Predestination vs. free will

Does God predestine us or do we choose him of our own free will? As pointed out by J.P. Holding at Tektonics, the question boils down to a dichotomy: “Does God foreknow because he foreordains or does he foreordain because he foreknows?” I tend to believe the latter. In a very loose sense, I believe in the concept of the “elect.” Before the beginning of time, God knew that mankind would sin. This required that some would be separated from him. Knowing this, God could have chosen not to create the universe and mankind. Thus, in choosing to create rather than not to create, he chose that some would be saved and some would not.

In the strict sense, however, I do not think that God’s choice eliminates ours. First, I think we need to realize that God knows the future. When God created the universe ex nihilo, he created space, matter and time. That means God is not bound by time. It does not, however, preclude God from acting within our timeline. We may not understand how the mind of God works, but he certainly understands how ours work, and the Bible is written accordingly. Statements in the Bible that show God changing his mind are written from our perspective. On that point, I would definitely agree with those who believe in Calvinistic predestination.

On the other hand, we must also take into account God’s omnipotence. Look at the following passages:

Again the anger of the LORD was aroused against Israel, and He moved David against them to say, “Go, number Israel and Judah.” (2 Samuel 24:1)

Now Satan stood up against Israel, and moved David to number Israel. (1 Chronicles 21:1)

Was it God or Satan that moved David to count his army? It was both. God does not tempt us to sin (James 1:13), but he can allow Satan to tempt us. He is ultimately responsible for it, because he is omnipotent and could intervene if he so chose. Many commentators have noted regarding these two passages that the biblical authors do not always distinguish between primary and secondary causes.

If we take these two observations and put them together, I think the obvious conclusion is that God knows who will choose him before they are even born and that God chooses (secondary cause) those who choose him (primary cause). This is what is referred to by the word predestination in the Bible:

For whom He foreknew, He also predestined to be conformed to the image of His Son, that He might be the firstborn among many brethren. (Romans 8:29)

I have no problem with the concept of free will co-existing with predestination. I don’t fully comprehend it, but God’s being outside of time eliminates the logical contradiction in my mind.

If predestination meant that we have no choice in the matter, there would be no purpose in reading the Bible or engaging in evangelism. Those who were predestined to be saved would be find their way to salvation without any need for assistance. Furthermore, there would be no point in going to church, giving alms or doing anything “good” of our own volition. If we were predestined to do it we would do it whether we chose to or not. On the other hand, if we have no choice in the matter, what is the point of even trying? To put it more bluntly, why should those who are not part of the “unconditional elect” worship or try to please God when he’s just going to send them to hell anyway?

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69 Responses to “Predestination vs. free will”

  1. John says:

    Don’t forget to include room for John 6:44.

    “No one can come to me unless the Father who sent me draws him….”

  2. casey says:

    I don’t see that as being conclusive either way. It doesn’t say that God does not draw all men. It just says that no man can answer God’s invitation without God first giving it. 2 Peter 3:9 says that “The Lord is…not willing that any should perish but that all should come to repentance.” That implies to me that God wishes to draw all men to himself but only a few choose to take him up on the offer.

  3. Kansas Bob says:

    Great post Casey!! This is the first time that I have read anything other than my own stuff that mirrors my thinking on this so precisely.. a bit scary.. for you anyway :)

  4. casey says:

    Ha, ha. I think we think more alike than we think…

  5. Mulled Vine says:

    Free will is a funny old thing really. We think we are such free entities but in reality we are much more constrained by our genes and nurture than we like to think. How free is a child that is born surrounded by evil things to choose right from wrong? Its precisely this lack of equality surrounding our choosing that leans me towards accepting election and God’s sovereignty in it all.

  6. Scott says:

    “It just says that no man can answer God’s invitation without God first giving it.”

    No, that’s not what it says. It says that no man can come to Jesus unless the Father draws him. The word for draw there means to draw, drag off or metaph., to draw by inward power, lead, impel. That doesn’t imply anything about man answering an invitation.

    The 2 Peter verse is interesting. I’d agree that God doesn’t wish any of us to perish, but he also didn’t wnat Adam and Eve to sin, but they did. So I don’t think that’s about God letting man have a choice.

    I think the dichotomy is a false one. God foreordains because he is sovereign. He foreknows because he’s all knowing. I don’t think there’s a causative relationship between the two. This “If we take these two observations and put them together, I think the obvious conclusion is that God knows who will choose him before they are even born and that God chooses (secondary cause) those who choose him (primary cause).” seems to make man sovreign. Isn’t God the Prime Mover? I’d say so.

    The Romans 8 passage doesn’t say that God foreknew therefore/thus he predestined. It says he foreknew and predestined. I think that’s more in line with Reformed thought.

