The idea that our lives, the events that occur to us every day and even our own salvation, has already been determined by God from before we were born, has occupied the mind of humans from various religions and philosophical schools at different times in history.
In Hinduism, Krishna, the Hindu god, tells his charioteer Arjuna not to fear going into battle and kill his enemies, because he had already predestined Arjuna’s duty and the death of his opponents. (Bhagavad Gita 11:31-34, 200 BCE).
Earlier Egyptian literature, as in the story of “The Doomed Prince”, also reflects the belief in a pre-appointed fate for humans among ancient Egyptians. 1
As this belief in a higher power beyond our control, marking and determining our earthly existence expanded, Judaism was no exception. Their belief in their own election as a privileged nation in Abraham was deeply rooted in God’s sovereignty (Ex 33:19; Dt 7:7-8; Jos 11:20; Mal 1:2); and from them, passed onto Christianity and Islam.
Since we hold only Jewish and Christian scriptures to be inspired by God, the concept about predestination among other religions and cultures is irrelevant to us as theological source, except for the fact that seems to be a natural inclination in humans to lean towards this belief, as if it was implanted in their souls.
Predestination and Free Will in the Bible
Indeed, the Bible as a whole teaches that God has predetermined many things in the universe, as much on a macro level, regarding the planet and the world affairs in general, as on a micro level, regarding our lives.
God has predestined the date and place of our birth, and the length of our lives (Acts 17:26; Mt 6:27); He predetermined the greatness of nations (Dt 32:8), God elected us before we were born to believe in Christ (Eph 1:3-5), and indeed Lord Jesus said that nobody comes to believe in Him, unless God brings him or her to Him (Mt 24:24; Lk 8:10; Jn 6:44; Ro 9:10-13; 2 Th 2:13-14; Gal 1:15; Rev 13:8).
On the other hand, the Scripture also states clearly, that humans have the power to choose their destiny
(Jn 7:17; 1Cor 10:13; 2Pe 3:9; Rev 2:5, 21-23; 3:5; Dt 30:19; Is 55:6-7)
The Perfect Balance
The Bible is not a book of systematic theology. It is not an encyclopaedia according to topics explained to exhaustion. The bible is a collection of lose books, addressed to an audience already familiar with its teachings, and that holds the most important points of the Christian faith that are necessary for salvation. That is the reason why the Holy Spirit guided the Prophets and Apostles to put in writing what they did.
From Scripture we can gather that humans were created free. That is why Adam and Even were punished justly, because the disobeyed God deliberately of their own volition.
But Scripture also teaches us that God in his love and mercy, has already chosen us to become his children in this life to partake, through Christ, of his Glory once this life is over. That God has ordained things in our favour so that we attain the purpose He created us for:
“…having determined their appointed times and the boundaries of their habitation, that they would seek God, if perhaps they might grope for Him and find Him” (Acts 17:26-27)
However, the manner how this is balanced in the perfect manner that only God, in his perfect justice can do, it is a mystery to us.
We have been told of our free will, so that we may make our decisions responsibly, because we will be held accountable for them. And in the other hand, it has been revealed to us that without God’s grace and initiative, the exercise of this free will would be impossible since the Adamic fall.
Throughout history, men of God have tried to explain how this could happen. The prevalent theory teaches that God made his election in base of his foreknowledge of what would be our decisions and actions in a perfect state, that is, without the natural inclination to sin and the decay of will that came after the Fall, electing them and ordering all thigs in this life that would lead them to that. However, some think this theory diminishes God’s sovereignty over our salvation after all. Regardless, the truth is that it is still and it will remain always a mystery to us.
Despite the fact that we may not know with certainty how this balance between human free will and God’s election takes place; what we know for certain, is that wrong and immoral theories have crept into Christianity at times.
The doctrine of Double Predestination that teaches that God Almighty created deliberately some people for Glory and some to end up in Hell fire, for his own amusement or to prove to angels and humans how powerful He is; and the theory that once humanity had fallen, God only chose some to be saved and bypassed the rest of humanity abandoning them to eternal pain and damnation, being able to save them if He wanted to; are both distorted doctrines that contradict all moral, philosophical and theological principles of the Gospel of Jesus Christ, unacceptable even to imperfect human standards.
1 William Kelly Simpson, The Literature of Ancient Egypt (London: Yale University Press, 2003), 75-79