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I'm grappling with the idea of predestination at the moment. I feel it has several problems, or maybe I'm just not thinking things through.

However, one of the basic questions that arises for me is that if the saved and unsaved were predestined from eternity, what is the role of God's incarnation? What does it actually change? Predestination is usually defended on the idea that humans are so totally depraved that they could never merit salvation through their goodness? Isn't the point of Christ that we were formerly unable through our goodness (lack of it) to initiate a relation with God, so that Christ's role was to initiate this relation, to create this mediation? And once that is in effect, we have the choice to accept this relation or reject it? Isn't the point of Christianity precisely that since we cannot merit salvation through morality, we must always depend on Christ, in choosing Him?

This tenet of predestination seems to me to still being stuck with the Law and morality.

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    Since you seem to focus on Calvinism (based on your last sentence) I'm going to add that as a tag - otherwise, you can certainly edit your post to clarify the denominational or doctrinal stance you want a reply from. – Matt Gutting Sep 11 '14 at 15:50
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    Predestination is usually defended on the idea that humans are so totally depraved that they could never merit salvation through their goodness? -- No, you're describing 'Total Depravity' there... Predestination, or 'Election' is a separate point of Calvinism. – Flimzy Sep 11 '14 at 16:15
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    Why are you struggling with an unproven concept from a specific Christian group? Predestination is a matter of faith. Some groups believe some don't. I have no idea how it can be discussed in a general way. Do you mean in the thinking of Calvin? Maybe specify who you want to answer your question. This question is too problematic as it stands at the moment. – gideon marx Sep 11 '14 at 16:39
  • It is a good question though. Is it possible to get a critical Roman Catholic perspective of Calvin's thinking about predestination? – gideon marx Sep 11 '14 at 16:43
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    "No, you're describing 'Total Depravity' there... Predestination, or 'Election' is a separate point of Calvinism." They are related. Those saved cannot be saved through any merit of their own, therefore they must be saved through election. In fact, the five points of Calvinism are related. Man is so totally depraved that to be saved he must be elected unconditionally by God, and this means that the atonement of Christ was limited to those already saved, and so meritless is Grace that it is irresistible and perseveres. – theodoulos Sep 12 '14 at 18:25
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Isn't the point of Christ that we were formerly unable through our goodness (lack of it) to initiate a relation with God, so that Christ's role was to initiate this relation, to create this mediation? And once that is in effect, we have the choice to accept this relation or reject it? Isn't the point of Christianity precisely that since we cannot merit salvation through morality, we must always depend on Christ, in choosing Him?

Calvinists would agree with all of this. What predestination means for Calvinists is that even though we do choose to accept or reject God's offer of reconciliation, the ultimate and decisive choice is God's. Our wills are real, but God's will is decisive.

John Piper talks about it this way:

And so sovereignty is God's decisive self-reliance, self-determination. And there is no such thing as ultimate human self-determination. Humans have measures of self-determination, but they are not ultimate, because God ultimately governs and guides all of human willing and all of natural events. That's what I mean by the sovereignty of God. (Source)

I've never met a believer who, when you ask how they came to Christ, really wants to take credit for it. I've never talked to anybody who wants to say that they we the one who really provided the decisive initiative and the decisive work behind their salvation. Almost every believer, because of the work of God within them, wants to give God the credit for their salvation.

When you have two brothers listening to a sermon together, and one is awakened to see the spiritual beauty of Christ while the other isn't, can this awakening in the one be attributed to any innate wisdom or sensitivity to spiritual things? No! These things are not innate. The Bible says that we are all dead in our trespasses and sins and that it is God who makes us alive together with Christ. God, in his sovereign mercy, is the one who quickens people and causes them to be born again. (Source)

  • Very nice quote for this subject. True, when being fully forthright with wording, God's will moves your will and makes you want to do what he wants. The old wording I have always heard is "God gives you the ability to choose Him, because you otherwise would not, then you freely and willingly accept Christ and turn to God." – fredsbend Sep 12 '14 at 23:41
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    "The Spirit graciously causes the elect sinner to cooperate, to believe, to repent, to come freely and willingly to Christ." Source – fredsbend Sep 12 '14 at 23:43
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The confusion is predestination vs. foreknowledge. There is a definite gap in God's thinking, and our thinking (The Bible clearly states this). When God/Jesus Christ says something at a moment (which we cannot fathom at the moment), they (God/Jesus Christ) have infinity of before/after. For example Moses thought that God was behind Pharaoh's actions, whereas in a subsequent chapter it is clearly revealed as God's foreknowledge. God already knows that me/you/someone will do this or something else at this (or next ...) moment. That is not predestination.

  • You must explain what you mean by foreknowledge. How can God have foreknowledge if He exists outside time? That is nonsensical (if God exists inside time then He could not have created it, He must exist outside time to exist). Then it could equally be called 'afterknowledge'. The predestination argument then starts sounding like something out of 'Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy' - 42. – gideon marx Sep 11 '14 at 17:25
  • "How can God have foreknowledge if He exists outside time?" Sure :) Watch a fish bowl, I really mean it!!! – ties asvWil Sep 11 '14 at 17:30
  • Have a good weekend! I'm giving you +1 because you made me think and laugh. Fish actually have very good memories, for fish that is and 'Guide' is a series of books by Douglas Adams. (And 42 is the answer to life, living, the universe and everything. The Hebrew letters for Google ads up to 42.) – gideon marx Sep 12 '14 at 15:33
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Predestination does not mean that Christ's coming is unnecessary. God still demands a sacrifice for the sins of the world, whether those accepting of it are predestined to accept it or not.

