Faith and Fatalism

Another blast from the past. Some thoughts that I shared in January 2005 ...

My pastor recently mentioned fatalism in a Sunday morning message. It caused me to look the word up:
Fatalism: Acceptance of the belief that all events are predetermined and inevitable.
This definition really challenges me because it too closely tracks with something I have often called faith. In this definition my 'que sera, sera' attitude is revealed as a fatalistic view of life and my heart is laid bare having not really exercised faith in God but having given in to this dark thinking. One way that fatalism reveals itself in my heart is when I don't pray thinking that if God wants it to be He will make it happen and I really don't have a part.

I think that some of this thinking began 11 years ago when my first wife died. I prayed for her healing for four years and, in the end, she died - and ultimately my prayers were seemingly unanswered. This event brought a sickness into my heart ... part of me gave up the fight ... life became difficult and my prayer life became more about the sovereignty of God (my spin on fatalism) and the power of God. I found myself talking to God in terms where there was no risk.

In 1999 I was diagnosed with an arthritic condition that caused me to be somewhat disabled activity-wise ... my heart died a little more. A few years later my new wife was diagnosed with Multiple Sclerosis - my heart once again sank and this fatalistic 'Sovereignty of God' view gained more control of me.

So what exactly is the difference between true faith in God's sovereignty and a fatalistic view. I think that we can find the answer in the outcome of each. In essence faith causes us to press in, seek, and overcome - fatalism causes us to give up. Faith inspires hope in tomorrow while fatalism offers only fear. Faith affirms God's love for us ... fatalism embraces the worst of our fears.

Fatalism is very subtle because it can mask itself in very religious ways. We can mistake a sort of spiritual paralysis as "waiting on the Lord". We can be immobilized by fear and think that we are living in dependence on God ... all the while not taking risks ... not stepping out in faith ... thinking that God will move when even when our hearts are dark with fatalism. You know, when our faith is focused on the whole of God - His sovereignty, His Power and His Love - we can have a healthy faith. When we focus on one aspect of God, like His sovereignty, we develop an unhealthy faith. Our challenge today is to pray ... pray that our hearts would be free of fatalism and filled with faith.


  1. Thoughtful reading. I've been enjoying it. Thanks for your insights and thoughts.

  2. Lots of food for thought here!!! It really is a very find line between the two. Thanks for this post. I've been in both camps.

  3. I'm really sorry to hear about your wife's diagnosis.

    I hope it's ok, but I'm just going to pray in real simple, child-like way here: Jesus, I thank you that whenever you went into a town, the Bible says that they brought you all their sick and You healed them ALL. I pray that you would heal Bob's wife now as well. I pray that Your divine purposes of goodness would be realized in her life, and in the lives of her family. I thank you for the cross, and I apply what the cross has purchased for us to this situation. I thank you that you bore a thrashing for our healing. Your kingdom come here on earth in her body as it is in heaven. There is no MS in heaven. So, let that kingdom reality be realized here on earth. Amen.

  4. Amen to your prayer Sarah.. and thanks!

  5. Nice article it brought tears to my eyes. I attend a PCA after almost 20 years in abusive churches ( shepherding movement )I tend to lean towards fatalism towards marraige. I have never been married. My prayer life isn't that great. I don't know if I am really resting/trusting or if I just don't care or believe anymore. But I seem to be stuck.
    You gave me something to think about. Thankyou for writing about your experiences. I do have hope and joy in knowing though that this life isn't my home.

  6. Thanks for stopping by anon. Glad you got out of the shepherding movement.. a sad chapter in church history. You might enjoy reading about some of my fundamentalist journey here.

  7. Good questions that need to be said out loud. Many struggle with this. Thanks

  8. Kansas Bob-
    Fatalism is a topic that I feel touches all of us. For years, I belonged to a church that really practiced it. Its people were not sympathetic to each other, and all in all, it was a very cold environment as well as judgemental. Today- I am healing. I am learning and am happy. I have found some little bit of peace.
    My prayer life is changing- for now I am learning to really pray- to use the model that our Heavenly Father gave us- instead of reciting it like a robot daily. It now has meaning. From this- I feel a positivism developing- and a new life, that will eventually dawn on me. Being Baptised again is frightening to think of- but I know its right. It will be my choice to come to the Lord- and that is what its about.

    Well-again, I really enjoyed this article, and will come back and definitly read more.

    Its early morning where I live- almost two am. So- I muss hit the hay as they say.

    Johannes Chrysostomus Wolfgang

  9. Hi Bob,

    HERE is a different take on fatalism. Leave comments, if so inclined.


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