23 September, 2006

Predestination: The Humanity of it All

I doubt that I have seen how to resolve this issue for anyone, but I believe I may have seen why no one likes predestination. That's a big step forward for me. :-)

[Please keep in mind that I am looking at the ugly underbelly of predestination here. This is an inaccurate representation of the doctrine, but I believe it to be a faithful telling of the misrepresentation it often receives.]

The predestination taught by wonderfully logical men who have searched the bible from cover to cover sometimes sounds awful. The Father communed with the Son and Spirit, and decided to create x-billion people, then damn 90+% of them for not believing in Him. That's pretty ugly. Of course, it's scriptural to one degree or another, but so is _______ (I'll let you fill in this blank - I don't want to seem to pick on anyone's pet doctrine. ;-)

That's hard for the 90% to accept. God threw some dice (then He controlled the way they fell) and if your name didn't come up in His book of life, then you're just out of luck. You never did anything wrong. "Nothing" had not even been created yet, and already the Lamb's book of life was fully complete, but your name was excluded. And now God dangles promises in front of your nose about anyone who believes being saved, but you're not so allowed. Your name is not there.

But, it's just as hard to accept for the 10%.

We want to be loved, but in this teaching we are mere lottery winners. God decided to love 10% of x-billion people, and we were just in that 10%. He doesn't love us. He loves .1*x billion humans, and we happened to be born in the right skin.

But that's not how He made us. We cannot be made happy like that.

Imagine the following novel. A girl sits at home, waiting to be courted and loved. Just then comes a knock at the door. When she opens it, a man is there. She's not quite sure what to make of him, until he blows pixie dust in her face. Suddenly and irresistably she is compelled to fall in love with him. And they lived happily ever after.

They may live happily ever after, but our hearts break. There is a violence to that story that we cannot endure.

Every love story that touches our hearts is about courting. We want to see someone drawn with cords of a man, and bands of love; not thumped on the head, and carried to bed. There has to be a moment when their eyes first meet, and then they find each other special, and finally they decide being together is worth overcoming whatever obstacles dare try to keep them apart.

The love that might be forced on the unsuspecting is no love at all. It is mere mastery.

Doctrinaire predestination writes a story of mastery. It is one thing to write a story that gives all glory to God, but quite another to write one that makes His glory so great it's appalling to His lovers. God forbid anyone should make the salvation romance abhorrent.

---

So, what do you think? Have I captured the essence of the things that drive you from predestination? Or is it something else? BTW, I am asking here about those presuppositions you bring with you to scripture, more than about what you find after you get there.

Looking forward to your thoughts.

22 comments:

Milly said...

When speaking with a friend about Judas, I used the words how sad his story is to me because he was predestined to betray. His story told before he came. She pointed out that God knew his heart.

If that’s to be true then somewhere before we come, He knows our hearts.
He knows us before we came. Astonishing.. . Yet no so.

Milly said...

My belief on this gets a bit jumbled up. He knows we will reach for the fruit of sin He knows our sinful hearts. He as a good parent will still try to stop us with our thoughts of good and evil and He will show us that we are wrong. I do believe He shows us He stands in our path of sin and holds the good stuff in our faces, me must anger Him at times. Yet He knows our hearts and He knows when we are letting go of sin. He is a great father to wait for us, some of us hold on harder then others, then again He knew we would. Then why allow those who have hard hearts on this earth? Why not stop that one before it is born? He’s God never would a bad person need to be here. Ummm we don’t know His plan. We don’t know why and we don’t know who turned at the last moment and asked for Him to save them. I had a conversation with a cousin about salvation he said even a horrible murder can go to Heaven, it’s that cool?

It’s hard to think that God finds it ok to send a child killer to this earth because He knows the killers heart.

Sure we deserve the chance for Heaven, but that guy. This is why it’s a difficult concept. It’s hard for someone to sit on a cold marble bench and look a the grave of their child and think that it was predestined.

