Sunday, January 31, 2016
Predestination Or Free Will?
This particular subject is deep and much deeper than we, human beings, can fully understand. It is a topic that has been discussed and studied by those much more knowledgeable than I and with the end result about as cloudy as it was to start with.
First and foremost, as Christians, we recognize God as omniscient (all knowing), omnipotent (all powerful) and omnipresent (everywhere present). There is nothing beyond Him and nothing that is not known by Him. He is the Creator and He existed before the creation. I.e. He was present before there was a universe, before there was a solar system, before there was an earth and before there was a man/woman on the earth. This means that He exists outside of time as we know it. We see time linearly, meaning one second is followed by the next second and followed by the next. But God exists outside of time seeing it all as present. No past or future with Him, but present.
Whether we understand or comprehend this means little because we are NOT God and therefore cannot know as He knows. We are created beings, He is the Creator. Despite the fact that the first human beings, Adam and Eve, were created to be immortal (would have never died) and with the full use and function of their organic brain, we are still NOT God. And, of course, with sin and the Fall, human beings die and we don't have the full function of our brains (but, when Jesus returns, He will resurrect our mortal bodies and they will be changed to be what was originally intended and given immortality). The wages of sin is death and so our fleshly bodies will die and our spirits will live forever. When Jesus returns our spirits will rejoin our resurrected immortal bodies and so shall we live forever with Him. We will also be able to see and understand more than we can today in our limited fleshly bodies and our limited time (we cannot comprehend it and don't have the time to gain the experiential knowledge because we die).
How does this affect our topic of predestination and free will? As much as we can understand it, we must still realize that our understanding is essentially limited and incomplete. It will remain so until we can sit directly in His presence. He is sovereign. He has the absolute authority, right, and ability to do with His creation as He pleases. He has supreme, indisputable power and we are in no position to make demands on Him except as His children through Jesus Christ. If I begin to tell God what to do, I'm being presumptuous and arrogant, trying to be God in God's place as though He were not enough. In a sense, this is what satan did and what he enticed Adam and Eve to do. They wanted to be God. And, we have inherited that evil desire. We want to be our own gods. We tend to think that we know better than God and God should do our bidding. But, as we mature as Christians, we begin to realize that we cannot be God and that God is trustworthy. We can trust Him to be God and to do all things in their correct order and at the right time and in the perfect way. For instance, when a child becomes sick, we want that child healed and back in perfect health. In our fear and desperation, we will make demands on God or try to "persuade" Him to do what we want as though God does our bidding on demand. But, as Christians, the Holy Spirit begins working in our hearts until we come to a place of trusting in the love of God. When we come to that place of trust, we can let go of our sick child and trust that child in God's Hands to do as He wills knowing it's for the ultimate best of all concerned. He answers our prayers even if it's not the answer we want. But, we learn to trust even those answers we don't like. It's what we call faith.
He proclaims Himself as a God of love.
Exodus 34:5-8 The LORD came down in a cloud and stood there with him and proclaimed the name of the LORD. (6) The LORD passed in front of him and proclaimed, "The LORD, the LORD God, compassionate and gracious, slow to anger, and filled with gracious love and truth. (7) He graciously loves thousands, and forgives iniquity, transgression, and sin. But he does not leave the guilty unpunished, visiting the iniquity of the ancestors on their children, and on their children's children to the third and fourth generation." (8) Moses quickly bowed to the ground and prostrated himself in worship.
As we come to know Him and experience His love, we learn to trust that love and to trust He knows best. We may experience hard times and think we cannot stand it, but He sustains us through it. One day we can look back and see how He really was with us even though we didn't feel like it.
Footprints In The Sand
One night I dreamed a dream.
As I was walking along the beach with my Lord.
Across the dark sky flashed scenes from my life.
For each scene, I noticed two sets of footprints in the sand,
One belonging to me and one to my Lord.
After the last scene of my life flashed before me,
I looked back at the footprints in the sand.
