30 September, 2006

Predestination: With One Voice

Thank you, all, for responding so generously to my post calling for opinions about predestination. Toward the end of day 2, I had given up on getting much response, but everyone warmed up to the topic, and very helpfully. Thank you!

I'm not ready to talk about my beliefs, because they are back in a wonderful state of flux. But let me talk about yours. And I mean everyone's. With one voice, everyone who has been here more than once agreed that standard predestination is a stomach turning doctrine.

  • 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.
  • It always breaks my heart to think that the Lord would turn away his children. Either He loves us or He doesn't.
  • It is because at its very foundation is God who loves "all" ...but won't let "all" have the option to love Him back.
  • 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.
  • I can't imagine that He would pre-ordain people to Hell. Plain and simple.
  • When speaking with a friend about Judas, I used the words how sad his story is to me because he was predestined to betray.

And for some it was even more personal:

  • there is a certain arrogance to the predestined folks that "know" that they are elect
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • It’s hard for someone to sit on a cold marble bench and look at the grave of their child and think that it was predestined.

I have heard predestinationists answer all the these objections, and that is much of the reason that I question predestination. Their answers often have a sterile arrogance that I never liked, even though I believe they are right and can repeat those arguments at will.

So, in my next post, I hope to start a look at Eph 1. The point will not be for me to tell my views, and for you to rebut them. I am not looking for scriptural evidence either for or against either of our points of view. Believe me, I have been around that mulberry bush too many times.

Rather, I hope to look into those verses and find something breathing. The word "predestined" appears in Eph 1, but as of right now, who knows what it means. God did something. He did something big, bold and beautiful, but He didn't do it alone. He didn't even stop at "involving" us. He "included" us in what He did. So, if we are included, what does predestined mean?

I don't know, but I hope that we find something we can hold on to together.

---

Let me tell a little story that made me think of all this.

One of my young friends has found the girl of his dreams. She is gorgeous. I've never seen her less than bubbling with natural enthusiasm. You know the type, all wonderful, and probably a Cat 4 hurricane to live with?

Anyway, they are going through the stage of wondering whether marrying will be the right move. Specifically, I guess they are asking whether, "He/she is 'God's best' for me." Of course, that's a tough, tough question if you take it at face value. If you question the question, though, it's even tougher.

Does God give us His will, or does He predestine it? Or does He just reveal it generally in scripture, and require us to figure it out?

Does He rely on His own great grace, or on our weak obedience?

I see a lot of ways in which this is like the questions behind election. Was I fated by God to marry a girl who could not stay married to me? Of course not. That was my mistake and my sin. I praise and thank the grace of the Lord that I have not followed my marriage fall with the larger fall of turning from Him. It is by His mercy that I still rest in Him.

So, though I doubt that this young couple will ask advice of a man who has already failed at his own marriage, what would I say to them given the chance? There's never any telling with me. I don't even know what I'm going to post until my fingers show me. :-) But, I guess it would be something like this.

If you marry each other, you might be making a big mistake.

If you don't marry each other, you might also be making a big mistake.

But, don't try to second guess God. God is working for your maturity, not merely for your obedience. He wants to grow you into a man and a woman who can bear responsibility in His kingdom. To do that, He will make you exercise real wisdom, rather than just seek a "word of convenience" from on high.

So, seek wisdom and have the courage to do the best thing. Don't seek God to give you the best thing. If it is wisdom to get some issues under control before committing to marriage, then do it. That will take courage. It will take courage to tell him or her, "Not yet, and maybe never." Stand up and do it. If it is wisdom to begin the next adventure of your life, then propose.

Only don't let circumstances push you. Make your decision. Get on your knees before God and in front of wise men and women. Educate yourself until what you want and what you know is wise are the same thing. Then do that thing.

That's my stock advice on almost everything, actually.

I think there are some who would question whether that outlook is consistent with predestination.

Maybe I should be questioning predestination too.

Oh wait. I am!

12 comments:

Milly said...

Questioning is a great way to learn if we seek. The fact that they are questioning marriage shows a bit of normal doubt and that’s a good thing. The third man to ask me has known me for more than twenty years.

You summed it up nicely I’m looking forward to your next post.

Kansas Bob said...

How did I miss weighing in on this one? Guess I got busy this week. Here is my take on PD:

Predestination is based on the foreknowledge of God.

