predestination: have we predetermined God?
In the last week I have constantly been approached in regard to conversations concerning Calvinism.
I don’t know why. I am one of the least interested people in the subject that I know (ignoring of course my stupid post about ‘Calvin Crunch’…). For some reason, though, it seems that the issue of predestination is on a lot of people’s minds. Indeed, there does seem to have been a bit of renewed interest in the subject from the Reformed wing of the Church (think of guys like Mark Driscoll, for example).
What I am about to propose is by no means definitive, for a few reasons; 1) I haven’t really done the relevant reading on Calvinism, 2) I don’t know everything…, 3) I’m not even particularly interested. But hopefully some of my thoughts can help you think about the issue of predestination from a new angle (whether you are a Calvinist, Arminian, Molinist, Open Theist or other…).
Oh, one more thing before I start – please make sure to carefully read what I’m saying before you jump to conclusions, and then after you’ve thought through what I say feel free to commend or crucify me.
I think I can safely say that two of the main issues in regard to the predestination debate are our concept of predestination itself and our concept of God. In regard to the former issue I will simply say that our conception of predestination must flow from a salvation-historical framework, beginning with the fact that salvation is larger than individual security. Genesis 12:1-3, kicking off the plan of worldwide redemption, reveals that God’s plan has been to bring salvation to all the world.
All the world.
Israel was predestined, that is, elect, in order that they might bring God’s plan for salvation to fruition. Salvation to all the world. Rescue to all the world. Considering a doctrine of hell, or even a loosely formed doctrine of afterlife didn’t exist at the time of Abraham, or at the time of early Israel, I can’t see how election should refer to such a thing. I would suggest that many conceptions of predestination have an assumed view of ‘salvation’ merely as a favourable post-mortem destination and that such a view is, quite frankly, sub-biblical.
But enough about our incorrect definitions of predestination, that, for now, is not really my point. I want to talk about God.
When we speak of God we inevitably accentuate certain of his characteristics. Some may try to claim they don’t do such a thing, and hold all of God’s attributes in equal standing, but such a task is impossible. Some emphasise his love and mercy, others his power, others his Sovereignty, others his holiness etc. etc. Calvinism, by and large, stresses God’s Sovereignty – he is Lord over all, and thus predestination fits within this framework.
And of course God’s Sovereignty is something I believe in and think is essential, wholeheartedly. However, I’m not sure that it should be the dominating theme in terms of God’s character. “Why not?” some may ask, “for surely God’s Lordship is the most important aspect of his character, you heretical ________.”
Let me ask one question; does God esteem his own Sovereignty over his other attributes?
What comes to mind when I ask something like that? Short-cutting any alternative views for now, I would suggest that our view of God must be shaped by Jesus, and not predetermined by anything else. Indeed, Jesus is the perfect representation of God (John 1:18; 12:45, 14:9; 2 Corinthians 4:4; Colossians 1:15; Hebrews 1:3). What, then, does Jesus reflect about God? I mean, if Jesus is God, then what he did would be the paradigmatic self-definition of God, right?
Jesus entered into the world.
Jesus became weak.
Jesus rejected all power claims.
Jesus modelled peace. And love. And mercy.
I mean, clearly Jesus valued relationship to those he wanted to save over simply demonstrating Sovereignty over them. If not, then why did he enter the chessboard rather than simply moving the pieces around?
Even in his Resurrection Jesus wasn’t interested in demonstrating his absolute power over his enemies. Not in punishment anyway. He was interested in creating a people to bring them good news. The good news that he was King, and that there was a new way of life for the world.
So Jesus, in being King, doesn’t actually do kingship like we expect. Rather than merely whisk some elect people off to heaven (a Gnostic view, anyway), Jesus’ Sovereignty actually saves the world. Here. Now. Good news…
So predestination is not even about eternal destination. It is about forming a people to do what Jesus did…
…on earth. As in heaven.
No wonder Paul, in writing about the future glory of creation in Romans 8, says that we were predestined to be conformed to the image of the Son (8:29).
To the very image of God.
A God who chooses his love, mercy and relational attributes over Sovereignty.
Who chooses to enter the chessboard rather than move the pieces around at will.
So that all creation might be rescued.
Let the re-mix begin.