I noticed that at many times along the path of my life,
especially at the very lowest and saddest times,
there was only one set of footprints.
This really troubled me, so I asked the Lord about it.
"Lord, you said once I decided to follow you,
You'd walk with me all the way.
But I noticed that during the saddest and most troublesome times of my life,
there was only one set of footprints.
I don't understand why, when I needed You the most, You would leave me."
He whispered, "My precious child, I love you and will never leave you
Never, ever, during your trials and testings.
When you saw only one set of footprints,
It was then that I carried you."
- by Mary Stevenson
I've seen a funny add on to this: "See those long marks, that's where I had to drag you kicking and screaming all the way."
Knowing God is ultimately in control, comes the question of whether or not we have free will. Are we predestined by this all knowing God and therefore have no free will or do we have free will and our choices determine our future and therefore there is no predestination? God's omniscience seems incompatible with human free will. But is it? Are we predetermined to know and accept Christ and therefore be saved versus those who are predetermined to reject Christ and be lost? If so, then where does our free will come in?
Calvinism is the theological system associated with the Reformer John Calvin that emphasizes the rule of God over all things as reflected in its understanding of Scripture, God, humanity, salvation, and the church.Calvinism has always been diverse, with a wide range of influences rather than a single founder. Since the Arminian controversy, protestantism has divided into separate groups, Arminians and Calvinists. Basically, Calvinism is known by an acronym: T.U.L.I.P. for Total Depravity (also known as Total Inability and Original Sin); Unconditional Election; Limited Atonement (also known as Particular Atonement); Irresistible Grace; Perseverance of the Saints (also known as Once Saved Always Saved).
Arminianism is a school of theology based on the teachings of Dutch theologian Jacob Arminius, for whom it is named. It is perhaps most prominent in the Methodist movement and found in various other evangelical circles today. These were: (1) that the divine decree of predestination is conditional, not absolute; (2) that the Atonement is in intention universal; (3) that man cannot of himself exercise a saving faith, but requires God's help to attain this faith; (4) that though the grace of God is a necessary condition of human effort it does not act irresistibly in man; (5) that believers are able to resist sin but are not beyond the possibility of falling from grace. In essence, the Arminians maintained that God gives indispensible help in salvation, but that ultimately it is the free will of man which decides the issue.
Arminians reject the concept of individual election entirely, preferring to understand the doctrine in corporate terms. According to this corporate election, God never chose individuals to elect to salvation, but rather He chose to elect the believing church to salvation. Dutch Reformed theologian Herman Ridderbos says "[The certainty of salvation] does not rest on the fact that the church belongs to a certain "number", but that it belongs to Christ, from before the foundation of the world. Fixity does not lie in a hidden decree, therefore, but in corporate unity of the Church with Christ, whom it has come to know in the gospel and has learned to embrace in faith."
Calvinists and Arminians agree that only some are chosen for salvation. Both viewpoints agree that those who turn from sin to follow Christ are saved. Arminianism is related to Calvinism historically. However, because of their differences over the doctrines of divine predestination and election, many people view these schools of thought as opposed to each other. The question is: On what basis did God predestine people? Did He predestine some because He knew they would believe of their own free will, or did He predestine without regard to human choices? Was God's choice based on man's choice, or is man's choice itself a result of God's choice?
According to John Calvin, "Predestination we call the eternal decree of God, by which He has determined in Himself, what He would have to become of every individual of mankind. For they are not all created with a similar destiny; but eternal life is foreordained for some and eternal death for others. Every man, therefore, being created for one or the other of these ends, we say he is predestinated either to life or to death." Institutes, Book III, Ch. XXI, Sec. 5.
As I said in the beginning, scholars have debated this question for centuries and there are varying answers, some to one extreme or another. But these different viewpoints are just viewpoints and does not affect our salvation. We can be saved and have different viewpoints on this issue.
