Discourse 83 - Is the omniscience of God a contradiction of human free will?




Is free will an illusion?

The problem of determinism and indeterminism/ Wikipedia 00, 2005-12-03

Positions in Christian theology on the question of free will. / Wikipedia 01, 2005-12-03

The omniscience of God.

The justice of God.

Faith - a decision freely taken.

The synthesis: free will and precognition.

In the kingdom of God there is only complete freedom of the will. / Book Wilhelm Busch S 123ff.

Do we not have to decide for Christ, in order to be saved? / Anonymous 00, 2006-03-09

Do the “tares” prove that predestination is right after all? / Siegfried Grehn 00, 2006-05-04

Indeterminism alone is not enough. / Article by Peter Markl in the Austrian daily ‘Die Presse’ [‘The Press’] 00, 2006-12-30

The human will is not completely causally determined. / Lecture, Werner Heisenberg 00, Munich, 1962-07-14


Is free will an illusion?

This issue has been already thoroughly discussed at Immanuel.at in connection with another question - namely, whether human beings can decide freely to choose God, or whether this decision has already been pre-empted by God before the beginning of the creation of the world. Advocates of the latter view speak of “predestination”, implying the predetermination of every Christian believer by God, and see themselves as being Elect, or Chosen by God, so that they cannot any longer possibly fall away. The counterposition represents the point of view that God’s offer to humanity for the acceptance of the redeeming sacrifice of Jesus must be personally accepted or refused, and the gospel - the good news of salvation through grace - must therefore first be proclaimed to all people.

(See also Discourse 69: “Predestination and the chosen.”)


In these discussions, the question of predestination versus freedom of the will in conversion has been hotly debated, and a great many scriptural passages have been brought forward in support of the arguments advanced on either side. And yet it has not been possible hitherto, as it appears, to arrive at a common understanding on this issue of faith - though it is, after all, an extremely important one. But as we will see further on, this is not just a specific feature of these discussions - rather it is a problem which has divided the Christian camp as a whole for almost 500 years.

Seeing that it has not been possible to clarify this question, even after so many centuries of controversy, it might be supposed that it will hardly be possible in this context either to discover the truth - so we would be well advised to leave the question alone. But this seems to be that very attitude of mind which for 500 years has prevented both this and other important questions of biblical interpretation from being clarified. Experience of biblical commentary also teaches that apparently contradictory statements in Scripture generally do make sense and can be harmonized, if we analyze them carefully and are able to explain the background from which they come. So here is a new attempt. By way of an introduction, we will start off with an account of the philosophical aspects of the problem.


(Texts enclosed in a black frame are quoted from visitors to the site or other authors.)

(The problem of determinism and indeterminism, Wikipedia 00, 2005-12-03 *))

o  Determinism is the name given to the view that all states in the world are necessarily determined by all preceding states. That which happens next, on this view, is completely determined by that which happened previously.

o  Indeterminism is the name given to the opposite view, namely that there are events - some events at least - which cannot be completely determined by earlier states. At least some things that happen are not completely determined by what has happened before.

With the birth of modern science, the view came to prevail in scientific circles that the world was deterministic. The idea of total determinism may be graphically illustrated if we picture Laplace’s demon, who has all knowledge of the past and present at his disposal and knows all the applicable natural laws, and so is able to predict the entire panorama of the future down to the last detail.

Some philosophers saw the concepts of freedom of the will and determinism as irreconcilable. If the will, like everything else in the world, were to be subject to determinism, then the will - along with all decisions and actions that issue from it - could not be made compatible with the picture of freedom of the will. This philosophical point of view is referred to as incompatibilism, as it argues that determinism and free will cannot be combined. Incompatibilists assume that a person can act freely, and possesses a free will, precisely in circumstances where this person is the sole contributing cause for the action in question, and could have taken a different decision. If determinism were to be correct, then every choice we make would already be predetermined as a result of earlier events outside our control. Our decisions then would just be one more result, predetermined from the dawn of time, of the law-governed world order, and free will would be merely an illusion. The stand-off between determinism and freedom of the will today goes back to this epoch.

*) This extract has been taken from Wikipedia freier Wille - philosophische Positionen [Wikipedia free will - philosophical views.]



Seeing that this is not a philosophical website, readers have no reason to fear a continuation of the philosophical treatment here. The definitions just quoted are only designed to show that this problem complex continues to be a subject of discussion in worldly disciplines up to the present day. And as we will see later on, the supposition of some philosophers that we cannot - at least in a worldly context - give a definitive answer to this question is actually very pertinent. For if determinism asserts that our decisions are “just one more result, predetermined from the dawn of time, of the law-governed world order, so that free will is merely an illusion”, this is the consequence of a world picture which - by contrast with Christian predestination - knows nothing of an active Creator God or of “intelligent design” in Nature, without which there is absolutely no possibility of answering this question.

(See also Discourse 81: “Intelligent Design or Evolution?“)

As will be shown below, however, this question has also split the Christian camp, in spite of their common faith in God.


(Texts enclosed in a black frame are quoted from visitors to the site or other authors.)

(Positions in Christian theology on the question of free will, Wikipedia 01, 2005-12-03 *))

In theology we find a number of counterposed factors, which have made the question of free (or unfree) will one of the favorite topics of various theologians in all periods of history. Two essential points however emerge, around which the discussion revolves today.

o  The omnipotence and omniscience of God contradicts the logic of human freedom of decision.

o  The Bible contains verses that emphasize the freedom of human beings to decide for themselves, but it also contains verses which deny humanity this freedom.

These two factors had the result that the Christian camp came to be polarized into two fundamental positions. Even if Augustine had already addressed this theme in the 4th century AD, the theological argument today can be confined to just two names. On the one side we find John Calvin (1509-1564), on the other James Arminius (1560-1609). Calvin teaches the doctrine of double predestination, according to which God has preordained who is to be saved and who is to be damned. Arminius decidedly rejects Calvin’s doctrine, and concedes to human beings the freedom of rejecting the grace of God - at the same time, in his view God also ordains, on the basis of prescience, who will accept the faith and who will reject it. His followers were known as Remonstrants. Within the broad spectrum of Christian churches, some confessions incline to put more stress on free will than others do. So the Roman Catholic church stands on the side of human free will, saying that is up to every individual to accept the gift of the grace of God. Most free churches that have not developed out of Pietism see human free will as given. Lutheran and Calvinist churches take the opposite view, standing for either double or single predestination.

*) This extract has been taken from Wikipedia freier Wille - Christlich-theologische Positionen [Wikipedia free will - in Christian thought.]



The omniscience of God.

Seeing that the above extract is taken from a worldly encyclopedia, it is hardly surprising if its statements are based on the views of some theologian or other from a bygone era. But it is more surprising, it must be said, that these theologians - whether Luther, Calvin or whoever - evidently based their point of view on personal estimation rather than on what is written in Scripture. Otherwise they would have had to recognize way back then that the Bible gives an unambiguous answer on this issue, so we are not forced to rely on the views and personal opinions of any theologian.

Now the somewhat abbreviated formulation in the above summary - “The omnipotence and omniscience of God contradicts the logic of human freedom of decision” - is in principle incontrovertible, and so it would appear at first glance that those who advocate some kind of predestination theory are correct in their view of the matter. To confirm this point of view, we can refer here to a number of powerful scriptural passages:

Just as He chose us in Him before the foundation of the world.

Eph 1,3 Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places in Christ, 1,4 just as He chose us in Him before the foundation of the world, that we would be holy and blameless before Him. In love 1,5 He predestined us to adoption as sons through Jesus Christ to Himself, according to the kind intention of His will, 1,6 to the praise of the glory of His grace, which He freely bestowed on us in the Beloved. Eph 1, 3- 6;

Peter, to those who reside as aliens who are chosen according to the foreknowledge of God the Father.

1Pet 1,1 Peter, an apostle of Jesus Christ, To those who reside as aliens, scattered throughout Pontus, Galatia, Cappadocia, Asia, and Bithynia, who are chosen 1,2 according to the foreknowledge of God the Father, by the sanctifying work of the Spirit, to obey Jesus Christ and be sprinkled with His blood: May grace and peace be yours in the fullest measure. 1Pet 1, 1- 2;

For those whom He foreknew, He also predestined to become conformed to the image of His Son.

Rom 8,28 And we know that God causes all things to work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose. 8,29 For those whom He foreknew, He also predestined to become conformed to the image of His Son, so that He would be the firstborn among many brethren; Rom 8,28-29;

In view of these passages we might very well come to suppose that God has chosen, before laying the foundations of the world, those who will come to believe in him and enter into eternity. He has predetermined them long before he created the world, and before these chosen ones have even come into being. But seeing that both the advocates of predestination and those who believe in free will are agreed on the fact that from time immemorial the world has contained not just believers but also unbelievers, we are faced with the converse implication that God has also predetermined all other human beings to remain unbelievers and to be cast into damnation. And this would indeed be a confirmation of Calvin’s double predestination theory.

The single predestination taught in the Lutheran churches (though not by Luther himself), which states that only believers and not unbelievers have been predetermined by God, is logically inconsistent. If God has predetermined the one class of human beings to salvation, then he must necessarily have abandoned the rest to damnation. The somewhat more subtle view of single predestination - namely that while the first class may have been chosen by God, the others can decide for themselves, does not make the hubris of this point of view, as held by some Christians, any easier to comprehend.

Under the premise of the infallibility of God, the consequence of predestination is that this predetermination, this selection by God, can no longer be altered by human beings in the course of their lives. Those who are predetermined to eternal life - the “Chosen” - become Christian believers. Those who are marked for eternal damnation become the ungodly. And it then follows from this, by a natural logic, that these Chosen ones come to faith in Christ in the course of their life as it were “automatically”. So it is thoroughly plausible that a certainty of salvation, founded on the circumstance that we have been selected by God without any action on our part - which is to say without any possibility of decision on the part of the individual - may lead to a kind of elitist thinking, and to the presumption that these people are equipped with a certain “immunity”: they can no longer be excluded from the number of the Chosen and can no longer fall away from the faith - seeing that otherwise, after all, we would be compelled to call God’s infallibility in question.

The justice of God

And this is now the point where those who advocate a free decision on the part of the individual in turning to God engage with the question. They think the view that God determines people to eternal life or eternal damnation through his own will is in contradiction with the nature of God as this is presented to us in Scripture. Just as our God is a God of universal (but not blind!) love, so he is the God of absolute justice. Love and righteousness are both immanent in God’s being.

For the LORD our God is righteous with respect to all His deeds which He has done.

Dan 9,14 "Therefore the LORD has kept the calamity in store and brought it on us; for the LORD our God is righteous with respect to all His deeds which He has done, but we have not obeyed His voice. Dan 9,14;

Righteous and true are Your ways, King of the nations!

Rev 15,3 And they sang the song of Moses, the bond-servant of God, and the song of the Lamb, saying, "Great and marvelous are Your works, O Lord God, the Almighty; Righteous and true are Your ways, King of the nations! Rev 15, 3;


And so it is just unthinkable that God could do violence to his justice and condemn certain human beings without any action on their part. God’s very justice is the guarantee of the fact that no being in the whole of creation (not even Satan!) is compelled a priori to do anything. Both punishment and reward are based on prior decisions of the will, which these creatures have taken in the course of their existence.

So too the wrath of God, which we find in many prophecies both in the Old and in the New Testament, does not indicate any defect in the love of God, but is rather a consequence of God’s absolute justice, which per se cannot tolerate unrighteousness, whatever its form or nature. And this supreme justice of God’s is also the very reason why God does not judge human beings himself, but has given all judgment to the Son, who was himself a man and was tempted like us, but resisted every kind of sin - so no one can have any doubt that he is well qualified to judge.

For not even the Father judges anyone, but He has given all judgment to the Son.

Jn 5,2 "For just as the Father raises the dead and gives them life, even so the Son also gives life to whom He wishes. 5,22 "For not even the Father judges anyone, but He has given all judgment to the Son, 5,23 so that all will honor the Son even as they honor the Father. He who does not honor the Son does not honor the Father who sent Him. Jn 5,21-23;

He emptied Himself, taking the form of a bond-servant, and being made in the likeness of men.

Phil 2,5 Have this attitude in yourselves which was also in Christ Jesus, 2,6 who, although He existed in the form of God, did not regard equality with God a thing to be grasped, 2,7 but emptied Himself, taking the form of a bond-servant, and being made in the likeness of men. 2,8 Being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross. Phil 2, 5- 8;

For since He Himself was tempted in that which He has suffered, He is able to come to the aid of those who are tempted.

Hbr 2,17 Therefore, He had to be made like His brethren in all things, so that He might become a merciful and faithful high priest in things pertaining to God, to make propitiation for the sins of the people. 2,18 For since He Himself was tempted in that which He has suffered, He is able to come to the aid of those who are tempted. Heb 2,17-18;


Faith - a decision freely taken

And just because God has given all judgment to his Son, the judgment will depend on the question whether a human being has believed in this same Son of God or not. Faith in Jesus Christ as our Savior, through his redeeming sacrifice for our sins, is the key message of the gospel. That is the good news - that we can have our sins forgiven, and when it comes to judgment can be saved from damnation, if we accept God’s offer.

