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Thursday, July 06, 2006

On Predestination

Predestination...is a formative from two Latin words, prae (before), and destinatio (a purpose, destination, determination, etc.), so to predestinate is formed of prae and destino, of like import. Hence to predestinate is to purpose, to determine beforehand. So the Greek word rendered to predestinate, signifies to define, to bound, to determine, etc., beforehand. Hence predestination is a counseling, purposing or determining beforehand. And these words, as is well known, relate to the conclusion a person arrives at relative to his own future management, rather than to a rule to be observed by others. Thus men predestinate, not absolutely, at least not with certainty, for whilst all is certainty with God, time and chance happeneth to all men. A man predestinates to build a house; he predestinates the size, the form, the kind of materials, the class of workmen he will employ, etc., and if he knew, as God knows, he would predestinate the exact time and expense it should take; and this predestination is to govern his own arrangements in contracting for, and ordering the building, etc. So God’s predestination is that according to which He governs the world; and conducts all things relative to salvation and glory. It extends with the utmost precision to every event that occurs under His dominion, even to the fall of a sparrow, and to the hairs of our head, and to the small dust of the balance; for nations are counted as the small dust of the balance by Him; and His infinitude extends as directly to the notice of the one as the other, Matthew 10:29-30; Isaiah 40:15. So the term predestination is evidently used in the New Testament; as in Romans 8:29, "He also did predestinate to be conformed to the image of His Son". This is not given as a rule to which the elect must conform themselves, but a declaration of what God, by His grace, will do with, and for them. And so in Ephesians 1:5. Thus, while God’s decree forbade Adam’s eating of the tree of knowledge, He predestinated his eating of it; that is, God foreknowing with certainty that Adam, if left to encounter the temptation in his own creaturely weakness, would sin, predestinated so to leave him to meet the temptation, and to permit the temptation to be presented to him. So every sin which God permits to take place in the world, from the greatest to the least, from the crucifying of Christ to the parting of His garments among the soldiers, God predestinated its taking place and its working for the greater good. Acts 2:23, and 4:27-28; and Psalm 22:18, compared with Matthew 27:35. This predestination is not a constraining the will of the individuals, but a leaving them to act it out under the attending circumstances. Thus God works all things after the counsel of His own will (Ephesians 1:11), permitting sin to transpire where He sees it for good, and restraining it in other cases; and constraining by His providence, or grace, to acts of goodness, etc. - Elder Samuel Trott, 1845

The scriptures are very clear that God predestinated the crucifixion of His Son: Acts 4:24-28 "And when they heard that, they lifted up their voice to God with one accord, and said, Lord, thou art God, which hast made heaven, and earth, and the sea, and all that in them is: Who by the mouth of thy servant David hast said, Why did the heathen rage, and the people imagine vain things? The kings of the earth stood up, and the rulers were gathered together against the Lord, and against his Christ. For of a truth against thy holy child Jesus, whom thou hast anointed, both Herod, and Pontius Pilate, with the Gentiles, and the people of Israel, were gathered together, For to do whatsoever thy hand and thy counsel determined before to be done." God's counsel determined before (prooizo, same word also translated predestinate) the crucifixion of Christ. Consider also: Acts 2:23 "Him, being delivered by the determinate counsel and foreknowledge of God, ye have taken, and by wicked hands have crucified and slain:" and Luke 22:22 "And truly the Son of man goeth, as it was determined: but woe unto that man by whom he is betrayed!" If God determined before (predetermined or predestinated) the crucifixion of His Son, this shows the predestination is broader than just determining beforehand concerning those whom He would elect. Also Acts 17:26 indicates that at least some times and events are determined before: "And hath made of one blood all nations of men for to dwell on all the face of the earth, and hath determined the times before appointed, and the bounds of their habitation;"- R. L. Vaughn

We do not know what is predestinated tomorrow, but tomorrow we will know a little of what was predestinated to come to pass yesterday. - Elder Stanley Phillips of Mississippi

10 comments:

clinch64 said...

Robert,

No doubt that volumes can be written on the subject. Something that is not given much attention is the belief system of most of our founding fathers. It was a form of predestination, called Deism. Has anyone out there studied into at all? I would be interested in any comments from those who have.

Neil

amity said...

Neil, while deism seems to be somewhat deterministic perhaps (maybe teleological would be a better word?), I don't really see it as consistent with Christianity, but just as an attempt to construct a religion out of Enlightenment rationalism. It has some Christian overtones because the people who adhered to it came from a Christian background. It was more of a popular philosophy than a true religion, and its content varies so much from one person to the next that it is hard to define the core beliefs of deism.

