World Scripture, A Comparative Anthology Of Sacred Texts

Editor, Andrew Wilson



Doctrines of predestination provide one explanation for the fact that individuals are subject to variations in endowment, fortune, and circumstances that are beyond their control. According to this explanation, all such differences are attributed to the hand of God, who is omnipotent and controls all. There are degrees of predestination. Absolute predestination means that the individual's eternal destiny--heaven or hell--is predetermined before his birth. Milder forms of predetermination describe God as apportioning blessings and hardship as He wills, then permitting human beings limited freedom to make the best of their lot. Predestination is given particular emphasis in Islam, Christianity, Sikhism, and African traditional religions.

This section opens with passages on God's unconstrained freedom to grant mercy or impose hardship as He wills. Next we offer passages which describe human free action as constrained by God's irresistible decrees. Further passages describe how God's predestination is realized through easing and guiding people to perform the deeds which will lead them to their predetermined good or evil destiny. The concluding passages describe one event in human life which certain scriptures say is predestined: the time of one's death.

The order that God has arranged, mortal man cannot upset.

African Traditional Religions. Akan Proverb (Ghana)

I will be gracious to whom I will be gracious, and I will show mercy to whom I will show mercy.

Judaism and Christianity. Exodus 33.19

Akan Proverb: Cf. Nupe Proverb, p. 687. Exodus 33.19: Cf. James 4.13-16, p. 913; Abot 3.19, p. 687.

God makes the provision wide for whomever of his servants He will, and straitens it for whomever He will. Lo! God is Aware of all things.

Islam. Qur'an 29.62

The Lord is the Doer, cause of all: what avail man's designs? As is the Lord's will, so it happens. The Lord is Almighty, without impediment to His will. All that is done is by His pleasure: >From each He is far, to each close. All He considers, watches over, discriminates-- Himself He is sole and all.

Sikhism. Adi Granth, Gauri Sukhmani, M.5, p. 279

We know that in everything God works for good with those who love him, who are called according to his purpose. For those whom he foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, in order that he might be the first-born among many brethren. And those whom he predestined he also called; and those whom he called he also justified; and those whom he justified he also glorified.

Christianity. Bible, Romans 8.28-30

Neither utterance nor silence lies within man's power; Neither to ask nor to give. Neither life nor death depends on man's effort. Authority, wealth, or command--none of these come by man's own endeavor; Nor meditation, enlightenment, or cogitation. Neither by his effort nor praxis may man escape free of worldliness. God alone who has the power, exercises it. Says Nanak, All before Him are alike--none high or low.

Sikhism. Adi Granth, Japuji 33, M.1, p. 7

Nothing will happen to us except what God has decreed for us: He is our Protector.

Islam. Qur'an 9.51

No man bruises his finger here on earth unless it was so decreed against him in Heaven.

Judaism. Talmud, Hullin 7b

Qur'an 29.62: Cf. Qur'an 49.7, p. 752; 76.29-31, p. 687. Gauri Sukhmani, M.5: Cf. Asa-ki-Var, M.1, p. 688. Romans 8.28-30: Some interpret this passage to allow room for human free will; since it may be that not all among 'those whom he called' will be justified, should they not believe; and not all among 'those whom he justified' will be glorified, should they not continue to live a sanctifying life. Cf. 2 Peter 1.5-11. Qur'an 9.51: Cf. Qur'an 18.23-24, p. 913; Psalm 127.1-2, p. 774.

Where you fall, there your God pushed you down.

African Traditional Religions. Igbo Proverb (Nigeria)

God has both the yam and the knife; only those whom He gives a slice can eat!

African Traditional Religions. Igbo proverb (Nigeria)

The Lord's favors cannot be forced out of His hand: Some even while awake attain them not; On others he confers these, shaking them awake.

Sikhism. Adi Granth, Sri Raga Mahalla 4, M.1, p. 83

Whatever you do not wish to do because of your delusions, You will do even against your will, bound by your natural duty karma The Lord, Arjuna, is present inside all beings, Moving them like puppets by his magic power.

Hinduism. Bhagavad Gita 18.60-61

It may be that one of you will be performing the works of the people of Paradise, so that between him and Paradise there is the distance of only an arm's length, but then what is written for him overtakes him, and he begins to perform the works of the people of hell, into which he will go. Or maybe one of you will be performing the works of the people of hell, so that between him and hell there is the distance of only an arm's length, but then what is written for him will overtake him, and he will begin to perform the works of the people of Paradise, into which he will go.

Islam. Forty Hadith of an-Nawawi 4

I will harden Pharaoh's heart, and though I multiply my signs and wonders in the land of Egypt, Pharaoh will not listen to you.

Judaism and Christianity. Exodus 7.3-4

The Word has been realized against most of them, yet they do not believe. Surely We have put on their necks fetters up to the chin, so their heads are raised; and We have put up before them a barrier and behind them a barrier; and We have covered them, so they do not see. Alike it is to them whether you have warned them or you have not warned them: they do not believe.

