Tag Archives: reformed

Picking a lane on election and predestination

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Note: While I’m unapologetic about holding to Reformed theology, I’m not evangelical about it. I share the gospel without mentioning it, and gladly fellowship with authentic Christians who hold other views. However, I don’t appreciate the ignorance and arrogance of those who condemn those who believe Reformed theology.

If God didn’t choose to save some particular sinners destined for Hell, then it is because He couldn’t save them, or He wouldn’t save them.

Reconciling God’s sovereignty with man’s responsibility is important to think through for orthodox Christians – whether Reformed, Arminian, Molinist, or whatever you like to call yourself (i.e., anyone who agrees that God knew before creation began who would ultimately choose to repent and believe, and that open theism is false because God is omniscient and not learning as He goes). But I see too many people making the task unnecessarily difficult because they forget that our default destination is Hell. They unwittingly create a straw-man situation where God owes an opportunity for salvation to everyone. But then it wouldn’t be mercy and grace; it would be justice.

In other words, aside from Adam and Eve, who could have chosen otherwise but ultimately needed a Savior because of their choices, everyone else was initially destined for Hell. (For simplicity, I’m leaving out any miscarriage and age of accountability scenarios, however one fleshes those out).

So absent God’s mercy and grace, everyone would end up in Hell. People overcomplicate this to try to get God off the hook for eternal damnation. But it is they who put him on the hook. Everyone deserves to go there, but by God’s mercy and grace, He elects and predestines to save some. So humans are always the cause of them not being saved, not God.

I’ve yet to see someone with orthodox Christian beliefs come up with any alternative besides these reasons for why people end up in Hell:

  1. God didn’t elect them (Reformed)
  2. God couldn’t persuade them (Arminian or Molinism)
  3. God wouldn’t persuade them (Arminian or Molinism)

Even if you hold the view that God “looked down the corridor of time” and elected and predestined those who would choose him of their own “free will,” you are still left with those choices for the remainder.

Option 2 means that nothing God could have done would have convinced you to repent and believe.  It wouldn’t have mattered if He sovereignly put a stellar apologist next door to you and gave you lots of encounters with solid Christians (i.e., good experiences with Christianity and complete access to the facts and logic behind the faith). That sounds like Reformed theology to me, as it means that God created these people knowing that nothing would persuade them to believe. In his foreknowledge, He elected not to make them spiritually alive (a la John 3:8 “The wind blows where it wishes, and you hear its sound, but you do not know where it comes from or where it goes. So it is with everyone who is born of the Spirit.”). They allegedly could choose him freely, but He was powerless to convince them.

Option 3 means that God could have persuaded them but elected not to. Again, that sounds Reformed to me.

I’ve heard of people trying to use Molinism (the concept of middle knowledge, where God knows every possible scenario that could have happened) to get around this, saying that God picked the universe where the most people would choose him. But that means that some would go to Hell in this universe but wouldn’t have in another universe, so God chose them to go to Hell. So they unwittingly end up with the same (false) scenario they are trying to explain away.

It is more biblical and logical to say that people have “free will” within their given nature. But as you can’t choose to fly like a bird because it isn’t in your nature, you can’t choose Jesus when it isn’t in your spiritually dead nature. But if God makes you spiritually alive (again, John 3:8) then you can and will choose Jesus because it is now in your nature to be able to do so.

If God didn’t choose to save some particular sinners destined for Hell, then it is because He couldn’t save them, or He wouldn’t save them.


Bonus thought: Why would Paul anticipate this argument if he was presenting anything but the Reformed view? Romans 9:19–20 You will say to me then, “Why does he still find fault? For who can resist his will?” But who are you, O man, to answer back to God? Will what is molded say to its molder, “Why have you made me like this?”

Why all the fuss about that predestination thing?

The negative characterizations that Arminians and Molinists make about the “Calvinist/Reformed God” are virtually indistinguishable from the nature of their version of God.  They just don’t realize it.  The Arminian version of God either couldn’t or wouldn’t intervene to persuade people to believe.  If they think God couldn’t intervene by sending missionaries, apologists, nicer Christians, etc. to those who might have been persuadable, then that’s a bold statement.  If they say He wouldn’t intervene, how is that different than the alleged liabilities of Reformed theology?  If they say it wouldn’t have mattered because nothing would have persuaded them, then welcome to Reformed Theology!

