Do I Believe In Predestination?
I wrote this document VERY QUICKLY
as a response to an inquiry by the pastor at a church that I am
currently serving at. It was a response to their question
as to whether I believe in predestination. While I don't
believe myself to be a Calvinist, I do believe in
predestination, and so here is the hastily typed explanation I
"Election is an act of God before creation in
which He chooses some people to be saved, no on account of any
foreseen merit in them but only because of His sovereign good
pleasure." (p. 848) I agree with this.
I disagree with the interpretation of Romans 9:11-13 being a direct statement of God through Paul. I believe, since Malachi 1:2-3 God is speaking through Malachi after the events of Genesis, and verse 3 seems to be speaking of a judgment against Esau. My cross-references point to Isaiah 34:5-17, Jeremiah 49:7-22 & Ezekiel 35:1-15.
Isaiah 34:5-17 describes God punishing Edom for hostility towards Zion (v.8). Jeremiah 49:7-22 seems to depict God punishing Edom for their pride. Ezekiel 35:1-15 depicts God punishing Edom for handing the Israelites over to the sword (of the Babylonians?) out of a desire to take possession of their lands. Also, for their pride and arrogance towards God.
So it is my conclusion that it is possible Paul was quoting someone who wrote to him (not uncommon, as 1 & 2 Corinthians seem to include such devices). Someone could've been asking Paul, "what's up with 'Jacob I loved, and Esau I hated'?" God can hate people before they sin, sure, but God also foresaw both Esau's loss of birthright and blessing and Esau's despising his birthright. I do not believe God just decided to arbitrarily hate Esau for no reason, and I disagree with a concept that makes it like God hated Esau before he had done anything. It's possible but I find it highly unlikely, as the verses referred to in Romans 9 are after Esau's despising of his birthright as well as after his nation (Edom) had harmed Israel.
I agree Ephesians 1 says we were chosen before we were born. I would point out that if we refer to Genesis 2, the Garden of Eden, as being God's original plan for humanity, this makes perfect sense. We were created to know God and be in relationship with Him, all human beings were.
I think 1 Peter 2:9 is saying "chosen race" in the sense of referring to the dispersion (of Jews). The Jews were indeed chosen as a race to God, but not all were elect (some were hardened, etc.).
I am grateful Wayne Grudem points out that election isn't fatalism or impersonal. He points out that (John 3:18) salvation is a real choice we make.
I do not agree with Wayne Grudem's statement that Romans 8:29 is foreknowledge of persons and not facts. God foreknows everyone because He knows the future. This teaches a dichotomous "either it was my faith or it was God's foreknowledge" position that I can't agree with. I believe both the divine declarative will and the choice of the human being worked together in equal yet complete parts (just as Jesus and the Holy Spirit can be fully God yet also separate divine Beings).
Wayne Grudem points out that Scripture never says God chose us because He saw our faith in advance. This is true. However, Wayne Grudem quotes Romans 9:11-13, which I have pointed out has an equally plausible alternative meaning. Grudem points to Romans 11:5-6, a complete lack of human merit in the process of election, to which I completely agree. No human being merits salvation or election.
I also agree with Grudem that election is not based on something good in us (our faith), but by God's own choice. However, Grudem posits that predestination based on foreknowledge of a person's faith still does not give people free choice. I agree in part, because again salvation is by grace through faith without a work. However, I believe the free choice of people remains intact, as God is powerful enough to keep it intact while also keeping election intact. If at any point the human being does not choose to submit to God unto salvation, any and all exhortations in Scripture are meaningless, for you cannot exhort or command beings who, under the hood, have no free will. It would negate all similar Scriptures. It is both man's free will (but this is not a work) and God's purpose of election. This is because the Holy Spirit calls all men (John 16:8). If at any point God negates human will to save, all those He does not save have a valid complaint.
I agree with Wayne Grudem that election is unconditional.
I agree with Grudem that predestination does not negate human choice. Indeed, those who describe predestination as negating human choice run into the valid objections that Grudem lists, such as our choices then not being real choices, us being robots or puppets instead of persons, and the lost never having a chance. Revelation 22:17 seems to teach that all are called (but few chosen, etc.).