Neither Calvinists nor Arminians will dispute that God exists beyond space and time. God would not have foreknowledge or past knowledge of an event, He would just have knowledge of it period. The Bible teaches the fact of predestination, as well as teaching we have the freedom to make choices. The great Christian writer, C.S. Lewis states, “Of course reality must be self-consistent; but till (if ever) we can see the consistency it is better to hold two inconsistent views than to ignore one side of the evidence . . . It is plain from Scripture that, in whatever sense the Pauline doctrine is true, it is not true in any sense which excludes its (apparent) opposite.”
Yours, Jack: Spiritual Direction from C. S. Lewis
"All that Calvinist question — Free-Will and Predestination, is to my mind undiscussable, insoluble. Of course (say us) if a man repents God will accept him. Ah yes, (say they) but the fact of his repenting shows that God has already moved him to do so. This at any rate leaves us with the fact that in any concrete case the question never arrives as a practical one. But I suspect it is really a meaningless question. The difference between Freedom and Necessity is fairly clear on the bodily level: we know the difference between making our teeth chatter on purpose and just finding them chattering with cold. It begins to be less clear when we talk of human love (leaving out the erotic kind). ‘Do I like him because I choose or because I must?’ — there are cases where this has an answer, but others where it seems to me to mean nothing. When we carry it up to relations between God and Man, has the distinction perhaps become nonsensical? After all, when we are most free, it is only with a freedom God has given us: and when our will is most influenced by Grace, it is still our will. And if what our will does is not ‘voluntary’, and if ‘voluntary’ does not mean ‘free’, what are we talking about? I’d leave it all alone." (p. 186) See More
Jason T. Eberl “’You Cannot Escape Your Destiny’ (Or Can You)?: Freedom And Predestination In The Skywalker Family”
"For some religious believers, God can pull certain strings in the world to make it turn out as He wills. God designed the universe with all the physical causal laws that we live by everyday, such as gravity, inertia, centrifugal force, the fact that all “lite” beers are tastelees, and so forth. But does God also pull the strings of human will? Does He, for example, truly “harden hearts” as the Bible says He did to the Egyptian Pharoah (Exodus 4:21)? This is an important question for religious believers who also think that human beings are morally responsible for their actions: Do good and you go to Heaven, do evil and you got to Hell. If God hardened Pharoah’s heart so that he wouldn’t let the Israelites leave Egypt, does he deserve his punishment when God drowns the Egyptians in the Red Sea?
For religious philosophers, such as Augustine and Aquinas, God may infuse “grace” into the minds and hearts of those who invite it, and deny it to those who refuse it. And this grace may influence a person’s will, usually toward goodness. But the reception of grace requires the compliance of the person’s own will. The only way to receive God’s grace is not to reject it, and someone can avoid being infused with grace by willing against it. Thus, by creating human beings with freedom of will, God limits His own power to control our lives; God can pull only those strings in our will that we let Him though He can still pull the strings of everything around us."
So here we are, a sticky wicket but not one to distress us or cause us such controversy that we would cannot sleep. If we feel called and we respond and are saved, we don't have to be afraid. We are saved. If we feel called and we refuse to respond and refuse the free gift of salvation through Jesus Christ, we are lost. That's as far as we need to worry. Do we accept or do we reject? Whether we are foreordained, pre-elected or predestined is not for us to figure out. We answer the call with a choice - to accept or reject. "The predestined certainty of God's gracious work in Christ was not meant to perplex men, but to encourage and reassure all who trust in His grace." - International Standard Bible Encyclopedia
Acts 2:22-24 (CEV) Now, listen to what I have to say about Jesus from Nazareth. God proved that he sent Jesus to you by having him work miracles, wonders, and signs. All of you know this. (23) God had already planned and decided that Jesus would be handed over to you. So you took him and had evil men put him to death on a cross. (24) But God set him free from death and raised him to life. Death could not hold him in its power.
