THE PROBLEM OF PREDESTINATION

By: Ray Shelton

  1. THE STATEMENT OF THE PROBLEM.

    The doctrine of predestination was formulated historically by the Christian theologians Augustine of Hippo and John Calvin. The doctrine has been a constant cause of discussion and controversy, since many Christians have not been willing to accept it in any form. Pelagius in the early church and John Wesley in the eighteenth century are two examples of those who did not accept it in any form.

    What is predestination?
    Predestination is the doctrine that in eternity God foreordained all things.
    There are two forms of the doctrine: a wide form and a narrow form.

    1. In the wide form, it refers to the fact that the Triune God foreordains whatsoever comes to pass in history. That is, in eternity God has sovereignly determined whatsoever shall happen in history.
    2. In the narrow form, it refers to the act of God who in eternity has chosen for Himself a body of people, called "the elect", that they should be brought into fellowship with Himself, while at the same time He has ordained that the rest of humanity should be allowed to go their own way, which is the way of sin, to ultimate eternal punishment. These two aspects of God's choice are known as the doctrines of election and rebrobation. Some theologians, while accepting the idea of God choosing some to eternal life, completely reject any decree of eternal rebrobation.

  2. THE ANALYSIS OF THE PROBLEM.

    1. Linguistic Analysis.

      The Greek verb usually translated "predestinate," proorizo, literally means "to set boundaries beforehand," hence, "to decide upon beforehand, to appoint, designate, and choose beforehand." It is used 6 times in the New Testament; twice in chapter 8 of Romans (in verses 29 and 30), twice in Ephesians chapter 1 (in verses 5 and 11), Acts 4:28, where it is translated "determined", and I Cor. 2:7, where it is translated "ordained".

    2. Historical Analysis.

      The doctrine of predestination is the doctrine of theological determinism. Determinism is the view that every event or occurence is "determined," that is, they could not happened other than they did. The view is opposed to indeterminism and to some concepts of free will. The term "determinism" is from the Latin determinare ["to set bounds or limits"]. It entered philosophical terminology through Sir William Hamilton (1788-1856), who applied the term to view of Thomas Hobbes, in order to distinguish it from fatalism. There are two forms of theological determinism: the Augustinian doctrine of predestination and the doctrine of original sin. The doctrine of original sin lays the basis and provides the presupposition of his doctrine of predestination.

      1. AUGUSTINE

        This system of theological determinism was developed by Aurelius Augustine (354-430 A.D.), bishop of Hippo in North Africa near Carthage. The doctrine of original sin lays the basis and provides the presupposition of the doctrine of predestination. The doctrine of original sin was developed during the course of Augustine's controversy with the British monk Pelagius. Pelagius claimed that man was created with free will and was able to earn salvation or eternal life by the merits of his good works. Augustine attacked this view of salvation by pointing out that the free will with which man was created had been lost when the first man, Adam, sinned, the first or original sin, and this original sin was passed unto all of Adam's descendants as a corrupted or sinful nature. As the result of this sinful nature all men since Adam cannot do any good work to earn salvation or eternal life. All men have sinned and are "not able not sin" [non posse non pecare]. Augustine interpreted the verse in the Apostle Paul's letter to the Romans ( 5:12) to teach that all men sinned in Adam. Augustine based this interpretation on a mistranslation from Paul's Greek original of this verse into the old Latin. Following the Latin Vulgate translation of the last clause of Romans 5:12, "in quo omnes peccaverunt" ("in whom all sinned"), Augustine concluded that because all men literally sinned in Adam, their natural head, they are all guilty and have all inherited the penalty of that sin -- physical, spiritual and eternal death. Men are under condemnation not only because of their own personal sins, which each commits as an expression of his sinful nature, but because of the guilt of the original sin in which they participated in Adam before they were born. Thus the Augustinian theory explains the transmission of the first sin by Adam (the original sin) to each member of the human race by the principle of inheritance of sin. By procreation all men have inherited Adam's guilt and have a sinful nature. The Latin translation of Rom. 5:12 which Augustine quotes omits the word "death" from the phrase "and so passed upon all men." On this basis, Augustine incorrectly assumed that it was sin that passed upon all men, and that this sin is a sinful or corrupt nature that was passed. But the original Greek that Paul wrote includes the word thanatos [death] in the phrase, and our English versions correctly translates it, "and so death spread to all men."

        Augustine taught that through the sacraments (baptism and the Lord's Supper) man can receive the grace of God which will overcome the sinful nature and enable the man who receives this grace to earn salvation or eternal life by the merits of his good works. Not all men choose to receive this grace because God has not chosen all men to be saved. Only those that God has chosen to be saved (the elect) will receive a prevenient grace which allows the receiver of this grace to choose to receive the grace of the sacraments. By God's sovereign choice He chooses who will be saved and who will be left to the consequences of their sinful choices, eternal death and hell. Predestination was the implimentation of this sovereign choice of God; God brings about what he willed in eternity. From all eternity God knew all things which He was to make. He does not know them because He has made them, but rather the other way around: God first knew the things of creation in eternity though they came into being in time. The species of created things have their ideas or rationes seminales in the things themselves and also in the Divine Mind as rationes aeternae. God from all eternity saw in Himself, as possible reflections of Himself, the things which He could create and would create. He knew them before creation as they are in Him, as Exemplar, but He made them as they exist, that is, as external and finite reflections of His divine essence. Since God did nothing without knowledge, He foresaw all that He would make, but His knowledge is not distinct acts of knowledge, but "one eternal, immutable and ineffable vision." In virtue of this eternal act of knowledge, of vision, to which nothing is past or future, God sees, "foresees," even the free acts of men, knowing them "beforehand." Thus God predestinates all things, including the salvation of the elect.

