Sunday, 27 April 2014

What if the Calvinists and Arminians are both wrong (and right) about predestination?

Many of us grew up with one of two viewpoints regarding predestination and free will. Those in the Calvinist corner would have been raised believing that God had chosen them either to go to heaven one day while others were created for eternal punishment. Those people who are damned never had the free will to choose life or death but were merely pawns on a giant chess board.
On the other hand you have the Arminian belief that says that God created everyone with a free will and each person can willingly choose to either receive or reject Jesus.

Now to be fair, both sides have their verses to quote in backing up their beliefs but in doing so, they usually end up rejecting the verses held by those on the other side of the fence. This is why I would like to recommend a third way of viewing the scriptures that relate to predestination.

Supportive texts for Predestination and Free will
PredestinationFree will
Jeremiah 1:5Joshua 24:15
Matthew 22:14Deuteronomy 30:19
Mark 4:10-12Ezekiel 18:32
Eph. 1:3-5Mark 16:16
Rom. 8:28-30Romans 10:9
1Co. 2:7Matthew 9:29
Act. 4:27-281 Thessalonians 4:14
Psa. 139:16John 3:16
Romans 9:15-182 Corinthians 5:15
Exodus 4:21Jeremiah 18:7-10
Rom. 9:22-241 Timothy 2: 3-4
Ephesians 2:8-102 Peter 3:9
Acts 13:48Revelation 2:5
Revelation 2:16
Revelation 2:21
Revelation 3:3
Revelation 3:19 

Let me start by saying that on a personal level, I find the Calvinist view of God in particular to be extremely disturbing in that He would create people with the intention of torturing them forever for his own glory (I'm still not really sure how that makes God look good but anyway). Typical Calvinist doctrines like predestination and penal substitution attribute to God s character things which, if they were attributed to men, would be deemed monstrous. For me no amount of scriptural gymnastics could get around verses like these ones.

In the same way your Father in heaven is not willing that any of these little ones should perish. Mathew 18:14

He is the atoning sacrifice for our sins, and not only for ours but also for the sins of the whole world. 1 John 2:2

...who wants all people to be saved and to come to a knowledge of the truth. 1 Timothy 2:4

But despite my feelings toward Calvinism, those verses in the left hand column in the chart above are in the bible and need to be looked at honestly. So here are 2 questions that I have been pondering regarding predestination.

1 - What if Jesus himself is actually Gods elect? 

From the very beginning the bible promises a Savior, Gods very own Son in whom He is well pleased. (Matthew 3:16). It seems to me that the predestination vs free will debate is a product of our individualistic thinking. Perhaps it is those who choose to align with Christ that are automatically drafted into Gods promise.

For he chose us in him before the creation of the world to be holy and blameless in his sight. In love  he predestined us for adoption to sonship through Jesus Christ, in accordance with his pleasure and will—  to the praise of his glorious grace, which he has freely given us in the One he loves.  In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of sins, in accordance with the riches of God’s grace  that he lavished on us. With all wisdom and understanding,  he made known to us the mystery of his will according to his good pleasure, which he purposed in Christ. - Ephesians 1: 4-9

This view also takes care of the "once saved always saved" discussion. Eternal security is found in Christ but only for those that remain in him.

2 - What if predestination is about glorification rather than who is in and who is out?

The more that I look into this topic the more I think that predestination is more about glorification than it is about who goes to heaven and who goes to hell one day. Read the beginning of Ephesians again in particular.

For he chose us in him before the creation of the world to be holy and blameless in his sight. In love  he predestined us for adoption to sonship through Jesus Christ, in accordance with his pleasure and will—  to the praise of his glorious grace...

I know that I am giving a lot of verses in this post but because this is such a radically different way of looking at things I want to really emphasize my point. Here are a few more:-

For those God foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, that he might be the firstborn among many brothers and sisters.  And those he predestined, he also called; those he called, he also justified; those he justified, he also glorified. - Romans 8:29-30

who is a deposit guaranteeing our inheritance until the redemption of those who are God’s possession—to the praise of his glory. - Ephesians 1:14

He called you to this through our gospel, that you might share in the glory of our Lord Jesus Christ. - 2 Thessalonians 2:14

But thanks be to God, who always leads us as captives in Christ’s triumphal procession and uses us to spread the aroma of the knowledge of him everywhere. - 2 Corinthians 2:14

And those he predestined, he also called; those he called, he also justified; those he justified, he also glorified. - Romans 8:30

...on the day he comes to be glorified in his holy people and to be marveled at among all those who have believed. This includes you, because you believed our testimony to you. - 2 Thessalonians 1:10

Through him you believe in God, who raised him from the dead and glorified him, and so your faith and hope are in God. - 1 Peter 1:21

I would love to know your thoughts on this as well. Hopefully, even if you fall within the Calvinist or the Armenian camp this adds something to the conversation.


  1. Your second point is especially interesting. The idea of placing the emphasis not on being chosen but what we are chosen for is one I hadn't thought about.

    1. Yes. While the debate over Free will is an important one I think it has moved our focus away from what almost all the texts are saying about the glorified and resurrected Christ and those who are found in him. Thanks for commenting.

  2. I've come to a similar view myself, mostly based on Romans 8:29-30.

    Basically what I usually state is that God foreknew us individually, but predestines us collectively to, among other things, be conformed into the image of His Son, Jesus.

    The example I sometimes use is that of a P.E. teacher who tells the class that anyone who is able to do 20 push-ups will get a ribbon. The teacher probably knows which students will be able to do the push-ups) though not with the same level of certainty that God knows who will believe), but he doesn't decide in advance who will receive the ribbons. Rather, he says that any student that meets the conditions will receive one.

    Likewise God has set Faith as the condition for Salvation, and because of His omniscience is perfectly aware of who will and will not meet that condition, so He Foreknows us. And likewise He has said that everyone who comes to saving Faith will be conformed to the image of His son, so anyone who believes is thus predestined to be conformed to the image of Christ.