Fatalism by Elder Glenn C. Shoults
by Elder Glenn C. Shoults
„Known unto God are all his works from the beginning of the world.” Acts 15:18
„The secret things belong unto the LORD our God: But those things which are revealed belong unto us and to our children forever, that we may do all the words of this law.” Deuteronomy 29:29
Fatalism—What is it? Who teaches it? Is it dangerous? In dealing with the subject of fatalism, we shall not concern ourselves with any of the religious orders of the denominational world, but only with those who are identified with the scriptural identity known as „Baptists,” Fatalism is commonly charged of those who „believe and therefore speak” that God is sovereign, absolutely sovereign, that whatever events fall out in time, fall out in the order of which divine providence brings it to pass. They believe and speak concerning Christ, the eternal Son of God, that as Scriptures so state, that Christ was the Lamb who was foreordained, before the foundation of the world, to be slain (I Peter 1:19, 20 and Revelation 13:8), to redeem the elect that were chosen and preserved in Him, whose names were written in the Lamb’s Book of Life from the foundation of the world. Those who believe and speak concerning the origin of „evil” and the fall of Adam, that because the principle of evil was created by God (Isaiah 65:7), that the fall of Adam was by divine decree according to the secret working of God’s purpose „who worketh all things after the counsel of his own will” (Ephesians 1:11) again brings the charge of „fatalist.”
I say, it is commonly charged, that those who believe and therefore speak these doctrines are called fatalists by those who vainly imagine that evil has always existed, that it is eternal with God the Father, and that when God created Adam and put him in the garden and gave him laws, Adam was left to himself and mere chance, or „fate.” They imply that God would sit back and wait to see what Adam might do. Now, I should like to set the record straight, who is guilty of teaching „fate-alism”?
Not long hence an elder, who is supposed to believe in the sovereignty of God, stated publicly on a radio broadcast, „we are not absoluters, we do not believe Adam had to fall. He could have done otherwise. Had he not sinned, God had other plans for him.” Of course this preacher did not have any insight as to what those plans might possibly be, or if he did, he failed to mention those plans. I would ask, to what then was the fall of man left? If not the divine decree of an absolute, sovereign, immutable God, to what then? Was it left to mere fate? Are we to understand that God had several sets of plans, and whatever fate would bring to pass He would then exercise that particular plan that would remedy a fall, should a fall come about? Who then is teaching „fate-alism”?
I should like for you to consider, with me, the two texts before us. Acts 15:18: „Known unto God are all his works from the beginning of the world.” Known unto God, not men, not angels! This knowledge is private with God and was not general knowledge, nor was it revealed to man what God was about. Certainly God did not coerce Adam to sin. God is by no means a sinner because, in His secret will, purpose, and pleasure (Psalm 135:6) He created the principle of evil from which every sinful act of men arise. Evil is not necessarily sin but sin always is from the principle of evil, but that by no means makes God a sinner. He created animals and birds. That does not make Him an animal or a fowl! It is self evident that it pleased God to create the being who became Satan, and that being was, according to Ezekiel 28:11-19 and Isaiah l4:12-17, Lucifer, son of the morning, the anointed cherub that covereth. As Ezekiel speaks against the king of Tyrus it is also clear, from a careful reading of this passage, that is looking past the human king of Tyrus to the one who energized him. (Ephesians 2:1-2)
Are we to understand that both Satan and Adam did something God had planned for them not to do? That fate worked out something that was contrary to God’s plan and purpose and pleasure? That Christ was predestined to be slain as a lamb „just in case” some dreadful fate might fall upon His creation? Are we to also understand that election took place after God’s original set of plans failed and therefore a contingency plan went into effect. That to salvage His original plan God was forced to elect somebody, anybody, that He could? Anybody that would let Him? Are we then to understand that the Apostle Paul was in error when he wrote to the primitive assembly at Ephesus, „Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who hath blessed us with all spiritual blessings in heavenly places In Christ: According as he hath chosen us in him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and without blame before him in love: having predestinated us unto the adoption of children by Jesus Christ to himself, according to the good pleasure of his will, to the praise of the glory of his grace, wherein he hath made us accepted in the beloved?” Should we correct this passage by saying we were not chosen in Christ before the foundation of the world, but rather after God’s original plan had taken a bad turn, by chance or fate, therefore His election was not by the good pleasure of His will but a secondary plan that He must try to bring to pass in order to salvage