I would like to know difference between choice and fate in our Christian
walk. Starting from Adam to Judas.

This is certainly one of the most significant
theological/doctrinal debates in the history of Christianity?indeed in all
religions. Given that God is all-knowing and all-powerful, and given that
he exists outside of time, it seems logical that he already knows what we
will do before we even do it. Does God pre-determine our fate in some
way, or does he, despite his power, give us “free will” to make our
decisions? You might be surprised that the Bible does not answer this
question directly. The phrase “free will” is not in the Bible. The
honest truth is that there is at least some evidence in the Bible for both
points of view. However, in the big picture, I believe that the
overwhelming truth is that God does allow us to make our own ultimate
choice to serve him or to reject him.

Let me start by giving some evidence to the
contrary. First, one could mention Romans chapter nine. In this chapter,
God, through Paul, says to his people, “But who are you, O man, to talk
back to God?”? “Does not the potter have the right to make out of the
same lump of clay some pottery for noble purposes and some for common
use?” Paul specifically uses the example of Pharaoh, whose heart was
hardened by God so that he could bring about the miraculous release of
Israel from bondage. I would say that at the very least, this passage
shows that in order to see that his greater will be accomplished, God is
willing to step into history to affect the lives of certain people. On
the other hand, I believe that in the end, Pharaoh had every opportunity
to repent and to turn to God.

If it is established that God will, in certain
cases, step in to influence the course of human events, is one right to
extrapolate to say that all of our lives and all of our decisions are
pre-determined by God?in other words to say that there is no free will and
that our lives are fated from birth? I would give a strong no in answer
to that question. If we do not have a choice, then why would Moses have
said to God?s people, “Now choose life that you and your children may
live, and that you may love the Lord your God, listen to his voice, and
hold fast to him.” (Deuteronomy 30:19,20). As another clear example of
ultimate choice on the part of humans in their relationship with God, I
would mention Joshua 24:15, “But if serving the Lord seems undesirable to
you, then choose for yourselves this day whom you will serve, whether the
gods your forefathers served beyond the River, or the gods of the
Amorites,?” Jesus clearly believed in “free will,” even if he did not use
that philosophical term. “If anyone would come after me, he must deny
himself and take up his cross daily and follow me.” (Luke 9:24). And
consider John 7:17, “If anyone chooses to do God?s will, he will find out
whether my teaching comes from God or whether I speak on my
own.” Evidently, God has a particular will for our lives, but also
evidently, he allows us to choose to accept that will or to reject it.
Dozens of passages which clearly teach at least the idea of free will
could be mentioned.

Given all this, where did theologians such as John
Calvin reach a radical predestination doctrine? That is a good question.
John Calvin (and therefore most Presbyterians and Baptists, to mention a
few) taught that we were all born predestined to either salvation or
condemnation and that there is nothing we can do to resist God?s will in
that regard. Calvin would use Romans 8:29 to support his opinion. “For
those God foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the likeness of
his Son, that he might be the firstborn among many brothers. And those he
predestined, he also called; those he called he also justified; those he
justified he also glorified.” On the face of it, this passage does at
least seem to justify the radical predestination doctrine. However, a
rule of biblical interpretation is to allow the entire Bible to speak,
especially to such a large question. We cannot use a single passage to
prove a great number of seemingly contradictory passages “wrong.” We must
reach a reasonable conclusion on such large matters by considering all the
passages which relate to the issue. In the case of Romans 8:29, I believe
that God has predestined all of us to be saved, but that not all of us
accept this destiny. In that sense, all of us are predestined to conform
to his Son, but not all of us are called, as not all hear the message.
And not all who hear the message respond and are justified. And not all
who are justified (saved) remain faithful and ultimately make it to heaven
(are glorified). Based on this, Paul is giving a descending list. All
are predestined, less are called, less are justified, still less are
glorified. I would admit that this is not the immediately obvious
interpretation of Romans 8:29, but it is the only interpretation which
makes sense if I consider books such as Hebrews which so very clearly
warns against falling away and losing our justification. There is no way
to support a radical doctrine of predestination in view of the hundreds of
statements in the Bible which prove beyond a reasonable doubt that God
gives us a choice to serve him or not.

You specifically mention Adam and Judas. God
predestined Adam to have a relationship with him. Adam, like the rest of
us, chose to reject that relationship by sinning. In so doing, he set the
pattern for all of us who followed. All of us sin and fall short of the
glory of God (Romans 3). Yet all of us have open the choice to turn our
back on our sins, to respond to God, to repent and to be made new in
Christ. I believe that Judas is an example of a person into whose life
God stepped to bring about his larger will in having Jesus killed for our
sins. This is an example of “predestination” in my opinion.
Nevertheless, I believe that Judas still had open the possibility of
repentance and renewal. He chose suicide and eternal separation rather
than repent of what he had done to Jesus. Even in this case, although God
did, to use my words, “step in” I do not believe he violated Judas’
ultimate free will.

To summarize, I believe in a very limited sort of
predestination. It does seem that God has predestined all of us to be
with him in heaven, although not all of us choose to accept that destiny.
In order to bring about the saving sacrifice of Jesus Christ on the
Cross, and also in order to create the many foreshadows and prefigures of
the events at the cross (see my book “From Shadow to Reality”
www.ipibooks.com for many examples), God has on occasion stepped in
directly and directed some of the specifics of the lives of certain
individuals because of the greater goal of bringing about the possibility
of salvation for all people. However, even when God does this, he has
always left open the possibility for the person so affected to choose to
believe in him.

I hope this answers your question.

John Oakes

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