Does God predestine people for “bad”?

By Blogger Dr. Karin Heller

Hello Karin,

In our last session of class you mentioned the word “predestined.”  If people are not predestined and everyone has a chance to accept God into their lives, why does it seem as though some people are just destined for “bad”?  When a child is born does God know if they will or will not go to heaven or hell? Or will he only determine that at the final judgment?

I have a very close friend who has had a rough life, she has made some very bad decisions, and she believes that she is “doomed” to live a life of misery.  She believes her misery on earth will only end when she dies, she has contemplated suicide plenty of times but has never followed through with her plan.  I have talked her out of committing suicide three times.  At times I feel bad, I feel as though I simply talk her “into” living a life she does not want to live.

– Melinda

Dr. Karin Heller

Dear Melinda

You’ve already given an answer to your own question. As a Christian, you are called to do what Christ did, i.e. “talking people into living a life they did not want to live!” That’s what Christ did all the time! Most of them just wanted a better life or a new life here on earth, not THE LIFE Jesus is offering! And why was that so? Because one reaches THE LIFE Jesus is offering through HARDSHIPS in this world! In the case of people who do not want to live this life, the big question is always to know what they truly want. Some of them express in this way their need for help. Therefore, continue to hang in there. Perhaps your Christian vocation is not to give up on life in spite of darkness. God may simply ask you to be “light in the darkness”, like it or not. God never gives up and you should be in the image of God who never gives up on life, because God IS LIFE!

The biblical God, according to Catholic doctrine, does not issue a decree which states that this one goes to hell while that one goes to heaven. God created ALL MEN capable of living with God and sharing in HIS LIFE. He did not predestine some to go to hell and others to heaven. If some go to hell, it was their choice, not God’s choice! God does not force upon us either heaven or hell! Would heaven really be heaven, if it is forced upon us? There are parents who force upon their kids a Californian easy way of life style where kids have all that makes them happy and nevertheless, these kids are still longing for happiness! Happiness that is forced on us doesn’t work!

God wants ALL of us to become in his image and likeness by walking with him through thick and thin. Through this walk we have to figure out if we truly want to belong to God or not. Your friend has to figure this out, too! Does she want to walk with God in good times and in bad times or not? According to Christian belief death does not simply end all of our miseries. That’s what some people want to believe! And what if death is an even greater misery than this life here on earth? Death is not to say “it’s over!” As a Christian, you have to bear witness to this truth. Therefore, continue to talk her into life, which is a form of love! That’s the way God, too, loves … it is the only love that has the power to overcome death of ever. This love is the key to TRUE and EVERLASTING happiness. If one receives this kind of love on earth it will open for him/her a road to heaven, if one refuses it, he/she will walk on a road leading to hell.

– Karin

Dr. Karin Heller is a professor on the theology faculty at Whitworth University.Her blog, Table Talk with Dr. Karin Heller, features her responses to questions that students have asked her over the years.  Check back each week to see new posts, and if you have a question leave it in the comment section below.

2 responses to “Does God predestine people for “bad”?

  1. if god set out two paths (his or the devils) and knew which one you were going to take (because he is all knowing) he would rather be creating someone knowing they’ll be damned or creating someone knowing they will love him in the end, like a religious robot. So we’re rather destined to be damned or God’s robot. right?

  2. Hanane Neff-Loutf

    Hello Roo,
    Hopefully my reply can answer your question.

    “God’s Robots” are the angels. They do not have the free will or the choice to desobey God’s orders or His plan for them.

    Humans are blessed with a brain and an intelect to think and recognize their Lord. Humans are also given the free will/choice to make their decisions. The story of Adam, the first human, is the best example to understand the idea of free will. Adam could have listened to God by avoiding the fruit but he decided to disobey after being tempted, then he repented and freed himself of his sin.

    God creates us without sins, we are born free of sins and evil, it is the path that we decide to take that determines our relationship with God. It is by using our free will that we take control of our destiny.

    God showed us the way to go (prophets came with one message). He told us that to be rewarded in the hereafter we are to follow the straight path, and if we decide to go astray then hell is our destiny… This is justice.

    God knows the decisions we are going to make but it doesn’t mean He wants us to do evil. God wants us to be rewarded with Paradise otherwise He would not have sent prophets. His absolute knowledge does not affect our decisions.

    Imagine a doctor who kept telling few ill people that they need to take a certain medication in order to survive and if they don’t they will die, he reminded them over and over again. At a certain point those who listen to him and took their medication on time survived their illness and those who ignored him died… you see, the knowledge of this doctor did not affect their decisions!

    An other example can be a teacher who tells his students to study a certain subject to be able to answer the question of the exam… He knows that those who will study will succeed and those who will decide not to study will fail… Yet his knowledge does not affect their decisions.

    God says in the Quran (13:11) ” Indeed, Allah will not change the condition of a people until they change what is in themselves”

    So yes God is All-knowing. We should not blame God for our destiny (if it is bad) but we are to be blamed for not using our free will.

    Thank you,


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