There is a prevailing thought in Western culture, which sickeningly ascribes all things that occur to Divine will. This horrible notion is perpetuated ignorantly by well meaning persons at funerals, for instance. I’m sorry that your loved one died. It was God’s will. He/She’s in a better place now. God was just ready to take him/her home. When there are horrendous tragedies with high human cost such as school shootings, people are quick to declare that it was God’s will that it happen. That there is some sort of Divine logic in all of it. This is absolutely WRONG. And those that say such things are doing great damage. This line of thinking encourages anger at God by victims family. Why would God want this to happen? Why would God take him/her like this? etc. The correct response to such happenings requires knowledge (to the extent that we CAN understand the Divine) of the workings of Divine will. I won’t attempt to address any theological implications here, only to give a very basic understanding of the very fundamental precepts of these ideas.
The notion of predestination is comprised of two essential elements: infallible foreknowledge, and immutable decrees. Predestination is further affected by an “external” element, and that is the free will granted to mankind. First of all, we must start with free will.
FREE WILL: (noun) – the power of acting without the constraint of necessity or fate; the ability to act at one’s own discretion.
The age old question applies? Why would the Divine grant free will, and then punish us for our use of the gift? Greater theologians and philosophers than I have pondered this for centuries, and still have arrived at no mutually satisfactory response. I am left therefore, only to ponder the implication of how this “gift” relates to Divine will.
The human creature is created with potential, talents, deficiencies, handicaps and free will. What the human does with this “hand dealt” is entirely up to the human. One may have multiple handicaps, and turn them into strengths. Another with the same handicaps may become bitter to the world and behave as if everything is owed them. For this reason it is clear to see that “God made me this way” is nothing more than an excuse. The Divine does not create a killer as such. How they became so, is another argument best left to the Nature vs. Nurture psycho babble. But it is not something to be blamed on heavenly forces.
We can no longer proceed further without the inclusion of the idea of predestination. For our example of the murderer, we now have a set of decrees. This person, with these particular handicaps is to be born to this abusive man and his on again, off again girlfriend who, due to their own life choices, live in complete poverty. This is an immutable decree. A set of circumstances that cannot be changed. There are variables, of course… a social worker may notice, and set in motion governmental intervention resulting in the child being placed in a loving foster home, or a not so loving, but nonetheless safe boys home etc. But the base decree cannot be changed. This IS who the child will be born to. Now then, there are several roads that this child’s life may take. Free choice. Regardless of where he ends up, with his birth parents, foster parents, a boys home, or a teen runaway, every choice opens new possibilities and paths. Now we begin to see a taste of infallible foreknowledge. To divine eyes, which transcend all time, all is seen, all is known. All possible paths and variations are foreseen, and the free will choices that will be made have already been observed. This is not to say that the Divine in any way leads the outcome, but at certain junctures in ones life, He may, by immutable decree, cause certain persons to cross a particular path which may be helpful to the individual. But then again, the choice is on that individual to accept or reject the help, and take or leave that path.
In short, yes. God knows all and sees all. He knows the end. He knows what we will do and how. But it is not because He causes us to do so, merely because He, like a person watching a movie with the ability to fast forward and rewind, sees and knows what has been, what is, and what will be. The choices made are the individuals own. The paths taken, results of choices. The Divine lovingly created each of us with our potential. He decreed our start point. He gave us our strengths and our weaknesses, and then He gave us free will to do with them as we may. He never commanded a boy to go into a school with a gun and kill twenty kids and four teachers. He allowed that boy to make the choices that led him to that point, and even placed doubt in the boy before he did the horrid act. One last call of the conscience. Only He knows how many children have listened to that still, small voice, and not committed the act they had planned. But He CERTAINLY never made them do it. He did not decree that it should happen. He did not make it part of His “plan”. He allowed free choice to be made.
Sure, there are particular persons who He takes a more active role with. Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, Joseph, Moses, Aaron, Joshua, Saul, David, Solomon, the Prophets etc… World leaders, world events and such. I have no doubt that it was Divine and Immutable Decree that the Nazi’s come to power, much as their forebears, Babylon and Assyria. Or that the United States of America be discovered, formed and established on Judeo Christian principles, and to go on and become a world leader for fifty years. But we know this already. The Tanakh/Bible makes clear that He places Kings on their thrones and guides the destinies of nations. But this little rant addresses only the individual level. That is the most basic terms that I can place on the most difficult to understand mystery of Divine will, decrees and free choice. Hopefully it made some sort of sense. If you want to know more, contact me and I’ll send you a reading list on the subject, by minds greater than mine could ever hope to be.