The Bible teaches that we freely choose whether to be reborn spiritually.
But it also says that our salvation is a matter of God’s predestination.
These concepts seem antithetical at first glance.
Is our eternal life predetermined? Or is it subject to our will?
The answer to both questions is yes.
Before we unpack this answer, we must define three terms as they are used here.
Predestination is the amalgam of God’s desires and intentions for our eternal life.
It includes the earthly and heavenly benefits of the affirmative salvation decision that he would like us to make.
Predetermination is God’s foreknowledge of all future events.
It includes the temporal and eternal consequences of our decision to either accept or reject his salvation offer.
Providence is God’s active supervision and guardianship over the world.
It includes the provisions he makes and the steps he takes to fulfill his purpose in our lives.
With that out of the way, we begin.
God enlightens everyone about his offer of eternal salvation.
He predestines all of us to live with him forever in heaven.
He neither desires nor intends anyone to spend eternity in hell.
But those who reject his salvation offer will suffer this outcome.
They will reside forever in a place for which they were not predestined.
God does not dictate whether we accept or reject his salvation offer.
If he did, we would all be reborn spiritually because that is his preference.
Instead, we make this decision of our own volition.
God has foreknowledge of our choice, however. So from his perspective, our eternal destiny is predetermined.
But from ours, it is not.
We contemporaneously accept or reject God’s salvation offer based on our perceived self-interest.
God exercises his providence at crucial junctures to prompt us to comply with his salvation plan.
But he never manipulates or suppresses our will to compel our compliance.
If he did, everyone would be reborn spiritually because his superiority would overwhelm our resistance.
The existence of unbelievers affirms that God has given us the volitional freedom to determine our eternal destiny, independent of his preference.
A college basketball recruiting analogy illustrates how our will blends with God’s predestination, predetermination, and providence.
In it, the coach represents God, except as noted below, and the athletes represent us.
The basketball coach at an esteemed university offers scholarships to two talented high school seniors.
The coach has predestined both students to play for his team next season.
To fulfill this destiny, however, the athletes must accept their scholarship offers.
The coach does not impose his desire on them.
He utilizes the resources at his disposal to spur their acceptance, but he never manipulates or suppresses their will.
The students freely reach their decisions without compulsion.
One student turns down her scholarship because she wants to play volleyball at a different school.
The other accepts her scholarship because she wants to earn a prestigious degree from the coach’s university.
Both athletes act according to their perceived self-interest, but only one fulfills her prescribed destiny.
The coach abides by both decisions, however, because he respects the volitional freedom of each student.
At the beginning of the recruiting process, the coach did not know if the athletes would accept or reject their scholarship offers.
The team roster was indeterminate in his mind.
But God foreknew both student decisions before the recruiting process began.
In his mind, the team roster was predetermined.