Writerly Thoughts on Predestination, Conflict, & Rescue


It’s an old debate: do humans have free will, or are “choices” predestined by God?

I have a friend who thinks the former while I lean more toward the latter (honestly, I most prefer to live in the gray area between the two), and we were talking briefly about this.  The Big Question, of course, is If there’s no free will, then why would God predestine the sinful fall of man?

My response was that I think that rescue and redemption are more valuable to God than there being no need for them, that somehow God gets more glory from saving a fallen world than from not needing to save a perfect one.

My friend didn’t buy it, didn’t think it made sense.


My writing critique group met recently, and it was a great evening.  We didn’t actually critique anything, only shared about our current projects (and a couple people shed some tears, it’s true).  One of my friends is writing a young adult novel for her MFA program, and the problem she keeps running into is that she loves her characters so much that she doesn’t want to hurt them.

“It’s what I always used to yell at you for, Jackie!” she said to me.  “And now I’m doing it myself!”

If you’re not a writer, you probably can’t understand, but trust me– it can be hard to create characters you adore and then force them through hell.

But we have to.


If there’s no conflict, it’s not a good story.


I started to think about that in terms of the story of the world.  God is the ultimate creator, the supreme artist, and the universe and its inhabitants are his masterpiece.

Is the same principle at work here?  Did God as an Artist determine that the great Story of the world would not be good without conflict?  Every good writer knows that a story needs a conflict and a climax.  Could that be the very simplest of explanations for the fall of man and the cross of Christ?  God was writing a story, and he wanted it to be great.

You’re welcome to chime in in the comments!


Image credit: fotomachine

6 thoughts on “Writerly Thoughts on Predestination, Conflict, & Rescue

  1. The problem with this metaphor, for me anyway, is that for all intents and purposes, the characters in your stories are not imbibed with souls (no offense to your writing skills). It’s one thing to say that an author can “force [their characters] through hell.” It’s another to say that a loving and caring God willfully chooses certain souls to save and therefore chooses other souls to condemn to damnation for eternity.

    That’s my 2 cents.

    • But, see, in my view, God doing so is the original and the human authors are the metaphor, not the other way around, though I didn’t state it so well. I wonder if we are mimicking something that God has already done.

  2. Interesting ideology Jackie! Made me think a bit… as a writer and a believer, I see both sides. I may have to think on this for awhile before I say anything else…
    I will say though, that as a Christian writer, I feel like the deeper the conflict my characters go through, the deeper the grace they can be shown and the more powerful the restoration is when it happens. I love this in my own stories, and those of others. I like reading books with real characters who face real world problems, maybe even extreme problems.

    I have always thought that we possess a free will, and God made us that way, but He also knew what choices we would make and in His wisdom orchestrated our lives accordingly. Because He is the beginning and the end and time is not linear for Him, he sees it all at once as one great package. Kind of like when you’ve already read a book. You know the beginning and the end and all the parts in between. Its at that point you truly know who the good guy is and who the bad guy is and how that plays together.

  3. As someone who has researched the conundrum of freewill and determinism, I would like to point out the wikipedia entry on free will is pretty good http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Free_will. Many Christian philosophers are libertarians such as Alvin Plantinga which came up with an answer to “the logical problem of evil” in his free will defense. His proof requires one to accept libertarianism which means that we have freewill and determinism is false. Needless to say, any argument for or against freewill will only be good as its premises. I’ve concluded that the question is worded incorrectly. The question is do we have choice? My answer is yes. Do we have free will? Probably not because I don’t know what is meant, by “free.” I think most would agree that some choices are more compelling than others and that while we may have many options I can’t “freely” impose my wishes on reality or others. There are things I can’t do even if I “chose” to do them (if that makes any sense) and likewise sometimes I have no choice in what I do in certain circumstances. My will is restricted, more or less so, at different times and places. Relating to writing, I find stories in which a big binary decision that must be faced with, very compelling. Usually the characters’ resolve matches the magnitude of the decision. An example of this would be in the movie Gravity in which Sandra Bullock’s character has to decide to nothing less than life or death (on several levels) and the hurdles and hoops she has to jump through to make it to a working pod and make it home/alive.

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