By Rich Holland
Faculty, College of Theology
If God has a path for me and my life, can my decisions go against his plan or would the outcome of those decisions then be the path he had for me? Basically, is my fate set for me, or can I affect it?
You have asked a very good question, one that touches on some significant theological and philosophical issues related to God’s sovereignty, human freedom, salvation and moral responsibility. There is a diversity of perspectives among Christians on these issues— even among the faculty here in the College of Theology at GCU. Not all Christians agree on matters pertaining to human freedom or precisely how God’s sovereignty is related to our choices or on whether God’s plans for the future render our future choices inevitable.
Despite the disagreement among Christians on these secondary matters, we can still arrive at a clear answer to your question, one that surely enjoys near-universal agreement among those holding to the Christian worldview. The Bible makes it clear: our choices really do matter.
In your question, you seem to be asking whether fatalism is true. Fatalism is the view that our fate is set, and that our choices don’t matter. The Bible consistently contradicts fatalism and consistently affirms that the choices we make do affect the way our lives unfold. Over and over again throughout the Bible, the consistent message is that we are responsible for our choices and that our choices have real consequences.
In the Old Testament, we see Adam’s choice to rebel against God and disobey him had disastrous consequences that reverberate to this day (Genesis 3). Abraham’s obedience to God was significant and his trust in God was credited to him as righteousness (Romans 4:3). Joshua told the people that they could either serve the one true God or they could serve the imaginary “gods” that other people worshipped; and he urged them to make the choice (Joshua 24). In the New Testament, Jesus urges people to repent (choose to turn away from their sin) and believe the good news of salvation (Mark 1:15). The Apostle Paul tells Christians that they can go on sinning or they can walk in newness of life; and since they have been set free from sin through Christ, they ought to stop choosing to sin and instead choose to walk in newness of life (Romans 6).
Perhaps most significantly, the New Testament tells us that each of us must make a choice that will affect us for all of eternity. We must choose whether we will receive Jesus or whether we will reject him. Those who choose to receive Jesus become children of God (John 1:12) and are given the gift of eternal life (John 3:36); while those who choose to reject Jesus remain condemned (John 3:18), do not have life and are under God’s wrath (John 3:36).
These passages and many others like them, seem to indicate quite clearly that we face a real choice to either receive or reject Jesus and that the responsibility for making this choice lies with us. God holds us accountable for whether we choose to receive Jesus or reject him. The Bible tells us that God desires that everyone would receive Jesus and be saved (1 Timothy 2:4); and it tells us that not everyone will be saved (Matthew 25:41). The difference is in the choice that you make.
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