I wanted to spend some time for those who are new or newer to the Reformed faith looking at what it is that makes us Reformed. What is the Reformed faith’s reason for existence and why should we continue to exist?
Clearly the answer to that is multitudinous. But we want to begin to answer those questions by considering the doctrine of Predestination this morning. Except for the Confessionally Reformed folks in the Church world nobody holds to predestination. In point of fact everyone else, explicitly or implicitly decries it.
Except for a very tiny genus of Reformed Baptists everybody else except the Reformed hate biblical predestination. The Baptist’s hate it, the Methodist’s hate it, the Nazarene’s hate it, the Assemblies of God hate it, the Wesleyan’s hate it, the Lutherans hate it, the Roman Catholics hate it. Typically the Anglican’s hate it even though it is in their 39 articles. The Reformed stand alone in embracing Biblical Predestination and so one reason for the necessity of us to continue to exist is to uphold this central doctrine without which Christianity is no longer Christianity.
Clearly God has seen fit to distribute His predestined blessings unequally among both individual men and different races of men. This reality is of deepest insult to the carnal man and the immature Christian man.
As regards matters eternal touching the inequality of salvation in terms of God’s determination of who and who will not be saved we call those who resist and pillory this predestination doctrine Arminians;
In matters temporal touching the inequality of men in terms of God’s pre-determining who and who will be gifted and not gifted in particular ways we call them Alienists.
Both sets object to God’s unequal predestination of men, if merely on different occasions.
But let us not get ahead of ourselves here. Turning to the Scripture.
8 “Remember this, and [a]show yourselves men;
Recall to mind, O you transgressors.
9 Remember the former things of old,
For I am God, and there is no other;
I am God, and there is none like Me,
10 Declaring the end from the beginning,
And from ancient times things that are not yet done,
Saying, ‘My counsel shall stand,
And I will do all My pleasure,’
14:24 The Lord of hosts has sworn, saying,
“Surely, as I have thought, so it shall come to pass,
And as I have purposed, so it shall stand:
25 That I will break the Assyrian in My land,
And on My mountains tread him underfoot.
Then his yoke shall be removed from them,
And his burden removed from their shoulders.
26 This is the purpose that is purposed against the whole earth,
And this is the hand that is stretched out over all the nations.
27 For the Lord of hosts has purposed,
And who will annul it?
His hand is stretched out,
And who will turn it back?”
Is. 37:26 “Did you not hear long ago
How I made it,
From ancient times that I formed it?
Now I have brought it to pass,
That you should be
For crushing fortified cities into heaps of ruins.
As it pertains to a definition, which I trust you will find supported throughout the message this morning, we would say that Scripture teaches that Biblical predestination is the idea that a personal God has a purpose for all things that He pre-determined from the foundations of the world and so as all things come to pass they come to pass by the necessity that our personal God determined from eternity that they come to pass. Predestination presupposes that God is capable by His omnipotence of such planning from the beginning all that will be and that God is capable by His sovereign providence to carry it all out to the most minute degree. This is what the Scripture teaches us regarding predestination.
The impact of predestination is that we do not live in a time + chance + circumstance world. Predestination is so all encompassing that it includes the roll of the dice
The lot is cast into the lap; but the whole disposing thereof is of the LORD. Prov. 16:33
and the falling of the sparrow.
29Are not two sparrows sold for a penny? Yet not one of them will fall to the ground apart from the will of your Father.
Divine predestination is so particular it includes not only the raising up of a people to be saved by God’s predestinating grace, which we shall see next week, but it includes raising up opposition to God’s predestination. God predestines people to oppose His predestination.
Ex. 9:16 – “I raised you up for this very purpose, that I might display My power in you, and that My name might be proclaimed in all the earth.”
God’s predestination includes predestinating those who will object to His predestination. Like an author writing a character into his novel that rails at the author from inside the novel God predestines Pharaoh’s throughout history to rail against His predestination.
So we see that Divine Predestination is exhaustive.
“The determination of the existence of all things to be created, or what is to be camellia or buttercup, nightingale or crow, hart or swine, and equally among men, the determination of our own persons, whether one is to be born as boy or girl, rich or poor, dull or clever, white or colored or even as Abel and Cain, is the most tremendous predestination conceivable in heaven or on earth; and still we see it taking place before our eyes every day, and we ourselves are subject to it in our entire personality; our entire existence, our very nature, our position in life being entirely dependent on it. This all-embracing predestination, the Calvinist places, not in the hands of man, and still less in the hand of blind natural force, but in the hand of Almighty God, sovereign Creator and Possessor of heaven and earth; and it is in the figure of the potter and the clay that Scripture has from the time of the prophets expounded to us this all-dominating election. Election in creation, election in providence, and so election also to eternal life; election in the realm of grace as well as in the realm of nature.”
~ Abraham Kuyper
“Lectures on Calvinism”
God has predestined the existence, role, and purpose of races and nations.
