Does the concept of Hard Determinism or Presdestination destroy free will/the omnibenevolence of God?

Hi there.

I was wondering about the Catholic opinion on the ideas of Free Will and Determinism.

What are your opinions on determinism? Are our actions determined? Are we fated?

If God foreknows our lives and future doesn’t this destroy our free will? Surely with only one path, we have no freedom?

Could this lead to the assumption that God isn’t omnibenevolent?

How can a loving God knowingly predetermine that someone will go to Hell? Or suffer?

What is the point in anything if everything is predetermined?

If we do have free will, then surely God isn’t omniscient? As he should foreknow our future?

These questions have been bugging me lately, and other academics who aren’t of the same faith haven’t been able to help me as such.

Yes our lives are predetermined and yet we have free will to choose our influences… So what’s the confusion…? I don’t see it. :shrug:

God doesn’t determine our choices which we make ourselves.
We have free will to choose good behavior and outcomes, and free will to choose otherwise
God doesn’t detemine our personal choices, we do, in each day of our lives.
That God knows all, doesn’t in any way undermine His omniscience or His omnibenevolence.

Only if we lacked free will but were programmed towards evil could we conclude that God lacks omnibenevolence.
God has being immensely beyond time, although we find it hard sometimes not to limit Him to time and space.

You may like to read this chapter of the Catechism of the Catholic Church:

May God bless you.

No because if our lives are predetermined then there is only one path so we can’t have the freedom to choose the other path, see?

Thanks for your input, but I find it difficult to take in bare assertions with no logic or evidence to back them up.

It seems that many of these statements are contradictory, like if God knows when He creates a person, that that person will be evil and go to hell, doesn’t this call into question His omnibenevolence?

Thank you for the link I will read it.

We are not predetermined as in each day we have free choice to live the commandments of God to love God above all, and others as ourselves.
We are destined,** created**, for a life of eternal happiness with God,
but the choice to live each day in in love of God and in practical love of others is our own.
To be ‘destined’ is not to be pre-determined.

Our eternal destiny of happiness resulting in our choices for good, for charity, for thanksgiving and love towards our Creator and Savior is God’s offering to us

Our free will is the gift that allows us to choose for the good.

If we were predetermined, automated, programmed creatures, what joy or merit in that!
God wishes us the great joy of freely choosing good, freely choosing to live towards the destiny that He offers in His creation of us

Jesus makes very clear that our choice for love of God in practical love of other is His criteria in judging souls. This is absolutely crystal clear in Matthew 25, verses 31-46. If you read this you cannot but accept that the way that we, of our own free will, choose to live, is what decides our eternal salvation

From the Catholic Encyclopedia, FREE WILL:

The Jewish position on this issue is basically the same as the Catholic one. That is, G-d gives us the free will to choose good or evil on a moment-by-moment basis, and although He knows what choice we will make, the decision is ours and is freely chosen. Therefore, G-d is omniscient since He knows what choice we will make, and He is benevolent since He allows us to have free will instead of determining what choices we will make. Further, the more we choose good over evil, the closer we are drawn to G-d’s Will, which is another indication of G-d’s benevolence.

If God foreknows our lives and future doesn’t this destroy our free will?

Let’s say you’re free to make choices every day, you can choose to quit your job, quit your partner, eat, not eat, get drunk, not get drunk, pray, not pray, sleep in, get up early; at any moment, you choose your course of action. Now if I was endowed with special powers, I could focus really hard and know exactly what you’re gonna do tomorrow, my knowing what you’re gonna do has no bearing none whatsoever on any of your decision.

Victor Frankl (Man’s Search for Meaning) had heard of a truly mephistophelian (spelling?) man, a truly evil and sadistic man who became the most kind-hearted, selfless man when he was in a Nazi concentration camp during WWII. This is an argument I can think of for free-will. Free-will deosn’t mean “easy”, it means that a defense less child can choose one day to kick his bully in the balls and make his knee and the bully’s head collide, a stripper can decide that she’s had enough of her lifestyle and go get a training of some kind, a battered wife can one day decide to take her kids and go to a refuge for women. Frankly, how anyone can doubt the existence of free-will is beyond me.

Meltzerboy, in real life do you say the word G-d? BTW I see it as a sign of reverence to the Lord and have no problem with it, just to be clear.

OP, I just realized what your username is, don’t do it!

Our lives are “predetermined” because God lives outside the parameters of time. In otherwords, God knows who will repent and accept His grace because He Is the alpha and the omega.

…so we have the freedom to choose our influences, and we can either accept them or deny them based on our life experiences and our genetic make-up. But God remembers what we will do, and he knows how we feel about things we haven’t yet encountered.

Yes, one says the word G-d in speech; however, not the full Hebrew name of G-d, which is abbreviated HaShem in speech. Writing is different in that the full name of G-d is never written for fear it may be erased or deleted by someone else or oneself, either intentionally or unintentionally. This is a particular concern today in the computer age.

I am not doubting the existence of free will, I am a Catholic. I am studying the subject as an academic, so I have to look at different points of view and question things, and as a scientist, I always think analytically, finding faults or flaws, that’s my nature.

The reason there is the notion that God’s foreknowing destroys free will is because scholars believe that if God knows what will happen, that must happen, so people can’t not do it. It’s a very twisty and confusing notion, I must admit.

I do like your argument and applaud your use of evidence, this helps me greatly, thank you.


This is a helpful viewpoint and a good argument.
Do you know of any literature that offers this view?

