Tuesday, January 19, 2021

The Mystery of Predestination

"And those He predestined, He also called; those He called, He also justified; those He justified, He also glorified" (Romans 8:30).

Today we begin a brief survey of the doctrine of predestination. The Westminster Confession of Faith states that “the doctrine of this high mystery of predestination is to be handled with special prudence and care” (WCF 3:8). Let us bear in mind these wise words as we proceed.

The word predestination is a compound of pre, meaning “before” and “destination.” It means that our destination is fixed in advance. In theology, predestination is not usually used to cover the question of whether God foreordains each and every event in our lives, but is used for the question of our personal destinations: heaven or hell. Predestination is concerned with salvation. The doctrine of providence addresses God’s superintendence of everything that happens in history.

There are three approaches to predestination of which we need to be aware. The first is called Pelagianism, after the early church heretic Pelagius. His fundamental assumption was that the natural man has within himself the capacity to keep the commandments of God to such a degree as to be redeemed without any help from divine grace. Against Pelagius, Augustine stressed the total dependence of the sinner upon the grace of God for salvation. He repudiated Pelagianism as an early form of humanism. Pelagianism is found in the cults, in many liberal circles, and even among former evangelicals who now teach that God is trapped in time and has no idea of what the future will bring (the “limited god” doctrine).

Within authentic Christianity there are two views of predestination. Semi-Pelagianism, or Arminianism, holds that God does indeed predestine the saints to salvation, and that His grace is necessary, but that predestination is based on His knowledge of who will and who will not freely respond to His general grace.

Augustinianism holds that God’s choice is based solely in His sovereign good pleasure. Man is so depraved in his fallenness that apart from the irresistible grace of God, no one could ever turn to Christ. Jesus made this clear in John 6:44.

Great Augustinian theologians include Martin Luther, John Calvin, Thomas Aquinas, Jonathan Edwards. That such great men agreed with Augustine does not make their doctrine true, but we should give it serious consideration. Ask God to help you seek truth as we study this subject in coming days.