something of His original plan. Instead of election and predestination being according to the good pleasure of His will it was a necessity to save face and make it look like He had not failed, when indeed He had failed. Are we to further understand the Apostle John, too, was in error when he stated „The Revelation of Jesus Christ, which God gave unto him, to shew unto his servants things which must shortly come to pass; and he sent and signified it by his angel unto his servant John: Who bare record of the word of God, and of the testimony of Jesus Christ, and of all things that he saw.” This, John gave to the seven churches in Asia and states that the names of the elect were written in the Lamb’s book of Life from the foundation of the world. When indeed, such was not the case IF election and predestination took place only after God’s original plan failed and His contingency plan was brought into effect. If such be the case, we must needs correct John and let it be known that he did not have a Revelation from Christ on this matter of the names being written in the Lamb’s Book of Life from the foundation of the world; it should read from the fall of Adam and the failure of God’s original plan. We would have to charge John with giving error to the churches, and that he deceived them when he wrote such doctrine to the seven churches, and consequently all the Lord’s assemblies from then till now, and led them to believe false doctrine; if indeed election did not take place until after the fall of Adam and failure of God, his Creator, to keep him in his original pristine condition. Again, we would have to correct Paul when he states, „Who hath resisted his will?” (Romans 9:19) If indeed Adam resisted His will! But did not Adam actually sin? Indeed he did, and plunged his entire family into a state of sin and death, that the elect are „by nature the children of wrath.” (Ephesians 2:3) Let it be remembered that „sin is a transgression of the law” and that which was revealed to Adam was God’s law.
One educated and well polished preacher, that I heard some years ago, tried to explain his philosophy concerning the fall of man. His position is only the logical conclusion of those who hold that it could have been otherwise had „fate” so fallen in another direction. His position was, as many misdirected people think today, that God created Adam as only a sample man and put him in the garden of Eden to see what would happen. Then he related that to his mother baking bread when he was a little boy. She would put a sample of the whole mass of dough in to a baking soda cover and bake it to see how it would come out of the oven. As that little sample came out, so would all the loaves be. That is how he viewed the sin of Adam, that God was waiting to see how His creation would turn out. How would „fate” turn this sample man, then, of course, He would know how all men would be and could make His plans from there. Now let me ask you, who is guilty of teaching fatalism?
What is FATALISM but holding the position that all events are determined by some power or force. (The Fates, in Greek and Roman mythology, the three goddesses who control human destiny and life: the first, Clotho, spins the thread of life, the second, Lachesis, determines its length, and the third, Atropos, cuts it off.)
Is FATALISM dangerous? Should we contend against it? Fatalism is a pernicious doctrine as II Peter 2:1-3 states and many have followed their pernicious ways. The ultimate of such teaching is not only an erroneous position concerning the origin of evil but also, the same concept as „Zoroastrians,” that of dualism. According to this system, the world originated as a mixture of light and darkness, which represent good and evil. Manicheans held the same position that man’s soul, which arose from the kingdom of light, wants to escape from the body, which represents the kingdom of darkness. There is only one of two possible positions that we can hold concerning the origin of evil. It must be either dualism, as I have just described, or the position of Scripture, that Satan is a created being with no power of his own, and that his every act is that which fulfills the divine decree. The one is fatalism the other is Absolute Predestination.
Not only the erroneous position concerning the fall of Adam, but their whole scheme of redemption as well is fatalistic. The doctrine of universal atonement is pure fatalism. How so? Those who hold this position maintain that Christ died for no one in particular, but every man of Adam’s race in general. He did not secure the eternal salvation for any man, but only made salvation possible, or probable for all men, that Christ is only a possible or probable Savior. In reality, Christ is a failure unless some sinner gives in and joins his will to the will of God and lets God save him. God waits passively to see how fate will turn out and who will be the next to let God save him. God just waits and hopes that somebody will yield. He tries to put equal pressure on everybody, but only those who are not as hard and stubborn as others give in. As one well known pseudo-baptist preacher said, „Hell was a monumental blunder of God. All the souls in Hell, God tried to save, did all He could to save them, but they refused and would not let God save them.” That, dear reader, is the logical conclusion of the fatalistic universal atonement doctrine.
