Predestination

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Christians understand the doctrine of predestination in terms of God's work of salvation in the world. The doctrine is a tension between the divine perspective in which God saves those whom he chooses from eternity apart from human action and the human perspective in which each person is responsible for his or her choice to accept or reject God. The views on predestination within Christianity vary somewhat in emphasis on one of these two perspectives.

Biblical support of predestination

Some Biblical verses often used as sources for Christian beliefs in predestination are below. Note that most of these verses do not distinguish between the conditional election (Arminian) and unconditional election (Calvinist), but are simply evidence of some type of election.

Biblical support of free will

Free will by definition is a valueless claim; e.g. one can freely choose chocolate or vanilla, but with either choice there will be an equal portion of ice cream. One can choose to go to school or become a tradesman, but in either case a fulfilling life can be led. Religion however teaches that free will carries with it the cost of eternal damnation. God has chosen for the many to be chastiesed to hell for his decision in creating the opportunity for others to 'freely choose' eternal life. Indeed, free choice as understood by religious texts bear many prime examples of this perversion of free will. Examples of Biblical passages which support "free" will:

Note, however, that II Peter 3:1 and 3:8 address the "beloved," which are assumed to be the elect, or Christians. Therefore, the context determines that II Peter 3:9 means "...but that all 'the elect' should come to repentence." This means that God will not lose even one of those he has chosen for salvation. This concept is supported in John 10:28: "And I give unto them eternal life; and they shall never perish, neither shall any pluck them out of my hand."

Furthermore, Martin Luther wrote in his book "Bondage of the Will" that the "imperative does not imply the indicative." In other words, just because God commands us to believe does not indicate that we are capable of it.

History of the doctrine

Church Fathers on the doctrine

The early church fathers consistently uphold the freedom of human choice. This position was crucial in the Christian confrontation with Cynicism and some of the chief forms of Gnosticism, such as Manichaeism, which taught that man is by nature flawed and therefore not responsible for evil in himself or in the world. At the same time, belief in human responsibility to do good as a precursor to salvation and eternal reward was consistent. The decision to do good along with God's aid pictured a synergism of the human will and God's will. The early church Fathers taught a doctrine of conditional predestination.[6]

Augustine of Hippo marks the beginning of a system of thought that denies free will (with respect to salvation) and affirms that salvation needs an initial input by God in the life of every person. While his early writings affirm that God's predestinating grace is granted on the basis of his foreknowledge of the human desire to pursue salvation, this changed after 396. His later position affirmed the necessity of God granting grace in order for the desire for salvation to be awakened. However, Augustine does argue (against the Manicheans) that humans have free will; however, their will is so distorted, and the Fall is so extensive, that in the postlapsarian world they can only choose evil.

Augustine's position raised objections. Julian bishop of Eclanum, expressed that Augustine was bringing Manichee thoughts into the church[7]. For Vincent of LĂ©rins, this was a disturbing innovation.[8] 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. The British monk Pelagius denied Augustine's view of "predestination" in order to affirm that salvation is achieved by an act of free will.

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