Theology 101: What is Double Predestination?

A Presbyterian theologian has the following conversation with his colleague:

“You believe in the absolute sovereignty of God, correct?”

“Of course”

“And you believe everything exists and happens for His glory, correct?”

“Yes, I’m a 5-point Calvinist.”

“Then would you be willing to be dammed to reprobation for His glory?”

“…hmm, no”

This absurd and funny conversation embodies some difficulties presented by the doctrine of double predestination. In perhaps the best description of Calvinistic essence, John Calvin defined double predestination in the following statement:

“God preordained, for his own glory and the display of His attributes of mercy and justice, a part of the human race, without any merit of their own, to eternal salvation, and another part, in just punishment of their sin, to eternal damnation.”

What this doctrine basically says is that before the foundations of the world were constructed, before time was created, in His eternal council, God decided that certain humans will be ordained for damnation due to sin while others will be ordained for salvation through grace despite their sin, and nothing will change this.

Everyone wants to know if this is really true. I honestly do not know. Theologians are split on whether God actually and actively predestines humans and angels for hell and each camp provides Scripture to support their position. Famous theologian JI Packer calls such difficult issues a “divine mystery” which may not be meant for us to figure out.

The problem is that extremely difficult questions rise connected to predestination when studying the Word of God in-depth. For example:

“If salvation is absolutely exclusive through faith in Jesus via hearing the Gospel, and it is, then is it possible for a person who lives and dies without access to the Gospel to be saved?”

“If no, and that appears to be the case, then was such a person destined for such an outcome?”

I will provide two passages from the book of Isaiah, the first makes Isaiah look like a double predestinarian, while the second appears to contradict this controversial doctrine. Both are in the context of Israel’s turning away from God:

63:17 “O LORD, why do you make us wander from your ways and harden our heart, so that we fear you not?

And God answers placing responsibility on Israel, highlighting His effort to save Israel, and lamenting over Israel:

65:1 “I was ready to be sought by those who did not ask for me;
I was ready to be found by those who did not seek me.
I said, “Here am I, here am I,”
to a nation that was not called by my name.

2 I spread out my hands all the day
to a rebellious people,
who walk in a way that is not good,
following their own devices;

3 a people who provoke me
to my face continually,
sacrificing in gardens
and making offerings on bricks;”

On the other hand, in Romans 9 Paul alludes to the real possibility that certain people are created for damnation (keep in mind that he prefaces with a “what if”):

22 “What if God, desiring to show his wrath and to make known his power, has endured with much patience vessels of wrath prepared for destruction, 23 in order to make known the riches of his glory for vessels of mercy, which he has prepared beforehand for glory— 24 even us whom he has called, not from the Jews only but also from the Gentiles?”

However, in perhaps the most powerful passage appearing to contradict predestination to damnation, Jesus laments over those perishing in Jerusalem due to unbelief.

Why would He lament over the outcome of His eternal council if He predestined them to damnation?

37 “O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, the city that kills the prophets and stones those who are sent to it! How often would I have gathered your children together as a hen gathers her brood under her wings, and you would not!”

To attempt to understand this dichotomy would mean that we must understand the mind of God, and that is not possible. It is perfectly acceptable not to form a strong opinion or any opinion on the issue of double predestination.

Wherever one stands on this doctrine one must clearly understand that human responsibility is found on every page of the Bible regardless of predestination. Even if God predestines, man is 100% responsible.

I do not understand this antinomy so I resign to leave it in the realm of divine mystery.

54 comments on “Theology 101: What is Double Predestination?

  1. “The Lord has made all for Himself, yes, even the wicked for the day of doom.” -Proverbs 16:4. It is a divine mystery, but it’s good to not meditate on things too profound for us.

    • Joseph, welcome to the blog and God bless you.

      Indeed, that is a powerful verse consistent with Paul’s “vessels of wrath”

      Do you think those wicked people mentioned in proverbs were ordained for reprobation?

      • Yes that’s right. Some people are ordained for reprobation. This kind of theology should not preclude our hope for any one person though. If anyone was ordained to drink the cup of wrath, Jesus did it and …He said, “Abba, Father, all things are possible for You. Take this cup away from Me; nevertheless, not what I will, but what You will.” Mark 14:36.

        So now we know that it is His will to save all of humanity; may He send out those who harvest! Amen

  2. ” (keep in mind that he prefaces with a “what if”… are you implying that Paul was just throwing that possibility out there ???