    Finally, this “If predestination meant that we have no choice in the matter, there would be no purpose in reading the Bible or engaging in evangelism.” ins’t how we Calvinist/Reformed folks think about that. God saves (first cause) by using the efforts of his creation (second cause).

    Check this out:
    http://www.reformed.org/documents/wcf_with_proofs/ch_X.html

  7. Scott says:

    Also, in case it needs to be said, all of what I said should be taken as one brother to another with utmost humility on my end.

  8. casey says:

    Thank you for the clarification, Scott, but no, I was already taking that as a given. I don’t hate you for being wrong. :P

  9. casey says:

    What is the difference, actually, between an “invitation” and “leading” or “impelling?” The American Heritage dictionary says to impel is “to urge to action through moral pressure.” I believe that God places this pressure on all men. Even if you want to make a distinction between God’s leading and his invitation, I still believe that God does both for everyone.

  10. Lincoln says:

    Good post Casey. :D

    Personally, I find it disturbing that so many would easily accept the idea that God would consign so many to hell without even giving them a chance to be saved. This is a picture of a loving God? Please. This “reformed” position that Christians prescribe to is one of the most disgusting things I’ve ever seen creep into the church, but of course it would be perfectly palatable for those who think they’re elected. *rolls eyes* Many of them also have the arrogance to match it too.

    There does seem to be a significant number who recognize how bad this makes God look, so they try to reconcile things by bizarrely holding to the idea that God sympathizes with man’s plight, even as He predestines an untold multitude to hell. Even Spurgeon had serious problems with this, although he himself was never able to fully reconcile it, he did recognize the abhorrence of such a belief.

    It’s one of the reasons why I can’t associate with people who believe in this nonsense, otherwise I’d have an overwhelming urge to smack them around and stomp their faces in for being so willing to believe in a God who is quite plainly, a complete monster.

    As for Scott’s assertion, attempting to divorce the two is an act of futility. It states plainly, “To whom He foreknew, THEM did He predestinate…” One follows the other, and you’re saying their’s no causative relationship? Sure, and denial’s just a river in Egypt.

    Lord I love you but your people have some really strange notions about you sometimes. :-P

  11. Scott says:

    Lincoln… brother, surely if you goback and read your post you;ll see some of the arrogance that you accuse reformed believers in. Reformed theology did not “creep” into the church.

    As far as God consigning men to Hell without the chance of being saved goes, little in the Bible indicates to me that outside of God’s grace any of us has a chance. We are dead in our transgressions. We are slaves to sin. The dead don’t raise themselves (outside of Christ) and the slaves don’t free themselves. God in his infinite Grace and Mercy choses whom he will. Men are damned because of their own sins, so that any who are chosen are not chosen due to any merit of their own. What you’re talking about, God predestining men to hell, is something very few Calvinists believe in. It’s pretty much a straw man.

    See I don’t get this supposed arrogance. Reformed theology doesn’t teach that God chose you or I because of any special merit. He did so out of his own good pleasure.

    As for God “looking bad” I don’t know about that. The idea of men going to hell whether they choose to or not is pretty misery inducing to me. So I can’t see how one or the other position makes him “look bad”.

    In closing I did not divorce the two terms but united them. If you see causality I’d like to know where you get it from.

  12. Scott says:

    Casey, regarding the word to draw is used elsewhere in John thus:

    Joh 6:44 – No man can come to me, except the Father which hath sent me draw him: and I will raise him up at the last day.

    John 12:32 – And I, if I be lifted up from the earth, will draw all men unto me.

    Joh 18:10 – Then Simon Peter having a sword drew it, and smote the high priest’s servant, and cut off his right ear. The servant’s name was Malchus.

    Joh 21:6 – And he said unto them, Cast the net on the right side of the ship, and ye shall find. They cast therefore, and now they were not able to draw it for the multitude of fishes.

    Joh 21:11 – Simon Peter went up, and drew the net to land full of great fishes, an hundred and fifty and three: and for all there were so many, yet was not the net broken.

    In every case as I see it it is something acting externally in a way that doesn’t give the thing being acted on a choice. Now we aren’t nets or swords, but the first two that are about men being drawn seem clear to me. Of course there’s the use of the word “all” in John 12 which is tricky for everyone ecept Universalists.

  13. Scott says:

    Citation http://www.studylight.org/lex/grk/view.cgi?number=1670

    Then there’s the verses in James and Acts.

  14. Lincoln says:

    Scott, blah blah blah whatever.

    Most Calvinists choose not to believe the most repugnant aspects of their doctrines, but that only leaves them with a belief system rife with contradictions and half-truths.

