Escape Your Fate
The greatest thinkers of ancient Greece gave up on God (Romans 1:18-23). Then, life seem random and out of control. So, they latched onto the idea that whatever happened was just Fate. According to these Fatalists, no one had any more free will than a dog tied to an ox cart ("Non-Free Free Will"). That kind of thinking worked well for the rich and powerful, because they could convince their slaves to accept their Fate.1 The Greeks were proud of the way they thought, and so were the Romans who conquered them.
They did not appreciate how Moses freed the slaves and gave people a good Law, so everyone would know where they stood when compared to a perfect God (Romans 3:19). And so no one would perish from the just punishment of the Law (Romans 2:8-13), Jesus gave us genuinely Good News (Romans 5:6-21). Now all we need to do is simply believe:2
For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life. John 3:16
Augustine brought Fatalism into the Church about 400 years after Jesus walked the earth.3 Augustine was a follower of a sect of the Gnostics, that infamous heresy that John the Apostle and many of the Early Church Fathers spoke against. Then Augustine switched to Christianity. This was a time of great fear in the Western Roman Empire, when barbarians were conquering the world everyone knew. Augustine didn't have Christian training and didn't know Greek (the language that most of the New Testament was originally written in), but He quickly became a leader in a church in North Africa.
Predictably, Augustine ignored the Bible and the Early Church Fathers. In 412 he fell back on his Gnostic heresy, which says God forces people to believe and go to heaven, or hides the "Secret Knowledge" so they go to hell (for no apparent reason).2 Augustine twisted the Good News (that Jesus will happily forgive the sins of the whole world if we simply believe) into the Weird News (that God micro-manages child abuse, torture, greed and every other sin). 400 years after Jesus, God supposedly gives up on the Law He gave to the world with such great difficulty, gives up on Jesus's sacrifice on the cross to save the whole world, and unilaterally throws babies and believers into hell even though they are without sin (instead see Deuteronomy 24:16, 2 Samuel 12:23, Romans 1:16). It was new and it wasn't the Gospel. It was Another Gospel.
This man Augustine was certainly no “angel from heaven” (Galatians 1:8b), so how can we trust anything from someone willing to change a basic fundamental of Christianity? As long as it suited him, Augustine taught Free Will. At other times, he taught Free Will but meant the shady Gnostic idea of "Non-Free Free Will" and secretly re-defined simple words like faith (as in Ephesians 2:8-10) to mean mind-control. Romans 10:17b says "faith comes from hearing, and hearing by the Word of Christ." It doesn't say 'hearing comes because a person is forced to have faith.' Many have heard John 3:16, but few take Jesus at His Word (Matthew 7:13-14). There is no point to His Word, and no point to everything He did for us, when He can "sovereignly" force us to do exactly what He wants "for His glory."4 Instead, He gets far more glory when we freely believe the Word He graced us with.
A thousand years later, Martin Luther and John Calvin were big followers of Augustine. They tried to reform the church, but soon their followers fell back on Another Gospel, and their churches quickly looked like the church they said they were reforming (see also The Many Ways to go Wrong, and the Easy Way to go Right). The preaching of the simple Good News (John 3:16) got hidden intentionally,2 so time, effort, money and honor went to fallible humans in robes and awe-inspiring buildings.
Does it matter? Many people are obviously revolted (stumbled) when told that God condemns people with no fair explanation and according to no Law. They haven't "heard" (Romans 10:17b) the reasonable, Biblical, rational, loving, God-honoring alternative (the Good News of Free Will) because Fatalists think God doesn't save people that way.5 It is no surprise that today, many see church as a "Got to" rather than a "Get to" (see Another Gospel) and little more than a Multi-Level Marketing Scheme (yes, there is money in selling Fatalism).6 People seem to be wise to Fatalism when they say "I don't need it," (but tragically, they are kept in the dark about how God judges according to the Law, and that believing in Jesus provides the only escape from the Law — see John 3:16 and Romans 2:12-16). This may sound familiar because many Fatalistic churches have treated ordinary people that way, and they left, so those churches moved on to hyper-liberal dogmas like Universalism to fill the seats (see Universalism and Narcissism).
Fatalists often say they have no assurance of their salvation ('God already chose me or He didn't, so it doesn't matter if I go to church or not') and all their future sins are forgiven whether they commit them or not ('Since God pre-determined all the sins I am doing, why stop now?'), so they are prone to ignoring confession (1 John 1:8-9) and repentance (Matthew 4:17). But understanding the Good News changes a believer's perspective, helping them avoid dead works (Matthew 6:2, Luke 21:1-4, Hebrews 6:1). So yes, it matters that Fatalism is complicated, bizarre, revolting and deceptive.7 But remember, there is Good News, and safety, in simply trusting John 3:16.