He who believes in Him is not judged; he who does not believe has been judged already, because he has not believed.

Jn 3,14 "As Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, even so must the Son of Man be lifted up; 3,15 so that whoever believes will in Him have eternal life. 3,16 "For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish, but have eternal life. 3,17 "For God did not send the Son into the world to judge the world, but that the world might be saved through Him. 3,18 "He who believes in Him is not judged; he who does not believe has been judged already, because he has not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God. Jn 3,14-18;

He who believes in the Son has eternal life.

Jn 3,36 "He who believes in the Son has eternal life; but he who does not obey the Son will not see life, but the wrath of God abides on him." Jn 3,36;

He who believes in Me will live even if he dies.

Jn 11,25 Jesus said to her, "I am the resurrection and the life; he who believes in Me will live even if he dies, 11,26 and everyone who lives and believes in Me will never die. Do you believe this?" Jn 11,25-26;

He who believes in Me, does not believe in Me but in Him who sent Me.

Jn 12,44 And Jesus cried out and said, "He who believes in Me, does not believe in Me but in Him who sent Me. Jn 12,44;

Everyone who believes in Me will not remain in darkness.

Jn 12,46 "I have come as Light into the world, so that everyone who believes in Me will not remain in darkness. 12,47 "If anyone hears My sayings and does not keep them, I do not judge him; for I did not come to judge the world, but to save the world. Jn 12,46-47;

Go into all the world and preach the gospel to all creation.

Mk 16,15 And He said to them, "Go into all the world and preach the gospel to all creation. 16,16 "He who has believed and has been baptized shall be saved; but he who has disbelieved shall be condemned. Mk 16,15-16;


This very injunction to proclaim the gospel in the above passage (Mk 16,15) - “Go out into all the world and preach the gospel to all creation” - would completely lose its meaning, if the Lord did not really mean the whole of creation, which must include all human beings. If we were faced with predetermination by God without any human action being involved, the question suggests itself why unbelievers should have been born at all, and why they should go on being born. God could have annihilated Satan from the beginning of the world, and so there would have been no temptation and no sin, and all human beings would have remained righteous believers. But it didn’t happen like that. God does not want puppets, but rather children, who decide for him on the basis of free will. Since Adam and Eve, it has been left open to human beings to observe the commandments of God or to reject them. If there had been a preselection on God’s part, then neither Adam nor Eve, who both set themselves against God, could have been included in it, so the whole of humanity would have come to an end when it had hardly begun.

And then we can think of the history of Israel’s dealings with its God. In Scripture Israel is repeatedly characterized as the Chosen People. And God himself calls Israel “his people”. So if anyone wants to speak up for predestination - the preselection of human beings by God - they cannot get away from the example of Israel. And although Israel was demonstrably chosen by God, they had the freedom throughout their history to decide to go against God - this to such a point, that they refused the promised Messiah, the Son of God, and handed him over to be murdered. Nowhere do we find a better description of this than in the parable of the wicked vine-growers:

This is the heir; come, let us kill him, and the inheritance will be ours!

Mk 12,1 And He began to speak to them in parables: "A man planted a vineyard and put a wall around it, and dug a vat under the vine press and built a tower, and rented it out to vine-growers and went on a journey.

12,2 "At the harvest time he sent a slave to the vine-growers, in order to receive some of the produce of the vineyard from the vine-growers. 12,3 "They took him, and beat him and sent him away empty-handed.

12,4 "Again he sent them another slave, and they wounded him in the head, and treated him shamefully. 12,5 "And he sent another, and that one they killed; and so with many others, beating some and killing others.

12,6 "He had one more to send, a beloved son; he sent him last of all to them, saying, ‘They will respect my son.’ 12,7 "But those vine-growers said to one another, ‘This is the heir; come, let us kill him, and the inheritance will be ours!’ 12,8 "They took him, and killed him and threw him out of the vineyard.

12,9 "What will the owner of the vineyard do? He will come and destroy the vine-growers, and will give the vineyard to others. Mk 12, 1- 9;


The owner of the vineyard in this parable is of course God, and the vineyard is the people of God who are of Israel. The vine-growers to whom the vineyard is rented out are the leaders of the people of Israel in the course of its long history. The slaves are the servants of God, the prophets of Israel, who were sent by God to preach to the leaders of the people that they should return to God, and who were repeatedly persecuted, driven out or killed by Israel’s governors. The beloved son finally, whom the owner of the vineyard sends as a last resort, is the Son of God, Our Lord Jesus Christ. These last vine-growers who kill the son are the religious leaders of the people of Israel of Jesus’ own time - the members of the Sanhedrin under the leadership of the high priest Caiaphas.

The last verse in this parable - “What will the owner of the vineyard do? He will come and destroy the vine-growers, and will give the vineyard to others” - gives us a direct link to the parable of the king who prepared a wedding feast for his son.

Tell those who have been invited, "Behold, I have prepared my dinner; come to the wedding feast

Mt 22,1 Jesus spoke to them again in parables, saying, 22,2 The kingdom of heaven may be compared to a king who gave a wedding feast for his son. 22,3 "And he sent out his slaves to call those who had been invited to the wedding feast, and they were unwilling to come. 22,4 "Again he sent out other slaves saying, ‘Tell those who have been invited, "Behold, I have prepared my dinner; my oxen and my fattened livestock are all butchered and everything is ready; come to the wedding feast."‘

22,5 "But they paid no attention and went their way, one to his own farm, another to his business, 22,6 and the rest seized his slaves and mistreated them and killed them. 22,7 "But the king was enraged, and he sent his armies and destroyed those murderers and set their city on fire. Mt 22, 1- 7;


In this parable, the king is God. The first guests, who were invited to the wedding and could not be bothered to come, stand for the people of Israel. They were “invited” to acknowledge their Messiah, Our Lord Jesus Christ, and refused to do so. The slaves who convey the invitation are here again the prophets of the Old Testament, who left the people of Israel numerous prophecies referring to the Messiah and the Son of God. But the people of Israel did not listen to them. They did not want to listen to them, and so they persecuted and killed them.

The armies that the king sent out to destroy these murderers and set their city on fire are the Roman soldiers of Titus, who 40 years later, in the year 70, razed Jerusalem to the ground, burned down the Temple and expelled the Israelites from their country. It is actually curious that the Jews of the faith of Moses have not recognized, even to this day, that their expulsion into the Diaspora - a state that has persisted for almost two thousand years now - was God’s punishment for their rejection of his Son and their Messiah.

Jerusalem, Jerusalem, how often I wanted to gather your children together and you were unwilling.

Mt 23,37 "Jerusalem, Jerusalem, who kills the prophets and stones those who are sent to her! How often I wanted to gather your children together, the way a hen gathers her chicks under her wings, and you were unwilling. 23,38 "Behold, your house is being left to you desolate! 23,39 "For I say to you, from now on you will not see Me until you say, ‘blessed is He who comes in the name of the LORD!’" Mt 23,37-39;


The Lord’s statement here (Mt 23,39) that “from now on you will not see me” is an indication that up to the Second Coming of the Lord in the Last Days, when - having been purified by many judgments and punishments - they will cry out to him “Blessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord”, Israel is completely excluded from the divine election. This had already been revealed to them in the Old Testament through the Spirit of the Son of God, speaking through the prophets:

The stone which the builders rejected Has become the chief corner stone.

Ps 118,16 The right hand of the LORD is exalted; The right hand of the LORD does valiantly. 118,17 I will not die, but live, And tell of the works of the LORD. 118,18 The LORD has disciplined me severely, But He has not given me over to death. 118,19 Open to me the gates of righteousness; I shall enter through them, I shall give thanks to the LORD. 118,20 This is the gate of the LORD; The righteous will enter through it. 118,21 I shall give thanks to You, for You have answered me, And You have become my salvation. 118,22 The stone which the builders rejected Has become the chief corner stone. 118,23 This is the LORD’S doing; It is marvelous in our eyes. 118,24 This is the day which the LORD has made; Let us rejoice and be glad in it! Ps 118,16-24;


But even in his earthly life the Lord reminded the religious leaders of Israel that the Son of God in human form, whom they contemned, has now become the chief corner stone of God’s work of salvation.

Did you never read in the Scriptures, ‘the stone which the builders rejected, this became the chief corner stone?

Mt 21,42 Jesus said to them, "Did you never read in the Scriptures, ‘the stone which the builders rejected, this became the chief corner stone; This came about from the LORD, and it is marvelous in our eyes’? 21,43 "Therefore I say to you, the kingdom of God will be taken away from you and given to a people, producing the fruit of it. 21,44 "And he who falls on this stone will be broken to pieces; but on whomever it falls, it will scatter him like dust." 21,45 When the chief priests and the Pharisees heard His parables, they understood that He was speaking about them. 21,46 When they sought to seize Him, they feared the people, because they considered Him to be a prophet. Mt 21,42-46;


So as the Lord then says in the following passage (Jn 14,6), no one can come to the Father and be saved except through the Son of God. But this same Jesus Christ who said of himself “I am the way, and the truth, and the life” is to this very day rejected by Jews of the faith of Moses, and stigmatized as a liar and an impostor. But it follows from this that the people of Israel, once the Chosen People, have only one possibility in the time from the Diaspora until now, and continuing until the Second Coming of the Lord, of being saved by their God: accepting faith in Jesus Christ, and so converting to Christianity.

No one comes to the Father but through Me.

Jn 14,6 Jesus said to him, "I am the way, and the truth, and the life; no one comes to the Father but through Me. 14,7 "If you had known Me, you would have known My Father also; from now on you know Him, and have seen Him." Jn 14, 6- 7;


To continue now with the parable of the king who planned a wedding feast for his son, the next thing that happens - after the refusal of the people of Israel - is that the king invites new guests to the wedding.

Go therefore to the main highways, and as many as you find there, invite to the wedding feast.

Mt 22,8 "Then he said to his slaves, ‘The wedding is ready, but those who were invited were not worthy. 22,9 ‘Go therefore to the main highways, and as many as you find there, invite to the wedding feast.’ 22,10 "Those slaves went out into the streets and gathered together all they found, both evil and good; and the wedding hall was filled with dinner guests.

22,11 "But when the king came in to look over the dinner guests, he saw a man there who was not dressed in wedding clothes, 22,12 and he said to him, ‘Friend, how did you come in here without wedding clothes?’ And the man was speechless. 22,13 "Then the king said to the servants, ‘Bind him hand and foot, and throw him into the outer darkness; in that place there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.’ 22,14 "For many are called, but few are chosen.". Mt 22, 8-14;


This time there is no longer any kind of selection. Anyone who is out there on the street can come. And this is the New Covenant. All the nations of the world were invited, from this time on, to accept the offer of God and believe in his Son. We recognize, however, from the last verse of this parable that even if all are invited, not all are allowed to join the wedding feast. Only one who has accepted the redeeming sacrifice of the crucified Son of God for our sins - one who has donned “wedding clothes” and so been freed from his sins - will be entitled to remain. The others will be thrown out. So it was, so it is and so will it be, until the day on which the Lord comes again.

The synthesis: free will and precognition

Now although all this supplies quite convincing proof that the decision to accept faith in Jesus is based on free will, some brethren among those who believe in predestination still raise objections. They acknowledge fully the import of these scriptural statements, but think that this is still insufficient to undermine the strength of the argument that God, in his omniscience, had seen all that was going to happen, and so, before the foundation of the world, selected those individuals who would finally come to believe in him in the course of their earthly existence. And this too cannot be denied, from the biblical point of view. Let us just look once more at those scriptural passages which were quoted earlier as supporting the idea of predestination.

Peter, to those who reside as aliens, who are chosen according to the foreknowledge of God the Father

1Pet 1,1 Peter, an apostle of Jesus Christ, To those who reside as aliens, scattered throughout Pontus, Galatia, Cappadocia, Asia, and Bithynia, who are chosen 1,2 according to the foreknowledge of God the Father, by the sanctifying work of the Spirit, to obey Jesus Christ and be sprinkled with His blood: May grace and peace be yours in the fullest measure. 1Pet 1, 1- 2;

For those whom He foreknew, He also predestined to become conformed to the image of His Son.

Röm 8,28 And we know that God causes all things to work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose. 8,29 For those whom He foreknew, He also predestined to become conformed to the image of His Son, so that He would be the firstborn among many brethren; Röm 8,28-29;


When we look at these statements more closely, we can succeed better in seeing where they are coming from. Paul speaks in Rom 8,29 of those who are called according to the purpose of God, and goes on to explain this by saying “For those whom He foreknew, He also predestined to become conformed to the image of His Son.” So this predetermination by God was preceded by a “recognition”. But recognition is necessarily dependent on a prior act of search. And for a search, in turn, there must also be certain search criteria - namely, the personal choice of faith by these individuals. So what we have here is not an unplanned and arbitrary act, but quite on the contrary - a definite search, recognition and determination, based on the omniscience of God.

