|1||Does The Bible Teach Predestination?||Hans Ossa|
|3||Predestination||Reverend E H Kastelein|
DOES THE BIBLE TEACH PREDESTINATION?
(Investigator 12, 1990 May)
The word "Predestination" means different things to different people:
1. Predestination refers to God's foreknowledge – that He knows a thing before it happens or exists.
Omnipotent – almighty,
Omnipresent – present everywhere at once;
Omniscient – all knowing.
2. Predestination means that God has eternally chosen those whom he intends to save. This belief is not based on the Bible. God chose Samson before he was born. (Judges 13:5-7) Because of his own faults Samson later found an early death. God had, however, chosen Samson for specific tasks to be accomplished during his life. This choice of Samson to perform special tasks had nothing to do with Samson's ultimate rejection or salvation by God.
God also named other individuals, besides Samson, who would perform a special task including: Samuel the prophet and judge; Josiah King of Judah; Jeremiah the prophet; John the Baptist, forerunner of the Messiah; Jesus the Messiah and Son of God.
God also foretold events
regard to Esau and Jacob, King Solomon, Cyrus King of Persia, Pharaoh
Egypt, and Judas Iscariot. Such foreknowledge, of God was no guarantee
of the person gaining eternal salvation.
3. Another version of
Predestination is that
the salvation or damnation of each soul is determined by God before its
creation regardless of the person's faith, free decisions, love or
There are no Bible texts to prove this version of Predestination. Such
a doctrine would be inconsistent with fundamental teachings on grace,
and free will.
SOME BIBLE TEXTS
The substantive "predestination" does not appear in the Bible. Let us examine some Bible texts often brought forward when discussing predestination and foreknowledge.
The Greek "ek-legomai" means "make choice; to pick out; to select; choose (out); chosen."
God has chosen people whom He has set apart from the irreligious multitude as dear to Himself, and whom He has rendered, through faith in Christ, citizens in Christ's kingdom.
Romans 8:29, 30 "because
those whom he foreknew,
he also before marked out (or predetermined) to be copies of the
of his Son, for him to be a Firstborn among many brethren; and those
he before marked out (or predetermined), he also invited (or called)
whom he called, those he also justified…"
People are justified through the free gift of God's grace and are reconciled to Him through faith. (Romans 3:21-26) The Apostle Paul further explains:
"For we reckon that man is justified by faith apart from works of law…" (Romans 3:27-28) Through faith Christians will produce fruits of the spirit and of love. (1 Corinthians 6:9-11; Galatians 5:22-25 6:8)
1 Peter 1: 2 "chosen,
according to the foreknowledge
of God the Father…"
1 Peter 1: 20 "(Christ),
having been " foreknown,
indeed, before the foundation of the world…"
Ephesians 2:10 "for we are
his work, having
been formed in Christ Jesus for good works, for which God prepared us,
that we might walk in them."
The Greek word "pro-cheirizomai" means "to handle for oneself in advance, i.e., to purpose, choose, make."
INDIVIDUALS HAVE A CHOICE
The above listed Bible texts do not allow the interpretation that God predestinated every individual, before he even existed, to either salvation or damnation.
From the Bible texts we can however understand God's ability to foreknow and foreordain events.
As a God of wisdom, love, freedom and mercy, He has set moral standards for "man whom He created in His own image and after His likeness" and who is a free agent and accountable for his deeds. Man is no robot and is not saved or condemned before he was born. He has a free choice to serve and worship God and gain his blessing, or refuse to do so and harvest what he has sown. (Deuteronomy 30:19-20; Galatians 6:7-9)
Do individuals have a choice concerning their salvation? Yes! The idea that their fate is predetermined in past eternity for either eternal life or eternal punishment is not a Bible teaching. Using one's free will to serve and worship God, observe his commandments and follow in the footsteps of Christ is what is pleasant to God.
Christ's followers who became the "called ones" or "chosen ones" have to "make your calling and election sure." (2 Peter 1:10; 1 Corinthians 1:26-31; Hebrews 3:14)
The Bible does not state that Christians are now saved in a way that prevents them ever proving unfaithful because of God's foreknowledge. Jesus said: "But he who patiently endures to the end, will be saved." (Matthew 24:13)
The Apostle Paul declares,
Jesus said: "And I know
that His commands
mean eternal life." (John 12:50) And: "Eternal life is this: to know
the only true God and Jesus Christ whom you have sent." (John 17:3)
Berry, G R Interlinear
Greek English New
Thayer J If Thayer's Creek-English Lexicon of the New Testament
Quotations from The Jerusalem Bible and The Emphatic Diaglott by Benjamin Wilson.