I am sure that some will ask if I believe that whatever will be, will be, and I reply by saying that I certainly do believe that whatever will be, will be. Fatalism says whatever will be might, or might not be. Whatever the force, of gods and goddesses, determines will be the fate of all things and men.
Further, those holding a fatalistic position concerning the salvation of a sinner, take the position of the uncertainty of that salvation, by saying that no one can know, or have any assurance of his salvation. I am aware that many who hold to the „universal atonement” position say a sinner can know beyond a shadow of a doubt that he has been saved. They have a bold presumption instead of the grace of assurance. When examined, as to the knowledge of his salvation, his knowledge is based on what he himself has done, and what condition he, in himself, has met in order for God to save him. A true assurance of salvation is not based on anything the sinner has done but that which Christ accomplished in His death, burial and resurrection. Those who maintain that we cannot know that we are sons of God, nor are we to know, and the only proof of such contradiction is said by some, they have never looked upon the Lamb’s Book of Life to see if their name is written there. Such a statement is certainly no proof against the knowledge, assurance, and confidence that the child of God can possess. Even more important, such a position is contrary to clear teaching of scripture, such as John 17:1-3, „These words spake Jesus, and lifted up his eyes to heaven, and said, Father, the hour is come; that he should give eternal life to as many as thou hast given him, And this is life eternal, that they might know thee the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom thou hast sent.” Many want to reverse this text by saying, „If you just get the knowledge you can have eternal life,” but our Lord made it clear in John 3:3, „Except a man be born again, he cannot see (perceive or know) the kingdom of God.” It is certain that the natural unregenerate man cannot receive spiritual things as Paul states in I Corinthians 2:11.-16. When one has been quickened from a dead state to a living one (Ephesians 2:l, 2), by the sovereign work of the spirit, „we have the mind of Christ” (I Corinthians 2:16). Further, it is the clear teaching of Hebrews 8:10-13 concerning the covenant of grace, that was brought into effect upon the death of the Christ of God. Verse 11 says, „for all shall know me, from the least to the greatest.” To know God is what the text says, and if a child of God knows God as his father he is enabled by the blessed spirit to cry „Abba Father.””For as many as are led by the Spirit of God, they are the sons of God. For ye have not received the spirit of bondage again to fear; but ye have received the Spirit of adoption, whereby we cry, Abba, Father. The Spirit itself beareth witness with our spirit, that we are the children of God.” (Romans 8:14-16). Not that we may guess, or suppose ourselves to be sons of God, but are (now, present tense) the sons of God. „And because ye are sons, God hath sent forth the Spirit of his Son into your hearts, crying, Abba, Father.” (Galatians 4:6). Abba, Father means: Abba – a term that slaves and strangers were forbidden to use in addressing the head of a family; Abba, Father – expresses the love and intelligent confidence of the child in the family.
Can a child of God know God in experimental deliverance and yet not know that he knows? „My little children, these things write I unto you, that ye sin not. And if any man sin, we have an advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous: And he is the propitiation for our sins: and not for ours only, but also for the sins of the whole world. (The world of God’s elect) And hereby we do know that we know him, if we keep his commandments.” (I John 2:1-3) John says we can know that we know him—that we know Christ in a personal relationship. But some will object on the ground that most religious orders claim to know they are saved. John answers that objection with „He that saith I know him, and keepeth not his commandments, is a liar, and the truth is not in him. But whoso keepeth his word, in him verily is the love of God perfected: hereby know we that we are in him. He that saith he abideth in him ought himself also so to walk, even as he walked.” (I John 2:4-6)
You will note, John is not saying he is a liar because one says he knows God, but because he says he knows God and keepeth not his commandments. The commandments of the new covenant, as he identifies in verses 6-11. John further enlarges upon this fact in I John 3:1, 2, „Behold, what manner of love the Father hath bestowed upon us, that we should be called the sons of God: therefore the world knoweth us not, because it knew him not. Beloved, now are we the sons of God, and it doth not yet appear what we shall be: but we know that, when he shall appear, we shall be like him; for we shall see him as he is.” Admittedly, John is saying our knowledge is not perfect by saying, „it doth not yet appear,” but then he states, „but we know”. We know what? That when he shall appear, we are to have a hope only, and no knowledge? That position is revealed to be false by the very next verse. I John 3:3; „every man that hath this hope.” What is this hope that he has under consideration? That hope which is described in the second verse, which hope is the knowledge of experimental grace.
