John Calvin (1509-1564) was a French theologian, church reformer, humanist, and pastor, whom Protestant denominations in the Reformed tradition regard as a major formulator of their beliefs. He was also a contemporary of Martin Luther. This article addresses his most famous doctrine, Predestination.
Predestination finds its roots in John Calvin’s interpretations of Romans 8:29 and Epesians 1:5. It is the belief that our choices have been predestined; that God has already chosen beforehand who will “choose” to become a Christian and who will not.
I don’t believe in predestination, or rather the Calvinist interpretation of it.
My reasons involve the matter of Choice.
Firstly, if choice has been an illusion all this time it makes God a monstrous liar for not making it clear all along that we would never stray from our programmed response.
Secondly, it makes God a cruel monster who has arbitrarily chosen some of his creatures for destruction without cause. “Whosoever will may come” becomes a sick joke. Choice being an illusion, Judgement would be crueler still. For in sending you to Hell for your sin, He would be condemning you unfairly. It would be as if I had put a gun in your hand while you were in a coma and pulled the trigger with your finger, then blamed & executed you for murder!
Thirdly, it destroys all possibilty of accountability. Since it’s all decided in advance anyhow, what’s the point of trying? In fact, it would then be safe to say that the very apathy that sends me to Hell upon pondering this subject was in itself an imuteable fact, established long before I ever existed. Even realizing this, I would never stray from my programming, because without choice – real choice – deviation from the script becomes impossible!
Clearly, belief in such a predestination doctrine is contradictory of a Just & Loving God!
Yet I do believe in another form of predestination…
I believe that every man & woman is given a choice. God as an omnipotent, omniprescient Being knows the Final Outcome, but it is not He who will determine it. Foreknowledge is not necessarily the same thing as Predestination, even for God. It is as if He’s warned a housefull of children not to touch the stove even if the burners aren’t lit; He clearly hopes by warning us that we’ll listen to Him, but He knows that some will inevitably get burned. He could keep us all from being burned by taking away our ability to choose, but He chooses to give us the wonderful blessing Free Will instead.
Perhaps you think I’m merely mincing words. Very well then, let’s take a scenario derived from real life :
One day, my neice was in a car wreck and she suffered a severe head injury. She almost died. Had she died, would this have been her Destiny occuring aaccording to God’s eternal plan? You might say that, yes, it was God’s will for her to die young, for she might’ve experienced a life of pain & misfortune had she lived! Yet I know those who’ve been beaten, betrayed, molested, robbed & sorely mistreated, all before the age of 15. Why didn’t God extend this same mercy of an early death to these actual sufferers and not just the potential ones? You can also take the position that it was God’s will that she die young because had she lived, she might’ve strayed from God, died an atheist & went to Hell. But again why doesn’t God extend that mercy to all so that none might perish at all!
I have just eluded to a verse that is key to any discussion of predestination :
“The Lord is… not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance.” -2 Peter 3:9
Again, there is the clear indication of a choice and of a God who refuses to step in and make the right choice for us, lest He infringe upon our Free Will. We can use that Free Will to choose to repent or to die in our sins and suffer our just eternal reward.
A word or two must be said here about Armenianism, when discussing Free Will. Some have said that the “hard spot” for Armenianism is Eph. 2:8 :
“For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: [it is] the gift of God:”
Taken literally, as is the tendency of some legalists (who mince words when the Scriptures explicitly tell us that the Letter of the Law is death, while the Spirit of the Law gives life!), this verse seems to state that even our faith (belief) is the gift of God; that God gives us the faith we need to believe on Jesus Christ. Yet this verse states a 2-part Salvation: Grace through faith. God has done His part on the Cross of Calvary. His grace is open to all. There is no oher way man can be saved. No works, no amount of goodness, nor any sort of bribe can substitute for this Grace to get us into Heaven. All we can do is believe and accept His substitutionary atonement on the Cross for our sin.
Armenianism, however, asserts that God bases his predestination election upon his foreknowledge of who will believe, of those who will exercise their Free Will to get saved. The same arguments we put against Calvinistic predestination apply to the Armenian version of predestination. As every coin has 3 sides (2 faces and an edge), I will present yet another opinion on “predestination”.
But for now, back to our analogy:
A series of bad choices made by humans with Free Will could’ve killed my neice. Thankfully she lived. It wasn’t necessarily in God’s plan that she be in a car wreck & nearly die, but He probably knew it would or might happen if the humans with Free Will used that freedom to make the wrong choices. The most important choice we make, of course, is between Heaven and Hell, which is the default selection.
It is after you make the decision to repent & follow Christ that predestination kicks in. It is as if a man proposed to a woman and, in hopes of a favorable reply, he prepared a home for their future life together. The house is prepared should she choose to accept his proposal. If she says no, it will still be there, unrealized. Accordingly, God has laid up a store of talents, abilities, giftings, callings & experiences within you that will only realize their full potential after you choose to follow Christ.
As you grow up, you inevitbly discover things that you are good at. Some are excellent leaders and decision-makers. Some are good organizers. Others may be blessed with physical prowess, the ability to build or create things, or with talents such as singing, playing a musical instrument, or speaking in public. Still others find they are more creatively inclined. The possbilities are endless…
These abilities, these gifts from God, are there in your life, but will never reach their full potential without God. Never. Some, such as callings to ministering, may never even be discovered, due to Man’s inherently selfish nature.
But in Christ, we are ever changed from glory to glory!
This in a nutshell, is what I believe predestination truly is, rather than the Calvinistic approach.
God has a purpose for you & it will be waiting for you on the day you choose to accept God’s Gift of salvation. Only then can you discover & fulfill your potential.