Do Catholics believe in a fatalist fate?

One of my protestant friends says that the names of the chosen ones are already in the Book of Life and no matter what those names will not be erased because God already knows how these persons are going to live. Things happened because God allows them, even bad things. For me this kind of thought is quite similar to the ancient Greeks beliefs, no matter what you do, your destiny is waiting for you.

I believe God let us choose our own destiny; our actions will lead us to Heaven or hell. Of course He can intervene if He wants to, but I believe generally He just let us proceed on this world in the way we want to, until the day we die. In the other hand, there are several religious that believe God does not interfere at all with this world, I don’t think this is right either, I guess He interacts with us everyday but no choosing for us. I would like to know what is the position of our Church about this?

PS. Sorry for my bad English, I’m still learning it! :blush:

God bless you, Eduardo.

If it did not matter what we did, it would be pointless to pray because what is going to happen is gonna happen no matter how much pleading we do.

Your English is excellent. This touches on the topic of predestination, which is a complicated theological concept. Protestants often have mistaken views on this subject. The Church has condemned erroneous Protestant heresies on this matter, such as the heresy of Calvinism.

God does have foreknowledge, and yes, He could already have written our names in the “Book of Life” because He knows what we will do with our free wills. You can read more about predestination here. If you find it difficult to understand, you must be careful about rationalising too much without careful study, as it is easy to fall into heresy. You must first affirm that nobody is predestined to hell and that man has free will, lest you fall into the error of fatalism. For all intents and purposes, it is indeed we who control our destiny, and if you are led to believe otherwise, you are being misled by your mind or by somebody else.

Prayer and repentance are therefore absolutely necessary and God’s foreknowledge does in no way impede our free will. It is you, who decides your destiny. You can reject God’s grace and be led into hell, but it is absolutely your own choice.

Actually, Scripture speaks of people being taken out of the book of life, as in Ex 32:32-33 and Psalm 69(70):28.(Protestant and some Catholic Bibles use different numbering for Psalms.) Obviously, to say no one can be taken out of the book of life is unScriptural. Nor can being in the book of life be a reference to predestination.
Nor do Catholics believe that no matter what a person will be lost. Catholics believe in free will and that we can choose to be saved with our free will. Perhaps your friend is the sort of Protestant who does not believe in free will. The Catechism of the Catholic Church speaks of our freedom in sections 1731-1742. For example, the Catechism affirms that “by free will one shapes one’s own life.” It is a fundamental Catholic belief.

That’s a good point. We do still affirm predestination and God’s foreknowledge, however, although what you mentioned lends strong support to the Catholic perspective.

Couple ideas you have to realize, First God is not part of Time or Space. So he is not subject to any of this learning experience. Second if He didn’t know everything then his omniscient infinate would be subject to our finate within this time frame. :shrug: Thus this would make HIm dependent on you for knowledge.

So yes the when scripture used the words “I AM” this places God in the immediate “now” always. Not subject to past or future, past and future are subject to Time.

“God has not to wait on the contingent and temporal event of the man’s free choice to know what the latter’s action will be; He knows it from eternity. But the difficulty is: how, from our finite point of view, to interpret and explain the mysterious manner of God’s knowledge of such events without at the same time sacrificing the free will of the creature.” New Advent

At this point different schools of thought are used here such as the Dominicans and Jesuits,

