Is predestination a both/and concept?

(Martin Pitts) #1

Hi everyone, so I was reading last night and something struck me on the topic of predestination.

Let me give some background first. There was a talk that Ravi gave where he starts talking about a “both-and” mindset instead of an “either-or” that shows up a lot in the Bible. Basically where we see something that we believe has to be “either this or that” it instead really means “both this and that”. I also saw this in a bible study by Robby Gallaty called The Forgotten Jesus when Robby points out the meanings behind certain Hebraic words.

For example, in Deuteronomy it says this in chapter 6 starting in verse 4, “Hear, O Israel:The Lord our God, the Lord is one! 5 You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your strength."

The first word “hear” is translated from the Hebrew word “Shema” which means not just to hear, but also “obey”. The word doesn’t have an either-or translation, but it means both hear and obey.

Another example is how Jesus is Lord and Savior, He can’t be either one or the other alone but instead is both at the same time.

Now, currently I believe that God does foreknow who will be saved, and just because He knows doesn’t mean that He chooses who would be saved. John 3:16, 2 Peter 3:9, the story of the rich young ruler in Matthew 19, and the Parable of the Sower in Matthew 13 to me proves that everyone has a choice, and that salvation is a gift to all people. But what I got to wondering is this. What if this also is a both-and concept? Let’s just look at John 6:60-70 as one example. Here Jesus says that He chose the twelve. God has a plan for all of us. He also wills that all of us would receive the gift of salvation, but He has given us the ability to choose. But would it make sense to say that God also chooses certain people to complete specific works that He has prepared? Looking at the 12 disciples, they each were chosen for multiple reasons to spread the gospel and to help the beginning of the church all to the glory of God minus Judas but even he was to fulfill a specific task which would lead to Jesus’ crucifixion.

What do you all think? It’s not something I’m completely sold on yet, but I am curious about it. Also, I know that predestination is a topic that some people like to point at and say “well if it’s God’s choice for me to be saved then it will happen, and in the meantime I’m going to continue living how I want,” so that they have a cop out for not choosing to change their lifestyle.

(Jean Daniel Slabbert) #2

Hi Martin @mpitts92 ,

What a fascinating question and topic. Pre-destination is something that I ponder on a lot too. And I do not seem to get a definitive answer to the question from anyone. So, here’s my take on the matter, though I would really appreciate other inputs on the topic too.

Even as a child I struggled to comprehend the conflict between freedom to choose (and I personally do believe we have been given this freedom) and the sovereignty of God where He knows all things before they happen. I do remember many years ago (like 10 years plus) though, where I heard a podcast from John Piper where he said something that at least made sense to me (forgive me for not knowing where exactly I heard this).

He spoke about God’s Command Will and Sovereign Will.

If my recollection and understanding of his comments were correct, he defined God’s command will as those instructions given to us in the Bible as to how would should live—the hear and obey things you referred to. We have a choice in these things to either obey or not…

His sovereign will, Piper described, as those things that WILL HAPPEN, irrespective of our choices and actions. A perfect example would be the Cross. We know that nothing anyone could have done, could have prevented this from happening.

For me, the freedom to choose is incredibly important and provides a lot to my understanding of the purpose of this world. If we did not have the option of choosing to put our faith in God, would our faith truly be in Him if there was no choice in the matter? I believe that ‘Forced love isn’t real love’. The fact that my wife has the freedom to choose me and still chose me, is proof to me that she truly loves me.

Ravi said, “God gives us a most sacred gift of the prerogative of choice. But he does not give us the power to choose a different outcome to what the choice might entail. The consequence is bound to the choice”. And I couldn’t agree more…

(SeanO) #3

@mpitts92 That is an interesting question. Here are two other threads that you may find helpful as you think more about this topic. I think that this probably is a both/and topic - both free will and God’s foreordaining of historical events are true. But I do not think we can know the mechanics of exactly how that works. Rather, as we walk with God we learn to trust Him because we know that His heart is good and all that He does true and beautiful and pure and right and worthy.

Deuteronomy 29:29 - The secret things belong to the Lord our God, but the things revealed belong to us and to our children forever, that we may follow all the words of this law.

The Lord bless you with wisdom and peace as you study this matter. Feel free to ask more questions as you study.

