Monday, August 23, 2010

Double Your Predestination, Double Your Fun!

Whenever Calvinists talk about God’s Sovereign Election of sinners to salvation, non-Calvinists always object to the implication of “double predestination.” [Insert ominous music here] “Double predestination,” simply put, is the belief that God has predestination all those going to heaven as well as all those going to hell.

Just this past weekend, I came across this clear rejection of God’s sovereign election and the basis of the rejection is clearly “double predestination”:
What I know about calvinists – pretty basic concept – only the “elect” get to heaven, and you can’t choose to be the “elect” – you are pre-chosen for heaven, and pre-chosen for hell. Um – no.

“Double predestination” is largely a derogatory term, and it leads to misconceptions of the Calvinist position. The term is usually meant to imply some sort of “equal ultimacy”; the idea God is as active in the reprobation of those people on their way to hell, as He is active in the sanctification of those people on their way to heaven.

Except for Open Theists, (An Open Theist is someone who would deny God’s sovereignty and do not accept that God can know the future with any absolute certainty.) all Christians accept that God knows perfectly and precisely all future events, including who exactly is destined for both Heaven and Hell.

This is one of those things they can keep you awake nights and/or give you headaches. If God knows perfectly the future, for instance what I’m going to have for lunch today, am I a free to eat something else? If God’s perfect knowledge of the future is that today I will eat a ham and cheese sandwich for lunch, can I have a chicken salad sandwich instead? Just how free am I? Unless you embrace Open Theism you will have to say that I’m not free, but that I am predestination to eat that ham and cheese sandwich.

Now here is where the question gets really sticky, just how does God know that I will eat that ham and cheese sandwich for lunch? Given that God knows the future perfectly, there are only two options as to how He knows the future: 1) He knows the future because He has the ability to look across time and see what is going to occur in the future; or 2) He has decreed all things that will occur by His sovereign will and all things will occur as He has decreed.

In the first option, God is a passive observer, who sees what is coming, but has very little control over it. God has little or nothing to do with whether or not I choose ham and cheese over chicken salad. But in the second option, God is the sovereign ruler over His creation and He is an absolute control of every detail, including my choice of ham and cheese over chicken salad. Furthermore, God has a purpose in decreeing that I choose ham and cheese over chicken salad. Which of these options best represents the God of the Bible?

I would contend that the Bible plainly teaches that God is sovereign. Isaiah 46:8-10 says, "Remember this, and be assured; Recall it to mind, you transgressors. Remember the former things long past, For I am God, and there is no other; I am God, and there is no one like Me, Declaring the end from the beginning, And from ancient times things which have not been done, Saying, 'My purpose will be established, And I will accomplish all My good pleasure'.” If that is not a clear declaration of the sovereignty of God, then what is it?

And Isaiah 46:8-10 does not stand alone, there are other scriptures that trumpet God’s sovereignty; He is sovereign over the governments of men (Daniel 4:17, 35; Proverbs 21:1.) He is sovereign over the destinies of both birds and men (Matthew 10:29-31.) And He is sovereign over salvation (Acts 13:48; Romans 9:11; Ephesians 1:11.)

John MacArthur has said, regarding any discussion of the ramifications that flow from the Doctrine of God’s Sovereign Election, “Before you start debating all of the fall-out, you need to affirm that the Bible teaches election and predestination… Because before we start, ‘Well, what about this? What about this? What about this?’ I think people are into the ‘What about this?’ before they've ever established the doctrine… Then on the other side, you have to also establish that the Scripture holds the sinner completely accountable and culpable for his sin. That's clear, too. I think before you start messing around in the middle, you need to establish those two things very, very clearly.”