1 Peter 1:19-20 (Easy To Read Version - ERV) You were bought with the precious blood of Christ's death. He was a pure and perfect sacrificial Lamb. (20) Christ was chosen before the world was made, but he was shown to the world in these last times for you.
Romans 8:29-30 (Modern King James Version - MKJV) For whom He foreknew, He also predestinated to be conformed to the image of His Son, for Him to be the First-born among many brothers. (30) But whom He predestinated, these He also called; and whom He called, those He also justified. And whom He justified, these He also glorified.
Ephesians 1:3-6 (MKJV) Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who blessed us with every spiritual blessing in the heavenlies in Christ; (4) according as He chose us in Him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and without blame before Him in love, (5) having predestined us to the adoption of children by Jesus Christ to Himself, according to the good pleasure of His will, (6) to the praise of the glory of His grace, in which He has made us accepted in the One having been loved.
Ephesians 1:7-9 (MKJV) In Him we have redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of sins, according to the riches of His grace, (8) which He caused to abound toward us in all wisdom and understanding; (9) having made known to us the mystery of His will, according to His good pleasure which He purposed in Himself,
Romans 9:14-25 (Contemporary English Version - CEV) Are we saying that God is unfair? Certainly not! (15) The Lord told Moses that he has pity and mercy on anyone he wants to. (16) Everything then depends on God's mercy and not on what people want or do. (17) In the Scriptures the Lord says to Pharaoh of Egypt, "I let you become king, so that I could show you my power and be praised by all people on earth." (18) Everything depends on what God decides to do, and he can either have pity on people or make them stubborn. (19) Someone may ask, "How can God blame us, if he makes us behave in the way he wants us to?" (20) But, my friend, I ask, "Who do you think you are to question God? Does the clay have the right to ask the potter why he shaped it the way he did? (21) Doesn't a potter have the right to make a fancy bowl and a plain bowl out of the same lump of clay?" (22) God wanted to show his anger and reveal his power against everyone who deserved to be destroyed. But instead, he patiently put up with them. (23) He did this by showing how glorious he is when he has pity on the people he has chosen to share in his glory. (24) Whether Jews or Gentiles, we are those chosen ones, (25) just as the Lord says in the book of Hosea, "Although they are not my people, I will make them my people. I will treat with love those nations that have never been loved.
2 Timothy 1:9 (ERV) God saved us and chose us to be his holy people, but not because of anything we ourselves did. God saved us and made us his people because that was what he wanted and because of his grace. That grace was given to us through Christ Jesus before time began.
Galatians 1:15-16 (ERV) But God had special plans for me even before I was born. So he chose me through his grace. (16) It pleased him to let me see and know his Son so that I could tell the Good News about him to the non-Jewish people. I immediately prepared to do this work without asking for advice or help from anyone.
1 Corinthians 2:7-8 (ERV) But we speak God's secret wisdom that has been hidden from everyone until now. God planned this wisdom for our glory. He planned it before the world began. (8) None of the rulers of this world understood this wisdom. If they had understood it, they would not have killed our great and glorious Lord on a cross.
John 15:15-18 (ERV) I no longer call you servants, because servants don't know what their master is doing. But now I call you friends, because I have told you everything that my Father told me. (16) "You did not choose me. I chose you. And I gave you this work: to go and produce fruit--fruit that will last. Then the Father will give you anything you ask for in my name. (17) This is my command: Love each other. (18) "If the world hates you, remember that they hated me first.
1 Thessalonians 5:9-10 (ERV) God did not choose us to suffer his anger. God chose us to have salvation through our Lord Jesus Christ. (10) Jesus died for us so that we can live together with him. It is not important if we are alive or dead when Jesus comes.
Joshua 24:15 (ERV) "But maybe you don't want to serve the LORD. You must choose for yourselves today. Today you must decide who you will serve. Will you serve the gods that your ancestors worshiped when they lived on the other side of the Euphrates River? Or will you serve the gods of the Amorites who lived in this land? You must choose for yourselves. But as for me and my family, we will serve the LORD."
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