A friend of mine has asked my opinion on the challenging theological question of the relationship of predestination and free will. That is, if everything is predestined it is predetermined, and if it is predetermined, then there is no such thing as freedom. On the other hand, if there is freedom in the sense of alternate possibilities, then there is things are not determined. The issue is complex and in my view there is no definitive solution. Here is my take on this issue. Rather than go through the whole thing, I will suggest some ideas I use to deal with the issue.
1. The Bible Affirms God's Knowledge of the Future and Thus, In One Sense, All is Predestined.
As I read the Scriptures, the Bible affirms that God knows all things, that is, he is omniscient. We see this at work in predictive prophecy, where Jesus for example, can know that Judas will betray him, and that Peter will deny him. There are also a range of OT prophesies which are fulfiled in the NT indicating God's knowledge over time. For example, Jesus' birthplace Bethlehem (Mic 5:2), that he would minister in Galilee and be called Might God among other things (Is 9:1-6). The predictions of the second coming of Christ are based on this.
To me, God's knowledge of the future indicates that, looking at the world from the perspective of God in his omniscience, all is set. This is scary to some, and seems to preclude freedom of any sort. This leads some Christians to take on the theology of hyper-Calvinism. This theology suggests that all is set, and that God has predetermined some for eternal life without any reference to their own volition.
2. The Bible Affirms Human Volition.
As I read the Scriptures, repeatedly we see evidence of people living out choices in their humanity and relationship with God. There is no evidence of robotic behaviour. People make choices. For example, Jonah is told by God to preach in Ninevah, but takes an alternative option, leading to God moving against him, and he ultimately relenting. We see people believing in God and falling away like Demas and Judas. The idea of salvation by faith presupposes human response to God. Some argue that faith is gift from God given to those God chooses. There are three texts that are misappropriated here. Eph 2:8-9 speaks of a gift from God and some believe the gift if faith. However, this is poor exegesis, as the gender of faith is feminine and 'this' is neuter, indicating that the gift is not the faith. The other two texts in 1 Cor 12:8 and Phil 1:29 can be explained without a harsh deterministic interpretation. For me, faith is the response of humanity to God. It is God-enabled, but not God-coerced. God calls us, enables us by his Spirit to respond, and we either do or don't. God's desire is the salvation of everyone (1 Tim 2:4-5; 2 Pet 3:9-10). We are saved by faith, this is not a work, but a willful acceptance of God's salvation. I like to call this human dimension of the puzzle, volition, rather than freedom. You see, 'freedom' is an illusion. No one is fully free but their choices are constrained by their own limits, understanding and context. Volition carries the same sense, that we can make choices.
This precludes for me the idea of a God who creates humankind without volition and chooses some and not others to spend eternity with. There is no apparent difference between a believer and an unbeliever in terms of volition. All are made in his image, he wants all to be saved. To argue harsh determination turns God into a cosmic monster, the antithesis of the God of the Scriptures. Neither does the argument of universalism stand. Universalism removes the problem of predestination and free will by arguing all are saved. The NT definitively states some will be saved, and others will not be.
3. These work together as a dialectic, in tension.
Putting these two together is a mystery in a sense. From our point of view it is impossible to satistactorally explain it. As I see it, we hold the two together in tension. This is a dialectic. I affirm both, and hold them together as truth, in tension.
As such, we can say that God has predetermined everything and within the framework of this, there is volition. God has allowed for this element within his knowledge. One way of thinking about it is a DVD of a movie. As we buy the DVD of our lives, the story is set and complete. However, within the framework of the life, there are millions of moments and choices. There is thus a blend of a complete story, and volition leading toward its outcome. This is an inadequate explanation, but I find it helps.
So, putting it together. I do not feel a need to resort to the Open Theists perspective or that of Arminianism to accept which seek creative explanations to the problem to ensure freedom is preserved. Rather, I would agree with compatibalism which agrees that determinism and volition are not incompatible. This is soft determinism.
Having said all this, I hold lightly to the way in which the two ideas can be reconciled. I affirm both and am happy to live with the tension of uncertainty concerning the how and the exact way in which the two work together. After all, I am not God, which is good news for the universe!
I know God is doing all he can to save all peoples. I know his because of the cross where Jesus voluntarily lived out his destiny and died for me on the cross. In so doing, he showed me the path of life. True freedom is to live out my humanity as I was created to do. It means me discovering the heart of God, seen on the cross, and give my life for his service. That is freedom, the freedom to love. Spirit, enable me to become that for which I was created, an image bearer living by faith springing forth into love.