Do the scriptures teach election?
just as He chose us in Him before the foundation of the world, that we would be holy and blameless before Him. In love He predestined us to adoption as sons through Jesus Christ to Himself, according to the kind intention of His will, (Ephesians 1:4-5)
[See also 1 Peter 1:1-5; Romans 9:10-13; and 2 Thessalonians 2:13-14]

Since the Bible clearly teaches that God elects and predestines some for salvation, it is equally clear that he passes over others. The destiny of those not elected by God is determined just as much as the destiny of those who are elect (cf. 1 Peter 2:8; Jude 4; Romans 9:22.) But, remember, the Bible teaches that everyone has a sinner, and that we are all responsible for our own sin. It's our own fault that we face God’s judgment. Romans 3:23 says, “for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God,” and therefore, everyone is under the just condemnation of God’s judgment; Romans 1:18-20, “For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men who suppress the truth in unrighteousness, because that which is known about God is evident within them; for God made it evident to them. For since the creation of the world His invisible attributes, His eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly seen, being understood through what has been made, so that they are without excuse.”

“Without excuse.” As Paul, in Romans 2, tells us, we know that everybody knows that lying is wrong, because everybody gets mad if somebody lies to them. We know that everybody knows that stealing is wrong, because everybody gets mad if someone steals from them. And so on and so forth. Romans 1 covers the first 4 commandments, and Romans 2 covers the rest. No one, faced with their own works on judgment day, will be able to say that they did these things unknowingly. Romans 2:1-3 “Therefore you have no excuse, everyone of you who passes judgment, for in that which you judge another, you condemn yourself; for you who judge practice the same things. And we know that the judgment of God rightly falls upon those who practice such things. But do you suppose this, O man, when you pass judgment on those who practice such things and do the same yourself, that you will escape the judgment of God?”

We shouldn’t think of God picking through a box of neutral people while saying, “Heaven; Hell; Hell; Hell; Heaven; Heaven: Hell…” and so on. People are not neutral; we are all in sin and rebellion and are judged already. John 3:18-20 – “He who believes in Him is not judged; he who does not believe has been judged already, because he has not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God. This is the judgment, that the Light has come into the world, and men loved the darkness rather than the Light, for their deeds were evil. For everyone who does evil hates the Light, and does not come to the Light for fear that his deeds will be exposed.”

Instead of starting with a neutral pool of people and saying “This one goes to hell, this one goes to heaven” God is looking at a waterfall of people plummeting full speed towards hell, and He saves some, for His glory & His purposes, & not because those saved merit salvation in any way. Unless God saves us, there is no salvation for us!

Basically, the Calvinist position is this:
  1. All mankind are sinners are in rebellion against God and justly bound for hell (Romans 3:23)

  2. God in His grace & mercy has elected to save some (Ephesians 1:3-12; 1 Peter 1:1-5)

  3. God’s elect will come to Jesus Christ by faith and be saved (John 6:37)

  4. The rest (i.e. those “passed over” by God) continue on their way to the just punishment for their sin and rebellion.

I must say that it seems to me that all of the objections I have seen and heard to the Doctrine of God’s Sovereign Election have been based in emotionalism, sentimentality, and human pride and not on sound exegesis of the scriptures.

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wbmccarty said...

Nicely and concisely put!

Sir Aaron said...

First, I have to say that double predestination is no good excuse. Even if God predestines some to hell, Romans tells us that we are in no position to object. After all, the clay does not tell the potter what to make.

Secondly, the halls of time argument always struck me as odd. Your examples on this are very good. If God knows something will happen, am I really free to make my decision? It's almost like we are "fated" to a particular decision. Personally, I find that an untenable position.

There is always the argument that by passing somebody over, God has basically predestined them to hell. I mean why would a loving God pass some by? I personally don't buy the argument, but it's one I hear a lot.

Craig and Heather said...

[Insert ominous music here]


God is sovereign.

Every man makes decisions for which he will be held accountable.

Salvation from well-deserved punishment is only possible through reconciliation with Christ.

All are true according to Scripture and I don't see why we have to make it more complicated than that.

What I take away from Romans 9 concerning election is that it's none of my business who God chooses or why.

He's God. I'm not. End of argument.

Guess my perspective doesn't make for a very exciting blog post, though. ;)


Craig and Heather said...

I think you did a good job of explaining your perspective, and it is a well grounded one.

