Are our lives predetermined, or can our actions change our future for better or worse? This week’s clergy discuss how destiny and free will exist in a world in which God sees and controls all things.
The Rev. Martin Hawley
Pastor, South Bay Bible Church, East Moriches
Followers of Christianity believe in the sovereignty of God. This doctrine says God is supremely in control of all things. Nothing escapes his attention. This sounds a lot like fate, defined as events and circumstances that are destined to happen in a particular way and are beyond one’s control.
Most Christians, therefore, would align with the common use of fate in a general sense. However, some sects of Christianity argue for the existence of free will. Free will and the sovereignty of God are considered a dichotomy. Somehow, in the wisdom of God, both can exist at the same time. I suppose this can be seen in the Gospel. God’s law says we should not lie, steal or dishonor our parents, and the penalty for breaking God’s law is death.
God knew everyone would break his law, and he allowed us to make that choice. But in his great love, he made a way all men could be forgiven their sin. He sent his perfect son, who never sinned, to die on the cross to pay the death penalty for all sin for everyone who would believe in his name. It’s as simple as this: we broke the law, and Jesus paid our fine.
Even though God gave us a choice, he already had a plan to fix our sinful choice when we made it. Free will and the sovereignty of God (or fate) can co-exist in God’s great plan.
Rabbi Shalom Lipszyc
Town of Oyster Bay Chabad, Woodbury
Everyone experiences events in their life that seem to be beyond their control, such as a flat tire, a sinking financial economy or a sudden health scare of a close relative or friend. There are even happy coincidences like an unexpected romantic encounter or a winning lottery ticket, which set us up to believe that success or failure is not dependent on our wise or poor choices.
Jewish teaching has powerful ideas that allow us to be agents in our own destiny. One of these ideas is that everything God does is for the best, even when it doesn't seem this way to us. How? Because in a way we are all like the 3-year-old boy who kicks and screams when given a $250,000 college fund check for his birthday instead of the big toy fire truck he wanted.
Even so, as believers in God’s goodness, we also believe that God can give us an infinite good in a way that is palatable and sweet to us as well. We exercise this belief in two ways: One way is to attempt to make the world a better place! God gave us the ability to be partners in the creation of our world. We have to take advantage of this great power by not sitting on the couch but being active goodness makers. Another way is to pray to God to take away the hardship, pain and suffering and give us the good in a way that we can appreciate.
Board of directors, Multi-Faith Forum of Long Island, Melville
Life is not a onetime experience. It’s a cycle. Hindus believe we die only to be reborn, in other words, reincarnated. In each reincarnation we carry with us the end-result of our previous life.
According to my Hindu faith, life is a balance sheet. There are debts and credits. Before we leave this planet, we must prepare our final balance sheet. At the time of final departure, we are allowed to carry with us the end result in a very subtle form, which is called “fate.” However, while we are living, we can make or mar our own fate.
According to the wisdom of Srimad Bhagwad Geeta, the most sacred treatise of Hinduism, the almighty God is seated in the heart of everyone. Whatever we do in our lifetime, he is the eyewitness. He is also the secret photographer who is taking our picture all time. This supreme awareness can revolutionize the quality of our fate.
At the same time, the Hindu faith also believes in free will. We are created in the image of God. We have acquired the skills and resources to act of our own free will. Driving a car on the highway is our free will. However, if a drunken driver hits us for no reason, that is called fate.