works, he maintained that God's will was not constrained to do this.
John Calvin rejected the idea that God permits rather than actively decrees the damnation of sinners, as well as other evil. Calvin did not believe God to be guilty of sin, but he considered it an unfathomable mystery that God seems to simultaneously will sin and to also not will sin. Though he maintained God's predestination applies to damnation as well as salvation, he taught that the damnation of the damned is caused by their sin, but that the salvation of the saved is solely caused by God. Other Protestant Reformers, including Martin Luther and Huldrych Zwingli, also held double predestinarian views.
The Eastern Orthodox view was summarized by Bishop Theophan the Recluse in response to the question, "What is the relationship between the Divine provision and our free will?"
Answer: The fact that the Kingdom of God is "taken by force" presupposes personal effort. When the Apostle Paul says, "it is not of him that willeth," this means that one's efforts do not produce what is sought. It is necessary to combine them: to strive and to expect all things from grace. It is not one's own efforts that will lead to the goal, because without grace, efforts produce little; nor does grace without effort bring what is sought, because grace acts in us and for us through our efforts. Both combine in a person to bring progress and carry him to the goal. (God's) foreknowledge is unfathomable. It is enough for us with our whole heart to believe that it never opposes God's grace and truth, and that it does not infringe man's freedom. Usually this resolves as follows: God foresees how a man will freely act and makes dispositions accordingly. Divine determination depends on the life of a man, and not his life upon the determination.
Roman Catholicism teaches the doctrine of predestination, while rejecting the classical Calvinist view known as "double predestination." This means that while it is held that those whom God has elected to eternal life will infallibly attain it, and are therefore said to be predestined to salvation by God, those who perish are not predestined to damnation. But Catholicism has been generally discouraging to human attempts to guess or predict the Divine Will. The Catholic Encyclopedia entry on Predestination says:
God, owing to His infallible prescience of the future, has appointed and ordained from eternity all events occurring in time, especially those that directly proceed from, or at least are influenced by, man's free will.
The heretical seventeenth and eighteenth centuries sect within Roman Catholicism known as Jansenism preached the doctrine of double predestination, although Jansenism claimed that even members of the saved elect could lose their salvation by doing sinful, unrepentant deeds.
Pope John Paul II wrote:
The universality of salvation means that it is granted not only to those who explicitly believe in Christ and have entered the Church. Since salvation is offered to all, it must be made concretely available to all.
Grace comes from Christ; it is the result of his Sacrifice and is communicated by the Holy Spirit. It enables each person to attain salvation through his or her free cooperation.
The Catholic Catechism says:
God predestines no one to go to hell, for this, a willful turning away from God (a mortal sin) is necessary, and persistence in it until the end."
Catholics do not believe that any hints or evidence of the predestined status of individuals is available to humans, and predestination generally plays little or no part in Catholic teaching to the faithful, being a topic addressed in a professional theological context only.
St. Augustine of Hippo laid the foundation for much of the later Catholic teaching on predestination. His teachings on grace and free will were largely adopted by the Second Council of Orange (529), whose decrees were directed against the Semipelagians. Augustine wrote,
[God] promised not from the power of our will but from His own predestination. For He promised what He Himself would do, not what men would do. Because, although men do those good things which pertain to God’s worship, He Himself makes them to do what He has commanded; it is not they that cause Him to do what He has promised. Otherwise the fulfilment of God’s promises would not be in the power of God, but in that of men"
Augustine also teaches that people have free will. For example, in "On Grace and Free Will," (see especially chapters II-IV) St. Augustine states that "He [God] has revealed to us, through His Holy Scriptures, that there is in man a free choice of will," and that "God's precepts themselves would be of no use to a man unless he had free choice of will, so that by performing them he might obtain the promised rewards." (chap. II)
Thomas Aquinas' views concerning predestination are largely in agreement with Augustine and can be summarized by many of his writings in his Summa Theologiae:
God does reprobate some. For it was said above (A) that predestination is a part of providence. To providence, however, it belongs to permit certain defects in those things which are subject to providence, as was said above (Q, A). Thus, as men are ordained to eternal life through the providence of God, it likewise is part of that providence to permit some to fall away from that end; this is called reprobation. Thus, as predestination is a part of providence, in regard to those ordained to eternal salvation, so reprobation is a part of providence in regard to those who turn aside from that end. Hence reprobation implies not only foreknowledge, but also something more, as does providence, as was said above (Q, A). Therefore, as predestination includes the will to confer grace and glory; so also reprobation includes the will to permit a person to fall into sin, and to impose the punishment of damnation on account of that sin."
