"Even in literature and art, no man who bothers about originality will ever be original: whereas if you simply try to tell the truth (without caring twopence how often it has been told before) you will, nine times out of ten, become original without ever having noticed it." - C.S. Lewis

Sunday, February 7, 2010

Debate on predestination - in reply to Seth

On the Underground forum, we've been having a debate about a few theological things, one of them being predestination.  A fellow writer from the forum, Seth, just posted on his blog about what he thinks about predestination (click the link above to read it).  Instead of clog up his comments section, I thought I'd just reply here.

I'm going to say right out that I do not belive in predestination (the belief that God chose beforehand only some people to be saved and not others, and that you cannot turn to God unless he "lets" you.  Please someone, if you have an objection to this definition, say so!  :D ).

Seth quoted a couple verses from the KJV that supposedly support predestination.  (As a side note, King James himself was quite involved in the process of overseeing the translation work - he made sure that the new Bible supported the Divine Right of Kings and other theological traditions and wording.  In addition, King James was an Anglican, who believed in predestination.)  Those verses do not have to support election as Seth or myself have defined it simply because they use the word "predestination".  I will just touch on one of them before I go any further.

"In love he predestined us to be adopted as his sons through Jesus Christ, in accordance with his pleasure and will— to the praise of his glorious grace, which he has freely given us in the One he loves."  Ephesians 1:5-6  NIV (The "in love" at the beginning is the end of verse 4.)

All right.  The word "predestined" simply means that we, as humans, were made to be adopted as sons.  That's what we were made for, that's our purpose.  But if we live like it isn't, we are rejecting our "destiny".(And note the phrasing "in love he predestined us" and in "accordance with his pleasure" - that means that God wants us to be his children and knows that we will be the happiest when we are his children!)  Now obviously, not all of us are going to be adopted as God's children.  According to those who believe in election, that is because of God.  He has not chosen to save them.  But take a look at this verse - I Timothy 2:3-7 (NIV):

"This is good, and pleases God our Savior, who wants ALL men to be saved and to come to a knowledge of the truth.  For there is one God and one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus, who gave himself as a ransom for ALL men—the testimony given in its proper time.  And for this purpose I was appointed a herald and an apostle—I am telling the truth, I am not lying—and a teacher of the true faith to the Gentiles." (emphasis mine)

Wait a sec - if God wants all to be saved and to come to a knowledge of the truth - and if Jesus gave himself as a ransom for all - that must mean literally what it says.  He wants ALL to be saved.  And right at the end there, he adds "I am telling the truth, I am not lying" - and that he is an apostle and "a teacher of the true faith".

If God wants all to be saved (and that is not the only place it says that!), then why would he choose only some and not others?  That is the question that no one has yet answered for me.  And why would such a loving God withhold from a human the chance to be saved from hell when he has done so to others (and when it is not based on the person's actions)?

In my opinion, the doctrine of election practically erases the Gospel message.  By claiming that each person's destiny is prearranged, Jesus' call to turn from the old way and accept him is useless.  A person who is not chosen will, of course, never do so; a person who is chosen will be "converted" by the power of God sometime during their life anyway.  So either you go to heaven, or you go to hell - it's prearranged, and basically, nothing you do on earth matters.  Nowhere in the Bible does it say that nothing in this life matters.  There is a cry from every page, from the very heart of God, to turn to him and throw away our old life.

Of course God knows what we will choose in the end.  But he does not make us choose it.  We have to choose - that's the bottom line.  True love does not make anyone do anything.  I believe that God IS love.


