What follows is a set of scripture passages that I personally see as clearly affirming a view often referred to as Divine Determinism. In my usage of this term, I specifically mean a few particular things.
First, God alone is the only uncaused-first-cause, or ultimate cause, of everything that happens. This means (to focus on the elephant) that God can truly be said to cause every single human sin. However, this does not mean that God is the only cause of human sins. Causal chains begin with a first-cause, or ultimate cause, but secondary and tertiary (etc) causes result from the first cause. These secondary causes can also properly be called "causes" of any following result. Therefore, Divine Determinism does not exclude the idea that humans also cause human sin, but as secondary causes (or as immediate causes rather than ultimate causes).
Second, following from the first, Divine Determinism excludes the idea of Libertarian Free Will. By Libertarian Free Will, I specifically mean that philosophical version of human "free will" that states that there is no true sense whatsoever in which God causes human choices. One result of Divine Determinism, then, is a rejection of the Free Will Theodicy. For those troubled by this, I present the Palpatine Theodicy, namely, the charge that the Problem of Evil engages in the logical fallacy of special pleading.
The following scriptures (all taken from the NKJV) demonstrate aspects of Divine Determinism, and/or seem to me to be incompatible with Libertarian Free Will. I make no claim that this list is exhaustive.
God is the Uncaused-First-Cause of Everything
Passages declaring that God created everything are a dime a dozen. Below are a small set of passages that could be referred to. All of these are, from my perspective, undeniable affirmations of Divine Determinism: there is God and there is what God has caused, and that's it. Nothing else exists. This means that everything caused by a human is actually caused by something (the human) that is caused by God; or, to put it another way, the human action results from something that results from God. The causal chain begins with God, goes to the human, and then ends with the human action. I have little doubt not a single one of these passages will be convincing to Christians who advocate Libertarian Free Will, since, from my perspective, these people all affirm Divine Determinism (AKA, creation) even as they simultaneously deny it.
Thus says the LORD, your Redeemer, And He who formed you from the womb: "I am the LORD, who makes all things, Who stretches out the heavens all alone, Who spreads abroad the earth by Myself..." Isaiah 44:24
All things were made through Him, and without Him nothing was made that was made. John 1:3
As you do not know what is the way of the wind, Or how the bones grow in the womb of her who is with child, So you do not know the works of God who makes everything. Ecclesiastes 11:5
God, who made the world and everything in it, since He is Lord of heaven and earth, does not dwell in temples made with hands. Acts 17:24
For of Him and through Him and to Him are all things, to whom be glory forever. Amen. Romans 11:36
God Causes Human Sins
Passages that declare that God has caused particular sins, or sin generally, are also multiple in the scriptures. Many advocates of Libertarian Free Will hold to their view because they cannot accept the idea that God would ever cause a human to sin. But if scripture says that He has, then their reason for holding to Libertarian Free Will goes against scripture.
For God has put it into their hearts to fulfill His purpose, to be of one mind, and to give their kingdom to the beast, until the words of God are fulfilled. Revelation 17:17
They did not heed the voice of their father, because the LORD desired to kill them. 1 Samuel 2:25
Again the anger of the LORD was aroused against Israel, and He moved David against them to say, "Go, number Israel and Judah." And David's heart condemned him after he had numbered the people. So David said to the LORD, "I have sinned greatly in what I have done; but now, I pray, O LORD, take away the iniquity of Your servant, for I have done very foolishly." 2 Samuel 24:1,10
He has done violence to His tabernacle, As if it were a garden; He has destroyed His place of assembly; The LORD has caused The appointed feasts and Sabbaths to be forgotten in Zion. In His burning indignation He has spurned the king and the priest. Lamentations 2:6
But Sihon king of Heshbon would not let us pass through, for the LORD your God hardened his spirit and made his heart obstinate, that He might deliver him into your hand, as it is this day. Deuteronomy 2:30
Then his father and mother said to him, "Is there no woman among the daughters of your brethren, or among all my people, that you must go and get a wife from the uncircumcised Philistines?" And Samson said to his father, "Get her for me, for she pleases me well." But his father and mother did not know that it was of the LORD—that He was seeking an occasion to move against the Philistines. For at that time the Philistines had dominion over Israel. Judges 14:3-4
