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Double Predestination

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In the early hours of this morning, I picked up a Bible for the first time in a while and read through the book of Revelation. I suspected before I began reading that I would be drawn back into the Christian worldview, as the words of the Bible always communicate in a powerful way.

I felt a great deal of peace as I was reading, although part of my mind was also resisting. As people who read my blog know, there are certain Christian doctrines that I have argued don’t make sense in light of my understanding (dare I say ‘knowledge’) that God is in sovereign control of all events.

A few months ago, I wrote an essay entitled ‘The Only Question You Ever Need Ask’ which dealt with the subject of double predestination. This is the doctrine that says before God created the world, He predestined some to eternal life and others to eternal damnation. My argument in the essay was that because God is in sovereign control of all events, one must either accept the doctrine of double predestination (to make sense of the Bible) or accept God’s absolute sovereignty and reject the Christian worldview. These seemed to be the only two logical options.

I concluded the essay by arguing that because God is sovereignly in control of all events, He is unlikely to experience the kind of wrath in relation to sin which is part of Biblical theology, because wherever so-called sin occurs, God is in control of the ‘sinful’ actions. If God caused these actions, and they are all part of His plan, how could He then be angry about them? By extension, it would be difficult to argue that God has justification for sending people to hell when they have done nothing freely to deserve punishment. This perspective leaves the Christian worldview looking rather nonsensical.

There is a way to make sense of this, though it’s rather unorthodox. God may be angry over sin, but only in the sense that characters acting in a play might be angry with one another. Wrath over sin could be part of a storyline written and directed by God. This makes sense if the whole of creation is a story animated by God, as I have argued it is in my book God’s Grand Game.

The crucial thing that I’m currently reflecting upon is that in the book of Revelation there is a passage which describes people’s names being written in the Book of Life at the foundation of the world (Revelation 17:8). But this passage must be considered in relation to a subsequent passage (Revelation 20:12), which says that the dead will be judged according to what is written in the book.

Let me restate the point. If 1) The Book of Life was written before the foundation of the world, and 2) Our deeds will be judged according to what is written in the book; then isn’t this a clear argument that the Bible describes double predestination?

This is a critical issue for me in terms of my own struggle with the Christian faith because I am certain that God is in control of all events, and that we don’t have free will, for reasons I have explained extensively elsewhere. If double predestination is true, I can happily embrace Christianity (God willing, of course), because the doctrine makes sense of both Biblical theology and God’s sovereignty over all events.


Thank you for reading. If you have any comments specifically related to the book of life, the book of Revelation, and predestination, you’re welcome to leave a comment. I don’t really want to get into the free will debate here because I’m confident I’ve answered that one, so please respect that. Looking forward to your thoughts.

24 comments

  1. I’m reading John Calvin’s “Institutes of the Christian Religion” right now and I’m gaining a lot of insight into the very subject you tackled in this blog. He’s not the hardcore legalist some have labeled him. He’s actually very readable and rational. His Bible knowledge is impressive and I think you’d enjoy the challenge of his argument (if you haven’t already)>

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    1. Hi Rollie! I’ve read most of the Institutes first and second β€” the compilation I have is one of the few remaining books on my bookshelves that aren’t my own! I got rid of loads of books to free up space to hold stock of my books, because space in my flat is limited. But yeah, I share Calvin’s high view of the sovereignty of God, He’s big on quoting Scripture constantly as you point out (which contemporary Calvinists love to do as well, of course) and in my essay ‘The Only Question You Ever Need Ask’ I share a quote from Calvin which seems to specifically support the doctrine of double predestination.

      Contemporary Calvinists that I hear and read often seem to keep sin in the domain of human responsibility, even while emphasising God’s sovereignty, which I find questionable, although there is a framework in which I am able to make sense of this (see my next post which I will probably publish soon!).

      I hope you get some great insights from reading the Institutes that you can share with me / us!

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    1. Firstly, may I ask how you would like me to address you?

      I believe existence and God are ontologically the same and that there is no area of existence which is separate from the being of God. My beliefs are close to panentheism and pantheism. I’m mystified as to why anything exists at all, but I like the concept of aseity; God’s ‘self-existing-ness’. Or, in other words, God’s essence includes existence.

