Predestination, in Christian theology, is the doctrine that all events have been willed by God, usually with reference to the eventual fate of the individual soul. Explanations of predestination often seek to address the "paradox of free will", whereby God's omniscience seems incompatible with human free will. In this usage, predestination can be regarded as a form of religious determinism; and usually predeterminism, also known as theological determinism.
There is some disagreement among scholars regarding the views on predestination of first-century AD Judaism, out of which Christianity came. Josephus wrote during the first century that the three main Jewish sects differed on this question. He argued that the Essenes and Pharisees argued that God's providence orders all human events, but the Pharisees still maintained that people are able to choose between right and wrong. He wrote that the Sadducees did not have a doctrine of providence.
Biblical scholar N. T. Wright argues that Josephus's portrayal of these groups is incorrect, and that the Jewish debates referenced by Josephus should be seen as having to do with God's work to liberate Israel rather than philosophical questions about predestination. Wright asserts that Essenes were content to wait for God to liberate Israel while Pharisees believed Jews needed to act in cooperation with God. John Barclay responded that Josephus's description was an over-simplification and there were likely to be complex differences between these groups which may have been similar to those described by Josephus. Francis Watson has also argued on the basis of 4 Ezra, a document dated to the first century AD, that Jewish beliefs in predestination are primarily concerned with God's choice to save some individual Jews.
We know that in everything God works for good with those who love him, who are called according to his purpose. For those whom he foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, in order that he might be the first-born among many brethren. And those whom he predestined he also called; and those whom he called he also justified; and those whom he justified he also glorified.
Biblical scholars have interpreted this passage in several ways. Many say this only has to do with service, and is not about salvation. The Catholic biblical commentator Brendan Byrne wrote that the predestination mentioned in this passage should be interpreted as applied to the Christian community corporately rather than individuals. Another Catholic commentator, Joseph Fitzmyer, wrote that this passage teaches that God has predestined the salvation of all humans. Douglas Moo, a Protestant biblical interpreter, reads the passage as teaching that God has predestined a certain set of people to salvation, and predestined the remainder of humanity to reprobation (damnation). Similarly, Wright's interpretation is that in this passage Paul teaches that God will save those whom he has chosen, but Wright also emphasizes that Paul does not intend to suggest that God has eliminated human free will or responsibility. Instead, Wright asserts, Paul is saying that God's will works through that of humans to accomplish salvation.
Origen, writing in the third century, taught that God's providence extends to every individual. He believed God's predestination was based on God's foreknowledge of every individual's merits, whether in their current life or a previous life.
Later in the fourth and fifth centuries, Augustine of Hippo (354-430) also taught that God orders all things while preserving human freedom. Prior to 396, Augustine believed that predestination was based on God's foreknowledge of whether individuals would believe, that God's grace was "a reward for human assent". Later, in response to Pelagius, Augustine said that the sin of pride consists in assuming that "we are the ones who choose God or that God chooses us (in his foreknowledge) because of something worthy in us", and argued that it is God's grace that causes the individual act of faith. Scholars are divided over whether Augustine's teaching implies double predestination, or the belief that God chooses some people for damnation as well as some for salvation. Catholic scholars tend to deny that he held such a view while some Protestants and secular scholars affirm that Augustine did believe in double predestination.
Augustine's position raised objections. Julian of Eclanum expressed the view that Augustine was bringing Manichean thoughts into the church. For Vincent of Lérins, this was a disturbing innovation. This new tension eventually became obvious with the confrontation between Augustine and Pelagius culminating in condemnation of Pelagianism (as interpreted by Augustine) at the Council of Ephesus in 431. Pelagius denied Augustine's view of predestination in order to affirm that salvation is achieved by an act of free will.
The Council of Arles in the late fifth century condemned the position "that some have been condemned to death, others have been predestined to life", though this may seem to follow from Augustine's teaching. The Second Council of Orange in 529 also condemned the position that "some have been truly predestined to evil by divine power".
In the eighth century, John of Damascus emphasized the freedom of the human will in his doctrine of predestination, and argued that acts arising from peoples' wills are not part of God's providence at all. Damascene teaches that people's good actions are done in cooperation with God, but are not caused by him.
