Predestination 2…I need some ibuprofen after this.
Predestinational Theories and Theologies
Predestination has for a very long time been debated in the church. The Bible clearly states that God is the Sovereign Lord over the universe (Isaiah 40:21-23). However, the Bible also shows us that mankind has freedom (Joshua 24:15, Isaiah 7:16, Revelation 22:17).
There seem to be three major schools of thought on predestination: Universalism, Double Predestination, and Pelagianism. I’d like to look at each of these theories a little closer and then study Scripture to form my view.
Universalism’s basic premise is that God desires everyone to have salvation and, therefore, has left no one out. This view holds the complete sovereignty of God in that we as humans do not have a choice to be saved or not. But what makes this theory interesting is that it focuses on God’s complete love for His human race. Universalism is out of step with Scripture. Although God is a God of love, He strongly desires a relationship that goes both ways, where we make the choice to love Him back. The Bible is clear in saying that not everyone will be saved (Matthew 7:13-14, 25:31-46, and 2 Thessalonians 1:6-12).
On the opposite end of the spectrum is a theory that holds God’s justice higher than His love. This view is known as Double Predestination. This view states that God knew before time began which people would go to heaven and which would go to hell. What makes this “double” predestination is that it works both positively (for those going to heaven) and negatively (for those going to hell). Where this theory goes wrong is clearly brought up in both Ephesians 1:3-11 and 2 Peter 3:9. In both those scriptures, God desires the salvation of every human being.
Finally, there are two differing views on what is called Pelagianism. There is Pure Pelagianism and Semi-Pelagianism. Pelagius was a 4th century British monk. In both of his views, the free will of humanity is expressed even more so than the grace and mercy of God. In the “pure” form of Pelagianism, God has given us His commands and rules to follow. If we choose to follow those rules to perfection, then God saves us. A problem with Pure Pelagianism is that it focuses strictly on a works-based salvation, which we as Christians know as false. We are saved only through faith in Jesus Christ our Lord. In Semi-Pelagianism, the view is that salvation is there for us, but we simply must accept that gift.
Although these philosophies of men are partially rooted in Biblical theology, it is important to view the total Scripture to find out what is really said about predestination. But when doing this, we can’t just look at one or two attributes of God’s character. That would give us a very skewed view of just who God is. That point alone is why many people see God as malicious or mean. We need to look at the entire character of God in order to truly understand what predestination is. Our God is a God of love, mercy, and grace but also justice and holiness. Exodus 34:6-7 is a great example of this.
Next, our own humanity must be factored in as well. Romans 3:23 states that ALL have fallen short of the glory of God. We need to be held accountable for our actions (Romans 1:18-20). Next, Christ calls us to “come” to Him in Matthew 11:28-30 and Revelation 22:17. This alone tells me that there is a freedom on my part to choose whether or not I will go to Him.
I don’t know if I am fully answering the question when I put it this way, but any type of theory in predestination needs to have both the human choice and God’s sovereignty factored in to it. We need to make sure that neither of those is exalted above the other.
It is very important that we as the church get the concept of predestination right, however. When someone talks about someone else’s destiny, and especially their eternal destiny, you better believe there are going to be some upset folks when they are told that they will be not joining us in the comfort and joy of heaven. This is an emotional super-volcano waiting to erupt.
Every single Christian denomination has a policy on how it views predestination. Whether we look at the Articles of Religion in 1571 from the Church of England or The Westminster Confession of Faith from 1643-1646 for the Presbyterians to the Baptist Confession of Faith from 1689 we see one thing is for certain, the church takes this topic very seriously.
Therefore all of the above views of predestination are faulty in the eyes of Scripture. For example, in Psalm 139:4, we see that God knew everything before there was even anything. God does not need to learn. He does not need to grow. He does not need to evolve. God planned all of history with its purpose and events.
Think of it this way, with a single thought, God thought all of history.
Woah! Fred, this sounds like some climb a mountain, sit cross-legged, and ponder upon the universe type stuff here.
God doesn’t think like we do. We think in very relativistic terms. We see a situation and immediately start thinking what our response to the situation is going to be before we make a decision. God thinks a single thought and history is created.
All of history flows from the mind of God, not the other way around. God does not react to history. He knows history because it came from His own mind. This puts a whole new spin on the phrase “History is really His story.”
Ephesians 1:11 is another very powerful scripture. In this verse, we find that predestination follows “His purpose.” God’s purpose to bring forth history comes from His purpose. He knows all things…not some….not most…ALL. God is the cause. This means that God knows all holy AND all sinful acts that will take place throughout history.
This means that God eternally knows some, but not all people. Those whom He does not know eternally are seen as the non-elect, those who He knows will reject Christ, and thus, reject grace and mercy.
But Fred, that sounds harsh. God is a God of love.
Yes He is. And He is also a God of justice. Both need to be active in our view of predestination. Romans 9:21-23 in the NLT is amazingly clear in this view of predestination:
“When a potter makes jars out of clay, doesn’t he have a right to use the same lump of clay to make one jar for decoration and another to throw garbage into? God has every right to exercise his judgment and his power, but he also has the right to be very patient with those who are the objects of his judgment and are fit only for destruction. He also has the right to pour out the riches of his glory upon those he prepared to be the objects of his mercy.”
So in this we see God’s elect, the objects of His mercy, are also known as His children. We see this in various Biblical characters and various scriptures (Romans 9:13, Jeremiah 1:5, Galatians 1:15).
But, this means that there is a group of non-elect. These are the objects of His judgment. People whom He has not eternally known are those whom He has allowed to have their own will. When one becomes a Christian, we surrender our will to His. God does not predestinate hell on someone. He does not make them perform evil actions. People choose evil by living in their own sinful lives.
The elect receive God’s grace and mercy. Election is only for the righteous. God does not elect someone to eternal damnation. Those whom God does not know live out their lives following their own will. We as humans do not know those who are the elect until they profess belief in Christ. Only believers are the elect.
I pray this makes you uncomfortable. I pray this has you thinking of your eternal destiny. I pray that you begin looking at your own relationship with Christ and whether or not you really KNOW Him. Please search your hearts. Search your souls. John 3:16 is still alive and well today!! Trust Him alone! Give Him complete control of your life. Repent of your sins and turn to Christ.
Next, do a gut check. Are you living in a sinful state that you simply refuse to repent of? It may mean that you are not of the chosen, not a child of God, not of the elect. 1 John 3:9 tells us that those who are children of God will not continue to live in their sin. Follow the conviction and guidance of the Holy Spirit.
I understand this was not an easy topic. I understand that you are probably questioning what you may believe. It is my hope that if you didn’t know Christ before reading this, that you choose to give your life over to Him today. And if you have been living in perpetual sin that you choose to repent of it and give your life captured to God.
This life is short. A mere 70 +/- years. Eternity is, well, eternity. And you can choose heaven or you can choose hell. But I pray that all my readers, all my friends, all my brothers and sisters in Christ will meet up in heaven to worship the One true Savior, Jesus Christ, on that final day.