Determinism is the idea that events unfold in a predetermined systematic consequential way that is beyond our control. Some call it fate or destiny, others karma and some God’s will. The CARM ministry web site defines Determinism as
“the philosophical view that every event in the universe is caused and controlled by natural laws. This would dictate that there is no free will in humans and that all events are the result of natural and physical laws.”
It is an interesting thing that I came to the place of decision in this series of major terms of apologetics. I had the opportunity to make choices along the way. I am writing this series using the alphabet as my guide. The first three topics were fairly easy to confirm. The decision for this one came down to choosing to write on the concept of design or on determinism.
I had the opportunity to make a choice. That statement describes our understanding of the concept of freewill, which is directly related to determinism. As I ramble about these two concepts trying to make sense of them, I would like to point out that other wiser philosophers have wrestled with this as well. You will find links to the various types of determinism as you read on.
As Christians we understand the Bible as the word of God. In His word He describes this relationship between determinism and freewill in many places. Beginning with Genesis we see that He has created us with a freewill.
“And God said, Let us make man in our image, after our likeness: and let them have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the fowl of the air, and over the cattle, and over all the earth, and over every creeping thing that creepeth upon the earth.
So God created man in his own image, in the image of God created he him; male and female created he them.
And God blessed them, and God said unto them, Be fruitful, and multiply, and replenish the earth, and subdue it: and have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the fowl of the air, and over every living thing that moveth upon the earth.”
In these verses we see that God created us in His image. As we study and look upon the characteristics and attributes of God we see that we have a freewill and we are commanded to rule and work and create and multiply within the confines of a godly nature. God cannot do anything outside of His Godly nature He would not be God.
Our calling at creation was to live eternally within the godly nature God has given and to do this willingly as free agents enjoying all the blessings of a god nature freewill.
“And the Lord God commanded the man, saying, “You may surely eat of every tree of the garden, but of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil you shall not eat, for in the day that you eat of it you shall surely die.”
This passage reveals a choice that results in a determined outcome. There are types and levels of determinist that look upon freewill with varying amounts of liberty. Hard Determinist argue there is no freewill and all our actions are determined and thus we are not able to do other than what has been determined. This is refuted in the outline below.
At the following site you will find a chart and a very good explanation of the levels of determinism and a refutation of Hard Determinism with an argument favoring Compatibilism.
Created as we were originally before the fall, we were of one nature. Our nature was in the likeness of God. We were allowed to make all of our choices within the framework of that nature. There were multitudes of possible choices all with consequential effects within that nature.
A second nature was introduced at the fall by that which is in direct opposition to God and His creation. We see that nature appear as Eve falls for the lie of the serpent. The freewill choices Adam and Eve had are distorted when obedience to God was made to look restrictive and that God was keeping us from something good.
In this disobedience the choice was made to open up a whole new dimension of awareness and possibilities. However that choice came with a pre-determined consequence that was ignored and overlooked by Adam and Eve and that consequence was death.
This would be considered a deterministic outcome. Within the realm of these two natures regardless of what decisions or choices are made the inevitable outcome will always be death.
From this point on, all of humanity was allowed to work within these two realms, we could choose to live life within the God nature or the anti-God nature. Our choices would always be distorted, compromised and colored by the desires of our newly acquired sin nature. However hard we tried to maintain our lives within the God nature, the anti-God nature would overrule because of the fact that the original choice resulted in the determined outcome of death.
Now we can look at the many verses of scripture and understand the determinism that appears along with our freewill. We can understand the futility of living a life by all the Godly rules and yet still be overpowered by death. We can get a better idea of the universal aspect of salvation through Jesus Christ and the cost of being restored to our original nature.
Some verses on Determinism and Freewill
The next two resources give an explanation of how Determinism and Freewill are Compatible.
- Do We Have Free Will? Andrew Naselli August 2009
- The Compatibility of Determinism and Human Freedom Bruce Ware Winter 2012
In reflecting on Determinism and Compatibilism I have come to realize that the choices I make are either motivated by the sin nature or the Spirit of Christ. Many times I find my prayers are to make the right choice not out of fear of a determined condemnation but of love for the one who has rescued me from fear and death, and that this love would rule my heart and mind always.
These verse are helpful in reminding me there is a way to choose the right path.
“There is therefore now no condemnation to those who are in Christ Jesus, who do not walk according to the flesh, but according to the Spirit. For the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus has made me free from the law of sin and death.”
“Finally, brethren, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is of good repute, if there is any excellence and if anything worthy of praise, dwell on these things.”