Meanwhile, Armnianism, which might be defined as the belief that we are saved by our own actions, or at least that we must "cooperate" at some level with God in order to be saved (opposed to predestination), does not seem to have come to the forefront of religious thought until the early-mid 19th century, although it certainly existed much earlier, of course. It seems to have grown out of a general secular mind-set that developed in early America and among colonial powers in Europe which legitimized their desire for expansion and power: That man must make his own destiny in the political and economic sphere, linked to notions like manifest destiny and Horatio Algerism more than to theology. I say this because although theologians have been debating predestination versus free will for at least 400 or so years now, the trend toward belief in man's control of his ownh destiny seems to have arisen in the secular sphere first, and only later was self-determination applied to theology. The early founders of the "protestant" movement in Europe do seem to be overwhelmingly predestinarian. Early Christians, even those who were part of the early Catholic church, like Augustine, seem to believe in predestination.

Robert, my only concern with what you have written is, of course, that it would seem to make God the author of sin. I have never had a chance to talk to anyone who believed in absolute predestination on this subject, so please tell me how you would answer that. And thanks for an excellent post, too!

Melvin Burris said...

Bro. Vaughn, I have a couple of questions for you, and neither is related to your post about predestination. I hope I`m not out of order. I`m new to this blogging business. First, did you ever pastor in the Ft. Smith AR vicinity? My former pastor, Bro. Raymond Howard, spoke of a Bro. Vaughn that he knew, but I have forgotten his first name. Second, do you have relatives in Arkansas? My great grandfather was James Whorton Vaughn, and he was born in Carroll county.
I first came across you on some other blogs that have to do with Baptist History. That`s a subject I too am very interested in.

Jim1927 said...

If I may, I am fairly well studied in theology and biblical studies, and I found this a very difficult read. I had to read it several times, and it still left me up in the air as to where it was going.

Deism was most common among the founding fathers of the USA, and people to-day mistakenly take these people as being firm Bible believing, fundamental Christians. What we often call to-day, secular Christians, or nominal Christians.

On predestination, there are a host of misapplications of this doctrine, which is an essential part of the doctrine of election. These doctrines cannot be understood apart from the essential decrees of God, and their particular order...making one a sub-lapsarian, supra-lapsarian, etc. One can examine the various doctrines, but one cannot divide the system of theology and do justice to any one branch of that theology.

Turn of the last century Baptists in America were notorious of following the Plymouth Brethren error of using God's foreknowledge as the basis for election and predestination. In other words, He elected and predestined because He foreknew. When, in fact, foreknowledge was not a contributing factor, but simply a natural attribute of an eternal, all-knowing, and determinative, personal God.

There is an obvious "free will" in humankind from the beginning of creation, else God would have created robots. That free will was tainted in the fall, and exists only in the fallen nature, ad it comes under the label of God's permissive will, which is further limited by God's sovereign will. This leaves man as the author of sin, and not God, but leaving God in charge overall.

Man has the option of being good, but generally has a proclivity to evil, essential to his fallen nature.

In the beginning, God not only chose individuals, but He also chose nations to do His bidding, even though those people and those nations continually disobeyed (the old nature). They did, however, fulfil God's purpose in providing a way of salvation; the basic message of the Bible, Old and New Testaments.

Cheers,

Jim

amity said...

Well, Jim, Rom. 8:29 does say "for whom he did foreknow he also did predestinate to be conformed to the image of his Son, that he might be the firstborn among many brethren" which seems to link foreknowledge and predestination. Similarly I Peter 1-2 hails the "strangers" as "Elect according to the foreknowledge of God the Father." which seems to link foreknowledge and election.

There is also a view of predestination as applying only to eternal salvation, which could be termed conditional or limited predestination. In this view man can be seen to have a "free will" but man's will can only take him further from God. Romans 8:7-8. We are to follow not our will, but God's will "understanding what the will of the Lord is." Ephesians 5:17

Psalms 53:2-3 seems to relate specifically to the foreknowledge of God: "2 God looked down from heaven upon the children of men, to see if there were any that did understand, that did seek God. 3 Every one of them is gone back: they are altogether become filthy; there is none that doeth good,no, not one."

see Psalms 14: 2-3 for almost identical verses, too.

R. L. Vaughn said...

Melvin, welcome and thanks for your first time post. I hope you will continue to read and comment here.

