Choice or Predestination?
by Aleele Paago
Not For Sale
Author requests article critique
Not For Sale
Author requests article critique
Destiny, Destination or Predestination?
There is a challenge we all face in life. It is one that is critical to our success in life. If you are like the rest of us, at some point in your life you must seek to answer the question: WHAT WAS I BORN TO BE? We all know that when we buy a new equipment, it comes with a manufacturer’s manual detailing the uses to which the equipment may be put. Another section identifies the likely problems the equipment will face in the process of usage and what could be done to rectify these problems when they arise.
Humans were not given this privilege. At birth, no one told your parents what you are supposed to do or be in life. No one told your family what problems they should expect from you, what kind of sicknesses you will have to endure or encounter. No one specified the kind of person you should marry and the problems that will come with that relationship. No one mentioned the opportunities you will face and squander or conquer. You were born blank, and you don’t even have a memory of where you were coming from or where you are going to. You are as desperate as the rest of us.
Our parents try their best to ensure that they provide us with enough tools to enable us discover all these things for ourselves as we journey through life. Yet the best of their efforts will amount to nothing, absolute nothing, if you walk through the process without first discovering the purposes for which you were created.
When you don’t understand your purpose, the only option available to you is abuse, because no matter how good the effect to which you put any equipment, if it was not designed for that purpose, then it is being abused. It may do some good, but that was not the purpose for which it was created.
The same thing applies to us. The challenge is HOW DO I KNOW WHAT I WAS BORN TO BE?
In your own words, what do you define as Destiny? Consider it thoroughly before you read any further.
Then consider these definitions picked at random from the internet…
• an event (or a course of events) that will inevitably happen in the future
• the ultimate agency regarded as predetermining the course of events (often personified as a woman); "we are helpless in the face of destiny"
• fortune: your overall circumstances or condition in life (including everything that happens to you); "whatever my fortune may be"; wordnet.princeton.edu/perl/webwn
Destiny has been defined as the predetermined course of events considered as something beyond human power or control. Or The power or agency thought to predetermine events: It has its roots in the Latin word dçstinâre, to determine.
Destination is easily understood to be the place to which one is going or directed. It is also closely linked to destiny and one definition is “The ultimate purpose for which something is created or intended”.
On the other hand, Our English word "predestinate" is from the Greek proonzo. "Pro, beforehand, and honzo, denotes to mark out beforehand..., foreordain...." Indeed, predestination is a biblical theme: "For whom he did foreknow, he also did predestinate to be conformed to the image of his Son..." (Rom. 8: 29). Again, "According as he hath chosen us in him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and without blame before him in love: Having predestinated us unto the adoption of children by Jesus Christ to himself, according to the good pleasure of his will…" (Eph. 1: 4, 5). These verses have been misinterpreted so many times that I will have to ask you to re-examine what you believe about them.
The single most important decision you can ever take is one to walk your path of destiny. As important as this decision can be, so many persons fail to make it, not knowing that even in failing to take a concrete decision they have unwittingly decided to walk the path of destiny with their eyes closed.
Destiny is a very controversial issue, especially so in religion. Several theories have been advanced in the field of psychology about destiny. They largely fall into two categories – determinism (fatalism), and Autonomy (free will). More recently a new school of thought has added what is called the trimodal approach which is an attempt at uniting these extreme views. Determinism is a belief that what will be, will be; that your destiny is crafted by a supernatural power and is way beyond you as a mortal being to change it. The other extreme, Autonomy, states that whatever happens to a man is the result of his actions. In other words, your destiny is based on your choices since man is a free moral agent.
These beliefs are also closely matched in Christianity. The more intense your religious belief in a supreme being, the more inclined you are to believe that he directs your steps and therefore everything that turns up in your life is by a divine order. Christians are not alone in this belief. Virtually all other religions have this concept, from Islam to Judaism or Buddhism under different names.
The bible clearly teaches the concept of the omniscient nature of God. An All-knowing God can without fail tell what will happen in the future. The bible prophecies convince without a shadow of doubt that God knows the end from the beginning. Starting with the prediction in Genesis about the birth of Christ and the kind of death he will die as captured in several Old Testament quotations, it is simply amazing to see the fulfillment of these prophecies to the letter. Only an all-knowing God could have made those predictions thousands of years before some of them were fulfilled.
Is this same God who orders the path of the universe in such painstaking detail also involved in the outcomes of your life? Does he determine in every minute detail that which happens to you on a minute by minute existence? Carefully evaluate your answers bearing in mind that there are no less than 6 billion people living on earth.
I do not want you to accept what I am about to say next. Let it be clear that I am just another human being searching for answers like you are doing. Feel free to disagree with all that I say. That is the true starting point, if you are sincerely looking for a place in life. You must learn to search for your own answers and to belief in them until you discover fresh evidence to abandon a previous position. No doubt if you present me with a better argument, I will gladly accept your point of view as well on this issue.
Is an omniscient God involved in the minute details of your life? Let us consider some historical answers from a Christian perspective. 400 years after the death of Christ, the Church plagued with the argument of predestination called a council to debate and adopt a position.