Omniscience, now, is a capacity of God’s - like his omnipotence - which must first be applied and used. As we can see from the story of Creation, with omnipotence too there is a need for the detailed and planned actions of God to create the universe, the earth and human beings. And in the same way the Almighty can, in his omniscience, also recognize all things in all times, but this recognition must be preceded by a search - in God’s omniscience. So here too we cannot speak of a “predestination” in the sense of an arbitrary prior determination - as Calvin and Luther wrongly supposed; instead, the term we must apply here is that of a prior recognition, or precognition.

This is also confirmed by Peter, in 1Pet 1,1-2 above, when he describes the Christian believers in the Diaspora as “chosen according to the foreknowledge of the Father”. They may well be chosen, but this is not on the basis of an arbitrary act - rather it is according to the foreknowledge of the Father. The Father in his omniscience has foreknowledge about the attitudes and behavior of every individual human being while that individual is alive, and so knows, even before the foundation of the world, how each person is going to decide - for or against God.

And now we are also in a better position to understand Paul’s statement in the passage below, in his epistle to the Ephesians - which the Calvinists advance in support of their view of double predestination. When he writes, “as He chose us in Him before the foundation of the world”, so here too the “selection” has been preceded by a search, by recognition and determination. And the assertion that God “predestined us to adoption as sons through Jesus Christ” is then the final confirmation, the last act in this procedure of search and recognition, before the foundation of the world, by the omniscient God.

Just as He chose us in Him before the foundation of the world.

Eph 1,3 Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places in Christ, 1,4 just as He chose us in Him before the foundation of the world, that we would be holy and blameless before Him. In love 1,5 He predestined us to adoption as sons through Jesus Christ to Himself, according to the kind intention of His will, 1,6 to the praise of the glory of His grace, which He freely bestowed on us in the Beloved. Eph 1, 3- 6;


As Paul writes here - and it is a thing that is repeatedly overlooked - God the Father has chosen these people in Christ. So God has not made any kind of ungrounded and arbitrary selection here - the criterion of selection lies in those words, “in Christ”. But this, now, can only refer to all those who have decided for faith in Christ and are now one in him. So based on these statements made by Paul, God in his prescience recognized and chose before the foundation of the world all those people who while they were alive would choose to follow Jesus Christ. And their status as adopted sons “through Jesus Christ” is here again the consequence of their choosing to believe.

In accordance with the summary quoted earlier, worldly freedom of the will stipulates that a person acts freely, and thus is in possession of a free will, in circumstances where this person is the sole contributing cause for the action, and could have taken a different decision. But when it comes to the absolute freedom of choice that God allows to humanity, there is yet another criterion: the decision can be quite freely taken back again. Although this is repeatedly disputed by some brethren, who claim that one who has been "born again" is no longer capable of falling away from the faith, the Scripture gives a clear answer on this point:

Those who have been made partakers of the Holy Spirit and then have fallen away, it is impossible to renew them again to repentance .

Hbr 6,4 For in the case of those who have once been enlightened and have tasted of the heavenly gift and have been made partakers of the Holy Spirit, 6,5 and have tasted the good word of God and the powers of the age to come, 6,6 and then have fallen away, it is impossible to renew them again to repentance, since they again crucify to themselves the Son of God and put Him to open shame. Heb 6, 4- 6;


Those of whom the author of the epistle to the Hebrews here says that they “have once been enlightened and have tasted of the heavenly gift and have been made partakers of the Holy Spirit” cannot on any account be identified with nominal Christians whose faith is a pretence, and still less with unbelievers, as these brethren repeatedly suggest in support of their point of view. We quite clearly have to do here with "born-again" Christians who have made a free decision to follow Christ. But then they have availed themselves of their freedom to revoke their decision, and have fallen away and apostasized, and from now on cannot possibly be renewed again to repentance.

In this connection Eph 1,13 too is frequently referred to, where we are told that we are sealed with the Holy Spirit - from which it is argued that no "born-again" Christian can fall away from the faith any more.

You were sealed with the Holy Spirit of promise.

Eph 1,11 also we have obtained an inheritance, having been predestined according to His purpose who works all things after the counsel of His will, 1,12 to the end that we who were the first to hope in Christ would be to the praise of His glory. 1,13 In Him, you also, after listening to the message of truth, the gospel of your salvation-having also believed, you were sealed in Him with the Holy Spirit of promise, 1,14 who is given as a pledge of our inheritance, with a view to the redemption of God’s own possession, to the praise of His glory. Eph 1,11-14;


The Greek term for “sealed” is “sphragisthenai” - this meant, from time immemorial, the application of an identifying mark to an object or an animal (in the animal’s case as a brand), and so provide proof of ownership. This is still a current practice today, with herds of sheep for instance - which are marked when they are driven onto the upland pasture, so that when they come down again they can be distinguished from one another and restored to the rightful owner. And the Lord too speaks frequently of his flock of sheep, as in Jn 10,27:

They will never perish; and no one will snatch them out of My hand.

Jn 10,27 "My sheep hear My voice, and I know them, and they follow Me; 10,28 and I give eternal life to them, and they will never perish; and no one will snatch them out of My hand. 10,29 "My Father, who has given them to Me, is greater than all; and no one is able to snatch them out of the Father’s hand. 10,30 "I and the Father are one." Jn 10,27-30;


Here too people sometimes draw the over-hasty conclusion that in view of the Lord’s promise these “sheep” cannot possibly ever lose their way. But if we look at the text more closely, it actually says something quite different. Here the Lord says on the one hand that they will not be lost for all eternity, which necessarily implies that they will remain among his flock. And the following statement then also seems to support this view, when we are told that “no one is able to snatch them out of my hand”, or indeed, “out of the Father’s hand”.

But here a superficial view of the text would entail the considerable risk that we might lull ourselves into a false sense of security. If, in seeking to understand this parable better, we convert it into real terms - which we are actually meant to do, with the Lord’s parables - then we are certainly obliged to agree that with real sheep the earmark, the label that identifies the owner, ensures that an animal cannot be claimed by a different shepherd. It is just the same, then, with the present scriptural passage. Anyone who has had anything to do with sheep, however, knows that there will always be some sheep who willfully break away from the flock and lose themselves in the mountains, or may even join a stranger’s flock.

We can see from this that while an earmark is a well established means of protecting animals from theft, it is perfectly useless in a case where the animals leave the flock of their own accord. And it is a similar situation with the “flock” of the Lord. If we remain in his flock - in faith - we will not be lost for all eternity, and no one will be able to snatch us out of his and the Father’s hand. Only we ourselves can go back on our decision and abandon this flock of the one and only triune God, to return to the wilderness of unbelief or to join other herds - religions of idolatry. And as we see from the scriptural passage quoted earlier (Heb 6,4-6), these are not just “lost” sheep that the shepherd might go after and bring back again to the flock. They have not simply got lost - rather, they have made their own choice and deliberately severed the connection, so it is no longer possible to renew them to repentance.

In the Old Testament as well, the falling away of a believer leads to the deletion of his name from the “book of life” - about which we will shortly find out more below.

Whoever has sinned against Me, I will blot him out of My book.

Ex 32,31 Then Moses returned to the LORD, and said, "Alas, this people has committed a great sin, and they have made a god of gold for themselves. 31,32 "But now, if You will, forgive their sin-and if not, please blot me out from Your book which You have written!" 31,33 The LORD said to Moses, "Whoever has sinned against Me, I will blot him out of My book. Ex 32,31-33;

May they be blotted out of the book of life and may they not be recorded.

Ps 69,26 For they have persecuted him whom You Yourself have smitten, And they tell of the pain of those whom You have wounded. 69,27 Add iniquity to their iniquity, And may they not come into Your righteousness. 69,28 May they be blotted out of the book of life And may they not be recorded with the righteous. Ps 69,26-28;


But this person now, who has abandoned the faith, has become an unbeliever again; and on those grounds we might feel inclined to call God’s omniscience in question. For if God in his omniscience has recognized and chosen all human beings who, from the start of Creation to the end of it, would make a decision to choose him, while on the other hand those who have been chosen in view of their decision to choose God must be blotted out of the book of life again, then the initial selection must have been mistaken, which is obviously impossible. This is - at first glance, at any rate - the most convincing argument of those who favor predestination.

But when we look at the statements made in the Bible on this topic as a whole, we can see that it is the absolute justice of God that determines all his actions. So the love of the Almighty only goes so far as it may be reconciled with his justice: otherwise the many judgments and punishments God inflicts on the people of Israel would be incomprehensible. Likewise the judgments and punishments of the Last Days, as they are described in Revelation, would be inconceivable if God’s love were blind and without any limitations set by justice. And in the same way, in the omniscience of God recognition goes into God’s activity only so far as his justice will permit.

And seeing that all those believers mentioned in the scriptural passages above had been partakers of the Holy Spirit and had their names written in the book of life, and after that had fallen away from the faith, this means that at one time in their lives they must have chosen God. And in accordance with this positive decision, God has clearly recognized and chosen them. That they would later revoke their decision was of course a matter of which the Almighty was quite well aware. But in the interest of justice, which concedes to human beings an absolute freedom of decision - and the freedom to revoke their decision - this contrary decision will only be registered when it becomes conclusive.

It is similar to the situation that meets us in the Lord’s parable of the tares in the field. There too God lets believers and unbelievers go on growing together, with complete freedom of decision, and only decides between them when it comes to the harvest. Then it will be clearly seen whether the one group have remained steadfast in faith right through to the end of their lives and the other group equally steadfast in unbelief, or whether they have revoked their initial decision - the one group passing from salvation to damnation, and the other from damnation to salvation.

Allow both to grow together until the harvest.

Mt 13,24 Jesus presented another parable to them, saying, "The kingdom of heaven may be compared to a man who sowed good seed in his field. 13,25 "But while his men were sleeping, his enemy came and sowed tares among the wheat, and went away. 13,26 "But when the wheat sprouted and bore grain, then the tares became evident also. 13,27 "The slaves of the landowner came and said to him, ‘Sir, did you not sow good seed in your field? How then does it have tares?’ 13,28 "And he said to them, ‘An enemy has done this!’ The slaves said to him, ‘Do you want us, then, to go and gather them up?’ 13,29 "But he said, ‘No; for while you are gathering up the tares, you may uproot the wheat with them. 13,30 ‘Allow both to grow together until the harvest; and in the time of the harvest I will say to the reapers, "First gather up the tares and bind them in bundles to burn them up; but gather the wheat into my barn."‘" Mt 13,24-30;


The words used by Paul in the passage quoted earlier, Eph 1,4 - “before the foundation of the world” - point us in the direction of another scriptural passage. In Revelation the angel explains to John the mystery of the beast and the woman. And in this connection he says that at this time to come all people on earth will wonder at the beast - all people, that is, “whose name has not been written in the book of life from the foundation of the world”.

Whose name has not been written in the book of life from the foundation of the world.

Rev 17,8 "The beast that you saw was, and is not, and is about to come up out of the abyss and go to destruction. And those who dwell on the earth, whose name has not been written in the book of life from the foundation of the world, will wonder when they see the beast, that he was and is not and will come. Rev 17, 8;


Here two things are brought to our attention. First of all, there is a “book of life” in which the names of these worshipers of the beast are not written. And conversely - as Scripture itself confirms, as we will see shortly - there are people, namely Christian believers, whose names indeed are written in this book of life. And secondly, this book of life has plainly been written before the foundation of the world. God not only recognized and chose his faithful ahead of time, he has also written their names in the book of life (the eternal memory of the Almighty, perhaps?). The names of all the rest of the human race are not found in it. We find other scriptural passages in confirmation of this:

Together with Clement also and the rest of my fellow workers, whose names are in the book of life.

Phil 4,3 Indeed, true companion, I ask you also to help these women who have shared my struggle in the cause of the gospel, together with Clement also and the rest of my fellow workers, whose names are in the book of life. Phil 4, 3;

Everyone whose name has not been written in the book of life.

Rev 13,7 It was also given to him to make war with the saints and to overcome them, and authority over every tribe and people and tongue and nation was given to him. 13,8 All who dwell on the earth will worship him, everyone whose name has not been written from the foundation of the world in the book of life of the Lamb who has been slain. Rev 13, 7- 8;

And another book was opened, which is the book of life.

Rev 20,12 And I saw the dead, the great and the small, standing before the throne, and books were opened; and another book was opened, which is the book of life; and the dead were judged from the things which were written in the books, according to their deeds. 20,13 And the sea gave up the dead which were in it, and death and Hades gave up the dead which were in them; and they were judged, every one of them according to their deeds. 20,14 Then death and Hades were thrown into the lake of fire. This is the second death, the lake of fire. Rev 20,12-14;

And if anyone’s name was not found written in the book of life.