In Calvinism, you do, in fact, still choose Christ. However, without God working in you, you could never choose Christ. God gives you the capacity to choose the life of grace, then you freely and willingly turn to Christ and accept Him.

Everything is still the same, as you have said it, as with non-predestination theologies.

  • I am not happy with your answer as it hinges on an unproven point. Christ's coming from a predestination view was unnecessary unless you can prove that God demanded a sacrifice for whatever sins you imagine (specify, and not the homosexual misunderstanding or the masturbation guilt-trips please - see if you can find some real sins for a change). Christ dying to prove a point about the laws as interpreted and propagated by the Pharisees though, is another story - and then predestination plays no role. – gideon marx Sep 11 '14 at 16:29
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    @gideonmarx First, "All have fallen short of the glory of God" and "The wages of sin is death" and "God wishes none to be lost", therefore, "[Christ] gave Himself up for us, an offering and a sacrifice to God as a fragrant aroma." Substitutionary Atonement is very well supported in the Scripture. Why would I have to name any sins at all? Unless I misunderstood what you are saying ... Second, what's all this about Christ dying to prove a point to the Pharisees? I've heard of theories such as this, but never heard of them supported well. – fredsbend Sep 11 '14 at 18:34
  • As far as an unproven point, I'm not sure what exactly you are referring to. The scope was Calvinism; I answered from that view. Calvinists believe the Substitutionary Atonement of Christ. Their beliefs on predestination do not affect that the atonement was still necessary for God to accept sinners into the Kingdom. – fredsbend Sep 11 '14 at 18:37
  • I think the edit was incorrect to tag it Calvinist and it should be ignored. I think the question is about Protestant or even Christianity in general. The arguments between Protestants and Catholics are highly informative in this regard. – gideon marx Sep 12 '14 at 15:14
  • As for all the rest, if there is no predestination then the point of the question is, why? Predestination is impossible to prove. By pulling a few verses, I can equally prove that God never required human sacrifice - that was the entire point of Abraham and Isaac. The aroma of death on the cross is not fragrant - so there has to be a very good reason. – gideon marx Sep 12 '14 at 15:21
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The source of your confusion apparently stems from a misunderstanding of predestination and foreknowledge. Predestination is never mentioned in the Bible.

However, there are numerous instances where something has been pre determined by God, based on his foreknowledge.

1st. Samuel 25:17 Now therefore know and consider what thou wilt do; for evil is determined against our master, and against all his household: for he is such a son of Belial, that a man cannot speak to him.

this was destined by God because of his foreknowledge, that David would make war with Nabal, and David was saved from killing Nabal by Abagail, who would also have perished had David and his men attack Nabal's household. However the LORD himself killed Nabal.

1st. Samuel 25:38 And it came to pass about ten days after, that the LORD smote Nabal, that he died.

Also

Daniel 9:19 through 24 O Lord, hear; O Lord, forgive; O Lord, hearken and do; defer not, for thine own sake, O my God: for thy city and thy people are called by thy name.
20 And whiles I was speaking, and praying, and confessing my sin and the sin of my people Israel, and presenting my supplication before the LORD my God for the holy mountain of my God; 21 Yea, whiles I was speaking in prayer, even the man Gabriel, whom I had seen in the vision at the beginning, being caused to fly swiftly, touched me about the time of the evening oblation. 22 And he informed me, and talked with me, and said, O Daniel, I am now come forth to give thee skill and understanding. 23 At the beginning of thy supplications the commandment came forth, and I am come to shew thee; for thou art greatly beloved: therefore understand the matter, and consider the vision. 24 Seventy weeks are determined upon thy people and upon thy holy city, to finish the transgression, and to make an end of sins, and to make reconciliation for iniquity, and to bring in everlasting righteousness, and to seal up the vision and prophecy, and to anoint the most Holy.

At the beginning of thy supplications the commandment came forth, and I am come to shew thee; for thou art greatly beloved: therefore understand the matter, and consider the vision. God sent Gabriel to Daniel for the express reason of explaining the future to him the future is therefore known to God, and was so before Creation.

The fact that God knows the future does not mean that he has decreed every thing to happen in a specific manner, which what predestination means.

God gave man free will and he has the choice of his eternal future, If God had predestined what souls would and would not be saved it would no longer be free will as those destined for Hell would not have the option of salvation, and those destined for salvation would not have the choice of disobedience.

We cannot fathom why God decided to go ahead with creation and especially the creation of man knowing that many would choose to spend their eternity in torture. To Question God and his ways is no different than Satan's sin in that it is elevating our principles to be equal with his.

Hope this helps

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    Predestination is never mentioned?? What about Acts 4:28, Romans 8:29-30, Ephesians 1:5, 1:11?? – curiousdannii Sep 13 '14 at 22:23
  • @curiousdannii that is not predestination as is asked in the question, Predestination as described in the question has to do with the election of Salvation, and the sending of Jesus as our propitiation for sin. Not meaning to be nit picking, but God does not and will decide salvation for anyone, we alone have that responsibility. – BYE Sep 13 '14 at 23:35
  • Romans 8:29-30 is talking about the election of salvation - it follows a chain of predestination->calling->justification. Being predestined for adoption is another way of talking about salvation. You may not think God's will is decisive, but this question is asking about Calvinism, not an alternative to Calvinism. – curiousdannii Sep 13 '14 at 23:38

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