    If we read verses19-21 we can translate the same words in todays english :
    “you got a problem with God wanting to show His wrath and to make His power known”… ( KGabiV )

  3. what if : a suppositional question

    supposition : something that is supposed; a hypothesis

    hypothesis : an assumption or concession made for the sake of argument

    What if… Paul was taking an argument to an extreme, like he does occasionally in his writings just to prove a point?

    What if… Paul presupposes this statement to strengthen the idea that man is not to question God?

    What if… ?

  4. ” However, in perhaps the most powerful passage appearing to contradict predestination to damnation, Jesus laments over those perishing in Jerusalem due to unbelief…..”

    Actually , this verse has an excellent explanation, in the book “The Difficult Doctrine of the Love of God” by D.A.Carson.

    In my opinion after Adam sined, we were all predestined to hell, BUT Jesus….

    Excellent article…. even though you did not take a stand… One way or the other.. 🙂

  5. On these issues one must be careful in taking stands. It involves pronouncing and outlining Divine Mysteries…

    Don’t wanna end up saying like Job ” I have uttered what I did not understand, things too wonderful for me, which I did not know.”

  6. Something to add to the discussion… I have seen comments made by some to the effect that – “if God predestined some people for salvation (heaven) and some people for damnation (hell) that that cannot be, because that would not be the loving God of the Bible that they know.

    But, taking that affirmation does it not label God as unloving when he sends the Israelites to kill all the Canaanites (including women and children)?

    William Lane Craig (who is not calvinist) has an interesting explanation for this, but most eye opening is what he says about God’s moral duty:

    I think that a good start at this problem is to enunciate our ethical theory that underlies our moral judgements. According to the version of divine command ethics which I’ve defended, our moral duties are constituted by the commands of a holy and loving God. Since God doesn’t issue commands to Himself, He has no moral duties to fulfill. He is certainly not subject to the same moral obligations and prohibitions that we are. For example, I have no right to take an innocent life. For me to do so would be murder. But God has no such prohibition. He can give and take life as He chooses. We all recognize this when we accuse some authority who presumes to take life as “playing God.” Human authorities arrogate to themselves rights which belong only to God. God is under no obligation whatsoever to extend my life for another second. If He wanted to strike me dead right now, that’s His prerogative. What that implies is that God has the right to take the lives of the Canaanites when He sees fit. How long they live and when they die is up to Him.

    This is a very, very good article that everyone should read here – Read more: http://www.reasonablefaith.org/slaughter-of-the-canaanites#ixzz2GMzBKqxz

    God has no moral duties to fulfill. Now there’s a statement to meditate on.

    • It was very instructive to read the article in the link. William Lane Craig is a methodical master!!! Outstanding apologist and self described Wesleyan.

      This was the best apologist explanation on the Canaanite genocide sanctioned by God I have read to date.

      Interestingly he believes the children of the Canaanites were spared from damnation.

      Indeed, God has no moral duties to fulfill because of His absolute moral perfection…. all moral systems are relative and to be related to His system as the ultimate standard.

      I feel a post on Canaanite atrocities coming up… 🙂

      • that is the best explanation I have seen so far too. Also, his observation on the fate of the infants is very helpful, as people struggle the most with the death of innocent children, whether in atrocities or as a cause of natural disasters.

        The question of ‘Where was God?’, coming from unbelievers is a very valid one, and I don’t think believers pay as much attention to it because they don’t really have an answer, so the more an answer is talked about, the better. When you research the post, research D A Carson too, not sure where I read his explanation, but it was a very good one too.

    • Perhaps I read his article too quickly, but I find his argument regarding the Canaanite children a bit disappointing. He doesn’t simply believe the Canaanite children were saved, but it seems his argument relies upon this to maintain God’s justice.

      • Matt, good point. I caught my eye too, in an otherwise well written piece.

        I think the issue with the children and their lack of moral agency is not really at the center of his argument, it is more of a tangential point…

        But I am trying to understand how he positions the Canaanite children in the same pot as the aborted children and the children of believers…

        Ultimately, the argument (again a tangential one to the main article) leads to the conclusion that God punishes the Canaanites with damnation, while rewarding salvation to their children- who would otherwise grow up to corrupt Israel.

