As we begin this two part series, In Christendom, as it pertains to election or predestination and our free will choices, theologians who stringently disagree depending on what point Calvinist they are, hold to their different positions in connection to our destiny and the final outcome of our lives. While you can respect these learned Biblicist for taking a doctrinal stand for what they strongly believe to be theologically true, it has caused a divide in the body of Christ. While some groups believe that you can only be one or the other in connection to these two components, there is an arising small remnant who begs to differ. With this said, the interesting, controversial, and uniquely different, dual position that I take is that yes, even though “election” or “predestination” and “free will” operates independently in the scope of our lives, they also equally function interdependently in the grand scheme of things as well. Calm down, calm down, I know you may be wonder, “How can this be?” “How can God elect or predestine someone on one hand and on the opposite side of the spectrum, we still have a choice in the matter because that would not be predestination?” Are not these the antithesis one of another? Would not this be like trying to mesh oil and water in a bottle and expecting them to eventually agree? You are exactly right, the answer is yes BUT if you focus on the bottle containing the oil and water and God, the “One” who holds the bottle containing the oil and water, only then will you be able to make sense of this concept. You will be able to understand that even though the oil and water are definitely repellents, they are still contained in the same bottle control by God, the “One” who holds it. Just think for a moment, when you shake a bottle full of oil and water, though they naturally resist blending, they do combine at least for a short period of time until the properties of their makeup causes them to separate again. It is the same principle or analogy with election or predestination and free will choices and how God can sovereignly allow these opposites to intertwine in our lives.
Using our analogy, when we examine this same shaking process, God can allow outcomes to still work in our favor in spite of our “bad” and “ugly” choices and still call and predestine us for greatness which is not fair either. If you need a witness, just asked Moses who made a “free will” choice to commit murder in Ex. 2:11-12, which should have disqualified him from being greatly used as the predestined deliverer by God but instead his actions did not because of God’s sovereignty. What also needs to be noted in this situation is that it was not God’s will for Moses to deliver the children of Israel by way of murder, fleeing to Median and then making his way back to Egypt to finally carry out Gods will at approximately 80 years of age. It was God’s will for Moses to deliver the Children of Israel from Egypt where he already was but the consequences of his “ugly” “free will” choice to commit murder caused him to have to go the long way. On the other, God can soveriegnly allow outcomes to not work in our favor due to our own “free will” choice to sin and disobey as well. Looking at Moses life again, he struck the rock twice out of anger in Numbers 20:11 which cause him and the children of Israel to miss their “predestined” promise land but was only allowed to see it from a distance (Numbers 20:8-12; 27:12-14; Deuteronomy 34:1-5). The key is that Moses could have “chosen” to speak to the rock but He did not. Please keep in mind that this was not God’s “predestined” doing or fault but instead Moses “bad” choice. Looking at these two examples from Moses life, what does these scenarios tells us about our “free will” choices? First I want to say that I do understand that negative things can and sometimes will happen in this unfair, imperfect, sin sick, sin curse, fallen world. These unfortunate situations that are out of our control can and will have an affect our destiny and the outcomes of our lives negatively and the hard part is that we have no choice in it. This mainly due to the condition of a flawed world that God does not intervene or stop every negative or bad situations and circumstances from occurring not Him predestinating anyone for misfortune. Also, when we take into consideration Moses committing murder and the children of Israel murmuring, complaining and hardening their hearts against God in the wilderness causing what was supposed to be an 11 day journey to turn into a 40 year journey, this tells us that:
- Our “fee will” choice to murmur, complain and harden our hearts can delay our predestined destiny.
- Our “free will” choice to sin against and disobey God can cause us to totally miss our predestined destiny.
- Our “free will” choice to sin and disobey God can cause others around us to miss their predestined destiny because our sin never only affects us.
- Our “free will” choices give us some say in our destiny and the final outcomes of our lives.