    And wow, I never knew I could only be saved by grace. I thought it was all on merit baby, cuz you know, how can God refuse a stud like me into the halls of heaven? :D

    By the way, your verse references are also straw men, dichotomies, and whatever lovely words you brainy sorts just love to use to make it sound like you actually know what you’re talking about. Anyhow, all the things that are being “drawn” there are inanimate objects or nonsentient animals. It doesn’t really compare.

    But what do I know, after all you are a member of the mighty elect, a speeeecial class of people that God has favored above all, so who am I to argue with this supreme race of the Chosen? *yawn*

  15. casey says:

    Lincoln, down boy, down! :)

    Scott, your reference in John 12:32 says that Jesus will draw all men unto himself. That sounds a lot like what I am saying. As noted in the link I provided in the original post:

    …the same Greek word is used in James 2:6 of the rich “dragging” the poor into court, and in Acts 16:19 of Paul and Silas being “dragged” before the authorities. The implication: The persons involved cannot help themselves. This is closer to irresistible grace (used only upon the elect) than prevenient grace.

    …yet…even the poor, even Paul and Silas, though “compelled” had options to get out of the situation. They could have bitten and scratched their “draggers” or gouged their eyes out. They could have run or fought. Of course that may well have cost them their lives, but then that matches just as well with the sinner fighting off prevenient grace. You do so at the cost of your eternal life.

  16. Sicarii says:

    I am reminded of this verse when I read through the post and some of the comments. Proverbs 16:4 (ESV):

    “The Lord has made everything for its purpose,
    even the wicked for the day of trouble.”

    There was once I pondered over this issue as well, but after all that’s been said and done, I thought about it and decided I’d stop trying to justify what I think I know, but just accept that God has created all things for His pleasure and His glory.

    Thinking that we know or have no idea about how God works in this respect doesn’t do anything for our Christian walk. What does have an impact is whether we do the will of God since many of us do pray that God makes us servants of His to do His will.

    Shalom.

  17. casey says:

    Scott, by the way, how do you get around the conclusion that God is predestining people to go to hell? If we do not have any choice in the matter but certain people are going to be sent to hell, how is that different from being predestined to go to hell?

  18. casey says:

    Isaiah, this does have an impact on me. Maybe I’m just plain evil, but I don’t want to sacrifice my time and my money for God if he’s just going to send me to hell. I do this out of gratitude for what he has done for me. If he’s sending me to hell, I’d rather spend my time and money on myself. Everyday experience tells me that I have a choice in whether I am going to spend time with God or not. If I am able to choose not to spend time with God, does that mean that I am not one of the elect? After all, if I was part of the elect I would be compelled to worship God, would I not? Since I do not feel the irresistable urge to worship God, then I think the Calvinist conclusion is that I am not saved.

  19. Sicarii says:

    Hmm… that’s an interesting perspective, Casey. I’ll respond when I think I got it figured out as to what you have said on the surface. :)

    Shalom!

  20. Lincoln says:

    Casey, lol, sorry, I’m antsy when I haven’t eaten. :D

    I think the bottom line is that these Calheads define things differently than we do. Salvation is a gift we can accept or reject, but they believe just the act of choosing to accept a gift constitutes a work. Until that mentality changes, there’s really no point in arguing with them any further.

  21. casey says:

    No problem, Linc. I know you’re a lovable fuzzball. :) I just want to make sure everyone else knows it, too. :P

  22. Scott says:

    Calheads? Really? So you’ve resorted to name calling, ideations of physical violence, and shown that you have no interest in debating scripture. Lovely.

  23. Scott says:

    “…yet…even the poor, even Paul and Silas, though “compelled” had options to get out of the situation. They could have bitten and scratched their “draggers” or gouged their eyes out. They could have run or fought. Of course that may well have cost them their lives, but then that matches just as well with the sinner fighting off prevenient grace. You do so at the cost of your eternal life.”

    This is a most excellent point. But I’d ask, can God be resisted? Fwiw, I didn’t always believe in predestination, but as I examine the scripture and see the language God uses about choosing his people, it’s pretty compelling stuff. God chose the Jews. And no matter what they did, they remained chosen. We are adopted as sons. Those adoptes don’t choose their parents. Getting back to being dead in our transgressions and being slaves to sin and bought by Christ’s blood.

    “Scott, by the way, how do you get around the conclusion that God is predestining people to go to hell?”

    The conclusion I reach is that regardless of shich theological school you belong to os that man is destined by his nature to go to hell. You can believe that man can fight against this inclination and win, this turning his back on Hell and accepting God’s invitation. I think that’s valid, after all I believed it for years. You can believe that man is incapable of resisiting sin outside of God’s intervention. Prevenient Grace, which the Methodist Church teaches (and perhaps others I don’t know) is sort of a halfway point between the two.