Copyright (c) 1990
(Investigator 12, 1990 May)
FREE WILL DETERMINISM PREDESTINATION
Free will is the concept that humans choose and act according to the dictates of the will – limited only by ability, environment and sometimes coercion from others. Determinism is the concept that all things are caused. Indeterminism is the concept that some things have no cause.
A philosopher once said to me: "If all things are caused then we can't be free and if some things are uncaused then we aren't free either."
This philosophical argument that we lack freedom seems to agree with the doctrine of Predestination of the 16th century Protestant Reformers.
Martin Luther (1483-1546) wrote: "there can be no free will in man, or angel or in any creature." (Dillenberger 1963) John Calvin (1509-1564) wrote: "No one who wishes to be thought religious dares to deny predestination, by which God chooses some for the hope of eternal life, and condemns others to eternal death." (Bettenson 1967)
The topics I'll discuss
have been debated
in hundreds of books for thousands of years. My answers therefore will
not be final. This article is an inquiry into the mutual compatibility
of Free Will, Determinism, Indeterminism, Predestination, personal
and Foreknowledge and certain statements in the Bible. An inquiry into
compatibility need not say anything about whether God actually exists
whether the Bible is from Him. Those questions are not-addressed.
FREE WILL AND THEOLOGY
Chambers Dictionary defines Predestination: "God's decree fixing unalterably from all eternity whatever is to happen especially the eternal happiness or misery of men."
Funk & Wagnalls Dictionary says: "The foreordination of all things by God, including the salvation or damnation of men."
Calvin wrote: "By predestination we mean the eternal decree of God, by which he has decided in his own mind what he wishes to happen in the case of each individual. For all men are not created on an equal footing, but for some eternal life is pre-ordained, for others eternal damnation."
Included in this doctrine is that humans can't reach for salvation themselves because they are too lost in sin to take the initiative. Salvation comes by God's initiative and is an expression of his almighty power and sovereign purpose.
The Bible seemingly agrees: "[God] chose us…before the foundation of the world…" (Ephesians 1:4)
If Predestination is true we seem like puppets on strings with God controlling the strings. If Determinism is true then we're like robots following a program consisting of causes. If Indeterminism is true then some choices of conscious creatures are inexplicable like "bolts from the blue" unconnected to previous actions, intentions, learning, conditioning and character.
If humans are not free why
blame them for
bad actions or praise them for good ones? Shouldn't all praise and
go to the cause? Or to God? Or to a spontaneous non-cause? Yet the Law
punishes us for crimes! Even God – according to the Bible – will have
mercy unless we repent of the bad actions He (seemingly) predestined us
DETERMINISM VERSUS INDETERMINSIM
If every event is determined (caused) by previously existing conditions which are caused by still earlier conditions then free will seems impossible. After all, if all things are caused then so are human thoughts, actions, decisions and the brain events affecting these.
Many human actions can't be predicted by us because the factors involved and their interactions are too many to calculate. We can't calculate the motion of individual stones in a landslide but doubtless every movement of every stone and all the interactions are caused – as is the overall result of the landslide.
The Indeterminist agrees that most events have causes – movements of planets, reflex actions and everything that can be described by scientific laws. He adds, however, that causality does not always apply and that some actions of conscious intelligent humans therefore have no cause. Therefore in a choice between two actions the person might do either irrespective of previous beliefs, conditioning, etc. In that lies his freedom.
Causeless events would,
however, be as bad
for freedom as caused events! Suppose I do something not caused by my
habits, intentions, etc – not caused by anything that constitutes me as
a person. If that happened I would deny that I acted freely –
if the uncaused act turned out to be a crime!
FOREKNOWLEDGE IS NOT PREDESTINATION
If Determinism is the case then everything would be predictable, at least in theory. In practice much would remain unpredictable to humans due to lack of knowledge – just as we can't calculate and predict the motions of individual stones in a landslide! Someone who knows all the initial conditions could calculate all things in advance and the time of their occurrence. Foreknowledge (knowing in advance) would apparently agree with Determinism.
To know something in advance does not necessarily imply that the knower causes it or does it or makes it happen. By consulting my train schedule and by consulting all relevant persons about possible alterations to the schedule I will know when to meet the train. But that in no way means that I influence, effect, change or cause the movement of the train. Similarly if God knew in advance what people will do that would not necessarily mean that God made them do it.