      2. CALVINISM AND ARMINIANISM

        John Calvin (1509-1564 A.D.) stated the doctrine of predestination with an Augustinian interpretation, but he reinterpreted grace as unmerited favor and modified it to emphasize the place of faith. The followers of Calvin carried out the logic of Calvin's views. This development reached a climax in Calvinism/Arminianism theological controversy. This controversy began in the early seventeenth century when a Dutch theologian named Jacob Hermann (1560-1609), better known by the Latin form of his last name, Arminius, tried to show the unscriptural character of some aspects of the dominate Calvinistic theology of his day. His disciples, called Arminians and Remonstrants, several years after Arminius' death, expanded his doctrines into five main points known as the Five Points of Arminianism. The Arminians presented to the Dutch Parliament a Remonstrance, a carefully written protest against the Calvinistic or Reformed Faith, and a National Synod of the Dutch Church was convened in Dort in 1618 to examine the teachings of Ariminius. After 154 sessions, which lasted seven months, the Five Points of Arminianism were found to be heretical. The Synod of Dort reaffirmed the Calvinistic theology as consistent with Scripture, and formulated a summary of Calvinistic theology known as The Five Points of Calvinism. These have been set forth in the form of an acrostic, forming the word TULIP.

        The following are the "Five Points" of Calvinism:

        1. T - Total Depravity or Total Inability
        2. U - Unconditional Election
        3. L - Limited Atonement
        4. I - Irresistible Grace
        5. P - Perseverance of the Saints
        These present the fundamentals of the theological system known as Calvinism. They form a coherent and logically consistent system of theology. Given the acceptance of the first point, Total Inability, the other "Points" follow logically and necessarily. Since all men are unable to save themselves because of their sinful nature (Total Inability), then God must sovereignly choose who will be saved and who will not be saved (Unconditional Election). And since only the ones chosen (the Elect) must have their sins atoned for if they are to be saved, Christ need die only for the sins of the Elect (Limited Atonement). And since the Elect can do nothing because of their sinful nature to turn to Christ and receive His atonement for their sins, God alone in His grace can overcome the resistance of their sinful nature and give them a new nature by which they willingly receive Christ's atonement (Irresistible Grace). In order to guarantee that all of the Elect will finally be saved, God sovereignly keeps the Elect from doing anything by which their salvation may be lost (Perseverance of the Saints or The Eternal Security of the Believer).

        Arminius rejected the Unconditional Election of the Five Points as unscriptural. He argued that God chooses those to be saved whom he foreknew would believe in Christ. According to Arminius, election is conditional; God's choice is conditioned by His foreknowledge of whom will believe. Calvinists reject this Conditional Election arguing that God foreknows only what He has sovereignly willed to take place. They argued that everything that takes place including the choices of man was immutably determined and fixed by God in eternity, and that all that happens is nothing but what He had ordained to be before anything was created. God's foreknowledge then depends upon the purpose and plan of God and that God foreknows only what he has willed to take place. Arminians reject this determinism arguing that it leaves no place for man's free will which God gave to man when He created him, and also it makes God the cause of sin and evil in the world. The Calvinist attempt to counter this argument by replying that sin is caused directly by man and the evil in the world is caused by Satan and his fallen angels; God is therefore not responsible for sin and evil. God wills only the good, because His nature is good, not evil or sinful. "But," the Arminians asks, "where did the evil and sin come from? If God wills everything, then God must have willed the evil and sin." The Arminians argue that men and the angels must have free will and that sin and evil are caused by the wrong choices which they make by the exercise of their free wills. Thus sin and evil is not caused by God but by those beings that God has created with free will.

        Arminius did not reject the Total Depravity or Total Inability of the Five Points. He believed profoundly in original sin, understanding that the will of natural fallen man is not only maimed and wounded, but that it is entirely unable, apart from prevenient grace, to do any good thing. He believed that by the fall man has lost his free will and his nature has become corrupt or sinful. Man is thus totally unable to do anything to merit salvation. His followers have not always agreed with him on this point, and have modified the doctrine of original sin to teach that man since the fall is partially unable to do any good thing. In order to allow for man's free will, they teach that man's sinful nature does not determine his choices, but is only a tendency to sin. The sinful nature only hinders man from doing the good.

        Arminius also rejected the Limited Atonement of the Five Points as unscriptural. Christ's atonement is unlimited. He understood such scriptures that say "he died for all" (II Cor. 5:15; compare II Cor. 5:14; Titus 2:11; I John 2:2) to mean what they say. Some Calvinists, such as the Puritan John Owens, argue that the "all" means only all of those who have been elected to be saved. Arminius also rejected the Irresistible Grace of the Five Points, arguing that saving grace can be resisted and rejected. Since some men have resisted God's saving grace and rejected it, these men are lost and not saved. They are not saved because God did not choose them but because they did not choose God; they resisted and rejected the saving grace of God. Arminius also rejected the Perseverance of the Saints of the Five Points arguing that since the believer still has free will after conversion, he could reverse his decision of faith in Christ and reject Christ, and thus loose his salvation and be eternally lost.

        The following are the "Five Points" of Arminianism:

        1. Partial Depravity or Tendency to Sin
        2. Conditional Election
        3. Unlimited Atonement
        4. Resistible Grace
        5. Conditional Security of the Believer
        It may seem from the above discussion that Arminianism is defined by way of negation of Calvinism. And in some cases this may be true. But Arminius' view was based on a positive affirmation that all men are free moral agents both before and after conversion. This conviction has been called Pelagian by Calvinists. Arminianism is not Pelagian; it does not teach salvation by works any more than Calvinism does. Although it does not reject salvation by works in the same way as Calvinism does, Arminianism still does rejects salvation by works. It rejects salvation by works because man's works fall short of the divine standard of holiness and therefore man cannot be saved by them. Calvinism, on the other hand, rejects salvation by works on a different basis: because of his sinful nature man is not able to earn salvation.