If everything is predestined, then how can God judge?
(Isaiah J. Armstrong) #4

God knew you were going to answer like that.:grinning:

(Andrew) #6

I think the “middle ground” is the best path to follow. A good example of this is God’s sovereignty and man’s responsibility: both taught by Scripture. John 3:16 is a perfect example of this. God offers salvation to all mankind because Jesus died for each person (1 John 2:2), but God knows who will choose and who will reject His Son. Do I understand how this is even possible as a finite being? No. A quote that honestly addresses the complexity of this issue:

“that God on the one hand by his providence not only decreed, but most certainly secures, the event of all things, whether free or contingent; on the other hand, however, man is always free in acting and many effects are contingent. Although I cannot understand how these can be mutually connected together, yet (on account of ignorance of the mode) the thing itself is (which is certain from another source, i.e., from the Word) not either to be called in question or wholly denied” (Theologian Francis Turretin, Four Views on Divine Providence)

We as human beings tend to put God in a box and attempt to use human language to explain how God knows everything and yet we have the capacity to choose. This isn’t possible and is a trap in my view. Another quote that eloquently explains the mistake that we can make in this type of theological conundrum.

“Our compartmentalizing minds want to put everything into a box, and yet the claims of Christian belief are not mutually exclusive. God, in His divine sovereignty, has given to us liberties and freedoms. Since our sovereign God chose to grant us this privilege, it cannot be something that in any way diminishes His sovereignty. He circumscribes the limits of that freedom such that we cannot violate His sovereign plan and His will, but that does not negate the freedom that we enjoy. Paradox sits uncomfortably on our rational mind, but then so should the Incarnation, since it is the advent of a Person who is proclaimed to be very God of very God while also being very man of very man.” (Ravi Zacharias)

In reading God’s Word, it is clear to me that both positions are taught and equally valid. Its best to take a balanced approach even when we do not fully comprehend how God is sovereign and we are free moral agents.

(Martin Pitts) #7

I will say this though to clarify; I’m not seeking a concrete answer, but merely thoughts on musings I had last night. Something I read in your post earlier @SeanO reminded me, that this is not of eternal importance. Whether God chooses or not to me in the end doesn’t matter. What matters is the truth of the sacrifice of Christ, and that He did make the sacrifice for all. Thank you all for your input and for the resources from other discussions following this same matter. It has definitely been helpful!

(Mark Gilliam) #8

If predestination is a Biblical concept, then it is worthy of analysis. (And should be analyzed.) If not, then why bother?

Your last paragraph is the antinomian heresy which I think both reformed and Arminians would reject.

Here is a question for you - If God is omniscient then he knows all things that have and will happen so is it possible for us to choose something different than what God knows so in effect does God’s foreknowledge of all events effectively foreordain those events?

(David Cieszynski) #9

Brilliant question and replies, I love questions like these here is what I have in my notes: -

You can think of God being an author of a book, the time taken to right the novel is not evident in the timeline of the novel. We need to remember that God doesn’t live in a time sequence for God it’s still 1862 and already 2050 C S Lewis

God does not foresee us doing something tomorrow but see us doing it as what we call tomorrow is visible to God in the same way as what we call today. For God all the days are NOW. C S Lewis

Predestination is linked to God’s foreknowledge. This idea does not take away our choices. Our freedom is not removed. Dan Paterson

And here is link to a Michael Ramsden article:

(Jimmy Sellers) #10

I know everybody has taken a shot at this. I did this in one of the RZIM modules doctrine I think. Its long but is the results of wrestling with the topic.

I know that the load bearing portion of either view hinges on the sovereignty of God. 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. God is in the choosing business he chooses whom he will but even in the choosing he does not exclude .

2 And I will make you a great nation , and I will bless you, and I will make your name great. And you will be a blessing. 3 And I will bless those who bless you, and those who curse you I will curse. And all families of the earth will be blessed in you. ” (Ge 12:2–3)

5 Your name shall no longer be called Abram, but your name shall be Abraham, for I will make you the father of a multitude of nations. (Ge 17:5)

5 And he brought him outside and said, “Look toward the heavens and count the stars if you are able to count them.” And he said to him, “ So shall your offspring be .” 6 And he believed in Yahweh , and he reckoned it to him as righteousness . (Ge 15:5–6)

So early in the story God lays claim to a people group. His will for this special people group is that they live their lives as an example of a life lived in shalom. I ran up on the definition of shalom in a book that I am reading the credit is given to Cornelius Plantinga Jr. He explains the OT meaning of shalom:

The webbing together of God, humans, and all creation in justice, fulfillment, and delight is what the Hebrew prophets call shalom. We call it peace, but it means far more than mere peace of mind or a cease-fire between enemies. In the Bible, shalom means universal flourishing, wholeness, and delight …. Shalom, in other words is the way things ought to be .