Islam. Qur'an 36.7-10

Bhagavad Gita 18.60-61: This passage appears to bridge the topics of predestination and karma. The bondage to God's will is realized through karma, which is itself a manifestation of God's material aspect (prakriti).

Yeh-cheng Tzu saw Mencius. "I mentioned you to the prince," said he, "and he was to have come to see you. Amongst his favorites is one Tsang Ts'ang who dissuaded him. That is why he failed to come."

"When a man goes forward," said Mencius, "there is something which urges him on; when he halts, there is something which holds him back. It is not in his power either to go forward or to halt. It is due to Heaven that I failed to meet the Marquis of Lu. How can this fellow Tsang be responsible for my failure?"

Confucianism. Mencius I.B.16

Is there injustice on God's part? By no means! For He said to Moses, "I will have mercy on whom I have mercy, and I will have compassion on whom I have compassion." So it depends not upon man's will or exertion, but upon God's mercy. For the scripture says to Pharaoh, "I have raised you up [in hardness of heart] for the very purpose of showing my power [against] you, that my name may be proclaimed in all the earth." So then He has mercy upon whomever He wills, and He hardens the heart of whomever He wills.

You will say to me then, "Why does He still find fault? For who can resist His will?" But who are you, a man, to answer back to God? Will what is molded say to its molder, "Why have you made me thus?" Has the potter no right over the clay, to make out of the same lump one vessel for beauty and another for menial use? What if God, desiring to show His wrath and to make known His power, has endured with much patience the vessels of wrath made for destruction, in order to make known the riches of His glory for the vessels of mercy, which He has prepared beforehand for glory, even us whom He has called?

Christianity. Bible, Romans 9.14-24

`Ali said, "We were one day at a funeral in the Baqi` al-Gharqad, when the Prophet--upon whom be Allah's blessing and peace--came and sat, and we sat around him." He had with him a staff and he bowed his head and began to make marks with his staff on the ground. Then he said, "There is no one of you, no soul that has been born, but has his place in Paradise or in hell already decreed for him, or, to put it otherwise, his unhappy or his happy fate has been decreed for him." A man spoke up, "O Apostle of Allah, shall we not then just entrust ourselves to what is written for us, and renounce works of the Blessed, and he amongst us who belongs to the Damned will inevitably be led to the works of the Damned?" He answered, "As for those who are to be among the Blessed, the works of the Blessed will be made easy for them, and as for those [who will be among the] Damned, the works of the Damned will be made easy for them." Then he recited,

So as for him who gives and shows piety, And gives credence to what is best, We shall ease the way for him to that which is easy, But as for him who is miserly And takes pride in wealth, And treats what is best as false, For him We shall ease the way to that which is hard, Nor will his wealth avail him when he is perishing. It is Ours to give guidance, And to Us belong both the last and the first.

Islam. Hadith of Bukhari

Romans 9.14-24: The figure of the potter and clay is a frequent one in the Bible. In Jeremiah 18.3-11, p. 1082, it is used to illustrate quite a different lesson, that God is responsive to human action.

No man, though he had a hundred souls, can outlive the statute of the gods.

Hinduism. Rig Veda 10.33.9

For not of your will were you formed, and not of your own will were you born, and not of your will do you live, and not of your own will you die, and not of your will are you to give account and reckoning before the Supreme King of kings, the Holy One, Blessed be He.

Judaism. Mishnah, Abot 4.29

Like the waves in large rivers, that which has been done before cannot be turned back, and, like the tide of the sea, the approach of death is hard to stem. Bound by the fetters of the fruits of good and evil, like a cripple; without freedom, like a man in prison; beset by many fears, like one standing before the Judge of the dead; intoxicated by the wine of illusion, like one intoxicated by wine; rushing about, like one possessed of an evil spirit; bitten by the world, like one bitten by a great serpent; darkened by passion, like the night; illusory, like magic; false, like a dream; pithless, like the inside of a banana tree, changing its dress in a moment, like an actor; fair in appearance, like a painted wall--thus they call him.

Hinduism. Maitri Upanishad 4.2

Time is no one's friend and no one's enemy; when the effect of his acts in a former existence, by which his present existence is caused, has expired, he snatches a man away forcibly. A man will not die before his time has come, even though he has been pierced by a thousand shafts; he will not live after his time is out, even though he has only been touched by the point of a blade of grass. Neither drugs, nor magical formulas, nor burnt offerings, nor prayers will save a man who is in the bonds of death or old age. An impending evil cannot be averted even by a hundred precautions; what reason then for you to complain?

Hinduism. Institutes of Vishnu 20.43-46

Hadith of Bukhari: The recitation is from the Qur'an 92.5-13. Abot 4.29: For more of this passage, see p. 346. Maitri Upanishad 4.2: Cf. Lankavatara Sutra 24, p. 398; Svetasvatara Upanishad 1.6-8, p. 398.


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