Could someone please plainly spell out the differences between the following concepts?

  1. Predestination

  2. Predeterminism

  3. Determinism

  4. Theological determinism

There appears to be some debate over whether or not some of these terms are synonymous and interchangeable. Calvinists undoubtedly believe in predestination, but how does predestination differ from the other three concepts listed above?

  • 2
    "Predestination" is a Biblical word, not a Calvinist doctrinal word. Commented Jan 5, 2015 at 21:29
  • @Mr.Bultitude: Whether it's a Biblical word or not has absolutely nothing to do with the undeniable fact that it is also a Calvinist doctrinal word. Calvinists are allowed to use Biblical words in their doctrine.
    – Flimzy
    Commented Jan 5, 2015 at 21:54
  • 1
    @Mr.Bultitude: The more important question is: What does the Bible mean by the word, and what do Calvinists (or others) mean by the word, and is if there are possible differences, what are they?
    – Flimzy
    Commented Jan 5, 2015 at 21:55
  • Predestination could mean something different from the others, but in Calvinism it doesn't. For example, many non-Calvinists are corporate electionists: i.e. the church is predestined, not individuals, so if you're in the church you're elect by virtue of being in the church not because you specifically were elected. [In fact, in this view, you can basically hop in and out of the church and therefore in and out of election.] This type of predestination obviously isn't determinism, but Calvinist predestination is. Commented Jan 7, 2015 at 5:47
  • Others say the means of salvation is predestined. Again, not determinism, because the actions of individuals are not being predestined, only the existence of a certain means which individuals may or may not take advantage of based on their freewill. Commented Jan 7, 2015 at 5:51

3 Answers 3


From wikipedia (great source, I know):


Predestination, in theology, is the doctrine that all events have been willed by God.


Predeterminism is the idea that all events are determined in advance. Predeterminism is the philosophy that all events of history, past, present and future, have been already decided or are already known (by God, fate, or some other force), including human actions.

Determination (=Determinism, Predetermination)

Determinism is the philosophical position that for every event, including human action, there exist conditions that could cause no other event. "There are many determinisms, depending upon what pre-conditions are considered to be determinative of an event." Deterministic theories throughout the history of philosophy have sprung from diverse and sometimes overlapping motives and considerations. Some forms of determinism can be empirically tested with ideas from physics and the philosophy of physics. The opposite of determinism is some kind of indeterminism (otherwise called nondeterminism). Determinism is often contrasted with free will.

Determinism often is taken to mean causal determinism, which in physics is known as cause-and-effect. It is the concept that events within a given paradigm are bound by causality in such a way that any state (of an object or event) is completely determined by prior states. This meaning can be distinguished from other varieties of determinism mentioned below. [..] Determinism rarely requires that perfect prediction be practically possible.

Theological determination

Theological determinism is a form of determinism which states that all events that happen are pre-ordained, or predestined to happen, by a monotheistic deity, or that they are destined to occur given its omniscience. [..] 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 divinity". 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".

It's a difficult subject, and there exist many variants, some include free will and some don't. In general, I'd classify as follows:

  • Predestination = strong theological determinism
  • Predestination implies Predeterminism, but not the other way around.
  • Weak theological determinism implies Predeterminism as well, but not the other way around (because Predeterminism is more general).
  • Determinism is also a very broad term and encompasses many things, but as causal determinism, it is, in my opinion, independent of the other terms. Determinism works together with all above forms, in that God could just have created the "right" starting conditions at the beginning of the universe. Nondeterminism also works, then God can be seen to also influence a lot while the Universe is "running", so to say.
  • 1
    That definition of predestination is influenced by a theological system. The Greek work is προορίζω, which literally means "to pre-establish boundaries", i.e.: to predetermine, foreordain. Commented Jan 5, 2015 at 23:02
  • @PaulVargas Granted, but still the difference to Predeterminism is between "future is fixed" and "future is fixed by someone or something"
    – kutschkem
    Commented Jan 6, 2015 at 6:10

Theological determinism is as fatal to human reason and faith as Natural determinism, if all future events are totally determined by past states of affairs (see Plantinga: “...Where the Problem Really Lies”) There is a parallel distinction between cause-effect and ground-consequent (Re: C. S. Lewis). The former applies to determinism and the latter to reasons, i.e., ‘teleological causes’. God did not actually ‘cause’ the world for cause-effect/time-space are properties of material existents, things that begin to exist. Here God’s will is the originating mechanism in bringing a cause-effect world into existence, with nomic regularity, in which life could flourish and in which man could reason as to his future choices.
We have the capacity to change our past patterns of responses to similar conditions based upon reflection and rational analysis of what we come to believe and value regarding self-efficacy toward personal purposes and goals - that was the way you were and behaved, how could you make this better, now, to become the person you believe want need to become?

Most of our existence is under the constraints of natural, deterministic laws but whatever constitutes the mental/spiritual component of that same existence has the capacity to do other than we did. There is choice and ‘significant’ free-will properly fit to human beings in their moral awareness. There is also God Whose sovereignty cannot diminished or denied and whose ultimate will is the necessary boundary to any other modicum of real freedom. We have, in the imago dei, a degree of designated sovereignty, for without this there is no knowledge, no moral recognition, and no genuine love.

Predestination speaks to purpose and divine intent using human freedom as the instrumental and efficient cause of human responsibility.

Like a child driving a rickety ole car in a Disney ride, he may go slow or fast, he may stop for awhile and restart, he may be bumped by other drivers from behind and bump those drivers in front of him, he may veer wildly to the left and right, laughing as he goes. But the ride will proceed, it will move in process, it will go from origin to destination, with the voyage colorized by the driver’s actions - but there is no doubt that where it started, where it was heading, and where it ended were absolutely determined from the beginning with unswerving certainty but that we lived freely along the straight or circuitous pathways we created.

(NET Bible - Proverbs 16:9) “A person plans his course, but the Lord directs his steps”


The world definitions, some that are here is not exactly what is biblical or what reformed Baptist believe. Predestination in our terms is married to preordaination, and also the providence and decree of God. The 1689 ch3&5 give good descriptions of this and i think ch9 would further explain it according to the scriptures and as it applies to men.

  • 2
    Would you mind editing this to add quotes from those chapters?
    – curiousdannii
    Commented Sep 9, 2018 at 1:52

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