The Skeletal Basis of Predestination and Freedom
by Eric Landstrom
Before one enters into discussions regarding predestination and freedom it is wise to establish a base line. Therefore I thought I'd give everybody a skeletal basis from which to launch into such discussions.
Consider this statement:
-God does not know it all.
I would reject the notion myself. Here is the reason why: If God does not change (Mal. 3:6), or is said to be changeless, then either God cannot learn anything new, or God "knows it all" already. But as we move through time making choices and God is aware of these choices in the present, but was unaware of the choices we would make in the past, then God would have changed because He would have "learned" something new--the choice we would make. But because God cannot change, He cannot "learn" anything new by definition. Therefore, God must be simultaneously aware of all potential (possibilities) and the final outcome. In other words, I think the idea that God does not "know it all" is self defeating.
Simply knowing for sure that a person will freely do something is not enough for God to control the world. This is because foreknowledge of an event does not imply direct influence or omnicausality or absolute determination, but merely knows what other wills are doing. In other words, foreknowledge doesn't mean absolute determination. A fine point should be sharpened at this time: God not only grasps and understands what actually will happen, but also what could happen under varied possible contingencies. If God's knowing is infinite, God knows even the potential effects of hypothetical but unactualized possibilities, just as God knows what has or will become actualized (Oden).
This idea stated as an argument looks like this:
1) God knows all potential choices.
2) God knows the exact choices.
Therefore, God knows not only what is, but what possibly could be (see note 1).
Thus it is said that God doesn't merely have a will, but a knowing will. Therefore God's knowing is said to be:
1) Eternally actual, not merely possible.
2) Eternally perfect, as distinguished from a knowledge that begins, increases, decreases, or ends.
3) Complete instead of partial.
4) Both direct and immediate, instead of indirectly reflected or mediated--God knows all things simultaneously.
Therefore God doesn't "think," He knows (Oden).
All Christians shouldn't have a problem with any of that once they understand what is said.
In regards to predestination, regardless of one's school of thought (Calvinist, Arminian, whatever), Christians would agree that:
1) God definitely has foreordained from the foundations what will happen to those whom have followed Him and to those whom have not followed Him.
2) God has not predetermined individuals one way or the other. Yet this does not deny, that God:
a) Works to effect things.
b) Allows things.
c) Positively commands things.
d) Negates or negatively requires something not to be enacted.
e) Teaches or advises but does not coerce an action (Oden).
Simply put, just because God hasn't fatalistically predestinated the fate of each individual does not mean that God is not active in His creation. Neither does creature choice detract from the Lord's providence or sovereignty over His creation. Nor does creature choice mean that God has not predetermined what shall happen corporately to the aggregate groups of the faithful and the unfaithful.
As a sidebar:
Let me state right here that I hold Calvinists as my brothers, lest I appear to be "attacking" their position in any way.
Within the world of Calvinism there exists two schools of thought: high and low Calvinism. The theological jargon used to describe the positions of high Calvinism (double predestination) are the terms supralapsarianism and infralapsarianism. With these terms formulated as a question, the issue is: "Did God decree to save and damn certain men before the act of creation, or did He decree to create men and then after the Fall decree their election or reprobation?" (Beacon Dictionary of Theology).
The assertion that God decreed salvation before salvation or damnation is referred to as supralapsarianism ("before the fall"). This view holds that before the foundations of the world were laid, God issued His eternal decrees. Thus the fall of Adam becomes a part of God's plan. In a sense God is responsible for the Fall (lapsus means "Fall"), making election necessary. Placement of election subsequent to creation and after the Fall is known as infralapsarianism ("after the Fall"). According to this position, God issues His decrees of election after the Fall, so as to redeem a part of His creation (Beacon Dictionary of Theology).
