In this lesson, we will look at the term ‘predestination’ as it is used in Christian theology. We will define the term, and understand the theology behind it.
The Definition of Predestination?
Alright, let’s talk about ‘predestination.’ It’s a pretty big word, and it’s a bit heavy, but let’s dig in. Basically, predestination is the belief that God has predetermined who will receive salvation and who will not.
Sometimes the term is used to refer not only to salvation, but to express the idea that God is in control of the universe in general, even over mundane things.For example, someone might say ‘God predestined that this should happen to me today.’ More often than not, however, the term is used to specifically refer to salvation.
Predestination is a very controversial theme within Christian circles and among theologians. There has been profound disagreement over this issue. Predestination is often seen as the antithesis of human free will.
Background of Predestination
The belief in predestination is drawn from the doctrines of God’s sovereignty and omniscience. Basically sovereignty means ‘in authority over’ or ‘in control over.’ Christians believe God to be in control over everything that happens. So if God is in control over everything, he must also be in control over who is saved and who is not.
Omniscience means ‘all-knowing.’ Christians have historically held that God knows the past, present, and future. In philosophical terms, if God knows what will happen in the future, there is no possible way that what he knows will happen, could not happen. Confused yet? Let’s try putting it this way: because God knows the future, the future must unfold according to his knowledge.
His knowledge of the future effectively determines the future.The doctrine of predestination affirms that from before the creation of the universe, God knew, or ‘chose,’ who would be saved and who would not. Critics of predestination argue that this view eliminates humanity’s free will because it denies human beings the ability to choose salvation or reject it.It is difficult to determine exactly when the doctrine of predestination came into being. We do know the doctrine existed in the early Church.
One of the first popular teachers of predestination was St. Augustine of Hippo. John Calvin, a French theologian who lived during the 1500s, is probably the most well known proponent of predestination. The views taught by Calvin came to be known as ‘Calvinism.’ Predestination is a central tenet of Calvinist theology. Sometimes the term ‘election’ is used more or less synonymously with predestination.
The ‘elect’ are those whom God has chosen to give salvation to. Remember, as a theological term, ‘election’ has nothing to do with voting! It is simply a way of communicating that God chooses who will and won’t receive salvation.Theologians find support for the doctrine of predestination in a number of places throughout the Bible. One of the most widely-cited passages is Romans 8:28-30:And we know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to his purpose. 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. Moreover whom he did predestinate, them he also called: and whom he called, them he also justified: and whom he justified, them he also glorified.
Other passages include Romans 9:15-18, 22-24 and Ephesians 1:3-5. The word ‘predestination’ is also found in many other parts of the Bible.It must be mentioned that the doctrine of predestination is extremely controversial, even among Christians. It is a complex theological view that takes many variations. There is much debate among theologians over how predestination is defined and to what extent it is a reality.
Whew! This is some heavy stuff. Let’s review the basics.
Predestination is a theological view affirming that God chooses who will receive salvation and who will not. Basically, the view affirms that God decides who will go to heaven and who will go to hell.Critics of predestination argue that it negates humanity’s free will. Predestination as a theological theory is drawn from the doctrines of God’s sovereignty, the belief that God is in control over everything that happens and omniscience, meaning ‘all knowing,’ the belief that God knows the past, present and future.Predestination was advanced by St. Augustine of Hippo, one of the first popular teachers of predestination and John Calvin, a French theologian who lived during the 1500s and probably the most well known proponent of predestination.
Predestination is a central tenet of Calvinism, the views taught by Calvin. The doctrine of predestination is controversial and is widely disagreed upon by Christians.