    Regarding Hell Casey, what do you think happens to a person who never hears the gospel? What happens to babies? If this is all a matter of choice/being able to choose God how does the gospel reach those people incapable of choosing or not presented with the choice?

    “Everyday experience tells me that I have a choice in whether I am going to spend time with God or not. If I am able to choose not to spend time with God, does that mean that I am not one of the elect? After all, if I was part of the elect I would be compelled to worship God, would I not? Since I do not feel the irresistable urge to worship God, then I think the Calvinist conclusion is that I am not saved.”

    You do have the ability to choose to spend time with God or not. Once you are saved you are free in Christ to make that choice. The “elect” aren’t any more perfect than than the “non-elect”. And we don’t believe, at least I don’t believe, that you are compelled to worship, but instead are freed to do so. Sometimes you will and someimtes you won’t. When you don’t, God’s grace is sufficient. By your fruits you will be known and based on what I see of you I have no doubt that you are my brother in Christ. So, for the record I don’t think God is sending you to Hell Casey. You don’t have to be Reformed in your theology to be saved.

  24. Ash75 says:

    >When God created the universe ex nihilo, he created
    >space, matter and time.

    Where in the Bible does it say that God created time?

    Here’s an awesome debate on Open View vs. Settled View theology: http://www.theologyonline.com/forums/showthread.php?t=21711

    Casey’s post looks like he’s trying to balance the verses to end up somewhere in the middle. None of you here may agree with the Open View, but I think it’s worth a read if you have the time.

  25. Lincoln says:

    Oh Scottie boy, stop whining and grow some balls. :D

    About the Jews, yes they were chosen, but:

    Romans 11:19-22 Thou wilt say then, The branches were broken off, that I might be graffed in. Well; because of unbelief they were broken off, and thou standest by faith. Be not highminded, but fear: For if God spared not the natural branches, TAKE HEED lest he also spare not thee. Behold therefore the goodness and severity of God: on them which fell, severity; but toward thee, goodness, IF THOU CONTINUE in [his] goodness: otherwise thou also shalt be cut off.

    Odd message to convey to the Elect, mmm?

    But you go ahead and believe what you want, bask in the fuzziness for thinking out of bazullions of people, God has deemed you to be so special that He decided to add you to his elite club of saved souls. Lovely!

    Heaven just gets uglier by the minute with all these elitist fartbags God keeps “choosing” to be saved. Lord, you really need to make some better choices, but don’t worry, I have a list here of people I’d like to see in heaven if You need some help (Jessica Alba being one). :D

  26. Ash75 says:

    >What do you think happens to a person who never hears the gospel?

    My thoughts on this are that people are held responsible for what they do know, and not what they don’t. God wrote the moral law on our hearts, and even someone who was raised in a pagan environment with no knowledge of Christ is able to humble himself to the Creator God made apparent by the creation. If God sees a humble heart, willing to serve Him regardless of the pagan influences around him, is it beyond His ability to bring that person to his side through the blood of Christ? Of course, such a person would be a rarity, as humans tend to get caught up in pride and the wickedness of our own hearts.

    >What happens to babies?

    Babies go to heaven, as do children. A certain age of accountability (different for each person) is implied in Romans and I believe in the OT as well.

    Here is an interesting article on that topic: http://www.apologeticspress.org/articles/2256

    Although I believe that Calvinistic Theology is illogical and in error, I also believe that those who adhere to it our saved by the blood of Christ if they believe that He, as God, humbled Himself and came to earth as a man, died in our place, and was bodily resurrected. But most importantly, it is essential to repent of our sins and accept God’s grace.

  27. Scott says:

    “My thoughts on this are that people are held responsible for what they do know, and not what they don’t”

    So as Casey said, why evangelize?

    “”Babies go to heaven, as do children. A certain age of accountability (different for each person) is implied in Romans and I believe in the OT as well.”

    I’ve got some issues with what he did to some passages in Romans and while I don’t disagree regarding the state of Children I’d like to hear again why, if this is true, you think we should evangelize?

    And I couldn’t agree with your last paragraph more.

  28. casey says:

    Scott,

    But I’d ask, can God be resisted? Fwiw, I didn’t always believe in predestination, but as I examine the scripture and see the language God uses about choosing his people, it’s pretty compelling stuff. God chose the Jews. And no matter what they did, they remained chosen.

    That is a good analogy to Calvinist thought on the matter, but I don’t think it’s relevant to us as individuals. And don’t forget, even though God chose the Israelites, some chose to disobey and were killed for it. At least in my view, the Jews were God’s chosen people because God wanted to save all men and the Jews were the ones who were in the best position to reach all of mankind. God’s choice of Israel was made, at least in my mind (I don’t have any scriptures to back this up), because he saw that choice as leading to the most people being saved.