A messenger came to Job and said, "The oxen were plowing and the donkeys feeding beside them, when the Sabeans raided them and took them away—indeed they have killed the servants with the edge of the sword; and I alone have escaped to tell you!" While he was still speaking, another also came and said, "The Chaldeans formed three bands, raided the camels and took them away, yes, and killed the servants with the edge of the sword; and I alone have escaped to tell you!" Then Job arose, tore his robe, and shaved his head; and he fell to the ground and worshiped. And he said: "Naked I came from my mother's womb, And naked shall I return there. The LORD gave, and the LORD has taken away; Blessed be the name of the LORD." In all this Job did not sin nor charge God with wrong. Job 1:14-15,17,20-22
The LORD has made all for Himself, Yes, even the wicked for the day of doom. Proverbs 16:4
The law entered that the offense might abound. But where sin abounded, grace abounded much more. Romans 5:20
For God has committed them all to disobedience, that He might have mercy on all. Romans 11:32
"And truly the Son of Man goes as it has been determined, but woe to that man by whom He is betrayed!" Luke 22:22
For truly against Your holy Servant Jesus, whom You anointed, both Herod and Pontius Pilate, with the Gentiles and the people of Israel, were gathered together to do whatever Your hand and Your purpose determined before to be done. Acts 4:27-28
Yet it pleased the LORD to bruise Him; He has put Him to grief. When You make His soul an offering for sin, He shall see His seed, He shall prolong His days, And the pleasure of the LORD shall prosper in His hand. Isaiah 53:10
Choice is not a Prerequisite for Guilt
A common claim from advocates of Libertarian Free Will is that if we don't sin as a result of an autonomous free choice then we cannot be justly accused of guilt. But scripture speaks in several places of guilt due to unintentional sins. How can there be an unintentional sin that produces guilt if someone must freely choose to sin in order to be guilty? The plain reading of these passages then, in my mind, is that choice itself is not necessary for guilt, let alone free choice. These passages don't obviously speak against Libertarian Free Will per-se, but merely against one reason many people hold to it. (For some of these passages, note that if forgiveness or mercy are offered, then guilt is present.)
Or if a person touches any unclean thing, whether it is the carcass of an unclean beast, or the carcass of unclean livestock, or the carcass of unclean creeping things, and he is unaware of it, he also shall be unclean and guilty. Or if he touches human uncleanness—whatever uncleanness with which a man may be defiled, and he is unaware of it—when he realizes it, then he shall be guilty. Or if a person swears, speaking thoughtlessly with his lips to do evil or to do good, whatever it is that a man may pronounce by an oath, and he is unaware of it—when he realizes it, then he shall be guilty in any of these matters. And it shall be, when he is guilty in any of these matters, that he shall confess that he has sinned in that thing; and he shall bring his trespass offering to the LORD for his sin which he has committed, a female from the flock, a lamb or a kid of the goats as a sin offering. So the priest shall make atonement for him concerning his sin. If a person sins, and commits any of these things which are forbidden to be done by the commandments of the LORD, though he does not know it, yet he is guilty and shall bear his iniquity. Leviticus 5:2-6,17
And so you shall do on the seventh day of the month for everyone who has sinned unintentionally or in ignorance. Thus you shall make atonement for the temple. Ezekiel 45:20
But into the second part the high priest went alone once a year, not without blood, which he offered for himself and for the people's sins committed in ignorance... Hebrews 9:7
I was formerly a blasphemer, a persecutor, and an insolent man; but I obtained mercy because I did it ignorantly in unbelief. 1 Timothy 1:13
Then Jesus said, "Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they do." Luke 23:34
Humans are Compared to Inanimate Objects
Another common argument against Divine Determinism is the claim that it turns us into mere instruments. "We aren't just robots," Libertarian Free Will advocates often insist. I certainly agree that we are not robots. Robots are created by humans; they have circuit boards and are made of metal and plastic and silicon. None of these things are true of us. But simply because we aren't robots, it does not follow that everything we are and everything we ever will be is not part of God's creation. Here are some passages that I believe hit at the discomfort these particular individuals have with Divine Determinism. It seems to me that these passages indicate that there is some very real sense in which we are mere instruments in the hands of God.