      3. EVALUATION OF CALVINISM AND ARMINIANISM

        Both Arminianism and Calvinism see the need for salvation in legalistic terms. Man needs to be saved because he is a guilty sinner and a sinner by nature. Although disagreeing over the doctrine of Total Depravity, they both hold to a doctrine of the sinful nature. But even here they understand the sinful nature differently. Calvinism defines it in such a way that man cannot do anything to save himself and thus God must sovereignly choose who will be saved and who will be lost (Unconditional Election). Arminianism defines the sinful nature in such a way to allow for man's free will and thus as only a tendency to sin and a hindrance to doing good. In order to allow for man's free will, they teach that man's sinful nature does not determine his choices, but it is only a tendency to sin. The sinful nature only hinders man from doing the good; thus man falls short of divine perfection, the holiness of God. But in spite of these difference they both see that man needs to be saved because he is a guilty sinner, a sinner by nature.

        Although Arminianism rejects and modifies all of the Five Points of Calvinism, it does not reject the legalistic assumptions of the Calvinistic theological system. Arminianism, like Calvinism, defines sin and righteousness in terms of law. They both understand sin to be basically a transgression of the law, the breaking of the rules and a falling short of the universal divine standard of perfection, sin is considered to be a crime against God, and the penalty for these crimes is spiritual, physical and eternal death. Until this penalty is executed at the last judgment, man is under the burden of an objective guilt or condemnation which must be punished. Thus man needs to be saved because he is a guilty sinner. But man also needs to be saved because he does not have a righteousness which God can reward with eternal life. This righteousness is conceived legalistically as merits, that is, that quantity of righteousness which entitles its owner to a reward of eternal life. Thus man needs to be saved, not only because he is a guilty sinner liable to eternal death, but also because he does not have this legal righteousness which entitles him to eternal life.

        Calvinism is based on two basic assumptions which are legalistic in character. The first assumption is about man and the second is about God. Calvinism assumes that man cannot save himself because he is not able to do the good works necessary to earn salvation. This assumption is clearly legalistic. It assumes that salvation is by meritorious works but man is not able to do those works. The truth is that salvation is not something that is earned by merits, but a personal relationship to God that God offers to man by the grace of God as a gift and man enters into by faith in God, receiving eternal life as a gift. Man cannot save himself by works, not because he cannot do the works, but because salvation is not by meritorious works; it is a gift of life, a personal relationship given by God in His love and grace and entered into through faith ( Eph. 2:8-9).

        The second assumption is about God and follows from the first. Since man cannot earn salvation himself because of sinful nature, God must earn it for him. Augustine believed that God gives His grace to enable man to earn the meritorious works which would save him. The Calvinist deny this view of grace and sees grace as the unmerited favor of God in which God gives to the elect the righteousness or merits earned for them by Christ's active obedience. That is, God in Christ has earned for them eternal life that they themselves cannot earn because of their sinful nature. But the Calvinist is wrong; the righteousness from God (Phil. 3:9) is not the merits earned by Christ's active obedience but is a right personal relationship to God through faith: faith reckoned as righteousness, the righteousness of faith (Rom. 4:4-6, 13). And God puts man into this right personal relationship to Himself by His grace, not by vicarious meritorious works earned for them by another. The grace of God is not just the unmerited favor of God, but it is the love of God in action to save man from death to life.

        "4 But God, who is rich in mercy,
        out of the great love with which he loved us,
        5 even when we were dead in trespasses,
        made us alive together with Christ
        (by grace you have been saved),"
        (Eph. 2:4-5; see Rom. 6:8).

        Calvinism's view of salvation is monergistic, that is, God alone is active in salvation, because it believes that since man's nature is sinful and man does what his nature is, then all the acts of man are sinful and he cannot do any righteous act to earn salvation. Therefore, God alone must do it for him. Calvinism, denying the Augustinian view that God does these meritorious acts by the grace of God that man receives from God through the sacraments, asserts that God alone does these meritorious acts through the active obedience of Christ; Christ has earned salvation for us. God alone is active in man's salvation. Not only is the grace of God the work of God but so is faith, since salvation is "by grace through faith and this not of yourselves, it is a gift of God" (Eph. 2:8). According to the Calvinistic doctrine of Irresistible Grace, the faith that receives the grace of God is also the work of God.
        But this not what the Apostle Paul says here. The phrase in Eph. 2:8, "and this not of yourselves, it is a gift of God", refers not to faith but to salvation. In the Greek of this verse, the demonstrative pronoun translated "this" agrees in gender (masculine) with the verbal participle translated "have been saved", and not with the noun translated "faith" which is feminine. Thus salvation is God's gift by grace and man receives the gift by faith. That is, on God's side, God gives ("by grace") salvation and on man's side ("through faith") man chooses to receive that gift. Salvation, which is the gift which is received by faith, is not earned by meritorious works. Even though faith is the act or choice of man, it is not a meritorious work which can earn salvation.

        Calvinism's view of salvation is legalistic, because it assumes that all the acts of man are meritorious, either earning merit by his righteous acts or losing it by the demerit of his sinful acts. This view of man is thoroughly legalistic. It views the relationship of man to God as based on merit that the justice of God demands and requires. The righteousness of God is misinterpreted as the justice of God. On this view, the justice of God rewards the merit of righteous acts and punishes the demerit of sinful acts. Because man does what his nature is and because of his nature is sinful, all the acts of man are sinful and cannot earn any merit. Therefore, no man can save himself. If he could do any righteous or good acts or works, then he could earn salvation and save himself. But since all men have sinned, no man can save himself and all men are condemned to eternal punishment for all their sins or demerits.

        Even though this view sounds biblical, it is not. Nowhere in the Bible does it teach that salvation is earned by righteous or good works, even in the Old Testament. On the contrary, it teaches just the opposite: man is saved by grace through faith and not by works ( Eph. 2:8-9). Righteousness is right personal relationship to God through faith (Gen. 15:6; Hab. 2:4; Rom. 4:4-6). The righteousness of God is not justice in the Greek-Roman sense of rendering to each what is due to them according to merit, but God acting to put right the wrong and to set man into right personal relationship to Himself, that is, it is a synonym for salvation (Psa. 98:2; Isa. 56:1).