Rev 20,15 And if anyone’s name was not found written in the book of life, he was thrown into the lake of fire. Rev 20,15;


(See also Discourse 62: “When will the names of the righteous be entered in the book of life?”)

So on this evidence we can be assured that all people who will come to faith in Christ, in the course of their lives, have been recognized by God’s omniscience from before the foundation of the world, have been chosen and have had their names entered in the book of life. Consequently we cannot speak of predestination (predetermination) in this context, but should rather term it “precognition” or “pre-recognition”. And that means that for God in eternity it is already an established fact who will be saved and who will not be, right through to the end of time.

For us here on earth, on the other hand, there are no established facts that we can count on. God’s omniscience is not open to us, nor do we find any indication in Scripture from which we might be able to recognize which of us have their names written in the book of life - that is, who is a genuine believer and who is not. In this context we can only ever have recourse to supposition, and this course often results in fatal errors. Errors in both directions, seeing that Scripture tells us that the faithful too are exposed to the real possibility of falling away, as confirmed both by the passages we have quoted and by the ones given below.

Take care, brethren, that there not be in any one of you an evil, unbelieving heart that falls away from the living God.

Hbr 3,12 Take care, brethren, that there not be in any one of you an evil, unbelieving heart that falls away from the living God. 3,13 But encourage one another day after day, as long as it is still called "Today," so that none of you will be hardened by the deceitfulness of sin. 3,14 For we have become partakers of Christ, if we hold fast the beginning of our assurance firm until the end. Heb 3,12-14;

I have fought the good fight, I have finished the course, I have kept the faith.

2Tim 4,6 For I am already being poured out as a drink offering, and the time of my departure has come. 4,7 I have fought the good fight, I have finished the course, I have kept the faith; 4,8 in the future there is laid up for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will award to me on that day; and not only to me, but also to all who have loved His appearing. 2Tim 4, 6- 8;

Or else I am coming to you and will remove your lampstand out of its place.

Rev 2,1 "To the angel of the church in Ephesus write: The One who holds the seven stars in His right hand, the One who walks among the seven golden lampstands, says this: 2,2 ‘I know your deeds and your toil and perseverance, and that you cannot tolerate evil men, and you put to the test those who call themselves apostles, and they are not, and you found them to be false; 2,3 and you have perseverance and have endured for My name’s sake, and have not grown weary. 2,4 ‘But I have this against you, that you have left your first love. 2,5 ‘Therefore remember from where you have fallen, and repent and do the deeds you did at first; or else I am coming to you and will remove your lampstand out of its place-unless you repent. Rev 2, 1- 5;

To sum up, then, we can say that the doctrine of divine predestination is not scriptural. Those scriptural passages that the advocates of this theory advance as arguments, when more closely analyzed, reveal that we do not have to do with predestination or predetermination here so much as with a kind of precognition or pre-recognition on God’s part. God in his prescience has recognized and chosen all those human beings who, in the time since the sacrificial death of the Lord and in the course of their lives, would of their own free will choose Jesus Christ as the Son of God and their Redeemer, so that their names are written in the book of life.

It must be admitted that this has no kind of concrete practical application for Christian believers or for the life of faith. We do not have God’s omniscience, nor can we inspect the book of life. And as we do not have any indications in Scripture to help us either, if we want to examine ourselves and - to a limited extent - others as well, we have only that criterion of judgment to hand which the Lord Jesus himself pointed out to us. We must examine our own actions and the actions of others accurately and objectively, and through the help of the Holy Spirit recognize the fruits that grow from these actions.

You will know them by their fruits.

Mt 7,16 "You will know them by their fruits. Grapes are not gathered from thorn bushes nor figs from thistles, are they? 7,17 "So every good tree bears good fruit, but the bad tree bears bad fruit. 7,18 "A good tree cannot produce bad fruit, nor can a bad tree produce good fruit. 7,19 "Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire. 7,20 "So then, you will know them by their fruits. 7,21 "Not everyone who says to Me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of My Father who is in heaven will enter. Mt 7,16-21;


The good fruit that is produced by the good tree is often confused with charitable donations, support given to aid organizations and that kind of thing. These do have their own justification in a worldly context. But if we try to identify this “fruit” with money, the tree in the above parable would be Mammon, and that would of course be incorrect. Our “tree” is the gospel, the good news of the salvation of humanity through grace. And everything that can contribute to bringing this offer of God’s to people’s attention and leading them to a change of life, to repentance and conversion, is a good fruit from a good tree. And following the parable of the sower in Mt 13,3-9, as children of God we are ourselves the seeds who guide the people to God and bring fruits, “some a hundredfold, some sixty, and some thirty”. This is the standard by which we are measured and recognized as Christians - and not through our supposedly belonging to some kind of elitist group of “God’s Elect”, or on account of the amounts we give to charity. And according to the parable of the sower in Mt 13,3-9, we as the children of God are ourselves the grains of seed that bring people to God and yield a crop, “some a hundredfold, some sixty and some thirty”.

So there is no absolute certainty as to whose name is actually written in the book of life. There are brethren, however, who by contrast with the supposed “Elect” of predestination theory are anxious that they themselves may not be worthy of being chosen. For these, then, here is a word of reassurance. First of all, their very anxiety proves that they are truly believing Christians. The Lord does not protect those who blow their own trumpet to advertise their faith to the world, but rather the little people, the lowly, those who are daily concerned as to where they stand with God (cf. Ps 116,6, “The Lord preserves the simple”). It is to these that the Lord has promised the helper, the Holy Spirit, who will give them comfort and help. And on the other hand, based on what Our Lord tells us there is one thing we can be certain of: all sins, however grave, can be forgiven through repentance and turning to God on the basis of the redeeming sacrifice of Jesus Christ, with the exception of just one sin - that against the Holy Spirit.

But he who blasphemes against the Holy Spirit, it will not be forgiven him.

Lk 12,10 "And everyone who speaks a word against the Son of Man, it will be forgiven him; but he who blasphemes against the Holy Spirit, it will not be forgiven him. Lk 12,10;


(See also Discourse 64: “What is the sin against the Holy Spirit?”)

This is the sin that is committed when someone describes the Spirit of God as an unclean or satanic spirit - or vice versa. And whatever our stature in the faith, we must take care not to fall into it.

Finally let me just point to two more scriptural passages which likewise make it plain that the gospel, the good news, is not a minority program but rather an offer by God to all people, giving them the opportunity of coming quite personally to recognition of the truth and so attaining to eternal life. As we can see from those aberrations referred to earlier that we come across in some Christian circles, if predestination or predetermination were true, then conversion would not be a free and independent choice on the part of the human individual. Christians would just be puppets, and this would be an insult to the majesty of God. Missionary work and evangelization would also become superfluous, as those people whom God has predetermined are going to become believers anyway, and all the rest cannot possibly be converted.

God desires all men to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth..

1Tim 2,3 This is good and acceptable in the sight of God our Savior, 2,4 who desires all men to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth. 2,5 For there is one God, and one mediator also between God and men, the man Christ Jesus, 2,6 who gave Himself as a ransom for all, the testimony given at the proper time. 1Tim 2, 3- 6;

Whoever will call on the name of the Lord will be saved.

Rom 10,11 For the Scripture says, "Whoever believes in Him will not be disappointed." 10,12 For there is no distinction between Jew and Greek; for the same Lord is Lord of all, abounding in riches for all who call on Him; 10,13 for "Whoever will call on the name of the Lord will be saved." Rom 10,11-13;


If then God calls on all human beings to be converted, it is evident that the individual has no one else to do it for him. So every person must make his or her own entirely personal decision. From this it may be concluded that of course God does not take this responsibility out of our hands. The entire creation, from the universe and the wonders of the world right down to the tiniest micro-organism, is given to us so that we may be able to recognize in it the greatness and the hand of God and so come to a decision. But this decision is one we have to take for ourselves. God does not compel anyone to decide for him. People who have already chosen God may be used by God to pass on the message of faith. But they cannot compel people to accept it either. The individual’s act of choosing to believe must be a completely free choice, as a compelled confession of faith would not stand up to eternity. This freedom of choice is likewise implied in the Lord’s invitation in Mk 8,34:

If anyone wishes to come after Me, he must deny himself, and take up his cross and follow Me!

Mk 8,34 And He summoned the crowd with His disciples, and said to them, "If anyone wishes to come after Me, he must deny himself, and take up his cross and follow Me. Mk 8,34;


And here the absolute justice of God is the guarantee that every individual will be granted complete freedom of decision - whether he accepts or rejects God, whether after his conversion he misprizes the goodness of God and falls into unbelief again, or whether, after an initial rejection, he then comes to faith in God after all. With God, there is no predetermined salvation or predetermined damnation. Human beings will all be judged, without exception, on the basis of their own acts and decisions. And so they can avail themselves of that freedom and responsibility that the Almighty has granted us since the time of Adam and Eve, who were left free to decide between belief in God and in Satan, and alas - in complete freedom - made the wrong choice. The best biblical proof that humans have free will in deciding for or against God is to be found in the Ten Commandments. Here we are told not “You must...” but “You shall...”. And this leaves every individual quite free to decide whether to follow the commandment or not.

In conclusion I would like to quote some remarks from the well-known preacher and evangelist Wilhelm Busch, who in his book “Jesus unser Schicksal” [“Jesus our Destiny”] likewise addresses this theme in his engagingly open way.




(Texts enclosed in a black frame are quoted from visitors to the site or other authors.)

(In the kingdom of God there is only complete freedom of the will / Wilhelm Busch, book WB00, p. 123 ff *))

Look - if you don’t want to believe, you really don’t have to! Can I tell you something? In the church there are still all kinds of compulsions enforced. In the Kingdom of God, there is only an absolute freedom of the will. If you want to live without God, you can do it! God offers himself to us. But we can refuse him. Do you want to live without God? You may. Do you want to live without having made your peace with God? You may. Do you want to live without prayer? You may. Do you want to live without the Bible? You may. Do you want to transgress God’s commandments? You may. Do you want to profane the Lord’s Day, be sexually promiscuous, drink, lie and steal? You may. Anyone who does not want this Savior whom God has sent to save sinners is at liberty to turn him down. Anyone who wants to go to hell can do just that. With God there are no compulsions. But please be clear on one point - you will have to live with the consequences. In Jesus God offers you peace, and the forgiveness of your sins. You can say, “I don’t need it! And I don’t want it either!” And you may live accordingly. But then you are not to suppose that in the last five minutes of your life, when you are on the point of death, you will still be able to grasp what God has been offering to you for the length of a whole lifetime. You are free to reject God’s offer of peace in Christ Jesus, but then you must live for all eternity without having made your peace with God. And that is hell.

Hell is the place where you have finally and truly succeeded in getting rid of God. You are no longer invited. There is nothing calling you any longer. Perhaps you may want to pray, but you can’t do it any more. Perhaps you may want to call on the name of Jesus, but you can’t remember it any longer. You don’t need to accept this message I have for you. You can forget about converting to belief in Jesus, if that is what you want. But be clear about what you are doing, because you are choosing hell - and you have absolute freedom to do so!

”But you were unwilling!” Jesus tells the people of Jerusalem. He did not compel them in any way. But what they chose was horrible!

0

Wilhelm Busch (1897-1966) was a Pastor and youth worker in Essen, an evangelist, preacher, writer and author.

*) This extract and the photo are taken from the book “Jesus unser Schicksal” [“Jesus our Destiny”], by W. Busch, Schriftenmissions-Verlag Gladbeck/Westfalen [Scriptural Mission Publications, Gladbeck/Westphalia], ISBN 3-7958-0364-0.



(See also Discourse 55: “Why does God permit suffering?”)

For there is no partiality with God.

Rom 2,9 There will be tribulation and distress for every soul of man who does evil, of the Jew first and also of the Greek, 2,10 but glory and honor and peace to everyone who does good, to the Jew first and also to the Greek. 2,11 For there is no partiality with God. Rom 2, 9-11;




(Texts enclosed in a black frame are quoted from visitors to the site or other authors.)

(Do we not have to decide for Christ, in order to be saved? / Anonymous 00, 2006-03-09)

I would be happy to agree with your arguments in this Discourse, if it were not for Romans 9, for example. Somebody would also have to explain to me in a convincing way whether the tares that are to grow to maturity alongside the wheat are allowed to remain untouched on the off-chance that perhaps at some point they may yet become wheat. I mean, if you are referring to this parable here. According to Scripture the tares are left there so that the wheat may not be prematurely uprooted. But the fact is that the tares have always been tares and remain tares, and the same goes for the wheat. As in the case of the tares we here have to do with a plant that closely resembles wheat (darnel), it will only become visible at the end of things what is what. Wheat yields fruit and darnel does not.