Some theologians try to make Foreknowledge and Predestination mean the same thing and in that way try to solve how being Predestinated can leave us free.
Unfortunately the Bible distinguishes the two words: "those who he [God] foreknew he also predestined to be confirmed to the image of his son." (Romans 8:29)
Therefore the two are different and theologians who try to make them the same are wrong, Biblically speaking.
Furthermore, if all things are caused by previous conditions which are caused by still earlier conditions and so on back to when God started it all then the initial conditions that God set up long ago determine the end results.
In that sense God would
indeed make me do
what I do and he would know in advance as well! Then when I do what he
made me do, and if it's bad, he blames and punishes me! Holy horror!
John Hospers (1970) cites
two writers who
requires that a man
should be able to choose alternative actions, everything in the
prior to the act, including the self, being the same."
Desires, heredity and upbringing affect decisions. But these things too have causes if all things are caused! The total physiological state plus the total psychological state (including desiring, willing, hoping, etc) plus effects of surrounding circumstances is the cause of my latest action. But all this is caused by previous situations.
It seems then that any particular act and decision could not have been other than it was, given all the circumstances that led to it!
Therefore no real free will! Therefore no moral responsibility!
The science of physics
reveals that at the
sub atomic level certain events apparently do have no cause. Whether
events affect larger particles of matter which affect still larger
until our decisions are affected is not known. If this does happen it
mean that indeterminism applies at least sometimes – which as shown
would not be compatible with free will either.
MORE THAN A STONE
Despite seeming evidence to the contrary most people have a stubborn belief that they make free choices. This applies particularly when they face, genuine options, no-one compels them and they can meaningfully say: "I could have chosen differently."
Freedom is a concept applying to living, conscious organisms in situations of alternative choices. Stones don't have "freedom of choice". Perhaps then, when matter is so complexly organized as to be associated with consciousness there may be a third category of events – besides caused and uncaused – namely mind events.
Conscious humans reason, think, plan. love, hate, know, judge follow rules, choose, form habits, break habits, desire, compete, etc. If a human were part of a landslide he would desire to escape and even plan ahead to manoeuvre to grab an overhanging tree branch. Stones can't do that. If two stones fell side by side through unobstructed air both would hit the ground simultaneously their movement being according to causes and predictable from laws of physics. If, however, I played two games of chess simultaneously against one player and had the same position on both boards – giving two totally identical situations – would I make the same move on both boards? Try me!
interpretations and even
some desires can be changed instantly by choice whereas causes and laws
of nature cannot. The mind can therefore choose its own ends and that's
freedom! I won't try to define how the third category works. I merely
the third category because consciousness permits innumerable actions
of what science can predict and describe by laws of nature.
A BRIEF HISTORY
Boettner (1932) says of Predestination: "This cardinal truth of Christianity was first clearly seen by Augustine." (p. 365)
Augustine (354-430), the father of western theology claimed: "God's decision to save one person and condemn another…is totally arbitrary." (Bercot 1989)
From Augustine the doctrine passed to Luther, Calvin and the Protestant denominations.
Christians previous to
Augustine such as
Justin Martyr (110-165) taught differently: "Actually, if
were true, we could not say that some people are good and others are
Rather unavoidable destiny would be the cause of evil, not man."
1989 – Justin Martyr)
ARE WE PREDESTINATED?
The Bible says:
"He destined us in love to be his sons"
"We have been destined and appointed"
"For those whom he foreknew he also predestined"
"And those whom he predestined he also called"
(Ephesians 1:5, 11; Romans 8:29, 30)
I argued above that foreknowledge by a second party of what others will do does not necessarily effect their freedom. But Romans 8:29 distinguishes "foreknew" and "Predestined". Foreknowledge and Predestination are different!
Does this mean that God knew all individual identities before they existed and arbitrarily decided their destiny irrespective of their merit and choices?
An alternative explanation is that "us" and "those" refer not to definite individual identities but to Christians as a group – to collective identity. That would mean that God decided to create Christianity but did not decide who would or would not enter in.
If humans, after informing themselves, choose salvation would that be counter to God's sovereignty and almighty power? Not if God delegates the authority [to us] to have some choice in the matter. Authority delegated is not power lost if He who delegates sets all the conditions. God, according to the Bible, also does important preliminary things. He created a means of salvation, ways to find out about it, and procedures for accepting or rejecting it. Without such preliminaries a free choice to be saved would be meaningless!