Shall the ax boast itself against him who chops with it? Or shall the saw exalt itself against him who saws with it? As if a rod could wield itself against those who lift it up, Or as if a staff could lift up, as if it were not wood! Isaiah 10:15
"Woe to him who strives with his Maker! Let the potsherd strive with the potsherds of the earth! Shall the clay say to him who forms it, 'What are you making?' Or shall your handiwork say, 'He has no hands'?" Isaiah 45:9
Surely you have things turned around! Shall the potter be esteemed as the clay; For shall the thing made say of him who made it, "He did not make me"? Or shall the thing formed say of him who formed it, "He has no understanding"? Isaiah 29:16
But now, O LORD, You are our Father; We are the clay, and You our potter; And all we are the work of Your hand. Isaiah 64:8
"O house of Israel, can I not do with you as this potter?" says the LORD. "Look, as the clay is in the potter's hand, so are you in My hand, O house of Israel! Jeremiah 18:6
Does not the potter have power over the clay, from the same lump to make one vessel for honor and another for dishonor? Romans 9:21
Here are some additional passages that don't fit the above categories, but nonetheless seem, from my perspective, to mandate against Libertarian Free Will and speak in favor of Divine Determinism.
The king's heart is in the hand of the LORD, Like the rivers of water; He turns it wherever He wishes. Proverbs 21:1
It is God who works in you both to will and to do for His good pleasure. Philippians 2:13
You ought to say, "If the Lord wills, we shall live and do this or that." James 4:15
In Him also we have obtained an inheritance, being predestined according to the purpose of Him who works all things according to the counsel of His will... Ephesians 1:11
...if God perhaps will grant them repentance... 2 Timothy 2:25
The above is not intended to be anything more than a set of scripture passages that I believe speak against Libertarian Free Will or in favor of Divine Determinism, along with a brief explanation as to why each of them was chosen. If you would like to suggest more passages you think I should include, or passages you think actually demand Libertarian Free Will, please contact me with the relevant information and I may either include them in this list or address them elsewhere. For more information regarding philosophical objections to Divine Determinism, take a look at this article where I respond to William Lane Craig on the subject.
Some advocates of Libertarian Free Will will commonly quote certain passages of scripture as justification for their own views. I deal directly with some of them here: Matthew 23:37; Ezekiel 33:11; Ezekiel 33:19; John 3:16; 2 Peter 3:9; 1 Timothy 2:3-4; 2 Corinthians 5:18-19.
More of My Writing on the Subject
- Do we have free will?
- Couldn't God have given us free will without giving us the desire to sin?
- If God condemned people to Hell because of free will, yet He wanted to save them, would that mean He isn't capable of saving them?
- God knowing in advance how I will use my free will means that god knows which events will lead to me being religious, and which to me being atheist. If God does exist, then doesn't his choice to set forth the latter mean he wanted me to be atheist?
- If god is perfect, how did he manage to create imperfection?
- If God has a "divine plan" for everyone, then does that mean he controls humans and animals to meet his plan?
- William Lane Craig offers 5 arguments against divine determinism at reasonablefaith.org in an article called "Troubled by Calvinists". Do you agree?
- Does God make us sin?
- If God knows the future, do I have a choice?
In Printed Form
Along with numerous other authors including Don Landis, Bodie Hodge and Roger Patterson, Timothy McCabe contributes analyses of various world religions and cults in this volume from Master Books.
"Why are there so many different Christian religions and denominations? Which one is right?"
Not everyone who calls themselves a Christian is really a follower of Jesus Christ. There are numerous groups that refer to themselves as "Christian", yet have startlingly different beliefs. Practically speaking, Roman Catholic doctrine demands that the current Pope has the final authority on matters of faith. However, no other "Christian" group really cares what the Pope has to say. In fact, some even claim that He is the Antichrist (Westminster Confession 25:6).
"How can man be blamed for his inbred sin when he did not ask to be born or even exist?"
Think about your favorite fictional book, or your favorite movie. If you're anything like me, your favorite story probably has a bad guy in it. The bad guy does bad things. And if the story is any good, then at the end of it, the villain either gets thrown in prison, or he's killed by the good guys, or else he turns away from his bad behavior and becomes good.
"Is what is morally good commanded by God because it is morally good, or is it morally good because it is commanded by God?"
This question has been around at least since Plato, and is known by the name of the "Euthyphro Dilemma". It's really nothing more than a silly trick question wearing a "deep" philosophical mask. If one were to go with the first option provided, it leads to the conclusion that God is subject to the authority of Objective Morality and is not actually able to do whatever He wants, making Him not really God.