1. This page briefly summarizes more than 2,000 years of philosophy as it has influenced many Christian churches. WordLight is in agreement with many points of doctrine with many Fatalists, and many of us are brothers and sisters in Christ. However, there are serious consequences to the doctrine of Fatalism that should be made manifest. The prominent Stoic Massimo Pigliucci said "it is certainly the case that no Stoic questioned the very institution of slavery." Any false doctrine can be considered slavery, there are both physical and mental components to slavery, and the Bible encourages us to think spiritually (1 Peter 5:8). Rather than using force openly, it is far more effective for our Enemy to convince people to be enslaved to a false doctrine and it's institutions. In this way, the "Doctrines of Grace" would be an effective means to implement the will of the entity the Determinists claim to oppose. Jesus said "You will know them by their fruits" and "A good tree cannot bear bad fruit, nor can a bad tree bear good fruit" (see Matthew 7:15-20). The fruit of Augustine, Muhammed, Calvin, Luther and many other Fatalists is mixed.
2. Jesus said "whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life" (John3:16b), not 'whoever has been forced to believe will be forced to have eternal life.' Although many Fatalists evangelize because they feel obligated (which is Works Righteousness — see Galatians 1-3), to be honest with their doctrine they would need to say that the choice to evangelize and therefore to hear (e.g. Romans 10:17) cannot effect anyone's salvation. Frequently, they admit that the evidence of salvation is works, which for Fatalists is a circular logic fallacy ('Am I saved because I work, or do I work because I am saved? And what if I am not working hard enough??? If I am saved, then am I supposed to commit the most extreme, abusive, despicable, repulsive acts my mind thinks of so I won't defy God's ordained will? I don't even want to look like or act like the Pastor and the Deacons, so I might as well eat and drink, for tomorrow I die'). It's Another Gospel. The Romans were smart too, but were trapped by this logic, as many Fatalists and unbelievers are today. In short, many Fatalists have serious logical problems with the Gospel, therefore they can't embrace it, or perhaps even appropriate it. Fatalism, Determinism, Double Predistination, Single Predestination, Five-Point Calvinism, and related topics now being promoted by the "Young, Restless and Reformed" are more completely examined on websites such as Soteriology101.com (note that as late as June 2023, someone has deceptively redirected Soteriology101.org and Soteriology101.net to a popular Calvinist's website).
3. See The Foundation of Augustinian-Calvinism by Dr. Ken Wilson. Augustine’s obvious use of Gnostic/Manichean concepts were an effort to defeat his rival Pelagius, and many modern churches rely heavily on Augustine, so it is very fair to say they are founded on Gnosticism. Any doctrine that touches on issues as important as salvation should be carefully examined, and it is also very fair to reject anything that so clearly contradicts many foundational verses in the Bible (e.g. John 3:16, see Footnote 7). Though Total Depravity is well attested (e.g. Jeremiah 17:9), Total Inability is groundless, and easily negated by the power of God: "For the word of God is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing to the division of soul and of spirit, of joints and of marrow, and discerning the thoughts and intentions of the heart" (Hebrews 4:12). Those that bring the fallacious Appeal To Fear accusation of Semi-Pelagianism (a term coined off-handedly by a Calvinist) appear to mistakenly believe that faith is a work (despite Romans 9:32 etc.), salvation does not come through Jesus (despite John 3:16), and Jesus is not God's word (despite John 1:1). In order for these accusations to be respected, many scholarly works would first need to be disproven. See the Oxford Dissertation by the same author, Augustine's Conversion from Traditional Free Choice to 'Non-free Free Will': A Comprehensive Methodology. Ken Wilson. Mohr Siebeck, 2018. To date, this work has never been challenged in a scholarly journal. See also “The Myth of Pelagianism” by Dr. Ali Bonner. For an easy introduction to this topic, see “Was Augustine The First To Introduce "CALVINISM" Into The Church?” available on YouTube.com.
4. The trials of Job give us a priceless opportunity to see the inner workings of God's court. Satan makes the accusation that Job is being blessed so God will recieve glory (not unlike the confusion of ordo salutis, where Fatalists place faith before hearing), not that God is blessing Job because he is righteous. Clearly, a much more serious charge would have been that Job is just a puppet, and there is no glory in forcing Job to be righteous. Though Satan is not foolish enough to make that charge, Fatalists are happy to rush in for him: "Fools rush in where angels fears to tread."
5. Paul briefly assures the believers in Rome that they were "predestined" for salvation, not "predetermined." God operates outside of time (Isaiah 46:10), so it is obvious who is in heaven with Him in the future. But He is bound by His own law, which states "every man shall be put to death for his own sin" (Deuteronomy 24:16b). Paul clearly and repeatedly reminds the Romans that we are saved by faith, e.g. "So faith comes from hearing, and hearing by the word of Christ" (Romans 10:17). No Christian scripture tells us that faith is forced on us. Satan uses dishonesty and darkness (Luke 22:53), while God uses honesty and light (Exodus 20:16, 1 John 1:1-7). Most of the New Testament would have to be re-written to honestly explain faith as mind-control. Therefore, Fatalism is not only weird, it is an insult to God's loving work and patience with humanity through the milennia. Though Fatalism is full of soteriological risk, Free Will has no such risks.
