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, especially verses 29 and 30:
For those whom He foreknew, He also predestined to become conformed to the image of His Son, so that He would be the firstborn among many brethren; 30 and these whom He predestined, He also called; and these whom He called, He also justified; and these whom He justified, He also glorifiedas well as Ephesians 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)Acts 13:48:
When the Gentiles heard this, they were glad and honored the word of the Lord; and all who were appointed for eternal life believed.and Ephesians 1:4-6:
For he chose us in him before the creation of the world to be holy and blameless in his sight. In love he predestined us for adoption as His sons through Jesus Christ, in accordance with his pleasure and will, to the praise of his glorious grace, which he has freely given us in the One he loves.
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 infallibly save) and leaves the rest to either receive justice for their rebellion against God or mercy and acquittal for their freely choosing to humbly respond to God's open call to all the whole world to repent and believe in the unmerited salvation offered only through Christ. In the other, God irresistibly elects who will come to saving faith, because of themselves they have no free-will of their own to do so (being utterly dead in sin), but also chooses according to his sovereign decree those who will be eternally lost (all the rest), by allowing them to remain in sin, because they have no free-will to do otherwise (being utterly dead in sin). Having not been chosen to receive Faith, they have no means of escaping the consequences of their sins because it is their nature to sin.
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 unaided 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. Rejecting the enabling (prevenient) grace which allows the sinner freedom to choose to love God is a grave sin, according to John 3:19-21, Romans 1:20-28 and Hebrews 6:4-8.
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. Most Predestinarians believe that a life consistently lived in holiness and good works is a direct result of the work of the grace of God alone, and evidence of election.
Double Predestination includes the doctrine also called unconditional election (which can never be lost), 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. Catholics, Orthodox and others in support of this view point to verses in scripture such as 2 Peter 3:9 "The Lord is...not willing that any should perish" (KJV) and Acts 17:30 "but now commandeth all men everywhere to repent" (KJV) emphases added. This is especially strong in Paul's undeniable declaration in Romans 5:18: "Therefore as by the offence of one judgment came upon all men to condemnation; even so by the righteousness of one the free gift came upon all men unto justification of life" (KJV) emphasis added. This is Unlimited Atonement. They claim that the call to "all" excludes none, so that "all" have been given the gift of the grace to be able to repent if they so choose, and therefore none is absolutely and irresistibly already predestined for hell from the moment of conception, or from all eternity. This is the view of Arminianism.
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 Emanuel Swedenborg is identified with such a belief.
- Predestination: The Great Doctrine of Comfort, from Our Redeemer Lutheran Church, Lexington, KY
- Institutes of the Christian Religion, John Calvin