        The basic sin is not just breaking the law earning demerit, but faith and trust in something other than the true God (Ex. 20:3-4; Deut. 6:4, 14-15; Rom. 1:22-25; 14:23); it is idolatry, trust in a false god. And man does not sin because of a inherited sinful nature, but because of spiritual death received from Adam.

        "12 Therefore, as through one man
        sin entered into the world,
        and death through sin,
        and so death passed unto all men,
        because of which all sinned: --
        13 for until the law sin was in the world;
        but sin is not reckoned when there is no law.
        14 Nevertheless death reigned from Adam until Moses,
        even over those who had not sinned
        after the likeness of the transgression of Adam,
        who is the type of him who was to come." (Rom. 5:12-14 ERS).

        The basic sin is idolatry. This may be clearly seen from the Ten Commandments of the Mosaic law. For the first two commandments are about the sin of idolatry (Exodus 20:3-6). This is because a false god usurps the place of the true God in a man's life. In a sense, all sins are against God (Compare II Sam. 12:13; Job 7:20; Psa. 41:4; 51:4), but the sin of idolatry is very clearly directed against God Himself. It is a direct repudiation of the Creator for the creature; it is a direct insult to the true God and an affront to His divine majesty. No more serious sin could be imagined than this one. Since it is the most serious sin, it is also the most basic.

        The basic sin is not only not to trust in the true God but to trust in something other than the true God. This is the sin of sins. Rebellion against, unbelief in, and disobedience to the Creator, bad as they are, are only negative sins - rebellion is the rejection of God's authority; unbelief is not to trust in God's love; and disobedience is not to obey God's commands. But idolatry is a positive sin which turns to an alternate and replacement for the true God. It is to give one's allegiance, trust and obedience to something other than the One who should have that allegiance, trust and obedience. It is the more serious sin. As Samuel said to Saul: "For rebellion is as the sin of divination, and insubordination is as iniquity and idolary." (I Sam. 15:23). Samuel compares rebellion and insubordination with the more serious sin of idolatry. (Divination in the Old Testament times was almost always asscociated with idolatry [Deut. 4:19; 17:3; 18:9-14; II Kings 17:16-17; Isa. 41:21-24; Ezek. 13:17-23; 21:21-22]. The parallelism in I Sam. 15:23 shows that idolatry and divination are nearly synonymous.) Rebellion and insubordination are only the negative side of the sin of idolatry; that is, the act of turning against the true God is only negative part of the act of turning to a false god. Idolatry is the more serious sin and hence the more basic sin.

        But idolatry is also the basic sin because this sin leads to other sins. It leads to other sins because a person's god, being his ultimate criterion of decision, ultimately controls the direction and character of a man's decisions. The choice of a wrong god will lead to other wrong choices. That is, the god to which a person commits and devotes himself will determine the quality of his whole life. It furnishes him with an entire set of values and these values will in turn govern his every specific decision, intellectual and practical. Thus every god stamps its worshippers with its own trademark. In fact, the worshipper becomes like the god he worships. As the Psalmist says concerning the idolater,

        "4 Their idols are silver and gold,
        the work of men's hands.
        5 They have mouths, but do not speak;
        eyes, but do not see.
        6 They have ears, but do not hear;
        noses, but do not smell.
        7 They have hands, but do not feel;
        feet, but do not walk;
        and they do not make a sound in their throat.
        8 Those who make them are like them;
        so are all who trust in them."
        (Psa. 115:4-8; see also Psa. 135:15-18)
        Since out of the heart are the issues of life (Prov. 4:23), and as a man thinks in his heart, so is he (Prov. 23:7), then what a man has set up in his heart as his god will affect the quality and character of his whole life. It is what a man believes in his heart that determines what he says and does. As Jesus said, "Out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaks" (Matt. 12:33-35; Luke 6:43-45). Thus if a man sets up an idol in his heart (Ezek. 14:3-5), then out of the heart will come all manner of sins. Jesus recognized this when he declared,
        "21 For from within, out of the heart of man,
        come evil thoughts, fornication, theft, murder, adultery,
        22 coveting, wickedness, deceit, licentiousness,
        envy, slander, pride, foolishness.
        23 All these evil things come from within,
        and they defile a man."
        (Mark 7:21-23; compare Matt. 15:15-20)
        Thus if in his heart a man clings to a false god, his actions and speech will show it. In this way also idolatry is the basic sin.

        The choice of a false god leads to bondage, the bondage of sin. Idolatry results in the bondage of sin in two senses.

        1. Since idolatry is the basic sin, it leads to other sins. Because a person's god, being his ultimate criterion of all his decisions, ultimately controls the direction and character of his decisions, the wrong choice of a false god will lead to other wrong choices, sins. A person committed to a false god does not necessarily always have to commit sins. Happily, he is often inconsistent in following his false god. But since his god furnishes him with an entire set of values and motives for his choices, the sin of idolatry will usually invariably result in other sins. This invariableness of sin is one aspect of the bondage of sin. As Jesus said, "...every one who commits sin is a slave of sin." (John 8:34)
        2. The second sense in which idolatry results in the bondage of sin is that idolatry reduces and ultimately will destroy one's freedom of choice. A false god, having become the repository of a man's trust and allegiance, proceeds immediately to reduce and ultimately to destroy his freedom. It becomes a straight-jacket and a limitation on his freedom. Thus it reduces his freedom of choice by limiting his options as well as his reasons for his choice. Some false gods totally eliminate some areas of life from its followers consideration. Thus a false god circumscribes and restricts the freedom of choice of the person who chooses it as his god; it acts as a frustrating limitation, a ball and chain upon the exercise of the freedom of its worshipper. But a false god also destroys the freedom of its worshipper by denying his freedom. Since a false god is a being that has limited or no freedom or power of choice (it is determined and not self-determining) such a god by implication denies the reality of followers freedom of choice. Thus having used his freedom to give this god his ultimate allegiance, the worshipper finds his freedom denied to the point of extinction and himself bound in a miserable slavery. As long as the false god remains his ultimate criterion of decision, he will not have the grounds for rejecting that god, since that god has not allowed him to have freedom of choice to do so. His power of choice having been taken away from him, he is unable to reject the false god and free himself from its bondage. This is the bondage of sin (John 8:34; Prov. 5:22). Man becomes a slave of sin when he gives his ultimate allegiance and devotion to a false god. In fact, the false god is sin personified as a slavemaster (Rom. 6:16).