To those who hold that they cannot know, since they have never looked upon the Lamb’s Book of Life to see if their name is there, I should like for them to consider some Scriptural, experimental evidence of divine grace. Are there not eternal realities brought into the soul, fixed and fastened by an Almighty hand, where the conscience is made alive in the fear of God, and the soul is raised up from a death in sin to a life that is heavenly, new and supernatural? How do we know that it has been communicated? How do we know that we are naturally alive? Do we run to see if our name is somewhere on a birth certificate? Certainly not! We perform certain actions that can only be performed by living persons. I eat, I drink, I breath, I talk, I walk, I think, I feel; all these are living actions and I have an inward consciousness of possessing life. So it is with spiritual life. If there is life, there will be the movements and stirrings, the breathing and actings that are peculiar to that life. Deuteronomy 28:66 stated to Israel of old that „thy life shall hang in doubt before thee; and thou shalt fear day and night, and shalt have none assurance of thy life:” because of God’s chastenings and judgment upon a rebellious people.
We must consider both fruits and effects. If the fruit is good, the tree must be good. If the effect is spiritual, then must the cause be spiritual. Isaiah asks, „who hath believed our report?” then answers that question by a second question, „to whom is the arm of the Lord revealed?” Meaning that one to whom the arm of the Lord is revealed is one that has been made alive by the sovereign operation of God. When one is made alive in Christ, he is a believer, and will believe the truth when it is preached. That is precisely what is under consideration in Isaiah 53:1. Isaiah 49:16 says, „Behold, I have graven thee upon the palms of my hands.” Now I ask you, does God reveal His arm of power and not His hand? I have never read where God, the Father or the Son, ever had either hand amputated. One need only experience God’s right arm of power to witness the working of His hand where upon all the elect (Israel, His sheep, Zion, the church) are graven.
I have actually heard ministers and deacons pray long prayers and when ending the prayer say, „and save us at last” or „in the end save us.” Such praying is vain repetition. Upon what basis is one saved? By repeating such a prayer as the heathen do? If one who prays such a prayer has any idea that God will save him by such vain repetition he is under delusion of fatalism, for he thinks that his fate shall be determined by some unseen or unknown factor. What! He is not sure? He hopes he may offer enough prayers, so-called, to swing the balance in his favor and get him in. The salvation of God’s elect is based solely upon the shed blood of Christ, not upon foolish praying. Then there are those who contend that those who believe in „the absolute predestination of all things” actually believe in salvation by works. How is that, you say? Their argument is that since Adam had to do what he did, that it is works, and by his works he put man in a state of sin where he could be saved. That, dear friend, is rhetoric and sophistry covering their dishonesty by party cliches and double talk.
Salvation is not based upon what Adam has, or has not done, but upon the work of Christ. It is evident from Scripture, however, that without the fall there would have been no spiritual sons. It
is further evident that the fall and death, that we had in our father Adam, did not separate the elect from the love of God, as Paul states in Romans 8:38, 39. Note he does not say neither life nor death, but „neither death nor life.” That death we suffered in Adam and the Adamic life we live here in this present evil world. Why is this possible? Jude 1 speaks of those who are „preserved in Jesus Christ and called,” not called then preserved but preserved then called.
Those who deny the absolute predestination of all things accuse those who hold and affirm that position (even the fall of Adam) of believing in salvation by works. They ought to do as Paul admonished in II Corinthians 4:2, to renounce the hidden things of dishonesty and not walk in craftiness, nor handle the Word of God deceitfully. Their modern liberal view is for filthy lucre’s sake, of which Scripture warns us in Titus 1:11.
