Predestination

Someone once asked me what I thought about predestination and if I knew of any good e-sources regarding the subject. Here’s my short answer.

This is an issue that has unfortunately divided Christianity from at least as far back as the 4th century. I doubt if we will ever resolve the issue in our lifetime. I know that there has been great Christians on both sides of the issue. A striking example is the ministries of John and Charles Wesley and George Whitfield. The Wesleys were not Calvinistic. Whitefield was. Yet, together God used them to change the course of Christian history and bring great revival to England and America. They worked closely together. A century later, the Calvinistic Charles Spurgeon stated that he thought if God was going to add two additional people to the list of apostles, one of them would have been John Wesley. There is no reason for the issue to be so divisive.

I introduce the subject with these words because my experience has been that the issue is divisive. Yet, it does not have to be. I attend a church where the leadership is split on the issue, and yet for the 14 years I have been there, the issue has not been a major matter. Both sides believe that Christians should live holy lives, and that is what God stresses.

But you asked for my view and for some good e-sources. I do not know of any good e-sources. Of course, being consistent with my view, I believe that the best source of information on the subject is the Bible itself. God has given each Christian the Holy Spirit to guide the believer into truth. Prayer and study, along with doing His will, is what delights Him.

The Bible, when read in the context of the passage and the context of the entire Scriptures reveals a God who wants all to be saved, so much so that He gave His life to save not just the elect, but the whole world. (John 1:29; 3:16; 1 Tim. 4:10; 1 John 2:2. He desires all to be saved and has no pleasure in the death of the wicked. (Ezek. 18:23, 32; 33:11; 1 Tim. 2:4; 2 Pet. 3:9) I conclude that when Christ died, he freed mankind from the power of Satan (John 12:31-32; Col. 2:14-15; Heb. 2:14-15) and now offers the hope of eternal life to all through the gospel. (See Romans 1:16; 10:14-17; 1 Cor. 15:1-2; Eph. 1:13; 2 Thess. 2:13-14) Based upon these and other Scriptures, I believe the method God has chosen to call people to Himself is the proclamation of the gospel. All who hear the gospel have a genuine chance to believe, and their refusal to believe is not because God did not do what was in His power to bring them to Himself, but because they chose to resist Him. I believe that God, in creating us in His image, gave us sovereignty over such matters in our lives. We have a real choice to believe or to not believe. It is not a choice programmed in us by our Maker. He is great enough to create us to be moral agents, not preprogrammed robots. I believe the answer to the bondage of the will described in Romans 3 is the coming of Christ also described in Romans 3. I believe that His death was sufficient to break the bondage of the will so that we, upon hearing the gospel, have the power to believe.

Having said this, I will give you my view of predestination in a nutshell. The Greek word which we translate “predestination” is only found only six times in Scripture (Acts 4:28; Rom. 8:29, 30; 1 Cor. 2:7, and Eph. 1:5, 11). Only the Romans and Ephesians passages use the term in the context of the Christian life. In Romans, certain people are predestined to be conformed to the image of Christ. In Ephesians, certain people are predestined to adoption as sons and are predestined to be to the praise of His glory. The question raised by these passages is whether the predestination is for salvation or for sanctification. I believe that the passages are saying that those who believe in Christ have a sure destiny that has already been ordained. I do not read the passages as saying that certain unbelievers have a pre-ordained destiny to be saved. Thus, all believers will be conformed to the image of Christ. All believers will receive the adoption of sons (which Paul has explained already for us in Romans 8 to be the fullness of our inheritance). I believe that all believers will be to the praise of of His glory. A. W. Tozer, in his book “The Knowledge of the Holy,” likens predestination to two great ships leaving New York harbor. Each ship has a predeterimined destiny. Each is going to a different port. We cannot change that destiny. But we can decide which ship we want to board. I agree with his view. I think the Bible always puts the responsibility for our choice on us, not on God. This can only occur with a just God if the choice is real and not illusionary. As Abraham so pointedly said, shall not the God of all the earth do justice? We have a right to expect God not to be unjust. And we do not need to redefine justice to make God appear to be just. He is just in the ways we would expect Him to be, and beyond.

Anyway, that is my short answer to your question. I hope it helps guide you to searching out Scripture. My encouragement is to get to know the God of the Old Testament because He will be the same when you begin to interpret the New Testament passages on the subject. He has not suddenly become more callused toward humanity with the coming of Christ. He still has compassion on the wicked, even as He did with Ninevah during the days of Jonah. If people will repent, He will still relent from the judgment He has pronouced on them.

I do not hold my position as a way to debate those who may believe otherwise. I do not wish to enter such debates. I find them generally unprofitable. I further find that they tend to divide and not bind. If someone believes otherwise, I will do what I can to retain fellowship with him/her. It is sometimes work to keep unity in the diversity of the body, but it is the work of God.