      • Chris,
        It seemed to me that he made the salvation of children a critical piece in justifying God’s command to slaughter ‘innocents’ who he also admitted would lead Israel into sin, which kind of killed his whole argument that they were innocents. However, I acknowledge that I may have seen this piece as larger than he intended. I have sirens going off in my head anytime someone says, ‘it’s okay for God to do this because…..’and the next two words aren’t ‘…He’s God’. 🙂 I didn’t think it was a bad article though and don’t mean to suggest otherwise.

  7. and to keep this separate from the prior comment, here’s what R C Sproul says about double predestination: That predestination has only one side biblically, and that one side is election.

    This is another good article to read. It also shows how God foreordains things to come to pass:

    If God foreordains anything, it is absolutely certain that what He foreordains will come to pass. The purpose of God can never be frustrated. Even God’s foreknowledge or prescience makes future events certain with respect to time. That is to say, if God knows on Tuesday that I will drive to Pittsburgh on Friday, then there is no doubt that, come Friday, I will drive to Pittsburgh. Otherwise God’s knowledge would have been in error. Yet, there is a significant difference between God’s knowing that I would drive to Pittsburgh and God’s ordaining that I would do so. Theoretically He could know of a future act without ordaining it, but He could not ordain it without knowing what it is that He is ordaining. But in either case, the future event would be certain with respect to time and the knowledge of God

    Luther, in discussing the traitorous act of Judas, says:
    Have I not put on record in many books that I am talking about necessity of immutability? I know that the Father begets willingly, and that Judas betrayed Christ willingly. My point is that this act of the will in Judas was certainly and infallibly bound to take place, if God foreknew it. That is to say (if my meaning is not yet grasped), I distinguish two necessities: one I call necessity of force (necessitatem violentam), referring to action; the other I call necessity of infallibility (necessitatem infallibilem), referring to time. Let him who hears me understand that I am speaking of the latter, not the former; that is, I am not discussing whether Judas became a traitor willingly or unwillingly, but whether it was infallibly bound to come to pass that Judas should willingly betray Christ at a time predetermined by God.3

    We see then, that what God knows in advance comes to pass by necessity or infallibly or necessity of immutability. But what about His foreordaining or predestinating what comes to pass? If God foreordains reprobation does this not obliterate the distinction between positive-negative and involve a necessity of force? If God foreordains reprobation does this not mean that God forces, compels, or coerces the reprobate to sin? Again the answer must be negative.

    If God, when He is decreeing reprobation, does so in consideration of the reprobate’s being already fallen, then He does not coerce him to sin. To be reprobate is to be left in sin, not pushed or forced to sin. If the decree of reprobation were made without a view to the fall, then the objection to double predestination would be valid and God would be properly charged with being the author of sin. But Reformed theologians have been careful to avoid such a blasphemous notion. Berkouwer states the boundaries of the discussion clearly:

    On the one hand, we want to maintain the freedom of God in election, and on the other hand, we want to avoid any conclusion which would make God the cause of sin and unbelief.

    Read it in its entirety here- http://www.the-highway.com/DoublePredestination_Sproul.html

    (P S Chris, I wonder if you can put both long quotes in italics on both comments. It would probably be helpful to distinguish the quotes from my own words. Thanks!)

    • Rodi, I am still mulling the fine line between predestination to reprobation and coercion to reprobation.

      The fine line between allowing sin and furnishing sin.

      Necessity of force and necessity of infallibility.

      There are some philosophical gymnastics to be undertaken here 🙂

      • I think that is where most people see the dividing gap- of where God’s election ends and man’s responsibility in a response begins, or if there is even that proverbial ‘fine line’.

        Spurgeon said there is no need to reconcile election and man’s responsibility because they are two truths and both can be believed without having to reconcile them. He said:

        This doctrine is as much God’s Word as the other. You ask me to reconcile the two. I answer, they do not want any reconcilement; I never tried to reconcile them to myself, because I could never see a discrepancy. Both are true; no two truths can be inconsistent with each other; and what you have to do is to believe them both.

        Interestingly, that was the question I posed on Facebook in that long thread. Given all the verses that state God’s election of His saints, what is one to do with those truths?

        Do we sweep those verses aside because they are not logical to us, because they don’t fit in with our understanding of the fairness of God. The calvinist answer makes more sense, an opposing view cannot be found anywhere on this fine point so we can ascertain 2 opposing points of view.

        Maybe that should be a post in itself 🙂 – the verses that support the doctrine of election and why believe them or disregard them. I would love to see a discussion on that, it would be very very beneficial!