Comparison between Protestants
This table summarizes the classical views of three different Protestant beliefs.
Lutherans do not believe that there are certain people that are predestined to salvation, but salvation is predestined for those who seek God. Lutherans believe Christians should be assured that they are among the predestined. However, they disagree with those who make predestination the source of salvation rather than Christ's suffering, death, and resurrection. Unlike some Calvinists, Lutherans do not believe in a predestination to damnation. Instead, Lutherans teach eternal damnation is a result of the unbeliever's sins, rejection of the forgiveness of sins, and unbelief.
Martin Luther's attitude towards predestination is set out in his On the Bondage of the Will, published in 1525. This publication by Luther was in response to the published treatise by Desiderius Erasmus in 1524 known as On Free Will. Luther based his views on Ephesians 2:8-10, which says: "For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God, not of works, lest anyone should boast. For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand that we should walk in them."
The Belgic Confession of 1561 affirmed that God "delivers and preserves" from perdition "all whom he, in his eternal and unchangeable council, of mere goodness hath elected in Christ Jesus our Lord, without respect to their works" (Article XVI). Calvinists believe that God picked those who he will save and bring with him to Heaven before the world was created. They also believe that those people God does not save will go to Hell. John Calvin thought people who were saved could never lose their salvation and the "elect" (those God saved) would know they were saved because of their actions.
In this common, loose sense of the term, to affirm or to deny predestination has particular reference to the Calvinist doctrine of unconditional election. In the Calvinist interpretation of the Bible, this doctrine normally has only pastoral value related to the assurance of salvation and the absolution of salvation by grace alone. However, the philosophical implications of the doctrine of election and predestination are sometimes discussed beyond these systematic bounds. Under the topic of the doctrine of God (theology proper), the predestinating decision of God cannot be contingent upon anything outside of himself, because all other things are dependent upon him for existence and meaning. Under the topic of the doctrines of salvation (soteriology), the predestinating decision of God is made from God's knowledge of his own will (Romans 9:15), and is therefore not contingent upon human decisions (rather, free human decisions are outworkings of the decision of God, which sets the total reality within which those decisions are made in exhaustive detail: that is, nothing left to chance). Calvinists do not pretend to understand how this works; but they are insistent that the Scriptures teach both the sovereign control of God and the responsibility and freedom of human decisions.
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). The Dutch settlers of South Africa claimed that the Blacks were members of the non-elect, because they were the sons of Ham, whom Noah had cursed to be slaves, according to Genesis 9:18-19. The Dutch Calvinist theologian Franciscus Gomarus also argued that Jews, because of their refusal to worship Jesus Christ, were members of the non-elect.
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.
Calvinists typically divide on the issue of predestination into infralapsarians (sometimes called 'sublapsarians') and supralapsarians. Infralapsarians interpret the biblical election of God to highlight his love (1 John 4:8; Ephesians 1:4b-5a) and chose his elect considering the situation after the Fall, while supralapsarians interpret biblical election to highlight God's sovereignty (Romans 9:16) and 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 that, 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 hold that God does not predetermine, but instead infallibly knows who will believe and perseveringly be saved. This view is known as conditional election, because it states that election is conditional on the one who wills to have faith in God for salvation. Although God knows from the beginning of the world who will go where, the choice is still with the individual. The Dutch Calvinist theologian Franciscus Gomarus strongly opposed the views of Jacobus Arminius with his doctrine of supralapsarian predestination.
The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints
The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (LDS Church) rejects the doctrine of predestination, but does believe in foreordination. Foreordination, an important doctrine of the LDS Church, teaches that during the pre-mortal existence, God selected ("foreordained") particular people to fulfill certain missions ("callings") during their mortal lives. For example, prophets were foreordained to be the Lord's servants, all who receive the priesthood were foreordained to that calling, and Jesus was foreordained to enact the atonement.
The LDS Church teaches the doctrine of agency, the ability to choose and act for ourselves, and decide whether to accept Christ's atonement.
Conditional election is the belief that God chooses for eternal salvation those who he foresees will have faith in Christ. This belief emphasizes the importance of a person's free will. The counter-view is known as unconditional election, and is the belief that God chooses whomever he will, based solely on his purposes and apart from an individual's free will. It has long been an issue in Calvinist–Arminian debate.
