Few topics in the history of Christianity have produced as much controversy in the church, and as much confusion amongst the people in the pews, as election and predestination. What follows is not an untangling of this Gordian knot nor a demystification of what is and should remain the great mystery of redemption. Rather, my hope is simply to lay out the playing field so that those interested may have some points of orientation for further study. I will begin by setting forth some preliminary considerations, followed by some basic, intermediate and advanced points of interest. Each section will be followed by a list of suggested further reading.
A common question I hear Christians ask is “Do you believe in predestination?” While the simple answer is yes, I should be quick to add that all Christians should believe in predestination. Predestination is, after all, an inescapable part of the text of the Bible. For example, even though Jesus was handed over to sinful men to be crucified, Peter still thanks God that He (God) accomplished all that he had “predetermined to take place” (Acts 4.28). Paul recognizes that God foreknew the saints and “predestined” them to be conformed to the image of his Son (Rom 8.29). Elsewhere Paul speaks of a “predestination” that took place before the foundations of the world (Eph 1.3-10).
The difficulty with predestination is not whether or not one believes in it. As I mentioned above, all Christians should believe in it because it is an inescapable part of the New Testament. The real problem with predestination is how Christians understand predestination.
Broadly speaking, predestination falls along three categories:
This post was written by Rob Sturdy