Just suppose you had been born in Hiroshima in Japan in 1940. And for the first time at the age of five you start asking questions about the point of life and the existence of God. But just at that moment, the bomb drops. Too late. The boy in Japan did not have any choice about the time or place of his birth. He didn’t choose his parents, and didn’t have any thing to do with the idea of the atom bomb. Nor did he have any friends to tell him about the need of his being converted before the bomb fell. He just didn’t have any choice in the matter. But if so, who was responsible? Chance? Was he just unlucky? Or did God know that the boy would never be converted? How?

“So then it does not depend on the man who wills or the man who runs, but on God who has mercy” (Rom 9,16). If you, as a Christian, are a vessel to the honor of God and believe that this is in the remotest sense due to your own personal deserts or even the result of your personal “decision”, then you would be the first vessel to answer back to God and say to its creator that he should have made it differently (cf. Rom 9, 20-21).

On the other hand, your quotation from Wilhelm Busch is admirable. Only we should not combine it with the BIBLICAL doctrine of election. The word precognition is not to be found in the Bible (or is that just because of my translation?) - the words preordained, elect etc., on the other hand occur frequently. I think you have to be quite brave to ignore that fact.

But however that may be - the problem only arises, when someone

  a) thinks it follows from the doctrine of election that there is no need for him to evangelize (hyper-calvinism), or else

  b) thinks that in the last resort it is all down to the “man who wills or the man who runs”, as then all we would need to do is to boost our willing and running, which would put us in the same camp as ProChrist.




In the interest of a better overview, I will reproduce the Lord’s parable of the tares in the field once more here below:

The kingdom of heaven may be compared to a man who sowed good seed in his field .

Mt 13,24 Jesus presented another parable to them, saying, "The kingdom of heaven may be compared to a man who sowed good seed in his field. 13,25 "But while his men were sleeping, his enemy came and sowed tares among the wheat, and went away. 13,26 "But when the wheat sprouted and bore grain, then the tares became evident also. 13,27 "The slaves of the landowner came and said to him, ‘Sir, did you not sow good seed in your field? How then does it have tares?’ 13,28 "And he said to them, ‘An enemy has done this!’ The slavessaid to him, ‘Do you want us, then, to go and gather them up?’ 13,29 "But he said, ‘No; for while you are gathering up the tares, you may uproot the wheat with them.13,30 ‘Allow both to grow together until the harvest; and in the time of the harvest I will say to the reapers, "First gather up the tares and bind them in bundles to burn them up; but gather the wheat into my barn."‘" Mt 13,24-30;



If the argument of the reply quoted above is to be understood, we must first of all clarify the point of departure. According to the “doctrine of election” (predestination) of the Reformer John Calvin (see also the explanations at the start of the document), God preordained part of the human race to eternal salvation and the other part to eternal damnation in an act of will before the foundation of the world. This parable of Our Lord’s about the tares in the field is therefore interpreted by advocates of this Calvinist view of predestination in the sense that the wheat symbolizes those who are preordained to eternal life, and the tares those who are preordained to eternal damnation.

(See also discourse 100: “Johannes Calvin: True and  False Predestination.”)


And the same explanation applies, when the anonymous contributor above proceeds to draw the conclusion:

“But the fact is that the tares have always been tares and remain tares, and the same goes for the wheat.”

This means, then, that those who are preordained to eternal damnation have been and remain damned (tares) ever since the dawn of creation, and those who are preordained to eternal life always remain the saved (wheat). Now as it happens, with this parable the Lord’s interpretation of it does not follow immediately, but only after two other parables. So let us now take a look at this interpretation.

Explain to us the parable of the tares of the field.

Mt 13,36 Then He left the crowds and went into the house. And His disciples came to Him and said, "Explain to us the parable of the tares of the field." 13,37 And He said, "The one who sows the good seed is the Son of Man, 13,38 and the field is the world; and as for the good seed, these are the sons of the kingdom; and the tares are the sons of the evil one; 13,39 and the enemy who sowed them is the devil, and the harvest is the end of the age; and the reapers are angels. 13,40 "So just as the tares are gathered up and burned with fire, so shall it be at the end of this world. 13,41 "The Son of Man will send forth His angels, and they will gather out of His kingdom all stumbling blocks, and those who commit lawlessness, 13,42 and will throw them into the furnace of fire; in that place there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth. 13.43 "Then the righteous will shine forth as the sun in the kingdom of their Father. He who has ears, let him hear. Mt 13,36-43;


Only after the people had gone and the disciples were again alone with the Lord did they ask him about the meaning of this parable. And here we find a quite different background from that which we would expect, if we were to go along with the interpretation of those who advocate predestination:

-  The wheat, that is to say the saved, has not been preordained by God, but rather sown on earth by the Son of Man - by Our Lord Jesus Christ in human form.

-  And this did not happen before the creation of the world, but only at the time when God became man in his Son.

-  Nor have the tares, that is to say the damned, been preordained by God - on the contrary, they have been sown by the devil.

-  And naturally this does not happen before the start of creation either, but likewise only in time of the ministry of the Son of God on earth.


As the further explanations of Our Lord then show, the period of time to which this parable applies extends from the beginning of our era (the birth of Christ) through to the end of the world, the Resurrection and the Last Judgment.

Now our fathers in the faith have taught us that in interpreting the Scripture we can always be confident that Scripture is its own best interpretation. And when the Lord here speaks of the seed of the wheat which he has sown, he has just a moment ago been explaining to the disciples, in the parable of the sower, what the nature of this seed is. So we would do well to consider the preceding verses as well in this connection.

The sower went out to sow.

Mt 13,1 That day Jesus went out of the house and was sitting by the sea. 13,2 And large crowds gathered to Him, so He got into a boat and sat down, and the whole crowd was standing on the beach.
13,3 And He spoke many things to them in parables, saying, "Behold, the sower went out to sow; 13,4 and as he sowed, some seeds fell beside the road, and the birds came and ate them up.
13,5 "Others fell on the rocky places, where they did not have much soil; and immediately they sprang up, because they had no depth of soil. 13,6 "But when the sun had risen, they were scorched; and because they had no root, they withered away.
13,7 "Others fell among the thorns, and the thorns came up and choked them out.
13,8 "And others fell on the good soil and yielded a crop, some a hundredfold, some sixty, and some thirty. 13,9 "He who has ears, let him hear. Mt 13, 1- 9;


(See also Excursus 01: “The interpretation of the prophetic Scriptures.”)

What the Lord subsequently, in the parable of the tares in the field, refers to as the “good seed” has already been explained in rather more detail in the preceding parable of the sower. Now on that occasion as well the disciples did not at once understand the Lord’s words. So they approached him and asked him why he spoke to the multitude in parables.

Why do You speak to them in parables?

Mt 13 10 And the disciples came and said to Him, "Why do You speak to them in parables?" 13,11 Jesus answered them, "To you it has been granted to know the mysteries of the kingdom of heaven, but to them it has not been granted. 13,12 "For whoever has, to him more shall be given, and he will have an abundance; but whoever does not have, even what he has shall be taken away from him.

13,13 "Therefore I speak to them in parables; because while seeing they do not see, and while hearing they do not hear, nor do they understand. 13,14 "In their case the prophecy of Isaiah is being fulfilled, which says, ‘you will keep on hearing, but will not understand; you will keep on seeing, but will not perceive; 13,15 For the heart of the people has become dull, with their ears they scarcely hear, and they have closed their eyes, otherwise they would see with their eyes, hear with their ears, and understand with their heart and return, and I would heal them.’

13,16 "But blessed are your eyes, because they see; and your ears, because they hear. 13,17 "For truly I say to you that many prophets and righteous men desired to see what you see, and did not see it, and to hear what you hear, and did not hear it. Mt 13,10-17;


The Lord is speaking here of the people of Israel, and he explains to the disciples the reason why this people are unable to understand him: “the heart of the people has become dull”. And then he explains to the disciples - in extreme confidence, as it were - this parable of the sower.

Hear then the parable of the sower.

Mt 13, 18 "Hear then the parable of the sower. 13,19 "When anyone hears the word of the kingdom and does not understand it, the evil one comes and snatches away what has been sown in his heart. This is the one on whom seed was sown beside the road.

13,20 "The one on whom seed was sown on the rocky places, this is the man who hears the word and immediately receives it with joy; 13,21 yet he has no firm root in himself, but is only temporary, and when affliction or persecution arises because of the word, immediately he falls away.

13,22 "And the one on whom seed was sown among the thorns, this is the man who hears the word, and the worry of the world and the deceitfulness of wealth choke the word, and it becomes unfruitful.

13,23 "And the one on whom seed was sown on the good soil, this is the man who hears the word and understands it; who indeed bears fruit and brings forth, some a hundredfold, some sixty, and some thirty." Mt 13,18-23;


And now we can see that the over-hasty judgment that “wheat remains wheat”, in the reply quoted above, completely fails to catch the deeper background to these sayings of Our Lord’s. It is correct, of course, that every grain of this seed is good seed - as the Word of God. But as this parable shows, the best seed cannot develop if the ground on which it is sown - the heart, the character of human beings - is stony, hard and unreceptive. Among these four different sets of soils and environmental conditions in the parable, there is only one which actually yields fruit - and even then in varying quantity. None of the other grains of seed produce any abiding fruit.

But here again we should not be too hasty to judge. Our Lord is a conscientious sower, and so he will repeatedly inspect his seed to see if it is growing. And it might also be the case - as in the parable of the fig tree in the vineyard, which we will look at next - that the odd barren tree is still hanging around, and he tells the gardener to dig around it and treat it with fertilizer, and so gives a person a second chance of salvation.

Let it alone, sir, for this year too, until I dig around it and put in fertilizer

Lk 13,6 And He began telling this parable: "A man had a fig tree which had been planted in his vineyard; and he came looking for fruit on it and did not find any. 13,7 "And he said to the vineyard-keeper, ‘Behold, for three years I have come looking for fruit on this fig tree without finding any. Cut it down! Why does it even use up the ground?’ 13,8 "And he answered and said to him, ‘Let it alone, sir, for this year too, until I dig around it and put in fertilizer; 13,9 and if it bears fruit next year, fine; but if not, cut it down.’" Lk 13, 6- 9;




Just suppose you had been born in Hiroshima in Japan in 1940. And for the first time at the age of five you start asking questions about the point of life and the existence of God. But just at that moment, the bomb drops. Too late. The boy in Japan did not have any choice about the time or place of his birth. He didn’t choose his parents, and didn’t have any thing to do with the idea of the atom bomb. Nor did he have any friends to tell him about the need of his being converted before the bomb fell. He just didn’t have any choice in the matter. But if so, who was responsible? Chance? Was he just unlucky? Or did God know that the boy would never be converted? How?



At five years of age, neither I nor any other child would be asking questions about the point of life. That is why, in Biblical Christian congregations, we do not baptize children, as in the Catholic church, but only have baptism for adults. Only with adults is this kind of decision possible.

But you do not need to worry about little children. Of them the Lord says:

For I say to you that their angels in heaven continually see the face of My Father who is in heaven.

Mt 18,10 "See that you do not despise one of these little ones, for I say to you that their angels in heaven continually see the face of My Father who is in heaven. Mt 18,10;


So even if these children should die, you do not need to be anxious about their salvation. And if someone, as an adult, loses his life in a catastrophe, either he is a converted Christian, in which case he is saved; or else he has neither decided for Jesus Christ, nor recognized the creator of all in the creation and done penance, in which case he is lost. We cannot, in my view, be subject to the arbitrary will of a God who is himself absolute justice. We cannot palm off this responsibility of ours onto God; rather we ourselves, as adults, must make this decision - wherever on the surface of the planet we happen to be.

But quite apart from this, some of Our Lord’s hearers also had similar ideas at the time. In Lk 13,1-5 they thought that those eighteen people crushed by the tower in Siloam had been punished by God for their sins. But the Lord said to them, “I tell you, no, but unless you repent, you will all likewise perish.”

Finally I am in complete agreement with what you say above:

“Or did God know that the young man would never be converted? How?”

This is indeed exactly what we find Scripture telling us, in Rom 8,29 and 1Pet 1,1:

Rom 8,29 For those whom He foreknew, He also predestined;
1Pet 1,1 ... who are chosen 1,2 according to the foreknowledge of God the Father


In his omniscience God knew and chose (Eph 1,4), before the foundation of the world, those individuals who in the course of their lifetime would be converted and would decide to believe in Jesus Christ. But this would actually contradict your own statements. For if I see this correctly, you advocate the view that people do not have to - and are actually unable to - make such a decision for conversion, because the one group has already been preselected, and the others have no chance of conversion whatever - or am I wrong?



“So then it does not depend on the man who wills or the man who runs, but on God who has mercy” (Rom 9,16). If you, as a Christian, are a vessel to the honor of God and believe that this is in the remotest sense due to your own personal deserts or even the result of your personal “decision”, then you would be the first vessel to answer back to God and say to its creator that he should have made it differently (cf. Rom 9, 20-21).



