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The Bible does state vey many times that God already knows our earthly and eternal destinies. Jesus chose Judas Iscariot because he knew his destiny was to betray him. Jesus knew Paul would try to persecute the church in Damascus and intercepted him on the way. Jesus also knew the thief to his right will confess and they will be re united paradise the same day. My question is, if God already knows who gets to be saved and who doesn't, why should anyone make an effort to be saved when an individual's destiny is already known to God?

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    – Ken Graham
    Commented Nov 9, 2023 at 19:29
  • “The Bible does state vey many times that God already knows our earthly and eternal destinies”. Your opening words Please cite a few of the many places the Bible tells us.
    – Kristopher
    Commented Nov 10, 2023 at 13:03

11 Answers 11

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Say, for the sake of argument, that free will is definitely real.

Now, consider some arbitrary person (for convenience, we'll call him "John"). Let's say, also, that John was born in 1000 AD. Axiomatically, John had free will... but because John lived and died about a millennium ago, all of John's choices are determined. Yet, few would argue that this determination means that John didn't have free will after all.

Now imagine you have a time machine that lets you go back in time, but you aren't able to interact. This time machine lets you observe, but changing the past is impossible. Now, say you go back in time and observe John. Because you are from the future, you already know everything that John will do. Does this negate John having free will?

God exists outside of time. His existence is somewhat like our hypothetical time machine in that, from His perspective, everything that will happen has already happened. However, this does not negate free will.

That said... the question is moot. If we have free will, then exercising it in the pursuit of God/Christ is obviously beneficial or even necessary. If we don't, then those who don't pursue God/Christ are merely those who weren't saved in the first place. The question is essentially another form of Pascal's Wager. Also, nihilism is a terrible philosophy. 🙂

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    While this analogy works in a system where the observer can't make changes, since we know that God is also all powerful (and therefore could make (or could have made) changes), the analogy seems to break down.
    – Cullub
    Commented Nov 7, 2023 at 18:03
  • @Cullub: one can easily change the analogy to "but you can avoid changing the past and you don't want to". Commented Nov 7, 2023 at 18:20
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    @Cullub If God is allowed to make changes, this would potentially alter the conditions of a free choice, leading to what is formally known as "counterfactuals of creaturely freedom". If God knows what would happen in those cases, then God has Middle Knowledge.
    – user61679
    Commented Nov 7, 2023 at 18:54
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    @Cullub, whether God's ability to meddle negates to role of free will is not easily addressed. Nevertheless, my concluding remark stands; the nihilistic approach guarantees the worst possible outcome and is a horrible way to live life. Why not be optimistic? At worst, you won't change your eternal outcome, but you'll be less depressed until then.
    – Matthew
    Commented Nov 8, 2023 at 3:53
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    A metaphor I use for this idea (bearing in mind I'm Catholic and only follow single, not double predestination) is the idea of a DnD Dungeon Master. If your DM knew every choice you were going to make in the game, would that mean you didn't have free will? No. And it would probably make the game better, because there'd never be any "making it up on the spot". The entire campaign is written with your choices in mind. Commented Nov 8, 2023 at 10:13
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Why make an 'effort' ?

Because he is God. Because he made me. Because he gave me the gift of an existence.

And the gift of a humanity ; of thought ; of feelings ; of abilities ; of mind ; of heart ; of soul ; of body.

The gift of sight ; and hearing ; and touch ; and taste ; and smell.

Because of Whom he is.

Because He is.

Even if there is no reward ; no heaven for me.

It's worth the 'effort' - just because He is.

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God appoints the means as well as the result. If the result for you is to be in Heaven, God supplies everything needed to accomplish this. Ephesians 1:3-14 lists many of the separate steps that are involved.

3 Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in Christ with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places, 4 even as he chose us in him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and blameless before him. In love 5 he predestined us for adoption to himself as sons through Jesus Christ, according to the purpose of his will, 6 to the praise of his glorious grace, with which he has blessed us in the Beloved. 7 In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses, according to the riches of his grace, 8 which he lavished upon us, in all wisdom and insight 9 making known to us the mystery of his will, according to his purpose, which he set forth in Christ 10 as a plan for the fullness of time, to unite all things in him, things in heaven and things on earth.