One early debate involving the matter of predestination was conducted between Augustine of Hippo and Pelagius. Augustine taught that man has nothing to do with his own salvation. Man has inherited the totally depraved nature of Adam and Eve to the point they are spiritually incapable of availing themselves of God's grace, he further contended. As a result of the depraved Adamic nature being inherited, babies are born in sin and with a sinful nature. Augustine argued that the only way any are saved is by God intervening and choosing some whom he calls his elect to be saved. This choosing is totally arbitrary and independent of those chosen. Those thus chosen, cannot ever be lost or fall from grace. To the converse, those not arbitrarily chosen before the foundation of the world to everlasting life are irrevocably doomed to hell, having absolutely no hope of salvation, regardless of what they do or do not do. Such a doctrine as formulated by Augustine constitutes true "Calvinism" today.
Pelagius, on the other hand, taught that each man is created free just as Adam was and that each man must choose whether he will serve God or the devil. All men, contended Pelagius, are not sinners because Adam sinned, but because each man himself has violated God's law. Pelagius argued that when God extended the plan of salvation, it is for all who will obey, not just a few whom God arbitrarily chose, totally independently of themselves. Each man may cooperate with God and be saved through his faith and obedience to God's will.
It is tragic that most who "ruled" on the results of the debate at the ecumenical Council of Ephesus (AD 431), favored the views of Augustine.
The stated position of the then church became: "God hath decreed in himself from all eternity by the most wise and holy counsel of his own will freely and unchangeable, all things whatsoever come to pass," (Philadelphia Confession of Faith, ch. 6, para. 2-4)
This one-sided position has led many Christians to err seriously on the issue of purpose and destiny.
We have been taught a concept of destiny that is made in heaven. We have been told it is God’s decision what we turn out to be in life or what life turns up for us. This concept is so deeply ingrained. Your gifts and talents are God-given, your choice of parents was made by God, your death is concealed in God, therefore everything else in between must be as directed by God.
I accept this teaching. There is nothing wrong with it. Our destinies are made in heaven, but they are delivered on earth. The implication is that philosophy called fatalism… whatever will be will be no matter how hard you try. You can’t change fate. We have been given examples from scripture, Esau, Pharaoh, Judas, all men that came to abominable ends in spite of their good intentions. It appears that God overrode their ability to apply their freedom of choice. Would Esau ordinarily want to sell his birthright? Why should Joseph be more favoured than his brothers? Perhaps of a truth what will be will be.
But if you pursue this line of thinking to a logical end, you are faced with a dilemma. Why should God judge anybody and condemn to hell fire if he has already predestinated them to become unsaved, recalcitrant, disobedient and incapable of choosing otherwise? Why should Jesus die for the whole world if just a preselect few are the objects of this awesome act of salvation?
Leave the land of bible characters for a moment, let’s get personal. What about you? What is it going to be for you? What is your destiny? What is your fate? Is it ultimately defined by God or do you have a say in it? The man that loses money to wonder banks or on the stock exchange and goes ahead to commit suicide, is that God’s will for him? Even though we agree that that was his destiny? Could that destiny have been changed? The woman that out of the shame of being caught red-handed in the art of adultery commits suicide is that God’s plan and purpose or is it just her decision? Could she have taken a different decision? With a different outcome?
If you agree that by some chance destiny can be changed then who is responsible for the Change? Is it God, or you? The kind of wife or husband you eventually marry, whose choice is it; God’s or yours? The kind of work you get to do, the city you live in, who makes these choices? God? You? Do these choices have any impact on your destiny?
May be I am making it look too simple. In reality, I am trying to get you to evaluate the other side of the coin. Are you a free moral agent? Will God hold you responsible for the choices you make? Why should God judge you and send you to hell, if he has already determined (destiny) that you should never be saved? Will a God that makes that decision still be just? If it is all about God, why does the bible say “Whosoever will…?” or “choose you this day whom you will serve?”
I therefore come to the conclusion that it is not all about God, my choices also count in this issue of destiny. No matter what anybody says there are elements in my life that I cannot choose. And these elements already affect to a large extent what my destiny would be. I could not have chosen my parents or the time and place where I was born. A child born to a president of Nigeria is obviously better off than one born to the peasant in the creeks of the Niger Delta. Their destinies can be that different. But here again we are looking only at the elements we know. How these two children end up (destiny) may be completely different. The child of the president may end up in a jail (eg. Margret Thatcher’s son) and the child of the peasant may go on to rule the world as a beauty queen (Agbani Darego). What makes the difference? God or personal Choice? Or both?
The answer should be staring you in the face by now. Your destiny is a divine collaboration between you and God. The God part is easy or should be. But we have been taught again that it is a mystery in the mind of God that we cannot fathom and should not even bother ourselves. I wonder what the Bible is for if not for the revelation of God’s mind concerning us. There is still a problem here. The Bible does not tell me what will happen to me this weekend and that too is an integral part of my destiny.
Your destiny is not just your destination; it is more the journey to that destination. It is not just the end result, but more so the process that produces the end results. So while the end may already be determined in God, I can by the process, which is more of my responsibility than God’s, alter the final outcome. That too will be destiny.
A man can change his destiny. In fact a man determines his destiny actively or passively with God. I can back up this assertion with several scriptures and will do in the course of this book. However, I hope I have been able to make you see the enormous responsibility that you carry in shaping your destiny. The rest of this book will be devoted to dealing in very practical terms with the two dimensions of your destiny. We will look first at the God dimension and proceed to what you need to do as an individual to fulfill what has already been established in heaven concerning you.
The intricate interplay of personal choice and divine schedule is the script of our lives. To have your place in life, you must be able to understand these two sometimes opposing concepts and be able to blend them into a pattern of constructive resonance.
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