Wednesday, 9 October 2013

Predestination


Your viewpoint on predestination will greatly shape the way you look at God and the events that happen in this world.  Don't know what predestination is?  Here's a definition I pulled off of answers.com: 

n. 
 The act of predestining or the condition of being predestined.
  1. Theology.
    1. The doctrine that God has foreordained all things, especially that God has elected certain souls to eternal salvation.
    2. The divine decree foreordaining all souls to either salvation or damnation.
    3. The act of God foreordaining all things gone before and to come.
  2. Destiny; fate. 
Do you get it yet, or is all of this over your head and you want to go read a comic book instead because it makes more sense?  It's an important topic, and I hope that you will find my viewpoint on the matter enlightening. 

In simple terms, predestination is the belief that God has chosen our fate for us.  The bible is clear that God has predestined some of us to become Christians (you'll see verses to back this up further on).  However, the process in which this happens is often disagreed about.  Basically there are two major beliefs about the predestination issue:

1.  God chose people - his elect - to become Christians without any permission from us humans

2.  God looked into the future and saw who would choose him, and he chose then chose them to be Christians

People shy away from the first option because by choosing to save some people, God is simultaneously choosing who won't be saved; the God described here isn't just choosing people to go to Heaven, he is also in a sense sending people to Hell.

Free will is something humans cling on as a right, and we treat anything trying to take it away for us or suggesting that it isn't ours to begin with as a threat.

That's is why people lean towards the second option, the option that shows that deciding to become a Christian is our decision to make.  This option lets us maintain the free will that we hold so dearly, while simultaneously giving us a picture of God which we may agree with more.

Which of these two viewpoints are true, if any?  Well, let's see what the bible has to say about it. 

Romans 3:11   "there is no one who understands, no one who seeks God." 

In context of the rest of the passage, this verse is describing that this is our condition under sin:  nobody seeks God.  How are we supposed to have any control over our salvation if we can't even seek God to accept him? 

Romans 9:15-16   "15For he says to Moses, "I will have mercy on whom I have mercy, and I will have compassion on whom I have compassion." 16It does not, therefore, depend on man's desire or effort, but on God's mercy." 

Interesting verse, but does it have to do with allowing us to make the choice that leads to our salvation?  No.  However, it does show that God does make decisions independent of our own, and for that I'm grateful.  Reading through the rest of Romans 9 gives us some hard truths about the extent of the sovereignty of God.  However, this particular article is about predestination, and so we shall move on. 

Ephesians 1:4-6   "4For he chose us in him before the creation of the world to be holy and blameless in his sight.  In love 5he predestined us to be adopted as his sons through Jesus Christ, in accordance with his pleasure and will— 6to the praise of his glorious grace, which he has freely given us in the One he loves." 

Ephesians 1:11   "In him we were also chosen, having been predestined according to the plan of him who works out everything in conformity with the purpose of his will," 

These passages were brought up by a friend of mine arguing that salvation is our choice.  He pointed out that the verses read "he chose us in him," not "he chose us to go to him."  What he was saying was, God chose us because he knew we would become Christians.

For a while I accepted this viewpoint.  To me, it seemed like a much kinder God that would choose us because we made the decision.  However, as time went by, I found I no longer could hold this viewpoint.

Let's look at another verse: 
Ephesians 2:  For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God— not by works, so that no one can boast. 

When I first memorized these two verses in AWANAs, I learned that grace was a gift of God that we didn't deserve.  Salvation is a gift from God.  However, I believe that this passage is saying much more than just that.

To me, this verse now reads that even the faith that we have doesn't come from us, but from God.  The faith that we needed to make the choice wasn't even ours, we couldn't make the choice on our own.

How could we make the choice to follow Jesus without the faith to do so?  God must have predestined us to become a Christian, independent of our decisions.   As intense as the implications of this is, it appears to me that it has to be true:  it matches up with scriptures, it matches up with the sovereignty of God. 

If we were to believe that God looked down the tunnel of space and time and looked at those who chose him, and then in turn chose those people to do his will, his decision would be somewhat based on our decision.  However, this opinion limits God’s sovereignty.

How vain would we to think that we have any control over our own salvation.  Yes, we need to choose Christ, but this very ability to choose comes from God.  No part of our salvation has to do with any merit on our own part.

If we were somehow able to control even in part our own salvation, we would legitimately have something to be proud of, we would in a sense feel like we should deserve part of the glory God has blessed us with.  But that is not the case!  We deserve nothing!  God didn’t choose us because we chose him!  We chose him because God chose us!  We have no right to have any pride, all glory belongs to God!

Here’s the thing I like to bring up before going into any discussion on predestination.  Realize this:  our actions should not change regardless of our views on predestination.  We still are to obey his commands.  Those who want to be saved still need to call on the name of Jesus (Romans 10:13), and we are still commanded to evangelize.  In other words, we are still responsible for our actions and the result of them.  You are never able to do something evil and say “well it happened so God willed it to happen.”  God does use even our mistakes for his glory, but people will be judged according to their actions.  God is in control and we are responsible for our actions.

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