Gottschalk of Orbais, a ninth-century Saxon monk, argued that God predestines some people to hell as well as predestining some to heaven, a view known as double predestination. He was condemned by several synods, but his views remained popular. Irish theologian John Scotus Eriugena wrote a refutation of Gottschalk. Eriugena abandoned Augustine's teaching on predestination. He wrote that God's predestination should be equated with his foreknowledge of people's choices.
In the twelfth century, Thomas Aquinas taught that God predestines certain people to the beatific vision based solely on his own goodness rather than that of creatures. Aquinas also believed that people are free in their choices, fully cause their own sin, and are solely responsible for it. According to Aquinas, there are several ways in which God wills actions. He directly wills the good, indirectly wills evil consequences of good things, and only permits evil. Aquinas held that in permitting evil, God does not will it to be done or not to be done.
In the thirteenth century, William of Ockham taught that God does not cause human choices and equated predestination with divine foreknowledge. Though Ockham taught that God predestines based on people's foreseen works, he maintained that God's will was not constrained to do this.
John Calvin rejected the idea that God permits rather than actively decrees the damnation of sinners, as well as other evil. Calvin did not believe God to be guilty of sin, but rather he considered God inflicting sin upon his creations to be an unfathomable mystery. Though he maintained God's predestination applies to damnation as well as salvation, he taught that the damnation of the damned is caused by their sin, but that the salvation of the saved is solely caused by God. Other Protestant Reformers, including Huldrych Zwingli, also held double predestinarian views.
Answer: The fact that the Kingdom of God is "taken by force" presupposes personal effort. When the Apostle Paul says, "it is not of him that willeth," this means that one's efforts do not produce what is sought. It is necessary to combine them: to strive and to expect all things from grace. It is not one's own efforts that will lead to the goal, because without grace, efforts produce little; nor does grace without effort bring what is sought, because grace acts in us and for us through our efforts. Both combine in a person to bring progress and carry him to the goal. (God's) foreknowledge is unfathomable. It is enough for us with our whole heart to believe that it never opposes God's grace and truth, and that it does not infringe man's freedom. Usually this resolves as follows: God foresees how a man will freely act and makes dispositions accordingly. Divine determination depends on the life of a man, and not his life upon the determination.
Catholicism teaches the doctrine of predestination. The Catholic Catechism says, "To God, all moments of time are present in their immediacy. When therefore he establishes his eternal plan of "predestination", he includes in it each person's free response to his grace." Therefore, in the Catholic conception of predestination, free will is not denied.
The heretical seventeenth and eighteenth centuries sect within Roman Catholicism known as Jansenism preached the doctrine of double predestination, although Jansenism claimed that even members of the saved elect could lose their salvation by doing sinful, un-repented deeds, as implied in Ezekiel 18:21-28 in the Old Testament of the Bible. According to the Catholic Church, God does not will anyone to mortally sin and so to deserve punishment in hell.
The universality of salvation means that it is granted not only to those who explicitly believe in Christ and have entered the Church. Since salvation is offered to all, it must be made concretely available to all. But it is clear that today, as in the past, many people do not have an opportunity to come to know or accept the gospel revelation or to enter the Church. (...) For such people salvation in Christ is accessible by virtue of a grace which, while having a mysterious relationship to the Church, does not make them formally part of the Church but enlightens them in a way which is accommodated to their spiritual and material situation. This grace comes from Christ; it is the result of his Sacrifice and is communicated by the Holy Spirit. It enables each person to attain salvation through his or her free cooperation.