I do not completely agree with Grudem's explanation of 1 Tim. 2:4 and 2 Peter 3:9 meaning a difference between God's revealed will and hidden will. I believe this is more a statement about God's general will (passive) that all be saved and His specific will (active) to save (election). This is why even if someone was somehow not on God's elected list but (because the Holy Spirit convicts all) was to be convicted and ask God to save them, God would save them. We see this vaguely in Jesus' earthly ministry, that Gentiles had faith and Jesus answered their prayers. For God to refuse anyone salvation would make Him, as atheists call it, a Sky Bully. This is the difference, I believe, in God's passive and active will. So I believe 1 TImothy 2:4 and 2 Peter 3:9 are speaking of God's heart to save all people, not of election, for God can truly want all to be saved but have a list of the elect who "must" and "will" be saved.
I do not believe in the doctrine of reprobation
as listed by Grudem as being taught as a general tenant. I
do not believe, for instance, Romans 9:17-22 speaking of Pharaoh,
is an example. Did God raise Pharaoh up to show His
power? Yes. But in the first interaction, Exodus 5:2,
Pharaoh mocks, "Who is Yahweh that I should obey Him by letting
Israel go?" and punished Israel by not giving them straw for their
Indeed, Romans 11:7 says the elect obtained, but the rest were hardened. But Grudem quotes 1 Peter 2:8, and it says "they stumble because they disobey the message; they were destined for this". This sounds like the partnership of our will and God's election.
I agree with Grudem that reprobation makes God sad. I also believe that all human beings are reprobate and naturally turn from God. Anyone who turns to God has the Holy Spirit working on them.
Grudem describes effective calling as an act of God, speaking through human gospel proclamation, so that they respond in saving faith. I agree, but I would not put the limitation of human gospel preaching on it, for something strange is now taking place in the middle east where people are having dreams about Jesus. This may indicate that God sometimes "helps" the human proclamation part along.
On God's Providence and Man's Free Will
In chapter 16, Grudem explains God's
providence, with the secondary quality of concurrence, "God
cooperates with created things in every action, directing their
distinctive properties to cause them to act as they do." I
find this a bit dangerous in tone. For instance, Grudem
claims that many "natural occurrences" we see are actually God
causing. This sounds like nothing is an accident and that no
natural disaster is without God directing it, which then (again)
makes God out to be the Sky Bully who causes tsunamis and
earthquakes to kill people. We play into the logical
complaint of the atheists.
I would suggest that (per R. C. Sproul) there's a difference between God's wills and acts. See R.C. Sproul's document on Monergism. God has a decretive will (bringing to pass what He decrees), a preceptive will (God's revealed law of commandments, which we can disobey but which carry punishments), and a dispositional will (God's attitude or disposition, revealing what is pleasing to God). Thus I believe that it is probably wrong to say God decreed that a tsunami in Japan in 2011 would kill 20,000 people. We have no place where we saw God decree this. Thus it may be in God's preceptive will, i.e. His creation of natural laws which run the universe, such as gravity (hence the moon and tides, and earthquakes which generate tsunamis, things we can measure and test). Now, carefully, I will point out that we are all sinners and all of us deserve to die (Romans 3, 5, etc.). Could God have decreed the 2011 tsunami? You bet. However, I see in Luke 13:4 and following that, when asked about those who died in the Tower of Siloam, that Jesus didn't say "yes, I, being God, decreed this." Instead, He taught that we should all repent, and I believe this dovetails with Romans 1-3, in that we all deserve to die.
This allows for some events to be random chance based on natural laws God already instituted. So to say God wanted to kill 25,000 Japanese people in 2011 just for the heck of it, or even as a general punishment of sin, without any known decree from God, to say that the tsunami may have just been chance due to the earthquake, again, events we can see and predict. We know how fault lines work, how earthquakes work, how they generate tsunamis. Again, God could have decreed their deaths, for we are all sinners and all deserve the wages of sin. But it also acknowledges that God doesn't actively do everything that happens in life, otherwise we would only (again) be puppets.
Grudem points out that some events are caused by God AND by the creature. For instance, Grudem writes that God causes the grass to grow. This may be Psalm 104:14, but it also may be referring to God causing the grass to grow by creating them to grow. They now grow without God forcing them to grow, for He created them to grow.