As further proof of their position to deny „absolute predestination” they site the Scripture found in Jeremiah 7:31, „And they have built the high places of Tophet, which is in the valley of the son of Hinnom, to burn their sons and their daughters in the fire; which I commanded them not, neither came it into my heart.” This is to prove that here was something that God had not predestinated, therefore not all things are predestinated. By the same verse we might well prove, by their interpretation, that God had no foreknowledge of this particular thing. Certainly this verse does not deny the doctrine of absolute predestination of all things, nor is it a denial of God’s foreknowledge. The fact is, this same thing is spoken of three times in the book of Jeremiah, in 7:31, 19:5, and 32:35. When God stated „neither came it into my mind” is He confessing ignorance? When God said to Israel, „You only have I known of all the families of the earth,”Amos 3:2; or „I never knew you,” Matthew 7:23; is God saying He only has partial knowledge? The God of heaven who has all knowledge of things possible and probable is not confessing that there was something that did not come into His mind!
Then what is Jeremiah saying? The offering of their children to pagan gods was a custom and tradition to man that had been so well established that it was NOW BEING COUNTED, by these Jews, that it was commanded by the God of heaven. How was it that they came to hold such false notions? „A wonderful and horrible thing is committed in the land; The prophets prophesy falsely, and the priests bear rule by their means; and my people love to have it so: and what will ye do in the end thereof?” (Jeremiah 5:30,31) Read also Jeremiah 2:8. It was at this time that God had warned Israel to „Stand ye in the ways, and see, and ask for the old paths, where is the good way, and walk therein, and ye shall find rest for your souls. But they said, We will not walk therein.”(Jeremiah 6:16) The Lord God of Israel made it plain that their offering up of their children, to pagan gods, was not His command, nor was it ever in His mind to command any such pagan rites, thus showing that no prophet could say he had a private revelation of God, since the Jews knew it was nowhere written by any of God’s true prophets. Thus in Jeremiah 7:1, 4, God warns Israel not to trust in lying words and in verses8-16, God makes it clear that they were trusting in lying words. It is also clear they were fulfilling God’s secret will, for John 12:37-41 tells us of the prophesies of Isaiah and how they were fulfilled.
It is such false teachers, as were among Israel of old, that cause God’s children to err. Traditions of men creep in and finally become so well established that, like Israel of old, tradition has as much authority as God’s written word. In their rebellion they were setting the stage for the coming of the Son of God. He came unto His own (people – Israel) and they did not receive Him. Do you suppose our Lord was surprised at this turn of events? I think not!
I think it is time to set the record straight as to who is guilty of preaching and practicing fatalism, which is the offspring of „dualism”. IF GOD IS NOT ABSOLUTE HE IS NOT GOD and does not deserve the honour and praise of men. However, the Scripture makes it clear that GOD IS GOD and „his kingdom is from generation to generation: And all the inhabitants of the earth are reputed as nothing: and he doeth according to his will in the army of heaven, and among the inhabitants of the earth: and none can stay his hand, or say unto him, What doest thou?” (Daniel. 4:34, 35)”Known unto God are all his works from the beginning of the world”(Acts 15:18).
It is charged by those who only vainly imagine that those who „believe and therefore speak” are fatalists, when the fact of the matter is that those who have been brought to believe in the „absolute predestination of God” are not fatalists at all. When closely examined just the reverse is true. Fatalism is dangerous doctrine and one who „contends for the faith, once delivered unto the saints” will certainly be contending against fatalism. Is it not blessed to know that our eternal salvation rests not in blind fate but in the hands of the Absolute Sovereign of the Universe? Would you not want that all important matter to rest there? Knowing what the Apostle Paul said in Romans 3:9-19, and knowing what our Lord stated, while here in public ministry, of that which proceeds from the heart of wicked men (Mark 7:21-23), since total inherited depravity is the present state of men? Dear reader are you not thankful to the God of all grace that salvation is not left up to fate? You, my dear reader, are either a fate-alist or you are one who believes in the hated teaching of the absolute predestination of all things.
We have tried to expose „fatalism” for what it truly is and show you some of the subtle ways it creeps in among God’s people. I thought you would like to know.