None the less, see how these two entities begin to intertwine? Not to worry, I will further explain my position from a Biblical standpoint and this will be a perspective that you may or may not have heard or learned before. Please make no mistake about it, I am not at all implying that theologians who have come before me have not already given sound answers in connection to this very, very difficult concept but my approach is simply to give interesting and unique insights in addition to what has already been established. At the end of the day everyone has to wrestle with the truth that they have learned and not to be wise guy for those who only support election or predestination, then make a choice as to what they will believe. Whatever the case, the main key is to learn an exegetically, sound, theological and doctrinal perspective that has been rightly divided in the Word of God and to be able to support it scripturally. The other equally important component to this is to study it for yourself not because I said so or because anyone else has but because God said so in His Word. Even with having strong convictions about what I am about to share with you in this two part series, I think that this is respectful and fair in saying.
For starters, when we look at the election or predestination argument, this viewpoint can cause our perspectives toward God to bend extremely toward Him being very, very unfair. As if the concept of a God who would even create, let alone according to many people perspectives, “predestined” people to go to Hell for eternity, has not already caused God to be viewed as a Celestial Monster and a Cosmic kill joy. I mean let’s face it, the concept of “election” in and of itself automatically imply that some were “rejected” right? The next connected question asked would more than likely be that if some are “elected” implying that others are “rejected” than what are God’s criteria for those who get “selected?” In other words, “How does one get in to this remnant, “select group” and “Has God played a game of Heavenly “ene-mene-miny-moe” with our lives before the foundation of the earth?” Going a little deeper, when we throw in the Heaven and Hell components, does this mean that those who are not “chosen” are destined or have been predestined for an eternal Hell? With full assurance of the Biblical answers that I am about to unravel, the answer is “No” and I will explain shortly. None the less, the “election” issue leads us directly into the “predestination” issue because they are related. When we look at the predestination argument it obviously adheres to a perspective that God has already mapped out everyone’s destiny, good and bad, before the foundation of the earth. God, who operates in eternity and then His “eternal decisions” being played out in time as we know it, would seem like a solidifying and unarguable claim for those who support “election” only. Working in their favor would be Romans 8:29 which says:
29. For whom He (God) foreknew, (before the foundation of the earth) HE ALSO PREDESTINED (His children or chosen) to be conformed to the image of His Son, that He (Jesus) might be the firstborn among many brethren. 30. Moreover whom He (God) predestined, these (children or chosen) He also called; whom He called, these He also justified; and whom He justified, these He also glorified (NKJV).
If we could think back to the “oil” and “water” analogy that I mentioned earlier, while the Bible does unequivocally support “election” or “predestination” it also equally and ironically supports “free will” choice too. It is just that our “free will” choices get blended into our destiny BUT this takes place before the foundation of the earth not in time. I know I just lost you or confused you but just walk with me through this and it will make sense shortly. However, in order to understand the totality of this very, very difficult concept that gives mankind more say in the scope of the outcome of our predestined lives (I know it’s an oxymoron), we have to look at and take into consideration three aspects that are intertwined:
- God’s omniscient, all knowing and infinite characteristics and His ultimate control as the benefactor of eternity and time. (The One holding the bottle that contains the oil and the water who is able to shake it despite the resisting properties causing them to sovereignly blend at times).
- How God plans were completed in eternity not in time also referred to as “before the foundation of the earth” or “before the foundation of the world.” (oil)
- The gift of a “free will” choice that God extends to every human being to exercise in time as they chose. (water)
As we compare exegetically supported scriptures with scriptures, we will get the fuller meaning. Once again as I mentioned earlier, lets allow the Word of God (not me or anyone else) to be the final authority as we study it for ourselves. Just as a word of preparation and caution, as we dive into our deep sea of insight, please put on your theological life jacket as we will have to swim with the threat of sinking mentally. In other words, in connection to our analogy, be prepared to think “backwards” (time) and then “forward” (eternity) and then “forward” (eternity) and then “backwards” (time) if this makes any sense. I know that it does not make sense now but do not worry it will very, very soon.
