Tuesday, June 2, 2009

Predestination - Will you choose to read this?


I have been thinking a little about the theological conversations that have happened over the years regarding predestination and free will. The 16th Century saw the arrival of John Calvin, who taught on predestination, so most people would connect predestination with him, though the theological idea existed before him.
Predestination says that God has pre-elected some people to be saved; that is, God not only knows who will be saved in the end, but he has chosen those people already. Calvin came teaching something even stronger; what is sometimes called double predestination; that is, God has not only pre-elected some for salvation, but the rest he has pre-elected for damnation. That's a stong theological stance to take.

The Salvation Army tradition stems out of Wesleyanism, and John Wesley had much to say to intellectually refute this idea of predestination. One comment Wesley made was this:
"If [election] be so, then is all preaching vain. It is needless to them that they are elected; for they whether with preaching or without, will infallibly be saved. Therefore, the end of preaching--to save souls--is void in regard to them; and it is useless to them that are not elected, for they cannot possibly be saved: They, whether with preaching or without, will infallibly be damned... This then is a plain proof that the doctrine of predestination is not a doctrine of God, because it makes void the ordinance of God; and God is not divided against himself. A Second is, that it directly tends to destroy that holiness which is the end of all the ordinances of God... The doctrine [of election]... has a tendency to destroy holiness in general; for it wholly takes away those first motives to follow after it...the hope of future reward and punishment, the hope of heaven and the fear of hell."

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