Augustine of Hippo laid the foundation for much of the later Catholic teaching on predestination. His teachings on grace and free will were largely adopted by the Second Council of Orange (529), whose decrees were directed against the Semipelagians. Augustine wrote,
[God] promised not from the power of our will but from His own predestination. For He promised what He Himself would do, not what men would do. Because, although men do those good things which pertain to God's worship, He Himself makes them to do what He has commanded; it is not they that cause Him to do what He has promised. Otherwise the fulfilment of God's promises would not be in the power of God, but in that of men"
Augustine also teaches that people have free will. For example, in "On Grace and Free Will", (see especially chapters II-IV) Augustine states that "He [God] has revealed to us, through His Holy Scriptures, that there is in man a free choice of will," and that "God's precepts themselves would be of no use to a man unless he had free choice of will, so that by performing them he might obtain the promised rewards." (chap. II)
God does reprobate some. For it was said above (A) that predestination is a part of providence. To providence, however, it belongs to permit certain defects in those things which are subject to providence, as was said above (Q, A). Thus, as men are ordained to eternal life through the providence of God, it likewise is part of that providence to permit some to fall away from that end; this is called reprobation. Thus, as predestination is a part of providence, in regard to those ordained to eternal salvation, so reprobation is a part of providence in regard to those who turn aside from that end. Hence reprobation implies not only foreknowledge, but also something more, as does providence, as was said above (Q, A). Therefore, as predestination includes the will to confer grace and glory; so also reprobation includes the will to permit a person to fall into sin, and to impose the punishment of damnation on account of that sin."
This table summarizes the classical views of three different Protestant beliefs.
|Election||Unconditional election to salvation only||Unconditional election to salvation only, with reprobation (passing over)||Conditional election in view of foreseen faith or unbelief|
Lutherans historically hold to unconditional election to salvation. However, some do not believe that there are certain people that are predestined to salvation, but salvation is predestined for those who seek God. Lutherans believe Christians should be assured that they are among the predestined. However, they disagree with those who make predestination the source of salvation rather than Christ's suffering, death, and resurrection. Unlike some Calvinists, Lutherans do not believe in a predestination to damnation. Instead, Lutherans teach eternal damnation is a result of the unbeliever's rejection of the forgiveness of sins and unbelief.
Martin Luther's attitude towards predestination is set out in his On the Bondage of the Will, published in 1525. This publication by Luther was in response to the published treatise by Desiderius Erasmus in 1524 known as On Free Will. Luther based his views on Ephesians 2:8-10, which says:
For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God, not of works, lest anyone should boast. For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand that we should walk in them.
The Belgic Confession of 1561 affirmed that God "delivers and preserves" from perdition "all whom he, in his eternal and unchangeable council, of mere goodness hath elected in Christ Jesus our Lord, without respect to their works" (Article XVI). Calvinists believe that God picked those whom he will save and bring with him to Heaven before the world was created. They also believe that those people God does not save will go to Hell. John Calvin thought people who were saved could never lose their salvation and the "elect" (those God saved) would know they were saved because of their actions.
In this common, loose sense of the term, to affirm or to deny predestination has particular reference to the Calvinist doctrine of unconditional election. In the Calvinist interpretation of the Bible, this doctrine normally has only pastoral value related to the assurance of salvation and the absolution of salvation by grace alone. However, the philosophical implications of the doctrine of election and predestination are sometimes discussed beyond these systematic bounds. Under the topic of the doctrine of God (theology proper), the predestinating decision of God cannot be contingent upon anything outside of himself, because all other things are dependent upon him for existence and meaning. Under the topic of the doctrines of salvation (soteriology), the predestinating decision of God is made from God's knowledge of his own will (Romans 9:15), and is therefore not contingent upon human decisions (rather, free human decisions are outworkings of the decision of God, which sets the total reality within which those decisions are made in exhaustive detail: that is, nothing left to chance). Calvinists do not pretend to understand how this works; but they are insistent that the Scriptures teach both the sovereign control of God and the responsibility and freedom of human decisions.
Calvinist groups use the term Hyper-Calvinism to describe Calvinistic systems that assert without qualification that God's intention to destroy some is equal to his intention to save others. Some forms of Hyper-Calvinism have racial implications, as when Dutch Calvinist theologian Franciscus Gomarus however argued that Jews, because of their refusal to worship Jesus Christ, were members of the non-elect, as also argued by John Calvin himself, based on I John 2:22-23 in The New Testament of the Bible. Some Dutch settlers in South Africa argued that black people were sons of Ham, whom Noah had cursed to be slaves, according to Genesis 9:18-19, or drew analogies between them and the Canaanites, suggesting a "chosen people" ideology similar to that espoused by proponents of the Jewish nation. This justified racial hierarchy on earth, as well as racial segregation of congregations, but did not exclude blacks from being part of the elect. Other Calvinists vigorously objected to these arguments (see Afrikaner Calvinism).
