Some thoughts on the fate vs free will (Calvinism vs. Arminianism) debate. Calvinism teaches that people are predestined to be saved and those who are not elected are pre-determined to be damned and Arminianism teaches the opposite and that everyone has a choice and that God is not 100% in control. I think there is more to this and that both are true on different levels. God’s “elect” people are known from the beginning because God can see past, present, and future, and therefore knows who will choose life and receive Jesus. Meaning that God didn’t cause our choices but allowed the circumstances for the choices he knew we would make. Thus his elected people are simply those that he knew would receive the new covenant, but he didn’t make them believers directly.
The debate usually goes something like this:
If everything is God’s will then how are people responsible for their own sins? If it happens then it must be God’s will, right? On the other hand, why did God give the Israelites a choice between life or death when comes to keeping his commands (Deut 30:15-20) if he chooses for us? The bible teaches that mankind is sinful and can choose to sin against God or keep his commands. However, it seems Rom 9:14-19 says that God’s will determines everything and Paul even mentions the question of human responsibility vs God’s will in verse 19, but he doesn’t answer the question directly. Instead, he says who are we to judge God. This doesn’t settle the issue. In fact, the idea of God causing us to sin comes into conflict with James 1:13-15, which says God does not tempt us. Satan is the tempter and he even tempted Jesus in the wilderness (Matt 4:1-11, Mark 1: 12-13, & Luk 4:1-13). However, this still leaves the question did God cause Satan to sin? Does this mean we have a choice to follow Satan’s temptations or not? Jesus resisted temptation in the wilderness and Paul mentions the struggle between the flesh (sin nature) and the spirit of God in Romans 7 and 8. How is it a struggle to do right if God caused it? It would only be a struggle if God gave us a choice otherwise we are struggling against God which is futile. If whatever happens is God’s will why are we told to make a choice between following the spirit or the flesh (Gal 5:16, Gal 6:7-8)? However, if God gives us choice then why say everything is God’s will in Romans 9 and that God has a chosen elect Mark 13:20?
Another question is how do you witness to someone if God already determined their fate? It’s hard to fathom why God would have us minister to and pray for people if he already made a decision to reject them. What’s the point? There’s is no point in trying to convince people of the truth, because if it’s meant to be then God will make them a believer. If you tell an unbeliever that God will choose them automatically, then they won’t bother seeking God because they don’t feel an obligation to do anything on their part and will continue in sin. The holy spirit is the one that actually leads people to God and saves them, but believers are a part of the process itself. We do not work for our salvation, it is a gift (Phil 3:1-11), but we have to choose to believe in order to receive it (John 3:16-21).
My conclusion on the subject:
I believe the truth is actually in the middle. God has a sovereign cosmic will, which consists of a series of scenarios connected like a node tree. Each node is fixed prophetically and cannot be changed. However, the branches/threads between the nodes, have multiple possibilities that all lead to the same outcome. These threads are connected by human actions. Therefore, when a person sins, it’s not because God caused it or tempted them, but the threads are between two fixed nodes that allow God to restrict the effects of their sin. James 1:13-15 says God doesn’t tempt people to sin, instead people sin because of their own sinful desires which come from the flesh, which is corrupted from birth because of Adam’s sin (Rom 5:12-17). People rebel against God, and sin all the time, so their sin can’t be God’s will if he is against sin and hates evil (Psalm 45:6-7). So I conclude that God has fixed events that will happen no matter what, and how they happen depends on people and their obedience.
For example, God can tell a person to do something, and they do it exactly and everything turns out fine, Enoch walked with God and was taken up (Gen 5:24, Heb11:5). God can tell a person to do something and they eventually do it, but they say no at first causing a long delay and detours with unnecessary drama. Like Jonah who went the long way (in a sea creature’s belly) to Nineveh to prophecy to them, because he didn’t want to do it. Or Paul went the long way to Rome because he was desperate to go to Jerusalem despite being told multiple times not to go (Acts 20:16, 21:1-14). Or God could anoint someone for a purpose but they could fail and he will replace them. Like King Saul, who was anointed by Samuel (1 Sam ch. 10) but then fails ( 1 Sam 15:10-35) and then God raises up David to be a greater King (1 Sam 16:13-14) or Eli who is replaced by Samuel as a high priest because he couldn’t keep his wicked sons under control (1 Sam ch. 3-4). Another example is Joshua leading the Israelites into Canaan instead of Moses since Moses was forbidden from entering the land because of his sin (Num 20:12, Deut 32:51–52). In this concept, it’s possible for there to be different kinds of nodes. One type of node requires a specific person to do a specific task like Jonah and Paul, but another kind just needs the task done and whoever does it gets the reward like Samuel and David. However, only God knows which node is which, we are to trust him and follow him between the nodes.
In the case of Bathsheba and David, what if Solomon’s birth between them was a fixed event but adultery was only one of many possible scenarios that would have led to it. It’s possible Uriah was sterile, and that is why he and Bathsheba didn’t have a kid when David inquired about her, thus they were never going to have one. What if God’s fixed node was that Bathsheba and David would get married and make Solomon, how else would Solomon exist without adultery? An alternative scenario is that Uriah died in battle, possibly saving David’s life because David was on the battlefield instead at home checking out bathing women. David intern took care of Uriah’s widow, as if Uriah was his brother, and gave him an heir through marriage to his widow just like a levirate marriage. Remember Uriah was a Hittite, not an Israelite, so he may not have had any male relatives living in Israel, that could marry his widow like in a real Levirate marriage. Regardless, David’s first wife Abigail was a widow, so it wouldn’t be the first time he married a widow simply out of compassion without being related to the deceased husband. Then the first child they had could be counted as Uriah’s while Solomon is born as David’s son. No need for any babies to be born in adultery only to die. However, David chose adultery by following his flesh and not fixing his heart on God’s word. In other words, Solomon’s existence is a fixed node in time, but there is more than one method for him to come into existence. Other possibilities include Uriah, divorcing his wife, or dying of natural cause, and still, David would marry her without ever committing sin. Thoughts to ponder on the subject.