11 In him we have obtained an inheritance, having been predestined according to the purpose of him who works all things according to the counsel of his will, 12 so that we who were the first to hope in Christ might be to the praise of his glory. 13 In him you also, when you heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation, and believed in him, were sealed with the promised Holy Spirit, 14 who is the guarantee of our inheritance until we acquire possession of it, to the praise of his glory.

From this and other related verses in Romans and elsewhere, we arrive at the Ordo Salutis, or order of salvation. Denominations differ over the order of some of the steps but generally agree that they are present. See Wikipedia: Ordo salutis for comparisons of several lists. A similar statement of the partial order of salvation is in Romans 8:28-30

28 And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose. 29 For those whom he foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, in order that he might be the firstborn among many brothers. 30 And those whom he predestined he also called, and those whom he called he also justified, and those whom he justified he also glorified.

Paul later on says this in Romans 10:13-15

13 For “everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.”

14 How then will they call on him in whom they have not believed? And how are they to believe in him of whom they have never heard? And how are they to hear without someone preaching? 15 And how are they to preach unless they are sent? As it is written, “How beautiful are the feet of those who preach the good news!”

Jesus summed it up in one of his parables in Matthew 22, about a wedding guest who refused to wear the wedding clothes that he was issued. He was kicked out of the wedding feast. Those clothes represent the give of salvation, of righteous purity that God offers us. Yes, you are invited, but you must first get changed!

Addendum:

There is another reason, more important than the one I gave. "Making an effort to get saved" is seeking after God, desiring to know and love Him, repenting from things which displease Him, and with thanksgiving express your gratitude for His free and generous gift once you have been assured by faith that you have received it. This glorifies God. "The chief end of man is to glorify God and enjoy Him forever" according to the Westminster Shorter Catechism. Who would wish to delay getting to know God and enjoy Him? You can begin today!

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Free will

God created a perfect world, yet gave Adam and Eve a way to reject him by accepting something that would remove their innocence. Why offer them a choice? Why not leave it perfect?

Because without a way to reject God, their love would have been meaningless.

God goes to great lengths to make sure people can choose to love Him without violating their free will. That plays heavily into the idea of deus absconditus, or "hidden god". God is hidden, but wants to be found. Thus, you ensure that the majority of those who find Him are actually those looking.

Predestination

I think the confusion that surrounds this issue is largely rooted in the question of free will. If God wants us to be saved, will we not be saved? If God wants you condemned to Hell, will you not be condemned? There is some level of truth there, but it misses that God does not throw Free Will out the window to accomplish this.

God orchestrates the universe. He knows every decision that can be made, and what decisions will, in fact, be made. Take Luke 13

13 “Woe to you, Chorazin! Woe to you, Bethsaida! For if the mighty works done in you had been done in Tyre and Sidon, they would have repented long ago, sitting in sackcloth and ashes.

Jesus is speaking here, and this verse illustrates predestination perfectly. Jesus spent time doing miracles in two cities that bore no fruit. Indeed, we see Jesus do many things that do nothing to promote faith. What is positively mind blowing is that Jesus is saying that if he had done those same miracles in Syria they would have repented wholeheartedly. So... why not go and do those things there?

Jesus' ministry was primarily to the Jews. Other miracles will be done in those places later, but Jesus was trying to get the Jews to repent first and foremost. In other words, God was showing love to the Jews by giving them miracles He knew they would reject, so they could be seen from a different perspective later.

Put a different way, how different would Christianity have been had Jesus bodily appeared before the whole of Jerusalem after His resurrection? It would have created reams of believers but they would not have had any faith. Their God would have been standing before them in flesh they could see and touch.

Predestination is not something you can generally see. It's a belief that God orchestrates events (like this) to shape our lives so we make the decisions He wants us to make. The key there is you still have to make the decision (John 3:16). I suspect Hell will be full of a great many people whom God went to great lengths to save, but rejected Him in the end.

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The question as to who will be saved is for God to know the answer to, and for us to discover. But if we can't be bothered making any kind of effort or even attempt to sort out the question of salvation, then why should we even hope to be saved?

