Predestination and Free Will

In its widest sense, predestination refers to the concept of divine providence but it is more particularly associated with the relationship between God's omniscience and the activities which result from the exercise of the human will.

In the tradition of Saint Augustine and John Calvin, predestination refers to the determination by God of who will be saved and who will be damned (double predestination). In contrast, Saint Thomas Aquinas and contemporary theologians such as Carl Rahner teach that God is sovereign and omniscient in all things but has graciously granted free will to each of us to choose to accept or reject God's offer of salvation.

Augustine's position begins with the concept of "Original Sin" whereby we are all born in our "fallen state" to be damned but that the Grace of God saves us. Grace, in this sense, does not operate through us as God's agents but is a free gift held by God on our behalf, like a token or a deposit. The position of Aquinas is that we are imperfect and sin in our human weakness but that God's grace operates through us as agents, giving us the capacity for Agape and to lead a holy life.

The Protestant notion of double predestination had the effect of dissociating behaviour from salvation and led to Cartesian "dualism". Some historians, such as Weber, believe that it was this dualism which led to the birth of capitalism.

The most frequent problem in considering predestination is the conflation of God's 'foreknowledge' of an action (omniscience) and God's power over our wills (omnipotence). Separating these two, the simplest formulation of predestination is:

God 'knows' what we will decide to do of our own free will.

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