A few weeks ago I wrote a post in which I attempted to answer how predestination is compatible with free will. But later (after reading a few FB responses), I realized it may be helpful to let people know that my view is not the only view on the Evangelical platter. In fact, Bible-believing, Jesus-loving, God-glorifying Christians have at least three options to choose from when it comes to their understanding of predestination, each with strengths and weaknesses, but all attempting to be faithful to God’s Word.
Before I dive into the different options, it should be noted that all Christians agree on at least two things when it comes to predestination. First, predestination refers to God choosing to do something, before the creation of the world, that pertains to each person’s salvation. Second, predestination is biblical (Romans 8:28-30, Romans 9; Ephesians 1:3-11, see also the Elect).
But this is where the agreement ends, because Christians disagree about what the “something” is which God predestined.
Some Christians believe God predestined an inheritance, others believe God predestined the hearts of people, and still a third group believes God predestined worlds. I know it sounds crazy. Let me illustrate.
God predestined an inheritance. In general, Christians traditionally known as Wesleyan or Arminian believe,“Predestination is not the predetermination of who will believe, but rather the predetermination of the believer’s future inheritance” . What is the future inheritance? It is to be holy and blameless in the sight of God . In this view, God is not choosing who will go to Heaven or Hell, that’s left to each person’s free choice. Rather God has chosen what will become of each person who puts their faith in Him through Jesus Christ.
God predestined the hearts of people. On the other end of the spectrum are Christians traditionally known as Calvinist/Reformed. This group asserts that every part of salvation is an act of God. Not only did God predestine the inheritance of believers, He also first chose to change their hearts. Why? Because, in their view, original sin has affected every part of a person, including a person’s mind and will. It is therefore impossible for anyone to choose God on their own. Thus God must first do a work in a person’s heart which enables that person to choose God. In other words, “God…actually brings about a willing response from the person who hears” the gospel [3, p.693].
God predestined the world. Sometimes called Molinist, this group of Christians seeks to present a third option to the two views above. They believe that God, before creating anything, thought about all the possible worlds He could create. Then, He thought about all the possible choices of every creature, in every situation, in every possible world. After considering all the choices and outcomes of all the situations in all the possible worlds, He chose to create the world which He liked best. That is the world (a.k.a universe/reality) that we are living in today. How does this relate to predestination? As William Lane Craig writes, “God knows in exactly what circumstances people will freely respond to His grace and places people in circumstances in which each one receives sufficient grace for salvation if only that person will avail himself of it” . The point is, God, by predestining the world we live in, has also predestined the opportunities for each person to encounter Him. The view seeks to maintain the ability of all people to choose God, while maintaining God’s grace as a necessity for their choice.
So which view resonates best with you?
No matter what view you hold, the doctrine of predestination is intended to be of great comfort for Christians. It reminds us of the grace God has shown us (Ephesians 2:8-9). It motivates us to go where God sends us (2 Timothy 2:10). It encourages us that God has a purpose for each of us, even if we can’t see it (Genesis 50:20). And ultimately,it humbles us, knowing that no one wanting to come to faith in Christ will be left turned away (John 3:16; 2 Peter 3:9).
I hope these summaries have been helpful. For those interested in learning more about the above Christian views, here’s a list of recommend resources:
All of them (and some more)