  1. [I'm going to go through each paragraph and address each argument]
    Madeline, you said that no one has answered this your question, well, in a way, in my post I did. The question should not be "Why didn't God choose everybody?" But rather, "Why did God choose anybody" For no one is worthy of God, we all fall short. We all are sinners, and none of us deserve God, we should be honored that He chose us.
    Also, KJV is simply the version that my Bible is, I can guarantee you that if you looked in the NIV or any other translation that it will have the same meaning. Also, if I remember, KJV came before NIV or most other English translations, so this could and probably is the best translation as the more times it's translated the more chance it's inaccurate.
    I'm not sure whether or not you were being literal or not, but the word predestined actually means to destine, decree, determine, appoint, or settle beforehand (http://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/predestined) Also, the book of Ephesians was addressed to the Christians in the church of Ephesus, so when Paul says that in love God predestined us, he is saying that God predestined us Christians before the dawn of the world, and that He did it in love.
    As for the section with 1 Timothy I will refer to a site that I've been reading, I'll simply copy and paste this(sorry if it's too long!) First of all, Jesus is the mediator for the believers, not the unbelievers. To me, "men" in this verse can only mean the elect, the Christians. Though I understand how an Arminian would interpret this verse, the Calvinist position is more consistent with the rest of the scriptures I've examined.
    Second, considering that "all" in 2 Cor. 5:14-15, 1 Cor. 15:22, and Rom. 5:18 can only mean the Christians, it follows that when we approach verses like 1 Tim. 2:4-6, there is legitimacy in interpreting it in a consistent manner with the other verses; that is, the "all" is the elect. Therefore, 1 Tim. 2:4 can have two possible interpretations:
    1) The Arminian: The "all" means every individual.
    2) The Calvinist: The "all" means the Christians. But since the Arminian interpretation would contradict the interpretations found in 2 Cor. 5:14-15, 1 Cor. 15:22, and Rom. 5:18, we are left with the Calvinist interpretation as the only legitimate one; namely, that the "all" means the Christians.
    Also, there is the problem of answering how the desire of God is thwarted. The Arminian position has the desires of God frequently thwarted in addition to having the decision of God depend on the decision of man. God can only save someone if that someone makes the right choice.
    After that I don't believe there is much left to say. I hope to post more about this soon.

  2. Hoorah, Madeline. Very good assessment. Seth, I'm only going to address the last comment you make, because it's the only one I find inherently flawed. The others are a matter of interpretation, and that Calvinist interpretation is a recent novelty, without any kind of support before the 1500's. Those who lived in biblical days, in biblical culture, who knew Jesus and the apostles, and who could have asked for clarifications, never came to the same conclusions as Calvin.

    Your last statement, that "The Arminian position has the desires of God frequently thwarted in addition to having the decision of God depend on the decision of man. "

    That's simply not the case. If God says "Choose!" and we make a choice, we have done exactly what God has created us to do. There is no thwarting of his will.

  3. Perhaps unfortunately, there is something left to say... =D

    Actually, I did mean that literally. Even with the definition you gave of predestination, my point still stands. He destined and determined that we were to be his adopted children. Still, like I said, we can reject our destiny. We don't have to accept that, but we'll be the ones losing out.

    This is the first part of the verses I quoted from I Tim: "This is good, and pleases God our Savior, who wants all men to be saved and to come to a knowledge of the truth." You said that all means all Christians. That is illogical - God can't want all Christians to be saved. All Christians are already saved. Also, I looked up each of the verses that you cited: (2 Corinthians 5:14-15, 1 Corinthians 15:22, and Romans 15:18 respectively)

    "For Christ's love compels us, because we are convinced that one died for all, and therefore all died. And he died for all, that those who live should no longer live for themselves but for him who died for them and was raised again."

    "For as in Adam all die, so in Christ all will be made alive."

    "Consequently, just as the result of one trespass was condemnation for all men, so also the result of one act of righteousness was justification that brings life for all men."

    As you can see, in each case, it is nowhere near logical that "all" "can only mean the Christians". Therefore, their reasoning on the interpretation of the I Timothy verse is flawed. In the case of any of these verses, you can insert "all Christians" in the place of "all" or "all men". But that is not what it says. There is no basis whatsoever for doing so. Like Jeremiah said, it is all just a matter of looking at the Bible through a Calvinist view.

    Also, I can add to that the fact that Luther and Calvin decided to interpret these verses and others this way so that they could emphasize the point that salvation is only by grace, not by anything we can do. I certainly believe this, but like Jeremiah said, there is no Biblical basis for their idea. It was a doctrine taken too far.

    And lastly, in response to your last comment, it is true that sometimes what God desires does not come to pass - he desires that everyone should trust in him, but not everyone does. But it is out of love that he gives us a choice! His will is to give us a choice. When we exercise it, like Jeremiah said, we are not going against his will.

    "We are therefore Christ's ambassadors, as though God were making his appeal through us. We implore you on Christ's behalf: Be reconciled to God." 2 Cor. 5:20

    No such call from God would be needed if a person's fate was already settled.

    Thanks for commenting, both of you. =D I think this is good for us to be able to test what we believe!

  4. I will be able to comment more tonight, but for now I simply address my last comment. Like I said, I copied and pasted that from a site I agree with, it is not my own wording, but it has the same truth as if it were coming from me or anyone else.

  5. Hello Everyone,

    It's been two weeks since the last comment, so I don't if the conversation is still going on, but I have something to say.

