My Response To A "Predestination" Post I Recently Read

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

I want to share my response to a post I read from our church.  The person who wrote the post (I believe it was our pastor) quoted Acts 2:23: “This man [Jesus] was handed over to you by God’s set purpose and foreknowledge; and you, with the help of wicked men, put him to death by nailing him to a cross.”  

The writer’s point is that God pre-planned Jesus’ death and chose to use wicked men to accomplish this.  I can agree with this.  However, the underlying point of his post is that God basically caused the men to be wicked (that He planned their evilness), to accomplish His purposes.  And yet God – even though He planned for and caused these men to be wicked – cannot be accused of doing evil or wrong.  This is a typical Calvinist view.    

He also goes on to say that God also planned for Adam and Eve to rebel, to fall.  That it is for His glory that they fell.  The implication is, once again, that God caused them to fall, for His purposes.  

And then he ties all this into predestination.  He reminds the readers that God’s Word clearly teaches predestination (as in God predetermines whether you go to heaven or hell, and there's nothing you can do about it) and that God ordains everything – even the outcome of our lives – and, yet, we are still held accountable for our choices. 

(I wonder, though, “How can he really call them ‘our choices’ if it was really God’s choice to decide where we ended up, if we believed in Jesus or didn’t believe?”)  

And he says that “predestination” is a reminder of how much higher God’s ways are than our ways, how we can’t really understand Him.  And how that’s a good, beautiful thing.  (This is another typical Calvinist thing - telling us that we can't really understand it all because God's ways are higher than ours.  They pull this out whenever you question their views or point out their contradictions and illogical ideas.  They use it to shut you up, as in "How can you dare speak against God like that, tiny human!?!  Who are you to think you can understand our huge, mysterious God with your tiny brains!?!"  And if any Calvinist out there wants to say, "Oh, but we don't really believe God causes sin," then consider the words of these popular Calvinist preachers and teachers:  "Calvinist Quotes on God Determining All Evil"  If you don't think Calvinism says God causes evil, then you might want to explore deeper this "Calvinism" you say you believe.)  

I, however, do not think that “predestination” is taught in the Bible as clearly as he says it is, especially the way he defines it.    

Personally, I think there is more than enough in God’s Word that points to free-will, to the idea that we are responsible for our choice to believe or to disbelieve.  And the more that I have explored the “clearly predestination” passages, the more I have begun to believe that it isn’t really teaching predestination after all, not in the way Calvinism defines it.  And I have only become more convinced that God really does put the responsibility on us to accept Him or reject Him.

You see, I don't have a problem with the idea of God ordaining things - if it means that God foresaw what would happen and allowed it to happen, for His purposes, knowing it can be turned into something good.  (And yes, sometimes it is that He causes things.  But He doesn't cause us to sin or not believe.  He doesn't cause us to do the things He commands us not to do.  That would destroy His character!)

But I do have a problem with claiming that "ordains" means that God causes everything, even our sins and whether we believe in Him or not, whether we obey or disobey.

I don't think (in general) that He controls our choices.  I think He allows (expects!) us to choose if we will follow Him or go our own way.  And He lets us face the consequences of our choices.  And He can work our choices - our obedience or disobedience - into His plans because He foreknew what we would choose to do.  But just because He already knows what we will choose doesn’t mean that it wasn’t our choice.  

(And yes, God can "manipulate" circumstances to make His plans happen, but it doesn't mean we don't get a choice.  He doesn't force us to choose what we do, but He might just set up the circumstances and turn up the pressure to get us to make our choice.  But we still have to decide whether we will obey or disobey.  He might put the pressure on, but we can still choose to resist, right up to the end, to our own detriment.  And then He'd simply work our disobedience into His plans (because He knew we'd choose disobedience) or He'd choose someone else to work out His plans with.  He did this with the Israelites in the desert by letting the grumbling, resistant generation die off, but then taking the next generation into the Promised Land because they were willing.)  

And yes, I agree that God’s ways are far above ours and that there are many things that we do not understand about our mysterious God (and there are things we are not supposed to understand), but the more I study this issue of “predestination vs. free-will,” the more I think it can be understood in a way that makes sense, that lines up with the Bible as a whole, and that keeps God's character in tact - His justness, love, holiness, sovereignty, grace, etc.  

Whereas Calvinism just destroys it all!  