        • and just to clarify, I would not, dare not ever disregard any verse of the Bible. Hence the premise: what to do with these verses that clearly states there is (some kind of) predestination.

          Here is a starting point with some of the verses, coming from the King James Bible online website. http://www.kingjamesbibleonline.org/Predestination.php4

          First and biggest verse (in my opinion) to ponder is:
          Romans 8:29-30

          Romans 8:29-30
          King James Version (KJV)
          29 For whom he did foreknow, he also did predestinate to be conformed to the image of his Son, that he might be the firstborn among many brethren.

          30 Moreover whom he did predestinate, them he also called: and whom he called, them he also justified: and whom he justified, them he also glorified.

        • I don’t wish to delve too deeply into the argument in this post, but on this topic I often see a pattern of argument play out that I would caution against. I agree with Rodi, that we should not ignore any scripture when studying this topic.

          Having said that my primary comment is on how we study and understand God’s Word. In college, if I didn’t understand what a professor of math was saying, or if I did not feel it made logical sense to me, I would NOT have said, ‘well, my PhD math professor doesn’t make sense to me, so what he’s saying must not be true’. I would have accepted what he said as true, and then worked to understand how it could be true.

          If the Creator of the universe says something is true, then we must accept it, whether we understand it or not. I believe if we want God to give us understanding, we have to commit to accepting His Word by faith, THEN we pray to Him and study His Word for understanding. As a silly example, if the Bible were to say the sky is green, then we must accept that the sky is (or was) green. Many Christians today, I fear, would spend their time trying to figure out why we see a blue sky (have our eyes degraded genetically, has atmospheric content changed, is the color mistranslated etc), and would not accept that the sky was green until such an explanation was present. Whereas the proper approach to the Bible would be to accept what it says and seek the wisdom to understand it.

          So, if God says names have been ‘written from the foundations of the world in the book of life of the Lamb who has been slain’, then those names have been there from the foundations of the world. If the Bible says God chooses us, or God appoints us to eternal life, or God predestines us then we should be willing to accept it as true whether we can wrap our heads around it or not. If the Bible doesn’t say those things, or if it is unclear, so be it, but if it does say those things and it is clear far be it from me to deny God’s Word by reason of my wisdom (or lack thereof).

        • Matt,
          that is such an excellent analogy/comment!!! That is the premise of the infallability and the inerrancy of the Bible- point of view. And that is my point as well. Let’s start with the truth -in this case, some particular verses which are in fact God’s word- and study it (this truth) together so we all can profit from it (the Word).

        • I agree, Matt. I have seen arguments on this topic go terribly bad precisely because people were not well grounded in Scripture and were leaning too heavily on certain verses, while choosing to ignore others.

          All Scripture must be taken as a whole. It is an all-or-nothing phenomenon.

          I think it is clearly stated in in the Bible that God predestines by writing our names in the Book of Life, etc… even if we can’t understand it.

          The part where I seem to get stuck is does God actively and particularly pre-ordain or predestine individuals to reprobation…

        • but, only hyper calvinists believe in double predestination and they are a small minority. And since they don’t have biblical support for it, it should not be part of the equation. However, in the arminian vs. calvinism debate this is the straw man that makes some not consider God’s election at all. This and the fact that they think it somehow makes us robots. Putting all of that aside, the argument is that there is much biblical support for the doctrine of election whether we have objections to it or not. And although we understand that, most Romanians do not want to affirm those verses. We don’t have to label ourselves by any name, for we are not followers of men but we (our faith community) should discuss those passages. )f which, I am glad that you took the initiative to do so. So thank you!

        • Rodi,

          I completely agree that our starting point must be the infallibility and inerrancy of God and therefore His Word! If Christians really approached God’s Word this way, we’d see a lot less division in the church. I also agree with you that we should not be followers of men, but rather of God.

          Chris,
          I’m not quite sure what you mean by predestining to reprobation. I realize that with regard to predestining for salvation (or election) we all seem to see in Scripture that God does this. We may have some debate about the actual mechanism, i.e. when He forms a person in the womb are some people formed with hearts that are more willing/able to respond to the Holy Spirit, or does He overwhelm some of us with the calling of the Holy Spirit to turn to Him, etc. Either way, whether it is by His design of the individual or a specific action He takes, His election would still be His, so I don’t consider a debate of the mechanism to be terribly fruitful. What I’m curious about, is how you would consider that He picks winners, so to speak, and by default hasn’t also picked the losers (even if only by not picking them as winners)?