    My pastor explained this very well yesterday, I think; and this something that I already believed, but didn't exactly know how to explain it until he did. Here it is: the Armenian and Calvinist views are both wrong. I came to this conclusion when my family went to a Reformed Calvinist church for a year, and as much as we loved and became attached to the people there, we disagreed with the doctrine they taught.

    It seems that Calvinism tends to be on one extreme on the doctrinal spectrum, so to speak; saying that God predestines who will be saved and who won't be, and that man has no free will to choose salvation whatsoever. (As a side note: feel free to correct me, ANYONE, if I get any doctrinal thing wrong.) There are many verses that support this idea. To name just a few: Ephesians 1:4-8, Romans 9:11, Romans 9:15,21, Matthew 24:24, and Matthew 20:16.

    Meanwhile, Calvinism ignores the many verses Armenians point to, who hold their stance on the complete opposite side of the spectrum: God does not predestine anyone, and everyone has the choice to become a Christian. Some include 1 Timothy 2:4, 2 Peter 3:9, Matthew 18:14, John 3:16 ("for God so loved THE WORLD"), and Acts 2:21.

    From what I've observed, Armenians and Calvinists sometimes pick and choose the verses they like to support their views while ignoring the ones that contradict them (and I'm not saying everyone does this, it's just a generalization). Armenians don't seem to realize the clear teaching in the Bible about predestination (and yes, other editions besides the KJV use that word; I know for a fact it's at least used in the NIV), while Calvinists don't seem to acknowledge the verses that clearly teach the free will of man.

    So, what's the answer?? That's what I was confused about until the sermon I heard yesterday: both views are wrong... or rather, more accurately, they're both correct! God predetermines, and yet we still COMPLETELY have our own free will!

    Now, how can that be possible? My pastor put it this way. Imagine a cone. Now, pretend someone took a side photo of the cone. If someone saw the 2-dimensional picture, they would think it was a picture of a triangle, right? But if another photo was taken from above, it would look like a circle with a dot in the middle. Any person looking at the 2-D images who didn't understand the third dimension would be entirely confused. How can something be a triangle and a circle at the same time?!

    Just like with the cone, God sees things from another dimension. It's hard for our finite minds to understand His infinite ways - how two seemingly opposite things can coexist - but, well, He's God, and He can do that!

    I appreciate any feedback.

    With Love in Christ,

  6. Brianna, I think you're definitely right in that both sides tend to pick and choose the verses they want. But the word "predestined" in the ones the Calvinists tend to pick does not even have to have their definition of "predestined". You're right - we do have a choice, but our destiny (God's will for us, what we are created for, etc.) is that we be saved and have a relationship with God. And that goes for everyone! So in a way, you are right - God made the choice ahead of time that everyone be made to be with him. We can't change the fact that we will be happier or better off with God. But we have the choice whether to accept God's choice or not!

    I hope that makes sense...*looks doubtfully at what she just rapidly typed*...so what I'm trying to say is, in essence - you're right, Brianna. But maybe not in the way you were imagining? I'd like to hear what you meant when you say "both are correct".

    Thanks for commenting!

  7. Brianna: Here's what I think. In one sense you are correct, while in another I would have to disagree with you. First off, yes, I believe all men have free will, even those that have been predestined. It's a tricky thing, but God clearly says that He predestined us, so I cannot ignore that fact. But I also acknowledge that he gave us free will. So, if we have free will then how is it that He could predestine us without going against free will? Well, it's tricky. In one sense we DO have free will. But God chose who will go to Heaven, he chose who will accept Christ (Now, don't get me wrong, God will never turn away anyone that desires to be saved, but no one will want to be saved unless He first chose them) and then, with our free will we chose Him(that probably didn't make any sense whatsoever lol). It's kinda like a double thing. He chose us, but after He chose us, we chose Him. So, while we feel like it's us choosing God, He first chose us.

    I hope that made sense. I never looked up the verses you put(though I hope to some time) just so you know ;). And when I'm debating this I hope I don't come across harsh, because in the end, when we're in Heaven, the truth is, it won't matter. So, that's my little bit :)

  8. Hey Guys,

    I apologize I took so long to respond. I've just been very busy.

    First off: no, you do not come across as harsh, Seth. You're totally right... when we're in Heaven, these little things won't matter. Personally, I think it's ridiculous - no, not so much ridiculous as just sad - that whole denominations get separated because of small doctrinal disagreements like this. I actually think it's unbiblical according to 1 Corinthians 1:10-17; but that's just my interpretation, whether it's right or wrong.

