We Don’t Serve a Fatalistic God

Recently, I’ve met some people who believe that God knows everything that will happen.  They talk about how God knows what we’ll choose, what we’ll do, and how we’ll do it.  He also already knows what He is going to do.  Put together, our lives are completely planned out for us ahead of time and nothing we can do or say will change the future.

Looking for a view atop Santanoni Peak, Adirondack Park, New York
Looking for a view atop Santanoni Peak, Adirondack Park, New York

They’re right to a certain extent.  God knows all and sees all and even fills the whole earth (Proverbs 15:3; Jeremiah 23:24).  God knows our thoughts (Psalm 94:11) and plans our steps (Proverbs 16:9).  He has plans for us, sometimes even before we’re born (Jeremiah 1:5) and He creates good works for us to do before we even think about doing them (Ephesians 2:10).  God knows us and loves us and has good plans for us.

Little Widlhorse Canyon, San Rafael Swell, Utah
Little Widlhorse Canyon, San Rafael Swell, Utah

It’s a convenient mindset to believe that everything is going to happen just the way God wants, and we have no part in it, especially for those who don’t want to put any effort into changing themselves or hoping for a better future.  The outcomes are inevitable, so why should we put forth effort to change what God already knows will happen?  If it’s pre-ordained, we have no responsibility to do anything more than cooperate with what’s going to happen anyway and hoping for a different outcome is just fighting against God.

Exploring a slot in Sidewinder Canyon, Death Valley National Park, California
Exploring a slot in Sidewinder Canyon, Death Valley National Park, California

The trouble with the mindset of God knowing all things – and that we can’t change anything because it’s already fore-ordained – is that it quickly becomes fatalistic.  We have virtually no part to play at all, because God already knows what we’re going to do.

Chapin Peak Trail, Rocky Mountain National Park, Colorado
Chapin Peak Trail, Rocky Mountain National Park, Colorado

This fatalistic mindset isn’t how we see God working in both the Old and New Testaments.  Choices are made by people that change the course of history, at least for individuals: Eve and Adam both choosing to eat the fruit in the Garden of Eden, David choosing to be unafraid of Goliath and yet later not choosing to raise his children properly and the trouble that caused, the prophet from Bethel who chose to disobey the word of the Lord and paid for it with his life, John Mark choosing to leave Paul and Barnabas in such a way that later caused the two to go separate ways, Mary Magdalene choosing to stay in the garden and meeting Jesus – I could go on and on.

Clouds over the Blue Ridge, Virginia

Genesis says, “Abram believed the Lord, and it was credited to him as righteousness.”  Belief was Abram’s choice – but it created the Israelites.  Our God is not a god of hopeless drudgery, living out life like a pre-programmed robot.  Jesus said that He came “that they [His sheep] may have life, and have it to the full.” (John 10:10)

Wildflowers en route to Table Mountain, Jedediah Smith Wilderness, Wyoming
Wildflowers en route to Table Mountain, Jedediah Smith Wilderness, Wyoming

Paul wrote, “God sent His son… that we might receive adoption to sonship… so you are no longer a slave, but God’s child.” (Galatians 4:4, 5, 7)  If an earthly father were to control His child’s life to the point that every single decision was made for him ahead of time, the father would be accused of being a poor father (and likely rightly so).  A good father will make decisions that will positively impact the child, especially when his son or daughter is young enough that they can’t make a reasonable decision on their own.  But as the child grows, the father will also help the child learn to make good and wise decisions – choices that reflect the values of their parents and God, that are loving, and that will not hurt themselves or others.

A couple of children exploring Double O Arch in Devils Garden, Arches National Park, Utah
A couple of children exploring Double O Arch in Arches National Park, Utah

But the most hurtful part of a fatalistic mindset is that it leaves no room for hope – and therefore, there’s no room for faith.  1 Corinthians says, “Be watchful, stand firm in the faith… be strong” (16:13).  “Without faith it is impossible to please God” (Hebrews 11:6).  “Faith is the assurance of things hoped for” (Hebrews 11:1).  Hebrews goes on from there to describe so many people in the Bible who had faith – and through holding onto their hope and faith, they received what was promised.  The Bible tells us to “rejoice in hope” (Romans 12:12) and that “hope does not put us to shame” (Romans 5:5).

Morning at Point Arena-Stornetta National Monument, California
Morning at Point Arena-Stornetta National Monument, California

Hope is key part of the Christian life – it creates faith that is vital to walking with Christ.  Fatalism and hope might as well be opposites.  We don’t serve a god of bleak fatality, but rather the Lord of hope: “May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, so that by the power of the Holy Spirit you may abound in hope” (Romans 15:13).