FREE WILL CHOICE (Water)
Putting more emphasis on supporting the “free will” argument in this article, (as we start examining this concept going in a backwards direction in connection to three bullet points listed above) some people in Christendom despise the concept of “free will” choice being used as a refuting argument to explain God, faith and the outcome of our lives. So much so that Christians who despise this view point have even been heard saying, “Oh no, you are not a “free willer” are you?” To go a step further, some Christians believe that the only “free will” choice that God gave mankind was in the Garden in Genesis chapter 3 and that Adam exercised in such a way that condemned mankind. While, Adam did exercise his “free will” choice by being disobedient and willfully rebelling against God that did condemned mankind is true, we still posses the right to exercise this gift to “freely choose” today just as Adam did in the Garden. It is impossible to remove “free will” choice from the equation and so how can we when the Bible supports this. Some scriptures that support our “free will” choice are:
- “…therefore choose life…” (Duet. 30:19)
- “…choose none of his (oppressor) ways…” (Prov. 3:31)
- “…refuse the evil and choose the good…” (Isa. 7:15)
- “…choose for yourselves this day whom you will serve…” (Josh. 24:15)
From a practical standpoint, we exercise our “free will” choices in our everyday lives. One easy example to support what I am saying would be choosing what clothes to wear each day. We make the “free will” choice to choose what we want to wear. If this is predestined then what about the times when we got dressed, went outside and then ran back in the house to change our minds in order to put on something else. I mean if this is predestined, God would not make a predestined mistake would He? If this is the case, therefore how could we be secure in that position only if it is susceptible to change because then it would not be predestined? To add to this, I can make a choice today to wear something that would honor God or dishonor God. Case in point, I can make the “free will” choice to go outside with minimum or without any clothes on as some people have done while running onto the field and flashing the crowd at the Philadelphia Phillies games on numerous occasions. Consequently, because of these socially unacceptable behaviors, these people have had to face the repercussions of being tackled by the security, taken into custody and arraigned. None the less, they could have made the “free will” choice to come to the game and acting in a socially acceptable manner like 99.9% of us did. Someone who refutes this would probably argue that this has nothing to do with our final destiny so therefore it does not apply. However, my refute for that argument is that those who do not support “free will” but instead “election” or “predestination” only, have removed it as the option all together. This is why they support election or predestination and not free will choice.
We learned in philosophy class in college that in order to refute an absolute all you have to do is find one true example that refutes that absolute. We cannot continue to have an “absolute theology” that supports “election” or “predestination” only when there is a Biblical scripture that refutes that absolute. So my one true, Biblical example that refutes this absolute is found in Joshua 24:15 which says:
15. “And if it seems evil to you to serve the Lord, CHOOSE FOR YOURSELF THIS DAY WHOM YOU WILL SERVE, whether the gods which your fathers served that were on the other side of the River, or the gods of the Amorites, in whose land you dwell. But as for me and my house, we will serve the Lord” (NKJV).
Oohh, so it does not sound like God predestines anyone to go to Hell to me if He gives us a choice to choose this day whom we will serve, even if it is another “god.” Also, if I can parenthetically throw this in while we are on the subject, one of the big questions that is posed towards Christians as a challenge about people being “predestined” to Hell is, “What about those who have never had a chance to hear the Gospel? “I mean they could not have been able to make a choice if they have never heard it right”? This is correct! However, I will answer this very, very good question in two parts with the first being that Creation does preach a sermon about the attributes of God to mankind everyday that leaves man without excuse (Rom.1:20). The second part is, as some strict Christians would be quick to say that all those people are in Hell, I would say, “Let’s let God be the Judge of where those people are because we cannot infer.” Why? This is because He is the only One who knows the beginning from the end since He is not restricted by time and space. God has even been known in the Bible to make pre-previsions as he did for the Old Testament Saints who stay in Abrahams Bosom until the death, burial and resurrection of Jesus. I am not at all implying that those who did not have the chance to hear the Gospel went there because Abraham’s Bosom is no longer in Hell but was transported by God into Paradise but I am just making the point that God could have made a provision for them since He knows the beginning and end. That is why I say for this one “Let’s allow God to be the Judge.” So ultimately we can not imply as much as we would like to and I think that this is fair in saying because. In the next article when discuss God’s omniscient, all knowing and infinite characteristics and His ultimate control as the benefactor of eternity and time in connection to predestination and our free will choices, my rational for this stance will be made very, very clear.
