Speaking of myself, while growing up in Adventism the word “predestination” seemed to have been regarded as a heresy, the doctrine itself must have been even worse. I would even scoff at it and assert that a Loving God would not predestine some and not others. Furthermore, I believed that predestination would contradict free will. I no longer hold to that position and the verses below I think will help demonstrate the reasons as to why.
So in this post I want to ask and answer the following question from the Word of God.
Has God individually known and Predestined sinners unto salvation before the fall even took place?
The first text I want to review is called the Golden Chain. You can read it’s full context HERE, which I recommend that you do if it has been a while since you have studied Romans 8. Paul builds on his teachings from the prior chapters and discusses the state of all of creation and the place of God’s people in it. Then he gives us one of the best promises in scripture for those in Christ.
This is called the Golden Chain because each noun and verb is linked in sequential order, like a chain.
|those whom he foreknew||
-> TIES TO ->
|He also predestinated|
|whom he predestinated||
-> TIES TO ->
|those whom he called|
|whom he called||
-> TIES TO ->
|he also justified|
|whom he justified||
-> TIES TO ->
|he also glorified|
The group identified as “those whom” in verse 29 is the same people as identified as “those whom” at the end of verse 30. There is only one group of people being identified in this pericope and that same group goes all the way from Predestined before the fall to Glorification in the Eschaton.
A common rebuttal to this Biblical passage by arminians that I have seen is to assert that “foreknowledge doesn’t mean foreordained”. And my response is that it doesn’t have to. Of course foreknowledge isn’t causative. But making vapid assertions and running off denies the verb noun chain entirely.
This is because if the group of people being predestined is in a state of flux moment to moment as time plays out then on some level one would have to assert that God didn’t fully foreknow who was predestined.
That would be problematic because the Bible teaches that God exhaustively knows everything, something I covered in an earlier post on Omniscience. One cannot simultaneously hold to a doctrine of Omniscience and deny that God’s foreknowledge extends to the individual with regards to anything, much less salvation. Such logic wouldn’t even by paradoxical or mysterious it would be double speak with no exegetical basis. That’s what I call it anyways, everyone else just calls it Arminianism.
No matter how you stack it, if you’re going to allow for both Romans 8:29-30 and verses like Psa 147:5 to be in the Bible at the same time then whom was foreknown all the way up to whom was glorified has always been the same list of people. This is a beautiful promise in scripture to the elect of God. Jesus even gives some excellent imagery to this effect in the verse below where he states that we are in the palm of his hand.
Below we see that Paul expounds on this idea even further. Even though the context of Romans 8 includes the entire created order, this passage more clearly places the decree of God before time itself.
“Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in Christ with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places, even as he chose us in him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and blameless before him. In love he predestined us for adoption as sons through Jesus Christ, according to the purpose of his will, to the praise of his glorious grace, with which he has blessed us in the Beloved. as a plan for the fullness of time, to unite all things in him, things in heaven and things on earth. ; In him we have obtained an inheritance, having been predestined according to the purpose of him who works all things according to the counsel of his will” Eph 1:3-11 ESV
Notice the above is not only couched in the entirety of time, but even places the choosing of the elect by God as before the foundation of the world. Though the saving act is and always has been the Cross delivered to us by means in both the old and new testament the created order of salvation and all things was certainly in the mind of God before time itself was even a thing.
The above passage makes it very clear, these names were written in the Book of Life from the very foundation of the world. There is just no getting around that. If this gives you a hard time holding on to your free will presuppositions then maybe that’s a good thing.
Based on the above I believe that the scripture has spoken clearly and the answer to my question at the outset has been answered by scripture in the affirmative.
But… But… But… What does that mean then?
There are some very stark implications regarding this teaching of scripture. Since God has obviously predestined an elected people to salvation according to foreknowledge does that also mean he has predestined everyone else to Hell according to said foreknowledge? This is the conclusion of Calvinists. I don’t know if they call it “Double Predestination” or not and do not wish to misrepresent them, but that is the term that I refer to this conclusion as. It’s a perfectly logical conclusion to arrive at and I won’t question it on its intellectual honesty.