It’s easy to think sure this wonderful life was predestined harder when the walls are falling in on us. Faith is a big thing.

japhy said...

I'd say the problem I have with predestination is that a person who believes it might use it to argue for or against the salvation of another person. That type of prophecy is very suspect.

There are three general categories of prophesying about things in the future: denunciation, which deals with things that shall come to pass unless changes are made to current behaviors; foreknowledge, which deals with outcomes of our free will which God sees in the present from eternity; and predestination, which deals with decrees of God's infallible, unstoppable will.

Milly brought up the example of Judas, which I think is an important one. The gospels make it clear that Jesus knew Judas would betray him -- and John 13:18 seems to imply that Psalm 41:9 foresaw Judas's betrayal of Jesus, so perhaps this betrayal was a necessary part of the plan of salvation. Either way, God knew that Judas would betray Jesus to have him handed over for crucifixion.

But where is the Scripture predestining Judas to take his own life? Neither the fulfillment Matthew speaks of (which he attributes to Jeremiah, only half-correctly) nor of which Peter speaks of in Acts 1 is about the death of Judas, but about the betrayal. So Judas may not have been predestined for damnation (reprobation): his taking his own life was truly his own free will. But he could have chosen to believe in Jesus Christ and receive forgiveness.

I guess the problem the predestination-people have with those who don't believe in it is that it implies human beings have some sort of "power" over God's gift, whereby they can accept it or deny it. That does not diminish the grace (which is unlimited/eternal), only its efficacy (which is limited/finite): God's grace CAN be received by all people, but not everyone chooses to accept it.

C. S. Lewis puts it this way: I would pay any price to be able to say truthfully 'All will be saved'. But my reason retorts, 'Without their will, or with it'? In fact, God has paid the price, and herein lies the real problem: so much mercy, yet still there is hell. God can't condone evil, forgiving the wilfully unrepentant. Lost souls have their wish - to live wholly in the Self, and to make the best of what they find there. And what they finds there is hell. In the long run, objectors to the doctrine of hell must answer this question: What are you asking God to do? To wipe out their past sins, and at all costs to give them a fresh start, smoothing every difficulty, and offering every miraculous help? But he has done so - in the life and death of his Son. To forgive them? They will not be forgiven. To leave them alone? Alas, that is what he does.

I do not deny predestiny exists, as Jeremiah says he was told by God that he was chosen before he was in his mother's womb for his prophetic office (Jeremiah 1:4-5). God has predestined people for missions they were the best to carry out, and protected them sufficiently for them to fulfill His will. But I believe God has foreknowledge of our acceptance or rejection of His grace, and that He may, from time to time (or eternity to eternity ;)) choose to remind us of His will for humanity in general: salvation through Jesus Christ.

codepoke said...

Thanks, Milly and Japhy (and good to hear from you again, Japhy!)

Your comments are heartening.

I'm very disappointed by this post. I think I will probably back up and consider trying again some other time. I really thought that I was onto something, but I seem to be alone in that thought.

This post was my mechanic side coming out to play. As a mechanic, I find that I cannot fix what is not broken, and even then I cannot fix it if I don't know why it broke. This predestination thing is definitely WAY broken, but I don't know where to probe for the problem. I could spend hours debating whether predestination's scriptural, but even if I "win," I lose. All I do is convince someone that their God is horrific.

I'm hoping to tease out the thing that that makes the plain reading of the predestination scriptures so unappealling.

Hence I come back to your comments. They are heartening, because you give me somewhere to start and to try again. So many times, I have doggedly hunted a gremlin hiding somewhere in a truck engine, only to find that he was curled up in a power wire back under the cab the whole time. The solutions to thorny problems are very seldom found where they "should be," but they are always somewhere. The problem is always real, it is always fixable, and it can always be found.