          My primary point would be that to say one (God elects the saved) and not the other (God has not elected the unsaved) seems to be a logical fallacy. I can accept a logical fallacy if Scripture teaches it, but from my view it puts the burden of Scriptural proof on the belief that God only picks one and hasn’t inherently picked both.

  8. Matt, like Rodi mentioned above, I am referring to double predestination. Not election. I take election for salvation at face value.

    Within double predestination we have almost a mirror image (I know Sproul argues against the mirror image argument) of election and reprobation and God predestines individuals to both. Rodi argues that hypercalvinists take this position. I am inclined to say that many regular Calvinists may subscribe to this one also.

    Quote from Calvin:

    “God preordained, for his own glory and the display of His attributes of mercy and justice, a part of the human race, without any merit of their own, to eternal salvation, and another part, in just punishment of their sin, to eternal damnation.”

    So then God predestines to damnation (reprobation)? This is not clear to me in Scripture.

    It may end up being the default position, and I can accept that, but then God does not actively predestine to damnation.

    If He does predestine to damnation just like he predestines to election, why does Jesus lament over the lost, that is lament over the result of his predestination?

    • In truth I’m not a student of Calvin (couldn’t tell you the 5 points of Calvinism to save my life), so perhaps my view of the doctrinal language is a bit different. However, I don’t see an important distinction between the terminology ( i.e. active predestination to reprobation vs. reprobation as a default).

      Let’s say God created Adam knowing he would fall leaving all of Adam’s descendents in, let’s call it group B. However knowing that, He also wrote, before He created Adam, the name of all of Adam’s descendents whom He would save (or elect, or predestine to salvation) and thus moved them to let’s call it group A. By selecting and recording all of group A prior to creating Adam, He alone has completely selected the membership of both groups.

      From my perspective, as I said previously, the mechanism is mostly irrelevant. Because God designed everything from the beginning knowing everything that would happen, there isn’t really such a thing as an inactive role that He plays. His activity either took place in the planning/creation stage or His activity takes place now in current events round us. The two only seem different to us finite humans because there is never anything in this life where we can actually know, plan, and control all participants, conditions, and variables.

      If we remove the doctrinal labels and terminology, I think we will find that the level of activity we assign to God (by moving it between the planning/design portion and current events), doesn’t really change anything, except perhaps which theologians like the way we phrase it.

      I’d like to add that I appreciate the respectful nature and high quality of the discussion, and most of all the commitment of all participants to Biblical truth.

      Be blessed,
      Matt

      • When I consider your example of the two groups I can’t but agree with you 🙂 regarding the membership assignments in the two groups… That verse that Joseph listed above from Prov 16:4 keeps ringing in my head… how God created the wicked for the day of doom… wow.

        It’s a pleasure to have you as a commentator, as wells as the others who wrote so eloquently on this post and other posts. This is what I had in mind when I started blogging. I initially started this blog as a means to reach those around me and kids in my church, but it has grown to include high quality commentators and followers like you. Thank you!

  9. This is a very interesting and important topic. Thank you for addressing it. There have also been some very good comments.

    Yes, it seems that God predestines some to eternal life…

    Acts 13:48 (NASB) – When the Gentiles heard this, they began rejoicing and glorifying the word of the Lord; and as many as had been appointed to eternal life believed.

    …and some to damnation…

    1 Peter 2:8 (NASB) – and, “A STONE OF STUMBLING AND A ROCK OF OFFENSE”; for they stumble because they are disobedient to the word, and to this doom they were also appointed.

    Regarding Matthew 23:37, I also used to think this verse contradicts predestination to damnation. But I no longer believe that to be the case. Jesus is speaking against the unwillingness of the Jewish leaders to allow their children to be gathered by Him (He never says He wants to gather them). And we have no reason to believe that the ones He wants to gather (their children) won’t be gathered. In fact, we have reason to believe the opposite. At the beginning of this judgment passage, Jesus says the following.
    Matthew 23:13 – “But woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites, because you shut off the kingdom of heaven from people; for you do not enter in yourselves, nor do you allow those who are entering to go in.
    These ones that are being blocked are still entering. But it won’t be by the teaching of these Jewish leaders.

