What is fatalism? What is determinism?
Question: "What is fatalism? What is determinism?"
Answer: Let’s begin with some general definitions:
Determinism: The view that every event has a cause and that everything in the universe is absolutely dependent on and governed by causal laws. Since determinists believe that all events, including human actions, are predetermined, determinism is typically thought to be incompatible with free will.
Fatalism: The belief that "what will be will be," since all past, present, and future events have already been predetermined by God or another all-powerful force. In religion, this view may be called predestination; it holds that whether our souls go to heaven or hell is determined before we are born and is independent of our good deeds.
Free will: The theory that human beings have freedom of choice or self-determination; that is, given a situation, a person could have done other than what he did. Philosophers have argued that free will is incompatible with determinism.
Indeterminism: The view that there are events that do not have any cause; many proponents of free will believe that acts of choice are capable of not being determined by any physiological or psychological cause.
Theological fatalism is an attempt to demonstrate a logical contradiction between an omniscient God and free will, where free will is defined as the ability to choose between alternatives. In this it is similar in purpose to the conundrum "Can an omnipotent God make a rock so heavy that even he is not able to lift it?"
Theological fatalism’s premises are stated as follows: God is omniscient. Since God is omniscient, God has infallible foreknowledge. If God has infallible foreknowledge that tomorrow you will engage in an event (mow the lawn), then you must invariably engage in that event (mowing the lawn).
Therefore, free-will is not possible since you have no alternative except to engage in the event (mow the lawn). In the event that you do not fulfill event, then God is not omniscient. Alternatively, if you engage in event, then you don't have free will on account of the inability to choose another alternative.
An opposing argument can state: God is omniscient. Since God is omniscient, He is also infallible. If God has infallible foreknowledge that tomorrow you will engage in an event, then you will freely choose this based on your free will, not out of obligation or lack of choice about the event. You still have free will to engage in the event; God merely knows your choice before you make it. You are not obliged to make choice 'A' (mowing
the lawn) any more than choice 'B' (playing tennis). If you were going to change your mind, God would have seen that also, so you still have full free will in all matters. Also, you will still make the same choices (with free will), even if God chose to not see the future. Seeing the future or not does not alter your free will.
With passive foreknowledge, if it were kept hidden, it would not invalidate free will in any logical or rational way. The individual choosing event 'A,' would be making the exact same choices regardless of whether God knew the choices beforehand. God knowing or not knowing the future (passively) would not alter the free will of individuals at all. The demise of free will would only logically come if God made His knowledge public in regard
to the freewill choice of individuals; this would alter future free will and make it an obligation. One simple illustration could be a psychic person foreseeing someone on the other side of the world tripping and breaking his leg when he runs to catch a bus. The psychic would not be altering reality be foreseeing this event, as this event would still happen regardless of whether someone had seen it or not. The same application can
be applied to God's omniscience: as long as it is passive and not interfering with reality or another's knowledge of it, then it is not contravening the free will of humans.
However, if it is to be understood that God created all that is created, the principle asserts that this poses a problem for any passive knowledge on God's part. An understanding of omniscience must be joined with an understanding of God's omnipresence in time. If God knows all events—past, future, and present—then He would know all events and decisions an individual would make, though from the individual’s perspective those events and decisions
have not yet occurred. This can be viewed, at least implicitly, as a nullification of any concept of free will for any individual, though no mechanism for God's apparent foreknowledge restraining the freedom to act is posited by the principle of theological fatalism. Since, according the Christian theology, God is atemporal (existing outside of time), God knows from creation the entire course of one's life, all the actions in which he will
partake, and even whether or not that individual will accept His divine authority. With these preconditions, only a starkly fatalistic theological position seems imaginable to some.
To go one step further, here are some other implications: There is a vast difference between Predestination, Fatalism and Chance (or Fortune).
Fatalists teach that there is a blind, impersonal force, back of which there is no Divine purpose and over which none has control—not even God—and that the things which happen in this world are swept along by this blind power. This is Fatalism.
Chance (or Fortune) means that things "happen" luckily, that things are not controlled and directed by God. According to Chance, God can foresee what will happen, but that is all. Everything is mere luck. And if the advocate of Chance is asked why or how things come to pass, he has no reply except to say that "it just happened."
Predestination, the doctrine of the Bible, says that God has a purpose and He is working all things out according to His own will and purpose (Ephesians 1:11, Daniel 4:35, Isaiah 14:24 and 46:10).
Predestination teaches that God does nothing nor does He permit anything except that which serves to carry out His purpose (Psalm 33:11). This means that God IS the SOVEREIGN of the world, the One who does all things as He wills.
Those who blankly say or believe "what is to be, will be" are as wrong as the advocates of chance. It is true that events are certain, but only so because of the sovereign God who fulfills His own decrees. Actually, those who believe "what is to be, will be," without considering God, are as difficult to convince of the Bible doctrine of predestination as those who believe in chance or fortune.
Serious students of the Bible do not believe that things “just happen." They understand that a wise, holy, good and sovereign God has the control and guiding hand in every detail of life (Matthew 10:29-30). The only man who does not really want God to have this control, or the man who despises the truth that God does have the control, is the person who does not love God and does not want God in his life. He wants his own will
and way. He wants God on one side, and he wants to be on the other. He, like the devils of old, would say, "Leave us alone." But not so; God is sovereign, and He cannot deny Himself.
Recommended Resource: Debating Calvinism - Five Points, Two Views by Dave Hunt and James White.
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