We just need to figure out where to poke it.

japhy said...

codepoke - glad to be back. ;) My summer was full of distraction and busy-ness, and most of my Christ-related internet time has been spent at Christian Forums, but I've re-entered my daily habit of checking your blog (among a few others).

I've also made a posting on my blog, earlier this afternoon, the first in a series I hope to keep going every week so long as I have the time and energy. "That is a Hard Saying", focussing on the often bleak parables and sayings of Jesus.

Milly said...

Milly thoughts here. That’s a warning!

I wasn’t focusing on the down side to believing in predestination. It is actually good news also. God planned to save us before we were here, that’s cool. To some degree I agree with predestination, I also see free will. God knows our hearts, he has a plan, and we are left to make a choice. It says that God became angry with disobedience. People walked in the sand for a good long time over what they did. The question is was He surprised? Did he know it would happen? I’ll need to think on this one. Without out a doubt I think that God plans for us and if we stick to the plan all will go well.

Thank you for thinking.

codepoke said...

Milly,

Your questions about Judas, the garden, and murderers are all excellent. I'm sorry to take so long to get back to them. As is your new one about the children of Israel wandering in the desert for so long.

I really, really want to focus on the downside of predestination, and these questions are all right to the point. I appreciate that there's an upside, and I will focus on it with you, but not quite yet.

I still think there's something true in looking at the total lack of meaningful romance in standard predestination. Standard predestination is wrong. I'm just hoping that examining some of it's wrongness might point me to what's wrong with my current understanding.

codepoke said...

Japhy,

I'd say the problem I have with predestination is that a person who believes it might use it to argue for or against the salvation of another person.

Amen.

I once had a woman who knew I was a predestinationist thank me for not telling her that her daughter was unelect after she shared a little about her. My stomach turns even now to think that she might have imagined I could say such a thing. It turns because she could never think such a thing unless she was used to predestinationists saying stuff like that to her.

When saints treat their brothers and sisters so cruelly and falsely, they bring something upon themselves. May the Lord show them truth and mercy.

But I believe God has foreknowledge of our acceptance or rejection of His grace

I understand. But, you read the verses about predestination. What is it that you don't like about them? What moves you to look against them instead of for them.

I don't mean to imply that you reject scripture for personal tastes. On the contrary. I accept that the general distaste for them is healthy. I just want to know what it is.

japhy said...

My general displeasure with predestination in terms of salvation or damnation is this: for all I can imagine of God, I can't imagine that He would pre-ordain people to Hell. Plain and simple. Lengthy elaboration follows:

For all that I can fathom of God, and for all that I cannot yet fathom but believe I will some day, I cannot believe I could ever fathom that God would prefer some humans over others. He started with Israel (or even more specifically, with Abraham) because he knew human nature well enough not to try and convert the whole world at once. But just because God did not accept Babylon and Ninevah and even the Israelites at times does not prove that God has only willed salvation for a portion of the human race. Consider the unrighteous that died before Christ, and ALL who died before the covenant with Abraham: what of them? Consider the righteous pagan who never hears the word of Christ: what of them? Does God consider them "collateral damage"? Does God really need to break eggs to make an omelette?

We say God's judgments are just. What do we mean by that? In the context of the books of Job and Ecclesiastes, it means that yes, crap happens to good people as well as bad people. Habakkuk cries out about evil prospering while the righteous suffer. Yes, it happens, and it's deemed "the will of God", but I think incorrectly so. It is God's will (in the sense of predestination from my first post) that humanity suffers: You tested us, O God, tried us as silver tried by fire. (Psalm 66:10)

But (for example) Hurricane Katrina cannot be proven to be God's wrathful judgment of a wicked city; it can be proved to be a hurricane that occurred because of the right conditions on a planet whose environment follows certain rules, although difficult to predict. Or, when a tornado strikes a church (or some other "ironic" disaster occurs), that is not God saying "that denomination is really getting on my nerves", that's A TORNADO HITTING A CHURCH.