God awaits our response to his awesome love in providing the one and only means for sinners to be saved - what Jesus did - and those who seek God whole-heartedly because of the magnificence of who he is, will be led by the Holy Spirit to discover what that means is, and fall down on their knees in appreciation once it is revealed to them.

The eternal destiny of those who remain in their sin is such that every sinner is headed for an awful destiny, unless and until God steps in to apply the deliverance achieved through Christ. The discovery of that fact is what drives individuals to seek God's mercy because it has then dawned on them that they can do nothing to contribute towards that free grace. They cast themselves upon God, who delivers them.

This is not "making an effort to get saved" - quite the opposite. It is agreeing with God that they only deserve his judgment, and that is the turning point. But for as long as individuals entertain the notion that it's up to them to "do something" to contribute towards "their" salvation, they have not reached the crucial turning point that only God is capable of bringing to pass. He knows who will cry out to him at that point, and it is for us to strive to discover the magnificent grace of God through this only means of salvation.

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  • The individual effort comes into play when he or she is tempted and needs to beat the temptation. You make an effort to overcome the challenge Commented Nov 8, 2023 at 7:07
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    @FewAgainstMany-Israel A Christian making individual effort when faced with temptation is one thing, but the Q asks about individual effort in order to become a Christian (i.e. saved). That is entirely a different matter. I base my answer upon (as one example): "At just the right time, when we were still powerless, Christ died for the ungodly... While we were still sinners, Christ died for us... we were reconciled to him through the death of His Son... through whom we have now received reconciliation." Romans 5:6-11
    – Anne
    Commented Nov 8, 2023 at 14:20
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I look into Romans, and what I see, on the subject of Israel, is "God has not rejected his people, whom he foreknew" (Romans ch11 v2).

Moving back, Abraham the individual is saved by his faith (ch4 v3), but Jacob, the representative of Israel, is later "called" (ch9 vv11-12)

I put it to you that the concept of election and predestination is wrongly applied to the individual, and that what God chose and foreknew is the existence of a people dedicated to himself.

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  • . . . .. but '... the Son of God loved me and gave himself for me.' Gal 2:20. And, 'I have loved thee with an everlasting love,' Jeremiah 31:3. Both are individual.
    – Nigel J
    Commented Nov 7, 2023 at 16:29
  • Pre destination is real because the rooster crowed three times after Peter denied Jesus three times. Commented Nov 8, 2023 at 6:58
  • The rooster could just be foreknowledge (which, as others point out is not the same thing). Commented Nov 8, 2023 at 8:15
  • @FewAgainstMany-Israel Did the rooster crow 3 times?
    – Kristopher
    Commented Nov 11, 2023 at 3:00
  • What's the difference between foreknowledge and pre destination? Commented Nov 11, 2023 at 7:07
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The problem here -- the belief that foreknowledge negates free will -- doesn't require God to be the foreknower, and doesn't even require a foreknower. Aristotle gives the first known mention of it. His explanation is lengthy, so I'll paraphrase.

--

Tomorrow you will choose a blue shirt, or you won't.

If it's true that you'll choose a blue shirt, you have no choice: it'll be blue.

If it's false that you'll choose a blue shirt, you have no choice: it won't.

Either way, you have no choice.

--

But doesn't this show the absurdity of the argument? If you choose, you have no choice. That's contradictory.

Even if you decide it's not, you can see that the paradox doesn't depend on whether anybody KNOWS what that choice will be. It only depends on statements about the future being true or false (and they have to be one or the other!).

It is true that there are both real and apparent paradoxes in logic. Putting the word "God" in one of the paradoxes doesn't make it more or less paradoxical. It's like Lewis said in The Pilgrim's Regress: a nonsense statement doesn't become sense by sticking "The [Lord] can..." in front of it. Similarly, as Aristotle shows, we get our apparent paradox here from "You will make a choice," and adding "God knows" doesn't change that.