+ For those whom He foreknew, He also predestined to become conformed to the image of His Son. (Romans 8:29)

+ God has not rejected His people whom He foreknew. (Romans 11:2)

The issue is what did He foreknow about those that He foreknew? I think that, since He is eternal and outside of time, He saw the future ... our future ... and saw how we would each respond to grace. Those who respond to grace in faith have a different predestined future than those who respond in unbelief.

This to me is consistent with the scriptures and the character of God ... two elements that we must always incorporate when we evaluate any doctrine.

That said, as always, I look forward to your views CP.

Blessings, KB

DugALug said...

CP,

I with KB. That is one eloquent way of putting it.

Whether we are fated to damnation, or we choose it is arbitrary to us (it does somewhat speek to the character of God) because we don't know our eternal fate. We are compelled to choose faith and to accept God at His word because we are not Privy to His final judgement.

Think of it this way: if you knew were damned and there was nothing you could do to prevent it, would you live your life differently? My bet is yes. You would make the most of each day, knowing that you are going to pay for it for all of eternity and your bitterness towards God would probably be evident.

Now think about Satan as this damned entity. He knows that he is damned. Why wouldn't he do everything to undermine God?

Humans, on the other hand, have the power of decision before them but it is still our choice, even though I believe that God knows my choice already and has accounted for it in His master plan. He didn't choose my fate, he forknew it (as referenced by mankind... He just knew it as reference by God).

God Bless
Doug

Danny Kaye said...

I'm glad you chose the analogy you chose, CP. Please do not take this comment as a personal attack. I am going to say things that may seem hurtful, or needlessly pointed at divorced couples. I am not trying to hurt anyone. It's just that I have pretty deep convictions about the things I am going to type. (I am quite certain that some here will disagree strongly with my idealisms...)

I believe your dating/marriage example points more to the non-PD view. Here is why:

I firmly believe that when a man and a woman who are both devoted to God fall in love with each other it is because, at some point, they both chose to open up their heart to be vulnerable to the other because they find in the other a kindred spirit. (Have you never seen a person shut his or her heart from another for fear of getting hurt or some other reason? We decide who to let in and who not to let in.)

Let's say that this couple then contemplates marriage. They discuss it with those who are closest to them, and hopefully one of them proposes to the other. (Tradition be hanged, here! If a girl's in love...she should go for it!)

They then pledge to remain devoted to one another and the standard of Christ at the marriage alter at which point nothing can cause that marriage to fail except if one of them lets go of that devotion. Why? Because both members of the marriage relationship will be seeking God. And when that is happening on a consistent basis, then love, humility, and grace are in abundance! Of course there will be sins committed. But in a godly marriage this only breeds opportunities for the hand of Christ to be extended to the "sinner." Why, because as long as the two cling to the devotion to which they pledged on their Happy Day, then there will always be forgiveness...just like with Jesus’, and there will always be a striving for righteousness...just like with Jesus’. (Yes, I even believe this in regard to things so difficult to deal with as adultery, but thankfully not from first hand experience.)

When two parties stay devoted and committed to the ideals and standards of Christ, then the relationship cannot fail!

Now, what has this to do with PD? Just this: Our marriage to Christ and our marriage to our earthly spousal units are parallel in many ways:

-- (bear with me on this first one, CP.) we chose to open our hearts to be vulnerable to someone we see as a potential spouse. Being vulnerable to someone is a decision, including to Christ and He to us.

-- at some point we understand that the one to whom we are making ourselves vulnerable is the one, and we decide to enter into a marriage relationship. Becoming a spouse to Christ is a decision we make. No matter what you believe about HOW to get saved, I think we can all agree that it doesn’t just happen without some kind of decision on our part. (Baptism…Praying Jesus into your heart… etc…we decided to enter into that marriage relationship with Christ.)

-- while in that marriage relationship there will be moments of difficulty and moments of elation. There will be sinful times and there will be forgiveness.

-- maturity and growth and fruit result from the marriage.

--etc...etc...etc...

It is willful on both sides. And decisions are made along the way to either grow and mature the relationship, or let go of the devotion and let the relationship fade and fail. We know that the Lord is never going to let go of that devotion. But we also know that He gives us the free choice to do so at any time. Don’t believe me? Stop talking to Him for a couple of years and see if the relationship suffers. Sin up a storm and see if the relationship suffers. LOSE YOUR DEVTION TO HIM ANSD SEE IF THE RELATIONSHIP SUFFERS.