Grudem points to the affairs of the nations as well. Sure, it is possible that God does this actively (Job 12:23; Ps. 22:28). But it is also possible that God lets things happen and only interferes or intervenes when His plan for humanity must be accomplished. Both are possible. Grudem points out that we still have real choices, and to that I agree. I just disagree with the sentiment that because Scripture says certain things that sound like God actively does things doesn't mean He must, for He also created things and created natural laws that govern the universe. I just disagree with the level of direct Divine involvement, in the sense that God could indirectly be causing everything due to creating natural laws versus actively doing everything as if we are puppets.
Grudem then deals with, "well what about evil?" The problem of evil is indeed a very fair point atheists make. I agree with Grudem's statement, "Scripture never blames God for evil or shows God as taking pleasure in evil, and Scripture never excuses human beings for the wrong they do." I agree. Indeed in the above example with the Japanese tsunami in 2011, it is because of the fall of mankind (inherited sin) that our world is in its current entropy state. DNA copy errors are an indirect result of the fall. Sickness and death is a result of the fall.
It is here (p. 460) where Grudem points out what I did, that Pharaoh hardened his own heart three times. So I agree with Grudem here.
Grudem goes on to describe God bringing about evil but it is a punishment for something wicked a person has done. God has the right to punish sin, globally, eternally, for any reason, so I don't believe this is "God bringing about evil" so much as "God punishing evil." If evil goes unpunished, it will only cause the earth to rot. It is grace that God even withholds or punishes evil, for left to our own devices, we would be beyond redemption.
I agree with Grudem that "God uses all things to fulfill His purposes and even uses evil for His glory and for our good."
I agree with Grudem that "God never does evil."
I agree with Grudem that "God rightfully blames and judges moral creatures for the evil they do."
I agree with Grudem that "evil is real ... and we should never do evil for it will always harm us and others."
I disagree with Grudem on free will, in that he says "Scripture nowhere says that we are free in the sense of being outside of God's control." I do not believe this is the definition of free will and I think it is a mischaracterization.
I disagree with Grudem's "moral will versus secret will." I think the Monergism system above is a better way to define it. But I am not saying I think Grudem is wrong.
I agree with Grudem that we are still responsible for our actions (p. 471).
I agree with Grudem that our actions have real results and do change the course of events.
I agree with Grudem that prayer is a specific action with definite results that can chance the course of events.
I agree with Grudem that the result is the conclusion that we must act.
Let us hear the conclusion then. Do I
believe in predestination? Yes. I hate to use this
analogy, but it's the only one I know to use. Election is
like God's "nice list" (think Santa). God is not Santa, but
still.... I do not believe God has a naughty list, i.e.
people who cannot be saved no matter what they do and without any
reflection on their own actions. Like Pharaoh, who hardened
his own heart, if he is in hell, it is because he disobeyed God
and did not repent, not because God arbitrarily decided Pharaoh
must go to hell. I believe God does
have a nice list, i.e. the elect, who are selected before time
began, based both on God's foreknowledge of their choice and God's
own will (which is not based on foreknowledge). These two,
God's choice beforehand and God's foreknowledge are both
independent and simultaneous.
However, I believe the Holy Spirit still calls all and convicts all. Indeed, the atheist who is morally upright (relatively) is obeying the Holy Spirit's general conviction (we call "conscience") but is not saved and may never submit to God and become saved. I believe it is possible for someone who was not on God's elect list to be saved, and this is in part why we witness to all human beings because all can be saved, even if all will not be saved. But the one who comes to God is being drawn by the Holy Spirit in the first place, so it's not like any of us, even if we were not on God's elect list, will be able to brag about how we reformed.
The Israelites who annoyed God in the desert 40 years, those who did not enter God's rest (Canaan), did so by their own actions. It was the result of their disobedience and ungrateful hearts. Indeed, quoted by Romans 9, we see Psalm 95, "today if you hear His voice, do not harden your hearts as at Meribah." This and the 40 years of disgust God endured are why He swore they would not enter His rest, per verse 10. Can God decree that someone will be damned without any hope? Yes. Does He do this apart from mankind's behaviors? I do not believe so. Indeed, we are all sinners, and God decreed that the wages of sin is death: it's a natural spiritual law.
Hence why we preach the gospel. Those we meet may be God's elect. They also may be saved even if not on the elect list. But no one is damned to hell without their own actions justifying it, even if it is God's direct explicit will. Thus we preach to mankind.
Do I believe in predestination? Yes, but not in isolation.