Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Is it fatalism?

More questions have come up since we've started our discussion on free will.  One of them goes something like this:  if God has ordained all that comes to pass, then what's the point?  Why do I even worry about the choices I make?  There are a couple of surface answers that point us to why we do what we do.  One of them is that He told us to do it.  The "it" can be obedience (Ex 12:24), good works (Eph 2:10), prayer (Phl 4:6), etc.  This answer looks very much like the "because I told you so" answer I give to my children when I don't really have a great reason behind why I want them to do something.  So while it is a legitimate answer (His not mine) I've got to tell you it doesn't give me a great deal of intellectual satisfaction.
Let me for a minute highlight some of the characteristics of fatalism.  First of all fatalism is impersonal with no grand design other than the assuredness of future events regardless of my actions.  There is no end achieved, no reason behind each event.  Here is how Hodge said it in 1997:
"It is objected, in the fourth place, that the doctrine of decrees amounts to the heathen doctrine of fate.  There is only one point of agreement between these doctrines.  They both assume absolute certainty in the sequence of all events.  They differ, however, not only as to the ground of that certainty, the nature of the influence by which it is secured and the ends therein contemplated, but also in their natural effects on the reason and conscience of men." - Hodge, C. (1997). Vol. 1: Systematic theology (549). Oak Harbor, WA:  Logos Research Systems, Inc.
Our "ground of certainty" is in the eternal purposes of God (Ps 33:10, 11Jer 32:18, 19Jer 51:29).  The "nature of influence" is the ongoing story of God's interaction with mankind, in calling us to Himself, in His condescension to speak with us in a language we understand.  The "natural effects on the reason and conscience of men" are the following:  we have a purpose, we have been called to execute a plan, we are not accidents.  I'm sure there are others that you can come up with and I would encourage you to take some time to think about what it would be like if in fact we were ruled by fate and not our loving Father.

I don't want to shy away from the logistics of the question, i.e. if He is sovereign how do I maintain my agency and free will, however I want to point out something behind the question, or at least what I feel is behind the question.  I know with my children, especially when we come to an impasse on a particular subject, there is a sense on their part of fatalism.  Said another way, "Daddy, no matter what I say you're going to do what you want to do."  For my children they do not have the assurance that what I want them to do is what is best for them.  In all honesty there are times when I pull the "daddy card" and have them do what I want just because it is more convenient for me, i.e. go outside and play so its quiet inside.  What I hear in that statement is "I don't matter.  It's all about you and what you want.  I'm not important."  For my children, by virtue of their subjection to a fallen dad, that is at times probably true.  I hate it, but that's the truth.

Is that the way it is with our Father?  Is that why we ask the fatalism versus sovereignty question?  We are made in His image (Gen 1:26, 27).  A part of that image is ruler; He gave us this world over which to rule until we handed that job over to the enemy in Genesis 3.  Rulers typically make judgments, pass decrees, and are basically "in charge."  Satan didn't take kindly to the idea that he was going to be subject to the Ultimate Authority and said "I will be like God" (Isa 14:8-14).  As we're all aware that hasn't gone over to well with the Lord and it hasn't been, nor will it be, a great plan on Satan's part either.  He's already been defeated (John 19:30).

As an image bearer we are not Him, but a reflection of Him.  We are the moon and He is the sun.  He is the image and we are the mirror.  We operate in our "highest and best use" when we most closely reflect His image, His character.  I'm starting down a rabbit trail here, but I'm trying to make the following point:  Executing His will is that for which you were designed!  That is why, questions of free will aside for just a moment, you are most content, most joyful, and most satisfied when you are in the middle of His will, not yours.  You are the airplane designed to fly through air, not in the ocean.  You are the train designed to run on the tracks, not on the ground.  You are the submarine designed to explore the seas, not to verify the accuracy of MapQuest directions!

Satan would have you bound by questions of "how does this all work, how I can I be free to act if He knows what I'm going to do, if He's already planned what I'll do?"  Satan would have you resent Him for His control.  My brothers and sisters, take the time to resent Him if you wish, but I am telling you from experience it is a waste of time.  It is not a waste of time merely because it is futile to oppose an omnipotent God. It is a waste of time because it is futile to oppose my loving Father whose will is better than mine!  To be blunt, your will stinks when compared to His.  My will is tainted, fallen, broken and filled with pride.  His is perfect, holy, immutable, unchangeable, divine.  Of the two wills to follow, which will you choose?

Father, if I've in any way misrepresented You or Your word, please forgive me.  By Your Spirit please convict our hearts, speak to us through Your word, and lead us in Your ways.  I love you, Lord.  In Jesus' name, amen.


  1. Wonderful job refuting the fallen notion that somehow my freedom is a priority or better than Father's perfectly good way. Great job defining fatalism well and contrasting it to the truth of God's good sovereignty. You address the issue well. I'm encouraged to be reminded that Father's way is right and he is sovereign and good over me. I want that. I don't want my free choosing. I get me into way too much jank. His ends are perfect and good.

  2. You get to post whenever you want to!! Thank you friend.

  3. Thank you so much for sharing this. The sovreignty of God has been heavily on my heart lately. You are so right in stating how satan can twist and turn that. Thank you for the analogy of your relationship with your own children. It really puts things into perspective to me when I look at the relationship I have with my own child.