Predestination and Free Will

Entire denominations of Christianity have formed over disagreements about this topic. Does God preselect everyone’s final destination, allowing only the elect into heaven? Is the decision that results in eternity in heaven or Hell entirely up to each individual? Does God really choose who goes to heaven or does He just know what we will ultimately choose? If you believe that Christ died for everyone and it is the decision of man whether to go to heaven or Hell, then you must be Arminian. If you believe that Christ died only for those who would be saved (the elect), then you must be a Calvinist. I don’t think the distinction is that clear though.

The sacrifice of Jesus Christ’s death on the cross is enough to save all people. No one needs anything more to be saved. Although this sounds like Universalism, there’s more to it. Just because His sacrifice is enough to save everyone, does not mean that it is applied to everyone. We must choose to receive the payment for our sins through the cross to be saved. That is where the heresy of Christian Universalism and Arminian perspective within orthodoxy differ. Jesus Christ died for all as the all-sufficient sacrifice to pay for all sins, making it possible for the people of God (the elect) to be with Him in heaven. It sounds a bit weird, but it’s as if we choose within our own free will to be a part of God’s elect, whom He predestined to be saved.

This hybrid of the Arminian and Calvinist perspectives is known as unlimited limited atonement. Some people call it modified Calvinism and believe that it closer represents what John Calvin actually believed. I would tend to agree with this assumption due to the fact that John Calvin died when Joseph Arminias was around four years old. The five points of Calvinism, often referred to as TULIP, were written as a response to the Arminian Remonstrance (wikipedia).

John 3:16 says that “God loved the world”, not “God loved His chosen people.” This, among other verses, brings me to the belief that Christ died for every sin of every person. I’ve referenced Mark Driscoll’s book, Doctrine, a few times on this blog because of the clarity it has brought me on subjects like this. In his chapter regarding the cross of Christ, he looks at Colossians 1:18-20 where The Bible says that “Jesus’ death reconciles “all things” to God.” While this sounds like a defense of Universalism, Driscoll goes deeper:

There is a genuine open door for savation for anyone who believes in Jesus, and this makes the rejection of Jesus completely inexcusable… God will overcome all rebellion through Jesus’ blood. In this sense, all those in hell will stand reconciled to God but not in a saving way… In hell unrepentant and unforgiven sinners are no longer rebels, and their sinful disregard for God has been crushed and ended.

Even the sins of those in hell were paid for to the cross, but the refusal to accept Christ as the one who became sin so that we would become the righteousness of God is the reason they are not a part of God’s elect in heaven.

4 thoughts on “Predestination and Free Will

  1. Cliff says:

    But is the will truly free? Are we free to say yes to God and His plan of salvation? Or is the will enslaved to sin and thus incapable of even saying yes to God – unless, of course, God first does something in us?

    Reply
    1. tlamarca says:

      I sounds like you’re asking a deeper question of whether humans are intrinsically good or evil. That’s another post for another day. I think a good question here would be: Does God do something for us or in us that we respond to by choosing Him, or is it really our choice at all?

      Here’s my take on it. If the will is enslaved to sin, it is not free but acts on behalf of sin. Sin is overcome by the cross of Christ, so we are free to choose Him.

      God acted first. God created. Sin entered the world and man chose to follow sin rather than God. God paid for sin and brought redemption through the cross and resurrection. God is still our creator. He not only creates the body of every person, but mind, soul, and will as well. He creates us all to worship Him and be in community with Him.

      That being said, God is sovereign and He creates us with a will to choose either Him or hell. It is still our will to choose. Although this seems contradictory, I don’t think it is because faith plays a huge role. I have faith that God chose me to follow Him, but at the same time I had the free will to choose Him. I’m not a pawn in His giant chess game, but at the same time He is the one that gives me life and brought me into the body of Christ.

      Reply
      1. Cliff says:

        You say, “Sin is overcome by the cross of Christ, so we are free to choose Him.”

        If this is the case, why doesn’t everyone accept Christ? Not choosing Christ would be like not choosing the million dollars set before you by a dying family member. It is an obvious choice to accept it – just as it would be an obvious choice to choose Christ.

        But, as I think we’re both aware, many people do not choose Christ. So, are all people truly free to choose Christ?

      2. tlamarca says:

        Just because it’s the “obvious” choice doesn’t mean that everyone chooses it. Someone could look at that million dollars and refuse it because they think it’s fake, just like the people who refuse to accept Christ as their Savior on the basis of unbelief.

        I believe in both predestination and free will. I don’t think I will every fully understand how they fully relate to each other, just like I will never fully understand God as three persons yet one God. There’s a lot about God and the way He works that is beyond our understanding. It’s good to use reason to try to understand things like this, but there has to be a balance between faith and reason. Faith without reason is blind and anyone with a blind faith stuggles to defend their faith. To rely too heavily on reason is to push faith out of the picture, and that’s just as bad.

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