Determined to Believe: What do you think is the strongest Biblical argument for predestination?

sovereignty
johnlennox
(SeanO) #1

Out of a desire to be fair to both sides of this argument and for us to fulfill the RZIM mission of ‘helping the believer to think’, what do you think is the strongest Biblical argument for the predestination of individuals (as held within Calvinism)? Personally I do not hold to this view - I believe that all people are free to choose God and we are predestined in the sense that God chose Christ and therefore He indirectly chose those who freely decide to follow Christ. But since we are mainly getting one side of the discussion in this book, I wanted to provide a place for us to reflect on why someone might hold this position.

For me, Romans 9 falls flat when taken in context, so that does not help the case for predestination of the individual. But I think Tim Keller, in this sermon on the call of God, makes a strong case that in the Bible we generally see God initiate. If I were asked the question, “What is the strongest argument for predestination of the individual in the Bible?” I would say that this line of argument about the necessity of God’s call would be the strongest.

Even if you do not agree with this position, what are your thoughts? What would you say is the strongest argument for predestination of the individual?

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(Jimmy Sellers) #2

The sovereignty of God is the load bearing column that the rest of the argument rests on. So how sovereign is sovereign? Can He bless? Can He curse? Does He know my name? Can He love me and can I love Him? Perhaps more importantly, does He need my permission to act? My reason and my Bible will not allow me to get around the sovereignty of God, he is that I AM . I cannot image that there is anything outside of His ability to command to comfort to save or cast out and that would include salvation. It is a good argument. And if it wasn’t for evil it might be convincing.

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(Matt Western) #3

So a quick question: I’ve been taught that Romans 9,10,11 are about Israel’s rejection of Christ (the Gospel), and the opportunity for Gentiles as part of the church age, but that God still has a plan for them during the future millennial reign of Christ on earth.

Had Israel been set aside temporarily during the church age, or has the church replaced Israel permanently - and does this somehow cause a certain perspective on Romans 9? Perhaps @SeanO you could clarify what Romans 9 is about in the context ?

Regarding ‘the call’ for me Ephesians 2:8-9 is pretty simple to grasp. God does initiate via Grace, we can respond with genuine faith (or not), and salvation is the result (salvations power is held by God because he is the initiator)… salvation cannot be lost, because it is a gift of God, and was not of my works. Salvation is a legal transaction: where Christ took my place on the cross and a persons salvation rests on this legal transaction : being made right (justified) before God.

An example I’ve heard is of a pardon being offered to a man on death row: it is possible to refuse this pardon.

There is a call to respond : where I disagree is where there are two calls. The ‘general call’ which does not work to the non-elect, and the ‘effectual call’ to the elect.

In terms of Gods sovereignty. God has predestined nations and people groups to fulfill his control of history. Individuals within those groups still have a genuine choice.

Also, I think we should not redefine the term ‘predestination’ with ‘determinism’. Scripture talks about Christians (who are saved), being predestined to be conformed to the image of His Son, and also being predestined for good works.

Just where I’m at… :slight_smile:

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(Isaiah J. Armstrong) #4

I’d have to agree with you @SeanO
Anyone who becomes a Christian realize later on that the Holy Spirit plays an important role of getting them open to Christianity. Immediately I think of J Warner Wallace the cold case detective. He was a militant atheist for much of his early life, but became a Christian after he read the gospels and concluded that they were eyewitness testimony, like the ones he has to read from old murder cases. He says that if it weren’t for God opening his heart, he never would have bought a bible in the first place to look into the evidence. But he ultimately became a Christian by evidence, the same way the lack of evidence got him to reject Mormonism (he has step family that are LDS).

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(SeanO) #5

@Jimmy_Sellers So you are saying an appeal to God’s power and sovereignty is one argument for predestination, but that it falls flat in the face of human evil?

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(SeanO) #6

@matthew.western That is a rational interpretation of Romans 9-11 to me - I think where people go wrong is when they think it is about the predestination of individuals rather than nations/groups. I’m amillennial, so I do not think there will be a millennium, but that is a separate topic :slight_smile:

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(Jimmy Sellers) #7

Not falls flat but falls short of a convincing argument.
I have watched an interview with Piper and a notable non-Calvinist preacher (name escapes me) go through the 5 points and Piper was making the argument that the two views are are not really that far apart because there agreed on 3.5 or maybe 4 of the points.

I am using Piper’s book as a balance to Lennox.

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(SeanO) #8

@Jimmy_Sellers By 5 points do you mean TULIP? I would be curious to know who the other preacher was… Ben Witherington basically goes down TULIP in this video and explains why he disagrees with the entire system, so I think it would be inaccurate to say that a majority of Christians agree on 3.5 or 4 out of the 5 points, though perhaps that was true of Piper and the other preacher in this case.

I agree it is good to read both perspectives together - that helps us to make wise decisions about what we actually believe.

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(Jimmy Sellers) #9

Found it.