Would it not have been a greater testimony to Christianity of God had saved Judas from killing himself? Wouldn't it show that even the most down-and-out, destitute, cheating, back-stabbing liar can be redeemed? And yet Judas killed himself! Why? Because people can refuse the message of Jesus Christ, and God WILL NOT force them to accept it against their will. He loves us so much as to let us not love Him in return!

Lastly, consider the pride of Jonah. Why was he angry? Because God made him prophesy to Ninevah "40 days and God will destroy your city" and the city repented and God relented! Jonah KNEW God would do that and cause Jonah to look like a false prophet... but even worse, God was saving "them"! So much nationalism, so much for a favored Chosen People of God! Jonah hoped inside that his was a prophecy of predestiny, but it was a mere denunciation. I think the book of Jonah speaks very strongly against predestiny of our souls.

To sum it up, I refer to my first post, wherein there are three kinds of prophecy of future events. All three exist, and I believe our personal salvation is either denunciation or foreknowledge, and that a world of Christians is predestined.

DugALug said...

CP,

Doug swaggers in:

As a nonpredsestinationist (you can use that phrase if you want). I find the comment that God fated 90+ percent of humanity to hell.

Two things I might point out here: %100 percent of us deserve hell.

Salvation is open to all. The bible is very clear about this.

With saying that, humanity fated itself to hell, not God. Whether God knows and has accomodated his plan in lieu of it (a view that I believe) don't preclude that God has given all of us the ability to accept or reject his eternal gift of salvation.

If I were equating this idea, I would set the scene like this:

A wealthy man wanted to bless the comunity that he grew up in, but he wanted to do it in a clever way. So he bought a modest building with a modest doorway and posted a sign on it. Anyone who entered the building would immediately recieve a check for $100,000.00.

On the crowded street, the sign said: "Free money, just step through this door." Most people just pass on by, thinking it is a scam, or, that there is no such thing as 'free' anything. But those who have nothing to lose, easily walk through the door, and to their amazement, it truly was free money: they are blessed beyond their wildest dreams.

These new-wealthy people then run out into the street and tell other people to walk through the door. But the people look at them and say stuff like 'wasn't that the beggar from down the block?' I wonder what kind of scam is he pulling? Or some might say, 'I'm plenty wealthy enough... thank you though'. Some might say they will go through the door, but won't. Still others trickle in and are blessed for doing so.

By the wealthy man's design, the doorway is open to all who pass by. The plan was for all to be wealthy, but doubt, disbelief, and stuborness, kept many from reaping the blessing.

None of the people who received checks that day did anything to deserved the cash: they just walked through a door, but the wealthy man didn't scrutinize, he lovingly and graciously wrote the checks, and awarded them without respect to age, color, or social status.

Okay, that's my take. Have a great day!

God Bless
Doug

Danny Kaye said...

CP,
I am not sure how you can say you are disappointed in this post. When I read it I thought, "Now HERE is a guy who is openning one of his most valued positions to the critique of others. And not only that, HE paints the opposing view in terms so clear that the opposing view-ees could NOT have phrased it better."

Anytime we make ourselves THAT vulnerable to being shown a different point of view, and even START from that differing point of view, we cannot help but grow. God can use such moldable clay in tremendous ways.

"I believe it to be a faithful telling of the misrepresentation it often receives."

I wish I could disagree with you, CP. But I can't. You painted it pretty accurately from where I sit. I think your best bet is to present the same text to strong believers in predestination and see if they can Biblically make it more love-focused.

Just a thought.

codepoke said...

Japhy,

I can't imagine that He would pre-ordain people to Hell. Plain and simple.

Gotcha. I understand. Your analogy to Jonah, especially, is very strong.

Before I post again, and sum all this up as best I can, what are your thoughts specifically toward yourself and predestination.