    I know I'm getting off topic here, but please bear with me a second: we have some friends from Uganda who say that they don't have denomination splits like we do over "predestination", or any other minor doctrine you can think of; and you know why they said that is? It's because those sort of confusions generally don't exist in their language. There's nothing special about their language; it's just that most of the arguments we have are, in fact, over various interpretations of English words and phrases; but not necessarily over actual concepts. Does that make sense or have I lost you? These disagreements are so little that they don't even exist in every language! That's not coming from me; it's just what our Ugandan friends told us. I thought that was pretty interesting.

    Anyway, sorry for the rabbit trail. Back to predestination. I think both of you have kind of missed my point; we CAN'T explain how both views are right, using human logic. Please read my cone example again. Now that you've read it, try to wrap your mind around the idea that God is in another "dimension", so to speak, and He can see how both things (predestination and complete free choice) are possible at once. Just as anyone who was only acquainted with the second dimension couldn't imagine an object that was a circle AND a triangle, so we, living in this "flat" world - so to speak - cannot imagine how predestination and complete free choice are possible at once. I certainly can't wrap my mind around it! And maybe we're not supposed to... maybe we're just supposed to accept that that's the way it is, and accept that God who is above and beyond this universe can do things we don't understand.

    Having said all this, perhaps one of you are more correct than I am. You could be completely right. This is just the view I'm going with until I hear something else that I think makes more sense to me.

    With Love in Christ,

  9. Brianna, I totally agree with the fact that all this is petty. =D I mean, of course it matters, but what I want to know is, how far is too far? I've been thinking about that lately. How far do we take our arguments? In my church history book I read of an Eastern Orthodox denomination that split because of the way they did the sign of the cross. (!!)

    At any rate, I think we'll just have to agree to disagree, Brianna. God never said anywhere in the Bible that this was a thing that humans wouldn't be able to understand. My mom made a good point - why should a basic thing like this be so ambiguous, so hard to understand? My point is, I don't see any reason to believe that the issue can't be understood.

    I was also thinking - if God is powerful enough to save everyone, and the outcome isn't based on any human actions, then to not save some would be to mean he doesn't love them enough to save them. Nowhere in the Bible does it say that God's love is limited to only a select group.

  10. Madeline,

    Sorry - again :-D - for my late response. Anyway, I'll try to keep this brief.

    It feels strange for me to "agree to disagree"... because honestly, for the last year or so that I've been interested in the debate about predestination (and in the other four points of Calvinism), I would have completely agreed with everything you said. Really, I kinda hope you're right, because it appeals to me more than what most Calvinists believe (of course, there may be other denominations that believe in predestination as well); or even the combination of both beliefs that I told you about. However, when I saw your post on your blog, I had just recently heard the "new" explanation at church, which seemed logical and reasonable to me, and answered some of the questions I had about the "chosen" verses. So... I don't outright disagree with you. :-) I'm still sort of waiting for God to reveal to me the answer to this whole debate... if He ever does in this lifetime!... and I haven't exactly decided what I believe regarding it. But I definitely see the logic in what you're saying, and I very well may go back to believing the same thing. :-) I'm still researching, praying, and trying to understand it all. For now, I'll stick with this view until God convicts me otherwise.


  11. Good idea, Brianna. =D It is always better to be open to what God might be telling you...I only don't believe in "predestination" as the Calvinists/others define it because the doctrine doesn't exist in the Bible (as they define it). Their version originated with Luther, and that's a historical fact. Whether or not it is true is another matter altogether.

    But at any rate, keep seeking God, because I know he holds the truth, whether or not I'm right (I simply don't see any reason to believe I'm not right...that's why I think what I do).

  12. Oh, and I forgot to say one more thing! :-)

    You said that a "basic thing like this" shouldn't be so ambiguous and hard to understand... well, there are plenty of concepts in the Bible that are simple, yet difficult - and even impossible - to understand. A few examples: God is three people in one; God is eternal; and God is outside of space and time. If we can't fully grasp these concepts, why shouldn't we be unable to grasp the concept we've discussed?

    As for whether or not the predestination concept exists in the Bible... I'm not enough of a scholar to know that for sure, but I do know that in the end, all that matters is people are still being reached with the gospel. As you and I both know, people who believe solely in the predestination idea are not going to feel as strong of a burden to reach the lost... as long as we understand that there definitely is a choice involved, we will realize the importance of sharing the gospel with as many people as possible. And so, from that perspective, I think we're both on the same page. ;-)


'ello, chaps!