Predestination, a Horrible Decree or God's Omniscience?


     There is usually much mysticism experienced when man discusses the subject of predestination. There are admittedly many nuances and various types of predestination taught by man. To address every flavor of predestination advanced by the various religions would be beyond the space limitations of this material. Therefore, I shall focus on the core issues of predestination.

     Many have charged God with being a respecter of persons based on their understanding of predestination. However, the Bible plainly asserts and affirms God is no respecter of persons. "Then Peter opened his mouth, and said," we are told, "Of a truth I perceive that God is no respecter of persons" (Acts 10: 34, see also Rom. 2: 6-11, Eph. 6: 9, Col. 3: 25, Jas. 2: 1). Any doctrine, then, that places God in a position of being an arbitrary respecter of persons is patently false. Not only did Peter declare that God is no respecter of persons, but he proceeds to unmistakably show those whom God accepts. "But in every nation he that feareth him, and worketh righteousness, is accepted with him." Some confuse and equate Divine foreknowledge and foreordination:

     "(1) Calvin's definition. Reprobation was, for Calvin, involved in election, and Divine foreknowledge and foreordination were taken to be identical. Calvin's mode of defining predestination was as the eternal degree of God, by which He has decided with Himself what is to become of each and every individual. For all, he maintains, are not created in like condition; but eternal life is foreordained for some, eternal condemnation for others. Calvin confesses that this is a 'horrible decree…'" (The International Standard Bible Enclyclopaedia, vol. 4, pg. 2436).

     However, God can know a matter before hand without predetermining the matter to the point that the people (in this case) are excluded, as far as their will and participation are concerned (see more later). Some religionists, nonetheless, maintain such a radical view of predestination that in stressing the sovereignty of God, they have totally eliminated the will and role of man.

     Our English word "predestinate" is from the Greek proonzo. "Pro, beforehand," W.E. Vine comments, "and honzo, denotes to mark out beforehand..., foreordain...."  Indeed, predestination is a biblical subject: "For whom he did foreknow, he also did predestinate to be conformed to the image of his Son..." (Rom. 8: 29).  Again, "According as he hath chosen us in him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and without blame before him in love:  Having predestinated us unto the adoption of children by Jesus Christ to himself, according to the good pleasure of his will…" (Eph. 1: 4, 5).

     Predestination as taught in the Bible.  The scriptures teach the foreknowledge of God. God is able to "declare the end from the beginning, and from ancient times the things are not yet done..." (Isa. 46: 10). Since God's scheme of redemption was planned from the original creation, it is obvious that God knew Adam and Eve would sin, etc. (I Pet. 1: 20, Eph. 1: 4,5, cf. Matt. 25: 34, Rev. 13: 8, 17: 8). Even though God knew Adam and Eve would sin, he did not force or program them to sin. As free moral agents, Adam and Eve elected to commit sin (Gen. 3). Man's will is involved in his salvation, not God's irresistible coercion (Jn. 3: 16, Matt. 11: 28-30). Nonetheless, God knew some would accept before they accepted (Acts 18: 9-11). Hence, some were "ordained to eternal life" because God knew they would obey the gospel when they heard it (Acts 13: 48, cp. Rom. 10: 16).

     Predestination as taught by man.  "God hath decreed in himself from all eternity by the most wise and holy counsel of his own will freely and unchangeable, all things whatsoever come to pass," writes man (Philadelphia Confession of Faith, ch. 6, para. 2-4). Calvinism teaches that man is so depraved that he cannot accept God's grace without a special, irresistible working of the Holy Spirit, independent of man's will. It is often in this vein that man teaches that God decided who would be saved and who would be lost before creation and that this decree was arbitrary on God's part (not involving man). Hear John Calvin:

     "In conformity, therefore, to the clear doctrine of the Scripture, we assert, that by an eternal and immutable counsel, God has once for all determined, both whom he would admit to salvation, and whom he would condemn to destruction. We affirm that this counsel, as far as concerns the elect, is founded on his gratuitous mercy, totally irrespective of human merit; but that to those whom he devotes to condemnation, the gate of life is closed by a just and irreprehensible, but incomprehensible, judgment. In the elect, we consider calling as an evidence of election, and justification as another token of its manifestation, till they arrive in glory, which constitutes its completion. As God seals his elect by vocation and justification, so by excluding the reprobate from the knowledge of his name and the sanctification of his Spirit, he affords an indication of the judgement that awaits them." (Institutes of the Christian Religion, translated by John Allen.)

