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Free Will and Predestination

Posted: Mon Mar 12, 2018 12:38 pm
by J.K. Riki
Hey CCG brothers and sisters!

I've had a great time over the last year or so diving deeper into the subject of Free Will and Predestination pertaining to Christianity. I'm learning more and more with every interaction, and I thought I would make a thread about it to get your thoughts as well. I love hearing from folks around here about these sorts of big topics. So what do you think? Any and all opinions are welcome, especially if they include reasons and backing (which always helps me better understand any particular perspective).

I'll share my thoughts, too, but I wanted to let others chime in first. I know I still have a lot to learn.

Re: Free Will and Predestination

Posted: Thu Mar 15, 2018 1:52 pm
by ArcticFox
I started to write a reply but then I realized I may have been addressing the wrong concept. Are you talking about individual freewill in a universe that has an Omniscient God, or are you talking about choosing to follow Christ vs. Being chosen?

Re: Free Will and Predestination

Posted: Thu Mar 15, 2018 10:30 pm
by J.K. Riki
Hey, I'm all for hearing what you're led to share, to be honest! I find all these deep topics fascinating.

I guess I was talking initially about some combination of both of the things you mentioned. So I'm interested in either, what was your original started-reply on?

Re: Free Will and Predestination

Posted: Thu Mar 15, 2018 10:42 pm
by ccgr
I look at it like playing chess with an inexperienced player. The winner is pretty much a given but the opponent made their choices on their own. God knows who will be saved in the end but people make their own decisions on accepting him or not. God still loves all His creation regardless but knows who will fall away.

Re: Free Will and Predestination

Posted: Fri Mar 16, 2018 6:40 pm
by LTB_Strax_Core
I agree with CCGR, that way sounds very logical.

Re: Free Will and Predestination

Posted: Sat Mar 17, 2018 8:47 am
by ArcticFox
Hey, I'm all for hearing what you're led to share, to be honest! I find all these deep topics fascinating.

I guess I was talking initially about some combination of both of the things you mentioned. So I'm interested in either, what was your original started-reply on?
Well, initially I was thinking in terms of the idea of an omniscient God vs freewill, and the question of whether both of these things can coexist.

But first a word on the question of choosing to follow Christ as opposed to being chosen... I'm not super well versed in Protestant perspectives and terms... I've never been Protestant. (I was a Catholic for 26 years then converted to LDS, though I've been around enough Protestants that I think I can take a crack at this. By all means please correct me if I say something inaccurate about Protestant views or terms.) As I understand it, the idea of being pre-chosen for Salvation is a Calvinist idea and not one that I personally believe in. I also don't subscribe to the idea that once someone is Saved they can't possibly lose it through their own choices. In the final analysis, our Salvation is based upon our sincerity in taking Jesus Christ as our personal savior, and just as one chooses whether or not to do it, one can also choose to turn away. We might not agree on that, but I think it's a pretty straightforward idea either way and is easy to discuss.

The other question is a good bit more complex.

A few years ago I was in a debate with a group of Atheists on another forum and that topic came up. Their point of contention was that if God can see into the future, then your future is fixed and you can't make any choices to change. For example, if God know that tomorrow you will eat a hamburger for lunch, then that's locked in. You can't now choose to have a taco instead because He has already seen it and so that's how it must be. It doesn't matter if you chose to eat the burger; You can't choose anything else now that God knows it, otherwise you'd be changing the future which is impossible since God has seen it already. Just like the past. We already know what's in the past and can't change it.

The problem I have with that notion is that it makes a few assumptions about God and His relationship with time. We see time as a line that we're traveling along, moving sequentially from the past toward the future. To us, time is a line that goes in two directions but we can only move in one direction. I really don't think that's how God sees it. I don't think that God is limited to time as we know it and therefore His perspective is very different and it doesn't make sense to me to apply human perspectives to God and the implications of how He sees things. I think we DO have freewill and I DO believe God is omniscient, and I do not see that these two ideas must be contradictory. To God, all of time might be a singular instant, seen as a whole, complete and yet eternal entity. Or maybe to Him time is just another piece of a vast puzzle we can't even comprehend let alone draw conclusions from.