    The conclusion I reach is that regardless of shich theological school you belong to os that man is destined by his nature to go to hell. You can believe that man can fight against this inclination and win, this turning his back on Hell and accepting God’s invitation. I think that’s valid, after all I believed it for years. You can believe that man is incapable of resisiting sin outside of God’s intervention.

    I don’t think that changes the fact that the natural conclusion of Calvinistic thought is that God predestines some people to go to hell.

    what do you think happens to a person who never hears the gospel? What happens to babies? If this is all a matter of choice/being able to choose God how does the gospel reach those people incapable of choosing or not presented with the choice?

    Someone who never hears the gospel is accountable to God for what he has heard. If he chooses to respond to God’s prompting (“draw”)–God will have known he would do this–God will provide a way for him to hear the gospel (Jesus’ “invitation”). It’s clear that Jesus is the only way to the Father. There are also varying degrees of punishment in hell. I’ve described my thoughts on hell here. As for babies, I believe they go to heaven. David had assurance that his child was in heaven, and I don’t think that the episode would have been included in the Bible in such detail otherwise.

  29. casey says:

    Ash75,

    Where in the Bible does it say that God created time?

    The Bible says that God created the heavens and the earth ex nihilo. I believe this infers that time, which is inseparable from space and matter, was created at the same time. We end up with several logical contradictions, otherwise.

    I once found open theism to be a very attractive concept. After several years of consideration, though, I just don’t think that the picture painted of God in the Bible leaves room for such an interpretation. God knows the future, he doesn’t simply cause things to happen in the way that he predicts. I can’t read the prophecies in the Bible and convince myself that God didn’t really know what was going to happen. Plus, if God created time, as I believe he did, then he would not be bound by it.

  30. Scott says:

    “At least in my view, the Jews were God’s chosen people because God wanted to save all men and the Jews were the ones who were in the best position to reach all of mankind. God’s choice of Israel was made, at least in my mind (I don’t have any scriptures to back this up), because he saw that choice as leading to the most people being saved.”

    So were they in the best position to reach all of mankind because of something intrinsic to them or because of something that God did to/through them?

    “I don’t think that changes the fact that the natural conclusion of Calvinistic thought is that God predestines some people to go to hell.”

    Only if you have a limited understanding of Calvinism.

    So do you believe that man is dead in his transgressions? If so what does that mean to you?

  31. childlife says:

    I realize I’m coming to this party a little late, but Casey, I really appreciated what you had to say on this topic. My biggest problem with the concept of predestination without free will is that over, and over, and over again, the scriptures so clearly state that Christ died for ALL:

    “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.” (John 3:16)

    * “Therefore just as one man’s trespass led to condemnation for all, so one man’s act of righteousness leads to justification and life for ALL.” (Romans 5:18)

    * “For Christ’s love compels us, because we are convinced that one died for ALL, and therefore all died.” (2 Corinthians 5:14)

    * “Christ Jesus, himself human, who gave himself a ransom for ALL – this was attested at the right time” (1 Timothy 2:5-6)

    * “We have put out hope in the living God, who is the Savior of ALL men, and especially of those who believe” (1 Timothy 4:10)

    * “But we see Jesus, who was made a little lower than the angels, now crowned with glory and honor because he suffered death, so that by the grace of God he might taste death for EVERYONE.” (Hebrews 2:9)

    * “My dear children, I write this to you so that you will not sin. But if anybody does sin, we have one who speaks to the Father in our defense–Jesus Christ, the Righteous One. He is the atoning sacrifice for our sins, and not only for ours but also for the sins of THE WHOLE WORLD.” (1 John 2:1-2)

    * “The Lord is not slow in keeping his promise, as some understand slowness. He is patient with you, not wanting ANYONE to perish, but EVERYONE to come to repentance.” (2 Peter 3:9)

    The scriptures are also quite clear that Jesus did not only die for those who are saved, but also for those who will ultimately be lost. I do not believe that the Bible teaches us that those who will ultimately lost will be so because Christ did not die for them. I believe that it teaches us that they are lost because they rejected the free gift of salvation:

    * “Do not by your eating destroy your brother for whom Christ died.” (Romans 14:15)

    * “There were also false prophets among the people, just as there will be false teachers among you. They will secretly introduce destructive heresies, even denying the sovereign Lord who bought them – bringing swift destruction on themselves” (2 Peter 2:1)

    Or perhaps I have this all wrong. Perhaps I should be teaching my children to sing, “Jesus loves the elect little children… all the elect little children of the world…”

  32. casey says:

    Scott,

    So were they in the best position to reach all of mankind because of something intrinsic to them or because of something that God did to/through them?