Assume, if you will, that I am satisfied with the answers I have received regarding those not saved. I'm guessing that you still would say I should not be happy with the idea of predestination. I'm guessing that you don't even think the idea of predestination is appealing for those who are predestined.

Am I right? Why?

codepoke said...

DugALug,

Okay, that's my take. Have a great day!

Well, I failed dismally at that one. :-(

Oh well.

I understand your analogy to the free gift from the beggar. The free gift is offered to all, but not all accept it.

Now, you know that I believe that nobody can walk through that door unless God opens their eyes to see it. And that if He opens their eyes, they are going to walk through, because we might be dumb, but we're not self-destructive.

If you will allow me to put words in your mouth....

You find the thought that God condemned many, many people never to find the door a repulsive one. That God would publish an offer that no one can redeem is unreasonable, and anti-scriptural. You believe that those who do not find a door that God hid might have a just complaint against God.

Hoping that I'm pretty close to right on that...

Do you also believe that those whom God does save have a complaint? Do you find predestination unappealling for the elect?

codepoke said...

Danny Kaye,

I am not sure how you can say you are disappointed in this post.

Thank you for this, Danny. I'm getting happier as people are adding their thoughts to it.

I wrote the previous post because I had given up doubting myself. But as soon as I started commenting back to people, I felt the thrill of the hunt again. I love to find out that I'm wrong.

It's simple, really. If I'm right, I won't find out that I'm wrong. If I'm wrong and I don't find out, then I'm hobbled for no good reason. But, if I am wrong and I find out, my life can get even better than it is today.

My assumption is that if only one small ghetto of the Lord's children likes an idea, and if I agree with that ghetto of believers on almost nothing else, but this one idea, maybe there's something wrong. But, you are right. This is a dearly, dearly held idea for me. It has saved me from many black nights of black despair, and whatever I find to replace it will have to be even better.

But, if it is....

Wow.

I think your best bet is to present the same text to strong believers in predestination and see if they can Biblically make it more love-focused.

And a good thought indeed. But I can only be vulnerable to one viewpoint at a time. Let's see what comes of this, first. If it's anything good, then I'll wade into the predestinationist blog world and see what they have to say.

japhy said...

I'm guessing that you don't even think the idea of predestination is appealing for those who are predestined.

Yes, and I will give you a handful of reasons.

1. Christ told us to go and make disciples of nations. But not your friend Raymond, because he's not predestined to believe in Christ (or more specifically, he's predestined to Hell).

2. The man with the deepest faith in Christ, the most eloquent speaking ability, and the most powerful teaching skills will never be able to (successfully) convert a person predestined for Hell.

I'd say those are my two reasons why a person who believes in predestination of souls should be a bit miffed by it. I am assuming, of course, that we ARE talking about it going BOTH ways: people predestined to be in Christ, and people predestined to reject him. As I've said before, I can accept that God pre-ordains certain people to do His unshakeable will, but not to be doomed to Hell from the get-go.

japhy said...

I'm guessing that you don't even think the idea of predestination is appealing for those who are predestined.

Oh, and I forgot my "favorite" (?) reason. How do you know if you're predestined? I hear some people say that, if the Spirit truly is in you, you know. How is a truly predestined person's knowledge of it different from a person who (inevitably!) will fall away from Christ, or who, despite what they believe and how they live their lives, is not actually in Christ to begin with?

I believe God has desired to work through humanity since He first revealed Himself to us. That means we must be willing to work with Him, and that equates to our having a say in our salvation: "My Lord and my God!" or not.

DugALug said...

CP,

you will allow me to put words in your mouth....

Yes, by all means, but somewhere I've again lost my intent. Based on what you filled my mouth with, I have failed. I apologize if I have sent a mixed message.

You find the thought that God condemned many, many people never to find the door a repulsive one.

I don't believe that God condemended any person... so no... this where I beleive that the conventional view of predestination is flat out wrong. Thus I don't find it repulsive, I find it inaccurate.

