Plans And Goals Are Predestinated
Part 3 of 3
Predestination is definitely a biblical concept but we must be very careful how we apply it because, without very clear definitions and applications, it can mean anything.
Calvinists have taken it to mean God selected certain individuals in eternity past, before creation, and predetermined that they would be saved. That’s the upside. The downside is everyone else is condemned to hell without recourse.
What is amazing about this idea is the fact that the preselected ones can’t avoid it, they can’t aid it, and anyone not selected has no choice in the matter either. It’s all predestined, or so they would have us think.
The Calvinist version of Predestination literally cuts the heart and soul out of motivation. Some won’t try to believe because maybe they weren’t selected. Some won’t do more to evangelize because maybe the target audience wasn’t elected.
Who will be saved and who will not be saved is absolutely settled completely and entirely by God’s choice before creation.
Of course, these false ideas about Predestination don’t stand alone. They are aided and abetted by Calvinistic teachings on Election. When these two concepts start swirling, the effect is catalytic. People get caught in the resulting vortex and just give up.
Once Election is understood correctly, however, which was the point of my last post, it opens the door to a very different viewpoint on Predestination.
Predestination Doesn’t Kill Hope
The biggest problem with Calvinistic ideas about Predestination is they leave absolutely no wiggle room for variable outcomes and give no hope. That’s a problem. Hope is everything. We endure momentary difficulties because we have hope. We fight for survival because we have hope. Take hope away, which is what Calvinism does, and people tend to harden, not against God but against people.
Once you start picking individuals to favor with eternal bliss leaving the rest to suffer eternal torment, you lose traction. Why bother trying. All the important questions are settled and there is nothing anyone can do to change it.
Predestination Doesn’t Encourage Questionable Motives
A good question to ask is why does any Calvinist obey the commands of Scripture, like preach the Gospel to every creature and love your neighbor.
This may not be true in every case but one reason a preselected person would love their neighbor (which we are commanded to do, even the ones who are easy to hate), who also may not be selected, is to rub it in.
I’m one of the chosen and I’m so much better than you.
You may think I’m exaggerating, but visit a few churches where Calvinism reigns and tell me the atmosphere isn’t laced with a sense of superiority. If you’re not sure where to find such churches, just look for the words Reformed or Covenant in the name. That’s usually a dead giveaway, although you find all kinds of churches laced with Calvinism’s ideas these days.
There’s a good reason for this phenomenon. When you’re beliefs run contrary to your actions, it makes you look at least confused, maybe stupid. You have to do something to shore up apparent sophistication. If you’re not BEING the part, you have to try and LOOK the part.
Realistically, who cares how much you’ve helped and loved some poor soul in this life if the person you helped will suffer for all eternity in the next, no matter what?
When you think about it that way, it explains why Calvinistic types spend more time accusing, condemning, and finding fault with their neighbors. Even they intuit the futility of helping people who may not be in the select club.
No rational person can accept such ideas. No decent person can allow them to go unaddressed.
I could carry on in this vein but it won’t help. All of those observations simply point out the cruel and unusual implications of Calvinistic thinking but nothing will change until we see Predestination in the correct light.
If you’re not sure about Election, please read my last post.
Following are several important thoughts on Predestination from a biblical perspective.
Predestination Is Mentioned In The New Testament
The word Predestination is found six different times in the New Testament in the following order:
Once, referring to the crucifixion of Jesus:
They carried out what your hand and will had decided beforehand would happen. (Acts 4:28)
A second time, referring to God’s plan to conform believers into the likeness of Christ:
For those God foreknew, He also predestined to be conformed to the image of His Son, so that He would be the firstborn among many brothers. (Romans 8:29).
A third time in the next verse, Romans 8:30, in the same context, and it conveys the same meaning.
A fourth time, referring to the benefits that accrue to believers who love Him:
We speak of the mysterious and hidden wisdom of God, which He destined for our glory before time began…No eye has seen, no ear has heard, no heart has imagined, what God has prepared for those who love Him. (1 Corinthians 2:7 & 9)
This fourth reference flies in the face of Calvinistic reasoning because the object of predestination is wisdom and it is provided only to those who qualify by loving Him. That means we aren’t predestinated, wisdom is and we only get it if we qualify.
The fifth time, referring to God’s plan to adopt all those who get saved:
He predestined us for adoption as His sons through Jesus Christ, according to the good pleasure of His will. (Ephesians 1:5)
The sixth time is referring to the plan for Christ to be the basis of salvation:
In Him, in whom also we have obtained an inheritance, having been predestined according to the purpose of the One working all things according to the counsel of His will. (Ephesians 1:11)
In every reference, the object of predestination is never us. It is always some benefit God promises to believers and there are several.
A Third Application For The Word Election
In the previous post, I mentioned two types of Elections: Individual and National.
