An age old enigma - Predestination or Choice. Is God truly omnipotent? Does He control everything? If so why are we responsible for our actions and what about our right to choose? These questions can be warped up in one: does God of predestine everything or do we have the ability to choose?
So, predestination versus choice,
what does the Bible say about the issue?
In the very front of the Bible just after it talks about the creation of man, we have these words: ‘God blessed them and said to them, “Be fruitful and increase in number; fill the earth and subdue it. Rule over the fish in the sea and the birds in the sky and over every living creature that moves on the ground.”’ (Genesis 1:28 NIV) - In this verse, God gives man authority over the earth and everything in it. Implicit with this is mankind’s authority to choose because you cannot have authority without the capability of making choice.
And then there is one of my favorite verses from Joshua:
“. . . . . then choose for yourselves this day whom you will serve, . . . . . But as for me and my household, we will serve the Lord.” (Joshua 24:15 NIV)
And in the New Testament:
“ . . . . . Mary has chosen what is better, and it will not be taken away from her.” (Luke 10:42 NIV) - clearly, Mary had the capability to choose and she chose well.
But on the other side of the coin we read of predestination:
For Exodus: ‘The Lord said to Moses, “When you return to Egypt, see that you perform before Pharaoh all the wonders I have given you the power to do. But I will harden his heart so that he will not let the people go.’ (Exodus 4:21 NIV)
And in the New Testament:
“For he chose us in him before the creation of the world to be holy and blameless in his sight. In love he predestined us for adoption to sonship through Jesus Christ, in accordance with his pleasure and will - to the praise of his glorious grace, which he has freely given us in the One he loves.” (Ephesians 1:4-6 NIV)
And then there are the prophecies where God explains what will happen ahead of time.
So which is it, predestination or choice?
And why do these verses seem so contradictory?
Do you remember the days of high school mathematics when the teacher stood there and asked the question what is the square root of 4? I certainly remember it. Someone quick of the mark, wiped up there hand and answered 2. I remember how surprised I was when the teacher said “that is incorrect”. The entire class erupting into total turmoil, and no one could hear what the teacher was saying for about five minutes. When the class did eventually quieten down, the teacher went on to explain that there are actually two answers and then wrote on the board the following:
2 x 2 = 4
- 2 x - 2 = 4
- 2 x - 2 = 4
The square root of 4 has two answers: +2 and - 2
Both are correct at the same time.
This is the way I see it:
In the beginning when God created life the universe and everything, He also created time. This would mean that God is not bound by time.
In the beginning when God created life the universe and everything, he gave man freedom of choice. The choice to choose right from wrong, good from bad, generosity from greed, being helpful from hindrance, loving from lust, etc. If we choose what is right there is a cost and benefit, if we choose what is wrong there may be a benefit, but there is always a consequence. The consequence of our decision to do what is wrong not only affects us but also those around us.
Man is bound by time; God is not. As man journeys along the timeline he sees the decisions he makes as choices. This is the way it is for man because he chooses his direction, but God sees it differently. God who transcends time sees things from a different, much bigger point of view. He sees all the decisions we make past, present and future, like as if an open book. He sees things as predestined and He predestines all things.
It can be difficult to comprehend what it might be like beyond the timeline as the timeline is the only live we have ever known. A wise young lady once shared with me something that may make it easier to understand:
Imagine a world with only two dimensions all the occupants of this world were only two dimensional, they had width and breadth but they did not have any height because in their world there was no height. Imagine standing with your ankle in this world. To the occupants of this world, there would be two completely separate almost circular objects - cross-sections of you ankles. You could explain to them that you are only one person, that these two objects are only part of you and that you are much bigger that these two objects that they perceive. But would they understand this? I think we are a bit like this, we cannot truly comprehend what outside of time would be like.
God is not bound by time and so He knows everything that we had done and everything that we will do, but even with all this, He still chooses to loves us. God wants what is best for us but this is not necessarily what we think we need. We like little children cry out, “but I want to do what I want to do!” But what we need is to do that which is right.
God over sees and coordinates the big picture and the little picture, but we still have a choice and it is we who chose. Predestination and choice are not mutually exclusive.