May the Lord Jesus continue to guide you in the search for truth and in the practice of His Word. Again, I encourage you not to let this matter consume you. Again, it was Tozer who gave this advice to a young person who was entering Seminary. Tozer told him that he would find young seminarians gathered in rooms debating the great issues of Calvinism versus Arminianism. Tozer warned the man not to engage in such debates. Rather, Tozer told the man to go to his room and pray. Tozer then said, at the end of the three years of Seminary, the same people will still be debating Calvinism versus Arminianism, but the young man would know God. I think that is good advice. Seek God as revealed in the person of Jesus, and seek to be His follower and you will please both God and men.

May the Lord Jesus bless you.

tim

7 thoughts on “Predestination

  1. jerry Blackwelder

    I was a product of the Jesus movement of the 60-70s and had no church background or a knowledge of church history. So the debate for me was always on what the bible said. I found the bible taught both freewill and election. As to your point on free will I totally agree. I also believe Romans 3: when it says there are none that seek God. There is much more to both points. It’s all clear as day to God and that’s all that matters to me. That free’s me to pray as I was commanded believing I have a real part in Gods plan.
    Thanks for listening

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  2. Mark Eberhard

    Tim:

    I enjoyed your post above. I am in the Reformed camp and highly recommend Dr. R.C. Sproul on this subject of Predestination because of his superb ability to take complex and often controversial subjects and present them in a very palatable and understandable light. Dr. Sproul himself notes that he wrestled greatly with the Doctrine of Predestination when he was in college and seminary. Instead of me trying to explain his already clear presentation, I would recommend his book Chosen By God (Tyndale, 1986). Chaps 2 & 3 elaborate specifically on what you discuss above. I would also recommend Ligonier Ministries website with the Predestination search (www.ligonier.org/search/?q=predestination). Lastly, Dr. Sproul tells a great story about his seminary student days. He notes that one of his professors told him that he was to learn about what the Bible says not what he wanted it to say. In summary, we are not required to like what the Bible says but we are to be obedient to it!

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    1. truthsaves Post author

      Thanks for the comment. How God works His sovereignty out in this world has been an issue in the church at least since the days of Irenaeus’ battle with the Gnostics in the 2nd century. Both Irenaeus and before him Justin Martyr argued strongly from Scripture for the “free will” of humanity. Of course, “free” must be understood within the contexts of their arguments. With Augustine, there was a shift away from the choice of man and a building focus on the work of God in salvation of individuals. This debate continues in the church today and I know of no one who is wise enough to bridge the gap between the two viewpoints. I do not want to cede the many passages of Scripture calling upon men to make a choice, to believe, to repent, to turn to God; nor do I want to cede the passages of God’s election. As you may know be reading our articles, I do not think that Dr. Sproul has found the right balance between these two Biblical truths, but then again I am not sure who has. I do not claim to understand the interplay fully. I seek only to let each text speak in its own context to the issues God wishes to convey in that text. And I am thankful that God is willing to use imperfect people with imperfect theology to accomplish His work on this earth.

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  3. Barbbfly

    yes i am in a ”reformed ” church that says its not calvinist and i am more believing in free will and that we aren’t totally depraved befor Jesus but i was so happy before i met the debating calvinists! happy in my relationship with a loving God with us enjoying each other. me his child and he my savior and friend! calvin’s God scares me and i now have trouble even hearing my God and i think he is mad at my sin now and i have trouble seeing his love for me. basocally the calvinists ruined my relationship with my God the Father! like tozer said i am perpetually stuck in a debate of arminianism vs calvinism and loosing my loving God that i really knew! my church likes tullian and keller the gospel coalition , ugh. i found your site wondering if tozer was a calvinist cuz i really liked what he said about sermon of the HOLY SPIRIT! he’s friendly and loves us.

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    1. truthsaves Post author

      I am sorry that you have had an experience that has drawn your heart away from loving God. I know that such is not the desire of many Calvinists. But we should never blame others for our relationship with God. That is a personal matter between us and God. No one can take that relationship away or give it to us. And no one in heaven will even care about such theological debates. What draws our relationship away from our God is when we begin to focus on something other than on the person of Jesus Christ. He is everything to us. He loves us more deeply than we can ever know. He calls us His brothers and sisters. He desires greatly that we would be with Him. He is overjoyed when we repent of sin and turn to Him. He delights in those who hope in His mercy. We need to draw close to Him and He will draw close to us. Scripture calls us to read and live out the Word. We do not need to know all of the mysteries of God. We do not need to be intellectuals to please God. We do not need to be like the Pharisees that sought to understand everything to the gnat’s eyebrow but forget the weightier matters of God’s word. Rather, in humility we want hearts that love God and love others. If we keep the main things the main things, we will live lives that pleasing to our Savior.

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  4. john lieggi

    R. C. Sproul will admit himself that he is “fallible” in understanding Gods ways, and finds them “excruciating” at times. The book, “Chosen but Free,” by Norman Geisler, is the best i have read on the topic of predestination. ( Jude 21) Both of these men are gifted, respectable and humble lovers of God.

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  5. Regina

    I loved this article and found the comments below it to be interesting. I also back away from arguing the points and appreciate the advice given about praying to God instead. I do believe it is important to understand the character of God for oneself and in that way we are more likely to reflect who He is. One of my favorite sayings is: You will never be more like God than when you show mercy nor more like Jesus than when you show forgiveness. I want to be that kind of person.

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