Paul clearly says that God has 'predestined' those 'in Him' to be found spotless and without blame. That doesn't mean he picked the saved and the damned: it means he picked the standard by which all of mankind would be judged.

You believe that those who do not find a door that God hid might have a just complaint against God.


Yeah... well.... kind of. I don't believe the 'door' is hidden. It is in plane sight. I certainly don't believe that the door is as illuminated in say: India, as it is in the USA. Is that fair or just? I can't really answer that.

Do you also believe that those whom God does save have a complaint? Do you find predestination unappealling for the elect?

Yep, I find the conventionally taught veiw of predestination a bit of a warp of scripture. I think you and I have had the discussions about God hardening Pharo's heart. I wrestle with this. If God 'fated' all of us, why did he bother to mention he hardened Pharo's heart? We are all just pawns/puppets in a game that we have no control in.

This example, Nebedkenzer (sp?) going wild, and Herod being struck dead, all imply special intervention on God's part.

Getting back to the point (focus, focus, focus), I don't think that anyone has a right to complain about something that is unearned anyway.

Salvation is not a respecter of persons. How can I say this lightly? We all deserve damnation. The gift of salvation is open and freely given to all. This paraphrase of scripture flies boldy in the face of predestination, and punches it right in the chops.

God Bless
Doug

Danny Kaye said...

I could be wrong, here. But are you, CP, looking for some Scriptural back up to what many of us are saying? If so, I think, in that case, you will be disappointed. Smarter people than us (no offense to any of us...) have been debating this by using Scripture for so long that no Scripture has "been left unturned", so to speak.

Face it...I read "wants all men to be saved and to come to a knowledge of the truth" and see that everyone has a chance. You read it and come up with not everyone has a chance. It's just that way, I guess. It's not that some of us don't understand in a general sense how you all end up at your position. It's just that the foundation (exactly as you laid it out in your post, and as Japhy so clearly painted in the last two comments) just screams that this is not the position of a loving God.

Those on "my" side of the fence have been accused of not being able to live with the fact that we don't know why God does things the way He does. I can honestly say that I really can live with that fact. After all, I know very little if anything about why God does ANYTHING He does. It's a constant state with me (and everyone else, I imagine). That is not why we cannot swallow predestination. It is because at its very foundation is God who loves "all" ...but won't let "all" have the option to love Him back.

Andreia said...

Codepoke
Can I speak bluntly? I appreciate the the pursuit of this argument but there is a certain arrogance to the predestined folks that "know" that they are elect that I just can not reconcile with a loving God that demands humility from us.

And I also must ask what is the point of it all really if there is already a clear demarkation of who will spend eternity with Christ. The promise offered, whether taken or not to me, is the hope that makes life bearable. The offer of that hope to others is the foundation of why I believe. Sure, many will not take it. But the offer is there. I think of the Proverbs. Wisdom calls out from the streets. Some will listen and obey some will not.

I appreciate everyone's learned responses. It has been interesting to read. I just have to say that I have a physical reaction to the notion that not all have the opportunity. My heart aches at the mention of the idea.

Karen said...

CP, this was a great post.
I just can't keep up with all of you. You have so much to say.
It always breaks my heart to think that the Lord would turn away his children. Either He loves us or He doesn't.
I have to think some more....

Anonymous said...

Could somebody please open their bibles to more than one or two verses? Let us press on to know GOD, not our own sin-tainted opinions.

codepoke said...

Hey, Anon.

I'm not sure whether you want to play or whether you are just taking a crack as you zip by. I'll keep an eye out for more comments from you, and will happily respond if they are fact based, as opposed to snipey.

This comment is not one I consider terribly valuable, but it's not highly negative either. I certainly am sin-tainted.

I did not go through this post after your complaint to count verses. Amusingly, though, the post immediately preceeding this one contains 100 references on the subject of regeneration. If this post is light on references, you might consider that this is a valid reason.