I have not pastored in the Fort Smith area, nor do I have any relatives in Arkansas, as far as I know. The Vaughns are a fairly small tribe, so we might link up somewhere in the distant past. My gg-grandfather was born in VA, moved to GA and married there, and then moved to Texas. He died in the Civil War, and we've had a hard time getting back with certainty beyond him in our genealogical searches.

I know a Shannon Vaughn who was/is a Primitive Baptist preacher up in middle Arkansas (can't remember the town offhand).

I am very interested in Baptist history, but don't post too much about it on my blog. History is a scary word to a lot of people. I am working right now on two Baptist history related projects -- one a transciption of minutes (with notes) of the Mt. Carmel Baptist Church of southern Rusk County, TX (org. before 1857). The other I'm calling (Copying Morgan Edwards) "Materials towards a History of Feet Washing among the Baptists".

Neil, I'm not too up on Deism, so will refer you to amity's and Jim's posts. I looked at a few things online, and one thing I thought was pretty much part of Deism -- that God got creation started and then just forgot about it or left it alone -- is not necessarily an inherent part of deism. I guess that it wouldn't be unusual for the Deists among our founding fathers to be predestinarian, since that seems to have been pretty much the prevailing theology of the day.

Amity, my explanation might seem too simplistic. I would explain it simply that the Bible teaches that God works all things after the counsel of His own will AND doesn't teach (or charge) that God is the author of sin. That idea, IMO, pretty much initially arose in the internal debate about predestination and usually comes from a "if you believe that then you make God the author of sin" argument. BUT some (a minute few) predestinarians have actually embraced the idea and teach it. I have heard it from a few (yes, absolute predestinarians). BUT, I can also remember a Missionary Baptist song leader debating with a friend and preacher that there was eventually no way around the fact that God "started" sin by creating those who would sin. I guess the concept is broader than just among a few Primitive Baptists.

So, I don't know if that touches your question. I suppose I am happy to not clear up what some view as a contradiction -- that man has a will and that God's will will be done. This may not answer your question, so if not, let me know what it is specifically that seems to make God the author of sin.

Jim, part of the confusion may lie in the fact that the blog contains three random quotes, tied together only by the fact that they are on the subject of predestination. The context of my comment was originally directed against the idea the predestination ONLY means God predetermining the elect (persons, but not events). Your point on foreknowledge is well-made. I too came up among folks who believed, like the Plymouth Brethren it seems, that predestination was God determining to let happen what He foreknew would happen. So, for example, if He foreknew you would believe, then He elected you!

I recently asked someone, "Is there anything that God foreknew would come to pass that will not come to pass?" If one's answer is yes (his was), then we should consider this. If you think it is based on predestination, God determines beforehand and it will come to pass. If you think it is based on foreknowledge, then God knows it and it will come to pass. There is a theological difference between the two, but no real practical historical difference in this view of foreknowledge on the one hand and God predestinating beforehand on the other. Whatever these events, they are known by God and will come to pass. So to me the real difference is not in substance, but rather in how our view makes us "feel" about God and His dealings with man.

Anyway, Jim, I agree that foreknowledge is "a natural attribute of an eternal, all-knowing, and determinative, personal God."

Thanks for all the comments.

Jim1927 said...

One the question of foreknowledge, election and predestination, I would like to submit this well written essay on the question. it answers the question well, and better than I could type out here with my feeble fingers.

http://home.flash.net/~thinkman/articles/foreknow.htm

Cheers,

Jim

R. L. Vaughn said...

Thanks for the link, Jim. (although I was a little disappointed to see you hadn't written it). I glanced at it and it certainly looks interesting. I'll take a closer look at it when my brain is functioning better and my eyes will stay open longer.

Amity, I probably shouldn't try to speak for Jim, but I took his main point not that foreknowledge and predestination aren't linked, but that predestination isn't based on foreknowledge. Since foreknowledge is an attribute of God, there could never be a time He did not have it. But the Arminian view is that God foresaw faith in the person and elected him/her because of that.

Jim1927 said...

Bang on, as we would say in England, Robert. We tend to forget that God is always NOW, and not before, now and after, and NOW all at once.

In this sense, God could not have foreknowledge in the sense that we would understand that word by a dictionary definition in the 20th century. Hence, we must seek another dfinition, which does not happen other than in the scriptures as we glean something about the nature of God.

Cheers, and thank you,

Jim

amity said...

I read the article and it clarified a lot (unfamiliar as I am with Arminianism). Good article and thanks Jim!