Presbyterians/Predestination

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QUESTION: Grace and Peace,
Recently I have stopped believing in the free will interpretations of the Bible and began studying the doctrines of predestination and the doctrine of grace. Consequently, I have some questions that are probably derived from when I believed in free will.

If God ordained everything that would come to pass, would people be robots.

I now believe that since all humans have Adamís sinful natures in them, they are not able to accept Jesus in their lives by themselves because their nature makes them not want Jesus. Therefore, the work of salvation begins and is worked upon by God in the lives of his chosen ones. Even so, I still have that initial question: are we robots living what God has predestined from the small details to the more important situations in life? Could we choose to use a blue tie instead of a red tie or did God predestine such choices as well?

In Christ,
Nathan

ANSWER: Nathan, those are excellent questions.

Whenever anyone asks me "Do you believe in free will?" I always answer with a question, "What do you mean by free will?"

Reformed/Calvinistic Christianity does not deny human freedom (chapter 9 of the Westminster Confession of Faith is entitled "Of Free Will"), but only that man and God are on some equal plane.

What you said is on the right track. Because of a disposition to sin and independence from God if men act freely according to that nature, they will never come to Christ. God must do something - must make spiritually dead people alive, and thus they are made "able and willing to believe" (Westminster Confession 7.3).

I think what might help is to try to gain a bigger vision of God. The gods of the pagans were all a part of this creation, and so in some sense people were on the same plane as the gods, they were just believed to be bigger and more powerful. The God of the Bible, however, is not a part of the creation. He is apart from it and stands outside of it, and "rules" that apply to the creation do not apply to him. If I determined what color tie you wore, doing so would inhibit your free choice of the same, because were are both of the creation and live in the creation.

The "or" in the question is at the heart of the misunderstanding. Because God ordains all things that come to pass (Eph. 1:11) God has predestined the shirt I will put on today as I go to worship. And I will also free chose what shirt I will put on.

Understanding the Creator/creature distinction is critical to a right understanding of God.

For example, is there such a thing as "chance?" Someone with a Calvinistic understanding who does not also understand the Creator/creature distinction would say "No." This is what the Bible says:

"I have seen something else under the sun: The race is not to the swift or the battle to the strong, nor does food come to the wise or wealth to the brilliant or favor to the learned; but time and chance happen to them all" (Eccl. 9:11).

In the realm of creation there is choice and chance. But within the degree of the Creator all things are foreordained. Since the Bible sees no conflict between these things if we sense a conflict it is because we've not understood somethings, and most often that "something" is the Creator/creature distinction.

Praying that you and I will meet with the living God in our worship today.

Peace.


---------- FOLLOW-UP ----------

QUESTION: Thanks Pastor G for the help. I have another question. Lately, I have been writing a refutation to some arminian arguments and I need help with Romans 8:29-30.

This passage is really good to illustrate that whoever God elects will not lose their salvation because they have been already glorified (something that will only happen in the future).

But some people say predestination and election is contained inside God's foreknowledge. This is the part I need help so I can explain to others that claim it.

Verse 29 says "For whom he did foreknow, he also did predestinate..." (KJV). Some people claim that what happens first is the foreknowledge, and then in second place, God predestines inside His foreknowledge.

Which one comes first? Foreknowledge, predestination, election...?

This refutation of mine is really important because I will present it when I'm done to my pastor who came from a non-reformed background.

In Christ,
Nathan

Answer
Nathan,

"Foreknowledge" in the NT is used 4 times refers to God's knowledge of all things beforehand. This is not a bare knowledge, however, but a predetermined plan of action. It is used in Acts 2:23 in conjunction with with "ordained counsel" of God (this phrase appears to be a hendiadys, a grammatical construction in which one thing is expressed by two statements; e.g. "law and order"). Election is "according to the foreknowledge of God" (1 Peter 1:1-2) which means that election is logically dependent on foreknowledge.

In the NT the word "predestine" is always used in connection something pertaining to salvation. For reasons from Pharoah to 1 Peter 2:8 I believe that God's foreordination encompasses everything, even unbelief (and thus theologically is not wrong to speak of a "double predestination") the word predestination is only used with regard to God's salvific determination.

Theologians usually categorize it this way:

Foreordination - this encompasses all things that come to pass. It is a theological term, not a biblical one (like "Trinity"), but is a single word used to sum up e.g. Eph. 1:11.

Foreknowledge - what God knows will come to pass, but by (even future) observation, but because he has decreed it to be so.

Predestination - that part of foreordination that applies specifically to God's decreed determination to save.

Election - God's choosing of those who will inherit salvation.

Reprobation - another theological word, but is the "flip side" of election. If God knows all persons, his choice of some for salvation means a deliberate choice to pass by others.

If you can get hold of it, I'd recommend B.B. Warfield's little book "The Plan of Salvation."

God's blessings to you.

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Pastor G

Expertise

I am glad to answer questions about the Scriptures, Systematic, Biblical and Historic Theology, New Testament Greek, Biblical Hebrew (although my Greek is stronger than my Hebrew); and I am also glad to give pastoral advise and counsel.

Experience

A minister ordained in the Orthodox Presbyterian Church since 1993. Prior to that I served as an elder. Former Senior Police Chaplain. College and Seminary-level lecturer.

Education/Credentials
B.A. Psychology and Theology, M.Div., Westminster Theological Seminary D.Min., Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary Law Enforcement Chaplaincy certification, ICPC

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