Tag Archives: free will

Several Myths (at least misunderstandings) Regarding the Doctrine of Predestination

In the catalog of Christian Doctrine (among Biblical based, ‘evangelistic’ Christians), Predestination is probably the one with the most misunderstandings and honest controversy. I use the word ‘honest’ in that it doesn’t seem either side of the issue is intentionally falsifying anything. Both camps use the Bible and thinking derived therefrom to form their conclusion. (Just to clarify, there are non-Christians who use Predestination as a ‘talking point’, neither understanding the real concept nor caring for honesty or integrity in the matter; I am not considering them at the moment.)

There are three major misunderstandings or myths about Predestination which seem to abound.

1. People who reject Christ (which includes salvation, grace and forgiveness) are dragged into Heaven against their will as God has already decided the matter.

Not true. God does not drag souls – people – into His loving care as they kick and scream and squirm, attempting to escape. God clearly allows people to make their own choices in nearly all cases, which explains evil actions in the history of mankind. This includes Adam and Eve’s decision regarding the apple (yes, I know; it’s an abbreviation for that whole episode) and the rather reprehensible actions of various evil man throughout history and the ‘bad’ decisions of all us ‘good’ people.

Probably the most misunderstood example of this myth is the conversion of Saul/Paul. To recap Acts 9: 1 to 22, a Jewish man named Saul was on the road (not with Bob Hope and Bing Crosby) to Damascus with the intent of physically and legally (under Jewish law and authority) prosecuting and persecuting any and all Christian believers he (Saul) could find. On the way, a bright light appeared followed instantly by a physical effect on Saul, according to the text (and in my mind), similar to the effect of a taser application or a polo mallet upside the head – but without serious effect other than temporary blindness. Saul fell to the ground and addressed the ‘force’ which effected this aforementioned sensation, asking “Who are You, Lord?” (One notes Saul quickly understood he was hopeless to resist physically.) The ‘attacking force’ immediately identifies Himself, “I am Jesus, whom you are persecuting…”

In another passage, Paul – as he then was identified – recounted the episode and mentioned the initial ‘attack’ was accompanied by the same voice saying “You are hurting yourself [or ‘It is hard for you’, both phrases are correct and the same in meaning in the Greek] by kicking against the goads.”

Then Jesus instructs Saul to proceed to Damascus where he will be met by a believer named Ananias who healed Paul’s blindness and gave Paul some basic instruction in Christianity and introduced Paul to other believers with the Lord’s approval.

From this, some gather Paul was ‘conscripted’ in this episode. I understand this transaction as a ‘last chance’ offer to either side with Jesus Christ as God or not. I will stipulate the encounter was enthusiastic. At no point does Jesus say, “Accept me or die, you rat fink!”

2. People who want to accept Christ (which includes salvation, grace and forgiveness) are rejected as God has already decided the matter.

No real evidence for this happening. In fact, the reverse action is claimed in various places. John 3:16 is probably the best known example. Other verses – not comprehensive – are John 6:37, Ephesians 1:13, Hebrews 7:25. There are more yet, but I see no point in transcribing neither the Bible nor other websites.

One major Biblical based argument is based on Matthew 7:21 to 23. This is the passage where, at the Judgement, some say “Lord, Lord, didn’t we … [do a bunch of religious stuff] … in your name…?” Jesus responds, “I never knew you.”

Looking at this passage, there is NO indication of an actual belief and relationship between Jesus and the rejected claimants. Those rejected are basing their justification for salvation on their ‘good works’ and not on a relationship with Jesus.

3. This isn’t fair.

From what I’ve heard – and understood and believed personally – this is the greatest criticism of the Doctrine of Predestination. Because the criteria for those who are ‘chosen’ and those who are rejected is not spelled out fully and satisfactorily to all, the impression of God arbitrarily choosing ‘this one’ and not ‘that one’ arises.

The nature of God precludes this. God is not capricious nor arbitrary. If one accepts and believes (fully embraces, not just nods and grunts) that idea of God’s nature, then Predestination is not capricious nor arbitrary, whether any of us ‘understand’ the mechanism or not.

However, allow me to present a thought on the matter I haven’t heard before in this configuration.

Part of our understanding of the ‘nature of God’, one of the descriptors of God is that He is ‘omnipresent’. Which means He is present in all places at once. God is not limited to Omaha or Poughkeepsie or Karachi or this church or such.
In my understanding – the reader is free to disagree – God is not limited in time, either. God exists and acts yesterday and tomorrow as much as He does today. So when the Bible says “…before the foundation of the world…” this limitation was only a nod to the readers of that time. It can equally mean ‘…after the destruction of the world…’ So, when does God ‘discover’ any particular person has accepted His grace and embraces a relationship with God through Jesus? Before the beginning of the world? After the end of the world? When the individual ‘does it’?

The answer is Yes. God exists in all those places – times – simultaneously.

No doubt many of the readers will say (in a gentle questioning manner) “I’ve never heard that before”. As I said earlier, I haven’t either. I bet that applies to many theologians and Bible expositors as well. However, feel free to pore over the preceding paragraphs and pick out any weaknesses in either the assumptions or logic. And for Heaven’s sake, tell me!

