I feel jaded.
This is a topic that stirs my heart deeply, casting it sour and heavy. To put it bluntly: for me, predestination is what killed God. This theological dagger split God in two and I saw the messy entrails of deception pool at my feet. It broke my heart, made the bile in my stomach rise up and touch my throat. I spent many nights sleepless, trying to piece God back together. I failed to do so. Predestination is the skeleton of deception hidden deep within the cave. It takes many years of belief in God to reach the deep chambers of theology and when you do, you uncover skeletons lying moist and black against the walls with a torch in their hands, a bible in the other. The stench is unbearable. Let’s trek deep into the cave.
Predestination is the theological truth that before the creation of the universe, God chose who would be saved and reconciled unto him. This means that before sin or evil existed as human concepts, before Jesus was sacrificed for our sins, before we were even born, before we even sinned, before we even chose to believe in God…God had already chosen who to save. In total effect, salvation is only sourced from God’s choice. God not only knew who to save, he also knew who to kill. Double predestination. Whether He did this directly or indirectly, by actively not choosing people, does not matter.
But…isn’t there a choice involved? Where is free will, the much-championed trumpcard of guilt? After all, God knocks at the door of life. We are on the other side and all we have to do is reach up and open the handle. God goes to great lengths to save the lost sheep. God came to die for all that they are saved if only they do one thing: believe.
Humanity cannot save itself. This is the theological truth of total depravity: the idea that humans are so mired by their sins, so deeply stooped in evil that to even reach out to God and call to Him to be saved is beyond us. This often rubs up Christians the wrong why, especially those who are adamant that their choice for salvation needs to be clear and that we, in fact, have a say. Free will, free will, free will. Often, they ignore predestination. Often, they’ll explain it away – ‘well, I’m saved now, I don’t really care if it was God or me’. But we need an answer, a cogent explanation for how God chooses. And according to total depravity, we cannot. We cannot, and only God can. We cannot even so much as call out to God to be saved; and if we do, surprise surprise, it was God who used the Holy Spirit to imbue us with the ability to call out and accept Him. It was God all along.
I’ll let Spurgeon explain why (from a sermon):
“Now,” says one, “I believe men can be saved if they will.” My dear sir, that is not the question at all. The question is, are men ever found naturally willing to submit to the humbling terms of the gospel of Christ? We declare, upon Scriptural authority, that the human will is so desperately set on mischief, so depraved, and so inclined to everything that is evil, and so disinclined to everything that is good, that without the powerful. supernatural, irresistible influence of the Holy Spirit, no human will ever be constrained towards Christ.
Yes, this is core theology, despite being hidden so thoroughly. The bible outlines predestination and total depravity expertly:
Ephesians 1: “Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in the heavenly realms with every spiritual blessing in Christ. 4 For he chose us in him before the creation of the world to be holy and blameless in his sight. In love 5 he[b] predestined us for adoption to sonship[c] through Jesus Christ, in accordance with his pleasure and will— 6 to the praise of his glorious grace, which he has freely given us in the One he loves.”
Continued in verse 11:
11 In him we were also chosen,[e] having been predestined according to the plan of him who works out everything in conformity with the purpose of his will, 12 in order that we, who were the first to put our hope in Christ, might be for the praise of his glory.
For the Glory of God, you see.
It [our salvation] does not, therefore, depend on human desire or effort, but on God’s mercy. 17 For Scripture says to Pharaoh: “I raised you up for this very purpose, that I might display my power in you and that my name might be proclaimed in all the earth.”[g] 18 Therefore God has mercy on whom he wants to have mercy, and he hardens whom he wants to harden.
But wait…isn’t this all arbitrary? If salvation is simply a matter of God’s choice, then why does he still blame us for sin?
19 One of you will say to me: “Then why does God still blame us? For who is able to resist his will?”20 But who are you, a human being, to talk back to God? “Shall what is formed say to the one who formed it, ‘Why did you make me like this?’”[h] 21 Does not the potter have the right to make out of the same lump of clay some pottery for special purposes and some for common use?
The answer: shut up, God can fuck you over if He wants to because you’re sinful because He gave you free will.
Predestination also screws over the teleology of God’s plan for mankind. See, originally the order of Christianity may have appeared as such:
God created the world as perfect and holy –> We sinned –> God sent the law (i.e. to prove a point: can we save ourselves by action?) –> No (confirmed by our sinfulness) –> God sacrificed himself to save us. All who believe, in faith, are saved.
God chose, by his goodness alone, with no ideal or measure or standard, people to be saved –> God creates the universe.
And everything goes to hell. Because God orchestrated evil into the world – He must, for why else would He need to appoint future salvation in a timeless void (null universe)? Why else would God need to appoint salvation if sin didn’t even exist yet? And how else would people glorify Him if they were without imperfection? God needs contrast to be Holy – a sun cannot shine in front of a sun. Light needs darkness to be compared with. God needs evil and sin to be holy. How else…
Why would a loving God do this? Why? I wrestled bitterly, bitterly, with this conundrum. This is not the religion I had signed up for, this is not the truth. How could truth be so evil, so uncaring and void of basic consequentialism? Where was this ever mentioned in the 2 ways to live spiel? Where was this in all the introductory bible talks and gospel nights and basic messages of Jesus. It is nowhere, because the theological notion of predestination is 1) too complicated to include when converting people and 2) is illogical, heartless, evil, monstrous, savage, unjustified, callous, uncaring, void of love, void of what God should be.
And thus, predestination toppled Christianity and God was split in half. I grew to hate the God of the Bible, perhaps more than anything else. As a consequence, I no longer believe. If God exists, know this: I was predestined to not believe, to be an object of His wrath. And what a wrath it will be! Torturing mortal, limited individuals carefully appointed out before the creation of time and space to be damned. Like a man who buys puppies and slaughters them because they urinate on the wood floors. Like a kid setting ants on fire because He can. For eternity, forever and ever. Amen. What a just God, what a caring God, what a loving God that would go to such lengths as to create people to be sinful, blame them for their sin and torture them because He didn’t choose them to be saved.
I feel jaded. Can you tell? And you would be too, if the God of Love turned out to be the most evil creature we could possibly conceive.
God is love no more.
2 follow up articles are in order: 1) Why does God require us to have Free Will 2) How something called Monlinism can work neatly with predestination to make God 100% less evil (there’s a catch, though).
If you’d like a Christian counterpoint, have a gander at these guys:
- Predestination (isaiah532.wordpress.com)
- Predestination, Election (asifzamir.wordpress.com)
- My Lord I Did Not Choose You (messyspiritualityblog.wordpress.com)
The first article is a nice position that falls into a more ‘Open Theism’ belief. I disagree with her conclusion, though: when she describes us choosing God and then God accepting us into a ‘predestined salvation’, that’s not predestination, that’s God keeping a promise. Predestination literally means God chooses your fate, not respecting a promise as a consequence of your choice. Her position is borne of the confusion of verses:
God loves you, God wants you to be saved, Jesus died for all, but you can only be saved by God choosing you. And thus, it is understandable why there are so many lines of thought on predestination.
The second article raises, unintentionally, the concept of antimony: two contradictory things that make sense in theological terms because God is too complex for us to understand. In this case: God ‘chooses’ us as we ‘choose’ Him because we have free will, yay! This is, again, borderline Arminianism/Open Theism: a nice possibility, but theological untruth. Antimony, however, is theological cogent, just not in this specific case.
The third article throws the whole weight of the New Testament at predestination and comes to the correct, and devastating, conclusion.