Article 17 of the Articles of Religion, on the topic of predestination, asserts that for the non-elect having the sentence of predestination before their eyes causes them to sin more and more. So, why did the framers of this confession consider that a good thing? Wouldn't this be a good reason to shut up about predestination? If it indeed causes people to sin more and more and thus do more damage to others? Does Anglicanism consider the moral meltdown of society which can result (according to this article) from dwelling on the "sentence" of predestination, to be a good thing?

XVII. Of Predestination and Election.

Predestination to Life is the everlasting purpose of God, whereby (before the foundations of the world were laid) he hath constantly decreed by his counsel secret to us, to deliver from curse and damnation those whom he hath chosen in Christ out of mankind, and to bring them by Christ to everlasting salvation, as vessels made to honour. Wherefore, they which be endued with so excellent a benefit of God, be called according to God's purpose by his Spirit working in due season: they through Grace obey the calling: they be justified freely: they be made sons of God by adoption: they be made like the image of his only-begotten Son Jesus Christ: they walk religiously in good works, and at length, by God's mercy, they attain to everlasting felicity.

As the godly consideration of Predestination, and our Election in Christ, is full of sweet, pleasant, and unspeakable comfort to godly persons, and such as feel in themselves the working of the Spirit of Christ, mortifying the works of the flesh, and their earthly members, and drawing up their mind to high and heavenly things, as well because it doth greatly establish and confirm their faith of eternal Salvation to be enjoyed through Christ as because it doth fervently kindle their love towards God: So, for curious and carnal persons, lacking the Spirit of Christ, to have continually before their eyes the sentence of God's Predestination, is a most dangerous downfall, whereby the Devil doth thrust them either into desperation, or into wretchlessness of most unclean living, no less perilous than desperation.

Furthermore, we must receive God's promises in such wise, as they be generally set forth to us in Holy Scripture: and, in our doings, that Will of God is to be followed, which we have expressly declared unto us in the Word of God.

  • The question is clearly framed Anglican. It is not opinion based.
    – user3961
    Aug 20, 2014 at 15:04

2 Answers 2


First, note that the 39 Articles are a creation of the English reformation of the Sixteenth century, having been put into their present form in 1563, and while they have the force of Law in the Church of England, they have a lesser authority in other political jurisdictions, and have been controversial since the beginning. There have been articles to which various factions objected from the beginning, and I suspect that there would have been Anglicans from the 1500's who might have objected to the Calvinist tone of Article XVII.

Furthermore, in this consideration, the second paragraph (which was supplied in the original question, and which I have replaced with the entire article) should not be divorced from the first paragraph of the article as the context of the second paragraph depends very greatly on the first paragraph, and in particular the opening of that paragraph: "Predestination to life is the everlasting purpose of God,..."

Second, the question as posed by the original poster presumes that there is a universal Anglican position on this article. There was not at the time it was written, and there still is not today. One can without much difficulty find Anglican divines and theologians on both sides of the question. While there are undoubtedly some Anglicans who might answer in the affirmative, there are others (Arbishop Tutu comes to mind) who would deny that it is the case, and who would ascribe the moral meltdown of society to other influences.


Two Australian Anglicans, Michael Jensen and Tom Frame, interpret that part of the article to not be saying that the doctrine causes people to sin, but that it is a warning that people can misuse the doctrine and turn it into a kind of fatalism that produces desperation and licentiousness. What is always needed is more solid Biblical teaching that will correct any distortion of the doctrine to both encourage us and rebuke us when we need it.

The thought that somehow God chose some people and not others long ago, even 'before the foundation of the world' (Ephesians 1:4), is an idea that many people have found distinctly uncomfortable. It seems to pit God's sovereignty against God's love. It vexed those living in the sixteenth century as well. For them the question was more existential: if I am one of God's chosen people, then what are the signs confirming that status? How can I know that I am one of the elect? What if my name is not written in the Book of Life? This became a significant pastoral problem as well as a matter of theological dispute. The article itself issues a warning about the 'curious and carnal persons' who misuse this doctrine and end up in the grip of a kind of fatalism - that produces either psychological desperation or moral licence.

Yet the article does not treat this teaching as an ethical embarrassment nor as an academic puzzle. It is when rightly considered ('godly consideration'), a 'sweet, pleasant and unspeakable comfort.' It is actually of great pastoral help because it gives the Christian great security in God.

Source: Defining Convictions and Decisive Commitments by Michael Jensen & Tom Frame, pages 59-60.

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