Expressed sympathetically, the Calvinist doctrine is that God has mercy or withholds it, with particular consciousness of who are to be the recipients of mercy in Christ. Therefore, the particular persons are chosen, out of the total number of human beings, who will be rescued from enslavement to sin and the fear of death, and from punishment due to sin, to dwell forever in his presence. Those who are being saved are assured through the gifts of faith, the sacraments, and communion with God through prayer and increase of good works, that their reconciliation with him through Christ is settled by the sovereign determination of God's will. God also has particular consciousness of those who are passed over by his selection, who are without excuse for their rebellion against him, and will be judged for their sins.
Calvinists typically divide on the issue of predestination into infralapsarians (sometimes called 'sublapsarians') and supralapsarians. Infralapsarians interpret the biblical election of God to highlight his love (1 John 4:8; Ephesians 1:4b-5a) and chose his elect considering the situation after the Fall, while supralapsarians interpret biblical election to highlight God's sovereignty (Romans 9:16) and that the Fall was ordained by God's decree of election. In infralapsarianism, election is God's response to the Fall, while in supralapsarianism the Fall is part of God's plan for election. In spite of the division, many Calvinist theologians would consider the debate surrounding the infra- and supralapsarian positions one in which scant Scriptural evidence can be mustered in either direction, and that, at any rate, has little effect on the overall doctrine.
Some Calvinists decline to describe the eternal decree of God in terms of a sequence of events or thoughts, and many caution against the simplifications involved in describing any action of God in speculative terms. Most make distinctions between the positive manner in which God chooses some to be recipients of grace, and the manner in which grace is consciously withheld so that some are destined for everlasting punishments.
Debate concerning predestination according to the common usage concerns the destiny of the damned: whether God is just if that destiny is settled prior to the existence of any actual volition of the individual, and whether the individual is in any meaningful sense responsible for his destiny if it is settled by the eternal action of God.
Arminians hold that God does not predetermine, but instead infallibly knows who will believe and perseveringly be saved. This view is known as conditional election, because it states that election is conditional on the one who wills to have faith in God for salvation. Although God knows from the beginning of the world who will go where, the choice is still with the individual. The Dutch Calvinist theologian Franciscus Gomarus strongly opposed the views of Jacobus Arminius with his doctrine of supralapsarian predestination.
The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (LDS Church) rejects the doctrine of predestination, but does believe in foreordination. Foreordination, an important doctrine of the LDS Church, teaches that during the pre-mortal existence, God selected ("foreordained") particular people to fulfill certain missions ("callings") during their mortal lives. For example, prophets were foreordained to be the Lord's servants (see Jeremiah 1:5), all who receive the priesthood were foreordained to that calling, and Jesus was foreordained to enact the atonement.
Conditional election is the belief that God chooses for eternal salvation those whom he foresees will have faith in Christ. This belief emphasizes the importance of a person's free will. The counter-view is known as unconditional election, and is the belief that God chooses whomever he will, based solely on his purposes and apart from an individual's free will. It has long been an issue in Calvinist-Arminian debate. An alternative viewpoint is Corporate election, which distinguishes God's election and predestination for corporate entities such as the community "in Christ," and individuals who can benefit from that community's election and predestination so long as they continue belonging to that community.
Infralapsarianism (also called sublapsarianism) holds that predestination logically coincides with the preordination of Man's fall into sin. That is, God predestined sinful men for salvation. Therefore, according to this view, God is the ultimate cause, but not the proximate source or "author" of sin. Infralapsarians often emphasize a difference between God's decree (which is inviolable and inscrutable), and his revealed will (against which man is disobedient). Proponents also typically emphasize the grace and mercy of God toward all men, although teaching also that only some are predestined for salvation.
In common English parlance, the doctrine of predestination often has particular reference to the doctrines of Calvinism. The version of predestination espoused by John Calvin, after whom Calvinism is named, is sometimes referred to as "double predestination" because in it God predestines some people for salvation (i.e. unconditional election) and some for condemnation (i.e. Reprobation) which results by allowing the individual's own sins to condemn them. Calvin himself defines predestination as "the eternal decree of God, by which he determined with himself whatever he wished to happen with regard to every man. Not all are created on equal terms, but some are preordained to eternal life, others to eternal damnation; and, accordingly, as each has been created for one or other of these ends, we say that he has been predestined to life or to death."
