a question by a theist, for theists

I’m a theist who is very confused when it comes to destiny. I understand that every one of my actions is the fruit of my decision, but what made that decision was ultimately luck.

The question is nature vs. nurture, both being luck… It was luck which determined the circumstance which I have experienced and which distributed to me my genes.

Let me know if this has already been posted, even though id prefer if /i was given my own answer: but doesn’t that make going to heaven or hell a matter of luck. A matter of being born into the right shoes.

Thank you,

I am going to assume that you are a Christian theist. If so then it is not a matter of luck but a matter of Grace.

im not christian…
what now?

Hi old school I’m a hard atheist so you may not be into my input - but even in an atheist system most people (you’d hope) will try and justify themselves as morally “good”!

Most moral systems from Kantian to Christian (not counting Utilitarian’s) are predicated on free agents making good decisions - luck is not meant to enter into it.
But many will never face those choices and be counted as “good”

There’s a huge amount of stuff in recent moral philosophy on the area of moral luck - simply put luck plays an enormous amount in people’s lives - one can get away with having a fantastic life, been seen as a pillar of society and never have to lift a finger.
Or you can be tortured to within an inch of your life forced to betray your nearest and dearest and all your fundamental beliefs and be a pariah for the rest of your life.

Have a read of this!


well, if you affirm hard determinism or if you reject human free will, then this shouldnt be a problem for you. it would just mean that your ‘destiny’ is predetermined and fated in a necessary way.

if you reject hard determinism or if you affirm human free will, then you need to interject this freedom of choice into decision-making, and then the process becomes part “luck” (random/chaotic/unpredictable/unknowable), and part personal decision (free choice/self-determinism)…

unless here you are talking about the infinite regress of causes? this does seem to pose a problem for free will or personal volition, i agree. but im not sure if thats what youre talking about.

we actually do (assuming free will) have personal control over our genes. our habitual choices and actions can switch on or off certain genes; alcoholism is a good example. someone with the alcoholism gene might be able to drink very sparingly and have this gene remain “off”, but if he starts to binge-drink he risks most likely switching the gene on and becoming an alcoholic.

we also have control over our environment, obviously. yes, not our infant or early childhood environments, but we have control of our environments NOW, and we also have control over how we react to and interpret our past situations and experiences… yes, i know this is not a perfect sort of control, usually it is pretty limited, but nonetheless a space exists where volition or personal self-deterministic choice can exist, and intervene onto “destiny” and whether or not it is all “luck” for us.

assuming that we have self-determination to some degree and that we can make our own choices, destiny would become something that we have some control over… but, it also depends on how we define ‘destiny’. if you can be a bit clearer on exactly what you mean by destiny, and whether or not you believe in free will or self-determination/causality, it would help.

I assume by ‘luck’ you really mean, “Matters beyond your control.” I agree that your genes, your circumstances, and really the decisions you have to choose between are all a matter of ‘luck,’ but nevertheless you are your genes, your hormone levels, your brain chemistry, your life experiences, and your neurology. So it is you who decides what you do–even though who you are is largely out of your immediate control. This may not be the pretty picture that we usually make of free agency, but I’d still call it freedom.

As far as destiny goes, it does not matter. We do not, cannot, know our destiny; we cannot submit to it or fight it if we don’t know what it is (if it exists). What we can do is continue to act in the way we think we should and hope we’re a part of a good, grand plan for everything.

If you’re not a Christian then you’re in luck, and your question is unnecessary.
Your choices may ultimately be just a matter of luck, or call it God mysterious ways. Theism is compatible with uncertainty.

I believe in a just god though.

But what made the personal an alcoholic (what made the person switch that gene on or off) is luck.

To clarify: i believe i have control over my actions. though i define that “i” before believe, as luck.

Thanks crossie, i read some of it and am liking it!

Alun Aedicta i really like that answer, thank you. Thats an answer my body feels more inclined towards believing (hopefully thats good). haha

And omar, your an ass!! LOL!!

True. All beliefs are compatible with uncertainty though, Its all about coming closer and closer to truth.

My problem when I asked that question was I thought about it like an atheist. No offense, but I just learned alot. This site is amazing.

Perhaps its simply a matter of perspective

God has a plan for you and for everyone, even if you do not understand it…

Or, there are no plans, we are random chemical reactions…


If you have a problem in believing in a just god when our existence is unjust, then either
a) your belief in god is poorly founded
b) your understanding of “just” is at fault
c) the god you believe in is just, but powerless to affect existence

I think that covers the main points. It’s a problem only you can help yourself out of.


thats nice, but it doesnt address whether or not you believe in personal self-determination or free will.

not if you believe in personal choice or free will. if you know your family history includes alcoholism then you can make a personal volitional choice not to drink and thus not to turn on those genes. its an example of free will or choice overcoming or countermanding/preempting determinism.

so you seem to think that everything is random ‘luck’; this implies that we have no free choice. if we have no free choice, then the concept of a ‘just god’ is meaningless. there is no justice if everything is either A) fated, or B) random (arbitrary).

so what is this “i” then, if the “you” is just a product of random luck? how does that square with either destiny or a just god?

you need to define “luck”. are you talking about complete randomness, or just human uncertainty/inability to forsee the future? are you talking about indeterminism or a fundamental chaos behind all ‘order’? or are you talking about an infinitely regressive deterministic causality, of which we are but a small predestined part which is our “lucky” lot in life, that we cannot change in any way? what does “luck” mean to you?

One of the big points in that IEP article on Moral luck is that much more work needs to be done on the nature of luck itself and what it is and how its defined.

However in the article he goes on to talk about Nagel’s 4 types of moral luck with only cne causal luck being possibly bound up with free will and determinism:



Your actions and decisions are created out of the same thing…the whole context of your life. That is not luck. I don’t think that there is any luck involved here, unless you maybe want to call the right use of awareness luck . It is just an ongoing continuum.

Our destiny derives from the moment in which we have made a choice about something. There is nothing romantic about it. If we make a different choice a moment later, we’ve created a different destiny. Destiny is like a river that keeps flowing onward.

I don’t see it as luck but as a natural offshoot of what came before. But still, we have the power to be self-autonomous.

Heaven and hell is here in the moment…and not dependent on the shoes but rather in what direction you choose to go. More dependent on mind being in harmony with feet. :laughing: “Being born into the right shoes” can really only be seen in hindsight. It’s more a question of finding the right ‘size’ - that depends on awareness and action too. :laughing:

Nature is determined, but nurture is conditioned. A mix of causality and volition, in a sense. The former you don’t have much say in, so I wouldn’t call that a matter of luck – it just is. The inherent problem, as a theist, is that you may not picture causality as just a chain of events, so to speak, but also as being a product of God’s volition. So, essentially, if something “good” happens to you, you might think God was pleased with you or randomly smiled on you for some reason. If that is not your case, then try to think of it this way: The only things determined by you, even if in part, are your actual choices and actions. What occasions a choice is the ability to make one, which is caused.