    Both. They were specially chosen for who they were and what God was going to do through them.

    Only if you have a limited understanding of Calvinism.

    Is this something that you can only understand if you believe it? I asked you to explain it and you dodged the question.

    So do you believe that man is dead in his transgressions? If so what does that mean to you?

    It means that we’re destined for eternal separation from God if we fail to accept the free gift of salvation.

  33. casey says:

    childlife,

    The scriptures are also quite clear that Jesus did not only die for those who are saved, but also for those who will ultimately be lost. I do not believe that the Bible teaches us that those who will ultimately lost will be so because Christ did not die for them. I believe that it teaches us that they are lost because they rejected the free gift of salvation.

    My thoughts, exactly.

  34. Ash75 says:

    Scott,

    >“My thoughts on this are that people are held responsible for >what they do know, and not what they don’t”
    >
    >So as Casey said, why evangelize?

    Well, as I also mentioned, “Of course, such a person would be a rarity, as humans tend to get caught up in pride and the wickedness of our own hearts.”

    Evangelism will lead to a much higher rate of people going to heaven. Wouldn’t you agree?

    >“Babies go to heaven, as do children. A certain age of >accountability (different for each person) is implied in Romans >and I believe in the OT as well.”
    >
    >I’ve got some issues with what he did to some passages in Romans >and while I don’t disagree regarding the state of Children I’d >like to hear again why, if this is true, you think we should >evangelize?

    Keep in mind that God is a just and righteous God when reading these passages, and they should make sense. I’m not sure what you mean about evangelizing in this case.

    >And I couldn’t agree with your last paragraph more.

    Amen.

  35. Scott says:

    Childlife, if Christ died for all, then what you seem to be saying is that Christ’s sacrifice was not sufficient to save all. I don’t think I can agree with that. We both believe that those that are unsaved are unsaved because they reject God/Christ. We both believe (I think) that they do this because their hearts are hardened by sin/unbelief. I think we also agree that God saves man, man does not save himself.

    “Yet to all who received him, to those who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God— children born not of natural descent, nor of human decision or a husband’s will, but born of God.”

    “Or perhaps I have this all wrong. Perhaps I should be teaching my children to sing, “Jesus loves the elect little children… all the elect little children of the world…””

    Teach your children to sing the song the way it is, I know I do. I believe that God loves the children every bit as much as you. I’m just not sure how you reconcile that with the belief that we have to choose out of our own “free will”. How can a child choose? And if you don’t require that they do out of some belief in an age of accountability then how do you reconcile that with “For all have sinned and fallen short”?

    “Both. They were specially chosen for who they were and what God was going to do through them”

    Okay I think it’s time for you to back that up with scripture.

    “Is this something that you can only understand if you believe it? I asked you to explain it and you dodged the question.”

    Nope I didn’t dodge the question. We both believe (I think) that all men have sinned (women too). If you sin then you are destined to Hell, unkess you believe in God and accept Christ as your savior. You believe that somehow you can choose. Incidentally, why are you able to choose and not say someone like the atheist Hitchens? I believe that sin has made man dead and unable to choose outside of his nature. Neither view has God predestining men to Hell. Hell is there for all who don’t believe/have faith in Christ.

    “It means that we’re destined for eternal separation from God if we fail to accept the free gift of salvation.”

    On that we agree.

    “Well, as I also mentioned, “Of course, such a person would be a rarity, as humans tend to get caught up in pride and the wickedness of our own hearts.””

    No man is righteous, no not one. Isn’t that right? I’d say as rare as hen’s teeth then.

    Romans doesn’t teach about an age of accountability as far as I can see. I’m the father of three and children sin from an awfully early age. As such I don’t think I don’t think that I see how children are different in that respect. They are different in the sort of faith they have and I htink that that’s what Jesus was talking about when he said that only one’s such as these would inherit the kingdom. He couldn’t have been talking about children’s righteousness/holiness/purity.

  36. Ash75 says:

    Scott,

    >No man is righteous, no not one. Isn’t that right? I’d say as rare
    >as hen’s teeth then.

    It’s not about being righteous. It’s about humbling yourself to God and asking for His forgiveness, i.e. seeking Him. I think even a select few who have never heard of Christ will do that, just based on the knowledge of right and wrong God wrote on their hearts, along with what they learn of Him through the creation. Wouldn’t you agree with that?

    >I’m the father of three and children sin from an awfully early >age.

    How do you interpret Romans 7: 8 and 9? Have you found in your experience that babies are exceedingly wicked and deserving of death? I have two and I haven’t seen any sin in them.