Think Psalms 1 and you have human flourishing and if we consider that God’s chosen people would be an example of the human flourishing think how the nations would respond if the Holiness of God was demonstrated in the lives of a broken people being made “whole” by His Holiness. If you think about it every time Jesus crossed a purity boundary, (the women with the issue of blood, eating with the publicans, touching the lame, the blind, the sick, the demoniac, the leaper, the woman at the well) his Holiness made the unwholly lives of those he touched Whole as God intended, able to flourish .

22 And many peoples and powerful nations will come to seek Yahweh of hosts in Jerusalem, and to entreat ⌊the favor of⌋ Yahweh.’ 23 Thus says Yahweh of hosts: ‘In those days ten men from the nations of every language will take hold of the hem of a Judean man, saying, Let us go with you, for we have heard that God is with you! ” ’ ” (Zec 8:22-23)

9 But you are a chosen race , a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for God’s possession , so that you may proclaim the virtues of the one who called you out of darkness into his marvelous light, 10 who once were not a people, but now are the people of God, the ones who were not shown mercy, but now are shown mercy. (1 Pe 2:9–10)

All of this is predicated on the Bibles declaration of the Creator God’s intention to redeem and restore his creation and to live among his people for eternity.

And I will take you ⌊as my people⌋, and I will be ⌊your God⌋, and you will know that I am Yahweh your God, who brought you out from under the ⌊forced labor⌋ of Egypt. (Ex 6:7)

4 “Hear, Israel, Yahweh our God, Yahweh is unique. 5 And you shall love Yahweh your God with all your heart and with all of your soul and with all of your might. (Dt 6:4–5)

3 And there will not be any curse any longer, and the throne of God and of the Lamb will be in it, and his slaves will serve him, 4 and they will see his face, and his name will be on their foreheads. 5 And night will not exist any longer, and they will not have need of the light of a lamp and the light of the sun, because the Lord God will give light to them, and they will reign ⌊forever and ever⌋. (Re 22:3–6)

Now for the lynch pin the resurrected Messiah. The man before his time (chronological gap). The man who shocked the world our forerunner:

we who have taken refuge may have powerful encouragement to hold fast to the hope set before us, 19 which we have like an anchor of the soul, both firm and steadfast, and entering into the inside of the curtain, 20 where Jesus, the forerunner for us , entered, because he* became a high priest ⌊forever⌋ according to the order of Melchizedek. (Heb 6:18–20)

20 And when they* had brought them to the chief magistrates, they said, “These men are throwing our city into confusion , being Jews, 21 and are proclaiming customs that are not permitted for us to accept or to practice, because we are Romans* !” (Ac 16:20–21)

I will finish with the 2 great verses of the Bible:

16 For in this way God loved the world, so that he gave his one and only Son, in order that everyone who believes in him will not perish, but will have eternal life . 17 For God did not send his Son into the world in order that he should judge the world, but in order that the world should be saved through him. 18 The one who believes in him is not judged, but the one who does not believe has already been judged, because he has not believed in the name of the one and only Son of God. (Jn 3:16–18)

To that I would add The I AM verses and for me personally I find get comfort in know the Lord of Glory new the hearts of his people and he knows my heart. All Glory be to Him.

28 So they said to him, “What shall we do that we can accomplish the works of God ?” 29 Jesus answered and said to them, “ This is the work of God: that you believe in the one whom that one sent.” (Jn 6:28–29)

And the last and perhaps most compelling verse to support my belief that this whole issue is not an issue when Paul who had every right to claim “Election” (It is a pillow of 1st century Judaism along with Monotheism (Creator God) and Eschatology (Resote the creation)) gave way to “faith”.

