"Predestination vs. Free-Will" Overview

(Part of the "Predestination Vs. Free-Will" series)

I was listening to a speaker recently (our "new" pastor that I told you about earlier) who strongly believes in predestination, that God decides who to save and who to condemn to hell and that He causes everything we do, even our sins, for His glory and purposes.

And I . . . well . . . I couldn’t disagree more!

Imagine that I walk into your church and say, “I am taking a group of people on a trip with me.  We are leaving sometime soon, and you have to decide which group you’ll be part of: the one that goes or the rest that stay behind.  I have a destination picked out, a way to get there, I’ve already paid the price to take a group with me, and I’m now asking for those who want to go.  It’s up to you if you want to come or be left behind.  But if you do not deliberately choose to come with me, you will be left behind.”  

This, in essence, is the way I view the whole “predestination or free-will” debate.    

This debate has to do with the idea of whether we have the ability to choose salvation ... or if God has already made this decision for us in the very beginning.  Are we simply puppets acting out pre-determined roles?  Or do we have a real choice in the matter?

I think it falls somewhere in the middle, that we have free-will and that God has a predetermined plan already set up. 

Twice recently, I heard the message that God has pre-chosen who will come to Him and who is destined for destruction.  It was said that this actually highlights God’s love more because He didn’t have to choose any of us.  But He did.  So it actually makes His love shine more to those who are saved because He chose to make us the saved ones even though we didn’t deserve it.  Totally unearned, undeserved mercy and grace. 

Okay, I can understand that.  But what about the rest of the people, the ones “created” to be unbelievers and who are destined for destruction?  The ones who have no choice but to go to hell because God has decided it so?  "Well, too bad, but that’s just the way it is and who are we to question God’s ways," I guess.  Or so the reasoning might go.   

And it was said that the reason we evangelize and pray for the lost – even though we have no real free-will to choose God or not because the choice has already been made for us – is because God told us to.  Plain and simple.  And because He knew that it’s how the lost would come to Him. 

Really?  So you’re saying that even though we have no real free-will and we are destined to become what God pre-determined us to become, God still needs us to spread the Good News because that’s how the soon-to-be-believers will become believers?  That God needs my cooperation in order to help them become the believers that they are destined to become?  So I have to obey God’s command to pray and evangelize so that His Will gets done?  But don’t you agree that if I have to obey this command, it means that I have the option to disobey?  That I can either share the Good News with an unbeliever or I can chicken out and not talk about Jesus?  And so the responsibility lies with me to obey or disobey the nudges of the Holy Spirit?  Excuse me, I mean no offense, but doesn’t that bring us right back to free-will, the ability to choose to obey or not? 

The messages I have heard recently do not sit well with me.  While I agree that God is able to do whatever He wants (even handpicking who gets saved and who gets damned), I just don’t think this is the way it is.  I don’t think it fits with His character, His Word, and the way He relates to people in the Bible. 

Our pastor has a very strong personality and constantly pushes predestination and God’s sovereignty.  However, his view of sovereignty is that God causes everything that happens, even our sins and disbelief.  

Whereas mine is that, for the most part, God allows us to sin, to make our own choices.  And then He incorporates everything into His plans.  (He has the power to do whatever He wants, but He doesn't always use it.  He has voluntarily restrained His use of power in certain areas in order to allow us to have free-will, to make decision.)  

Yes, I believe that God is in control.  But that doesn’t mean that He micromanages everything.  It means that He knows how to weave it all together, whatever choices we make.  It means that He can use everything for His purposes and His glory and that He will work out His plans.  But I think He does this by incorporating our character and choices into His plans, not by overriding our free-will and forcing us to choose what we do.  (He can – and does – force us to make decisions, to make up our minds.  And He already knows which decisions we will make and how to incorporate them into His plans.  But He doesn’t force which decisions we make.) 

I think Scripture is clear that God is not responsible for our sins or disbelief, that He doesn’t force people to sin, that salvation is available to all and that we have to decide whether to accept it or reject it.  We choose to obey or disobey.  And in God’s wisdom and foreknowledge, He knows what we will decide and how to work it into His plans.

This pastor has even gone so far as to suggest that God causes childhood abuse for His purposes and glory and for the child’s ultimate good and that you just have to trust Him (see the upcoming post “Does God Cause Childhood Abuse?”).  That if you were abused, it was God's "Plan A" for your life.  

That was the last straw for me!  I wanted to walk right out of the building and never go back!  It just makes me so crazy to hear God portrayed that way.  Could you imagine the pain someone in the audience would feel that day, hearing that their heavenly Father - the one they are to trust above all and who should love them more than anyone - was the reason they were abused as a child?  That He did it on purpose, for their good and for His glory, and that they just had to trust Him?

Oh, yeah!  That's a God I would trust and want to love!

NOT!  NO FRICKIN' WAY!  (Oh my goodness, this just makes me so mad!  To hear my God portrayed that way!  I could go on and on, but more on this later.)

Anyway, my main problem with predestination is the idea that God causes people to go to hell or to sin, and that there is nothing they can do about it . . . that most people never have a chance to go to heaven because they are predestined for hell, as though salvation wasn’t available to them . . . that they have no choice about being disobedient because “God made them do it,” but then He is going to punish them for it anyway. 

This doesn’t make sense to me. 

And I don’t think it lines up with Scripture and with God’s loving, just, righteous character.  I think that kind of teaching is so off-the-mark and so damaging to people’s faith.  And this is why it bothers me so much to hear our pastor pushing it so forcefully, acting as though his opinion is the only way to view Scripture.  Acting like if we disagree with him, we disagree with the Bible and dishonor God.     

It’s all going to be a bit jumbled, but these next “predestination vs. free-will” posts will be about what I think the Bible really teaches – that we have to choose to believe or not believe, that we decide to obey or disobey, that God is loving to all and has made salvation available to all, that He is just when He allows people to face the consequences of their choices (because He doesn’t force people to sin and then punish them for it), and that His sovereignty works in conjunction with our free-will, not against it.

So, let’s dive in, shall we?

Previous post in this series:  Is Our Eternity Decided For Us?

Next post in this series:  Should "Predestination vs. Free Will" Matter To Christians?

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