In my previous post, I promised to discuss how I believe Predestination and Free Will work together. Several chapters in my book, Solid Ground, ( “The Theological Fight of the Centuries,” “Predestination and Free Will,” and “Why Bad Things Happen to Good People” ) and another book titled UnReformed also presented this with more Bible verses and reasoning than I intend to present here. This is the Reader’s Digest Version, and we’ll miss a certain amount of nuance in the condensing.
I am not going to get to the meat of predestination and free will in this post. Instead, I’m going to set the stage. But I promise to get there.
But first: What both sides agree on
Both sides agree that human beings are corrupted. (Psalm 53:3; Romans 3:12; Ecclesiastes 7:29.) I have previously blogged about this in length in my post, Do People Need to Be Saved?
Both sides also agree that — because of this corruption — God must begin the process of salvation, or it wouldn’t occur. And he does. (John 6:44; Romans 5:8; 1 John 4:19.)
And now, something both sides do not agree on
Is God trying to save everyone?
When I asked this of my pastor (who is Reformed and believes in predestination), it stopped him and made him think. It stopped him, because — although he believes God is choosing who is saved and who isn’t — he also knows the Bible well enough to answer the question affirmatively. God is indeed trying to save everyone, and here are the biblical quotes to back it up:
“Say to them, ‘As I live!’ declares the Lord GOD, ‘I take no pleasure in the death of the wicked, but rather that the wicked turn from his way and live. Turn back, turn back from your evil ways! Why then will you die, O house of Israel?’ (Ezekiel 33:11)
This is good and acceptable in the sight of God our Savior, who desires all men to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth. (1 Timothy 2: 3-4)
The Lord is not slow about His promise, as some count slowness, but is patient toward you, not wishing for any to perish but for all to come to repentance. (2 Peter 3: 9)
And finally, Jesus says this:
“And I, if I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all men to Myself.” (John12: 32)
These verses, which make so much sense to me, are difficult for someone who is Reformed (ie: believes in predestination over free will.) In Reformed theology, God chooses who will be saved. In fact, if God wants to save a man (or woman, of course — but constantly repeating that is awkward) that man will be saved. If Jesus is drawing everyone, then everyone should be saved. We won’t have any choice in the matter. God will make it happen.
But if God wants all men to be saved, why isn’t everyone saved?
At this point, you should all go to Bible Hub and read Romans 9. I’ll wait here while you read it.
Did you read it? If not, shame on you. I’m waiting!
Okay, whether you read it or not, let’s go on. It was this chapter in Romans that made me Reformed in my theology when I was younger in my faith. Basically, it says that God hardens hearts so people cannot believe in him, and he has mercy on others. Why? And He did so to make known the riches of His glory upon vessels of mercy, which He prepared beforehand for glory… (Romans 9: 23)
Please, understand that I am not arguing with this verse or Romans 9, but I believe the picture we have in Romans 9 is incomplete. Stay with me, and I will explain.
How does God Choose?
How does God choose on whom he will have mercy and on whom we will not?
If you ask a Reformed man how God chooses to save one man over another, he will usually say that he does it based upon his desire to receive glory. If you ask him, does he look ahead and see who we are, understands that we will respond to him, and saves us based upon that, the Reformed man will say, “No. He doesn’t base his choice on who we are or on what decisions we will make. He does it based on his eternal purposes.” And he might quote Ephesians 1:11: “…we have obtained an inheritance, having been predestined according to His purpose who works all things after the counsel of His will…” This is also called “election,” and it’s mentioned throughout the Bible.
The problem with using this verse (and others) to say that God makes choices without his foreknowledge of who we will be is this verse in 1 Peter 1: 1-2, in which Peter says that the Christians to whom he is writing “…are chosen according to the foreknowledge of God the Father….”
Also, in Romans 8: 29 – 30, Paul says this: For those whom He foreknew, He also predestined to become conformed to the image of His Son, so that He would be the firstborn among many brethren; and these whom He predestined, He also called; and these whom He called, He also justified; and these whom He justified, He also glorified. Which comes first, glorified or justified? (Justified!) Which comes first, justified or called? (Called!) Which comes first, called or predestined? (Predestined.) Which comes first predestined or foreknew? (Well, you know what I think!)
I believe to say that God makes his choice without any knowledge of who we are is simply incorrect. His election and choice is made based upon who he knows we will be.
But it isn’t as simple as This
But it isn’t as simple as this. If it were, we wouldn’t need to have this discussion. We’d all agree on how predestination and free will work together.
I believe that predestination and free will work together in ways that are both glorious and mysterious. In my next post, I’d like to explain what I mean. Come join me in a week if you are interested.