        The slavery of sin is not a sinful nature but the choices made in following a false god; it is not a determinism by one's nature but the self-determinism by one's personal choice according to one's false ultimate criterion. Calvinism is also wrong in interpreting the slavery of sin as a determinism of the sinful nature and Arminianism is wrong in not taking the slavery of sin seriously in their stress on the freedom of the will. Neither of them recognize the Biblical truth that the basic sin is idolatry and that man sins in choosing a false god as his ultimate criterion of all his decisions because he is spiritually dead. They both distort the Biblical theology of salvation in their dispute about man's free will. Salvation is neither a monergism on God's part nor a monergism on man's part; it is the free gift by grace on God's side that is received through faith on man's side.

        "8 For by grace you have been saved through faith;
        and this is not of yourselves, it [salvation] is the gift of God;
        9 not of works, lest anyone should boast."
        (Eph. 2:8-9 ERS).
        And salvation is not a determinism by God that overrides the determinism of the sinful nature. God's sovereignty in salvation is not a determinism but the setting of man free from the bondage of sin to a false god so that he is free to choose the true God. Biblical theology is not deterministic in either sense. Calvinism misinterprets God's sovereignty deterministically in such passages of Scripture as Rom. 8:29. The King James Version translates Romans 8:29:
        "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." (Rom. 8:29 KJV)
        See the nondeterministic interpretation of this verse below.

  3. THE CLUE TO THE SOLUTION.

    Calvinism misinterprets God's sovereignty deterministically in such passages of Scripture as Rom. 8:28-30, Eph. 1:3-6, and Eph. 1:11-12.


    ROMANS 8:28-30


    28. And we know that all things work together for good
    for those who love God and who are called according to his purpose.
    29. Because those whom he foreknew, he also foreordained
    to be conformed to the image of his Son,
    that he might be the firstborn among many brethren.
    30. And those whom he foreordained, them he also called;
    and those whom he called, them he also justified;
    and those whom he justified, them he also glorified.


    8:28. And we know that all things work together for good
    for those who love God and who are called according to his purpose.
    In this verse and the next two verses, Paul sets forth the purpose of God for the saints. It is according to this purpose of God that the Spirit intercedes for the saints. In this verse, Paul states the great truth about the purpose of God that every believer knows. "And we know that all things work together for good for those who love God and who are called according to his purpose." Some manuscripts insert the word "God" as the subject of the sentence. "And we know that God works all things together for good for those who love God and who are called according to his purpose." It is God who in His love works all things together for good and not some impersonal force. The insertion of the word "God" as the subject of the sentence makes this clear. It is not true that all things works together for good for everyone; rather, it is only for those who love God and who are called according to His purpose that God works all things for good. Only those who love God are fulfilling the purpose of God for them. That we should love and trust God is the grand design of God's purpose for us and God works all things together for that good. We do not always see this good and understand how all things are working together for that good. But the believer is sure that God does this because he knows that God loves him and always acts for his good.


    8:29. "Because those whom he foreknew, he also foreordained
    to be conformed to the image of his Son,
    that he might be the firstborn among many brethren."
    (Rom. 8:29 ERS)
    In this verse and in the following verse 30, Paul outlines the logical steps by which God works all things together for our good. Some theologians have misunderstood these as temporal steps in the order of salvation from eternity past to eternity future. They have failed to note that Paul uses the aorist tense for each verb which expresses a logical order, and not a temporal sequence of events. This will become clear as we examine each step. In this verse, Paul sets forth the first of the logical steps and in the next verse the other three logical steps in accomplishing God's purposes.

    The King James Version translates Romans 8:29:
    "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." (Rom. 8:29 KJV)
    The Greek verb here translated "foreknow," proginosko, means "to know beforehand." It is used in general to refer to knowledge that is previously had (Acts 26:5; II Pet. 3:17). The Greek verb is used only 5 times in New Testament, two times in the letter to the Romans; here in Rom. 8:29 about believers and in Rom. 11:2 about Israel. The fifth occurrence is in I Pet. 1:20 about Christ "having been foreknown before the foundations of the world." The Greek noun, prognosis, translated "foreknowledge," occurs twice in the New Testament, in Acts 2:23 about Christ and in I Pet. 1:2 about believers as the elect or chosen ones. Paul uses the verb here to refer to God's knowledge of believers before they knew God. It is equivalent to choosing beforehand someone as God did Israel (Rom. 11:2). It does not refer to the omniscience of God whereby God knows all things before they happen. Paul is here talking about God's personal knowledge and not His objective knowledge of all things.

    The Greek verb here translated "predestinate," proorizo, literally means "to set boundaries beforehand," hence, "to decide upon beforehand, to appoint, designate, and choose beforehand, to foreordain." It is used 6 times in the New Testament, twice in chapter 8 of Romans (in verses 29 and 30) twice in Ephesians 1 (in verses 5 and 11), Acts 4:28 and I Cor. 2:7. In none of these places does it mean a causal determinism that makes free will impossible. As Paul says in Eph. 1:11, God "works all things according to the counsel of his will." Although some theologians have interpreted these words as teaching such causal determinism, Paul's choice of words do not say that all things are causally determined by God. The translation of this Greek verb proorizo as "predistined" makes Paul seem to teach this determinism.