The problem is that first of all, the Bible doesn’t actually have a “golden chain” to hell. The scriptures above are only speaking about believers, reading unbelievers in has to be done philosophically. There are passages of God damning people and hardening hearts, but the referent has to be assumed to be prelapsarian by means of philosophy. Secondly, scripture has very clear teachings that negate this philosophical conclusion.
I understand that Calvinists have scholarly approaches to the above passages. And I respect their work in this regard a great deal more than I do with how Arminians handle the passages above about predestination. To briefly respond to what I have read by Calvinists, though types of people can be shown to be a thing in some of these verses, they cannot be exegeted to be limiting God’s disposition to said types. Thus, the plainest reading is that these passages include all types of all people.
To be clear, a thing with Lutheran theology anyways is that words like “all” simply mean “all” just as “is” actually means “is” and “day” means “day”. We are annoyingly consistent on this approach with scripture. So much so that I have heard Calvinists like Dr. James White, whom I respect a great deal, openly mock Lutherans on his program for this.
Ironically, this is actually the part about Lutheran theology that I admire the most. We would rather have a little mystery than round out every philosophical corner of the Bible. At the end of the day Calvinists and Lutherans should respect that we have a very different methodology in this respect. We should clearly explain what and why that is and then let the student of scripture discern for themselves which is a more honest approach. Both traditions are certainly Christian.
I would not speak so kindly of Arminian theology though. It is my assessment that they are in open rebellion to the word of God because they don’t like what it says. They need to repent of this sin. It has brought alot of pain into this world and has created a breeding ground for cults and satanic doctrines that send people to hell. Keep in mind, I am not saying that Arminianism is in and of itself a cult, but I am saying that historically their flagrant rebellion has fostered the development of cults. Perhaps I will blog more on this in the future.
I think that the best way to confess this simply and Biblically is that God has predestined his elect unto himself before time was even a thing. And that it is a great comfort and blessing to believers to know and hold on to. Conversely, as we also once were, the damned are destined by their own merits to receive the just eternal wrath of an almighty God as is due for their sins.
If you would like more on the doctrine of Election I recommend Article XI of the Solid Declaration of the Formula of Concord which you can read for free HERE.
Kind of blows the SDA “Investigative Judgement” out of the water, doesn’t it? Gosh, imagine scripture doing that! 🙂
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This doctrine utterly demolishes it!
I especially like how you note that we Lutherans take the Bible at its literal, simplest explanation/interpretation (unless context shows us something more complex is happening, as in Revelation, which uses picture language and such) AND that, in so doing, we come across what appear to be contradictions in the Bible. Then you discussed how we Lutherans are comfortable with some apparent contradiction, knowing that the foolishness of God is wiser than the wisdom of man.
If nothing else, it explains the rational approach to Biblical interpretation our Reformed friends take vs. the “like a child” literalistic sense we Lutherans take.
Exactly! I would prefer to make distinctions or confess a mystery than to bend the text!
Predestinated (from the KJV synonymous with predestined) appears four times in scripture. Twice in Romans 8 and twice in Ephesians 1. Start with Ephesians. Paul is addressing those in Ephesus who are already saved. What Paul is saying is that those who are already saved have been predestinated to adoption/glorification. He is MOST DEFINITELY not about talking about sinners to conversion. This is a very common mistake perpetuated by the presuppositions of Calvinists and Arminians. Then they argue whether the predestination to salvation is based on God’s foreknowledge or God’s divine determinism in a fatalistic way. This is an internal Calvinist debate. Biblical Christians don’t need to get caught up in this false dichotomy. Likewise when Paul speaks of election, it is election to service, calling and purpose, not to salvation. When Paul speaks of adoption, he is talking about the future redemption of the body, not conversion. When you study the Bible you need to observe and ask questions. Like…Predestinated to what? Predestinated is a word. Not a philosophy. Calvinists bring bad philosophy to scripture and twist scripture to fit their philosophy.