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  • V v Nice, +1, even if it isn't really a comparable analogy.. and doesn't therefore answer the op.. God does more than just know our future.. he has chosen his elect, 1 cor 1.26-31, which leaves out others, 1 Peter 2.8 Commented Dec 5, 2023 at 8:10
  • I can only go with what OP says. In this case, "My question is, if God already knows who gets to be saved and who doesn't, why should anyone make an effort..." Why make effort if God chose the elect is another interesting question, to be sure.
    – Maverick
    Commented Dec 6, 2023 at 14:45
  • My mistake.. you are right.. in which case I hope your answer works its way to the top answer. Commented Dec 7, 2023 at 1:53
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If you assume that God is bound by time, then either God cannot know whether we are saved, or we don't have free will in that matter.

If you drop the assumption, then God knows whether we have chosen to be saved because from His viewpoint—outside of time—He watches us make the choice.

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If we develop simplicity, sincerity, humility, and purity then it helps us to develop inner peace, inner light, inner joy, and inner power.

Inner power is our obedience to the Will of God.

Our beliefs are then transformed into faith. Faith grows via experiences. We make mistakes and our conscience and intuition show us a proper way. Sometimes as pain. As we make less and less conscious mistakes we will know that God has forgiven us.

Christ made a million steps in 33 years. Some of us do not even have one in our lives because we don't listen to our conscience and intuition. The more we listen, the more steps.

We are carefully observed by Heaven citizens, Hell citizens, and God Himself. Every day, at every moment. At some point, we will know it perfectly. Then here on Earth, there in Heaven, and everywhere we will try our best to please and fulfill our Sweetest Beloved Lord.

"Let's Thy Will, not my will, be done."

Where we focus our parts of being (mind thoughts, heart's longings, our soul will, our inclinations, etc.) we get sooner (Hell workers are very swift and fast) or later (Heaven citizens, our Father God) answers. The more we faithfully follow the Will of God and serve Him the more protection we get. (The opposition gets stronger as well.)

We practice 24/7 love. Not human-binding love but the love of the spiritual heart. Love that liberates us from fear and ignorance. Later, the love of our hearts is infinitely expanded with the divine love of the soul.

"The Kingdom of Heaven is within You."

After some "time", God's Divine Son appears before us. He comes to "look" at us quite a few times from a distance. Let's say ten meters. And there shall come a time when Christ accepted our good (and bad) deeds and stood before us. Permanently. He became our teacher. The most powerful and most effective is His silent teaching.

He will answer all the questions you have. Born questions and unborn yet.

-- Please excuse my grammar. I am a beginner.

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Ephesians 2:8-9 NIV

For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God— not by works, so that no one can boast.

It is impossible to "make an effort to get saved". Salvation is a free gift. You either accept the gift, or you don't. God will honor your choice. Does He know what you will choose? Yes, absolutely, but He still leaves the choice up to you. Just know you have to make that choice while you are still alive on this earth. There are no go-backs, re-dos, or 'get out of jail free' cards.

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    – agarza
    Commented Nov 9, 2023 at 22:23
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Life here on Earth is a gift given to us by God. And whether or not you believe in free will, when we stand before our Maker at the end of our lives, we will be held accountable on how we decided to use this God-given gift. Paul wrote:

2 Corinthians 5:10 NIV

For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, so that each of us may receive what is due us for the things done while in the body, whether good or bad.

Not everyone's gift is identical. Some of us have to make do with less than others. Some people have the ability and means to accomplish much; while others never even get to an age where they can make any sort of meaningful decision.

Regardless, when our lives are reviewed with God, we will get to see our actions, both good and bad. At that time, saying "I didn't believe in free will" or "I believed I was predestined to do all this, so I assumed I was powerless to do anything else" may not even be an option, as what we believed on Earth about free will may be revealed to be simply wrong and/or irrelevant.

What will be an option, however, is relying on the saving grace of Jesus Christ to wash over our sins so that we may be welcomed into God's heavenly dwelling place for all eternity.

(So even if someone believes they have irrefutable evidence to disprove the idea of free will, Paul, Peter, James, and other New Testament authors (as well as Jesus) all encourage us to act as if we truly do have free will. So regardless of your beliefs about predestination and free will, God may not agree with them and -- either way -- will still hold us accountable for our chosen actions.)

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