Predestination

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In Christianity there are two basic sides to the predestination debate, Calvinists, who claim that God predestined not only those who will be saved but every single event through His foreknowledge, and Arminians, who believe God has given us free will and that the future is not set in stone. Whereas Calvinists tend to ignore our God-given free will, Arminians tend to ignore the obedience and accountability owed God under a mistaken belief that Christians cannot lose their salvation.

I see many fervent, on-fire Calvinist Christians eager to do good works for God; and if their beliefs help them serve God, that is fine. However, when they seek to impose a false Calvinist doctrine on others as a requirement for Christianity, they become legalistic and the truth must be defended. (Romans 14:22) This page is not written to cause divisions but rather unity and promote understanding between Christians, so that Calvinists who falsely insist upon Calvinism as a prerequisite for salvation can understand the serious Biblical issues caused by their belief system.

The Bible on Predestination[edit | hide | hide all]

God is Not the Author of Evil[edit | hide]

See also Problem of Evil

Calvinism directly contradicts the Bible's teachings when it comes to the Problem of Evil. Biblically, God is not the source of evil, Satan created evil against God's will. Therefore, not everything in the universe is the result of God's plan.

Jesus' Teaching: Satan Created Evil Against God's Will[edit | hide]

When asked why God allows evil even though everything was created good by God, Jesus plainly said that an enemy was responsible, not God; that Satan is the enemy who sows wickedness among God's good creation.

Scofield Study Bible III Notes[edit | hide]

The Scofield Study Bible III has excellent notes on the problem of evil as it relates to predestination and election, pointing out that Calvinism cannot be correct about predestination, or God would be the author of evil, which contradicts clear Biblical teaching. The Scofield also points out that God's election, or selection of believers, can be corporate, or general, as a group, rather than selecting all individuals who would become saved (in which case the promises would not be to 'whosoever believeth.' (John 3:16)

God Does Not Want Anyone to Perish[edit | hide]

Under Calvinism, God pre-selected who would and would not be saved. This flies in the face of the promises of the Gospel where "whosoever believeth in me shall not perish but have everlasting life." Rather than God being "rich unto all that call upon Him" only those who have been predetermined can find salvation.

Moreover, God does not have any pleasure in the deaths of the wicked, so for Him to predetermine that much of mankind could not find salvation would make no sense. It would make no sense for God to plead with the wicked to repent if He knew they were incapable of doing so.

Problems With God Foreknowing Everything[edit | hide]

There are numerous problems Biblically with assuming God knows everything.