Acts 17:26 And He has made from one blood every nation of men to dwell on all the face of the earth, and has determined their preappointed times and the boundaries of their dwellings,
So, we would say that the Biblical view of predestination is that a personal God (as opposed to impersonal fate) who created the universe, sovereignly controls and providentially destines all things that come to pass.
However, most men, even most Christian men do not like this doctrine. We are seeing it today. Kuyper rightly notes that God predestines whether we are boy or girl but man has invented gender fluidity to seize God’s predestination so as to claim he has the right to predestine his boyishness or girlishness. Kuyper rightly notes that God predestines whether we will be “white or colored,” but fallen man insists that “race is a social construct” and so can’t be predestined.
HUMAN FREEDOM AND GOD’S PREDESTINATING
Now of course one typical response to this is that such a high view of God’s predestinating sovereignty reduces men to stocks and blocks. That men aren’t responsible because God predestines all.
Here we must add that God’s predestinating work does not relieve men of the free will to act according to their nature. Men are free to act consistently with their nature. Birds fly … fish swim … groundhogs burrow and fallen men sin. That is the nature of each and they are free to act consistent with their nature.
And so because men are free to act according to their nature men remain responsible. We just cited that passage from Exodus. God raises Pharaoh up to do exactly what He knew and determined that Pharaoh would do. Yet Pharaoh was free and so responsible and desired to do what he did and yet God predestined it all.
As to whether or not men are responsible for their particular sins men are responsible simply because God says they are responsible. Ask yourself this… If predestined man isn’t responsible for His sin then who is to blame for man’s sin? If you answer that the predestinating God is responsible in the sense of blame the question that then must be answered is … “To whom?” Whom is God responsible to for predestined man’s particular sin? Is God responsible to man for predestined man’s sin?
19 One of you will say to me: “Then why does God still blame us? For who is able to resist his will?” 20 But who are you, a human being, to talk back to God? “Shall what is formed say to the one who formed it, ‘Why did you make me like this?’” 21 Does not the potter have the right to make out of the same lump of clay some pottery for special purposes and some for common use?
If man is not responsible for man’s predestined sin then the only person left to be responsible is God but if God is responsible for man’s predestined sin in the sense of being blamed for it then God has been placed in the dock by man to be charged with wrongdoing and Scripture explicitly says that man the creature is in no place to blame the creator. Job learned this when God spoke to him out of the whirlwind.
In this matter between God’s sovereignty and man’s freedom we agree with Lorraine Boettner who put it this way,
“God so presents the outside inducements that man acts in accordance to his nature, yet does exactly what God has planned for him to do.”
The Reformed Doctrine of Predestination — pg.38
So God predestines without forcing humans against their will, as consistent with their nature, to do what he has predestined them to do. God predestines in such a way that man remains both free to act according to his nature and so responsible for his own sin.
God’s sovereignty and man’s free will is not a contradiction. God’s predestinating free-will is primary and man’s will operating consistent with his creaturely fallen nature is secondary and they operate in the sweetest of harmony.
Perhaps this illustration will help. I have found it helpful.
Storytelling reflects the Christian God and His providential determination of the free act of human beings. Just as authors determine every single word, every single act — good and evil — of all the characters in their novel so God predestined every single word, every single act — good and evil — of all the characters of His story, inclusive of every jot an tittle.
Brian Godawa tells us in his book, “Hollywood and Worldviews,”
Films find everything in the film dedicated to telling the exact story that the screen writer desires. Everything in the film from the costumes to the colors to the insignificant background busyness to the foods eaten to the hairdos is purposely placed in the film by the producer / director to serve as a vehicle to communicate what the film is intended to communicate. Nothing on the set is left to chance. Just so our world finds everything in the world dedicated to tell the exact story that God desires. Nothing is left to what we call “chance.”
As we said earlier, even if the author of a novel writes in a character in his novel that rages at the author of the novel from inside the novel the character raging can not rage at the author apart from the author of the novel authoring that rage.
There is a plan and purpose to it all, even if the characters in the novel don’t know it at the time or even if they don’t like it.
GOD’S OMNISCIENCE AND PREDESTINATION
Now I grew up in a tradition that did not like this kind of Predestination and so instead of speaking a great deal about Predestination they would say things like “God knew it all in advance.” They would appeal to God’s foreknowledge to ward off what they believe were negative implications of Predestination. But God’s foreknowledge is no refuge against Predestination.
Omniscience presupposes predestination. If Man has libertaraian free will and God still has only Foreknowledge this means that whatever man decides to do freely God knew ahead of time. However if God knew it ahead of time and man has to do what God knows he will do then man is still operating in a predestined fashion. Man cannot do anything but what God foreknew he would do and so man in this “foreknowledge but not predestined” scheme remains predestined. In the Arminian world even foreknowledge ends up as predestination. (Don’t tell the Arminians or else they will become “Free Will Theists” in order to avoid Calvinism.)
This reminds us that Predestination is an inescapable concept. There is no avoiding it.
Predestination is inescapable – There will always be a predestinating agent and whoever is one’s predestinating agent is the God of that person.
