By Emmanuel Oluwatoba | Niger, Nigeria
When most people refer to predestination, they refer to the Calvinist doctrine of unconditional election. This doctrine is the belief that God with no regard to the will of man, made an eternal choice of certain persons unto eternal life and some unto eternal damnation, and this choice is not subject to change.
Does the Bible teach that God’s election of Christians is unconditional and completely dependent on God’s sovereign choice? To answer this question, let us first examine one of the Bible passages which Calvinists hold on to as justification for their doctrine.
“For whom He foreknew, He also predestined to be conformed to the image of His Son, that He might be the firstborn among many brothers. Whom He predestined, those He also called. Whom He called, those He also justified. Whom He justified, those He also glorified” (Romans 8:29-30 – NHEB)
Predestine: Greek word – “proorizo” meaning “To predetermine, decide beforehand” “In the NT of God decreeing from eternity”, “To foreordain, appoint beforehand” (Strong).
For whom He foreknew: The decree of predestination is based on foreknowledge. God foreknew those whom He predestined. In what respect did God foreknow them? God foreknew those who would fulfill the condition of salvation. God is an all-seeing One. The past, present, and future are all seen by Him, so it is the believer’s faith (which is a future action), that determines God’s foreknowledge. We must note that God seeing it is not what makes the faith exist, but rather God sees because it will come into being in time. All eternity is present to Him at once (Psalms 90:4, 2 Pet. 3:8). But we must not think His knowledge makes things the way they are.
He also predestined to be conformed to the image of His Son: We must also take cognizance of what is being predestined. The predestination Paul refers to is not predestination to faith but to glory. Predestination to faith means that all who would be faithful will be foreordained beforehand while predestination to glory, on the other hand, means that all who have faith are foreordained to possess glory. The primary difference between these two is the fact that one is a predestination of cause and the other of effect. When God said to Adam and Eve “for in the day that you eat of it you will surely die”, God predestined a consequence for an effect. He did not predestine the cause. God throughout the Bible always makes pronouncements that are foreordained to happen based on the response of man, He never set the response on man in stone, and man is free to make his choice.
In essence, all those who believe are predestined to be conformed to the image of His Son, that is, to be holy as He is holy. We are to conform in disposition, life, conversation, and glory (Romans 12:1-2, Rom. 8:9, 1 John 2:6). God has decreed from before the foundation of the world the declaration of Christ and the apostle. “He who believes and is baptized shall be saved”.
The predestination of God includes all the laws, processes, means and instruments by which the result is secured. A man saying “if I shall be saved, I will be saved”, is no different from a farmer planting a seed, doing nothing and then saying “if this crop shall grow, it will grow”. A believer will “be more diligent to make his calling and election sure” (2 Peter 1:10).
Predestination and free moral agency
From the above, it becomes clear that Paul’s idea of predestination is not one that violates the free moral agency of man. As always, God has left man with a choice, despite His wish for every man to be saved (2 Peter 3:9). The steps to salvation are left up to the free will of man. No man is predestined against his will to become a believer, instead, his will is an integral part of his belief. Predestination does not destroy the voluntary character of human actions, nor involve force or compulsion.
From the exegesis of Romans 8:29-30, it is clear that the biblical idea of predestination does not support the doctrine of unconditional election. From the account of the Gospels and Acts, Jesus and His disciples urged people to choose to believe in God. Even Ephesians 1 (another passage used by the Calvinists), emphasizes the free will of those that responded to the message (Eph. 1:13). God does not predestine our choices, but he predestined the means by which salvation will come to man. He foreknew us and our choices but foreknowledge does not override our free moral agency which God bestowed upon us.