I’ve been thinking about predestination a lot since hearing a sermon by Mark Driscoll of Mars Hill about predestination. It’s really a tough thing to wrap your mind around if you really think about it, like trying to imagine eternity. There are several views, I will summarize the main ones I’ve been thinking about here, and please, please correct me if I am wrong throughout any of this blog, I am simply putting my thoughts and frustrations out there.
- Calvinism is probably what comes to some people’s minds when you say predestination. The Calvinist view is that from the foundation of the world God chose those who would be saved, and Jesus’ death on the cross was only for those who God predestined. One of the concepts is God chooses us because we cannot choose God because of our sin nature passed down from Adam.
- Then there is the Arminian view, which basically says predestination means God looked through the corridor of time and saw who would accept Jesus as their savior, and Jesus’ death on the cross was for literally all people who would live on the earth, and we choose to accept or reject that.
- A new one I heard in the sermon I mentioned was a hybrid of Calvinism and Arminian, the position Mark Driscoll holds. It states God chose who would be saved from the foundation of the world, Jesus’ death was for the salvation of the chosen, but through Christianity (the chosen), the whole world would benefit in a temporal way (ie things Christianity has done; feeding starving children in Africa, some of the early education institutions, standing up for sanctity of life, etc…).
To be frank, I’m a little bothered by the Calvinist and hybrid view. Maybe it’s because I don’t fully understand, or because I’ve always been taught anybody can become a Christian, and that Jesus took the sin of the whole world to the cross, and we have free will. That is what the bible seems to say. Those are things I remember being taught from childhood. So I’ve been thinking about predestination for a couple days, and I’ve been really troubled at times.
The Calvinist view seems to take away free will. They say if you are predestined, you cannot resist God, you will be changed and you will be saved eventually. Likewise, if you are predestined you cannot lose/walk away from your salvation. So in theory, a Christian could not live an unrepentant life. Even if they didn’t want to repent they would have to repent of their sins, no way around it otherwise that would mean they are not predestined and no matter what they do they would be going to hell. What about Christians turned atheist? Not predestined, or won’t die an atheist, it’s just a phase? In theory, a predestined person could not die in an unrepentant state. Think going through teenage rebellious years, if you knew you were predestined, drugs, alcohol, fast cars, fast women, rock-n-roll, and you’re not going to die because you are unrepentant. I know, I know… a couple counter arguments 1) you can’t know if you are predestined 2) if God has changed your heart, you would want to live a repentant life.
I’ve heard one of the complaints with some groups of Calvinists is they don’t evangelize and don’t even try to live a sanctified, repentant life. Why would you if you have no responsibility in salvation. Calvinism says God has already taken care of it, we’ll find out what he decided when it’s all over. If you cannot resist salvation why evangelize? If you cannot resist salvation why live a repentant life? If you cannot resist salvation why seek God, he’s going to get you eventually if you are predestined. Can you have faith that you are predestined… doesn’t matter your faith won’t change anything. Otherwise do what makes you happy in this life because this is as good as it gets. There is no personal accountability for your sin, if you are predestined you will eventually repent before death, if you are not predestined,what does repentance matter you’re going to hell anyway.
Mean, Cruel, Unjust God?
This is probably my main beef; I read a lot of atheist writing, and I think double predestination Calvinism gives credence to some atheist thought. Atheists believe the God of the bible is mean, cruel, and unjust to create people who by his plan and design are destined for eternal torment. I think the Calvinist argument here would be; God actively elects those who will be saved, but passively foreordains those who are going to hell. Basically, He elects some for Heaven and the left overs go to hell. My question is, if before the foundation of the earth He has the power to choose some for salvation why not choose them all? The arminian argument in that situation is free will, but the Calvinist position believes if you are elect or predestined you can’t resist salvation, and you can’t choose salvation if you are foreordained for hell, no free will. If God is willing and has the power to circumvent free will for some, why not all? That’s like me knowing a building is going to burn down and only evacuating some when I am able to evacuate them all. Just because I was passive and didn’t tell some to evacuate does that get rid of my responsibility?
In saying all this I’m not trying to peg Calvinists as heretics or a cult. The debate is not about the role Jesus plays in salvation, the divinity of Christ, or God. The debate is about the innermost workings of salvation. Is Jesus the lifeguard that reaches His hand out and waits for you to reach up and grab on, or is He the lifeguard that dives in the pool and drags you to safety? We are all drowning, but I take issue with saying Jesus is going to dive in and drag a few to safety, rather than Jesus extending His hand to all and saying ‘You’re drowning, grab on’. I just don’t think that is what the bible teaches. Honestly, we will never know until the end.
So is Calvinist predestination the idea that God chose those who would be saved and set them on that course and as a result passively chooses who goes to hell, or the idea that God extended grace to those who would accept it by free will, and not extending it to those who would reject it by their free will?
I also understand that John Calvin was a great bible teacher and commentator, and that the Calvinism I most likely am speaking of in this blog is not the result of his direct teachings, but modifications of his teachings over many generations.
I figure I hold the Arminian position and I don’t see a lot of theological or philosophical problems with it, please bring them to my attention if you have some. I believe God sent Jesus to die for the sins of the world. You choose whether to accept that or not. Salvation is nothing you can do on your own, it comes by the grace of God, but you still have a choice. When the bible speaks of the elect, or salvation of the few, or Jesus dying for His people, I believe that is a reference to God’s foreknowledge and is speaking of the specific group that accepts him as savior, not an act of predestination.
Yet to all who did receive him, to those who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God – John 1:12