6 But the righteousness from faith speaks like this: “Do not say in your heart, ‘Who will ascend into heaven?’ ” (that is, to bring [Christ] down), 7 or “Who will descend into the abyss?” (that is, to bring [Christ] up from the dead). 8 But what does it say? “ The word is near to you, in your mouth and in your heart” (that is, the word of faith that we proclaim), 9 that if you confess with your mouth “[Jesus is Lord]” and believe in your heart that [God raised him from the dead], you will be saved. 10 For with the heart one believes , resulting in righteousness , and with the mouth one confesses , resulting in salvation . 11 For the scripture says, “Everyone who believes [in him] will not be put to shame.” 12 For there is no distinction between Jew and Greek, for [the same Lord is Lord of all], who is rich to all [who call upon him.] 13 For “everyone who calls [upon the name of the Lord] will be saved.” (Ro 10:6–13)

I believe that It is safe to say that if you take these verses out of Romans, Romans would not be Romans.

So come to the table there is room for all, the elect, the enlighten and the whole world and just like the Father in the Prodigal who scans the horizon for his son to return the expectant Father of Glory expects you to return. You have always been on the guest list so take your place. It’s your choice.

(Martin Pitts) #11

I wasn’t implying that we shouldn’t still follow a moral law, but just that in the end what is important is the truth of the gospel. The fact that someone is saved by grace shouldn’t change the way they act out their beliefs. In another thread there were 3 verses of Scripture that came to my mind on this: Ephesians 2:8-9, James 2:14-26, and John 13:34-35. Although we are saved by grace, through faith, and not by works (Ephesians) we are meant to show each other love (John), and through the acts our faith is justified (James). So even though we are saved we are still meant to live a holy life.

Also, I don’t mean to cast the notion away or excuse it away. It is a tough topic, and needs to be analyzed as you said. To me though, knowing the answer isn’t going to change my mindset on speaking the gospel and trying to reach the lost. It is not for me to know who will receive or who will reject, but I am meant to be obedient in delivering the message. That’s why I mentioned that “this is not of eternal importance.”

To answer your question, no I don’t think it’s possible for us to choose differently that what God knows we will choose. To be able to do that would over rule God’s omniscience. But at the same time I don’t believe foreknowledge is the same as being preordained. I still believe that God has certain things ordained for us because He knows our choices; however, knowing something isn’t the same as choosing. I know the laws in my city, state, and country, but just because I know them doesn’t mean I am ordained to follow them. I have to choose to follow them, and there are consequences (both good and bad) depending on the choice that I make.

(Ross Clark Prado) #12

To answer your question, I believe and convinced thru Scripture that it is indeed a both/and concept.
God has divine sovereignity over everything, TRUE
(Prov. 16:33, Prov. 19:21, Rom. 9:15, Exodus 33:19)
Mankind is “free” to choose and is responsible for his/her actions and its consequences, TRUE
(John 3:16, John 7:17, Joshua 24:15, Rev. 3:20)

On our choice to follow God or not, I sternly believe NO ONE can CHOOSE to love God or come to God and follow Him, without God acting upon that person. (Rom. 3:10-12, Ez. 36:26)

And it is clear in Scripture that God chooses those who are His, which He has determined even before creation began. This has been expounded and explained by Paul in Romans 9.

Subjecting God’s salvation power (Jesus’ death on the cross) under the “decision” of mankind is putting down His sovereignty to a level lower than man’s choice.

I really believe God’s sovereignity and man’s free will work hand-in-hand, such that God has already determined whom you’ll be yet you are freely choosing to be that.

I would like to disagree though that the knowledge that you are chosen by God is not important, in fact it is of eternal importance because God chose you from before time, that is from eternity. It gives a deep and profound weight on the mercy and grace that God gave you (your salvation), which was solely based on the counsel of His will. This means that your salvation has been in the mind of God, you are chosen by the infinite God to be part of the Bride whom which He gives to His Son, this truth should give us a sense of humility and awe to God for just being chosen and saved.

Lastly, as you ponder about these questions. Really guard your heart. These verses have helped me in studying and understanding these complex truths in the Bible while at the same time, not losing sight of what’s important and what’s crucial.

1 Cor. 8:1 “Now about food sacrificed to idols: We know that “We all possess knowledge.” But knowledge puffs up while love builds up.”
Our quest of understanding these truths should not be for learning’s sake only but to help us grow in knowledge and in love, more in love with God and to people.

