Bishop's Encyclopedia of Religion, Society and Philosophy


The Concise Oxford Dictionary defines determinism as the “doctrine that human action is not free but determined by motives regarded as external forces acting on the will” (1). Or as philosopher Carl Hoefer explains, determinism is “the idea that every event is necessitated by antecedent events and conditions together with the laws of nature” (2). Determinism is a philosophical belief system, not a fact or scientifically viable theory or law. It also has its roots traceable to the ancient Greek philosopher Democritus who believed that causal deterministic laws control the motion of atoms, and that everything – including human minds – consists merely of atoms in a void (3).

Put more simply, determinism says that everything we do can be entirely accounted for by two determining factors: heredity and environment. Christian writer John Blanchard explains that “It is easy to see why materialism and determinism go together. If the universe came into…

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