    In this verse 29, Paul states the purpose of this foreordination: "to be conformed to the image of his Son, that he might be the firstborn among many brethren." This purpose of His foreordination or prior decision of those who are "foreknown" is two fold:

    1. that they are "to be conformed to the image of His Son", and
    2. "that He might be the firstborn among many brethern."
    The second follows from the first. Consider the following.
    Christ is the Image of God (Col. 1:15; II Cor. 4:4). And man was originally created in the Image of God. According to Gen. 1:26, God said, "Let us make man in our image, after our likeness." But when man sinned, he fell from that image, that likeness of God. Man began to bear the image of the man of dust, Adam. For when Adam became the father of a son, Seth, he begat him in his own image (Gen. 5:3). So God's purpose is to restore man to the Image of God and, since Christ is the Image of God, that restoration is conformation to the Image of His Son, to the Image of God.
    "Just as we have borne the image of the man of dust,
    we shall also bear the image of the man of heaven" (I Cor. 15:47-49), who is Christ.
    This will happen at His coming again. For "when he shall appear, we shall be like him; for we shall see him as he is" (I John 3:2). At the second coming of Christ (Acts 1:9), our bodies will be resurrected, if we die before he comes (I Thess. 4:14-17), or our bodies will be transformed, if we are alive at His coming (I Cor. 15:51-52; Phil. 3:20-21; I John 3:2). Thus we will be conformed to the Image of His Son. The result of this conforming to the Image of His Son is that Christ might be the firstborn among many brethern. As Paul will explain in his letter to the Colossians (1:15-18):

    "15 He [Christ] is the image of the invisible God,
    the first-born of all creation;
    16 for in him all things were created,
    in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible,
    whether thrones or dominions or principalities or authorities --
    all things were created through him and for him,
    17 He is before all things, and in him all things hold together.
    18 He is the head of the body, the church;
    he is the beginning, the first-born from the dead,
    that in everything he might be preeminent."
    (Colossians 1:15-18).
    Christ, who was the firstborn of all creation, is the first-born from the dead. This does not mean that he was created, "for all things were created through and for him," but that he is the head of creation and of the body, the church, the called-out people of God. They who were created are to be made like their creator, in whose image they were created. But since the old creation was made subject to death, God planned to reconcile to Himself all things, that is, to save it from death to life through the death and resurrection of His Son, who is the first-born from the dead. Since Christ shared in our spiritual and physical death on the cross, we who believe in Him share in the resurrection life of the risen Christ; He is the first-born from the dead, that is, He was the first among many to be raised from the dead. Christ is the first-born of the new creation, "the firstborn among many brethern." Therefore, we who are alive in Christ are new creations in Him (II Cor. 5:17). We have become part of that new creation in Christ which is yet to be revealed (Rev. 21:1). Then the purpose of God intended in His original creation will be finally accomplished in the new creation through Christ.
    "19 For in him all the fullness of God was pleased to dwell,
    20 and through him to reconcile to himself all things,
    whether on earth or in heaven,
    making peace by the blood of his cross." (Col. 1:19-20).
    In the next verse, Paul sets forth the remaining three logical steps to accomplish this great purpose of His love.


    8:30. And those whom he foreordained, them he also called;
    and those whom he called, them he also justified;
    and those whom he justified, them he also glorified.
    In this verse, Paul sets forth the remaining logical steps to accomplish the believer's conformation to the image of His Son. There are here in this verse three logical steps:
    1. "And those whom he foreordained, them he also called;"
    2. "and those whom he called, them he also justified;"
    3. "and those whom he justified, them he also glorified."
    The Greek verb translated "called," kaleo, means "to invite" (Luke 14:16; I Cor. 10:27), "to summon" (Luke 19:13; I Pet. 2:9), "to call" (Eph. 4:1, 4; I Tim. 1:9), to call by name, hence to name (Luke 1:31-32; Rom. 9:25-26). Paul here uses it in the same sense as in Rom. 4:17: a creative call which brings into existence what is called.
    Here in this verse, the call brings about justification, the setting or putting one right with God, bringing that one into right relationship with God. As we have pointed elsewhere ( Rom. 1:17; 3:24; etc.), it is a synonym for salvation; to justify is to save. That is why sanctification is omitted here because sanctification is the other side of salvation; it is the separation of one from a false god to the true God. To be justified is to be sanctified (I Cor. 1:30; 6:11). Justification is that side of salvation which emphasizes right relationship to God.
    "And those whom he justified, them he also glorified."
    The logical sequence of steps starting with foreknowledge culminates in glorification. Justification leads logically to glorification; glorification is the completion of salvation. In it, the believer is completely conformed to the image of God's Son, putting on a body like His glorious body (Phil. 3:21). The body is saved as well as the soul and spirit. The purpose of God is entirely accomplished. The salvation from death to life is fully completed.


    EPHESIANS 1:3-6

    In the section of his letter to the Ephesians (Eph. 1:4-6), Paul begins his letter with his praise of God. In this praise of God, he states the first of the four main spiritual blessings for which he praises and blesses God: the sovereign choice of God.

    3. Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ,
    who has blessed us in Christ with every spiritual blessing
    in the heavenly places,
    4. even as He chose us in Him before the foundation of the world,
    that we should be holy and without blemish before Him in love,
    5. having foreordained us to adoption as sons through Jesus Christ
    unto Himself, according to the good pleasure of His will,
    6. to the praise of the glory of His grace
    which He freely bestowed on us in the Beloved.

    1:3. "Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ," --
    In the opening verse of this section, Paul praises God for His spiritual blessings. The Greek noun, eulogetos, which is translated "blessed," literally means "fair speaking, good speech," hence "praise." Sometimes it is used in a bad sense, "flattering speech, flattery" (Rom. 16:18). In the LXX and NT it means "blessing, benediction," either as the act of blessing (I Cor. 10:16; Heb. 12:17; James 3:10) or as the concrete benefit of the act, "a blessing" (Rom. 15:29; II Cor. 9:5, 6; Gal. 3:14; Heb. 6:7; I Pet. 3:9). It is used in the New Testament only of God (Luke 1:68; Rom. 1:25; 9:5; II Cor. 1:3; 11:31; I Pet. 1:3). It is derived from the Greek verb, eulogeo, which means "to speak well of," hence "to praise." When God is the object of the verb, it means to praise God, that is, to speak well of who He is and of what He has done. It implies acknowledging Him to be God and leads to thankfulness for what He has done. He alone as God is worthy to be blessed. God is blessed when He is praised not only for who He is but for the blessing that He bestows. Paul here designates God as the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ (Compare Rom. 15:6; I Pet. 1:3; Col. 1:3). It is only through Jesus Christ His Son that we know Him as His Father and as our Father.

