This question regards the reformed doctrine of predestination.

Predestination states that God, even before the child has been born, decides whether the child is saved.

Is there any biblical evidence as to whether this decision is dependent upon the actions of the parent? [I.e. God chooses to give zealous parents a saved child; and parents that he doesn't like very much an unsaved child]?


This response addresses the question from a Reformed perspective, informed by concepts such as monergistic regeneration and sola gratia.

The Westminster Assembly, in the Confession (quoted below), taught that the elect were chosen by God "before the foundations of the earth."

Regarding your question as to God's choice of the elect & the sins of the parents, I'm tempted to simply say, "No -- God doesn't/didn't choose the elect depending on any parents' sin, or the sin of anyone at all, for that matter." (Bear in mind the doctrinal framework that is being used for this response, as noted above).

But, then, we don't actually know how God chose the elect.* All of the references I've ever read have been similar to what was provided by the Westminster Assembly: that God made his decision of who to elect "according to His eternal and immutable purpose, and the secret counsel and good pleasure of His will" (WCF 3.5).

But then, again, when it comes to the idea of choosing the elect based on parents' righteousness or sinfulness, we have verses such as the following:

  • God is not, nor has he ever been a "respecter of persons." That is to say, he's not impressed, and he doesn't "play favorites." (Rom 2:11, Acts 10:34, etc.).
  • Everyone is guilty in his sight (Rom 3:23), and all of our righteousness is like "filthy rags" (Isa 63); even the angels aren't good enough (Job 4:18), and rightfully so, because God is surpassingly holy, so much so that sin cannot even enter his sight (Habakkuk 1:13 & many more).

(I was thinking of working in an Ezekiel 18 reference, but that's a complex chapter, especially when one tries to reconcile it with Exodus 20, the doctrine of original sin, etc.).

So, before this response becomes more disjointed, I think I'm simply going to segue to the Westminster Confession with the quote that follows. It may help to get further research started.

* Note: Several groups throughout history have offered variations on the idea that God elected the people that he "foreknew" would choose him. And that interpretation, and the associated verse from Paul, has been at the heart of disputes for centuries. Many groups still believe that interpretation, and many don't; the Reformed doctrines are in the latter camp.

According to the Westminster Confession of Faith, chapter three, article five:

Those of mankind that are predestinated unto life, God, before the foundation of the world was laid, according to His eternal and immutable purpose, and the secret counsel and good pleasure of His will, has chosen, in Christ, unto everlasting glory,(9) out of His mere free grace and love, without any foresight of faith, or good works, or perseverance in either of them, or any other thing in the creature, as conditions, or causes moving Him thereunto;(10) and all to the praise of His glorious grace.(11) (emphasis added)

Here are the scripture proofs, referenced in the original:

  • (9)

    • Ephesians 1:4, "According as he hath chosen us in him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and without blame before him in love"
    • Ephesians 1:9, "Having made known unto us the mystery of his will, according to his good pleasure which he hath purposed in himself"
    • Ephesians 1:11, "In whom also we have obtained an inheritance, being predestinated according to the purpose of him who worketh all things after the counsel of his own will."
    • Romans 8:30, "Moreover whom he did predestinate, them he also called: and whom he called, them he also justified: and whom he justified, them he also glorified."
    • 2 Timothy 1:9, "Who hath saved us, and called us with an holy calling, not according to our works, but according to his own purpose and grace, which was given us in Christ Jesus before the world began."
    • 1 Thessalonians 5:9, "For God hath not appointed us to wrath, but to obtain salvation by our Lord Jesus Christ."
  • (10)

    • Romans 9:11, "(For the children being not yet born, neither having done any good or evil, that the purpose of God according to election might stand, not of works, but of him that calleth;)"
    • Romans 9:13, "As it is written, Jacob have I loved, but Esau have I hated."
    • Romans 9:16, "So then it is not of him that willeth, nor of him that runneth, but of God that sheweth mercy."
    • Ephesians 1:4, "According as he hath chosen us in him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and without blame before him in love."
    • Ephesians 1:9, "Having made known unto us the mystery of his will, according to his good pleasure which he hath purposed in himself."
  • (11)

    • Ephesians 1:6, "To the praise of the glory of his grace, wherein he hath made us accepted in the beloved."
    • Ephesians 1:12, "That we should be to the praise of his glory, who first trusted in Christ."
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  • Correct me if I'm wrong. Unless God predestines every marriage, predestinating who gets saved != predestinating who's child the saved soul is. – user1694 Aug 8 '12 at 3:15
  • Actually, at the same time that you saved that comment, I'm trying to piece together an edit that could relate the notion that God exists outside of time and predestines everything ("providence"), with his response to individual sinners in apparent "real time," but I think that would really be an answer to a different question. – Philip Schaff Aug 8 '12 at 3:25
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    it seems like that would be a response to "is predestination a matter of passive, future-seeing, fore-knowledge; or is predestination a matter of God actively ensuring that those he has picked believes and gets saved?" – user1694 Aug 8 '12 at 3:27

It is clear how Christ feels about children in Matthew 18:2-4,

He called a little child to him, and placed the child among them. 3 And he said: “Truly I tell you, unless you change and become like little children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven. 4 Therefore, whoever takes the lowly position of this child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven. 5 And whoever welcomes one such child in my name welcomes me.

If a child is born among unfaithful or non-believing parents, God still elects to save the child. 1 Kings 14:13.

"He is the only one belonging to Jeroboam who will be buried, because he is the only one in the house of Jeroboam in whom the LORD, the God of Israel, has found anything good."

In Conclusion: God is sovereign in all His Doings. I do not believe it depends on the parents what so ever. It ultimately depends on God.

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  • I've removed my downvote and comments about the stuff you edited, thanks for that. Now I'd just like to point out that neither of these verses or even your initial application are something that a well studied Calvinist would disagree with. However they would find your user of the word "sovereign" to be inconsistent. You grant that he is, then fail to comment on all the places in Scripture where he personally makes a big deal out of family connections in various ways. That's what this question is about really -- how do these issues connect? Your answer doesn't help connect the dots. – Caleb Aug 9 '12 at 9:26

Of course we are speculating about things not fully revealed in scripture, so we must start be saying we are looking for an opinion on the subject.

Here is my opinion which assumes God’s elections stands before the creation of the world:

Since God chose all the elect (parents and children) before the foundations of the world, a parent’s behavior has no bearing on the election of a child. The very meaning of election (as used by Calvinists) excludes the will of humans because it is made before they are born, or rather before all humanity was born, so a dependency on parents can’t exist. However, a simple observation of how the elect have been chosen as it falls out into the situations of this world; show that more Christian families raise Christians than non-Christian families do. Therefore, it seems that God chose many of the elect to be born from the elect. This could be seen as a blessing, because many elect have their prayers answered by God’s choosing to give them elect children. However, all of these things are ordained before the foundations of the world, so we can’t assume Christian parents with Christian children raised their kids and better than Christian parents with unbelieving children. That would be a cruel conclusion for all those faithful and praying parents who have no yet obtained the answer to their prayers for their children’s salvation.

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I would say no, the decision is not based on the parents, for a variety of reasons, but mostly the story of the blind man whom Jesus healed in John 9:1-3.

As he passed by, he saw a man blind from birth. And his disciples asked him, “Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind?” Jesus answered, “It was not that this man sinned, or his parents, but that the works of God might be displayed in him.”

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