I’m aware I’m about to open a whole can of worms with this post, but that’s kind of what this whole blog is about, so here goes. I believe in predestination, and that colors all of my theology, which means it colors all of what I write about on this blog, so I think it’s important to state that and explain why I believe what I believe.
Why I believe in predestination
The Bible is pretty explicit in communicating that predestination is, indeed, how God works. Just look at the first two chapters of Job, or the places where God hardened Pharoah’s heart, or Romans 9. It’s most clearly laid out in Romans 8:28-30:
And we know that all things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose.
For whom He foreknew, He also predestined to be conformed to the image of His Son, that He might be the firstborn among many brethren.
Moreover whom He predestined, these He also Called; whom He called, these He also justified; and whom He justified, these He also glorified.
It’s also implied in smaller places throughout the Bible, including in Isaiah 49 and Jeremiah 1, and explicitly stated again in Ephesians 1:3-5:
Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places in Christ, just as He chose us in Him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and without blame before Him in love, having predestined us to adoption as sons by Christ Jesus to Himself, according to the good pleasure of His will…
But what about free will? Doesn’t that make us all puppets?
My favorite analogy, especially as an author, is the idea of us being like characters in God’s novel. In a novel, characters have agency and make their own choices. That’s what makes the story compelling. If someone else is making the main character act, it’s not a very interesting book. The characters are choosing to act in certain ways and reaping the consequences. But who’s ultimately making those decisions and putting those consequences into motion? The author. And I see life and God’s will the same way. We are placed here and we make choices–and we have the responsibility to make those choices, and the choices we make have consequences–but it’s God who is ultimately in control and “writing” those actions and consequences in a story that is meant to show His glory, grace, love, and overall character.
How can a loving God choose to send people to Hell?
How can a loving author choose to kill a character? Because it’s necessary for the story to work.
What story would be complete without some sort of opposition to the protagonists? It’s hard to have an effective story without some sort of antagonist, because it’s impossible to show light and grace and love and forgiveness without something to contrast them with. It’s a repeated pattern in creation that to appreciate beauty we have to endure darkness. Stars would be invisible without the dark. We don’t appreciate a sunrise until we’ve seen the night. And life is no different. Without sin, without sinners and haters of Christianity, without darkness, there would be nothing to compare God’s grace and truth and light with. We might, by some miracle, know intellectually what God was, but we would never fully understand or appreciate His character.
Paul explains this in Romans 9:15-24:
For He says to Moses, “I will have mercy on whomever I will have mercy, and I will have compassion on whomever I will have compassion.”
So then it is not of him who wills, nor of him who runs, but of God who shows mercy.
For the Scripture says to the Pharaoh, “For this very purpose I have raised you up, that I may show My power in you, and that My name may be declared over all the earth.”
Therefore He has mercy on whom He wills, and whom He wills He hardens.
You will say to me then, “Why does He still find fault? For who has resisted His will?”
But indeed, O man, who are you to reply against God? Will the thing formed say to him who formed it, “Why have you made me like this?”
Does not the potter have power over the clay, from the same lump to make one vessel for honor and another for dishonor?
What if God, wanting to show His wrath and to make His power known, endured with much longsuffering the vessels of wrath prepared for destruction, and that He might make known the riches of His glory on the vessels of mercy, which He had prepared beforehand for glory, even us whom He called, not of the Jews only, but also of the Gentiles?
So does God just create “throwaway people” to oppose His people? Does He even care about the people He’s predestined to damnation?
As a writer, I’ve written many villains, and it’s very rare that I completely hate them. If I’ve developed them well, I value them as a character and I value them for the purpose they were created for. In a way, I love them. God, too, creates people that He loves and cherishes. Verse 22 of Romans 9 says, “What if God… endured with much longsuffering the vessels of wrath prepared for destruction?” And God can love His “villains” far more effectively than human authors can love our fictional antagonists. But that unconditional love doesn’t mean He can–or even should–throw away their initial purpose and save everyone who ever has or ever will exist. Without some being unrighteous and condemned, we would never truly see God’s justice. If every book you read had a redeemed villain, how effective do you think that would be? There wouldn’t be any need for justice, because everyone would simply be right and good in the end. But can you imagine a world where justice doesn’t exist, or even a world where it’s unnecessary? I’m pretty sure that either way it would be a disaster. God knew what He was doing when He planned the world this way, and it’s important for His character to be on display because it’s our blueprint for life, too.
Why does a just God choose to save any of us?
But the previous point isn’t asking the right question, anyway. The fact that any of us are called to salvation is proof that God is loving, because we know that He is also just, and sin cannot dwell with Him. In Isaiah 59:1-2, Isaiah speaks to the nation of Israel and says,
Behold, the LORD’s hand is not shortened, that it cannot save; nor His ear heavy, that it cannot hear, but your iniquities have separated you from your God; and your sins have hidden His face from you.
Romans 3:23 says that “all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God” (emphasis added).
It is through grace that we are saved, and that is a gift of God. We all deserve Hell. Every last one of us. But God, in His mercy, chooses to save some and bring them to Himself. Does that make the elect better than anyone else? Of course not! We’re still all sinners, and God doesn’t choose us because of any good we’ve done (we can do no spiritual good while we are still unsaved). He simply chooses.
How could we save ourselves, anyway?
The alternative to predestination is the idea that we choose God and turn to Him ourselves, but belief in predestination includes the belief that we are incapable of choosing Him ourselves, due to the fact that we are dead in sin, and that we must be called in order to believe in Him. Ephesians 2:1-10 is another huge passage in favor of predestination:
(1)And you He made alive, who were dead in trespasses and sins, (2)in which you once walked according to the course of this world, according to the prince of the power of the air, the spirit who now works in the sons of disobedience, (3)among whom we all once conducted ourselves in the lusts of our flesh, fulfilling the desires of the flesh and of the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, just as the others.
(4)But God, who is rich in mercy, because of His great love with which He loved us, (5)even when we were dead in trespasses, made us alive together with Christ (by grace you have been saved), (6)and raised us up together, and made us sit together in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, (7)that in the ages to come He might show the exceeding riches of His grace in His kindness toward us in Christ Jesus.
(8)For by grace you have been save through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God, (9)not of works, lest anyone should boast.
(10)For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand that we should walk in them.
I could unpack this pretty much verse-by-verse, but this post is already long so I’ll just pull out the general point I’m trying to make. (If you’d like a post analyzing this passage verse-by-verse, let me know in the comments.)
First off, it says He made us alive, meaning our salvation is completely His doing. Likewise, in verse five, it says that we were dead in trespasses. Can a dead man wake up and cure his illness? Can he bring himself back to life? No. Only God’s power could make someone live again. And the same is true of our sin nature and salvation. While we live in sin, we are dead. Completely and totally. There is no “mostly dead” when it comes to sin (and even Westley had to have outside help when he was “mostly dead”). God is the only one with the power to bring us back to spiritual life, just as He’s the only one able to bring us to physical life, which means He must choose us if we are to be saved, because there is no way for us to choose our healing while we are dead.
Let’s discuss. Do you believe in predestination? Why or why not? I’d love to chat down in the comments. 🙂