Both supralapsarianism and infralapsarianism hold to a doctrine of double predestination and are within the view of high Calvinism. The offence here is that this is the only theological system within Christianity that I am aware of that tiers up the very offer of salvation. High Calvinists would argue that Jesus died for all men, but because the reprobate are reprobate they do not and cannot respond to this offer of grace positively. Likewise, the elect because they are elect, cannot do anything but respond to the offer of grace. Thus there is no decisional regeneration. This entire view of high Calvinism is encompassed by the term "Hyper Calvinism" and is regarded as a heresy by low Calvinists, and all Wesleyan/Arminian positions within Protestantism.
Low Calvinists would agree with my statement on predestination as they would look at the question of predestination in Acts 4:28; Rom. 8:29-30; 1 Cor. 2:7; Eph. 1:5, 11 as not a question of who are the objects of predestination, but what are they predestinated to. This would also be inline with basic biblical theology as well as the Wesleyan/Arminian system of theology. However, low Calvinists continue to maintain and affirm the five dogmatic points of TULIP as formed at the 1618 Council of Dort. Thus logic, by extension, states that this corporate predestination is brought down to an individual level--which once reached brings us to the issue of double predestination. The well informed low Calvinist will at that point state that John Calvin himself thought it was repugnant to speculate about the thought processes of God. Thus low Calvinists will refuse to be brought down this path at all costs (this means that they will always divert to another point of Calvinism as support of their position).
Wesleyan/Arminian systematics are not bogged down by such issues because the issue doesn't ever arise from their theology as the nature of election is defined in different terms. Rather than referring to the election of certain individuals, Wesleyan/Arminian theology define election in terms of class, namely believers. The gracious purpose of God is to save mankind, as many as believe (the "whosoever wills"). Thus they hold that this plan provisionally includes all men and that the condition of salvation is solely faith in the person and work of Jesus Christ (Beacon Dictionary of Theology). Thus Wesleyan/Arminian theology and low Calvinists would agree with my statement on predestination.
Key issues to be discussed between the theological systems of Calvinism and Wesleyanism: preterition and prevenient grace.
1. Dr. Yocum supports Oden's position of God's knowledge encompassing all possibilities writing:
It should be noted that God’s foreknowledge of the future is not a simple knowledge of what shall be, but a perfectly complete knowledge of all possible alternatives, if His free creatures had made other choices. One among many examples from the Bible is found in 1 Samuel, chapter 23. David and his men had gone to the walled city of Keilah and saved it from the Philistines. Saul heard of the event and determined to capture his enemy there. Upon inquiring of the Lord about this purpose of Saul, David was told that Saul would indeed come to Keilah and that the men of the city would deliver David into his hand. Here is the Bible record: “Then said David, Will the men of Keilah deliver me and my men into the hand of Saul? And the Lord said, They will deliver thee up. Then David and his men, which were about six hundred, arose and departed out of Keilah, and went whithersoever they could go. And it was told Saul that David was escaped from Keilah; and he forebare to go forth (vv. 12-13). God’s statement concerning what was going to happen was plainly conditioned upon the actions of David. If he stayed in Keilah, he would be delivered into the hand of King Saul. But he did not remain there; so he was not delivered into his hand. God’s statement of the future was based on His certain knowledge of alternative courses of action. What he knew did not actually come to pass, because it involved the voluntary response of a man, and that man chose not to remain in Keilah (Dale Yocum, Creeds in Contrast, 1986, p. 55).
Richard S. Taylor, Ed., Beacon Dictionary of Theology, 1983, Kansas City, MO: Beacon Hill Press of Kansas City. Thomas Oden, The Living God, Systematic Theology, vol. 1, 2000, Peabody, MA: Prince Press. Dale Yocum, Creeds in Contrast, 1986, Salem OH: Schmul Publishing Co. Inc., Wesleyan Book Club. © Eric Landstrom, 2002 See Also
Overcoming Objections for Self-determinism (Free-will) Overcoming Objections for Hard Determinism (predestination). Systematic Theology, the Divine Comedy Predestination and Free Will - Do They Go Together?
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