No Christian Can Diss Predestination without Dissing Scripture

There is no question that there is predestination. The term is much-maligned, and unjustly so. If the Bible says it, it’s true.

Even Arminius, after all, believed in predestination, and it is no faithfulness to Scripture that decides to downplay the word and stress “foreknowledge” as if Paul of Tarsus himself always referred to foreknowledge and never to predestination. Whatever theological position you take, Ephesians says this:

Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in Christ with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places, even as he chose us in him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and blameless before him; who in love predestined us for adoption as sons through Jesus Christ, according to the purpose of his will, to the praise of his glorious grace, with which he has blessed us in the Beloved. (Eph. 1.3–6)

There is no way to get around the fact that Scripture declares the Father’s choosing and predestining us for adoption before the foundation of the world and according to the purpose of His will. By this token, to mock predestination in ignorance or in oversimplified knowledge by saying sarcastically that something was “predestined” is distinctly unhelpful and contributes only to disunity, not to truth – and we know, of course, that alienation has no place in the body of Christ (Eph. 2–4).

We need to recognize that the distinction in meaning, if not in action, between foreknowledge and predestination is precisely why the word predestination, so used in Scripture, must not be neglected. We need to challenge ourselves with difficult and unfamiliar interpretations of Scripture and be truly open to Scripture itself rather than our own theological experience. We need to reject the flippant tone of ridicule that different “camps” in God’s house – should such things exist if there is no heresy? – take toward each other’s positions.

In sum, we must be honest with ourselves. If you believe the Bible is absolutely true, you must believe in predestination: the question between Arminianism and the Calvinistic Canons of Dort is whether that predestination is unconditional or conditional, after the gift of prevenient grace, on the sinner’s completion of the faith needed for salvation. Mockery has no place among the saints.

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8 responses to “No Christian Can Diss Predestination without Dissing Scripture

  1. Wow, a post I could understand!! Haha. But maybe also because I agree with you and this is my area of interest. =P

    So what is the debate between conditional and unconditional?

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  2. Unconditional election is that God elects the saints on His prerogative alone to make them free, and no one who has been so freed will choose to reject faith in the gospel. In this way grace is also “irresistible”.

    Conditional election is that God elects the saints based purely on what He knows the sinner will choose when the prevenient grace of the Holy Spirit has been granted, which is to either take faith or reject faith. This is what’s meant by “resistible” grace: that those who receive grace towards salvation may reject faith.

    Part of the problem may be whether the choice is made on a tabula rasa or on a heart-mind that knows it has tasted freedom and will never go back. As a side note, if this logic is used, I think this is where perseverance of the saints seems to follow logically; the Bible also describes the sinner as a slave to sin and the Christian as a slave to Christ.

    If you’re wondering about total depravity, both Arminians and Calvinists believe in it, because only Pelagians and Semipelagians, who deny original sin, think God doesn’t have to work before anything can happen.

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  3. Wait, I still don’t get the conditional one. If people can accept or reject, and God only chooses the ones who will accept, then how would the reject people even have the opportunity to reject, because God chose not to choose them for them to be able to resist grace anyway?

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  4. So it’s like this: God knows who will respond to His gospel in faith, and it’s based on this knowledge that He chooses them to be saved, i.e., these are the people God chooses from the foundation of the world to call His church later on.

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  5. I was happy to read such a balanced approach to this topic. My family (father, really) ran into a lot of problems at our church because of differing opinions on this and related matters. In the end, I decided to take the following as my motto: In essentials, unity; in non-essentials, liberty; in all things, charity.

    This has helped me maintain the right attitude towards issues that have the potential to divide. There are so many things upon which we as Christians can agree and which we can use to encourage one another. That is what I want to focus on.

    Thanks for continuing to bring up thought-provoking subjects and for refusing to follow party lines.

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  6. I think I’d rather focus on what the Bible focuses on. In practice, the things upon which orthodox Christians agree overlap with this, thankfully, but I want to preserve the distinction.

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  7. I wasn’t implying that I want to focus on anything other than the Bible, of course. However, you have made rather a broad statement. Do you mean everything in the Bible or do you mean the main things the Bible seems to focus on? Some people would argue that eschatology is a main focus of the Bible and then they proceed to get hung up in dates and numbers and things that can really divide those who may not adhere to the same understanding of what will happen in the end times.

    I meant that I have chosen to avoid some topics with some people, knowing that they will only lead to strife or division. I would rather focus on the elements of God’s Word upon which we enjoy unity so that I can better encourage and have fellowship with those particular people.

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  8. Some division is necessary, if a teaching is so central and foundational that it cannot possibly be avoided in discussion of the basics of the faith. To deny the sufficiency of Christ’s atonement, for example, is heresy, one that Paul condemned in Galatians in the strongest terms.

    But how do we go about this whole thing? I believe it isn’t to assemble lists of times that certain topics are mentioned in the entire Bible to see what has the most weight. What seems more reasonable is to get acquainted with the central message and focus of every book in the Bible (Kings and Chronicles considered to be one book each). That’ll be what the Bible can be said to focus on.

    If that’s done right in dialogue with the rest of the body of Christ, the church, there should be no fear of potential division on affirming the essentials of every book, because that should be what unites us.

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