In Mark Twain’ classic work Huckleberry Finn, Twain has Huckleberry Finn refer to a perplexing Calvinist sermon he once heard on "preforeordestination." Twain meant to spoof the Calvinists and Bible’s doctrine of predestination. Nevertheless, he does point out well the confusion that surrounds the doctrine.
Unlike Huck Finn though, the confusion surrounding the doctrine is not because it is involves obscure jargon or because it is beyond the comprehension of the average person. The confusion is mainly due to the failure to understand the Bible’s teaching on the matter.
The concept of predestination is rather simple. When the Bible speaks of predestination, it has to do with God’s sovereignty over the events of the world, and his determining in advance what will take place.
Isaiah 14:24 points this out. It says that God has a plan, and all the events of history unfold according to that plan. History then is nothing more than the unraveling of that which God decreed long before the world began. For instance, we may say that God predestined creation because before he created it, he had to decide to do it.
In like fashion we can talk of every other event that has ever occurred. We admit that there is a mystery when it comes to the existence and manifestation of evil. To be sure, God cannot make anyone sin. To do so would go against his nature. Nevertheless, evil is encapsulated in his ordination of all things. Even though he does not effect sin, he does somehow render it certain. As a result, Peter in his Pentecost sermon could say, “This Jesus, delivered up according to the definite plan and foreknowledge of God, you crucified and killed by the hands of lawless men.” (Acts 2:23) It is a mystery indeed, but one that leads to stand in awe of His infinite greatness.
While the doctrine of predestination does involve the foreordination of general events in creation, the Bible’s focus is much more narrowly defined. Predestination, Biblically speaking, deals with God’s work of redemption. Specifically stated, predestination deals with God determining beforehand those he will save (Election) and those he will damn (Reprobation).
While all Christians affirm the fact that election (or predestination) is taught in Scripture, a question arises as to the basis of election. Some, who are called Arminians, argue that God elects on the basis of foreseen faith. They would say that at the beginning of time God looked down the halls of history and chose all who, despite being sinners, would exercise faith in Christ.
Others, called Calvinists, argue that God elects not on the basis of anything in man, but on the basis of His own good pleasure. These say that man, being dead in his trespasses and sins, is not in himself able to exercise faith in Christ. Therefore, God must not only determine who will be saved, but also give the power to believe to those individuals.
When one examines the Scriptural data one may see clearly that the latter of these views is confirmed. Scripture speaks of man as “dead in his trespasses and sins” (Eph. 2:1) and unable to come to Christ unless the Father draw him (Jn. 6:44). Due to his rebellious spirit he is unable in and of himself to exercise faith (Jer. 17:9). Therefore God must graciously give him a new heart so that he may desire Christ (Ezk. 36:26). The Scripture also speaks of Christ laying down his life for those he particularly owns (Jn. 10:15). (See also Deut. 7:6-8; Matt. 22:14; Rom.8:28; 11:5)
Perhaps the classic text on election is Romans 9:15-16. Paul begins by quoting God’s words from the Old Testament, “I will have mercy on whom I have mercy, and I will have compassion on whom I have compassion.” He then concludes, “So then it depends not on human will or exertion, but on God, who has mercy."
The Arminian position must be rejected on the basis of this Scripture because it espouses human will and exertion. If God elects on the basis of man’s ability to exercise faith, then God no longer has a choice in salvation. He is obligated to show this mercy to this person because they have been the active agent in believing. On the other hand, the Calvinist says that God is by no means obligated so show mercy to anyone. His choice to save comes purely from His good will and desire to show compassion.
If then some are chosen to salvation, it is evident that some are not. To determine to save some, necessarily implies he determined not to save others. As Jude 4 says, some are “destined for condemnation.” This teaching, which is also called reprobation, may be found in many other Scriptures (Matt 11:25-26; Rom. 9:13-23; 11:7; I Pet. 2:8, to name a few).
Though the brevity of this piece prohibits the possibility of considering any objections to the doctrine of predestination and the comfort that it affords, one can at least see that is a simple doctrine. Most of all, one can see that it is a doctrine rooted in Holy Scripture, and therefore, deserves our reverent exploration and acceptance.
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