Predestination is an issue that separates many denominations. Now, I am not going to discuss the merits or flaws of the theological idea of predestination, my purpose is to assert that in the larger scheme of things, the issue really does not matter.
I am not refuting that it is an idea worthy of discussion, because it is an interesting issue, and I don’t see any problems with debating it, to some extent. But I will argue that, when it comes to a Christian’s relationship with God, the issue does not really matter.
Wikipedia mentions that predestination teaches
God’s decision, assignment or declaration concerning the lot of people is conceived as occurring in some sense prior to the outcome, and
the decision is fully predictive of the outcome, and not merely probable.
Let me try to offer my own definition. In the T.U.L.I.P. acronym, I think the key concept concerning predestination is the ‘I’, which stands for Irresistible Grace. This means that when someone is called by the Holy Spirit to repentance, they cannot resist that call. This ultimately means that a person has no choice in the salvation process. Those who receive salvation are those who God chooses; they have no say in the matter.
One aside: Many people have problems with this idea; it is not one in which I personally believe, but I don’t think that affects the discussion here. But many people have emotional arguments against predestination, not sound theological ones. There are good theological ones that exist, but when you ask a random Christian about predestination, they will say that it just seems “heartless”, that God would choose who to save and who not to save. However, just because the idea insults our sensitivities does not mean that it is not true. Many atheists reject the existence of God for a similar reason: the idea goes against their thoughts on how things “should” be.
Getting back on track…
Again, I am not arguing for or against predestination. My statement is that, concerning the salvation process, and, concerning one’s relationship with Christ, the doctrine does not really matter. Some churches have one view or the other as part of their statement of beliefs, and I think that is fine, because I am not saying one cannot believe one way or the other on the issue.
A couple of points I would like to make:
1) One does not need to fully understand the metaphysics of salvation. I don’t want to go into an in-depth study of salvation, but in short, I would say one is saved when they realize they are a sinner and accept the sacrifice Christ made on the cross. Some denominations would say that it is also necessary to make a lifetime commitment to Christ, and/or this salvation can be lost. Nevertheless, if I accept Christ, does it really matter how much say I had in the actual decision or not? Whether God overtly directs us or just tugs at us somewhat, do the underlying metaphysics of the decision really matter that much? God commands us to repent of our sins and to accept Jesus Christ as our savior, so we do that. Whether we do or have done so because of irresistible grace or resistible grace is not important, in my view. God tells us what to do on our end, how much free will we have in that is not vital in doing it.
2) One does not need to believe in predestination to appreciate the sovereignty of God. In light of the paragraph above, it is important to understand that salvation is indeed the work of Christ, not of ourselves. It is important to understand that God does have complete control and is sovereign, and some branches of Christianity that do not believe in predestination may tend to give too much emphasis on free will and the supposed ability to save ourselves. At the same time, not believing in predestination does not mean a disbelief in the total power and sovereignty of God.
3) One does not need to believe in predestination to avoid pride. Many of the Calvinist bent argue that not believing in predestination can lead to pride, because people attribute their salvation to themselves. They may also assert that one cannot truly be thankful for their salvation for the same reason. I disagree. Say that you are drowning and someone on a lifeboat comes to save you, offering you a life preserver. Is that person going to be prideful because they chose to grab the life preserver? In the same way, a Christian with the right perspective will realize they have absolutely nothing to be proud about, even if they believe that they can resist God’s call to salvation. Even admitting that one needs salvation is a step toward humility.
4) Predestination, as well as many other issues, should not be what church is about. Again, I have no beef with a church putting predestination in their list of beliefs or core doctrines. The problem I have is when it becomes the main focus of the church. But, I feel that way with any other issue. Of course, this leads to a bigger discussion of how much a church should focus on core beliefs without leading to denominationalism, etc… My parents for some time went to a Reformed Baptist (Calvinist) church. Even though I didn’t agree with their Calvinist doctrine (well, just indifferent, like I said, I don’t really care about predestination), what did bother me is that it was the constant focus of their sermons, instead of focusing on someone named Jesus.
Again, predestination doctrine is a worthy discussion, and I am not saying it should be avoided. At the same time, I do not believe that an agreement or disagreement on the issue is essential to having a meaningful relationship with Christ. In fact, too much emphasis on the issue, either way, could detract from it.