A discussion of Choice vs Predestination that I once had with my ECF Students
Good Morning! Are you having a good day so far? What time did you get up today? What did you eat for breakfast? What clothing did you decide to wear to Liturgy? What will you do when you get home today? Will you pray before bed tonight? Will you have your homework done for tomorrow? Will you go to school? Will you go to college? Will you drive a red sports car someday? Will you get married? Have a family of your own? Rent or own your home? Vote? Use coupons when you shop? How about your retirement? When? Where? How?
Choices, Choices, Choices!!!!!!
Who will make these choices about your life? How will these choices impact what comes next? How about the choices about your judgment? Who will make them? What will it be, heaven or hell? How much repentance is enough repentance? Was that sin really bad enough to merit eternal punishment?
(You thought the first set of choices was hard.)
The truth is that some people believe that because God creates and controls all, God already made the choice about the salvation of our souls before we are even born, so it doesn’t really matter what choices we make. Some people are destined to be good and go to heaven, and some people are just destined to be bad and go to hell. This concept is called “predestination”. Others believe that WE make the choice for heaven or hell when we choose good or evil actions. They believe that we can decide for or against God with every choice we make and that we are free then, to accept or reject God in this life, and in the life to come after our death. This concept is called “free will”.
A major difference between Catholic and Protestant theology is belief in free will, in which both Luther and Calvin deny. Protestants teach the doctrine of "sola fide", or that faith alone is sufficient for salvation, and that each person does not cooperate in their own salvation, but that all of our moral choices are predetermined. The problem is that there are many scriptural passages that directly contradict this belief:
Deuteronomy 30: 19-20: I have set before you life and death, the blessing and the curse. Choose life, then, that you and your descendants may live, by loving the LORD, your God, heeding his voice, and holding fast to him.
Not only is each individual free to choose, he MUST to choose.
James 1: 13-15: No one experiencing temptation should say, 'I am being tempted by God'; for God is not subject to temptation to evil, and he himself tempts no one. Rather, each person is tempted when he is lured and enticed by his own desire.
Each person is responsible to respond to temptation by a method of his own choosing.
Proverbs 1:24: Because I called and you refused, I extended my hand and no one took notice.
See, it IS true that God calls us but we are free to refuse if we so decide! We have
Galatians 2:17: But if, in seeking to be justified in Christ, we ourselves are found to be sinners, is Christ then a minister of sin? Of course not!
There is no way we can blame Christ for our sinful choices. Would He decide to MAKE us decide against Him?
Romans 1: 20-21: Ever since the creation of the world, his invisible attributes of eternal power and divinity have been able to be understood and perceived in what he has made. As a result, they have no excuse; for although they knew God they did not accord him glory as God or give him thanks. Instead, they became vain in their reasoning, and their senseless minds were darkened.
Paul here warns us that the glory of God is evident to all but not everyone chooses to acknowledge it. Notice that all do have the choice.
Let’s go to the Catechism to find the teachings of the Catholic Church on the subject:
1743 "God willed that man should be left in the hand of his own counsel (cf. Sir 15:14), so that he might of his own accord seek his creator and freely attain his full and blessed perfection by cleaving to him" (GS 17 § 1).
1744 Freedom is the power to act or not to act, and so to perform deliberate acts of one's own. Freedom attains perfection in its acts when directed toward God, the sovereign Good.
1745 Freedom characterizes properly human acts. It makes the human being responsible for acts of which he is the voluntary agent. His deliberate acts properly belong to him.
1746 The imputability or responsibility for an action can be diminished or nullified by ignorance, duress, fear, and other psychological or social factors.
This means that there are factors in people's lives that can limit the responsibility they have for behaving in a certain, otherwise sinful, way! For example, if one is truly ignorant of the sinfulness of an action (and I mean truly ignorant...God is no fool), is coerced by stress or fear into a sinful behavior, or is mentally impaired beyond the ability to make wise choices, he will not be held accountable by God in the same way as someone who knows full well what he is doing. See how merciful our God is!
1747 The right to the exercise of freedom, especially in religious and moral matters, is an inalienable requirement of the dignity of man. But the exercise of freedom does not entail the putative right to say or do anything.
See, we are free, but we are not free of the consequences of our choices.
1748 "For freedom Christ has set us free" (Gal 5:1).
So there it is! The Church, based on the above scriptural references, teaches that every human being must make his own choices either for or against God and His will and teachings. Is this to say that a man who has sinned against God and merits hell can change his mind (repent) and thereby change his destiny?
For example: When Judas died on the gallows tree, presumably without repentance, we believe he would merit hell, BUT let's suppose that he survived the hanging and confessed his sin and repented, then died that evening instead, would he then go to heaven? Presumably, YES!
But how is this possible when God is all powerful and all knowing? How can God know what’s going to happen next if he leaves the next move up to us? Are we really free to make that move when God knows exactly what it will be and lines up the rest of our lives according to it?
Lets contemplate the following scenario: I decide that I'm going to play a round of golf with Tiger Woods.
Now, I do not play golf...ever. Who do you think will win? Now if you know me and you know the reputation of Tiger Woods, you can fairly easily know well ahead of the time that I will lose that game, but did you make me lose? Did you make him win? Of course not. In other words, perfect knowledge of the abilities of the players involved does not predestine the outcome of the game at all. In the ultimate game, that of life, God, in his infinite wisdom, knows perfectly what it is that we will choose, but He has determined that WE should be the ones who make the choice and WE are the ones responsible for it. Having given us that free will, as we have seen by the scripture verses listed above, He would never contradict Himself by over-riding our autonomy and forcing our hand.
Catholics believe in that mystery and know that is where the truth lies!
God is He Who Is. We must remember that God knows ALL. Even what happens beyond time and space, because he created time and space. For this reason it is true that before we existed, He knew us. Our death may be known to God before our birth, but we are still free to live, and free to choose. So, what choices will you make today?