Determinism vs. Predestination

Determinism is the doctrine that all things in time are determined in a previous time.

Predestination is the doctrine that the salvation of the saints is determined in eternity.

Determinism is a relation to prior causes in time

Predestination is not a relation to causes prior in time.

“Does God see things before they happen?” No, if you mean God, existing at one time, looks forward to another one, or if you mean that God, being outside time, sees all things in a single time. 

‘If God sees all things at once, all things exist in a single time.” The consequence would only follow if God were a temporal being. Moreover, it is absurd to have a time of all time. What would the second time add to the first? But why insist on this? No one thinks eternalism means there is one time for all time. But it’s sometimes hard to see how the block universe arguments avoid this idea of a time of time. Just what does the “at once” mean when we argue that all things exist at once?

Any knowing act is simultaneous with its object, since to know anything is to be united to it. Even if I saw the future, I would see it when it was happening.

If I look through a window and see a rabbit, I see it where and when it is; and so if I looked into the future, I would see it where and when it is.

If I just imagine some scenario and it happens to come to pass, I’m not seeing the future, I’m just guessing well. To see the future is to see it when it is happening. Even if the one seeing were a temporal being – and God is not – seeing the future is not seeing something before it happens.

The First Way has a corollary: motion is an incomplete and partial manifestation of immobile activity. Time stands to eternity in the same way. This is what block universe arguments are gesturing at.

Motion isn’t real if you mean that you can have the whole thing at once. For that matter, I’m not real in that way either – you can’t have me as an embryo, a teenager, an adult and an old man all at once, even though this is “my whole life”.




  1. Jacinta said,

    March 5, 2015 at 8:34 pm

    Is determinism different from fatalism?

    • March 5, 2015 at 9:57 pm

      Yes. Determinism is usually the name for a theory that events are determined by physical causes and the sorts of things that science studies; fatalism is a more general idea that things are determined in advance by something or other, like logical necessity or more or less vague supernatural forces.

      That said, determinism has a vaguely scientific air to it while fatalism more conjures the idea of more magical-sounding causes.

  2. Kevin V said,

    March 19, 2015 at 9:36 pm

    God works all things to the good of those who love him, who are called according to his purposes.
    all things are determined according to their final causes, and according to Aristotle final cause determines efficent cause, ergo all things are predetermined.

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