One of the worst mistakes people make in interpreting Scripture is their using it (or abusing it) as a “quarry”. People glide over the context, pick out a verse here and a verse there, and so build up their own personal structure of belief. One very popular approach is to relate all statements referring to Israel to the Christian congregation. This is the case with the promises made to Israel in the Old Testament, which are simply transferred, free of charge, to the congregation as the “new Israel” - and the same happens to many statements in the New Testament, like this one, where Israel is likewise meant.

The whole of chapter 9 of Paul’s Epistle to the Romans is concerned with Israel, as we can see from the following passages:

For they are not all Israel who are descended from Israel.

Rom 9,1 I am telling the truth in Christ, I am not lying, my conscience testifies with me in the Holy Spirit, 9,2 that I have great sorrow and unceasing grief in my heart. 9.3 For I could wish that I myself were accursed, separated from Christ for the sake of my brethren, my kinsmen according to the flesh, 9,4 who are Israelites, to whom belongs the adoption as sons, and the glory and the covenants and the giving of the Law and the temple service and the promises, 9,5 whose are the fathers, and from whom is the Christ according to the flesh, who is over all, God blessed forever. Amen. 9.6 But it is not as though the word of God has failed. For they are not all Israel who are descended from Israel; 9,7nor are they all children because they are Abraham’s descendants, but: "through Isaac you rdescendants will be named" 9,8 That is, it is not the children of the flesh who are children of God, but the children of the promise are regarded as descendants. Rom 9, 1- 8;


Here Paul says: “For they are not all Israel who are descended from Israel”. It is not the children of the flesh who are the children of God, but the children of the promise. And then he goes on to talk about Isaac and Rebekah, and the twins Jacob and Esau.

So that God’s purpose according to His choice would stand, not because of works but because of Him who calls.

Rom 9,9 For this is the word of promise: "At this time I will come, and Sarah shall have a son." 9.10 And not only this, but there was Rebekah also, when she had conceived twins by one man, our father Isaac; 9.11 for though the twins were not yet born and had not done anything good or bad, so that God’s purpose according to His choice would stand, not because of works but because of Him who calls, 9.12 it was said to her, "the older will serve the younger." 9.13 Just as it is written, "Jacob is loved, but Esau is hated." 9,14 What shall we say then? There is no injustice with God, is there? May it never be! 9,15 For He says to Moses, "I will have mercy on whom I have mercy, and I will have compassion on whom I have compassion."

9.16 So then it does not depend on the man who wills or the man who runs, but on God who has mercy. 9,17 For the Scripture says to Pharaoh, "for this very purpose I raised you up, to demonstrate My Power in you, and that My name might be proclaimed throughout the whole earth." 9,18 So then He has mercy on whom He desires, and He hardens whom He desires. Rom 9, 9-18;


So Paul is here concerned to show that Jacob, whom God loved and favored, did not owe this to any works of his own but only to the mercy of God. And here we also have the verse quoted in the reply above (Rom 9,16): “So then it does not depend on the man who wills or the man who runs, but on God who has mercy”. That applies first of all to this example of Jacob and Esau, and then also extends to the Israelites in general.

The last verse in the above passage, “So then He has mercy on whom He desires, and He hardens whom He desires” (Rom 9,18), is directly referring to the circumstance that Paul has mentioned earlier in verse 9,6: “For they are not all Israel who are descended from Israel”. And in verse 9,8: “It is not the children of the flesh who are children of God, but the children of the promise are regarded as descendants”. So Israel is meant here. The Israelites of the flesh - these are the Israelites who have lived in the past almost 2000 years, and are living to this day - are the Israelites of the flesh whom God has hardened.

The children of the promise, on the other hand, are the people of Israel and of all nations who have come to faith in the Son of God, Our Lord Jesus Christ, as well as those who will come to have faith in future times up to the Second Coming of the Lord. And Paul now also writes in Rom 4,1-5:

Abraham believed God, and it was credited to him as righteousness

Rom 4,1 What then shall we say that Abraham, our forefather according to the flesh, has found? 4,2 For if Abraham was justified by works, he has something to boast about, but not before God. 4,3 For what does the Scripture say? "Abraham believed God, and it was credited to him as righteousness." 4,4 Now to the one who works, his wage is not credited as a favor, but as what is due. 4,5 But to the one who does not work, but believes in Him who justifies the ungodly, his faith is credited as righteousness Rom 4, 1-5;


So it is not the works of the Israelites of the flesh by which they might attain to righteousness. Rather, when a person has faith, his faith will be credited as righteousness. And this very statement of Paul’s reveals the point in time of this fundamental change in the salvation history of God with humanity. God has had mercy on us and sent his Son, so that he should provide the redeeming sacrifice for our sins on the cross. And from this time on we have God’s assurance:

He who believes in the Son has eternal life.

Jn 3,36 "He who believes in the Son has eternal life; but he who does not obey the Son will not see life, but the wrath of God abides on him.". Jn 3,36;


So we must accept this offer of God’s, and believe in the redeeming sacrifice of the Son of God for our personal sins as well. And now we can see that the promise mentioned above in Rom 9,18, “So then He has mercy on whom He desires, and He hardens whom He desires”, does not just apply to Jacob and Esau, but also and especially applies to Israel of the flesh and the children of the promise, that is to say, all those people of Israel and all other nations who are saved by believing in Jesus Christ.

The time of the law is past. God has already had mercy on us. We are the vessels of the promise, if we have accepted faith in Jesus Christ. And this is what Paul says, in the verses quoted above, to the Israelites of the flesh who are indignant on this account - those Israelites who rejected their Messiah when he came to them, and continue to reject him to this day. For almost 2000 years they have tried to achieve righteousness through works, and they claim that Jesus was an impostor and a blasphemer, so that it is not possible to believe in him.

To make known the riches of His glory upon vessels of mercy.

Rom 9,20 On the contrary, who are you, O man, who answers back to God? The thing molded will not say to the molder, "Why did you make me like this," will it? 9,21 Or does not the potter have a right over the clay, to make from the same lump one vessel for honorable use and another for common use? 9,22 What if God, although willing to demonstrate His wrath and to make His power known, endured with much patience vessels of wrath prepared for destruction? 9,23 And He did so to make known the riches of His glory upon vessels of mercy, which He prepared beforehand for glory, 9,24 even us, whom He also called, not from among Jews only, but also from among Gentiles. Rom 9,20-24;


The assertion in the reply quoted above:

“If you, as a Christian, are a vessel to the honor of God and believe that this is in the remotest sense due to your own personal deserts or even the result of your personal ‘decision’, then you would be the first vessel to answer back to God and say to its creator that he should have made it differently (cf. Rom 9, 20-21).”


thus refers to what Paul says in Rom 9,20 (“Who are you, O man, who answers back to God?”) - an argument addressed to the Israelites who were not prepared to accept the fact that God had had mercy on the nations as well. And this must now be considered in the light of the other statements made by Paul here in this same chapter of Romans. The vessels of wrath are the Israelites of the flesh, and all people who set the mercy and grace of God in his Son Jesus Christ at no account and reject it. The vessels of mercy are all those people, of Israel and of the nations, who have shown themselves worthy of the mercy of God and have accepted faith in Jesus Christ as their Savior and Redeemer. So anyone who, as a believing Christian, refers Paul’s statements in Rom 9,20-22 to himself is going back to Israel again, and misprizing the grace of God in his Son and the redeeming sacrifice of Our Lord.

And seeing that the above reply is addressed to me in a quite personal sense - yes, I did confess to my creator, 35 years ago, that I decided for him as the one and only God and for his Son Jesus Christ as my Savior and Redeemer, and asked him to accept me as his child. And if I see the matter correctly, there are millions of Christians, in the past and in the present, who have taken this step. Anyone then who thinks that he is preordained to eternal life, and therefore does not need to take this decision, is in my view the victim of a fatal error. This decision is to confess Our Lord Jesus Christ. Anyone who refuses this decision will not be confessed by the Lord before his Father either.

Therefore everyone who confesses Me before men, I will also confess him before My Father.

Mt 10,32 "Therefore everyone who confesses Me before men, I will also confess him before My Father who is in heaven. 10,33 "But whoever denies Me before men, I will also deny him before My Father who is in heaven. Mt 10,32-33;



On the other hand, your quotation from Wilhelm Busch is admirable. Only we should not combine it with the BIBLICAL doctrine of election.



I would just like first of all to establish the fact that we are here concerned, in this discussion, with the doctrine of predestination, and with the question whether we can make a decision of our own free will for or against God (my approach) or whether we cannot make a decision either for or against him, because we are already preordained (as you claim). Let us just take a look at what Wilhelm Busch - whom you find excellent, as I do myself - has to say about it in this sermon:

-  In the Kingdom of God there is only complete freedom of the will.

-  God offers himself to us. But we can refuse him.

-  Anyone who does not want this Savior whom God has sent to save sinners is free to refuse him.

-  With God there is no compulsion. Only you must please recognize that you will then have to accept the consequences for yourself.

-  God offers you, through Jesus, the forgiveness of sins and peace. You can say, “I don’t need it!”

-  You can refuse God’s offer of peace in Jesus, but then you must live for all eternity without having peace with God.

-  You can choose not to turn to Jesus. But then you must be clear on the fact that you are choosing hell! You have the complete freedom to do so!


It is quite clear to me that these statements cannot be reconciled with the doctrine of predestination. That is why I am quoting them here. I prefer to put my trust in Scripture and in a man like Wilhelm Busch, whose preaching I know to be biblical, rather than in the advocates of predestination.



The word precognition is not to be found in the Bible (or is that just because of my translation?) - the words preordained, elect etc., on the other hand occur frequently. I think you have to be quite brave to ignore that fact.



Well, nor is the noun of the verb you use here, “preordained” - that is to say, preordination or predestination - to be found in Scripture (and of course this is not a matter of the translation, for me either). But if you look at Rom 8,29, Paul writes there that God has “foreknown” those who love him. And that, now, is nothing other than the noun used by me, foreknowledge or precognition.

Rom 8,29 For those whom He foreknew, He also predestined .

As we can see, Paul is saying here that God in his omniscience has first of all foreknown those who love him, and then selected them from all human beings of all time and preordained them to Eternal Life by entering their names in the Book of Life. We find the same implications in the first epistle of Peter as well.

1Pet 1,1 ... who are chosen 1,2 according to the foreknowledge of God the Father


The crucial point however is that we clearly are not confronted here with an arbitrary act of preordination - of predestination, that is - on God’s part, but rather that God, in his omniscience, has foreknown all those who love him, or who will love him, and consequently has chosen them.



But however that may be - the problem only arises, when someone
a) thinks it follows from the doctrine of election that there is no need for him to evangelize (hyper-calvinism), or else
b) thinks that in the last resort it is all down to the “man who wills or the man who runs”, as then all we would need to do is to boost our willing and running, which would put us in the same camp as ProChrist.



The difference from hyper-Calvinism is only marginal - in this connection at least - since the Calvinists as well take the view that

“The redeeming act of Christ was only designed to save those who had been chosen by God and to make their salvation effective” (quote from www.Calvinismus.de).

The following biblical statement is clearly opposed to this:

1Jn 2,2 and He Himself is the propitiation for our sins; and not for ours only, but also for those of the whole world.


The term you use in your above comments - “doctrine of election” - is plainly a misunderstanding on your part, or else a more or less conscious confusion. We are concerned - in this Discourse at least - not with an election, which always and of necessity, after all, presupposes a criterion of selection with reference to the object or subject selected (and advocates of Calvinistic predestination would be equally opposed to this idea). But rather with the doctrine of predestination, that is to say, an arbitrary preordination of individuals to eternal life or eternal damnation by God, without any reference to people’s actions.

This is because, as I have explained above, the notion of “election” is indeed fully in accordance with Scripture. But by contrast with preordination or predestination, even just on semantic grounds the term “election” cannot be an originating process, but rather must presuppose first of all a certain criterion of selection, and then must be followed up with a search for objects that conform to this criterion before a choice can be made. So a “doctrine of election”, of its very nature, cannot be a form of predestination or preordination, but must rather be a case of pre-election or preselection. And this kind of preselection, consequently, is preceded by a foreknowledge, or precognition, just as Paul states in Rom 8,29:

”For whom He foreknew [precognition], He also predestined.”

The champions of Calvinist predestination, on the other hand, make the following two assertions:

1. God has preordained people to eternal life or eternal damnation by an arbitrary act of will, and

2. Human beings have no further influence on this decision whatever.

Hyper-Calvinism now draws the conclusion from this, logically enough, that any evangelization would be completely pointless - seeing that all those people who are preordained to eternal life will of necessity come to have faith in the course of their lives, while those whom God has destined for eternal damnation are completely unable to accept this faith.