6. People are people, and we naturally gravitate to being in control, believe we know more than others, and build and maintain mental constructs that bring honor upon ourselves. The "Young, Restless and Reformed" should be recognized for bringing Fatalism at least partially into the light, but their Lord wants them to be brave enough to continue to let the light shine, and yes even challenge the foundation of their beliefs. Consider the witness of the Bible, and the psychology of the people that opposed Jesus. The Pharisees naturally did not want to see their world being taken apart, even if it was God that was doing it. If those that earn a living and have a reputation preaching Fatalism come to see the darkness in it, do you think they will certainly come to the light (1 John 1:1-7)? Children are named after famous church leaders, and some of those go on to become leaders themselves (e.g. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.) — consider how difficult it is to tell your child that he was named in error. Augustine, Luther and Calvin all lived in existentially precarious times, and it would be difficult to say that those threats to their lives did not influence their writing. It is better to trust the Word than trust those that interpret the Word for us.
7. Like the Stoics before them, Fatalists are polemical, and many have practiced quasi-Biblical explanations for scriptures that contradict their doctrine. When examining Romans 9, they often stop at verse 26, and frequently depend on "A Mystery" when at a loss elsewhere. It makes much more sense to agree with nearly every Early Church Father (many of Augustine's contemporaries challenged his determinism) and accept the far simpler interpretation — Free Will. See Occam's Razor. As mentioned above, Fatalists often rely on the un-Biblical assertion that faith is forced upon the believer (abominably, they frequently call it "Grace" or a "Gift"), as opposed to many scriptures which say the opposite. The following is a non-exhaustive list of scriptures (unequivocal verses in bold) which contradict the doctrine advocated by many modern Fatalists:
Genesis 15:6, Deuteronomy 24:16, Deuteronomy 30:11-20, Job 34:10-12, Job 36:23, Job 37:7, 2 Chronicles 7:14, Psalm 25:12-14, Proverbs 1:7, Proverbs 1:20-33, Proverbs 2:1-22, Proverbs 3:1-26, Proverbs 3:35, Proverbs 5:1-5, Proverbs 8:17, Proverbs 8:20, Proverbs 9:10-18, Proverbs 10:17, Proverbs 10:32, Proverbs 12:15, Proverbs 14:2, Proverbs 14:12, Proverbs 14:16, Proverbs 14:22, Proverbs 14:25-27, Proverbs 14:32, Proverbs 15:24, Proverbs 15:31, Proverbs 15:31-33, Proverbs 16:6, Isaiah 1:16-20, Isaiah 45:19, Isaiah 59:1-2, Isaiah 59:9, Jeremiah 7:31, Jeremiah 19:3-6, Jeremiah 32:35, Ezekiel 18:4, Ezekiel 18:5-32, Zechariah 7:9-13, Malachi 3:16-18, Matthew 10:27, Matthew 10:32-33, Matthew 23:12, Mark 13:13, Luke 2:10, Luke 18:14, John 1:7, John 1:9, John 1:11-13, John 1:16-17, John 3:15-17, John 3:19-21, John 3:32-33, John 12:32, John 12:46-48, John 20:31, Romans 5:1-5, Romans 5:8-9, Romans 5:14, Romans 5:18, Romans 6:11, Romans 6:17, Romans 8:19-23, Romans 8:24-25, Romans 8:28, Romans 8:32, Romans 9:2-5, Romans 9:6-8, Romans 9:14-24, Romans 9:30, Romans 9:31, Romans 9:32-33, Romans 10:3-4, Romans 10:8-11, Romans 10:12, Romans 10:13, Romans 10:14-17, Romans 10:18-21, Romans 11:1a, Romans 11:14-15, Romans 11:20-23, Romans 11:25-27, Romans 11:29-32, Romans 12:16, Romans 13:11, Romans 14:23, Romans 15:5-6, Romans 15:13, Romans 15:21, Romans 16:26-27, Acts 10:34-35, Ephesians 2:8-10, Hebrews 3:7-8, Hebrews 6:9-12, Hebrews 6:13-15, Hebrews 6:18-19, Hebrews 8:12, Hebrews 10:17-18, Hebrews 10:22-23, Hebrews 10:26-27, Hebrews 10:34-39, Hebrews 11:1, Hebrews 11:6, Hebrews 11:7-12, Hebrews 11:13-16, Hebrews 11:17-39, Hebrews 11:40, Hebrews 12:1, James 1:5-6, James 1:13-15,, James 1:25, James 2:23, James 4:6-10, James 5:8, James 5:12, James 5:15, James 5:19-20, 1 Peter 1:21-23, 1 Peter 2:6, 1 Peter 2:22, 1 Peter 2:25, 1 Peter 3:19-20a, 1 Peter 4:8, 1 Peter 5:5-7, 2 Peter 1:10-11, 2 Peter3:9, 1 John 1:3-4, 1 John 1:5-10, 1 John 2:1-3, 1 John 2:23-25, 1 John 2:28-29, 1 John 3:1-3, 1 John 3:6-7, 1 John 3:14-15, 1 John 3:19-24, 1 John 4:7-9, 1 John 4:13, 1 John 4:15-18, 1 John 5:1-5, 1 John 1:5-10, 2 John 1:9, 3 John 1:11, Jude 1:20, Revelation 2:10-11, Revelation 2:13, Revelation 3:5, Revelation 3:10-13, Revelation 3:20-21 etc.