Wednesday, September 02, 2009

Free Will Verses Predestination: What do YOU believe?

John of AllFaith's
Biblical Questions
Biblical Answers


An important question from Mike:
    I am a southern baptist.Does God know who will be saved and is man given a choice to choose salvation. I would like to understand election and be able to explain it.

My reply: What are your thoughts?
Please answer the poll (on my main blog) and share your beliefs below (there).

I answered this question from a traditional Christian biblical perspective because of the AllExperts category in which it was asked.

Hi Mike,

There are several important points of disagreement among sincere Christians.

Baptist doctrine (and the Southern Baptist Convention specifically includes this belief) as well as many other denominations believe there is NOTHING God does not know. Therefore God knows what choices everyone will make even before they make them -- including whether or not we will choose to be "saved."

Baptists believe salvation is a free will choice. Everyone chooses to accept Jesus or reject him.

AND God knows what we will choose.

The other main belief in this area is called Calvinism (after John Calvin -- one of the early Protestant Reformers) or "Predestination." This belief is based on the idea that God inscribed the names of all who would be saved in the Lamb's Book of Book "before the foundations of the earth."

For instance:

Philippians 4
2 I beseech ... my fellowlabourers, whose names are in the book of life.

Calvinism does not merely say that God knows what we will choose, it says the decision has already been made before we as individuals were even conceived. Those who are "predestined to be saved" WILL be saved no matter what they do. For instance they cite this verse:

Romans 8:29 For whom he did foreknow, he also did predestinate to be conformed to the image of his Son, that he might be the firstborn among many brethren.

The belief is that "the chosen" have no choice. Moreover, those "predestined to destruction" CAN NOT be saved no matter what they do. They can fall to their knees and beg and plead for salvation but they will never get it (the idea is that those 'destined for destruction' would not do this and that everyone who wants to be saved are among those destined to be saved).

It may sound like a mere technicality since everyone who wants to be saved can be OR has already been saved but it has profound implications (both personal and doctrinal).

In the early years of the US (assuming you an American) most Protestant Christians (other than the Baptists and Methodists) were Calvinists. Since the mid 1800's that has been changing and today the vast majority of U.S. Christians of most denominations reject Calvinism and believe in free will. Baptists have always stressed free will as an essential doctrine.

In my opinion, the Baptist view on this is the biblical teaching [for who embrace traditional Nicene Christianity]: we choose AND God knows our choice.

To demonstrate this point, just go through the New Testament and read the verses about salvation. For instance:

John 3:16 For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life.

"Whosoever believeth in him" means everyone has the choice to believe or not (those choose to believe are saved). Baptists add that once this choice is made it stands for all eternity: "Once saved always saved" but the lost have until their last breath to "repent" and choose God.

Most of the verses about "being saved" say that it is available for all who choose to accept it. Such verses, in my opinion, take clear priority over those that seem to speak otherwise. Both sides have scriptures they can cite but in context most of these still do not really teach Predestination in my opinion:

For instance,
John 6:37 All that the Father giveth me shall come to me; and him that cometh to me I will in no wise cast out.

Calvinists understand that the Father "gave" Jesus all those who would be saved: i.e. it was not their choice.

But look three verses later for the context:
40 And this is the will of him that sent me, that every one which seeth the Son, and believeth on him, may have everlasting life: and I will raise him up at the last day.

Again, ".... and believeth on him..." are those given to Jesus by the Father.

Context is essential!

Most such verses include the clause, in one way or another, "...and who believe"... which is our choice.

Although I did not go into this in my reply to Mike (above), there are other traditionally accepted possibilities as well that we might consider including:

Christian Universalism:

    The belief that since Jesus was "the second Adam" he completely countered the sin of Adam:

    I Cor. 15:21 For since by man came death, by man came also the resurrection of the dead.
    22 For as in Adam all die, even so in Christ shall all be made alive

    This view stresses the point that: even so in Christ shall all be made alive, not just those who choose to be saved.

And

Reincarnation:

    The belief that our loving God will not allow any to perish but that we must choose to submit to Him:

    II Peter 3:9 The Lord is not slack concerning his promise, as some men count slackness; but is longsuffering to us-ward, not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance.

    Again, "not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance."

    Who can thwart God's Will? God is patient as we pass through however many lives it takes according to this view.

    Therefore, through the process of reincarnation everyone will eventually come to a right knowledge of God. Most who hold this view agree with the beliefs of the Pharisees (and arguably Master Y'shua) that in the End of the Age there will be a Great Resurrection of the Dead. Once the reincarnating souls attain salvation they experience "soul sleep" until the resurrection and cease their rebirths. While this teaching is not that popular among modern Christians it has a long history of belief among Christians of the past and many Jews today and previously.

    John 3:7 Marvel not that I said unto thee, Ye must be born again.
    8 The wind bloweth where it listeth, and thou hearest the sound thereof, but canst not tell whence it cometh, and whither it goeth: so is every one that is born of the Spirit.

    The Wind here referring to Ruach ha Kodesh, the Spirit of God that plants the souls in order for them to spiritually grow and mature.

Christianity is far more diverse in its doctrines than most Christians imagine.

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4 comments:

Kuade said...

Question: How is God's knowing of our choices help us regain free will of any sort? This is a question I'm having a hard time with. If God "knows" what decision we are to make, then there is no possibility for us to make an alternate decision. Under that assumption, we still have no free will. Just curious as to what your take is on this. Thanks.

karim said...

An insightfull post. Will definitely help.

Thanks,
Karim - Positive thinking

karim said...

Very thoughtfull post on belief .It should be very much helpfull.

Thanks,
Karim - Creating Power

Paul Andrew Anderson said...

God has already seen this movie; He knows the story from its beginnings and to its end, and He knew the sum of it, a few hundred trillion years before Earth was a even planet! In other words; we are trapped in space/time, God is not! We are limited to the corporeal; God is not! For God, its already happened; for us, it is about to! Our fate is not set by God, it is observed by God; volition is still ours!

Predestination is the definition of Gods transcendence of time, space and matter! He is the Creator of all, and sustains them all! We limited-minded humans try to equate all things within the paradigms of corporeality, but God is way beyond that! We can know Him personally, for He came in the Person of Jesus Christ! Surrender unconditionally unto the supreme Lordship of Jesus Christ; He will make you free! Its a beautiful paradox!