  37. Carol says:

    To predestine is to declare beforehand or decree in advance. That does not mean He maps out our future and decisions for us either for or against our wills. He foreknows, therefore declares it.

    Blessings

  38. childlife says:

    Scott – I didn’t even come close to saying that “Christ’s sacrifice was not sufficient to save all.”

    Christ’s death was sufficient. Some accept the gift of salvation, some don’t. Plain and simple. The verse you quoted states it even plainer… “Yet to all WHO RECEIVED Him.” The condition of Salvation isn’t whether Christ died or not, or whether you are on some elitist list somewhere. The condition of salvation is what do you do with that gift? Do you accept it, or do you turn your back?

    As to my comment about perhaps having it all wrong and teaching the lyrics “Jesus loves the elite little children…” Perhaps I should begin posting a sarcasm alert like Casey. I am not waffling around in what I believe, nor am I about to begin teaching my children that Christ picked and chose who he died for when the Bible clearly sates that He chose to die for, I will say it again… all.

    I would respond to some of your comments to Casey as well, but I fail to see the point. All I can say Scott, is that I’m sure glad you’re not God. And I say that without malice. I believe I would rather like you if I met you face to face. I believe you’re sincere and all, and that I’ll see you in heaven one day, but I just think you’ll be surprised at who’s joining you there and that you’ll be quite grieved at how much energy you’ve wasted on this topic.

  39. childlife says:

    And Scott, I do believe that a child can choose. My oldest chose salvation (of her own free will I might add) at the ripe old age of four. She understands the path of salvation so well that she shares it without hesitation on a regular basis. I do believe that there is an age of accountability and that God knows what that age is for each individual person. I’m not sure where you picked up the idea that I didn’t.

  40. casey says:

    We both believe (I think) that all men have sinned (women too). If you sin then you are destined to Hell, unkess you believe in God and accept Christ as your savior. You believe that somehow you can choose. Incidentally, why are you able to choose and not say someone like the atheist Hitchens? I believe that sin has made man dead and unable to choose outside of his nature. Neither view has God predestining men to Hell. Hell is there for all who don’t believe/have faith in Christ.

    Okay, you’ve lost me again. If men have no choice in the matter, how can you say that hell is there for all who don’t believe? It’s there for all who weren’t chosen to believe. To answer your question, atheists have chosen. They chose to reject God.

  41. casey says:

    By the way, the reasons I listed for the Jews being chosen are inferred based on my understanding of the Bible and God. I don’t have any specific “proof texts.” If you can show that I am wrong, I’m willing to take a look at your reasons.

  42. Rick Rouse says:

    Where in the Bible does it say that God created time?

    I think this pretty well covers it:

    Colossians 1:16 – For by him were all things created, that are in heaven, and that are in earth, visible and invisible, whether they be thrones, or dominions, or principalities, or powers: all things were created by him, and for him:

  43. Rick Rouse says:

    Since God is omniscient, He already knows exactly how many people will ultimately end up in heaven and exactly who they will be. But that is NOT predestination.

    Jesus’ blood was sufficient to cover the sins of every human being who has ever been born or is yet to be born, and each and every one of those people have the option of accepting the gift of salvation or rejecting it. In fact, it isn’t His desire that “any should perish, but that all should come to repentance” (2 Peter 3:9). Although God already knows how each of us will ultimately decide, the choice is still ours to make.

  44. PTET says:

    So God chose in advance whether we’ll be saved or not, but it’s our fault if we’re not.

    I get it.

    How does that deal with the problem of evil, exactly?

    I know a little girl who died in an accident. Her mother is the loveliest Christian person imaginable. Oh sure, she’s not perfect. A sinner, no doubt.

    Was the death my fault because I am an atheist?

    Is it moral for God to test people’s faith by killing their children?

    I don’t get it.

  45. casey says:

    You’ve got two different issues running through your comment, PTET. I agree with you on your point about predestination. It’s blatantly unfair from a human perspective, and since we’re not God, that’s the only perspective we can think from. So if God is predestining people to hell, it’s wrong, and he doesn’t deserve to be worshipped. Those who believe in that kind of predestination can argue until they’re blue in the face about how the Creator has every right to do whatever he pleases, but from my perspective a God like that is not worthy of worship.

    As for your second question about whether it is moral for God to test people’s faith by killing their children, I’d say no, and I don’t believe that he does. It sickens me to hear people say “It was God’s will” when something bad happens. They’re ignoring the first book of the Bible which teaches that it is man’s fault that evil exists. God created a perfect world. He does not like human suffering anymore than we do. The last book of the Bible tells us that he will rid the world of evil one day. We screwed it up and God is going to fix it.

  46. PTET says:

    Thanks for your response Casey – I appreciate it.

