Final Objection to Predestination
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I’ve posted much on the topic of predestination lately. I have posted a general definition here, on its definite nature according to the counsel of God’s will here, and finally on the two-edged sword of double predestination here. The two primary objections to predestination are the hyper-Calvinist error of double predestination, and the modernist error of assuming our free will is greater than God’s will.
I have already considered the hyper-Calvinist error in my post on double predestination. Briefly, it assumes that God actively chooses to send one group of people to heaven and one group to hell. It sees God’s as taking a positive action on both sides of the coin–that He actively works sin in the reprobate’s life in order to send that person to hell while actively working good things in the elect’s life to send that person to heaven. No such action is necessary. God merely “passes over” the nonelect and takes no further action in that person’s life. That person will condemn himself to hell. Reprobation, therefore, is a negative action on God’s part.
The other error with predestination is more of a modern error. Modern theologies tend to place a greater emphasis on the human free will than the divine free will. This type of error assumes that our free will decisions can somehow limit God’s actions. Viewed correctly, we derive our free will from God’s decree. We are free, to be sure, but God is more free than we are.
The Westminster Confession of Faith spends a chapter on human free will. Chapter IX, paragraph 1 states “God has endued the will of man with that natural liberty, that is neither forced, nor, by any absolute necessity of nature, determined good, or evil.” Paragraph 2 expounds on this will: “Man, in his state of innocency, had freedom, and power to will and to do that which was good and well pleasing to God; but yet, mutably, so that he might fall from it.”
Paragraph 3 reads:
Man, by his fall into a state of sin, has wholly lost all ability of will to any spiritual good accompanying salvation: so as, a natural man, being altogether averse from that good, and dead in sin, is not able, by his own strength, to convert himself, or to prepare himself thereunto. (emphasis added)
It is important to remember that, according to the confession, man “has wholly lost all ability of will to any spiritual good accompanying salvation” (Rom 5:6, 8:7; cf. Jn 15:5). It is in this statement that we find no contradiction with John 3:16 or similar passages:
For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life. (emphasis added)
Put together with “Man . . . has wholly lost all ability of will to any spiritual good accompanying salvation,” we understand, finally, that apart from God’s grace, no one is going to believe in Him. This highlights our total dependence on God, which is something that modern theologies either downplay or forget altogether. Modern theologies would have God dependent upon man.
My own pastor has been teaching against predestination for several Sunday school sessions. Regrettably, I have been unable to attend. This past Sunday, he used 2 Peter 3:9 as the bullet proof text against predestination. This verse reads:
The Lord is not slow to fulfill his promise as some count slowness, but is patient toward you, not wishing that any should perish, but that all should reach repentance.
The problem is that, based on the teaching that man’s will is now wholly unable to will and do any good, no one is going to reach that repentance that God desires us to reach.
In sum, it is easy to attack predestination when it is isolated from the rest of what Calvinism teaches. But when one considers that systematic theology as a whole (the way that it is meant to be considered), it is much harder to put a hole in it. At one point, it is easy. But when considering all five points of Calvinism, the system becomes a unified theology that is the best way to understand Scripture.