     There have been many religious discussions relative to the role of God and man in man's salvation. It seems man is determined to pervert God's simple plan for man's salvation in either teaching man earns his salvation (God's grace not needed) or in asserting salvation is all of God (man's obedience not involved). The scriptures consistently teach and exemplify both God and man's part in the salvation of man. Man must believe, repent, confess Christ's deity, and be baptized in order to be saved (click on "Salvation" to read more). Since man is not sinless, God provides the necessary grace whereby obedient man can be saved. However, God's grace is not "grace alone," as the Calvinists contends (see addendum).

     One early debate involving the matter of predestination was conducted between Augustine of Hippo and Pelagius. In fact, Augustine originally taught John Calvin's five-point system of predestination. Augustine taught that man has nothing to do with his own salvation. Man has inherited the totally depraved nature of Adam and Eve to the point they are spiritually incapable of availing themselves of God's grace, he further contended. As a result of the depraved Adamic nature being inherited, babies are born in sin and with a sinful nature. Augustine argued that the only way any are saved is by God intervening and choosing some whom he calls his elect to be saved. This choosing is totally arbitrary and independent of those chosen. Those thus chosen, cannot ever be lost or fall from grace. To the converse, those not arbitrarily chosen before the foundation of the world to everlasting life are irrevocably doomed to hell, having absolutely no hope of salvation, regardless of what they do or do not do. Such a doctrine as formulated by Augustine constitutes true "Calvinism" today.

     Pelagius, on the other hand, taught that each man is created free just as Adam was and that each man must choose whether he will serve God or the devil. All men, contended Pelagius, are not sinners because Adam sinned, but because each man himself has violated God's law. Pelagius argued that when God extended the plan of salvation, it is for all who will obey, not just a few whom God arbitrarily chose, totally independently of themselves. Each man may cooperate with God and be saved through his faith and obedience to God's will.

     It is tragic that most who "ruled" on the results of the debate at the ecumenical Council of Ephesus (AD 431), favored the views of Augustine. It is equally sad that many continue to embrace the godless doctrine of Augustine today under the name of Calvinism.

     God is a God of love and ultimate equity. God's grace that brings salvation is accessible to all (Tit. 2: 11-14). God's elect are those who appropriate God's grace in simple submission to his will. Election is begun, continued, and climaxed in man exercising his free moral agency and choosing to accept God's extension of his grace (I Pet. 1: 2; I Thes. 1: 4-8; 2 Pet. 1: 5-11).

     In closing, biblical predestination is proof of God's omniscience.  Furthermore, biblical prophecy is predicated on God's foreknowledge and predestination (a marking out beforehand). Moreover, the fact that God knew that only a few would accept his Son is also indicative of God's love in sending his Son. "The few" who will be saved are not a group whom God arbitrarily and totally without any participation on their part, choose to be saved, but those who "enter in at the strait gate" and follow "the narrow way" (Matt. 7: 13, 14). (To read related material, click on "No Respecter of Persons," "Joseph, a Study of God's Providence," and, "God's Eternal Plan of Salvation.")

     Addendum: The Christian stands in grace (1 Pet. 5: 12), grows in grace (2 Pet. 3: 18), and is to be strong in grace (2 Tim. 2: 1). Grace (charis) is God's favor. We are called by grace (Gal. 1: 15), justified by grace (Tit. 3: 7), and we are established by grace (Heb. 13: 9). The Bible also says we are saved by grace (Eph. 2: 5, 8).  However, are we saved by grace alone? Beloved, Paul said God's grace "brings salvation", but he also affirmed God's grace "hath appeared to all men" (Tit. 2: 11). God has certainly done his job in universally extending grace.  If it were just a matter of salvation by grace alone, all would be saved. However, only a few shall be saved (Matt. 7: 13-14).  Hence, there is more involved than grace alone! Man must appropriate God's grace.  It is true grace is a gift from God, man cannot earn it (cf. Rom. 11: 6, Eph. 2: 8-10).  Some confuse earning and accepting.   Man can and does receive God's grace in vain (2 Cor. 6: 1).   Christians can also "fall from grace" (Gal. 5:4).  In the wonderful text of Ephesians two, we have two elements, grace and faith, and two players, if you will: God and man. Paul wrote, "For by grace are ye saved through faith..." (vs. 8). Grace emanated from God, but faith is man's responsibility.  No, grace alone does not save. Man seems determined to attach "alone" to grace, belief, and baptism. Man has participation in his salvation - from the beginning (accepting grace) to the end (continuing in grace, Acts 13: 43). Grace reigns through righteousness, man's humble obedience (Rom. 5:21).

     As seen in the foregoing material, totally applied, Calvinistic Predestination denies events and circumstances happening simply because of the choices of man and natural events. To read more about causative circumstances and choices, click here. To read about the five point doctrinal system of Augustine and Calvin, click here