Question: What do you believe about predestination? Some passages of Scripture seem to indicate that God has a master plan that we all fit into, while others lead me to believe we are free to accept or reject God as we so choose?

Answer: This question would probably be more appropriate for a doctrinal column, but since this deep theological issue has many implications for counseling I will try to address it briefly here.

Scholars have grappled for centuries with the seeming contradiction be- tween God’s sovereignty and human freedom. The best illustration I have ever heard to bring harmony to this debate involves seeing our planet like a giant cruise ship. God is certainly steering us toward a definite destination. Because it is His world, He will most assuredly guide the world toward the destiny He has in mind. However, the people on the ship are totally free within the given confines to choose and be responsible. There may be rare exceptions where God overrides the will of man for a larger purpose, but generally we fully direct our own personal destinies. If you stop to think about it logically, our freedom is the only basis for the accountability God will require of us. If there is no freedom, judgment would be unfair and unjust.

Counseling, by its very nature, is a field that believes people have the freedom to change. The Spirit of God is always luring us toward the best possible choices, but the Bible clearly teaches that we can choose poorer options (which is the essence of the definition of sin). I personally believe that the only thing that limits our freedom is the accumulating effect of our past choices, which tends to make present behavior more predictable.

This heavy emphasis upon freedom also gives us a better handle on the sticky problem of evil/suffering. In the world. If you picture God as controlling everything that happens, it is difficult to explain the incredible amounts of radical suffering during history and in the present. This would cast considerable doubt upon the goodness of God. However, if you recognize that God has turned people loose to behave as they choose, the vast majority of tragedy in the world is easily traced back to the accumulating history of Adam’s race–a legacy of movement away from the Creator. We cannot know what human freedom looks like from God’s perspective. He is all-powerful and all-knowing. But, what matters here is our personal perspective. We must act upon what we know, and the bottom line is clear. God calls us to use our lives to glorify Him, and love others as ourselves. If we use our freedom in those ways, we will have made our calling and election sure! (2Pet. 1:3-11.)

–From Southeast Outlook, by permission