Predestination, also known as Election, is a theological doctrine that holds that God chooses those to whom He will give saving faith. Contrary to popular belief, predestination was not first proposed by John Calvin but can be traced back to St. Augustine (354-430) and other Church Fathers. Proponents say that the doctrine can also be traced back to the writings of the Apostles Peter and Paul. They refer to the Gospels and to other of the New Testament writings, specifically such passages as John 17, Romans 8, andEphesians 2:8-9:
For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God: Not of works, lest any man should boast. (KJV)
Central to predestination is the belief that God is sovereign over everything that he creates, including the final end of all men. There are two formulations of predestination—predestination proper (sometimes called "single" predestination) and "double" predestination. In the former view, God elects whom he will give faith to (and subsequently save) and leaves the rest to receive justice for their rebellion against God. In the other, God elects who will come to saving faith but also chooses those who will be eternally lost. Having not been chosen to receive Faith, they have no means of escaping the consequences of their sins.
Related to the issue of predestination is the role of the human will in salvation. Some critics of predestination believe that it is incommensurable with the belief that man has libertarian free will. Proponents of predestination typically propose an alternate description of free will.
Because of Original Sin, the human will is corrupted and fallen. Often it is Ephesians 2:1 which is cited in justification of this view. It states that men are "dead in their trespasses." The result is that the will is incapable of choosing to love God over things below. This does not remove the ability of human beings to make choices among all the options presented to them in the course of their lives, but it does remove one option, i.e. the choice whether to love God or not. The will can only choose to love God if it receives the grace of God.
According to the doctrine of predestination, God chooses those to whom He will give the grace necessary to believe in him and love him. Thus, when a person chooses to place his faith in Christ, he has received the grace of God. He is numbered among God's elect. This understanding of predestination excludes the possibility that someone could put their faith in Christ and not be saved. The fact that one does believe that Christ died for his sins is sufficient evidence of his election.
Predestination is also called unconditional election, the U in the TULIP mnemonic for five of the doctrines affirmed at the Synod of Dort (1619), which have now come to be called the "Five Points of Calvinism."
Many Christians have responded to the Biblical evidences presented by predestinarians by contending that those who are termed, in Scripture, God's "Elect," are those who have been chosen for the fulfillment of some particular task in life, as opposed to having been chosen to receive Faith and be saved. In the Unification Church, predestination is limited to the idea that God chooses someone for a great role or mission. According to that church, being chosen for the role is not up to the individual, but the decision to fulfill God's will is.
A number of Christians, however, hold that no one is predestined for either heaven or hell, but that a person's eternal destiny is determined by his character as it has been shaped by the choices made in life (see spiritual growth). The Swedish mystic Emmanuel Swedenborg is identified with such a belief.
- Predestination: The Great Doctrine of Comfort, from Our Redeemer Lutheran Church, Lexington, KY