Theological determinism is a form of determinism which states that all
events that happen are pre-ordained, or predestined to happen, by a
God, or that they are destined to occur given its omniscience.
Theological determinism exists in a number of religions, including
Christianity and Islam. It is also supported by proponents of
Classical pantheism such as the Stoics and Baruch Spinoza.
1 Categorization of theological determinism
Free will and theological determinism
Martin Luther and Desiderius Erasmus
4 See also
5 External links
Categorization of theological determinism
Two forms of theological determinism exist, here referenced as strong
and weak theological determinism.
The first one, strong theological determinism, is based on the concept
of a creator deity dictating all events in history: "everything that
happens has been predestined to happen by an omniscient, omnipotent
The second form, weak theological determinism, is based on the concept
of divine foreknowledge - "because God's omniscience is perfect, what
God knows about the future will inevitably happen, which means,
consequently, that the future is already fixed".
There exist slight variations on the above categorization. Some claim
that theological determinism requires predestination of all events and
outcomes by the divinity (i.e. they do not classify the weaker version
as 'theological determinism' unless libertarian free will is assumed
to be denied as a consequence), or that the weaker version does not
constitute 'theological determinism' at all. Theological
determinism can also be seen as a form of causal determinism, in which
the antecedent conditions are the nature and will of God. With
respect to free will and the classification of theological
compatibilism/incompatibilism below, "theological determinism is the
God exists and has infallible knowledge of all true
propositions including propositions about our future actions", more
minimal criteria designed to encapsulate all forms of theological
Free will and theological determinism
Main article: Free will
A simplified taxonomy of philosophical positions regarding free will
and theological determinism.
There are various implications for metaphysical libertarian free will
as consequent of theological determinism and its philosophical
Strong theological determinism is not compatible with metaphysical
libertarian free will, and is a form of hard theological determinism
(equivalent to theological fatalism below). It claims that free will
does not exist, and
God has absolute control over a person's actions.
Hard theological determinism is similar in implication to hard
determinism, although it does not invalidate compatibilist free
will. Hard theological determinism is a form of theological
incompatibilism (see figure, top left).
Weak theological determinism is either compatible or incompatible with
metaphysical libertarian free will depending upon one's philosophical
interpretation of omniscience - and as such is interpreted as either a
form of hard theological determinism (known as theological fatalism),
or as soft theological determinism (terminology used for clarity
only). Soft theological determinism claims that humans have free will
to choose their actions, holding that God, whilst knowing their
actions before they happen, does not affect the outcome. The belief is
that their God's providence is "compatible" with voluntary choice.
Soft theological determinism is known as theological compatibilism
(see figure, top right).
A rejection of theological determinism (or divine foreknowledge) is
classified as theological incompatibilism also (see figure, bottom),
and is relevant to a more general discussion of free will.
The basic argument for theological fatalism in the case of weak
theological determinism is as follows;
Assume divine foreknowledge or omniscience
Infallible foreknowledge implies destiny (it is known for certain what
one will do)
Destiny eliminates alternate possibility (one cannot do otherwise)
Assert incompatibility with metaphysical libertarian free will
This argument is very often accepted as a basis for theological
incompatibilism: denying either libertarian free will or divine
foreknowledge (omniscience) and therefore theological determinism. On
the other hand, theological compatibilism must attempt to find
problems with it. The formal version of the argument rests on a number
of premises, many of which have received some degree of contention.
Theological compatibilist responses have included;
Deny the truth value of future contingents, as proposed for example by
Aristotle (although this denies foreknowledge and, therefore,
Assert differences in non-temporal knowledge (space-time
independence), an approach taken for example by Boethius, Thomas
Aquinas, and C. S. Lewis.
Deny the Principle of Alternate Possibilities: "If you cannot do
otherwise when you do an act, you do not act freely". For example, a
human observer could in principle have a machine that could detect
what will happen in the future, but the existence of this machine or
their use of it has no influence on the outcomes of events.
Many Christians have opposed the view that humans do not have free
will. Saint Thomas Aquinas, the medieval Roman Catholic theologian,
believed strongly that humanity had free will. (However, though he
desired to defend a doctrine of free will, he ultimately ended up
espousing what today would be known as compatibilism, or "soft
Jesuits were among the leading opponents of
this view, because they held that divine grace was actual, in the
sense that grace is among other things participative, and that humans
could freely benefit from grace by a mediation between their own
imperfect wills and the infinite mercy of God.
Martin Luther and Desiderius Erasmus
The concept of theological determinism has its origins within the
Bible as well as within the Christian church. A major theological
dispute at the time of the sixteenth century would help to force a
distinct division in ideas - with an argument between two eminent
thinkers of the time,
Desiderius Erasmus and Martin Luther, a leading
Protestant Reformer. Erasmus in Discourses On the Freedom of the Will
God created human beings with free will. He maintained
that despite the fall of
Adam and Eve
Adam and Eve freedom still existed. As a
result of this humans had the ability to do good or evil. Luther,
conversely, attacked this idea in On the Bondage of the Will. He
recognised that the issue of autonomy lay at the heart of religious
dissension. He depicted an image of humanity manipulated through sin.