Representatives of the Evangelical point of view, like the Remonstrants (from the Latin ''remonstrare'', to refuse) who followed James Arminius (again, see the explanations at the start of this document) and who were persecuted and executed for their faith by the Dutch Calvinists some 400 years ago - such as Huigh de Groot (1583-1645) and Johan van Oldenbarnevelt (1547-1619) - confirm the fact of God’s foreknowledge, based on his omniscience, of those who will come to believe in their lives, along with their selection and entry in the Book of Life. By contrast with the unbelievers, whose names are not found there (Rom 8,29; Eph 1,4; 1Pet 1,1-2; Phil 4,3; Rev 13,8; 17,8; 20,12.15). This point of view however recognizes, based on the statements made by Scripture, that human beings have the God-given freedom to refuse God’s grace.

This kind of foreknowledge, it has to be said, is only available to God, not to us human beings; so we cannot form a judgment, of any individual at any time, as to whether he will come to have faith and so whether his name is written in the Book of Life. Consequently too the view that we only have to proclaim the gospel to the elect is a fatally mistaken conclusion - because we do not know who is chosen and who is not! And seeing that we have a testimony in Scripture that even those individuals whose names are already written in the Book of Life may, as a result of their own actions, have their names blotted out again by God (Ex 32,33; Ps 69,29; Heb 3,12-14; 6,4-6; Rev 2,1-5), there can be no doubt that we should follow the Lord’s command and preach the gospel to the whole world and the whole of creation.

Go into all the world and preach the gospel to all creation.

Mk 16,15 And He said to them, "Go into all the world and preach the gospel to all creation. 16,16 "He who has believed and has been baptized shall be saved; but he who has disbelieved shall be condemned. Mk 16,15-16;


As for the passage you quote from Rom 9,16 about “the man who wills or the man who runs”, which in your view reduces evangelization to an absurdity, here again you have plundered Scripture for a “building block” to add to your own personal edifice of opinion. If we examine the context, here we again find that Paul is addressing these warnings to the Israelites:

So then it does not depend on the man who wills or the man who runs, but on God who has mercy.

Rom 9,15 For He says to Moses, "I will have mercy on whom I have mercy, and I will have compassion on whom I have compassion." 9.16 So then it does not depend on the man who wills or the man who runs, but on God who has mercy. 9,17 For the Scripture says to Pharaoh, "for this very purpose I raised you up, to demonstrate My Power in you, and that My name might be proclaimed throughout the whole earth." 9,18 So then He has mercy on whom He desires, and He hardens whom He desires. Rom 9,15-18;


By contrast with the Israelites of the flesh, whom God has hardened, the Almighty has had mercy on the children of the promise. In place of the Israelite practice of animal sacrifice in propitiation for their sins, the Father has sent his Son, who supplied the redeeming sacrifice on the cross for all people of all time, to save them from their sins. So now it is no longer necessary to bring a sacrifice - the one and only thing that counts is the conscious, personal and grateful acceptance of this sacrifice of Our Lord Jesus Christ, which has already been made once and for all. This offer by God is a gift of grace and of mercy on us sinners. But as with every kind of gift, this gift too can be refused and rejected. So it is down to the conscious decision of every individual human being whether he takes advantage of this redeeming sacrifice of Jesus Christ for his own sins as well.

The idea that, in view of what Scripture tells us in Rom 9,18, we have a proof supplied that God, in his selection of people to be saved, is ruled by arbitrary whim is the result of a superficial view of these words of Paul’s. If we have regard to his further statements on this theme in the Epistle to the Romans, we can see that the essential thing here is always the response of God to human actions:

Therefore God gave them over, for they exchanged the truth of God for a lie.

Rom 1,22 Professing to be wise, they became fools, 1,23 and exchanged the glory of the incorruptible God for an image in the form of corruptible man and of birds and four-footed animals and crawling creatures. 1,24 Therefore God gave them over in the lusts of their hearts to impurity, so that their bodies would be dishonored among them. 1,25 For they exchanged the truth of God for a lie, and worshiped and served the creature rather than the Creator, who is blessed forever. Amen. Rom 1,22-25;

They stumbled over the stumbling stone.

Rom 9,31 but Israel, pursuing a law of righteousness, did not arrive at that law. 9,32 Why? Because they did not pursue it by faith, but as though it were by works. They stumbled over the stumbling stone, 9,33 just as it is written, "Behold, I lay in Zion a stone of stumbling and a rock of offense, and he who believes in Him will not be disappointed." Röm 9,31-33;


In the last verse of the latter passage (Rom 9,33), Paul also refutes the supposition that human beings could be redeemed quite without any action on their part: only those who believe in the Son of God will avoid coming to shame. And it cannot, surely, be the case that Paul, in Rom 9,18, would postulate an arbitrary act of God for the salvation of human beings, and then just a few verses further on, at the end of the chapter, contradict this position by stating that it is the personal decision of every individual human being, through faith in Jesus Christ, that is the one essential condition for salvation.

Other passages in the New Testament likewise confirm the view that the hardening of the human heart is always just the consequence of the individual’s own actions, and never an arbitrary act on the part of God - on the contrary, it is God’s will that all human beings should be saved.

For those who perish, because they did not receive the love of the truth so as to be saved.

2The 2,10 and with all the deception of wickedness for those who perish, because they did not receive the love of the truth so as to be saved. 2,11 For this reason God will send upon them a deluding influence so that they will believe what is false. 2The 2,10-11;

God desires all men to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth.

1Tim 2,3 This is good and acceptable in the sight of God our Savior, 2,4 who desires all men to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth. 2,5 For there is one God, and one mediator also between God and men, the man Christ Jesus, 2,6 who gave Himself as a ransom for all, the testimony given at the proper time. 1Tim 2. 3- 6;


The organization you mention in conclusion, ProChrist, is in my view dubious not because it is aimed at evangelization on a large scale, but rather because the entire organization is already in the hands of the ecumenical movement, under the direction of the Catholic church. In view of the involvement of the Catholic church, which fundamentally starts from the position that “the Catholic church takes priority over the Bible, as it is a greater whole”, any biblical promulgation of the gospel is an impossibility, and those in positions of responsibility in the organization have increasingly distanced themselves in recent years from evangelization based on Scripture.

The President of the Gnadauer Gemeinschaftswerk [Gnadau Community Initiative] Christoph Morgner writes, as a member of the management board of ProChrist, in an article published October 2002 under the title “Must we collaborate more?”:

“To those who speak out against ProChrist on the grounds that Catholic communities are involved in it, I would like to say in plain and simple terms that it is better to be a believing Catholic and to be at home in this church, than to have no relationship with Jesus Christ at all.” (»idea« 40/2002)

- and here the complete lack of understanding shown by a responsible officer of this movement is patently revealed. This argument resembles the answer of the taxi driver, who instead of taking his client to the address in the city he has been given makes for the airport, and when asked why he is going in the wrong direction, cheekily replies to his passenger, “Just be thankful that you’re sitting in a taxi, rather than standing out there in the rain.”



Conclusion

The commission given by the Lord to Christians in Mk 16,15-16, “Go into all the world and preach the gospel to all creation. He who has believed and has been baptized shall be saved; but he who has disbelieved shall be condemned” has a parallel in the Old Testament, in the promise made by God in Eze 33,1-6:

So he is taken away in his iniquity; but his blood I will require from the watchman’s hand.

Ezk 33,1 And the word of the LORD came to me, saying, 33,2 "Son of man, speak to the sons of your people and say to them, ‘If I bring a sword upon a land, and the people of the land take one man from among them and make him their watchman, 33,3 and he sees the sword coming upon the land and blows on the trumpet and warns the people, 33,4 then he who hears the sound of the trumpet and does not take warning, and a sword comes and takes him away, his blood will be on his own head. 33,5 ‘He heard the sound of the trumpet but did not take warning; his blood will be on himself. But had he taken warning, he would have delivered his life.

33,6 ‘But if the watchman sees the sword coming and does not blow the trumpet and the people are not warned, and a sword comes and takes a person from them, he is taken away in his iniquity; but his blood I will require from the watchman’s hand.’ Eze 33, 1- 6;


In this promise “Israel” stands for the whole world, the “trumpet” is the Good News of salvation by grace, and the “watchmen” are the preachers of the gospel, starting with the apostles and going right through to our own time and on to the Last Days. So if someone hears the gospel, but does not take it as a warning, his guilt remains. But if he takes it to heart as a warning and so comes to faith in the Son of God, then he has saved his soul. This is confirmed, too, by the Lord in Jn 3,18: “He who believes in Me is not judged; he who does not believe has been judged already, because he has not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God”.

But if the watchmen, who know the gospel, do not give people a warning - perhaps because they think that they alone have been chosen - those people will be taken away in their iniquity; but their blood will be required from the watchman’s hand.




(Texts enclosed in a black frame are quoted from visitors to the site or other authors.)

(Do the “tares” prove that predestination is right after all? / Siegfried Grehn 00, 2006-05-04)

(...) I find your interpretation excellent, because it stays close to the Bible and because you back up your arguments with specific scriptural references, making it easy for the reader to follow your line of reasoning.

In Discourse 83, on predestination, you give a clear refutation, based on the parable of the sower (Mt 13,18-23), of the anonymous contributor’s assertion that “the wheat has always been and remains wheat” (Mt 13,24-30). But in spite of repeated readings of your commentary, I have been unable to find an answer to the corollary that consequently likewise “the tares have always been and remain tares”.

Seeing that this interpretation, after all, is a major pillar for the way in which the advocates of predestination understand their faith, it would be interesting to see, here too, whether this point of view can be refuted on scriptural evidence. - Or is this actually a proof of the fact that predestination is true, and that people are preselected by God after all?


(Siegfried Grehn, Siegfried.Grehn@t-online.de)



You are completely right in what you say. In my commentary I did concentrate on the “wheat”, and rather left the “tares” out of attention - perhaps because I presumed, clearly incorrectly, that the right interpretation of the first part of this misguided idea of predestination (that relating to the wheat) would automatically clarify the latter part (relating to the tares) in the reader’s mind.

In order to make up for this omission, let me here refer again to Our Lord’s parable:

The kingdom of heaven may be compared to a man who sowed good seed in his field

Mt 13,24 Jesus presented another parable to them, saying, "The kingdom of heaven may be compared to a man who sowed good seed in his field. 13,25 "But while his men were sleeping, his enemy came and sowed tares among the wheat, and went away. 13,26 "But when the wheat sprouted and bore grain, then the tares became evident also. 13,27 "The slaves of the landowner came and said to him, ‘Sir, did you not sow good seed in your field? How then does it have tares?’ 13,28 "And he said to them, ‘An enemy has done this!’ The slaves said to him, ‘Do you want us, then, to go and gather them up?’ 13,29 "But he said, ‘No; for while you are gathering up the tares, you may uproot the wheat with them. 13,30 ‘Allow both to grow together until the harvest; and in the time of the harvest I will say to the reapers, "First gather up the tares and bind them in bundles to burn them up; but gather the wheat into my barn."‘" Mt 13,24-30;


When he comes to interpret this parable to his disciples, Our Lord explains the significance of the various terms:

The field is the world, the one who sows the good seed is the Son of Man and the devil sows the tares.

Mt 13,36 Then He left the crowds and went into the house. And His disciples came to Him and said, "Explain to us the parable of the tares of the field." 13,37 And He said, "The one who sows the good seed is the Son of Man, 13,38 and the field is the world; and as for the good seed, these are the sons of the kingdom; and the tares are the sons of the evil one; 13,39 and the enemy who sowed them is the devil, and the harvest is the end of the age; and the reapers are angels. Mt 13,36-39;


It is the Son of Man who sows the good seed. The field is the world. The field therefore stands for the human beings of the entire world. Now we know from the Lord’s parable of the sower, quoted below, that the quality of the ground is the decisive factor that determines whether or not the sown seed can take root and grow. In these parables, then, the soil of the field represents the will of every individual human being and his capacity to absorb the Word of God, the gospel, and allow it to grow in his or her heart.

The sower went out to sow.

Mt 13,3 And He spoke many things to them in parables, saying, "Behold, the sower went out to sow; 13,4 and as he sowed, some seeds fell beside the road, and the birds came and ate them up.
13,5 "Others fell on the rocky places, where they did not have much soil; and immediately they sprang up, because they had no depth of soil. 13,6 "But when the sun had risen, they were scorched; and because they had no root, they withered away.
13,7 "Others fell among the thorns, and the thorns came up and choked them out.
13,8 "And others fell on the good soil and yielded a crop, some a hundredfold, some sixty, and some thirty. 13,9 "He who has ears, let him hear. Mt 13, 3- 9;

The parable of the sower in the interpretation by the Lord.

Mt 13, 18 "Hear then the parable of the sower. 13,19 "When anyone hears the word of the kingdom and does not understand it, the evil one comes and snatches away what has been sown in his heart. This is the one on whom seed was sown beside the road.

13,20 "The one on whom seed was sown on the rocky places, this is the man who hears the word and immediately receives it with joy; 13,21 yet he has no firm root in himself, but is only temporary, and when affliction or persecution arises because of the word, immediately he falls away.