    "who has blessed us in Christ with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places," --
    The Greek verb, eulogeo, which is here translated "has blessed," when God is the subject of this verb as in this verse, means "to bless, to prosper, to bestow blessings on" someone. Men are blessed when God bestows His blessings on them. There are many blessings of God. Paul here focuses on the spiritual rather than the material blessings from God. Paul designates this blessing as spiritual and in heavenly places: "spiritual" because it is through the Spirit and "in heavenly places" because it is from where God and Christ are ( Eph. 1:20). The Greek word, epouranios, which is translated "heavenly places," is an adjective, and means "in or of heaven," thus "heavenly" (Phil. 2:10; I Cor. 15:40; II Tim. 4:18; Heb. 3:1; 6:4; 8:5; 9:23; 11:16; 12:22). Here in Ephesians (Eph. 1:3, 20; 2:6; 3:10; 6:12) it is used as a noun and refers to the heavenly regions or sphere where Christ is ( Eph. 1:20); it refers to the dwelling place of God, heaven.


    1:4. "even as He chose us in Him before the foundation of the world," --
    In this and the next two verses Paul states the first of the four main spiritual blessings for which he praises and blesses God: the sovereign choice of God. Paul here declares the Biblical doctrine of election. This doctrine runs through the whole Bible. Israel was chosen by God (Deut. 7:6-8; Psa. 105:43; Isa. 42:1; 43:20-21; 65:9); Christ is chosen (Lk. 23:35 [Compare Isa. 42:1]; I Pet. 2:4,6); the holy angels were chosen (I Tim. 5:21); and believers have been chosen (John 15:16; Acts 9:15; Rom. 8:33; 11:5; I Thess. 1:5; II Thess. 2:13; I Pet. 1:1; 2:9; II Pet. 1:10). This doctrine is presented not for controversy or speculation but for the comfort and blessing of God's people. Neither this verse nor any other verse in the Bible teaches that God chooses some men to be saved and all others to be lost. On the contrary, the scriptures teach that God is "not willing for any to perish, but for all to come to repentance." (II Pet. 3:9). Paul also says, "This is good and acceptable in the sight of God our Savior, who wants all men to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth." (I Tim. 2:3-4). The Biblical doctrine of election is never set in opposition to and as a denial of human freedom. Scripture asserts both God's sovereign choice and man's free will and never sees them as contradicting each other. Paul declares that God's election of believers is in Christ and "before the foundation of the world;" that is, it is an eternal election. God's choice of us believers in Christ may mean that we are chosen to be in Him or that we are chosen in Him when He was chosen.

    "that we should be holy and without blemish before Him in love," --
    The purpose and/or result of God's election is that those chosen should be holy and without blemish before God. Election is not just to salvation but to holiness. Holiness does not mean sinlessness or moral perfection but being set apart or dedicated to God. The Greek word, amomous, translated "without blemish," means literally "to be without physical defect or blemish." It is used of sacrificial victims (Lev. 1:3,10; Deut. 15:21) and high priest (Lev. 21:17-23). It is used of Christ as a sacrifice (Heb. 9:14; I Pet. 1:19). It is also used of the church ( Eph. 5:27) and of believers in this world (Phil. 2:15; Rev. 14:5). The Christian life is "without blemish", not just by human moral standards, but "before Him" in whose sight all that men do and say is open and known (Rom. 1:9; II Cor. 4:2; Gal. 1:20; I Thess. 2:5). This is the goal of God's election (Col. 1:22; Jude 24). The phrase "in love" at the end of this verse may be taken either with this verse or the next verse. Commentators ancient and modern differ, and it is not possible to be dogmatic about Paul's meaning. But from the position of the phrase, and its use elsewhere in this letter for man's love rather than God's love (Eph. 3:17; 4:2, 16; 5:2), it should probably be taken with this verse (see KJV, RV and NEB). Paul's meaning here is that love defines what it is to be holy and without blemish. The goal of God's election is not moral or legal perfection but love (see I Thess. 3:12-13).


    1:5. "having foreordained us to adoption as sons through Jesus Christ unto Himself," --
    Paul in this verse defines the nature of the divine election proclaimed in the previous verse. The Greek verb, proorizo, which is translated "foreordained," means literally "to mark out beforehand." This Greek word occurs six times in the Greek New Testament (Acts 4:28; Rom. 8:29, 30; I Cor. 2:7; Eph. 1:5, 11). Because of the deterministic connotation, the English word "predestination" should be avoided. Neither this verse nor any other verse in the Bible teaches that everything that takes place, including the choices of man, was immutably determined and fixed by God in eternity, and that all that happens is nothing but what he predestined to be before anything was created. The scriptures know nothing of such a determinism. The meaning of God's foreordination in this verse is something different. God has ordained or marked out beforehand those he has chosen to the adoption as sons. The Greek word, huiothesia, which is translated "adoption as sons," means "the placing of a son" and refers to the act of placing a minor child in the place or status of an adult son. The translation "adoption" gives the wrong impression; the word does not refer to taking a child, not born as one's own, into one's own family legally to raise as one's own. It refers instead to placing one in the status of son, in contrast to the status of a child (Gal. 4:1-4; Rom. 8:15-17). Adoption does not mean son-making but son-placing. Regeneration makes us sons, and adoption places us in the status as sons. They both occur at conversion (Gal. 3:25-26; 4:1-7). Believers here and now have the Spirit of adoption (Rom. 8:15). Paul also refers to a future adoption for which they are waiting (Rom. 8:23; see also I John 3:2). This future adoption is the completion of our salvation; it is the redemption our bodies. Even though our spirits are alive to God, our bodies are dead and dying (Rom. 8:10); they too must be made alive. God will do this when Christ returns (I Cor. 15:51-56; I Thess. 4:14-17). This future adoption as well as the adoption at conversion is the goal of God's foreordination. Paul expresses this in other words in Rom. 8:29: "For those whom he foreknew, he also foreordained to be conformed to the image of His Son, in order that he might be the first-born among many brethren." Paul says that this "adoption" is "through Jesus Christ." He had explained this more fully in Gal. 4:4-5. He also says that this adoption is "unto Himself;" that is, unto the Father whose sons He had foreordained us to be.