The above interpretation
of "collective identity"
is challenged by Acts 13:48 where the grammar seems to allow only for
"And when the Gentiles heard…as many as were ordained to eternal life
HE FASHIONS THE HEARTS
Another pro-Predestination point is that the Bible says that God "hardens" and "fashions" the "hearts" and "made evil" and even "deceived".
"He has mercy upon
whomever he wills and
he hardens the heart of whomever he wills." (Romans 9:18)
See also Deuteronomy 2:30; Exodus 9:16; Psalm 33:15; 37:23; 139:16; Proverbs 16:4; 21:1; 22:2 29:13; Lamentations 3:3738; Ezekiel 14:9; Acts 16:4; Romans 9:14-24.
Yet God calls on people to choose! (Exodus 19:5-8; Deuteronomy 30:19-20; Joshua 24:14-15; Isaiah 1:18-31; Acts 3:19)
An answer to this seeming discrepancy is to distinguish three sorts of responsibility.
There is the
responsibility of performing
an act, good or bad, of being the agent of the action. (For example the
thief who stole my car.)
There is also the responsibility of the person who performs preliminaries necessary to the act occurring. (If I hadn't unlocked my garage my car would not have been stolen.)
Thirdly, there is the responsibility of someone who observes or knows but doesn't intervene although having the power to do so. (My neighbour who saw but didn't get involved.)
If Bible references to God "doing evil" refer to type 2 and 3 then that leaves humans free and responsible (type 1) as the agents of what they choose to do!
Origen (185-255) compared God's influence on humans to rain that produces either fruit or thorns depending on the soil, and to the sun which softens one substance (wax) while hardening another (mud). (Bercot 1989) Whether we become fruit or thorns, soft or hard, is up to us.
Humans often lack the
self-control to perform
the good conduct they intend. (Romans 7:15) This reduces freedom but
not undo a decision for God and for salvation since God both forgives
we want) and makes up for our deficiency.
Neither caused nor uncaused events fully regulate human behavior, nor do combinations of both, when we are conscious. Humans have real freedom to choose, not in everything but in many things.
The Bible reveals God as wanting salvation for everyone but of nevertheless permitting them the choice. They are free agents of their decision and the responsibility (type 1) is theirs.
The Bible is consistent with this conclusion in that it apparently does not teach Predestination.
Luther claimed that to
reject the doctrine
of Predestination is to be predestined to damnation. (Dillenberger
if Luther is right then I hope I've been predestined to change my mind.
Bercot, D W 1989 We Don't
Speak Great Things – We Live Them! Scroll Publishing, USA
Bercot, D W 1969 Will the Real Heretics Please Stand up, Scroll, Publishing, USA, pp. 76-83, 151-152
Bettenson, H (Ed) 1967 Documents of the Christian Church, 2nd edition, Oxford Press, Britain, pp. 213-214
The Bible, Revised Standard Version, 1952
Boettner, L 1932 The Reformed Doctrine of Predestination, 1979 printing by The Presbyterian and Reformed Publishing Company, USA
Dillenberger, J 1963 Martin Luther Selections from his Writings edited, Anchor Books, USA pp. 203, 184-185
Hook, S (Ed) 1961 Determinism and Freedom, Collier USA
Leiser, B M 1973 Liberty, Justice and Morals, MacMillan, USA
Rowe, W I and Wainwright W J 1973 Philosophy of Religion, Harcourt Brace Jovanovich, USA
Sinclair, B et al (Eds) 1988 New Dictionary of Theology, Inter-Varsity, England
Vesey, G. 1974 Philosophy in the Open, Open University Press, Britain
Rev. E. H. Kastelein
Tea Tree Gully, SA
(Investigator 13, 1990 July)
I am a Christian of Calvinistic persuasion and hold to the biblical truth of predestination whereby God brings to pass what he destined before the foundation of the world.
The article Does The Bible Teach Predestination is clearly against that. (Investigator 12) I appreciate, however, this non-condemnatory style.
Calvinists hold that salvation is through "the blood of the lamb of God" and must be personally appropriated by the sinner. Through faith and repentance we become children of God through Christ.
Calvinists regard the moving cause of our salvation to be the grace of God from all eternity to his elect whereas you would have to regard the moving cause to be man's free will.
A Calvinist sees the power of God as so absolute that without violating any man's free will God is able to renew a man's will so that he is able to seize hold of Christ and the salvation offered.