Getting back to our previous point in connection to Joshua 24:15, God gives us a choice but what people really have a problem with is feeling forced, for a lack of a better term, to have to choose God or else be sent to Hell. This seems to me to be the real issue. I would rather people voice this argument, which I can understand how they could feel this way, as opposed to totally trying to eliminate “free will” all together in order to put the blame all on God and to remove their personal responsibility in the scope of their own “destiny.” Among many other characteristics about Christianity, many people resent, in their perspective, a “My way or the high way” God and so shy away. This may irritate some people when I say this but when you think about it, it is His way or the high way because by Adam sinning and disobeying God in the Garden in Genesis Chapter 3, despite being warned, (yet another area that mankind does not want to take responsibility for) Adams “free will” choice made it His way. Can a teen blame a parent for consequences when they were warned about what the consequences would be beforehand and they still choose to disobey anyway? Can a teen then dictate to the parent what the parameters of the consequences should be after they have chosen to disobey? Is this an acceptable perspective for that teen to have to then get angry at the parent for administering the consequences that they brought on themselves? Or should the teen expect to disobey and not have to deal with the negative repercussions? Should the parent be expected by the teen to be taken out for ice cream for acting disobediently? What would we call a teens that behaves this way and then expects in this way? Let’s face it, and correct me if I am wrong but the teen did not have to disobey but instead could have followed their parent’s instructions and consequences would not have even been an issue. In connection to our discussion and this analogy, some people feel that Hell is not a fitting punishment but how about not disobeying the Parent in the first place so that you do not put the consequential power in their hands? For example, in my personal perspective, I do not think that every aspect of our judicial system is fair and fitting. I can choose to say that, “Because I do not think that the every aspect of the judicial system is fair and fitting, I am not going to adhere to its laws.” Guess what? I ultimately have that right to “choose” to do that but if I break the law I will still be held accountable whether the system that is set up is fair or unfair or what my perspective is towards it being fair or unfair. It is the same with God’s system and His Laws. How about this, the judicial system warns society about the consequences of our criminal actions if we get caught breaking the law. I want to do what is right in my life and I do not want to go to jail so I “choose” not to commit crimes so that I do not put my life in the hands of someone else to govern it due to the deserved, undeserved, fitting or non-fitting consequences. If I “choose” to do the opposite, can I blame the police, the judge and the system? Well I might be able to have a gripe with the system but it always reverts back to the “choice” that I had to commit or not commit that crime. As a prequel into later supporting my Biblical perspective of a blended “election” or “predestination” and “free will” stance, if one “chooses” to commit a crime and gets caught, were they destined for jail or could they have made another choice like others have who “chose” not to commit crimes everyday but instead “choose” to obey the laws of the land? I do not think so! This is what Adam did when he disobeyed God’s Law but it just so happened that his bad “choice” cost all of mankind. Remember we mention earlier that our free will choices that involve sin and disobedience do not only affect the one who sins. However, with the deserved consequences in place, God still made a way out and a way of escape and is still is gracious enough to not only allow us to “choose” but more than that, not to invade our choices. Why? It is because our “free will” choice is a gift given to mankind by God.
See the continuation of this article concerning predestination and free will.