13,22 "And the one on whom seed was sown among the thorns, this is the man who hears the word, and the worry of the world and the deceitfulness of wealth choke the word, and it becomes unfruitful.

13,23 "And the one on whom seed was sown on the good soil, this is the man who hears the word and understands it; who indeed bears fruit and brings forth, some a hundredfold, some sixty, and some thirty." Mt 13,18-23;


These statements, now, relate to the good seed that the Lord has sown. But seeing that, as Our Lord tells us, the field is the whole world, the conditions of this field - whether favorable or unfavorable - must likewise apply to the seed of the tares. The seed of the tares, after all, is sown on the same field, and so will meet with the same quality of soil and environmental conditions (the character of human beings, that is to say) as is the case with the seed of the wheat.

When the seed is sown beside the road, this refers to people who have completely hardened their hearts. They have no interest in spiritual matters, and refuse to consider anything that they cannot see or touch. The seed - whether it is wheat or tares - penetrates no further. Neither good nor evil can grow in them. They are not hot and they are not cold - they are lukewarm. As is plain to see, this is the spiritual state of the greater part of the human race. And of them the Lord says that he will spit them out of his mouth.

So because you are lukewarm, and neither hot nor cold, I will spit you out of My mouth.

Rev 3,15 ‘I know your deeds, that you are neither cold nor hot; I wish that you were cold or hot. 3,16 ‘So because you are lukewarm, and neither hot nor cold, I will spit you out of My mouth. 3,17 ‘Because you say, "I am rich, and have become wealthy, and have need of nothing," and you do not know that you are wretched and miserable and poor and blind and naked. Off 3,15-17;


So it is not enough just not to be “evil” and not to do harm to others. Anyone who does not actively change his life, who is not converted to faith in Jesus Christ, will be lost for all eternity - even if his life has not been conspicuously evil.

Where the seed is sown on rocky places, this stands for people who are quick to develop enthusiasm - either for good or for evil. If it is the seed of the wheat that a person receives, he will immediately become an enthusiastic Christian, and all Christian brethren will think to see the effects of the Holy Spirit. So we find many people like this in the charismatic camp. If on the other hand the same person absorbs the seed of the tares, he falls into crime and perversity. But as soon as the first excitement is over and difficulties supervene, he finds this course boring and presently returns to his ongoing search for new experiences and sensations. He is a man of the moment, as the Lord says in the above passage.

When the seed is sown among thorns, the person absorbs the seed (whether of wheat or tares) and lets it grow. But either he is poor, and is wholly taken up with the daily struggle to maintain himself and his family, or else he is rich, and is therefore constantly preoccupied with finding the most profitable way of investing his capital. And so he has no time left over to devote to other things. On the spiritual level, the seed is choked and cannot yield any fruit.

But when the seed is sown on good soil, the person is not just receptive to spiritual influences, he also continues to develop them. In this case the seed is able to grow and produce fruit. If he has received the good seed, it becomes wheat and yields a crop, thirty fold, sixty fold or even a hundred fold. The person becomes a committed Christian, dedicated to spreading the gospel, or becomes a Christian preacher. If he has received the seed of the tares, he becomes a criminal or a thief and a murderer.

As we can see, the good soil is not enough on its own to allow wheat to grow. Of course the seed is needed as well. And it is the same with the tares. So the good soil (good ground, good earth) is not here to be understood as “good” in the opposite sense to “bad” - the Lord quite simply means fruitful soil, on which any seed that is sown will flourish. If the seed of wheat has been sown, it will yield wheat; if tares are sown, it will produce tares.

And with human beings we find a similar picture. If the soil - the “heart” of a human being - is receptive and is not prevented by other circumstances, the person will be able to continue to develop the thoughts and ideas he has absorbed and bring them to maturity. Unlike the soil, on the other hand, human beings as creatures endowed with the gift of reason have freedom to decide what kind of seed they will absorb. So when the “soil” is fruitful - and indeed especially when the soil is fruitful - it is down to every individual human being to decide whether he will absorb the seed of the wheat or the seed of the tares and allow them to grow in his heart. When he has once taken this decision, the person is either “wheat”, and so a child of the Kingdom, or else “tares” and so a child of the evil one.

So the view that “the wheat remains wheat and the tares remain tares” completely fails to do justice to the circumstance that the good soil is completely neutral in the first place. Wheat or tares only result from the sowing, and the seed’s growth in the soil. The only thing that remains unalterable, in this connection, is the seed itself: the seed of wheat remains a seed of wheat, the seed of tares remains a seed of tares. The one is sown by the Lord, the other by the devil. It is the human being who decides whether he or she is going to take the one seed or the other on board. But once you have absorbed the seed, you have made a final decision to whom you wish to belong - to God or to the devil.

And here it is also very easy to recognize what kind of people are still capable of having the gospel addressed to them - namely those, in Our Lord’s parable, in whose case the seed (whether of wheat or of tares) has been sown beside the road, in rocky places or among thorns. By reason of various circumstances, they have failed to absorb the seed. And it may be possible to have an effect on these circumstances, in a positive sense.

-  If the seed has been sown beside the road, the person has heard the Word but has not understood it, and then the evil one has come and has snatched away that which was sown in his heart. So this person needs to have the gospel preached to him once more - in such a way that he finally understands it, and keeps it in his heart.

-  When the seed is sown in rocky places, this is the man of the moment, who holds his position for a time but then moves on. This person needs to be brought to the realization that he, who thinks himself obliged to take with him all what life offers, has actually adopted a stance that means he is missing out on life altogether, through his shying away from any kind of obligation, long-term commitment or responsibility.

-  When the seed has been sown among thorns, the person must be made to understand that there is a solution for his worries - if he comes to faith in the Lord, the Lord will direct his course in such a way that his problems, of whatever nature, will soon be a thing of the past, and he will be free to absorb the Word of God and to yield fruit.


And since both the number of the faithful and the number of the criminals and murderers (in the first case a regrettable fact, in the second thanks be to God) assuredly represents a minority of the population of the world, most certainly the three groups mentioned above must add up to the overwhelming majority of the human race, which means that we have a wide field for evangelization and the proclamation of the gospel.



(Texts enclosed in a black frame are quoted from visitors to the site or other authors.)

(Indeterminism alone is not enough / Article by Peter Markl in the Austrian daily ‘Die Presse’ [‘The Press’] 00, 2006-12-30)

(...) And even if some of the steps on the path to a decision should be indeterministic, this still does not answer the question whether a person has taken a decision on the basis of ‘free’ will - as Karl Popper wrote, “Indeterminism alone is not enough.”

Today when it comes to the exposition of the concept of free will, all philosophers, or almost all, are in any case agreed that the meaning of free will in no way contradicts the picture presented by today’s natural sciences: the brain is a causally closed system, and there is no discrete structure in the cerebellum that answers to the ‘will’, nor is there any network of neurons that exercises its function in a causal vacuum. Churchland is all the more emphatic in her judgment: “A philosophy that presumes human decisions that are not causally determined (and in that sense ‘free’) is just as unrealistic as a picture of the world in which the world is still a flat disk.” Someone who thinks on these lines “is glorifying his own scientific naivety, by elevating it into a supposed transcendental insight.”


Extract from an article by Peter Markl in the daily ‘Die Presse’ [‘The Press’] / http://www.diepresse.com/



Patricia Churchland, Professor of Philosophy at the University of California, writes about the significance of ‘free will’ in the neurosciences in an essay published in New Scientist (no. 2579). And Peter Markl now, in his review in the Austrian daily ‘Die Presse’, quotes Karl Popper’s statement that “Indeterminism alone is not enough”, and he is of course completely right to do so. The relation between indeterminism and free will is similar to that between the heart and human life. A properly functioning heart is still no guarantee of genuine life - if we consider the case of a person who is brain-dead, for example. And so too indeterminism still does not amount to everything in connection with free will. But just as is the case with the heart, without indeterminism none of it is any use. Human beings must use their free will with the help of their understanding, instead of denying it.

The question of free will has been controversially debated from the time of Aristotle to that of Immanuel Kant and his successors. And as we can see from what Churchland says in her essay, there are still many philosophers and neuroscientists today who deny that human beings have such a thing as free will. They think that in our world everything is determined - conditioned by preceding events. And this is the very same world view that was prevalent among physicists until the early years of the last century. They thought that in physics there was nothing new left to research, because all the laws of the universe were known and the physical foundations of the world had been explained once and for all. In physics, so it was thought, everything had been discovered and everything could be calculated.

But then when the German physicist Max Planck discovered the energy quantum in the year 1900, he introduced a revolution in the physical world picture and became the founder of quantum theory. If scientists hitherto had believed that Nature was like a gigantic preprogrammed horological mechanism, they were now confronted with the fact that elementary processes, like the emission of light quanta or the decay of atoms, take place on the basis of pure chance. Nothing in physics would ever be the same. Now everything was possible.

The quantum nature of light - and of electromagnetic radiation in general - and the quantum theory that it led to, made a decisive difference to the world picture of physics at the start of the twentieth century. Many physicists however refused to accept these new discoveries. Even Albert Einstein aligned himself with the skeptics, with his famous remark “God does not play at dice”. And when, later on, the well known German quantum physicist Werner Heisenberg (Nobel Prize winner in 1932) laid the foundations for matrix mechanics, Einstein wrote to his friend Ehrenfest in September 1925: “Heisenberg has laid a big quantum egg - in Göttingen they believe in it (I don’t).” Werner Heisenberg, at the time just 23 years old, had brought to birth something that caused uproar among the physicists - Einstein compared the effect to that of a fracas at the poultry farm.
 
Since then, quantum theory has become a recognized branch of the natural sciences, on sound empirical foundations. Up to the present time, it has been possible to confirm all of its predictions. And now we find quantum physicist and philosopher Werner Heisenberg lecturing on ‘Die Verknüpfung von Physik und Philosophie’ [‘The Links between Physics and Philosophy’], in Munich in 1962. The following extract shows him taking the collapse of the old-style physical world picture that quantum theory had brought about, drawing out its philosophical implications and applying it to the question of the free will of the human individual.

(Texts enclosed in a black frame are quoted from visitors to the site or other authors.)

(The human will is not completely causally determined / Lecture, Werner Heisenberg 00, Munich, 1962-07-14)

... On the other hand Kant also says at once that we get into a dilemma if we so much as think of the question of free will. This is because we do surely have the feeling that we can decide freely what we want to do, go either here or there or whatever, and that our actions just are not causally predetermined, since I can after all change them. And Kant, now, could not see an immediate way out of this dilemma, and so made the dilemma one of his antinomies. And he did not reckon with the possibility that an empirical natural science, in this case quantum theory, would one day be able to state: “No, we do have a definitive answer here: the processes are not completely causally determined.”

0

Extract from Werner Heisenberg’s lecture, 14 July 1962 in Munich www.suppose.de


In Heisenberg’s view, then, determinism - that is to say, the view that all physical events occur on the basis of fixed laws and are completely governed and determined by them - has been refuted by the findings of quantum theory. So when Patricia Churchland, in the essay referred to earlier, opines that anyone who thinks on these lines

“is glorifying his own scientific naivety, by elevating it into a supposed transcendental insight”,

her claim must be set against the statements of a Nobel Prize winner - so we find ourselves wondering who is really being naive here. After all, even Einstein got over his initial doubts and was able himself to make a significant contribution to quantum theory with his supposition that light might possess the properties of a corpuscle. That, actually, was how he won the Nobel Prize (not for the theory of relativity!).

As for Churchland’s final assertion, in connection with her denial of free will:

“A philosophy that presumes human decisions that are not causally determined (and in that sense ‘free’) is just as unrealistic as a picture of the world in which the world is still a flat disk”

- this statement does indeed seriously recall the times which she here invokes. When Nikolaus Copernicus, in his book published in 1543, ‘De Revolutionibus Orbium Coelestium’ (‘On the Revolutions of the Celestial Bodies’], presented the idea - an idea revolutionary at the time - that it is not the universe that revolves around the earth, but rather the earth than revolves around the sun, he too reaped his reward of contempt and derision. His critics then were the leading spiritual authorities of the time, who claimed that the teachings of the Bible made it impossible for the earth to move (thus the Swiss reformer Johannes Calvin, 1509-1564, while Martin Luther, 1485-1546, said: “The idiot (Copernicus) will stand the whole science of astronomy on its head.”)

As has already been observed a number of times in this Discourse, the only thing that could hamper the free will of human beings is God the Almighty. But God himself, of his own free choice, refrained from taking this course, so as to ensure that every human being would have the freedom to decide for or against him. Seeing that God created human beings as beings endowed with reason, we should make use of this reason and reflect on the fact - for example - that if there were no such thing as free will, we would immediately be obliged to let all criminals go free. As determinism postulates that all events take place in accordance with fixed laws, and are completely governed and determined by the latter, it would be impossible to attribute any crime to the individual committing the act: we would have to put it down to the ‘fixed laws’ by which the criminal’s actions, in committing the deed, were ‘completely governed and determined’.