On the spectrum of beliefs concerning predestination, Calvinism is the strongest form among Christians. It teaches that God's predestining decision is based on the knowledge of his own will rather than foreknowledge, concerning every particular person and event; and, God continually acts with entire freedom, in order to bring about his will in completeness, but in such a way that the freedom of the creature is not violated, "but rather, established".
Calvinists who hold the infralapsarian view of predestination usually prefer that term to "sublapsarianism," perhaps with the intent of blocking the inference that they believe predestination is on the basis of foreknowledge (sublapsarian meaning, assuming the fall into sin). The different terminology has the benefit of distinguishing the Calvinist double predestination version of infralapsarianism from Lutheranism's view that predestination is a mystery, which forbids the unprofitable intrusion of prying minds since God only reveals partial knowledge to the human race.
Supralapsarianism is the doctrine that God's decree of predestination for salvation and reprobation logically precedes his preordination of the human race's fall into sin. That is, God decided to save, and to damn; he then determined the means by which that would be made possible. It is a matter of controversy whether or not Calvin himself held this view, but most scholars link him with the infralapsarian position. It is known, however, that Calvin's successor in Geneva, Theodore Beza, held to the supralapsarian view.
Double predestination, or the double decree, is the doctrine that God actively reprobates, or decrees damnation of some, as well as salvation for those whom he has elected. Augustine made statements that on their own seem to teach such a doctrine, but in the context of his other writings it is not clear whether he held it. Augustine's doctrine of predestination does seem to imply a double predestinarian view. Gottschalk of Orbais taught it more explicitly in the ninth century, and Gregory of Rimini in the fourteenth. During the Protestant Reformation John Calvin also held double predestinarian views. John Calvin states: "By predestination we mean the eternal decree of God, by which he determined with himself whatever he wished to happen with regard to every man. All are not created on equal terms, but some are preordained to eternal life, others to eternal damnation; and, accordingly, as each has been created for one or other of these ends, we say that he has been predestinated to life or to death."
Open theism advocates the non-traditional Arminian view of election that predestination is corporate. In corporate election, God does not choose which individuals he will save prior to creation, but rather God chooses the church as a whole. Or put differently, God chooses what type of individuals he will save. Another way the New Testament puts this is to say that God chose the church in Christ (Eph. 1:4). In other words, God chose from all eternity to save all those who would be found in Christ, by faith in God. This choosing is not primarily about salvation from eternal destruction either but is about God's chosen agency in the world. Thus individuals have full freedom in terms of whether they become members of the church or not. Corporate election is thus consistent with the open view's position on God's omniscience, which states that God's foreknowledge does not determine the outcomes of individual free will.
Middle Knowledge is a concept that was developed by Jesuit theologian Luis de Molina, and exists under a doctrine called Molinism. It attempts to deal with the topic of predestination by reconciling God's sovereign providence with the notion of libertarian free will. The concept of Middle Knowledge holds that God has a knowledge of true pre-volitional counterfactuals for all free creatures. That is, what any individual creature with a free will (e.g. a human) would do under any given circumstance. God's knowledge of counterfactuals is reasoned to occur logically prior to his divine creative decree (that is, prior to creation), and after his knowledge of necessary truths. Thus, Middle Knowledge holds that before the world was created, God knew what every existing creature capable of libertarian freedom (e.g. every individual human) would freely choose to do in all possible circumstances. It then holds that based on this information, God elected from a number of these possible worlds, the world most consistent with his ultimate will, which is the actual world that we live in.
Based on this Middle Knowledge, God has the ability to actualise the world in which A is placed in a circumstance that he freely chooses to do what is consistent with Gods ultimate will. If God determined that the world most suited to his purposes is a world in which A would freely choose Y instead of Z, God can actualise a world in which Free Creature A finds himself in Circumstance B.
In this way, Middle Knowledge is thought of by its proponents to be consistent with any theological doctrines that assert God as having divine providence and man having a libertarian freedom (e.g. Calvinism, Catholicism, Lutheranism), and to offer a potential solution to the concerns that God's providence somehow nullifies man from having true liberty in his choices.