In any case, I think it's silly to limit God's point of view to a human one as a way to try to prove He (or freewill) doesn't exist.

In fact, I'll take it a step further and say that if God exists, and He has a plan for our salvation, then we MUST have freewill or the entire enterprise is meaningless and there's no point to us even being conscious.

Re: Free Will and Predestination

Posted: Wed Mar 21, 2018 8:39 am
by J.K. Riki

In fact, I'll take it a step further and say that if God exists, and He has a plan for our salvation, then we MUST have freewill or the entire enterprise is meaningless and there's no point to us even being conscious.
Yeah, see that makes sense to me as well. If there's zero free will in there, why are we on this planet suffering so much? We wouldn't even need to be, and I struggle to come up with reasonable reasons for it in that case. But of course, that might be me just limited God again and trying to fit him into my human box. :)

Personally I see the whole thing as a paradox. It can be tricky to grasp "You have free will, but also you are predestined" but I think that's exactly how it works. God is going to offer you grace, no matter what you do, and also you can choose to accept it or not, pretty much on a daily basis.

As far as how much He engineers our existence to produce certain outcomes, I surely don't know. It's not really my business at the moment, even if it's an interesting thought experiment. If He knows all possible outcomes, then it stands to reason He could put us down into the exact situation where we would definitely accept grace or definitely not accept grace. So why does He choose to put us where we are, in the time we live in, surrounded by the people and experiences we are going through? It's a real mystery in our current forms within this river of time. I fully expect it to be answered without a shadow of a doubt one day, it's just this moment is not yet that time.

Re: Free Will and Predestination

Posted: Wed Mar 21, 2018 8:42 pm
by Sstavix
If there's zero free will in there, why are we on this planet suffering so much?
I can answer that one, because I've heard the conclusions drawn from this supposition.

If God controls everything, then why does suffering exist? It exists because He wants it to happen. So if God wants us to suffer, that makes Him... well, kind of a jerk, to put it mildly. And is that really a deity that is worthy of worship?

If anything, that could be a good argument against the idea of predestination. The idea of God being a colossal jerk who likes watching His children suffering flies in the face of the concept of God being a loving and kind Heavenly Father. And I have seen some Christians try to justify this oddly dichotomous approach, typically with vague excuses about how we can't understand how God works.

Sadly, this approach actually turns people away from God and Christianity in general. It makes no logical sense, and as a result, does not serve as a good, logical reason to join a church or follow God. If you want to try to get people to join the church, you have to understand their mindset. If you want people to understand Christ and what He represented and stood for, you need to do so in a fashion that makes outsiders want to know more. Not give them further ammunition against His believers.
As far as how much He engineers our existence to produce certain outcomes, I surely don't know. It's not really my business at the moment, even if it's an interesting thought experiment. If He knows all possible outcomes, then it stands to reason He could put us down into the exact situation where we would definitely accept grace or definitely not accept grace. So why does He choose to put us where we are, in the time we live in, surrounded by the people and experiences we are going through? It's a real mystery in our current forms within this river of time. I fully expect it to be answered without a shadow of a doubt one day, it's just this moment is not yet that time.
The way I view it is this: God exists in an eternal, timeless state. In other words, he exists outside of time. The reason why he knows the outcomes of our choices is in the same way we can pick up a history book and read about the life of George Washington. George certainly didn't know, with 100% certainty, what would be the outcome of his actions. But we can, because we exist outside his timeframe. And George certainly made his decisions without our interference, didn't he? Note that I am not saying that God is a time traveler or anything like that; it's just the best analogy I can come up with at this time.

God can see the decisions we make, the decisions we don't make, and the possible outcomes of all of them. He certainly doesn't control our actions. But if we pray to Him and ask Him for help, there is the possibility that He can help us. We have to have the humility to ask for His help, though. And if we are answering for help in making a decision or anything like that, we need to remain receptive to the answer He has for us - even if it isn't an answer we want to hear.