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Freewill and Making Choices

Time for another installment of theology.

One of the time-honored arguments of theologians and all philosophers is that of “Do humans have free will?” I’m not going to rehearse the whole of the arguments or the enormity of the situation. However, I suggest one must live one’s life as if one does have free will. How else can one live?

On a practical level, when faced with a choice, one must choose something. Turn left or right. Stop or go. Paper or plastic. Vote progressive or make sense. Relieve one’s self or ship small stores. To wait for a ‘sign’ or consult the gods, or stars or let karma take its course are all ways of procrastinating.

On a Biblical, spiritual level, one notes the Book of Ezekiel (the one in the Bible, not one of the Pseudepigrapha attempts) has a number of statements revolving around “The soul that sins is the one that shall die”. One notes the essential message is also repeated throughout the Mosaic code sections and repeated in the teachings of Jesus. The question “what is meant by death” is side-stepped; the message is clear God holds each person responsible for choices.

Any questions? Good.

Paul the Apostle says in 1st Corinthians 10:23, “Everything is lawful,” but not everything is beneficial. “Everything is lawful,” but not everything builds others up.” The statement “Everything is lawful” was a slogan in Corinth; Paul is not quoting Old Testament scripture, by the way. Still, it is in some regards correct.

Consider smacking yourself on the head with an eight ounce ball peen hammer. Repeatedly. Is that ‘lawful’? Are you free to do so? To the best of my knowledge, it is, and you are. Is it a good idea? All in favor raise their hands. (I see two hands. Both are known to me; one is a compulsive smart mouth and the other – we won’t discuss the other one.)

Jumping once again and promising this all ties together; one observes certain laws of nature and does one’s best to observe them. Gravity is one such law. Most of us respect the laws of gravity and choose to use stairs, elevators or escelators rather than jumping from upper floor windows. Most of us respect laws of volume and inelasticity of fluids by NOT intentionally overfilling carafes or water jugs or gasoline tanks. Nearly all of us observe whatever laws governing the collision between hammers and skulls. (Even without medical training.)

Keep this in mind. As the designer, builder, creator and sustainer of the Universe, the Lord God designed and instituted all these laws. And more, by the way.

So what about choices of natural laws NOT of obvious and immediate consequence? Smoking comes to mind. I know of no cases where any person developed lung cancer from their first cigarette. (Some never do; some develop lung cancer without smoking.) However, there seems to be a noted correlation between long term smoking and lung cancer. Or several other lung problems. So it seems that while lung cancer is NOT an unavoidable punishment for smoking, it does have a connection.

Sexually transmitted diseases are another. If one continues having unprotected sex with random partners, sooner or later one will contract some form of sexually transmitted disease. (Okay, pregnancy is NOT a disease, but can be contracted inadvertently.) The occurrence is NOT a punishment from God for fooling around, it’s just a natural consequence of the action.

Ask anyone – professional or amateur – if, while using a hammer they have hit their fingers inadvertantly. (Some without much consequence, some with serious injuries.) However, God does NOT punish use of hammers in such fashion. It is just a consequence of using a hammer – and typically overconfidence.

Having read the above, think about the question: “With all this in mind, why does anyone ‘choose’ to ignore the laws of the Universe?”

God, in making the laws of the Universe, has instituted certain manners of conduct. One ignores those ‘manners of conduct’ at one’s own peril. Therefore, one is careful in negotiating stairs, mountain paths, automobile traffic (both as driver and pedestrian), contact with potential sexual partners, gambling, drinking and so forth.

No. I don’t think Evel Knievel was sinful in his motorcycle stunts. I am fairly certain had he chosen accounting as his life’s work, he would have broken fewer bones.

So why does one make choices intentionally to flaunt God’s laws? Those moral laws God has given us in the Bible?

I will point out this thinking is supported and encouraged by modern societal thinking. It is phrased somewhat differently of course. Doing what which is punishable by natural consequence is described in various ways. “Adventurous” comes to mind. This is probably one aspect which makes rock climbing attractive. I’m not claiming, or even suggesting, rock climbing is sinful or rebellious against God. However, depending on the level of preparation, rock climbing is silly and dangerous to some degree. (From a purely logical standpoint; there are more convenient and safer ways to get atop any specific rock face.)

The danger of the ‘adventurous’ excuse is that it leads to other dangers. Illicit drug use and abuse has been described as ‘adventurous’. Driving in a dangerous (usually including excessive speed for conditions and/or posted traffic ordinances) manner is ‘adventurous’. One’s sex life can be ‘adventurous’.

I think the underlying reason is this. One wishes to make “one’s own choice”. Since God says ‘option A’, one is under the somewhat clouded view the only “own choice” is ‘not option A’. In other words, if one is to ‘decide on one’s own’, then one must do other than God already decided.

Nearly all people go through a period of rebelling against authority. Usually in the person of one’s parents. Normally this fades out with some degree of maturity. (To be honest, I’m still lacking when it comes to cleaning up my room. House, these days.) However, rebelling just to be rebelling isn’t a choice; the practice is a rather limiting, knee-jerk reaction.

Make your choice.

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