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Predestination: An issue that really doesn’t matter

Posted by Chance on September 26, 2006

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.

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11 Responses to “Predestination: An issue that really doesn’t matter”

  1. Michael Westmoreland-White said

    I think it matters for our doctrine of God. A God that rigidly predestines some people to damnation would not be a God worthy of worship. I’m so glad that the biblical God is NOT like that.

    Says the diehard Arminian-Freewiller. 🙂

  2. The Prophet said

    Great, great post!

    My brother and I had this discussion about predestination last night. Here are my thoughts:

    There are four dimensions known to man of which God transcends them all. One of those dimensions is time.

    Who is man to think that there are only 4 dimensions that exist in the Supernatural? Just because 4 dimensions is all we know, doesn’t mean that there are only 4 dimensions to God, Who is all-knowing.

    Back to the dimension of time.

    God transcends time. That means that right now, God is at the time of our death. Right now God is also at the time of our birth. Right now God is at the time we will get or got married (of course, this isn’t the case for some, but most). Right now God is at the time of our first, second and third child’s birth.

    God is in the wilderness with the Israelites right now. God is at the creation of the world right now. God is at the Rapture of the church right now.

    Ever taken a trip in a helicopter or airplane? What if there were a wreck 2 or 3 miles away from where you were in the helicopter. If you were high enough above the ground, you would be able to see it, although those driving towards it may not.

    I believe this is how God is with time. He’s above it, seeing what happened in the beginning and eternity and everything in between. This hurts to think about, because I’m human and limited in my perspectives. But God, He’s infinite!

    Concerning predestination, God knows us well enough to know what decision we would make in any and every circumstance. Not only does God know but He was there, wait, He is there now!

    Therefore, God knows already how we will respond to Him and whether we will or not, He’s already been there, and He is there right now.

    That’s my predestination theory. I hope you don’t have too much of a headache now.

  3. Chance said

    Michael, I would say he would still be worthy of worship, because he can do as he pleases, but I am, of course, really really glad he doesn’t do that. Then again, you could argue that damning people to hell is against his nature, and that would change the characteristics of God, making Him different than what we worship, so I could see your point. Oh well, let’s not dwell on what isn’t.

    Josh,
    Good thoughts. Concerning standing outside of time, I heard an explanation in that us, living our lives, is like watching a movie on TV, where everything is sequential. But to God, our life is like the filmstrip of that same movie, with every cell displayed before him.

    Interestingly enough, there is something in physics called string theory, where people propose an 11-dimensional universe. I think alot of it is an effort to explain God away, but the idea of dimensions beyond our comprehension is very interesting.

  4. Michael Westmoreland-White said

    Chance, God is not worthy of worship simply because God is Creator. If I believed in Greek mythology, I would refuse to worship the immoral Olympian gods (even at the cost of damnation). Predestination worships POWER ALONE. Well, God is all powerful, but that’s not enough.

    God is worthy of worship because God is Love and God is compassionate and just.

    Calvinists used to ask this question of ministers before ordaining them, “Would you be willing to be damned if it were for God’s greater glory?” Any other answer than yes did not get them ordained. That implies a lie about God.

    Predestination lies about who God is. That’s why it matters.

  5. The Prophet said

    Here’s the thing. If God already knows the outcome, there is no choosing involved. A decision or choice is time sensitive. God is above time, therefore He is above choices or decisions.

  6. Michael Westmoreland-White said

    God is “above time,” only if we adopt the Augustinian view of time as a set reality. I tend to go with the open future view of time in which the future does not exist until it is the present. God goes through time like we do and God’s foreknowledge really is knowledge of the future, or, rather, of all possible futures.

  7. japhy said

    I replied at a blog doing a follow-up on this, so here’s my comment from that blog:

    There’s a BIG difference between predestiny and foreknowledge. If eveything has been predestined, then no, there is no free will, there is us carrying out second-by-second God’s pre-planned will for each of us.

    If, on the other hand, only some things are predestined, and other things God “simply” has foreknowledge of (because He is outside of time) then we have free will, and God’s foreknowledge is not the reason we do things.

  8. Gary Bowman said

    Those who believe in predestination and those who don’t believe in predestination are going to hell!

    Repent! Repent!

  9. Chance said

    Gary Bowman said…
    Those who believe in predestination and those who don’t believe in predestination are going to hell!

    Repent! Repent!

    Oh, Preacher Bob. You’re so outta control!

  10. Neil said

    Outstanding post, and great timing, too! I am about to post on my Bible Study Blog (https://bible1.wordpress.com/) about 1 Peter, which dives right into verses often used to support predestination.

    I also just listened to some sermons on it by John MacArthur. I really like his preaching, and he makes a good case for predestination. But when he finally got to the “Here’s why it matters” part, I thought it fell a little flat. He empahsized the “pride” part, among other things, which you did a good job of refuting.

    I find that both camps make some good arguments and I enjoy hearing them both, but I agree with you completely that this shouldn’t be such a divisive issue. I do acknowledge that the Calvinist view may be correct and that it is my human failings that keep me from seeing that how it fits in with the actions of a perfect God.

    Yet when I think about what I do in life – seeking the Holy Spirit’s help in loving others, sharing the Gospel, giving, etc. – I can and should be doing the exact same things regardless of whether Calvinism is true.

    Thanks again for a great post. I really appreciate your site.

  11. Chance said

    Thanks for visiting Neil. Feel free to stop by anytime. I share your sentiments. I have no issues with those who believe in predestination, and it’s not even an issue I am so sure about, it is just those who make it a central point of their relationship with Christ.

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