Key in “On the Nature of Free Will: Being Jewish” for a brief discussion of the topic. Also check online the Jewish Virtual Library and the Jewish Encyclopedia.

BTW, in ancient times, there was controversy within Judaism regarding the notion of free will. The Pharisees believed in it, while the Sadducees believed in chance, and the Essenes in predestination. Modern Judaism, for the most part, is based on Pharisaic tradition.

God’s peace. I am coincidentally a biologist and a former Presbyterian who has wrestled greatly with the biblical doctrine of predestination. If you haven’t spent a lot of time reading the Church fathers and doctors on this, you have a lot of reading ahead of you, since many of them (especially Augustine and Aquinas) struggled with predestination. For me, the most illuminating consideration is the contrast of God’s infinitude with my finitude. As a prisoner of space and time, I cannot possibly see the outcome of God’s predestinating grace–the end before the events leading to it, so to speak–as God can. I can only know that God’s predestined plan for me is powerfully wrought, good, and holy–and attainable by me as I trust in God’s almighty power, goodness, and holiness. I can freely act upon what God has revealed through his Church as God’s will for my life, or I can freely choose to act against it when I forgo my trust in God. The outcome of my choices channels my fate increasingly towards my predestined end in eternal happiness, or (by my choice, not God’s predestination) my end in eternal damnation and misery. However, even though God from his position in infinity knows my end, his infinite foreknowledge does not take away my power to freely choose from my finite and myopic position in a particular time and place.

I see that you are a biochemist. I think a more interesting question for a person of your inclination is the matter of biochemical predestination: the idea that given the nature of matter, created with the properties it has, life is an inevitability. For me, as a Catholic scientist, there is a certain comfort in the thought that God created a fertile universe; we may not be alone. But I have to admit that at this point, things look pretty lonely for us on Earth. What do you think? Blessings, ~Br. Carlo~

God knowing the future does not determine the future any more than God, or you or I, knowing what people choose to do in the present, or chose to do in the past, determines those choices. In fact, to God there really isn’t a distinction between these, since all points in time are equally and simultaneously present to Him.

But this is an entirely different question than predestination. While I understand that some people struggle with it at least at first, upon further thought I think it will make sense to everyone that merely knowing that something occurs does not mean you willed or caused it to occur. But the word “predestination”, as opposed to “foreknowledge” implies an active decision on the part of God about what will happen.

We Catholics believe in both the predestination of the elect and the freedom of the will. That is, we believe on the one hand that God has foreordained who will actually be with Him forever in heaven, while on the other hand we believe that God gives grace sufficient for salvation to everyone and the decision whether to cooperate with this grace or not is our own free decision, so if anyone rejects this grace and goes to hell it is through their own free choice.

How these two truths relate to each other is an extremely difficult question, one which the Church has not definitively taught concerning. Some Catholics will say that God bases predestination on his foreknowledge of how we will act. This strikes me as hopelessly tangled logic, though I am no expert. Others believe that the free decision to accept the grace needed for final salvation is determined by predestination, but is not made any less free because of that. This is a highly mysterious option, but one that’s more logically consistent, it seems to me.

Anyway, it’s a very advanced subject, and most Catholics seem to be most comfortable simply focusing on free will and foreknowledge, leaving the matter of active predestination aside.

How does predestination differ from foreknowledge…? According to my common logic, the two would be one in the same, wouldn’t they…?

If I know that something will happen, does that logically mean I am the one who destined it to happen?

Edit: Also, here is a sort of dogmatic proof for Catholics that predestination is something distinct from free will. God has foreknowedge of who will go to hell just like He has foreknowledge of who go to heaven. Yet the Council of Trent condemned those who say God predestines the reprobate to hell in the same manner that He predestines the elect to heaven. It seems clear from this that in the mind of the Church there is something more to predestination than mere foreknowledge.

Not necessarily considering free will… To me, free will is only our ability to choose our influences, not our ability to create situations… I think all situations have predetermined potentials for grace no matter what influences we freely choose. in other words, I may choose a wife with blonde hair even though I am attracted to brunettes because this particular blonde i met influenced me in a particular way. But no matter which woman I would have chosen, God would have laid out the same amount of graces for me in regards to finding my way to eternal salvation, that is Determinism… But as far as predestination goes, God would find me, so I would be predestined to befriend Him in the eventually.

But as for the OP’s question, I would argue that surely our every move cannot be predestined since free will allows us to either accept or deny certain influences. But whatever influence we choose may have predetermined resulting graces. Because of this, Determinism and Predestination only involve our eternal destinies… They are not so much an influence of our actions as they are a form of grace and a form of ones salvific destiny.

That’s right. Through determinism, God allows for a certain amount of grace for any given person, no matter what influences they freely choose… The difference here is that since we were all born intended to go to heaven, it becomes our free will choices that sometimes stand in the way of allowing us to follow through with Gods wishes, just like Adam and Eve in the garden.

We’re all predestined for Sainthood, but only few accept their destiny.

Thank you all, you’ve been very helpful.

God bless.

I’m not sure if I’m correctly following you, but from the last section of your reply it sounds to me like you are suggesting a theory of universal, resistible predestination to heaven. I forgot about that possibility, though I’ve encountered it before. It seems to me this essentially reduces predestination to God’s universal salvific will and/or universal sufficient grace, just as some other popular explanations of predestination reduce it to God’s foreknowledge or to the particular judgment.

This approach of redefining predestination to mean nothing but some other aspect of Christian belief we can all agree on does not strike me as a plausible answer to the problem.

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