Individuals can be elected to serve certain purposes and the same is true for nations. The nation of Israel was developed and called to bring the Gospel to the world.
But there is a third application for the word Election.
It can apply to a plan. God Elects to do things a certain way. He Elected a plan that included the death of Jesus for all sinners and the sanctification of those who believe.
Closely associated is the concept of Predestination. Every person who gets saved, for example, is Predestined to be conformed to the image of Jesus.
This plan applies to every New Testament believer. The application of the plan will work out a little differently for each believer because we are all individuals, but the goal of the plan is the same for everyone, being conformed to the image of Jesus.
God elected this plan in eternity past and predetermined it would be in force during the New Testament period.
This isn’t an option. If you believe and get save, if you repent and believe in Christ, God will follow you and work with you, and for lack of a better word, hound you for the rest of your life to conform you to the image of Jesus.
This conforming process will not be finished in this life and each person will reach different levels according to how agreeable they are to God’s leading.
What is important to understand is that the ultimate outcome of the plan was predetermined not every little detail throughout the journey.
God doesn’t predestinate any person to stub their toe, or fail financially. Each of us contributes to these experiences. We’re provided sufficient wisdom and instruction in Scripture to avoid many of life’s pitfalls.
And we learn in two ways. We follow the instructions and enjoy the benefits or we resist and feel the pain. But we learn both ways, or at least we can learn if we will.
The point is God doesn’t dictate every little detail in your life. He allows each of us opportunities and sufficient space to try, fail, or succeed but always in the hope that we learn and grow.
Some will respond positively and build Christlike characteristics more rapidly. Some will stubbornly resist and their progress will be slower but God has predetermined that every believer will be conformed to the image of Jesus.
He didn’t predestinate a time frame. He predestinated an ordered process: step one, step two, step three, step four, and so on. No individual is included or excluded and no one gets to jump the process.
He didn’t predestinate stubbornness. If you are disagreeable and resistant, that’s on you. It’s a personal choice.
If you don’t learn the lesson today, you’ll face it again another day. If you are chronically obstinate, you may wait a long time for the next opportunity. Abraham waited thirteen years after the birth of Ishmael before God spoke to him again (Genesis 16:16 & 17:1-2).
<3>Predestination And Breeding Go Hand In Hand
Some people, due to appropriate breeding in their formative years, will have already developed many Christ-like qualities before salvation and this obviously shortens the conforming process once salvation occurs.
Others, born in a less healthy environment will spend more time correcting past behavior.
We have different starting points but two things are true:
- God didn’t predestinate your particular set of circumstances.
You might be born in privilege but that doesn’t make you special. Better off doesn’t mean you’re better.
A second truth is:
- Better circumstances make you more accountable.
To whomsoever much is given, of him shall be much required: and to whom men have committed much, of him they will ask the more. (Luke 12:48)
Privilege makes you responsible, not special.
The important point is that people and the minute details of their lives aren’t predestined, goals are. Predestination opens the door to better possibilities and expands the horizons. It’s not a fixed state of being for anyone.
Predestination Requires A Response
We often say things happen for a reason, even bad things, and I guess that is true but the reason might be different than you think. Maybe the reason something bad happened is you acted unwisely and suffered the natural consequences.
God didn’t predestinate you to stub your toe, crash your car, or develop cancer.
God did determine that He would work with people according to set principles and guidelines. Each person is responsible for how they respond. Some work with God’s principles and move forward at a steady pace. Some resist God’s leading and thwart the plan but only temporarily.
Because this shaping is predestined, God will not stop trying to conform you into Christ’s image. He won’t give up. He won’t quit trying. It’s predestinated.
It’s like reaping and sowing. If you respond by sowing the wind, you’ll sreap the whirlwind. It’s a fork in the road. The shaping of your life depends on which way you veer.
The plan is predestined.
God is immutable, the pathway of your life is not.
Predestination Focuses On Broad Plans
All six of the above-mentioned references reinforce the idea that God’s predestinating activity was focused on directions. The only thing specified in each case is an outcome that applies to either all of humanity or to a qualified category of people.
None of those plans were focused on specific individuals. No one was being singled out for inclusion or exclusion.
For example, God predetermined that Christ would be crucified for the sins of the world (Acts 4:28).
In other words, God predestined a plan that allowed for the salvation of everyone. No one was left out. Everyone was included.
God predestined a plan that allowed for the adoption of every person who repents and gets saved. The qualifying condition is salvation, not election.
Every believer is predestined to be conformed to the image of Jesus. The qualifying condition is the new birth. If you’ve been born again, you will be conformed.
Predestinations Focus Is Highlighted By Grammar
You don’t have to be a Greek scholar to pick up on this truth. Anyone with a simple understanding of English and a few Greek reference works can figure it out.