  1. The Bible makes plain that God looks down from Heaven to see what people are doing. There would be no need for God to do so if He already knew all that would occur. God looks down from Heaven to see if there are any who do good and seek after Him. (Psalms 14:2, also referenced in Romans 3:11) Given Psalms 14:2, it appears evident God's knowledge is conditioned on His looking, and choosing to know it, just like with anyone else, not by inherent knowledge of all that ever happened and will happen. A God with all knowledge of the future does not appear to be Biblical.
  2. Why would God plead with the wicked to change their ways if He knew they were incapable of doing so, and had predetermined destinies?
  3. Christians can fall away from the faith if not diligent. See Once Saved, Always Saved? The book of Hebrews in particular focuses on the need for Christians to be diligent in doing good works that they not lose their salvation. If it was already predetermined who would find eternal life, there would not be so much Biblical emphasis on the need to "work out [our] salvation with fear and trembling" "lest a promise be left us." (Philippians 2:12; Hebrews 4:1) Our salvation is not guaranteed unless "we hold the beginning of our confidence steadfast unto the end." (Hebrews 3:6) Christians are warned to be careful not to harm the faith of other Christians, lest by their knowledge weaker Christians perish. (Romans 14:15; 1 Corinthians 8:11)
  4. Why does God test people to see what's in their hearts if He already knows? God tests people throughout the Bible to see what is in their hearts. A particularly compelling example is Abraham being called to sacrifice Isaac, where Jesus, the Angel of the Lord, tells Abraham that it is now known by Abraham's actions that "now I know that thou fearest God, seeing thou hast not withheld thy son, thine only son from me." If God already knew what was in Abraham's heart, why say that because of the test "now I know that thou fearest God"? Then of course there is the case of Job, who was tested to see whether he would turn against God. (Job 1:9-12)
  5. Why would God allow Satan and mankind to become evil? For God to have guided a process throughout history where the vast majority of mankind would be doomed to eternal damnation, where evil was the primary result of mankind's history rather than good, and where fallen angels would cause massive evil and similarly be doomed to destruction, would be immoral and promote wickedness. God cannot be the moral, just, and righteous God spoken of in the Bible unless the future is not set in stone and God did not know from the beginning exactly what would happen and who would be saved. God used the Garden of Eden Himself (Genesis 3:8) and thus placed the trees of the knowledge of good and evil and life in the garden. He created Adam and Eve sinless without any inclination to do wrong. He had no reason to believe they or Satan would disobey Him. As such, God is justified, and all of Creation will recognize this, so that every one will have praise for God (1 Corinthians 4:5).
  6. How can the wicked acknowledge God's goodness unless God gave them free will? To get to the premise of 1 Corinthians 4:5, that everyone will have praise for God and see how perfect and justifiable His decisions were, so that every knee will bow and every tongue confess that Jesus is Lord to the glory of God the Father, one must reject the idea of a concrete set-in-stone future where God orchestrated everything to produce a universe where large numbers of people are eternally tortured in the Lake of Fire. After all, how can millions of atheists praise God at the Final Judgment unless it is made clear that God gave everyone free will and attempted to save all? There are plenty of atheists who would never praise God if they believed He'd created everything so they would get destroyed. Only if God made everyone with free will and was constantly trying to return everything to righteousness will everyone "have praise for God" at the end as 1 Corinthians 4:5 says.
  7. Why does God show sorrow and surprise at the actions of mankind and angels if He knows what the future holds? For God to have all knowledge of the future would contradict the numerous places in the Bible where God shows sorrow and surprise at the actions of mankind and angels if He knows what the future holds. God's emotions, surprise, anger, and sorrow at the actions of mankind, are inconsistent with a foreknowledge of the future. If you know something will happen, you do not get furious, surprised, or sad at what you already knew would occur. This includes:
    • Adam's Fall: God is surprised by mankind's knowledge of nudity. (Genesis 3:11-13)
    • Cain's murder: God is shocked by Cain's murder of Abel, and asks "What have you done? Your brother's blood cries out to me from the ground." (Genesis 4:10)
    • The Noahic Flood: God sees the Earth filled with violence and evil and regrets making mankind. (Genesis 6:6)
    If God knew all that the future held, then He should not show surprise about how mankind's actions.
  8. Why does God change His mind and turn away judgments if He knew what would happen? On a related note, why is God recorded as changing His mind and turning away judgments against wicked people, if His foreknowledge is absolute? Examples include:
    • The Israelites' idolatry in the wilderness: God, angered at the Israelites' sexual immorality and worship of the golden calf, offers to destroy Israel and make a new nation from Moses. However, after Moses urges God to spare the Israelites God regrets His hasty suggestion. (Exodus 32:9-10)
    • Saul's kingship: After Saul disobeys God in sparing an evil ruler, God regrets ever making Saul king. (1 Samuel 15:11)
    • God's plague upon Israel: God punishes Israel for following David after his sin with Bathsheba, sending a plague that kills 70,000 people. God regrets this, and tells the angel to stop the plague. (2 Samuel 24:15)
    • Grieve not the Holy Spirit: We are urged not to grieve the Holy Spirit, by whom we are sealed until the Day of Redemption. (Ephesians 4:30)
  9. It would diminish the Gospel if the only ones who get saved are those God knew would get saved. If God knew all the future held, rather than being Good News for everyone, it would only be Good News for an elite few chosen by God before they were born to get saved, rather than a Gospel for "whosoever believeth" where "the same God is rich unto all that call on Him." (John 3:15; Romans 10:12)

Explaining God's Omniscience[edit | hide]

God Has All Knowledge of the Present[edit | hide]