    "according to the good pleasure of His will," --
    Paul now gives the grounds of God's foreordaination. The Greek word, eudokia, which is translated "good pleasure," means literally "good thought or opinion" and in the New Testament has two meanings:
    (a) with reference to a person, the approval of them (Lk. 2:14), and
    (b) with no reference to a person, the good intent or purpose.
    It is in this latter sense that Paul seems to be using it here. It is the good intention or purpose of God's will that is the reason for His election and foreordination; it is what He pleased to do.


    1:6. "to the praise of the glory of His grace," --
    In this verse Paul more clearly defines "the good pleasure of His will." It was "to the praise of the glory of His grace." This phrase is similar to a phrase which occurs in verses 12 and 14: "to the praise of His glory." There the praise is of His glory; here the praise is of the glory of His grace. The Greek word, epainos, which is translated "praise," literally means "approval," hence "recognition, commendation, fame" (Rom. 2:29; 13:3; I Cor. 4:5; II Cor. 8:18; Phil. 4:8; I Pet. 2:14). The Greek word, doxa, which is translated "glory," means literally "opinion, estimation in which one is held, repute." In the NT it is always used in a good sense, "good opinion," hence "reputation, praise, honor, glory" (Luke 14:10; John 12:43; Heb. 3:3; Compare I Pet. 1:7). In the OT it is used of the visible brightness, splendor that radiates from God's presence, hence the manifested presence of God (Ex. 16:10; 40:34-35; II Chron. 7:2-3; II Cor. 3:7). God's glory is the self-manifestation of His presence and His grace is His supreme self-manifestation (John 1:14,16-18).

    "which He freely bestowed on us in the Beloved." --
    In the last phrase of this verse Paul specifies that God's grace is freely bestowed on the believer in Christ. The Greek verb, charitoo, which is translated "freely bestowed," means literally "to endow with grace," hence, "to be gracious to" or "to endue with grace." This bestowal of grace is done "in the Beloved," that is, in Christ. This titles is probably messianic. "This is my Son, my Beloved, with whom I am well pleased" (Matt. 3:17; 17:5; Mark 1:11; Luke 3:22). Compare this with the parallel expression "the Son of His love" in Col. 1:13.


    EPHESIANS 1:11-12

    In this section of his letter to the Ephesians (1:11-12), Paul continues his praise of God. He states the third of the four main spiritual blessings for which he praises and blesses God: the inheritance in Christ.

    11. In Him, we were chosen as an inheritance,
    having been foreordained according to the purpose of Him
    who works all things according to the counsel of His will,
    12. in order that we who first hoped in Christ
    should be to the praise of His glory.


    1:11. "In Him, we were chosen as an inheritance," --
    The last phrase of the previous verse, "in Him," emphasizes that that blessing, like all the others, is to be had in Christ. The same is true of the next blessing: the inheritance in Christ. The Greek verb, kleroo, which is translated "were chosen as an inheritance," means literally "to cast lots," hence "to choose by lot" or "to assign a portion by lot." The cognate verb, kleronomeo, means "to get by lot," hence "to obtain an allotted portion," and so "to inherit." The cognate noun, kleronomia, signifies "an inherited property, or possession, inheritance." In the OT it is used technically of the portion assigned by lot to each tribe in the promised land, and of the Holy Land itself as Israel's possession given by God (Deut. 4:38; 15:4). Also Israel is spoken of as God's portion (Deut. 4:20; 9:29; 32:8-9; Zech. 2:12). This is probably the meaning here; while it is true that we have obtained an inheritance (KJV, NAS), Paul is here thinking of "God's own possession" ( Eph. 1:14) and "His inheritance in the saints" ( Eph. 1:18). In Christ we have been chosen by God as His people to be His portion, His allotted heritage, His inheritance (Compare Deut. 32:9).

    "having been foreordained according to the purpose of Him," --
    God has foreordained this according to His eternal purpose. See verse 5 above for the meaning of "foreordained." In verse 5 Paul says that we were foreordained "to the adoption as sons;" in this verse Paul implies that our inclusion in God's inheritance was the object of His foreordination. God's eternal purpose was to bring into being a people who would be in a peculiar way His own possession.

    "who works all things according to the counsel of His will," --
    The Greek word, energeo, which is translated "works," literally means "to work in," hence "to act, to operate, to energize." The "all things" here is not restricted just to things connected with salvation; it is unlimited in scope. That God works universally does not imply an impersonal determinism; on the contrary, this phrase affirms a universal personal deliberate operation of God's will. The Greek word, boule, which is translated "counsel," refers to the deliberate exercise of volition. The word implies intelligent and deliberate making of choices. According to Paul things do not happen arbitrarily or capriciously but according to counsel of His will.


    1:12. "in order that we who first hoped in Christ should be to the praise of His glory." --
    In this verse Paul states the ultimate goal of God choosing and foreordaining us to be His. See verse six above for the discussion of a similar phrase there. It is not only that we who are His people might praise Him but that we as His people might be a praise to His glory (see Eph. 2:7). Paul describes the "we" here as those "who first hoped in Christ." Paul is probably here referring to Jewish believers and not believers in general. The "we" in this verse is in contrast with the "you" of the next verse, the "we" referring to Jewish believers and the "you" to Gentile believers. The hope here would be the Jewish hope in the Christ or Messiah (the Greek has the article before the word "Christ"). The Gentiles would not have had this hope ( Eph. 2:12). The change of personal pronouns in other places in this letter between the first and second persons seems to signify the difference between the Jews and the Gentiles (Eph. 2:11-22).