Supralapsarianism and infralapsarianism
Infralapsarianism (also called sublapsarianism) holds that predestination logically coincides with the preordination of Man's fall into sin. That is, God predestined sinful men for salvation. Therefore, according to this view, God is the ultimate cause, but not the proximate source or "author" of sin. Infralapsarians often emphasize a difference between God's decree (which is inviolable and inscrutable), and his revealed will (against which man is disobedient). Proponents also typically emphasize the grace and mercy of God toward all men, although teaching also that only some are predestined for salvation.
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) which results by allowing the individual's own sins to condemn them. 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 since God only reveals partial knowledge to the human race.
Supralapsarianism is the doctrine that God's decree of predestination for salvation and reprobation logically precedes his preordination of the human race's fall into sin. That is, God decided to save, and to damn; he then determined the means by which that would be made possible. It is a matter of controversy whether or not Calvin himself held this view, but most scholars link him with the infralapsarian position. It is known, however, that Calvin's successor in Geneva, Theodore Beza, held to the supralapsarian view.
Double predestination (Latin: gemina praedestinatio), or the double decree, is the doctrine that God actively reprobates, or decrees damnation of some, as well as salvation for those whom he has elected. Augustine made statements that on their own seem to teach such a doctrine, but in the context of his other writings it is not clear whether he held it. Augustine's doctrine of predestination does seem to imply a double predestinarian view. Gottschalk of Orbais taught it more explicitly in the ninth century, and Gregory of Rimini in the fourteenth. During the Protestant Reformation, John Calvin, Martin Luther, and Huldrych Zwingli also held double predestinarian views.
Advocates of open theism, like most who affirm conditional predestination, understand predestination to be as corporate. In corporate election, God does not choose which individuals he will save prior to creation, but rather God chooses the church as a whole. Or put differently, God chooses what type of individuals he will save. Another way the New Testament puts this is to say that God chose the church in Christ (Eph. 1:4). In other words, God chose from all eternity to save all those who would be found in Christ, by faith in God. This choosing is not primarily about salvation from eternal destruction either but is about God's chosen agency in the world. Thus individuals have full freedom in terms of whether they become members of the church or not. Corporate election is thus consistent with the open view's position on God's omniscience, which states that the outcomes of individual free will cannot be known specifically before they are performed since who becomes a Christian is a matter of free will and not knowable.
Qadar (Arabic: قدر, transliterated qadar, meaning "fate", "divine fore-ordainment", "predestination") is the concept of divine destiny in Islam. It is one of Islam's six pillars of faith, along with belief in the Oneness of God, the Revealed Books, the Prophets of Islam, the Day of Resurrection and Angels.
In Islam, "predestination" is the usual English language rendering of a belief that Muslims call al-qada wa al-qadar in Arabic. The phrase means "the divine decree and the predestination". In Islam, God has predetermined, known, ordained, and is constantly creating every event that takes place in the world. This is entailed by his being omnipotent and omniscient. Sunni scholars hold that there is no contradiction in people's deeds (and naturally their choices) being created and predetermined by the creator, since they define free will to be the antonym of compulsion and coercion. People – in the Sunni perspective – do acknowledge that they are free, since they do not see anybody or anything forcing them to do whatever they chose to do. This, however, does not contradict that everything they do, including the choices they make, are predestined and predetermined by God. Consequently, people are already predestined to either heaven or hell at birth, as Sunnis believe; however, they will have no argument on the day of judgment since they never knew in advance what their fate would be, and they do acknowledge that they have choice; which is what moral responsibility comes with.
The concept of human will being predetermined by God's will is stated clearly in the Quran: "Verily this (The Holy Quran) is no less than a Message to (all) the Worlds; (With profit) to whoever among you wills to go straight, but ye shall not will except as God wills; the Cherisher of the Worlds."
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, perhaps beyond our understanding.
Hasdai Crescas resolved this dialectical tension by taking the position that free will doesn't exist. All of a person's actions are predetermined by the moment of their birth, and thus their judgment in the eyes of God (so to speak) is effectively preordained. In this scheme this is not a result of God's predetermining one's fate, but rather 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) movement 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. 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. 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.
Predestination is rejected in Zoroastrian teaching. Humans bear responsibility for all situations they are in, and in the way they act toward one another. Reward, punishment, happiness, and grief all depend on how individuals live their lives.