    But what has to be kept in mind is that predestination to eternal life is not the same as predestination to damnation. All are taken from a lump that deserves damnation. Therefore, no injustice is done to those who are appointed to doom. And it is only God’s grace that appoints those to eternal life. By the way, Matt, you beat me to what I was going to say…if God chooses who will receive eternal life then He must (in way or another) also choose who will not.

    God bless,
    Brian

    • Brian, welcome to the blog and God bless you.

      I agree that damnation is the default as a direct result of the Fall. And in His mercy God elected us toward salvation.

      I must agree with … “predestination to eternal life is not the same as predestination to damnation”

      But I do have great difficulty finding predestination to hell before the foundations of the world in Scripture. It is easy to find election to salvation before the foundations of the world.

      To me, the verses speaking about appointment to the day of doom (Prov 16:4 is a very strong one) are directly linked to either wickedness, disobedience, etc not necessarily to divine appointment for that fate from the very beginning. I am continuing to study this subject.

      Thank you for joining the discussion, I invite you to follow the blog and contribute!

      • Thank you for the welcome.

        Yes, the verses speaking about appointment to the day of doom are directly linked to wickedness and disobedience. I think this is to emphasize that although a man is predestined to doom he is not innocent.
        Romans 9:19 – You will say to me then, “Why does He still find fault? For who resists His will?”
        The man who is passed over and left in his sins has taken pleasure in his wickedness and disobedience. He is not an innocent victim.

        But what I wonder is are you saying that some are elected by God to eternal life and that the rest can still be saved somehow? I suppose that must be what you’re saying since otherwise you would necessarily have to accept predestination to hell by accepting predestination to eternal life.

        • Logically speaking, I think you are right. By subscribing to election, I would have to subscribe to predestination to hell. The two have to go together. Logically that is.

          But it really troubles me when I run across Scripture like the passage in Isaiah 65 (in article) and Ez 33:11 “I have no pleasure in the death of the wicked, but that the wicked turn from his way and live; turn back, turn back from your evil ways, for why will you die, O house of Israel?”

          Could we possibly answer the above question “why will you die?” saying “because you were ordained to die?”

          If we hit rock bottom with the argument, the answer is probably both “yes” and “because of turning away.”

          Do you believe that the man passed over and left in sin was “a vessel of wrath” made for the purpose of sin?

        • In Ezekiel the people are complaining that they are being punished for their fathers’ sins. I believe God is making the point that they will die because they are unwilling to repent, not because of the sins of their fathers.

          Yes, I believe the ones passed over and left in their sin are “vessels of wrath.” By no means does God make them sin or even tempt them. He simply lets them follow their own evil desires instead of granting them faith and repentance by grace.

        • I would add a couple of additional points. First, God not taking pleasure in the death of the wicked, does not mean He is not glorified by it, and I would argue that glorifying God is our chief purpose. We would not understand God’s justice, His patience, or His holiness, etc. if there was no wickedness. In fact we would not understand His mercy if we did not realize that we are saved by His grace, not by any merit of our own, and that we are deserving of the same punishment.

          I would also point out that God calls everyone to repent. Some will be convicted by this and repent, some will be hardened and revel in their wickedness. Both being given the same message does not change Who ordains the outcome. We also have to keep in mind that some who heard Ezekiel probably did repent and some ( probably most) did not.

  10. I also wanted to comment on the William Lane Craig article that was cited. Craig says the following…

    “Moreover, if we believe, as I do, that God’s grace is extended to those who die in infancy or as small children, the death of these children was actually their salvation.”

    “So whom does God wrong in commanding the destruction of the Canaanites? Not the Canaanite adults, for they were corrupt and deserving of judgement. Not the children, for they inherit eternal life.”

    In one breath Craig says that the children are saved by grace. In the next, he implies that if they wouldn’t have been saved then God would’ve been doing them wrong. I think this is the core problem for many who reject predestination. They demand grace and believe that God wrongs people if He does not give it.

    • Hi Brian,

      Interesting analysis. I agree with you. God doesn’t owe us anything (I haven’t even paid Him for the air I’ve used so far today) and when we start thinking He does, it forces us into all kinds of gymnastics with Scripture.