“The Jesuit school, with whom probably a majority of independent theologians agree — using the scientia media maintains that we ought to conceive God’s knowledge of future free acts not as being dependent and consequent upon decrees of His will, but in its character as hypothetical knowledge or being antecedent to them. God knows in the scientia media what Peter would do if in given circumstances he were to receive a certain aid, and this before any absolute decree to give that aid is supposed. Thus there is no predetermination by the Divine of what the human will freely chooses; it is not because God foreknows (having foredecreed) a certain free act that that act takes place, but God foreknows it in the first instance because as a matter of fact it is going to take place; He knows it as a hypothetical objective fact before it becomes an object of the scientia visionis — or rather this is how, in order to safeguard human liberty, we must conceive Him as knowing it. It was thus, for example, that Christ knew what would have been the results of His ministry among the people of Tyre and Sidon. But one must be careful to avoid implying that God’s knowledge is in any way dependent on creatures, as if He had, so to speak, to await the actual event in time before knowing infallibly what a free creature may choose to do. From eternity He knows, but does not predetermine the creature’s choice. And if it be asked how we can conceive this knowledge to exist antecedently to and independently of some act of the Divine will, on which all things contingent depend, we can only say that the objective truth expressed by the hypothetical facts in question is somehow reflected in the Divine Essence, which is the mirror of all truth, and that in knowing Himself God knows these things also. Whichever way we turn we are bound ultimately to encounter a mystery, and, when there is a question of choosing between a theory which refers the mystery to God Himself and one which only saves the truth of human freedom by making free-will itself a mystery, most theologians naturally prefer the former alternative.”

You can read the entire article on New Advent-Natures and Attributes of God. Sorry I would have linked it but possible issues may have occured with your access.


I’ve mentioned this before, but I have a problem with this issue. In large part my concern stems from the fact my own father turned up in my bedroom the night he died. He started with an apology (yawn - I’ve told this so many times its boring), we argued and conversed, and at the end he gave this terrifying scream and promptly disappeared.

I think he’s in hell.

However at one stage in the “discussion” he cried out, “I always was doomed! I didn’t really have any choice!” I answered back (despite the fact I wa an atheist in those days) “That can’t be right!” He replied, “Oh, it’s right, all right. You can see that from here”.

However later in the same “discussion”, he said, “I was WILLING!” (to act in the cruel, stupid, vindictive, bad-tempered way that got him condemned in the first place - I’d say very willing actually).

So he may have been “doomed” - was Judas foredestined for example, since Christ indicated that a man “must be lost”?

I’ll give another little story which indicates that to me God can very, very subtly maneouvre around our choices. My father died in a suburb called Nundah. Sometime in 2005, I was driving a cab part time at night (and getting sick of the drunks too). One night I just happened to be in Nundah, and this brought back to mind the issue of my father’s apparition.

So I prayed for a “sign” that there was truth in what he said, and it wasn’t just a deception.

I got back this sense I ought to know better than ask for a sign, but I persevered anyway.

Later than same night, I queued up on my usual cab rank in the city. Eventually a bloke hopped in, a bit the worse for wear, and just said, “Nundah!” I asked him whereabouts in Nundah, and he just told me to drive, and he’d tell me where to go. So off we went.

We ended up directly opposite the very same unit where my father died. Same night I’d asked for the “sign”.

As far as I’m concerned I got my “sign”. But bear in mind that all night I’d had free will where I drove, customers had free will when and where they wanted to go, other cab drivers had free will; traffic lights modified my transit times, I may or may not have had a toilet break or three, other road users had some effect, and the bloke I picked up had to make a specific choice at a specific time so that I was the specific cab driver who picked him up, and who literally guided me right back to where my father died.

Don’t ask me how God did it, but somehow despite all our “free” choices, He still gave me the “sign”.

Don’t ask me. I simply do not understand it. We’re left with God’s statement to Isaiah (and he was no slouch either, being the equivalent of today’s Chancellor of the Exchequer) -

Isaiah 55:9 (NIV)

As the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts.

Predestination is a tough one.

I like Peter Kreeft’s description, which can be paraphrased as follows:

Freedom and predestination are two sides of the same coin of God’s love for us. We are free because our omnipotent God created us to be free. We are “predestined” because our omniscient God has perfect knowledge of our destiny.

Agee’d, easy topic to be lead astray on as we see in history.

This is, IMO, why God instructed us to call him Father.

Got kids? I have three. When they are toddlers, there are numerous occasions where you can see a mile away how they are going to react to things. But just because you can foresee how they are going to react to something doesn’t make you their puppetmaster. Those little children are already making free choices.

God is our Father. In his infinite knowledge He knows how we are going to react to every moment of our lives and knows the outcome already. This does not reduce our own free will in the matter one single bit.

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