    The Bible seems pretty clear to me that God created and is responsible for evil – see for example Isaiah 45:7.

    But in any case, entirely agree that mankind must be responsible for its own actions.

    Getting back to the Bible… How was it moral for God to punish Adam & Eve if they didn’t know right from wrong before they ate the forbidden fruit?

    Is mere disobedience to be punished even if there is no malice or intention? Is that a moral way for man to act? Is is moral for God?

    Even worse, as I see it, God punishes not just Adam & Eve but all their descendants for all eternity for this one transgression.

    While I agree mankind must take responsibility for our own actions, it is clear the only person here you are NOT blaming is the only person who has the power to do anything about it – e.g. God.

  47. casey says:

    Hi PTET,

    Let me state up front that I do not have a theology degree or anything like that. My responses are based on my personal studies, and there are other views out there (probably more well-researched and supported). As I noted in the original post, the Bible does not always make a distinction between primary and secondary causes. God is ultimately responsible for evil, but he did not create it. Habakkuk 1:13 says that God’s eyes are too pure to even look at evil.

    As for Adam and Eve, I think you are mixing up right and wrong with good and evil. I’d say there is a meaningful distinction. Let me try to explain. They knew what was right, because God told them what they could (right) and could not do (wrong). Furthermore, I think that it’s unlikely (or at least unnecessary in context) that the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil had any supernatural powers. Its significance was that by eating of it they disobeyed God and did what they knew to be wrong. This brought them intimate knowledge of evil, hence the name.

    God does not punish children for the sins of their parents. The Bible makes this clear, too. Neither does he erase the consequences of sin, however, which inevitably affect the children. The laws of nature are not fundamentally different now than they were before the Fall. What is missing now is God’s protective hand. Before the Fall, a child falling out of a window would have been met with soft ground or a slowed fall (of course this is conjecture, since I wasn’t there and there are no statements in the Bible which tell us the mechanisms that were at work). The same laws of physics would have been in operation, but God’s protective hand would have prevented harm. Today the consequence of Adam and Eve’s rebellion is that God has removed his protective hand (as much a consequence as it was a punishment), and the laws of physics are now all that apply.

  48. Ash75 says:

    Love must be freely given, and in order to love, one must also have the capacity to hate. I think the same is true for good and evil. One cannot truly do good without the option to also do evil. The ability to hate and do evil are a natural result of free will, so evil itself was not created by God, but the ability to choose evil was a natural result of the freedom He gave us.

    Each individual will be judged in the afterlife for their own deeds, not for the sins of their fathers.

    Sorry I didn’t take the time to look up verses to support this, but this is my take on it.

  49. PTET says:

    Even with the best possible reading, Habakkuk 1:13 flatly contradicts Isaiah 45:7. If it isn;t a contradiction, it’s even worse – because it says God causes evil but doesn’t even look at the results.

    The Bible is rather clear that humanity is suffering now because of Adam & Eve’s transgression.

    And still, the Christian view of God requires man to love God solely as God requires – and all the good works in the world will not save you if you do not so love God…

    If you or I were to treat our children the way God treats humanity in the Bible, would we be good parents?

    I doubt it.

    If God exists, how can he possibly be as the Bible describes?

  50. Ash75 says:

    The Hebrew word translated as evil in Isaiah 45:7 can also mean “calamity” or various similar words: http://www.carm.org/diff/Isa_45_7.htm

    In the NKJV it is translated as:

    7 I form the light and create darkness,
    I make peace and create calamity;
    I, the LORD, do all these things.’

    Certainly God causes calamity in many instances in the Bible, such as the global flood. But he does it for his own righteous intentions. If God is our creator, wouldn’t he have the right to bring us into the second stage of our lives when and how he chooses? It is there we will be judged for our actions.

    >The Bible is rather clear that humanity is suffering now
    >because of Adam & Eve’s transgression.

    I believe the world is broken because of Adam’s sin, and humanity is suffering from natural disasters as a result of that. But people will not be punished for the sins of Adam in the afterlife. A similar example would be a child born with abnormalities as a result of his parent’s destructive lifestyle. This is a natural result of sin, but the child will not be punished for the sins of his father in the afterlife.

    >If you or I were to treat our children the way God treats >humanity in the Bible, would we be good parents?

    Well, he sacrificed himself in our place. Being willing to die for your children is the ultimate expression of love in my book.

    >If God exists, how can he possibly be as the Bible describes?

    I’ll admit that some of the ways God deals with people in the Bible, especially in the OT, seem horrible. But then I remember he has a much better concept of the way life is set up than I do, since he created it. If he chooses to take people to the second stage of their lives by drowning them, who am I to say that my ways are more righteous?

    What is your take on this Casey?