      Ironically Craig then destroys his whole argument by saying:

      ‘God knew that if these Canaanite children were allowed to live, they would spell the undoing of Israel. The killing of the Canaanite children not only served to prevent assimilation to Canaanite identity…‘

      If they were innocent, then they couldn’t have corrupted Israel, and if they would have corrupted Israel, then they weren’t innocent. I’m not saying that to justify God’s actions, He doesn’t need my approval, I’m just commenting on the logic.

      Be Blessed!
      Matt

    • Craig is a Wesleyan which might make him an Arminian (not sure). I have watched his debates and he is a really good apologist but here he seems to subscribe to the universal salvation of children. To echo your statement, that automatically says that it would be wrong if God does not save every child. I think Matt said earlier that we gotta be careful when putting the words “wrong” and “cannot” in the same sentence with God 🙂

  11. The episode with the killing of the canaanites and their children ( I am speculating a little here) might have something to do with demonic possession and with the destruction of nephilim type of “humans”

    Genesis 6:44
    The Nephilim[a] were on the earth in those days, and also afterward, when the sons of God came in to the daughters of man and they bore children to them.

    Numbers 13:33
    And there we saw the Nephilim (the sons of Anak, who come from the Nephilim), and we seemed to ourselves like grasshoppers, and so we seemed to them)

    It is a fascinating story ….

  12. I found another really good post to add to the discussion. It is from monergim.com and I think it adds a little more clarity (at least for me) especially in points number 2 & 3:

    The ground of discrimination that exists among men is the sovereign will of God and that alone; but the ground of damnation to which the reprobate are consigned is sin and sin alone.
    John Calvin

    Moreover, Holy Scripture most especially highlights this eternal and undeserved grace of our election and brings it out more clearly for us, in that it further bears witness that not all people have been chosen but that some have not been chosen or have been passed by in God’s eternal election – those, that is, concerning whom God, on the basis of his entirely free, most just, irreproachable, and unchangeable good pleasure, made the following decision: to leave them in the common misery into which, by their own fault, they have plunged themselves; not to grant them saving faith and the grace of conversion; but finally to condemn and eternally punish them (having been left in their own ways and under his just judgment), not only for their unbelief but also for all their other sins, in order to display his justice. And this is the decision of reprobation, which does not at all make God the author of sin (a blasphemous thought!) but rather its fearful, irreproachable, just judge and avenger.
    Canons of Dort (1:15)

    Predestination & Reprobation Contrasted
    R.A. Finlayson

    1. [The Scripture] does not teach or imply a double predestination. In an attempt to distinguish between election and reprobation we should use predestination for the elect and foreordination for the reprobate.

    2. Election and reprobation rest on different grounds: election on the redeeming love of God that undertakes the salvation of the lost; reprobation on the moral necessity to manifest to the universe the nature and consequences of sin in moral personality.

    3. Means are used of God to fulfil the purpose of election, but God uses no means to fulfil His purpose of reprobation. It is left to sin to run its course and receive its wages.

    4. The fruits of election are attributable to divine grace, the fruits of reprobation to personal sin. This means that while there is grace to some, there is injustice to none.

    5. While God finds pleasure in the salvation of the elect, He has sworn by Himself that He has no pleasure in the death of the wicked. God does not need sin or its retribution for His self-manifestation, but its reality in the universe can serve that end.

    6. That the elect will constitute a recreation of the race under a new Head is evident, while the retribute are but the branches cut off from the tree of humanity. Christ will be revealed as the Saviour of the world, though many are lost in the process.

    • On points 2 and 3 above…

      I do agree with that approach, but I think Matt and Brian may disagree especially with point #3.

      Many hard predestinarians or double predestinarians may also disagree with it. And it has to do with taking some verses literally at face value, but it also has to do I think with a philosophical stance.

      If election is true, and it is, then they say the opposite, predestination to hell must be true by default.

      The point of contention is that God ordains the wicked for damnation before the foundations of the world… but God is not the One making them wicked even though He predestines them to damnation.

      Very difficult concepts for me to reconcile. Again it is divine mystery at work.

      Rodi, how do you understand biblically and philosophically this concept that God uses “no means to fulfill His purpose of reprobation.”

  13. The concept that God uses “no means to fulfill His purpose of reprobation.” is more of a human concept to me that I don’t believe really applies to God. It’s kind of like what I expressed in a previous post, that we tend to attribute action to God only if it occurs (in our view), in the here and now.