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(Omar Rushlive Lozada Arellano) #10

Hi @SeanO. First, if you ask me, I think you framed both popular sides of the soteriology debate unfairly. This is because you said free will and predestination. Both Calvinists and Arminians believe in free will and predestination. They just have different beliefs about it. In light of that, then they both see that both go together and not against each other. Sound Calvinists like R.C. Sproul in Willing to Believe: The Controversy Over Free Will, believes that it’s the person himself who chooses Christ. God does not make the choice for the person after the person is regenerated. Both even believe in the necessity of the primacy of God’s grace in salvation. Calvinists say this is irresistible grace, Arminians say this is prevenient grace.

Second, I believe that there should not be a debate whether predestination per se is biblical. The word itself came from the Greek word, proorizo, which means that a particular thing would take place. It is found six times in the New Testament: Acts 4:28; Rom. 8:29-30; 1 Cor. 2:7; Eph. 1:5, 11. The debate should be framed as what view of predestination is biblical.

Third, you said that you personally do not hold to the view that only those chosen by God will be saved. Both Calvinists and Arminians believe that only the elect will experience the efficiency of the atonement, therefore God only intended to save the elect on both sides, even if they have a difference on “for whom did Christ die” and also on whether “God has a good disposition toward the non-elect”. In light of this, as a brother, I ask you to rethink your position, the work of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit are connected and are not against each other. If God saves those whom He has not chosen, then the Holy Spirit applies the benefits of the atonement to whom the Father has not chosen.

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(SeanO) #11

@omnarchy I appreciate your honest and thoughtful critique :slight_smile: I am always thankful when a brother or sister honestly encourages me to think God’s thoughts after Him! We are all indeed predestined by God and chosen in Him, as the Scriptures say.

I believe definitions matter. And I do not believe in predestination or election as defined within Calvinism. Nor do I think that the term free will means the same thing within both Calvinism and Arminianism.

For example, R. C. Sproul says that people choose God of their free will, but their will was not free to choose until God first changed their heart, an act that He will not do for all people. The inevitable logical consequence of this belief is that there are people who are not free to choose God because their heart has not been enabled - their will is in fact not free. In addition, those whom God gives free will will inevitably choose Him, which means that it is not ultimately them doing it but God. Sproul is effectively redefining the term free will in a way that would not be in harmony with the Arminian definition.

In this thread, my goal was that we would provide supporting arguments for predestination as defined within Calvinism. While I agree that predestination and election are both Biblical terms, I think that they are defined very differently in Calvinism and Arminianism, so much so that I think it is misleading to say that both groups affirm them. What they are affirming is, in fact, very different.

As a closing note, I am neither a follower of Calvin or Arminias or Wesley. Rather, I view myself as a sojourner trying my best to understand the Word :slight_smile:

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(Mitzi Witt) #12

From what I hear from friends that are Calvinists…If a person believes in UTTER depravity and how that is defined and therefore what that would imply, then that could be a case for determined salvation because then only who God chose could even be enabled to respond. Grace would be logically deduced as irresistible. That’s how the Calvinists in my neighborhood look at it. Complete and utter depravity would make a man totally blind and not desiring anything concerning God.

Not sure I understand this though. But I’m just reading along and thinking.

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(Omar Rushlive Lozada Arellano) #13

I appreciate your clarification @SeanO. At least now it’s clear to me that for you, both sides believe in predestination, election, and free will, it’s just that they mean different things to both systems.

In light of that, I think it’s not misleading to say that both believe in predestination, election, and free will, even if they define it differently. As theologians, we need to be very precise with our use of words for clarity. Think of a general category, which are named as predestination, election, and free will. Then they each have a subset or subcategories under it. For example, in predestination, there is Calvinist and Arminian predestination. In election, there is unconditional and conditional election. In free will, there’s compatibilistic free will and libertarian free will. So yes, they see it differently, but in a general sense, both believe the doctrine.

For me, it’s more misleading to say that just because they believe differently, that we say that one view believes predestination, then the other believes in free will. In my experience, this brought confusion with people. People generally assumed that Calvinism is more biblical than the others, because the Bible talks about predestination, and it’s packaged that they are the only view that believes in predestination. In such a very hot topic for Christians, for me it would not help to frame it this way, because it adds more heat than light. This is just my two cents for you my brother! :slight_smile:

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(SeanO) #14

@omnarchy I respect your perspective and appreciate the feedback :slight_smile: I think anything we can do to attempt to decrease heat and increase light and love and truth is a good thing! I agree we should not set predestination and free will against each other but rather clearly define our terms.

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(Jimmy Sellers) #16

I put this in the wrong thread. Sorry. I meant for it to go here.

Not to stir up the conversation but this last Sunday the pastor preached on Jerimiah 18:1-6 and the Sunday school lesson was on Mark 10:35-45.
The sermon focused on the sovereignty of God and his prerogative to do with the clay what ever he wanted to do and in this case the emphasis was on the need for the Nation/church/individual to come back to God and live a Godly life. We call it revival. No mention on predestination or foreknowledge.

The Sunday school teacher spent extra time on verse 10:40b, "but is for those for whom it has been prepared .” with the emphasis on prepared as before the foundations of the world predestine and foreknow.
I am not soliciting comments on the two points just the contrast, all from inside a church that places great emphasis on “who so every will” Gospel.

(Matt Western) #17

I love this turn of phrase, ‘to take a little heat out of the conversation, and have a little more light’ :slight_smile:

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