Reformed Answers

by Third Millennium Ministries

 
 

Double Predestination

Question
As I have studied and come to accept reformed theology I have also learned that there is a division concerning predestination between a "single" and "double" view. My question is this: did God, in eternity past, simply pass over the reprobate and elect some, or did he condemn the reprobate and not merely pass them over?
Answer
You'll find that Reformed theologians answer this question differently, depending on how they define "predestination." Most believe the same thing, even if they use different words to describe it.

The mechanism, however one defines predestination, is as follows: God loves certain people before the foundation of the world and chooses them for salvation (the elect). In choosing some for salvation, he necessarily does not choose others (the reprobate). By his choices and passing over, God renders all his decisions certain to happen (foreordination). When in time and creation God's eternal decrees are fulfilled, the elect are saved by the active intervention of God (regeneration before faith, gift of faith, irresistible grace, efficacious call, etc.) and the reprobate are lost by virtue of their own character, choices and actions (total depravity).

Notice that nowhere above did I use the term "predestination," and pretty much all Reformed theologians would agree to the foregoing statements. Now, some people define "predestination" to mean "generic foreordination," in which case everything that comes to pass is "predestined." Under this definition, it is not sufficient to say that someone is "predestined"; the statement must be qualified, e.g. "predestined to salvation." Others define "predestination" to mean "predestined to salvation," in which case it can only refer to the elect.

Both uses appear to be represented in the Bible (Greek: proorizo), though the generic sense may have a stronger attestation. The generic sense is clearly used in Acts 4:28 and 1 Corinthians 2:7. The salvific sense is used in Romans 8:29,30 and Ephesians 1:5,11. But note that in both Romans 8:29 and Ephesians 1:5 "predestined" is qualified: "to become conformed à" (Rom. 8:29); and "to adoption à" (Eph. 1:5). Arguably, Romans 8:30 and Ephesians 1:11 are unqualified only because the qualification has already been mentioned. In any event, since both uses arguably appear in the Bible, neither definition employed by theologians is misleading in and of itself, and both have warrant.

There is also a third definition, generally associated with the term "hyper-Calvinism," which is to be avoided. This is the idea that God not only predestines the reprobate to hell, but actively intervenes in history to make sure that they reject the gospel. While it may be demonstrable that God's temporal judgment has this effect in certain cases (i.e. it may not be against God's character to do such a thing, e.g. John 12:40; Rom. 9:17-22), Scripture does not clearly indicate that such negative intervention to prevent salvation always takes place.

Because various definitions of "predestination" exist, it is important always to know which definition a theologian is using before coming to conclusions about the finer points of what the theologian actually believes.


Answer by Ra McLaughlin

Ra McLaughlin is Vice President of Creative Delivery Systems at Third Millennium Ministries.