How to square this with predestination (election)

The idea of there being an elect - some of us are born to believe and some of us are not - I'm not sure where I've picked up this idea - Calvin? Conservative evangelicalism? How do we square this idea with Justin Martyr's descriptions of the following:

But lest some suppose, from what has been said by us, that we say that whatever happens, happens by a fatal necessity, because it is foretold as known beforehand, this too we explain. We have learned from the prophets, and we hold it to be true, that punishments, and chastisements, and good rewards, are rendered according to the merit of each man's actions. Since if it be not so, but all things happen by fate, neither is anything at all in our own power. For if it be fated that this man, e.g., be good, and this other evil, neither is the former meritorious nor the latter to be blamed. And again, unless the human race have the power of avoiding evil and choosing good by free choice, they are not accountable for their actions, of whatever kind they be. But that it is by free choice they both walk uprightly and stumble, we thus demonstrate. We see the same man making a transition to opposite things. Now, if it had been fated that he were to be either good or bad, he could never have been capable of both the opposites, nor of so many transitions. But not even would some be good and others bad, since we thus make fate the cause of evil, and exhibit her as acting in opposition to herself; or that which has been already stated would seem to be true, that neither virtue nor vice is anything, but that things are only reckoned good or evil by opinion; which, as the true word shows, is the greatest impiety and wickedness. But this we assert is inevitable fate, that they who choose the good have worthy rewards, and they who choose the opposite have their merited awards. For not like other things, as trees and quadrupeds, which cannot act by choice, did God make man: for neither would he be worthy of reward or praise did he not of himself choose the good, but were created for this end;(2) nor, if he were evil, would he be worthy of punishment, not being evil of himself, but being able to be nothing else than what he was made.

Perhaps these things are not in opposition. ?


Anonymous said...


I think that this whole thing about predestination is a bit of a straw man(woman) and really has to do with the nature of time.

I used to struggle with it myself as a Christian but as a physicist by training, I came to see that time is a measurable quantity of the universe in which we inhabit and we are by nature, temporal beings. Time to us, flows from the past to the present and into the future. To us, our lives are a series of sequential events by which we experience reality.

This is not so with God of course, who is outside of time and so experiences everything simultaneously - "He declares the end from the beginning" (Is 46 v10).

When it comes to predestination, then I think we get our spiritual knickers in a twist when we try to interpret events from God eternal nature instead of our temporal one. Verses that imply predestination etc, are simply reflecting God's eternal nature over the universe, but we are expected to live in our temporal one.

It is fruitless speculating what may or may not be, since by nature we cannot declare our ends from our beginnings as we are temporal beings. We should not really worry about this but simply live our lives one event at a time. It is reassuring to know that God does declare our end from the beginning as this shows He is very much in control but it is not in our nature to know this knowledge so why worry about it!


Rachel said...

Hi Iconclast
Predestination ie to do with time - get it.
I'm referring to predestination as in:

For those God foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the likeness of his Son, that he might be the firstborn among many brothers. And those he predestined, he also called; those he called, he also justified; those he justified, he also glorified. Romans 8

It's this I find tricky. Some Christians believe some people are just destined to never know God - God made them that way etc

Good explanation of the other type of predestination but I am exploring the term in its more specific sense.

Thank you for your interest, though

Crunch said...

Notice this verse only talks about those whom God foreknew as Christians. The chain links together to show this. He foreknew, so he predestined, then called, then justified, then glorified. God knew who would turn to Him and so accept the destiny of an adopted son* of God, to be called, justified and glorified. BUT all this as a direct result of God knowing the outcome of an individual's decision.
The other key point is that this verse does not talk about those who do not turn to Christ being predestined NOT to know him. It never mentions non christians and neither do the verses in Ephesians chapter 1. Predestination is all about the inheritance which we have as God's children. Much as I am predestined as a daughter to inherit my parents estate when they die, those who accept Christ are predestined to be glorified. This is why the only point of Calvinism which I accept is the perseverence of the saints. I can no more stop being a son* of God than I can sever the genetic link to my own earthly parents.
*I use 'son' deliberately as it is important to make the differentiation because of biblical context. Sons inherited, daughters didn't (as I understand it).

Anonymous said...

Hi Rachel,

Yet I think one could still look at this verse from the time/eternity angle. If God sees everything simultaneously then from his point of view everything is foreknown. Your destiny in his eyes is set - but not in your own eyes.

One might then argue that we do not have freewill. Yet your will becomes part of the foreknowledge. You are still free to act in the temporal sense, however the end is is known to God - but not to us.

I have always thought that the language of this verse and others like it, are poor attempts to translate God's eternal nature within our temporal framework. I think that there are people who are destined never to know God but this is not because they have been forced to, but because they have chosen not to, as God foreknew they would.

I think that "predestination" here really means the eternal foreknowledge of God. Since we cannot foreknow, the important thing is to preach the Gospel so people can respond - we become part of the solution so to speak.

I guess it is hard for us to know what it is like to know all things simultaneously.


Revd John P Richardson said...

Hi Rachel. I wonder what they are teaching you in college about this. There are two important Anglican 'Articles' on the subject: X, Of Free Will, and XVII, Of Predestination and Election. These may not help, but they will show you the official Anglican position (not that anyone ... ;-) )

The problem comes down to this: is salvation down to our will or God's? If it is our will then it is those who will to be saved who are saved. But Christ came to seek and saved lost sinners, who are described variously as 'dead', 'blind', 'children of wrath', etc, in the Bible. If some of them 'will' to be saved, how do they manage this?

On the other hand, if it is God who wills that any one of these individuals should be saved, then there is the obvious problem about justice, etc.

It is not, however, a question of whether I can generally 'will' to do good or bad - clearly I can do both.

jody said...

hi rachel

(happy new year by the way, and thanks for your greetings on my blog - as you can see, i'm back now :-)

with regards romans, i find that it is imperative to read the whole letter - the culmination of paul's point is found in chapter 11 not chapter 8. paul spends chapters 1-11 building up his argument, saying to the puffed up gentiles that they shouldn't look down on the jews who didn't believe, because God can graft even the most beligerent back on:

ch11v32 For God has imprisoned all in disobedience so that he may be merciful to ALL.

lest any of us think that we are better than the other sort of christian who we believe God is mad at.....

in terms of election - I think election should be rehabilitated, it has a perfectly beautiful biblical meaning. Abraham was elected in order to be the father of a son, Jacob was elected in order to be the father of a family, israel was elected in order to be a blessing to the nations - to the whole world

election was never intended as an elitist project that some were 'acceptable' and others were left out in the cold. election is the means by which God wishes to bless all his creation, and reconcile it all to himself. (ie, we can 'choose' to be in the elect or not)


Rachel said...

Thank you all for your contributions.

...ever learning

God bless



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