The doctrine of God’s electing individuals to salvation, apart from any good in them (either actual or foreseen) is known as unconditional election (o predestination). It is exemplified in Isaac’s twin sons: ‘…when Rebekah had conceived children by one man, our forefather Isaac, though they were not yet born and had done nothing either good or bad—in order that God’s purpose of election might continue, not because of works but because of him who calls—she was told, “The older will serve the younger.” As it is written, “Jacob I loved, but Esau I hated”‘ (Romans 9.10-13).
Predestination is a doctrine that is often at the centre of controversy. And too often the controversy could be quelled, if not quenched, by a calm tongue and a gentle answer (Prov 15.1). But too much of the time those who believe the most strongly in predestination are (rightly or wrongly) associated with pride and arrogance and preachiness, rather than humility, gentleness, and love.
But that should never be.
That’s just one of the reasons why I loved reading this in the 1689 London Baptist Confession of faith the other day:
The doctrine of the high mystery of predestination is to be handled with special prudence and care, that men attending the will of God revealed in his Word, and yielding obedience thereunto, may, from the certainty of their effectual vocation, be assured of their eternal election; so shall this doctrine afford matter of praise, reverence, and admiration of God, and of humility, diligence, and abundant consolation to all that sincerely obey the gospel. (1 Thessalonians 1:4, 5; 2 Peter 1:10; Ephesians 1:6; Romans 11:33; Romans 11:5, 6, 20; Luke 10:20)
That’s a big mouthful, but basically it’s saying that this isn’t a doctrine to be wielded like an ax, to wound our enemies, but should be applied carefully, like a balm to give courage to wounded souls, and like a call to worship for those who embrace it and are humbled by God’s grace. For those who know the doctrines of grace and love them, this should be the very thing which calls forth our humility and our worship like nothing else. It should never be a source of pride and it is not a doctrine to be handled flippantly.
So how do you feel about predestination? Does it make you condemn those who don’t understand it? Or does it make you marvel at God’s mercy?