Why not fatalism?

Questions about God, the Bible and the Christian culture

Question: As a Christian, I know that fatalism is not biblical. But I also know that God’s will must be accomplished and that prophecy must be fulfilled. How do I avoid the temptation to become a fatalist  — especially when it comes to the end-times arrival of things like a world superstate with the Beast/Antichrist government as depicted in Revelation? Why stand up against evils of big government when you know that we won't be able to stall the arrival of the world government indefinitely because prophecy must be fulfilled? Sometimes I feel like throwing up my hands and ask, what’s the use?

Answer: Greetings friend. Let me commend you on this practical question. You seem like a person who wants to do his best for the kingdom of God…. but without participating in the futility of fatalism… which I understand. I, too, am sometimes tempted to throw up my hands. But since Jesus threw his hands up first… upon the cross… I find ways to persist.

These ways include two belief-options that militate against the conclusion of fatalism. The first involves a more thorough look at how God relates to time. This theological idea is known as God’s middle knowledge, and it’s championed by the philosopher and theologian William Lane Craig. This is my personal view also, but I take my own path through it. Middle knowledge shows how God can work his collective will — but through the free will of individuals… and in a non-deterministic way.

Before we begin, here are my assumptions about God and creation: God is transcendent over creation… yet he is also immanent in it. He is omniscient, omnipresent and omnitemporal. We humans have true (libertarian) free will. If that were not true, then God would not have the glory that comes from volitional creatures… arguably, the most precious commodity in the universe. So, he created a universe designed to redeem billions of us optimally… knowing that some will be lost in any process that upholds true volition.

Now, since God created the universe, he must transcend it... and this includes transcending time (which is part of the physical creation). But God works in time and space, too. He’s just not stuck there like we are. But since God is omnipresent and omnitemporal in creation, he exists in all places and in all times at the same time — a state that some people call “the eternal now.”

God is also omniscient… and this means that he knows everything. But what does “everything” include? Every actual thing… past, present and future? Sure. But how about every possible thing… past, present and future? The answer again must be yes… or else, even I — a mere mortal — could identify some gaps in God’s knowledge. But we need one more level: Does God know every possible thing under every possible contingency? (These are called counterfactuals.) The answer must again be yes… and for the same reasons. Now we’re set up.

God lives in the eternal now, and he knows every permutation of every life you’d possibly live as you made your volitional choices in real time. It’s not so much that God knows the future; it’s that he knows your every possible future. So, he actualizes whichever of your freely crafted lives will best suit the needs of his kingdom. You live it in real time, and you live it making real choices. There is nothing predetermined about it. God, in the eternal now, saw what you would freely do, and he said, “Go ahead.” So, you are doing what it feels like you’re doing: steering your own ship to whatever ports you desire.

I realize that some things are beyond our control… like when we were born, where we were born, to whom we were born and the shape of our early lives. Those were predetermined for you… or were they? Remember, God can see you living out every possible life in every possible time and place… so you might not be without a voice in these choices. He placed you in the here-and-now for his reasons, and those reasons might include your performance in each possible life.

In a way, then, you have lived this fully volitional life in the presence of God who is not bound by time or logistics and who said, “I choose this one for him.” So, even though we are collectively traveling to where God wants us to go, it is under freedom, not determinism. Our freely lived lives do affect the kingdom of God in real time. So, the idea of fatalism would just be a distraction.

Got Questions Ministries has a brief article that sifts through issues like fatalism and determinism. If you are interested, visit the following link:


The second escape from fatalism has to do with your views on eschatology — how you see future events playing out under God’s watchful eye. You are committed to a relatively literalistic interpretation of Revelation that is consistent with the “Left Behind” particulars championed by people like Hal Lindsey and the late Timothy LaHaye. These ideas seem like they’ve been around forever, but the truth is that they are relatively new.

The book of Revelation is largely apocalyptic… but the question is, what are you going to do about it? When I run into apocalyptic language, the last thing I do is interpret it literalistically. I interpret it symbolically… and this was the standard until the late nineteenth century. That’s when the dispensationalist view started to take hold.

Unlike many non-reformed Evangelicals, I’m an Amillennialist. I see Israel, the Church and all unclassified believers as equally “God’s people.” I understand the millennium to be figurative, and I see a single and universal resurrection of the dead. I also see a single return of Christ — as opposed to a secret Rapture and a seven-year tribulation followed by a public return of Christ.

Now, I’m not trying to convert you… so let’s not miss the point. But let’s say that the vast majority of scholars — and for 1900 years — were correct when they interpreted the book of Revelation symbolically rather than literalistically. If that is true (and many still agree with me that this is true), then there will not be an actual person known as the Antichrist… and all his exegetical accouterments. So, many of the specifics in your worry list could very well be imaginary.

The lesson here is two-fold: first, things like what will happen at the end of the age are secondary issues. True believers in Jesus Christ can believe anything they want about this… even if they are in contradiction. (The Antichrist cannot be both only symbolic and actual). Therefore (and second), you may be worried about things that will not occur… and that is my personal stand.

Now, I agree with you on many issues. Governments will grow while the world shrinks. So, I see us on track for a world federation of nations — like a United Nations… but with teeth. I also agree that God’s prophecies will be fulfilled. But I do not agree that they will be fulfilled like many people say they will be fulfilled… and again, this is an instance of worrying about the wrong things.

God gave us enough information to keep our minds on the game. But we see — and we should realize this more — “through a glass, darkly” (1 Corinthians 13:12, KJV). Having faith in God’s salvation — and having faith in how he runs the world — should eclipse fatalism. True… everything will turn out alright for us in the end. But the next step is not “… therefore, why strive in the kingdom?” In my view, if we don’t strive, we will delay Christ’s return… and such a notion cannot coexist with fatalism.

I pray that these perspectives helped.

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