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

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.

John Oakes, Ph.D.

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