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Predestination

DOI
10.4324/9780415249126-K071-1
DOI: 10.4324/9780415249126-K071-1
Version: v1,  Published online: 1998
Retrieved December 18, 2018, from https://www.rep.routledge.com/articles/thematic/predestination/v-1

Article Summary

Predestination appears to be a religious or theological version of universal determinism, a version in which the final determining factor is the will or action of God. It is most often associated with the theological tradition of Calvinism, although some theologians outside the Calvinist tradition, or prior to it (for example, Augustine and Thomas Aquinas), profess similar doctrines. The idea of predestination also plays a role in some religions other than Christianity, perhaps most notably in Islam.

Sometimes the idea of predestination is formulated in a comparatively restricted way, being applied only to the manner in which the divine grace of salvation is said to be extended to some human beings and not to others. John Calvin, for example, writes:

We call predestination God’s eternal decree, by which he compacted with himself what he willed to become of each man. For all are not created in equal condition; rather, eternal life is foreordained for some, eternal damnation for others. Therefore, as any man has been created to one or the other of these ends, we speak of him as predestined to life or to death.

(Institutes, bk 3, ch. 21, sec. 5)

At other times, however, the idea is applied more generally to the whole course of events in the world; whatever happens in the world is determined by the will of God. Philosophically, the most interesting aspects of the doctrine are not essentially linked with salvation. For instance, if God is the first cause of all that happens, how can people be said to have free will? One answer may be that people are free in so far as they act in accordance with their own motives and desires, even if these are determined by God. Another problem is that the doctrine seems to make God ultimately responsible for sin. A possible response here is to distinguish between actively causing something and passively allowing it to happen, and to say that God merely allows people to sin; it is then human agents who actively choose to sin and God is therefore not responsible.

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Citing this article:
Mavrodes, George I.. Predestination, 1998, doi:10.4324/9780415249126-K071-1. Routledge Encyclopedia of Philosophy, Taylor and Francis, https://www.rep.routledge.com/articles/thematic/predestination/v-1.
Copyright © 1998-2018 Routledge.

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