Humans, for Luther, know what is morally right but are unable to
attain it. He claimed that humans thus must give up aspiring to do
good, as only by this could salvation be formed. Luther also believed
that the fall of
Adam and Eve
Adam and Eve as written in the
Bible supported this
Conceptions of God
God and gods
the Bahá'í Faith
Shield of the Trinity
Trinity of the Church Fathers
God in Christianity / in Islam
Godhead in Christianity
Latter Day Saints
Great Architect of the Universe
Oneness of God
Compatibilism and incompatibilism
^ Anne Lockyer Jordan; Anne Lockyer Jordan Neil Lockyer Edwin Tate;
Neil Lockyer; Edwin Tate (25 June 2004). Philosophy of Religion for A
Level OCR Edition. Nelson Thornes. p. 211.
ISBN 978-0-7487-8078-5. Retrieved 22 December 2012.
^ A. Pabl Iannone (2001). "determinism". Dictionary of World
Philosophy. Taylor & Francis. p. 194.
ISBN 978-0-415-17995-9. Retrieved 22 December 2012. theological
determinism, or the doctrine of predestination: the view that
everything which happens has been predestined to happen by an
omniscient, omnipotent divinity. A weaker version holds that, though
not predestined to happen, everything that happens has been eternally
known by virtue of the divine foreknowledge of an omniscient divinity.
If this divinity is also omnipotent, as in the case of the
Judeo-Christian religions, this weaker version is hard to distinguish
from the previous one because, though able to prevent what happens and
knowing that it is going to happen,
God lets it happen. To this,
advocates of free will reply that
God permits it to happen in order to
make room for the free will of humans.
^ Wentzel Van Huyssteen (2003). "theological determinism".
Encyclopedia of science and religion. 1. Macmillan Reference.
p. 217. ISBN 978-0-02-865705-9. Retrieved 22 December 2012.
Theological determinism constitutes a fifth kind of determinism. There
are two types of theological determinism, both compatible with
scientific and metaphysical determinism. In the first,
everything that happens, either in one all-determining single act at
the initial creation of the universe or through continuous divine
interactions with the world. Either way, the consequence is that
everything that happens becomes God's action, and determinism is
closely linked to divine action and God's omnipotence. According to
the second type of theological determinism,
God has perfect knowledge
of everything in the universe because
God is omniscient. And, as some
God is outside of time,
God has the capacity of knowing
past, present, and future in one instance. This means that
what will happen in the future. And because God's omniscience is
God knows about the future will inevitably happen, which
means, consequently, that the future is already fixed.
^ Raymond J. VanArragon (21 October 2010). Key Terms in Philosophy of
Religion. Continuum International Publishing Group. p. 21.
ISBN 978-1-4411-3867-5. Retrieved 22 December 2012. Theological
determinism, on the other hand, claims that all events are determined
by God. On this view,
God decree that everything will go thus-and-so
and ensure that everything goes that way, so that ultimately
the cause of everything that happens and everything that happens is
part of God's plan. We might think of
God here as the all-powerful
movie director who writes script and causes everything to go accord
with it. We should note, as an aside, that there is some debate over
what would be sufficient for theological determinism to be true. Some
people claim that God's merely knowing what will happen determines
that it will, while others believe that
God must not only know but
must also cause those events to occur in order for their occurrence to
^ Eshleman, Andrew (2009). "Moral Responsibility". In Edward N. Zalta.
The Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy (Winter 2009 ed.).
^ Vihvelin, Kadri (2011). "Arguments for Incompatibilism". In Edward
N. Zalta. The Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy (Spring 2011
^ a b c Zagzebski, Linda (2011). "Foreknowledge and Free Will". In
Edward N. Zalta. The Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy (Fall 2011
ed.). See also McKenna, Michael (2009). "Compatibilism". In
Edward N. Zalta. The Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy (Winter 2009
^ Boethius. "Book V, Prose vi". The Consolation of Philosophy.
^ Aquinas, St. Thomas. "Ia, q. 14, art 13.". Summa Theologica.
See Summa Theologica
C. S. Lewis
C. S. Lewis (1980). Mere Christianity. Touchstone:New York.
^ Linda Trinkaus Zagzebski (25 April 1996). "chapter 6, section 2.1".
The Dilemma of Freedom and Foreknowledge. Oxford University Press.
ISBN 978-0-19-510763-0. Retrieved 22 December 2012.
^ Anthony Kenny, Aquinas on Mind (New York: Routledge