Many people reject the concept of predestination completely out-of-hand, but this is difficult to do, as there are direct statements in the Bible that affirm the principle. Romans 8:28-30 is a classic text:
- “And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose. For those whom he foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, in order that he might be the firstborn among many brothers. And those whom he predestined he also called, and those whom he called he also justified, and those whom he justified he also glorified.” (ESV)
On the positive side, the idea of predestination, for believers in Christ, tells us that God has the deck stacked in our favor, so to speak. As we are unable to save ourselves, God steps in to make sure that we finish the race, that God has set before us, so that we might live forever, with Him.
But some are concerned that if God predestines some to salvation, what becomes of everyone else? Nowhere in the Bible is the concept of predestination ever used to describe the eternal destiny of those who are separated from God. Yet some are concerned that a number of Christians believe in a so-called doctrine of double predestination, whereby some are elected to glory, and the others are elected to be damned into hell forever. For many, this does not seem fair.
What is a Christian, who believes in the authority of Scripture, to think?
First, and foremost, one must recognize that various Christians, in good faith, differ on this point of doctrine. A measure of humility is required when discussing predestination.
Secondly, the key to understanding predestination comes from understanding what is means to say that God foreknows those whom he predestines, when it comes to interpreting Romans 8:28-30. One school of thought, championed by many Calvinists, suggests that to foreknow means to know someone out of love. We see this sense of “foreknowing” in Romans 11:2, as in “God has not rejected his people whom he foreknew.” (ESV). God’s divine foreknowledge is therefore the first part of a “Golden Chain of Redemption,” as the New England Puritans would say, that leads to predestination, and ultimately towards glorification.
Another predominate school of thought, championed by a number of Arminians, suggests that divine foreknowledge is not so much about knowing someone personally, but more in the sense of knowing what someone will do in the future. In other words, God foreknows what a person will do, and therefore, on that basis, God then predestines that person towards their eternal destiny.
There are other possibilities of understanding divine foreknowledge, but the main point here is that Christians have been divided over the question of predestination for centuries. Churches have split over these things. Whole denominations have been founded championing one idea over and against another. I am under no illusion that this current blog post will decide the matter, once and for all.
Might it not be a good idea for Christians, with different views, to be able to sit down together, and share their different viewpoints, with an attitude of love and respect, in hopes of possibly learning something new from the other?
A third point is in order. It might help to actually spend some time, digging into God’s Word, verse-by-verse, to get at the answer, praying all the while that the Holy Spirit might teach us.
The following are two videos, roughly 11-12 minutes each that explore the interpretation of Romans 8:28-30 in detail, from different viewpoints, in hopes of helping us all to learn more about what God is saying in His Word. The first is by John Piper, a well-known Calvinist Bible teacher. The second is by Leighton Flowers, an Arminian Bible teacher. I hope you might find these videos edifying: