Original Opinion Piece for July 17 (’14), by Dale
Mention the doctrine of double-predestination and the gloves come off.
What is it about this doctrine that causes such ardent resistance? Could it be due to confusion over this “dirty” little theological term? Or is it a doctrine where sides are picked based on emotions rather than the clear teaching of scripture? I do not plan on dissecting the nuances of double-predestination, but hope to shed some light on the logic behind it and the remaining views we are left to choose from without it. Ultimately, I believe there are four possible kinds of consistent single predestination views that can only be maintained within the framework of universalism or Arminianism.
“Double predestination” refers to the fact that God predestines some (not all) to eternal salvation and also predestines some (not all) to damnation. This latter group are the “reprobate.” However this is not a parallel mode of divine operation. R.C. Sproul puts it like this: “It has also been used as a synonym for a symmetrical view of predestination which sees election and reprobation being worked out in a parallel mode of divine operation. Both usages involve a serious distortion of the Reformed view of double-predestination.” In other words, God does not elect the reprobate in the same way he elects some unto salvation. Saying so charges God with being the author of sin. This is unacceptable. However, God does harden hearts and He does turn sinful, rebellious men over to their depravity (think Pharaoh and see the entire chapter of Romans 9). God damned Esau before the kid was born. This was God’s right when dealing with a guilty race. 1 Peter 2:4-8 tells us there were two reasons Jesus came 1) to be precious to those who believe in order that they may be built up, and 2) to act as a stumbling block to the disobedient “to which they also were appointed.” God has made some vessels for glory and some for wrath. I fail to see, biblically, how this doctrine could be any clearer. Yet some argue over “nations” and try to alter what the original language says in Romans 9:13 given here in Greek: καθὼς γέγραπται· τὸν Ἰακὼβ ἠγάπησα, τὸν δὲ Ἠσαῦ ἐμίσησα. The verbs here are in the aorist tense and mean, respectively, to love and to hate/detest. The aorist indicates no distinction of a beginning or ending, and the surrounding context offers none. This seems to indicate, then, a perpetual/timeless action on God’s part. I know there are some who will argue, “God is love! How dare you!” But just remember what Paul said,
“But who are you, O man, to answer back to God? Will what is molded say to its molder, ‘Why have you made me like this?’ Has the potter no right over the clay, to make out of the same lump one vessel for honorable use and another for dishonorable use? What if God, desiring to show his wrath and to make known his power, has endured with much patience vessels of wrath prepared for destruction, in order to make known the riches of his glory for vessels of mercy, which he has prepared beforehand for glory.”
That’s what we call “crystal.” Thanks, Paul.
Emotions are important, and messy. I remember when my brother, Josh, introduced the doctrines of grace to me. The only thing my mind kept returning to was the babies. What about the babies? They are innocent, right? Surely God can not damn babies to eternal torment and hell-fire. Whether babies are innocent is another discussion, but for the time being you get my point. Emotions are stirred when we talk of God doing anything less than what we deem good and just, but I refer back to Romans 9. God does what He wants and it will always be for His glory. It will always be just and good and perfect and holy. Our emotional position has no bearing whatsoever on who God is or how He has revealed Himself to us through the scriptures. We must accept these truths and understand that God is, ultimately, concerned about His glory with a singular focus. This is why I have to consistently remind myself of the worm that I am. The wretch that I am. How unworthy I am of the grace that I have received. Thank you Jesus! Emotions are good for us because God has given them to us, but emotions do not dictate the meaning of Scripture.
God has also blessed us with logic. Logic is a fundamental means of operating in society and, more importantly, how we deduce our doctrinal beliefs from the written word. This is how we interpret truth and whether the premise of truth—the “starting points”—are jointly plausible, and what follows from them. Let’s take a look at the logic of some Reformed folk who deny double-predestination. They maintain that:
1) There is a divine decree of election that is eternal.
2) That divine decree is particular in efficacy.
3) There is no decree of reprobation.
Think on this. Let it resonate. Does this make logical sense? If God, who knows all and decrees all, elects some and not others, then for what were the reprobate created? Does He not know where they go once He has passed over them for election? Has He not, like he did to Esau, judged them before they have committed a single act of willful disobedience? Does God create vessels of wrath for His glory? Of course He does. The very implication that God elects some for salvation and not others means that God has elected some for damnation. This is what Luther called “resistless logic”. What we have in the reprobate is an eternal choice of non-election. The doctrine could not be clearer.
What are we left with if we reject double predestination? I will borrow from R.C. Sproul once more in listing four options: (1) universal predestination to election (universalism); (2) universal predestination to reprobation (nobody holds to this, by the way); (3) particular predestination to election with the possibility of salvation for the not elect, if they want it (a qualified Arminianism); (4) particular predestination to reprobation with the possibility of salvation to those not reprobate, if they want it (which nobody holds). When the argument gets to the core, you will either hold God’s sovereignty in the highest esteem, succumb to the perils of Arminianism, or fall into the heresy of Universalism.
Just because a doctrine is hard to understand does not make it wrong. Emotions can be deceiving; Christians should know this more than anyone. We rely on scripture alone to instruct us. We rely on the faculties God has given us to digest and understand His word. Logic is not the end-all-be-all to discerning scripture, but it is crucial and we would be remiss to dismiss such clear teachings as double-predestination. If you say that you hold God’s sovereignty above all else, and admit that he controls each molecule that moves, then to deny this doctrine is to deny the meaning of “sovereign”. I implore you to study this resistless logic.
Editor’s comment: the doctrine of predestination, whether single or double, is often accused of being pastorally insensitive. In the two weeks following this article, we dealt with that objection. You may read this pastoral aspect of predestination in part 1 and part 2.