I guess the problem I have with arguing from the Calvinist perspective, or the Armenian perspective for that matter, is that I find myself in a troubling place when doing so.

It is extremely difficult to make either the "predestination" or "free will" arguments without appearing to explain how it is that God is just based upon how He deals with mankind. Often, this so quickly spirals downward into a man-centered argument where God ends up being measured on a man-centered scale. When the discussion goes there, I get scared, and start looking for lightning bolts!!

I am not saying it can't be done, I am simply saying I can't strike the balance necessary to avoid measuring God with MY ruler, rather than recognizing that He is God and leaving it at that (as Heather said above)

When discussing this topic, I find myself echoing Job:

Job 13:15 KJV
(15) Though he slay me, yet will I trust in him: but I will maintain mine own ways before him.

Please understand, I am not implying that you went down that slippery slope, I think you did very well. Just my own observation of how discussions on this topic tend to go.

Thanks for your hard work. Now I need to go find a ham and cheese sandwich! :)


The Squirrel said...

Craig, you bring up an excellent point that needs to be expanded on. Where we all get into trouble is when we think that we can understand God, when, truly, He is incomprehensible.

As MacArthur has written, "It is an essential understanding of God that He is holy, that His nature is holy, that He is infinitely and perfectly just, that He is morally flawless and perfect. That He is perfection. Everything in Him and of Him and for Him and from Him and by Him is perfect. And so whatever He says is just is what justice is.

"What is the rule of God's justice? What is the principle of God's justice? What is behind His judgments? What is behind it is His own free will and absolutely nothing else. God makes determinations based upon nothing but His own free will. And whatever it is that He wills is by definition just because He is just. It is just because He wills it. It is not because He sees that it is just that He wills it, it is that He wills it and then it becomes just. William Perkins, a Puritan, says, "We must not think that God does a thing because it's good and right, but rather the thing is good and right because God does it." The Creator owes nothing to the creature who cannot understand His ways, cannot understand His mind, cannot be His counselor. And anyway, how could God ever be called unjust for choosing to save some because there are none who deserve to be saved? Salvation never has been a matter of fairness. And yet that's what people say that's not fair, that's not fair. But I don't think you want fair, do you?" (source)

Squirrel said...


What do you think about the idea that double-predestination is in reference to Christ and "His" election to be humanity? So election in this scheme sees the "double" as taken up by and in reference to Christ (cf. II Cor. 8.9) --- i.e. He takes humanities reprobation, and transfers us into His election as the Son of God.

The Squirrel said...

Hi, Bobby,

Um, I have no idea at all what you even said. It certainly doesn't seem to be in line with either the definition of double predestination I am either denying or espousing.

Squirrel said...


Let me try it again then; this time I will provide a quote from prof. Stephen Holmes wherein he is describing Karl Barth's recasting of *double predestination*. I hope this is more understandable; if it is, I would like to know what you think of it (I am sure you will disagree with it, but I would like to know why). Here's the quote:

Famously, Barth will discuss the election of particular human beings only after considering the election of the community in its twofold form, Israel and the Church. In willing to be gracious in the particular way God in fact wills to be gracious, the Incarnation of the Divine Son, there is both a ‘Yes’ and a ‘No’, election and reprobation. God elects for humanity life, salvation, forgiveness, hope; for himself he elects death, perdition, even as the Creed has said, hell. This self-reprobation of God is indeed the primary referent of the doctrine of election, in that God’s determination of himself is formally if not materially more basic than his determination of the creature, and so is considered first by Barth. In the eternal election of grace, which is to say in Jesus Christ, God surrenders his own impassibility, embraces the darkness that he was without—and indeed impervious to—until he willed that it should be otherwise. ‘He declared Himself guilty of the contradiction against Himself in which man was involved . . . He made Himself the object of the wrath and judgment to which man had brought himself . . . He took upon Himself the rejection which man had deserved. So says Barth. The apostle put it more succinctly: ‘He became sin for us.’ This is the full content of the divine judgment, of the ‘No’ that is spoken over the evil of the world and of human beings. God elects for himself the consequences of that ‘No’, in saying ‘Yes’ to, that is, in electing, us. That is the whole content of the double decree, the whole content of the ‘Yes’ and the ‘No’ that God pronounces as one word, the whole content the election of grace. . . . (Stephen Holmes, “Listening to the Past,” 132-33)

I hope that is more clear.

