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THEOLOGY > God > Providence > Theistic Determinism 


A Sovereignty that extends to “all things” sounds like determinism; a Preservation of “all things” and an Administration of “all things” sounds like determinism (see: All Things). But it is not just a mechanical or chemical or evolutionary determinism, it is Theistic Determinism, which means that the determinism is Personal and purposive rather than impersonal and arbitrary.

Determinism is a bitter pill for the humanists to accept, and even a difficult concept for many professing evangelicals. Some completely avoid the term because of the negative baggage associated with the idea or because the term supposedly detracts in some manner from the perceived volition of man. But how can the concept be refused consideration when the Scriptures, which are normative for thinking and reflection (see: The Significance of Truth and Starting Point), plainly affirm Theistic determinism.

Note the following passages selected from the many in the Scriptures:

the thing is established by God, and God will shortly bring it to pass (Gen. 41:32);

He fashions their hearts individually (Ps. 33:15);

But our God is in heaven; He does whatever He pleases (Ps. 115:3);

whatever the Lord pleases He does (Ps. 135:6);

the days fashioned for me, when as yet there were none of them (Ps. 139:16);

who can proclaim as I do . . . the things that are coming and shall come (Isa. 44:7);

I, YHWH, do all these things (Isa. 45:7);

Remember the former things of old, for I am God, and there is no other; I am God, and there is none like Me, declaring the end from the beginning, and from ancient times things that are not yet done, saying, “My counsel shall stand, and I will do all My pleasure,” calling a bird of prey from the east, the man who executes My counsel, from a far country. Indeed I have spoken it; I will also bring it to pass. I have purposed it; I will also do it (Isa. 46:9-11);

I have declared the former things from the beginning (Isa. 48:3);

He does according to His will in the armies of heaven and among the inhabitants of the earth (Dan. 4:35);

till the end of the war desolations are determined (Dan. 9:26);

what has been determined shall be done (Dan. 11:36);

the Son of Man goes as it has been determined (Lu, 22:22);

the determined purpose . . . of God (Acts 2:23);

to do whatever Your hand and Your purpose determined before to be done (Acts 4:28);

And as many as had been appointed to eternal life believed (Acts 13:48);

He . . . has determined their preappointed times and the boundaries of their dwellings (Acts 17:26);

He has appointed a day (Acts 17:31);

the Man whom He has ordained (Acts 17:31);

the called according to His purpose (Rom. 8:28);

He also predestined (Rom. 8:29);

whom He predestined, these He also called (Rom. 8:30);

the vessels prepared for destruction (Rom. 9:22);

the vessels of mercy, which He had prepared beforehand for glory (Rom. 9:23);

He chose us in Him before the foundation of the world (Eph. 1:4);

having predestined us (Eph. 1:5);

according to His good pleasure which He purposed in Himself (Eph. 1:9);

being predestined according to the purpose of Him who works all things according to the counsel of His will (Eph. 1:11);

which God prepared beforehand (Eph. 2:10);

according to the eternal purpose which He accomplished in Christ (Eph. 3:11);

it is God who works in you both to will and to do for His good pleasure (Phil. 2:13);;

nowing . . . your election by God (I Thess. 1:4);

God from the beginning chose you for salvation (II Thess. 2:13);

promised before the world began (Tit. 1:2);

elect according to the foreknowledge of God (I Pet. 1:2);

He indeed was foreordained before the foundation of the world (I Pet. 1:20);

who long ago were marked out for this condemnation (Jude 4).

Consider these words from the above verses: “established,” “fashions,” “days fashioned for me,” “declaring the end from the beginning,” “spoken it,” “does according to His will,” “determined,” “determined before,” “ordained,” “appointed,” “predestined,” “prepared beforehand,” “purposed,” “promised,” “chose,” “chosen . . . before the foundation of the world,” “foreordained,” and “long ago were marked out.” How can anyone read these words and fail to understand the Theistic determinism intended by them? Can anyone honestly assert that determinism is not the teaching of the Scriptures, even if the individual rejects the teaching of the Scriptures?

If determinism is not conveyed, then what do these words specify? The words are sufficiently narrow, “the Son of Man goes as it has been determined,” and sufficiently broad, “the days fashioned for me, when as yet there were none of them” to express a definite determinism, an absolute determinism, and a universal determinism. To suggest otherwise is to misrepresent the numerous texts.

The problem does not seem to be the clarity of the verses, but the ability of the reader to fathom such a concept. With an emotional attachment to a supposed autonomous freedom, the average man finds it incomprehensible that he is not in charge of his destiny and that he does not determine his life. Man desires to be in charge of things, or at least feel that he is in charge; man is compelled to think that it is his will that controls history. Contrary to this is the declaration of Scripture that “whatever YHWH pleases He does” (Ps. 135:6; see: Fulfill the Will of God).

It is God's will that determines;
it is man’s will that acquiesces.

“May YHWH do what is good in His sight.”
II Sam 10:12

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