The parallels are consistent throughout the dating and marriage relationship. How many examples are used in the Scriptures to draw the analogy, even in the Old Testament? Tons...maybe more. ;-)

So here is the rub: I cannot see why those that hold to the PD viewpoint feel the need to keep all the parallels intact except the initial "falling in love" part.

The PD perspective says we have no choice in falling in love with and marrying Christ. This just doesn’t jive with real relationships.

No...if anything, the dating/marriage relationship points to a non-PD point of view.

(MAN!! That DK guy can sure go on, can't he?)

DugALug said...

DK,

I really like your thought on this. Your comments really do strike at the heart of what I have problems with. I do take issue with one statement though:

The PD perspective says we have no choice in falling in love with and marrying Christ.

I don't think this is accurate. I think a PD would say that whether you fall in love or not is predetermined. But you have no knowledge of this, so you still need to make a choice.

It sounds arbitrary, but I've been down this road a few with pure PD's.

God Bless
Doug

codepoke said...

DugALug,

if you knew were damned and there was nothing you could do to prevent it, would you live your life differently?

I know the answer to this question (I won't go into why.)

I would give up all hope. I would be crushed because I would know the justice of God was righteous, and I had called my damnation down upon myself. I would barely be able to get out of bed in the morning, and I would gradually lose hope in everything. Nothing in life would be pleasant.

There is nothing that I could do in bitterness that would serve to strike back at God. My impotence would be before my eyes every second, and nothing in me would want to lash out at Him after being the cause of my own eternal torment.

I would be like those in scripture who seek a second chance with wailing and gnashing of teeth. Only the knowledge that the certain hell that lay ahead of me was worse than my misery above ground would keep me from ending it all that day.

And I would seek out anyone who could give me an inkling of a reason to hope, and I would torment them with questions and go away tormented still.

This would go on until the Spirit came came and slew me, or spoke peace to my heart. Praise the Lord, it was the latter.

I'm not sure that anything about that speaks directly or otherwise to predestination. I went through all that before I ever heard about predestination.

codepoke said...

DK,

Please do not take this comment as a personal attack.

Thanks for the warning and the consideration, but you were an utter gentlemen the whole way. No problem.

I cannot see why those that hold to the PD viewpoint feel the need to keep all the parallels intact except the initial "falling in love" part.

I see your point. And really, that's the point I was trying to make in the my last post. The biggest problem with predestination, it seems to me, is exactly what you say. If it kills the romance of God and His bride/sister/daughter then it loses just on the "no joy" argument.

I'm with you, DK.

Weekend Fisher said...

And for those who know me, my two cents won't be a big surprise. The predestination is not which people are included in the "the Bride" -- it's that the Groom is going to have one heck of a wedding, and the bride is predestined to be a lucky lady, to stick with the present analogy.

DugALug said...

CP,

I love your heart. Be blessed brother, and thanks for sharing it.

God Bless
Doug

Danny Kaye said...

Thanks for the input, doug. I think I was basing that comment on a conversation that CP and I had over at my site. If I remembered it correctly, PD (or only CP) believes that there is a seed planted in us by the Holy Spirit and that seed has no choice but to grow into a love for Christ. There is a strong chance that I am mistaken, but I don't remember anything about having to decide to love the Lord in our conversation. (CP...correct me if I am wrong...as I am sure you will ;-) )


CP, I appreciate you understanding the heart of what I was saying. I know that discussing an idealistic marriage with divorced folks can be a little dicey.
(And ah...CP? You may want to be careful. With phrases like, "I see your point.", and, "I'm with you, DK."...you might just swing all the way to my views on baptism!! ) (heh-heh)

codepoke said...

Thanks, Doug.

codepoke said...

DK,

Afraid that agreement might be like a disease? Do I need to amputate the infected part of my mind, before the worst happens? :-D

Doug's correction is spot on. I would say that the new life planted by the Spirit will always choose to love the Lord, but that it must choose to love the Lord. It must actually do the work of believing.

So, you are both right in your criticisms, but for different reasons. The choice must be made, but it can be called moot.

I see your points. ;-)