James said...

"Those who selected are elected!"

Just kidding,

Well said brother. As wmbccarty said "nice and concisely put."



Turretinfan said...


It's not especially clear. Here would be a more clear way to say it: God's election of some to salvation is also connected with the means by which that election is accomplished. The means is the death of Christ. Thus, the same election is both a choice to justify the ungodly, but also a choice to condemn Christ in their place.

It's an interesting point to consider - a sort of second double-predestination - though it's not really connected with God's decree to pass over / reprobate some men.

There's some other stuff mixed in there about how Barth views it as humanity, instead (apparently) of the individual. But that's not really directed to the topic of the post.


The Squirrel said...


Well, I've never been able to understand Barth...

I'm also not sure that "self-reprobation" is the best description of the doctrine of penal substitutionary atonement. While the Scriptures clearly say "He Himself bore the sin of many" and "the LORD has caused the iniquity of us all To fall on Him." (Isaiah 53), "reprobation" just doesn't seem to fit. I can see why he uses the phrase, but...

But, ultimately, what Barth seems to be advocating is a complete redefinition of the term. It is as if we were discussing pizza recipes and someone popped in with the question about omelets because someone once tried to redefine “pizza” has “a dish of cooked eggs folded over a filling.” Actually, now that I think about it, this is a common problem with Barth…


Robert Warren said...

"Those who selected are elected!"

Were you, by any chance, standing on on top of your hands, standing on top of your feet, standing on a stump, when you said that?

The Squirrel said...

Of course he was, Robert. I mean, where else could you be standing when you say something like that?



Bobby Grow said...

TF said:

. . . Here would be a more clear way to say it: God's election of some to salvation is also connected with the means by which that election is accomplished. The means is the death of Christ. . . .

Of course it is, TF, this fits perfectly with the theory of salvation that frames it juridically vs. ontologically. I realize the COW (Covenant of Works) calls for this kind of means. Interestingly, this also implies and presupposes that the absolute decrees dictate who God is in time; in other words it undercuts God's self-determination and divine freedom . . . certainly a problematic position to sustain.

I think following an ontological framing of the atonement is much more "Biblical," Christ-centered, and evangelical; but that's more than I want to try and get in to on this thread.


Admittedly, Barth can be difficult to parse --- at points --- nevertheless, for the uninitiated so can any theologian (just name one). Nevertheless, whether or not a particular theologian is hard or easy --- relatively speaking --- to understand; neither speaks for or against the reality that what said theologian is sound or unsound. Instead, what's at stake is if what they are communicating has the greatest explanatory power relative to the implications of God's life in Christ as disclosed in the Holy Scriptures. So my point, to your response, is that what you've said is really moot to whether or not what Barth has said is true or not.

What is it that you don't understand?

As far as self-reprobation, this is in reference to God's free choice in Christ to take our reprobation as a result of the Fall (and of course this is all speaking in logical terms rather than chrono-logical).

Btw, it's not just Barth who recast these concepts; in fact there are plenty of Scots, like Jonathan Fraser of Brea, who thought in much of the same terms --- figures like this were contemporaneous with the so called Westminster Divines.

In anticipation: not being sure if you're one of those who would say "that you are just reading the notion of double-predestination (with all of the "decretal" baggage attending) off of the pages of Scripture; I would surely like to challenge that assertion as well. It is clear that there is a certain concept of God that is assumed a priori that has determined, shall we say ;-), the way in which you are indeed *reading* the Scriptures (in short: there is an informing "tradition" shaping your exegesis --- I think this is really important to acknowledge for all parties involved in this discussion [we should be critical exegetes in this regard, and thus allow for a possible distinction between my/our interpretation, and the actual text itself]).