    In my work life, I frequently work in complex systems. In these systems are many subsystems. Each subsystem is designed so that it responds to certain events/conditions in certain ways. Each subsystem has a role to play to make the entire system function as intended by design. This design is based on our best knowledge of potential conditions. Sometimes pieces fail unexpectedly, sometimes there is a condition that was not known or planned for. If everyone on the team has done their job well, then every subsystem works as intended and the outcome is as desired…as long as the operating conditions meet what we designed for.

    When referring to God, there are no unknown conditions, there are no unplanned failures of pieces, there is nothing that He has not accounted for and did not expect, and He always does His job perfectly. God created the entire system. Consequently, no matter what action we perceive Him taking or not taking in the here and now, He has taken that action before the foundation of the world by the very nature of having designed, created, and understood the system. This is not to say He has sinned or tempted to sin, this is to say, He has created people who could and would turn away, and then He extends grace only to those He chooses.

    I would also add, if we wish to believe that He doesn’t actively predestine to repobation then we will also have problems with Scripture like Jeremiah 52:2-3 “He (Zedekiah), did evil in the sight of the Lord like all that Jehoiakim had done. For through the anger of the Lord this came about in Jerusalem and Judah until He cast them out from His presence…” and of course, we will struggle to understand the hardening of Pharaoh’s heart which cost many Egyptians their lives and livelihoods.

  14. I understand the term “uses no means” as “does not intervene” if we take the meaning of intervene as Come between so as to prevent or alter a result or course of events

    Yet biblically, intervention is not just an action of occurences in the present tense. For example, when Moses led the Israelites out of Egypt and into the promised land, the intervention that took place with Moses was prophesied 400 years earlier by Jacob in Genesis 49, to his sons and to his people, on his dying bed. So the intervention that took place as part of the exodus, where God says to Moses in Exodus 3:8 So I have come down to rescue them from the hand of the Egyptians and to bring them up out of that land into a good and spacious land, a land flowing with milk and honey , this intervention started 400 years prior, when God prophesied it through Jacob.

    • I agree that intervention isn’t necessarily an active occurrence now. Because of who God is, intervention does not require a specific action by God. As an example, let’s say someone could determine that the plagues that destroyed Egypt were a ‘coincidental’, ‘natural’ occurrence that required no supernatural intervention. It would not mean God did not intervene, only that what we would call His direct intervention occurred when He planned and set in motion the natural events that resulted in those 10 catastrophes occurring exactly when it served His purpose. I’m not saying this happened, of course, I’m simply saying neither scenario in any way reduces God’s intervention in the matter.

      Or we can consider 2 Kings 19:23 – 25 “….And you have said, “With my many chariots I came up to the heights of the mountains…..Have you not heard? Long ago I did it; From ancient times I planned it. Now I have brought it to pass, that you should turn fortified cities into ruinous heaps. Therefore their inhabitants were short of strength…”. Whether this was an active intervention by God at that time, or whether He commanded it long ago, (as evidenced by the statement ‘Long ago I did it’) and His command brought it to pass, I can’t say. Neither would reduce His control or intervention in the matter.

  15. If you live during the time that Israel was chosen of God as a nation, among all nations, and all those not in covenant relationship were called before as without God (Ep.2:11-12), then we will understand His choosing. He called Israel but only few were among the chosen. Now for this age of grace, those members of His body were also chosen

    Eph 1:4 According as he hath chosen us in him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and without blame before him in love:

    I think that only those who does not believe in him have a problem with God’s choosing, If you are saved already, then predestination has no negative effect to you.We cannot reason or question the Potter (Rom.9:21), but we can question those fellow clay. God knew already who are those who will be His.We are the ones who are having problem finding those already in Him. And at times we even question ourselves.

    In Job’s time, his sons and daughters were doing against God, though their father, Job, continue to offer for them. And when they were given ultimatum by God, Job has no question. He knows man’s responsibility. But above all,he has learned God sovereignty.

    God is the One Who openeth one’s eyes and blind the others,Even with the womb, some were barren and some were not. We cannot question Him for having none of what others have,If the choosing is all up to me, then I will not make it. Thanks that He is the One Who did the choosing.
    View my post for some intro: http://truthseldomheard.wordpress.com/2013/01/12/scriptural-atheist/

    • Thank you for your thoughtful input. So sorry your comment went to spam for the last week for some unknown reason. Thank you for the visit!

      The most important concept for us to understand is that God is sovereign while man is responsible. And true it is, we cannot question God about the decrees He makes!

      Thank you again.

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