That God is omniscient in the sense of having all knowledge of the present is definite. 1 Samuel 16:7 makes clear that God examines hearts. Job 28:24 states that God looks to the ends of the Earth and sees everything under Heaven. Proverbs 15:3 states that God looks in every place, at both the evil and the good. Job 34:21 makes clear that God looks at the ways of men and considers them, and Jeremiah 16:17 makes clear that the evil of men is not hidden from God. Hebrews 4:13 specifically states that no creature is hidden from God's sight, but that all are utterly clear before God. Job 26:6 states that even Hell and destruction are nakedly visible before God. Psalms 139:7 specifically states that God will see no matter where we go, even if that is in Heaven, Hell, the depths of the sea, or the blackest darkness. The Bible states that in God are hidden all treasures of wisdom and knowledge in Colossians 2:3. Psalms 44:21 states that God knows the secrets of the heart, and Psalms 94:11 the thoughts of man. So God most definitely has all knowledge of the present.

God 'Can' Tell What Will Happen[edit | hide]

God's Foreknowledge[edit | hide]

1 Corinthians 2:7 states that God created hidden wisdom before the world for Christians. Jude 1:4 states that evil men were long ago ordained to condemnation. 1 Peter 1:2 states that Christians are chosen by God beforehand through God's foreknowledge. Ephesians 1:4 specifies that God chose us before the foundation of the world to be holy and blameless in love. 2 Timothy 1:9 states that God gave us a holy calling in Jesus before the world began. Titus 1:2 states that God promised eternal life before He began the world. 1 Peter 1:20 states that Jesus was preordained before the beginning of the world. Numerous instances could be given of Biblical prophecy and God giving people a glimpse of the future.

However, did God from the beginning examine all the future held? If so, how is this to be reconciled with a God who acts surprised and grieved by the evil choices of His creations? The Bible gives several occasions of being sorry for making decisions, not because of evil doing of course, but because His creations were so disobedient. In Genesis 6:6-7 for example, God states He is sorry He'd made man on the Earth. In 1 Samuel 15:11 God states He is sorry He set up Saul as king because of Saul's disobedience.

Based on Looking[edit | hide]

See Once Saved, Always Saved?

The Bible also makes clear that God can determine what will happen, and even speaks of having determined things before the beginning of the world. However, this could be due to Him having created a plan for the spirits of good people whom He foreknew before creation to gain eternal life. When Satan rebelled, the plan was disrupted, but God is still controlling events to restore mankind and save those whom He foreknew. Nonetheless, we should "work out [our] salvation with fear and trembling" "lest a promise be left us." (Philippians 2:12; Our salvation is not guaranteed unless "we hold the beginning of our confidence steadfast unto the end." (Hebrews 3:6)

Corporate Election vs. Individual Election[edit | hide]

The Bible repeatedly refers to the "elect" or in other words, those whom God selected to become saved. However, this election need not have been of specific individuals. In other words, God determined that He would create a unique priesthood to serve Him via mankind, but Satan disrupted that plan. Nonetheless, God is still bringing it to pass so that through Jesus all who repent and trust in Him will be saved

God Does Not 'Have' to Know the Future[edit | hide]

The problem with this is that it assumes God has always been all-knowing of every little future detail (including Satan's rebellion and mankind's sinfulness, even the specific decisions of individuals to commit evil), which isn't necessarily the case. Even if God has the ability to know the future (which He does), that doesn't mean He chooses to always use it. After all, if God didn't have the ability to not know it, He wouldn't be all-powerful. The Bible calls God omnipotent (Revelation 19:6) but not omniscient regarding the future. Just because prophecy and seeing the future are displayed in the Bible, doesn't mean God sees all the future, or saw it originally. Just because God has all knowledge and wisdom that exists, and sees everything that occurs, doesn't mean He knows everything the future holds.

Sources[edit | hide]

  1. Scofield, C.I.; et. al. (2002). "Scofield Study Bible III, Note for Ephesians 1:11." New York: Oxford University Press.
  2. Scofield, C.I.; et. al. (2002). "Scofield Study Bible III, Note for 1 Peter 5:13." New York: Oxford University Press.