The purpose of this post isn’t to debate Arminian vs. Reformed vs. Middle Knowledge (or whatever hybrid / other version of orthodox Christianity you adhere to).  It is merely to point out that some of the rancor against Reformed theology* in the debate seems misplaced.

The Bible uses the word predestined many times (e.g., Ephesians 1:5 he predestined us for adoption as sons through Jesus Christ, according to the purpose of his will), so the only question is what the word really means, in context.  But regardless of your definition, unless you subscribe to the false theology of Open Theism then it seems that you would agree that these two events happened in this order:

  1. God knew who would repent and trust in Jesus and thus spend eternity in Heaven, and who would not and therefore spend eternity in Hell.
  2. God created everyone.

My point is simply that the other views aren’t as far from Reformed theology as their adherents like to think they are (“That old meanie Calvinist God who knew which people would go to Hell but created them anyway is nothing like our loving Arminian/Middle Knowledge God who knew which people would go to Hell and created them anyway!!!”).

For example, on the Molinism/Middle Knowledge view, God considered the infinite number of possibilities of “free will” choices and created the version of the universe that maximized the number of people who would be saved.  But that means one of the following must be true, neither of which is far from Reformed theology.

1. God created someone who wouldn’t convert in any one of an infinite number of universes — even if they read nothing but the Wintery Knight blog, watched nothing but William Lane Craig debates and experienced nothing but Bible-based, loving Christians.  That seems indistinguishable from Reformed theology on that point. They would have been created such that it would be impossible for them to believe under any circumstances.

2. God created people who would have believed in some other universes, but not this one.  God just didn’t give them the right circumstances.  That should strike the same chord of alleged unfairness that people hold against Reformed theology.  They would have believed if only God would have done things differently!

And under the Arminian view, using all their preferred definitions of key terms, God knew which people would not use their “free will” to choose him but created them anyway.  As noted here, they describe election along the lines of this: “When the Bible talks about election, all it means is that in eternity past, God looked down the corridor of time and saw who would believe and who would not. He then elected those He foresaw would believe.”

Which means one of the following:

1. No matter what God did, they wouldn’t choose him.  God created them knowing that no matter how events were ordered, they would not use their “free will” to believe, sort of like the previous possibility #1.  This seems barely distinguishable from the Reformed view.

2. They would have chosen God had He made their circumstances different.  God could have ordered events differently so that they would have been more compelled to choose.  But He chose not to . . .

Again, I’m not after the merits of the views in this post.  I know which one is correct ;-).  I’m just pointing out that they aren’t as far apart as people make them out to be on the emotional issues.  Even if you are correct on this in-house debate and Reformed theology is in error, the emotional reactions to Reformed theology on this point are not warranted.  In Reformed, Arminian and Molinist theologies God knew what people would do, including that many would spend eternity in Hell, then He created them anyway.

P.S. I had to shut down comments on the last post with a similar topic because otherwise-well behaved people were getting petty.  Don’t make me do that again! 

* Sometimes referred to as Calvinism.  I realize that some don’t care for the term “Reformed,” but I need to choose some descriptor.

Ever notice how Arminians sometimes act and pray like Calvinists?

I’m not trying to start the whole Calvinism / Arminian debate here, I’m just making an observation.  I’ve known people who oppose Reformed Theology (aka Calvinism), but they talk and pray like Calvinists when it comes to evangelism and salvation.

If you talk about evangelism they are quick to say it is all up to God, and they’ll pray for God to change people’s hearts.  It is a humble sentiment, but it just doesn’t seem to fit in with their Arminian theology.  I wonder if it is an excuse to avoid the hard and risky work of evangelism?  They don’t seem to want God to “woo” people, they seem to want him to really change them — forever.

I lean to Reformed Theology now but caught myself thinking the same way when I leaned towards Arminianism.