Titus 3:9-11
9 But avoid foolish controversies and genealogies and arguments and quarrels about the law, because these are unprofitable and useless.

Romans 11:33-36
33 Oh, the depth of the riches of the wisdom and knowledge of God!
How unsearchable his judgments,
and his paths beyond tracing out!
34 “Who has known the mind of the Lord?
Or who has been his counselor?”
35 “Who has ever given to God,
that God should repay them?”
36 For from him and through him and for him are all things.
To him be the glory forever! Amen.

Isaiah 55:8-9 New International Version (NIV)
8 “For my thoughts are not your thoughts,
neither are your ways my ways,”
declares the Lord.
9 “As the heavens are higher than the earth,
so are my ways higher than your ways
and my thoughts than your thoughts.

There will be truths in the Scripture and about God that we will never be able to reconcile. And we will NEVER FULLY UNDERSTAND AND DESCRIBE GOD for He is infinite. And I have peace with that as I study and know more about Him.

I hope this will be able to help you. All for His glory.

(Brian Weeks) #13

Hi Martin, what you’re considering in your original post is what is traditionally known as the doctrine of concurrence - a doctrine affirmed by Augustine, Luther, and Spurgeon, among other church fathers. In short, this doctrine states that man makes genuine decisions for which he is responsible, and over and above those decisions is the sovereign, free will, providence of God. The Westminster Confession of Faith addresses this doctrine with the following:

God from all eternity, did, by the most wise and holy counsel of his own will, freely, and unchangeably ordain whatsoever comes to pass; yet so, as thereby neither is God the author of sin, nor is violence offered to the will of the creatures; nor is the liberty or contingency of second causes taken away, but rather established.

In his book titled How to Read a Book, Mortimer Adler stresses the importance of understanding what the author means when they write the words they do. He says that, unless we seek to understand exactly what someone means when they use certain words, then we’re not getting what they’re trying to communicate and all that is passing between us is words rather than knowledge and understanding.

I say that because, basically, all Christians affirm that God is sovereign, because to be God is to be sovereign. But how we understand that is where we differ.

And likewise, when different people use the words “free will” and “predestine” they can mean different things. So, one could say that they believe that the Bible teaches that God is sovereign and man has free will, but depending on what they mean by those words, their statement could be biblical or unbiblical, and we won’t know unless we understand exactly what they mean by their use of those words.

So, it seems it is of utmost importance for us to not merely use the words “sovereign”, “free will”, and “predestination”, but to try to define as precisely as we can what we mean when we use those words, and for us as the reader to seek to understand as best we can what they author means by their use of those words, so that we’re truly communicating the ideas that are in our heads and, thus, can have a fruitful conversation. So, perhaps some helpful questions to ask might be:

  • What does it mean for God to be sovereign?

  • What does the Bible mean when it speaks of predestination?

  • What do we mean by “free will”?

  • I think we’d all agree that the Bible is clear that we have a will and that we make genuine choices for which we are responsible. But how does the Bible speak of man’s heart and will? Free? Inclined neutrally, inclined toward righteousness, inclined toward evil?

  • Why do we choose the things we do? In other words, what, if anything, determines our will?

And on the relevance of this subject to our lives, I think Ross made a good point regarding how our understanding of these doctrines affects our evangelism and our worship. The preachers of the Great Awakening, like Jonathan Edwards and George Whitefield, were fueled in their white hot evangelism and passionate exultation in God by their understanding of God’s sovereignty as it relates to our salvation and to the whole of life. So, I tend to think that my understanding of what the Bible says about these things does matter, both horizontally and vertically.

I’m looking forward to hearing more from you and others as we continue to explore this topic you’ve raised, Martin. Thanks for the opportunity to consider these things more deeply!

(Frank wall) #14

If we are to stand before God without excuse, how are we to blame if God sovereignly decrees all things?.
Is it not more scriptural to say God has sovereignly decreed for man to have free will to choose? Or why would God bother making it appear that we have choice?.

For God to decree one man wicked and chosen him for eternal torment, and decrees him to be unable to come to Christ, who’s fault is it really?.
Freedom of mans will is crucial doctrine for God to have righteousness judgment.

(Frank wall) #15

Another question- who will is God thwarting if not His own if all things are decreed by God?