[And I think that the "you can't understand it because God is so mysterious, and so you just have to accept it in humble faith" response is really just a clever way of shutting people up, of getting us to stop questioning it.  Because who's going to disagree with it if you paint them as unhumble for disagreeing?  Yes, there are many verses that sound like predestination at first reading (and second and third).  But the more I have studied them, the more I believe they are not teaching Calvinism's "predestination" at all, that God pre-decides who goes to heaven and who goes to hell.  And it's critical for us to begin questioning and speaking up against the Calvinist heresy being pushed on us.  (Oh, you don't like that I called it "heresy"?  I'm sorry about that.  Then how about "demonic lie from the pit of hell that disguises itself as truth, using God's Word against God"!  Is that better?)  It's become an epidemic.  And if we don't start researching it for ourselves and speaking up against it, there will be no one to stand in its way!]   

But since my response to his post never showed up (big surprise!), I decided to share my response here.  I think it neatly sums up my thoughts on this whole "predestination vs. free-will" issue. 

My Response 

I think there's a difference between saying "God caused the people to be wicked" and "God used the wickedness of the people."  

And there's a difference between saying "God caused Adam and Eve to sin" and "God knew they would sin and made a way to incorporate it into His plan for salvation."  He knew from the very beginning that humans would fall, and so He pre-planned a way to redeem us (i.e. sending Jesus to the cross for us).  But this does not mean that God caused Adam and Eve to fall. 

I believe that God can and does use our sin and rebellion, that He works it into His plans for good.  But I do not think that He causes us to sin or to be rebellious.  But in His sovereignty and foreknowledge, He knows how to work everything into His plans - our obedience and our willful disobedience. 

The difference between saying that God "causes evil and sin for His purposes" and that God "allows evil and sin, and works it into His purposes" is huge, and it has great implications for how we view God, His justice, His love, His sovereignty, etc.  I'm just throwing this out there to point out the different ways this post can be read.

The idea of predestination is highly debatable.  And the more I read the Bible, the more I believe that God calls to all people, but it is up to us to respond to the call of God or to resist Him.  And we will be held accountable for our choice.  Jesus knocks on the door of our hearts, but we have to choose to open it or to ignore the knocking.

"They perish because they refuse to love the truth and so be saved."  2 Thess 2:10

"But because of your stubbornness and your unrepentant heart, you are storing up wrath against yourself."  Romans 2:5

"Yet to all who received him, to those who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God."  John 1:12

From what I understand from the concordance, "receive" is not passive (as though God makes you receive Jesus).  It is active, as in reaching out and grabbing ahold of what is offered to you.  The opposite would be to reject what is offered.  And "believe" is not passive, either (such as saying that God caused you to believe).  It involves the idea of allowing yourself to be persuaded by something and choosing to commit to it, to place your confidence in it.  The opposite would be to choose to be resistant to it. 

Both of these imply a responsibility on our parts, which is why we will be held accountable.  Because we are responsible for accepting the truth or rejecting it.  (I might be wrong in all this, but the more I read the Bible, the more it all lines up.  And the more just and loving and sovereign God seems.)

--- End of my response ---

My pastor strongly and smugly believes in Calvinism and the Calvinist idea of predestination (it is practically the cornerstone of every sermon he preaches), so I know he will not appreciate my response or the fact that I disagreed with him.  

But I had to do it. 

So much is on the line when it comes to this issue – our understanding of God and His sovereignty, our understanding of His justness and love and forgiveness and mercy and grace, if all people really do have the chance to go to heaven or not, if Jesus really did die for everyone or only for some, if evangelism and prayer really make a difference or not, if we are responsible for our own choices or not, if this lifetime and what we do in this lifetime really matters or not, etc.

And this is why I posted my response here (because it didn't show up on his blog).  And it's why I wrote this whole series on it.  Because we would be wise to think deeply through all of this and to find answers that make sense and that hold up to Scripture.  What we believe about all this has a great effect on our view of God, on how we live out our faith, and on how we share our faith with others.  And it's worth the time and effort it takes to study it well and thoroughly, instead of just falling in line with forceful Calvinists who try to convince you that their view is the only biblical view to have and that you have to agree with them if you want to be a good, humble Christian.  (And don't even just accept what I say.  Run it all through Scripture and see what you think!)  

Next post in the series:  What about those who've never heard?

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