When predestination was mentioned, individuals were the indirect objects and outcomes were the direct objects.
A good example would be:
Joe Montana threw Jerry Rice the ball.
Joe is performing the action. The question is was he throwing the ball or Jerry? The answer is obvious. He’s throwing the ball. The ball is being acted on, Jerry is not.
Predestination works the same way. God predestined the plan to:
- Pay the price of sin through the sacrifice of Christ.
- Conform conform believers into the image of Jesus.
- Adopt believers as children.
God didn’t predestinate me personally to be conformed or you personally to be adopted. He predestinated plans by which I and every other believer would be conformed to the image of Christ, but it was the plan that was predestined, not me. The same applies to Christ’s death on the Cross. These plans apply to any person who believes in Christ.
God doesn’t make anyone trust or force anyone into salvation. He offers salvation and the person who repents and believes will be adopted and will go through the conforming process.
Salvation doesn’t happen because a particular person was predestinated. Salvation occurs because a person believes in Christ. Christ was predestinated to be the sacrifice for sins. No one was predestinated to get saved.
The dynamic is entirely different. Predestinations focus is never on the individual but on the plan.
What Gives Predestination Traction
You migt wonder why anyone would the Calvinistic version of predestination? It’s a good question.
The Calvinist would say it’s in the Bible but I’ve provided many reasons in this an previous two posts to doubt that.
It’s difficult to say exactly why these ideas persist but it might be that it justifies blaming someone or something else for our problems. Things are the way they are because it was predestinated. God did it. It’s His will. There’s nothing I can do to change it.
Like the Doris Day song, Que Sera Sera (What Will Be, Will Be), we like to believe things are the way they are just because. It eliminates the need to address problems.
It is true that some things are out of our control, so there’s that, but there are many things we can control and there are many factors and contributors.
When a person drives badly and causes you to have an accident, maybe you can’t take responsibility for that but that is no cause to accuse God.
God created and maintains the broad principles, like gravity, but He doesn’t override those laws every time you trip over a stone. He made evangelism possible through the death of Christ and gave us the command to go, but He expects us to act accordingly.
If someone doesn’t hear the Gospel because we didn’t take the time to share it, that’s on us. If someone rejects the Gospel because we do a poor job of sharing it, that’s also on us. We can’t really claim they refused the Gospel just because they thought we were idiotic.
But sharing the Gospel widely and clearly requires effort. Lazy could be a factor here. If something can’t easily be done, then maybe predestination (the Calvinist version) becomes the excuse for not doing more.
Predestination Promotes Become-Ability
This is probably the biggest fail point of Calvinistic thinking.
God created flowers to be beautiful and each one does exactly what it was created to do. They don’t change colors or locations. They are beautiful but prisoners to circumstances completely beyond their control.
Any variation in the way they look is limited and produced either by random selection or human engineering but never by the flower’s own effort.
The same could be said for trees or vegetables or most every other form of created life. Vegetables taste like they were designed to taste. Their nutrient values are preset. Change isn’t possible.
Even animals act in character. They don’t become anything other than what they are. A dog, as valuable as one may be, is always just a dog.
Humans, however, have become-ability. We start out at zero and work toward a higher plane. God’s predestinated plans encourage this growth. He created us with the potential to become and grow and expand.
Sin, of course, hindered that potential so God predestined a plan to deal with the problem. He gave His only begotten Son to die for the sins of the world. Not just a few but for everyone.
Everyone has the option to believe. Anyone can be saved. All of the other predestinated benefits apply to every person that believes.
Predestination restores humanity’s created potential at least to some degree. Predestination empowers us to do more and be more.
Predestination Doesn’t Mitigate Human Responsibility
All of that means, of course, that we are accountable. The law of reaping and sowing still applies. We can make a difference if we will.
Are people who fail repeatedly destined to be failures? Are psychopaths destined to be serial murderers? If Calvinistic predestination is true, then where’s accountability?
Can a person be fined if they were predestined to break the law? If predestination applied to anything other than broad principles – a general rule of thumb – we would never know where predestination ends and human will begins.
It’s like the law of gravity. God predestinated the law and it applies equally to everyone. Every person has an intuitive sense of gravity and the will to obey it or not. Those who obey it experience the benefit of standing safely on terra firma. Those who don’t suffer the consequences.
But God didn’t predestine any particular person to fall on their face.
The same is true with adoption and being conformed to the image of Jesus and receiving wisdom from God. Those who believe, experience these things equally as they respond appropriately. It’s a predestined law. Those who don’t believe, miss the opportunity.
But no individual person is predestined in or out of salvation.
Predestination Means That Failure Is Never Final
If you’ve tried and failed, you have lots of company. It happens to everyone but God’s plan allows for you to learn even when you failed repeatedly.