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Determinism, predestination, etc. seem to go hand in hand. The Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy says of determination and human free agency:

… It is hard to see how, if the state of the world 1000 years ago fixes everything I do during my life, I can meaningfully say that I am a free agent, the author of my own actions, which I could have freely chosen to perform differently. After all, I have neither the power to change the laws of nature, nor to change the past! So in what sense can I attribute freedom of choice to myself?[1]

So this is a purely philosophical question for some, like at Stanford. But for others, like in Christianity, and in particular, within Reformed Christianity, it is a deeply theological question. The famous 17th Century document, the Westminster Confession of Faith says this of God’s decrees and ordination of things:

I. God from all eternity, did, by the most wise and holy counsel of His own will, freely, and unchangeably ordain whatsoever comes to pass; yet so, as thereby neither is God the author of sin, nor is violence offered to the will of the creatures; nor is the liberty or contingency of second causes taken away, but rather established.

II. Although God knows whatsoever may or can come to pass upon all supposed conditions; yet has He not decreed anything because He foresaw it as future, or as that which would come to pass upon such conditions.

III. By the decree of God, for the manifestation of His glory, some men and angels are predestinated unto everlasting life; and others foreordained to everlasting death.[2]

If I am a Christian, and I affirm an understanding of God like that articulated in the Westminster Confession of Faith (and many do, even people who are simply ‘Evangelical’ Christians), does this mean that if I get a terminal diagnosis, like a certain kind of cancer (like the kind I had, Desmoplastic Small Round Cell Tumor sarcoma) that I am doomed? Does this mean that God must have ordained for me to die from this cancer, and that I can do nothing, that there is nothing contingent waiting my actuation of it that might aid in my healing, maybe even of a so called terminal cancer?

I think if we believe in a God who works through deterministic mechanistic decrees, that we, if placed into a health crisis, for example, might very well resign ourselves to the idea that God has decreed my death through the secondary means of whatever my terminal diagnosis is. And so we will begin down this fatalistic path, we will start living into death, instead of living into life.

We still have choices to make in light of our health diagnoses, God has not decreed one outcome, necessarily, over the other; even if he had, how could we ever claim to pierce this remote session of God’s inner life? It is more prudent to cry out to God for wisdom in how to proceed, and not give into a fatalistic understanding of God’s dealings with humanity. We need to take action, and not presume upon God’s sovereignty as if it means that he has dealt us a death blow through him apparently decreeing our demise. Last time I read, he wants us to choose life, not death, and this means rebuking any thought any inkling that God works in fatalistic ways.

Is God sovereign? Indeed. But he does not work deterministically, he works dynamically and personally and relationally as the eternal relation that he is as Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. If you receive a terminal health diagnosis I would like to encourage you to rest in God’s life of Triune love and power, but to take every step at your disposal (even if it means going ‘alternative’) to choose life and not death. Don’t give into theology that makes God out to be something he is not. He is not a determinist, he is a person, and his name is Jesus Christ, full of the life of God for us.



[1] See full text here,

[2] See full text here,


This quite off topic from my usual posting at this blog here, but I wanted to share this with you all. As many of you know I went through a terrible kind of cancer last year (which involved hard core chemo, and surgery, etc.). As a result of all of this, my wife and I had a major paradigm shift; for the last 9 months I have been alkaline, meaning my Ph balance in my body is balanced and non-acidic. I’ve achieved this by diet, and I also take massive barley supplements, and drink tons of alkaline water (I also follow another natural protocol that provides major oxygen to my cells — since all cancer cells are, are cells deprived of oxygen). Cancer needs both acid and sugar, and lack of oxygen (for the cells) to survive; if you create a hostile environment for cancer, it cannot live! We definitely believe that this has been part of God’s providence for us. Truly, the Lord did use the traditional medicine in my case (but not w/o side-effects); but we believe that He is also using what He has provided in nature to sustain my body and keep it cancer free (beyond that my chronic allergies have basically subsided, and my chronic acid reflux is non-existent; beyond that, I’m just healthier in general!). Here’s a video that speaks to the terrible effects of chemo (even second-hand chemo), and the beneficial effects of eating healthy:

Secondhand Chemotherapy –


Hello my name is Bobby Grow, and I author this blog, The Evangelical Calvinist. Feel free to peruse the posts, and comment at your leisure. I look forward to the exchange we might have here, and hope you are provoked to love Jesus even more as a result. Pax Christi!

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A Little Thomas Torrance

“God loves you so utterly and completely that he has given himself for you in Jesus Christ his beloved Son, and has thereby pledged his very being as God for your salvation. In Jesus Christ God has actualised his unconditional love for you in your human nature in such a once for all way, that he cannot go back upon it without undoing the Incarnation and the Cross and thereby denying himself. Jesus Christ died for you precisely because you are sinful and utterly unworthy of him, and has thereby already made you his own before and apart from your ever believing in him. He has bound you to himself by his love in a way that he will never let you go, for even if you refuse him and damn yourself in hell his love will never cease. Therefore, repent and believe in Jesus Christ as your Lord and Saviour.” -T. F. Torrance, The Mediation of Christ, 94.


“A deep brokenness requires a deeper theology.”

Philosophy of Blogging

“I count myself one of the number of those who write as they learn and learn as they write.” - St. Augustine cited by John Calvin

“We must always keep in mind that the reason the Son of God came down from the hidden throne of the eternal Father and revealed heavenly doctrine was not to furnish material for seminary debates, in which the display of ingenuity might be the game, but rather so that human beings should be instructed concerning true knowledge of God and of all those things which are necessary to the pursuit of eternal salvation.” Martin Chemnitz, Loci theol. ed., 1590, Hypomnemata 9 cited by Barth, CD I/1, 82.


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