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For the sake of this question:

Predestination = from the foundations of the universe, God chose who will be saved.

Purgatory = a place where people suffer / are purified, and afterwards, they go to heaven.

Now, the difference between heaven and hell is quite large (positive infinity and negative infinity). In the predestination case, the gap between those that go to heaven and those who go to hell is justified as follows: God chose to save some, and Jesus's blood was paid for their debt. In this case, salvation is a binary choice by God.

In the purgatory case, everything looks more continuous: the gap also makes sense in that: depending on how "sinful" one was, one spends less or more time in purgatory.

Now, what I don't understand about the Armenian case is as follows:

*) there lacks a binary choice by God (since there was no predestination)

*) yet, the suffering/punishment after death is not continuous -- there's no purgatory

Thus it seems very weird that on a continuous scale of human sinfulness, in the absence of a binary choice by God, the gain/loss after death is so different.

Note

Suggestions / clarifications to this question welcome.

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Even with the fact of purgatory, the difference between going to purgatory/heaven and going to hell remains binary. –  Alypius Apr 6 '13 at 23:45

2 Answers 2

There is still a binary choice, but it's not God who makes the decision. He leaves it to each of us to choose for ourselves one way or the other, and gives us our whole lifetime to make that decision. God could make the decision for us — He has that power — and He knows in advance — if concepts like "in advance" even have any meaning for a being that exists outside of time — what choice each of us will make. After all, He made us. What He desires is for each of us to choose Him of our own will. It is not interesting to Him if the choice is forced upon us.

There is an interesting philosophical question here of whether there is really any difference at all between determining an outcome and merely knowing an outcome with absolute certainty, when those outcomes are produced by a system that one designed, set in motion, and directs for oneself, as God does with us and our environment. God gives us something akin to free will, but is it really free will as we know it if He made each of us in the first place, knows what our choices will be in any situation, and has absolute power over all situations? This is especially interesting when you look at psychology studies that show how human behavior is much more about programmed responses and brain chemicals than any of us want to acknowledge.

For this reason, I don't really find the question of predestination vs free choice very interesting... I tend to think of it as two sides of the same coin. Do we have free choice? Yes! You can say we do. Are we predestined? You can say that as well, and not be entirely wrong about it. This question has historically caused a huge split in Christiandom, but I ultimately see it as more about philosophy than theology. Your answer has implications for how your view soteriology, but either way you still look to Jesus. Does it really matter how you view soteriology as long as you're looking at the right source? I think also that Jesus would find the question uninteresting... at least in a relative sense. He is far more concerned that look at Him as Lord, and with how you treat your fellow man.

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+1 Martin Luther's "take" was that we have free choice except for reception of grace. –  Matthew Jan 2 '13 at 19:33
    
@MatthewPK: Can you point to which section of "Bondage of the Will" supports this view of Luther's? –  unregistered-matthew7.7 Jan 5 '13 at 20:53

It seems that there is an assumption here that unless God chooses who will go to heaven, then people must suffer for their own sins (in Purgatory). Nothing could be further from the truth in evangelical Christianity.

The Scriptures teach that God declares righteous those who have faith in Jesus--even the ungodly. In doing so, their sins are completely forgiven--past, present, and future. "Therefore, there is now no condemnation" for them. They have been sanctified (made holy), so there is no future purging or purification that they need to gain by their own suffering.

"But to the one who does not work, but believes in Him who justifies [declares righteous] the ungodly, his faith is credited as righteousness." Romans 4:5 NAS

This is the beauty of salvation, as Spurgeon discusses in his book, All of Grace. God takes an ungodly person and declares him righteous. Faith in Jesus is the channel through which righteousness is imparted to the ungodly one. The sinner is declared righteous--and righteous people have nothing to be purged of in Purgatory.

"Therefore there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus. 2 For the law of the Spirit of life [a]in Christ Jesus has set you free from the law of sin and of death." Romans 8:1 NAS

There is no condemnation--none, zip, zero.

"For Christ also died for sins once for all, the just for the unjust, so that He might bring us to God, having been put to death in the flesh, but made alive in the spirit;" 1 Peter 3:18 NAS

Jesus died for sons once for all--not once and then there needs to be more suffering by us later, but once for all.

"For as through the one man’s disobedience the many were made sinners, even so through the obedience of the One the many will be made righteous." Romans 5:19 NAS

It was the one act of righteousness performed by Jesus Christ that results in righteousness to those who trust in Jesus--it has nothing to do with our own works of righteousness, which merit nothing in God's sight.

So, the evangelical perspective which denies Purgatory and denies Predestination justifies the position by the doctrine of salvation itself. God offers salvation/justification (the declaration of righteousness) to all people who put their trust in Jesus. God does not require us to suffer for our own sins in Purgatory, because Jesus already suffered for them once for all. This salvation is available to "whosoever will."

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