Is Everything Determined?
Tell me, is everything in the world determined in advance? Are you and I simply puppets who are responding inevitably and willessly to strings being pulled which make us do what we do? Here is a question of critical importance that we ought to think about. I know that you and I recognize together that we live in a world which is filled with more and more activists for one and another cause. Politicians are pushing for this, farmers for that, industrialists as insisting on a given course and the world of labor is making its further demands. These people are activists, who do believe that human activity makes a difference. They believe that the cry of one person or the voices of even a few go not unheard, that it does make a difference. Many even live in the hope and with the dream that their cause will ultimately triumph and, in the process, they will be escalated into a position of influence and paramounce.
By contrast to these, we will know that there are great numbers of people who believe that individual and even collective human activity is worse than futile. They are convinced that there are vast powers which determine and manipulate everything and the voice of one or just a few is wasting its breath. Many times, these people believe that the major powers which determine the course of the world take the form of hidden conspiracies by people who press for their will to be done from smoke-filled rooms in unknown places in mysterious corners of our world.
In this regard, how shall we understand life? Are we being borne along by inexorable currents which determine today’s activity, as well as our ultimate destiny?
By simply looking about us at the human scene, it would be very difficult to answer that question. Consequently, philosophers of history have argued as to inevitable determinisms on the one hand, whereas others have insisted on the fact that our suspicion of human freedom is a real fact. From whence can we discover the truth?
We can discover the truth by taking a moment to examine what God our Creator has told us about ourselves. We have His word for the fact that, difficult as it may be to understand, we are made in the image of God. There is something about the human mind, the human soul, the human ability to dream, to visualize, to hope and to labor—something about that human personality that was implanted within us by God. C. S. Lewis touches on this by explaining to us that God has given us, “The dignity of causality”. He gives us the ability to “wield our little tridents” and, therefore, to make a difference in the world. The argument, therefore, that man is free is seconded by the truth of the Bible that we are made in the image of God.
The New Testament says “amen” to this by telling us that we are the “workers together with God”. So the Bible teaches that there’s something of a coordinate relationship between the will of God and the intention and activity of man. It, therefore, is false to argue that God controls us in the sense of making us His marionettes, His robots, His puppets who are pulled with resistless strings by an over-arching power against which we have no recourse.
We can well believe that Jesus Christ implied all of this when He said, “If the Son, therefore, shall make you free, you shall be free, indeed”. What then—is everything determined? The answer is that it is known by God, but the outcome of things is brought to pass by the will of redeemed man responding affirmatively to the will of God. The outcome of our lives is not, therefore, written in stone, but it is the result of human perception as to the divine intention and then the human mind saying “yes” to this stated purpose of our lives which God has made clear to us.
It is unwise, therefore, for any of us to believe that we are victimized by powerful forces against which we have no ability. The stubborn ounces of your life and mine, invested in a divine direction, can accomplish much. How is this brought to pass for you and me? It starts when I receive Christ as my personal Savior and then it continues when I commit myself to respond affirmatively to the will of Christ in sanctified and significant service for Him. God is not a puppeteer, He is a loving Father who would raise strong sons for service in eternity.