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What is Predestination?

In Christian theology, predestination is the belief that God has predetermined all events, usually with regard to the individual’s ultimate fate. Predestination explanations frequently attempt to resolve the “paradox of free will,” in which God’s omniscience appears irreconcilable with human free will. Predestination can be considered a sort of religious determinism in this context, and predeterminism, also known as theological determinism, is commonly used.

Predestination refers to the belief that everything has already been planned by God, particularly regarding the fate of an individual soul. The concept of Predestination has often been criticized for being paradoxical to the liberal humanistic concept of free will.

The idea of Predestination is predominant in Christian theology. There are references to Predestination in Islam and spiritual and astrological theories. In this sense, Predestination has also been considered a kind of religious determinism, especially as a form of predeterminism, also called theological determinism.

Predestination In Different Religions

Predestination In Judaism & Christianity

Before the advent of Christianity, the Hebrew Book of Enoch was one of the scriptures that referred to a predetermined, deterministic world. There is debate among scholars regarding the presence of the notion of Predestination in Judaism, from which rose Christianity.

Some scholars have argued that Predestination in Judaism is chiefly concerned with God’s choice to save particular individual Jews. Others have argued that the story of Josephus indicates the predestined world of God. While Jewish texts do not make explicit references to Predestination, the Christian Bible, particularly the Epistle to the Romans in the New Testament, explicitly mentions God’s world’s predestined nature.

In the 3rd century, a Christian scholar, theologian, and ascetic called Origen of Alexandria preached that God’s providence or God’s care and divine guidance is for every individual and that God’s foreknowledge of every human’s fate and actions contributed to Predestination. In the fourth and fifth centuries, the concept of predestination was further propounded and preached by the philosopher and theologian Augustine of Hippo, also called Saint Augustine.

St. Augustine taught that although God ordered everything in the universe, He still maintained human freedom. Augustine’s understanding of Predestination implies a convoluted sense of Predestination and has been criticized and questioned by scholars.

In the Middle Ages, particularly in the 12th century, the Italian Dominican friar and priest Thomas Aquinas instructed that people have the freedom to exercise their choice. Therefore, they are free to choose sin and are entirely responsible for it.

The Reformist John Calvin believed that God actively wills the damnation of sinners. He thought that an individual is damned due to their sin, but salvation is possible only by the action of God.

Predestination In The Calvinistic Sect of Christianity

Different branches within Christianity have different interpretations of the concept of Predestination. While almost all the denominations of Christian thought believe in Predestination, they are conflicted about the supposed incompatibility of Predestination with the free will of humans. While the Roman Catholic Church believes that free will is not denied in God’s eternal plan of Predestination, the operation and consequences of predestination do not play a significant role within the Catholic Church.

The notion of Predestination is much more complicated in Calvinism. In Calvinism, the doctrine of Predestination deals with the question of God’s control over His Creation. Specifically, it refers to the concept of salvation. Followers of Calvinism believe that God has preordained salvation by grace for some, while the others will face eternal damnation for their sins. The first case is called ‘unconditional election, and the second is called ‘reprobation.’

Within Calvinistic belief, some individuals are predestined for salvation by God while others are left for reprobation. Compared to the other branches of Christianity, Calvinism places a lot of emphasis on ‘unconditional election.’ This idea that God not only chooses to save some but also punishes others is also known as double Predestination.

Predestination In Islam

In Islam, the idea of Predestination or divine destiny is called ‘Qadar’ or fate and divine fore-ordainment. Qadar is one of the six articles of faith within Islam. According to Iman, the six articles of faith refer to the six primary beliefs in Islam, as delineated in the Quran and hadith.

According to Muslims, divine destiny was ordained when God wrote down all that has happened, and all that will happen in the Preserved Tablet or the al-lawh al-mahfooz. Muslims often refer to the phrase Insha’Allah which is Arabic for ‘if God willed it’. The phrase Insha’Allah recognizes that everything that happens is under the control and knowledge of God and that human understanding of the future is limited. Muslims believe in the existence of God’s predestination because of the omniscience of God, whether it be good or bad.

The belief in Al-Qadar or divine destiny in Islam is primarily based on four things:

  • Knowledge - since God knows everything, He also knows the actions of his creations by virtue of His eternal knowledge
  • Writing - God has written down the destiny of all creatures in Al-lawh Al-mahfooz
  • Will - God wills what will happen, therefore, He chooses all the courses of actions
  • Creation and formation - as God is the creator of all, He is also the creator of all their actions

Within Islam, while Sunnis consider qadar as an Islamic creed, Shias, often reject the concept of predestination. The Shiite view is that God has not created a definite course of human history. Instead, He may alter it as He sees fit. Shiites believe that human destiny is of two kinds – definite and indefinite.

Predestination In Hinduism & Astrology

While Predestination forms an integral part of Christianity and Islam, Hinduism, and astrological studies derived from it, focus more on the concept of an individual’s Karma and free will. Karma refers to a person’s action or deed. Good actions and intentions lead to good Karma and happier rebirths, while wrong actions and choices lead to bad Karma and a bad cycle of rebirths.

Within Hinduism, a person can alter his Karma according to his actions. However, there are also references to predestined Karma, though not as well defined as in Christianity or Islam. Astrological charts also reflect an individual’s Karma. While the patterns in astrological charts appear to be predestined as the Karma in one’s previous lives affects their present state, there is a possibility for individuals to change the course of their destiny, particularly by attaining moksha.

Michael Angel