It is a religious war. Either we will live by God’s predestination or we will live by some other predestination. (Most commonly, the State god’s predestination.)
Modern Western man has denied predestination and replaced it with the State’s womb to the tomb predestination. Just look at our state of affairs. The State has predestined the education of our children. The State has predestined how we will be provided for in our old age. The state has predestined what business will and will not exist. The state has predestined, by their testing in school where people will work after school. (School to Work programs.) The state has become our predestinating agent and we live by the states Predestination.
Ill. — Huxley’s BNW — Social Predestinators.
And so the State has taken on the role of the predestinating God.
Social engineering via the legislative arm of the State is an example of the State seeking to be God as doing God’s predestinating work. Such social engineering is the consequence of giving up on God’s law and abandoning God’s predestination. Non-Reformed people — those who deny predestination — always end up Statists.
Ill. — Archbishop Wm. Laud
Paedo-Calvinists; hating Statism and arguing in favor of God’s predestination since the 16th century.
But it is not only predestination that the State has seized. The State, as God walking on the earth as seized all kinds of God’s perogatives.
God’s reality categories are inescapable. Modern Western man has denied God’s providence and now Modern Western man looks to the State to provide all. Modern Western man has denied God’s Aseity with the consequence that Aseity has been transferred either to the sovereign Individual (Libertarianism) or man in his corporate existence (Totalitarianism). Modern Western man has denied blood atonement but yet blood atonement is the very essence of abortion and euthanasia. Modern Western man has denied the sacraments of Baptism (identity and belonging) and the Eucharist (the promise of forgiveness and Eternal life) and has ushered in the new sacraments of the social security card (identity and belonging) and the high priest psychologist who forgives us of our sins. Modern Western man has denied the catechism and replaced it with Government Education. Modern Western man has denied Election by God and has replaced it with being Elected to attend one of the Ivy League schools. Modern Western man has denied God’s tithe and replaced it paying many times the tithe to the State. Modern Western man has denied the centrality of the Church and has replaced it with the centrality of the Government schools. Modern Western man has denied heaven and has given us Utopias (Dystopias) instead.
You get the idea. God’s reality categories never go away. For those who build idols they retain God’s reality categories while giving them another name.
ANSWERING THE QUESTION OF … WHY PUT FORTH AN EFFORT THEN?
There are those who will say, in light of this high view of God and Predestination … why Bother? If God is ruling so exhaustively why bother…
When I lived in SC I had a Church member who would repeatedly pepper me with that question. Pastor … if predestination is true then why should I bother about anything since God has it all planned. He never did accept, what I am sure were feeble attempts to answer him. But there are are three answers to that.
The first one is “Because He has commanded you.” God’s law for the Christian is a guide to life and we are responsible to live by its precepts. Therefore because we are a blood bought people always zealous to do good works (Titus) therefore, in light of God’s predestination we strive manfully to do justice, to love mercy and to walk humbly with our God as God defines those in His Law-Word.
The second answer to why bother to strive in light of a God who has predetermined all is because God ordains not only the ends but the means. God predestines His own covenant seed to be born but you can probably guess that God also predestines the means to those predestined babies. God predestines people coming to know Christ but He also predestines you as a means to herald the good news of Jesus Christ murdered as a substitute for sinners.
The third reason is … “We can’t help but bother.” God has given His people the Holy Spirit as a deposit guaranteeing that which is to come. If you united to Christ, because you have been given the Spirit of Christ you can’t help but desire to make it your goal to please Him and so you live by every word that proceeds from the mouth of God.
We have more to say on this subject but we will save it for next week. Let us round off by noting that Calvin noted that the purpose of this doctrine was for comfort. The idea that God Predestines all was to be a doctrine that the believer could turn to in times of trial and in times of merry.
In trial the believer could turn to the doctrine of Predestination to find comfort in the fact that the world was not being governed by a cruel fate that had turned on him. Predestination would teach him, by already knowing of God’s favor upon him, that God had a purpose in all that the believer may be going through and because of that the believer could entrust himself to God’s wisdom and so bear up under hardship.
In times of merriment the believer could turn to the doctrine of Predestination and be thankful for God’s largess.
Without a Predestining God the individual doesn’t really need God. If God does not completely predestine then why should man entrust himself to a God who is limited by some circumstance beyond God’s control? Better for man to become his own God then to trust a God who is not sovereign over all.
Second the purpose of this doctrine was to make Calvinists men and women of steel. Men and women who believe in a predestinating God, when they are consistent with this belief, are men and women made of old leather and barbed wire. Belief in a God who has predestined all means we do not quail before opposition, we do not collapse in the context of tragedy, we do not surrender before resistance, and we do not look at failure as final, and we never ever compromise God’s truth. After all, the predestining God who has given us challenges is the predestining God who will bring us through those challenges to His glory as we honor Him.
Predestination and the belief thereof works in men an inability to intimidate. If God and His plan is for us, who can be against us?