      I believe the purpose of creation is probably God’s self-glorification, and just God’s pastime (or, as I refer to it in my books, His ‘Grand Game’). God has the entirety of existence and also eternity at His sovereign disposal, so what will He do? Create a universe, it would seem.

      You probably have follow-up questions, so over to you!

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      1. well my first name is David – so that’s fine with me. Thanks for asking.

        based upon what you’ve written, it seems to me that you’re assuming a sentient God, right? One that thinks and acts, rather than just an undirected force – correct? if so – why is that? (and thanks for engaging!)

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        1. David it is, then!

          Hmm, well my experience of God has always been through my body. For instance, there’s a certain mode of mind I experience where God talks to me (in a way similar to, but distinct from, my own thoughts). Perhaps you have had this experience. I talk about it with my Christian friends often, and they experience this too. So God is personal in the sense that He talks to us.

          There’s also the feeling of a kind of expansive love that I’ve often had during worship in church. This is another embodied experience but it points to the fact that God’s essence may be love.

          I’m not overly comfortable with the word ‘sentient’ as a description of God because to me there’s an implication of finiteness which goes with that word. I don’t believe God could ever cease to exist.

          I imagine God’s essence to be pure spirit, but I would say that that phrase or any others that we use to describe God will always be lacking because His nature defies description. We can have a crack at describing Him as I tried to do in this post.

          I believe God creates and animates the material aspects of existence. With no physical aspects of reality I think there would just be a kind of limitless bliss (again, there are no suitable words to describe it / Him). I believe this because of some experiences I’ve had during meditation.

          Sorry if all my explanations are lacking, I’m doing my best πŸ˜€

          How about you? How would you describe God?

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          1. For me, God is unknowable – and essentially undefinable. There were times, years ago, when I think I convinced myself that I was experiencing Him, but in retrospect, I’ve come to feel that those moments were mostly the product of my desire to believe. To the extent that I experience God, if at all, it’s in my wonder at the world and how complicated everything around me seems to actually be when I attempt to fathom it. I tend to be very suspicious of people who claim things about God with any degree of certainty πŸ™‚

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  2. Hi Steven. I know you don’t debate free will, but I was wondering why you define sovereignty as complete control over everything, when it’s traditionally defined simply as “supreme power or authority?” I can be a sovereign ruler and not have to micromanage my subjects. In fact, my power could be so supreme that my ultimate purpose could be done while giving my subject freedom to choose. It could be my sovereign will that I create them in my own image, to will and to create, even resist my will. And, as God, I could see “the end from the beginning,” which does not mean I have caused those things. It simply means that I know what will happen outside of linear time. I was just wondering how you dealt with this. πŸ™‚

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    1. Hi Mel,

      See this post entitled ‘On Sovereignty’, or if you prefer, see this video which has largely the same content.

      The phrase I normally use is God’s ‘sovereign control’ of everything that happens. I hope that’s clear. People respond and say ‘so you think we’re robots?’ and I say, ‘no, I think we’re puppets’. God is a living being and He is unfolding all events in existence right now.

      I believe in God’s literal omnipresence, which leaves no room for freedom from God, or free will.

      Liked by 2 people

        1. Hi Mel,

          God’s literal omnipresence means there’s no atom in existence which is not part of God and therefore under God’s control. I don’t know how I could explain it any more clearly, but I’m sorry you don’t understand the argument.

          Thanks anyway and blessings back to you!

          Steven

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  3. I was raised in a free-will environment and remained convinced of that position until I entered seminary. There I was faced with challenges to that belief that drove me to the Bible to prove my conviction. The more I studied the Bible on that subject the more I became convinced free will was of man and not of God and was not taught in the Bible. Much later I started publishing essays on-line and published this essay in 2011: https://rdavidbower.com/2011/09/08/what-is-reality/. This is a summary statement of my views on reality.

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    1. That’s brilliant timing, then! Actually, I’ve noticed a lot of interest around the book on YouTube as well. I think there’s a general sense of impending doom and worry about the future, and Revelation speaks into that.

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  4. I mean, God is both omniscient and outside of time, so He should know precisely whom will choose Him and put it accordingly in the Book of Life in the foundation of the world. We know that sin is utterly abhorrent to God, so I don’t understand, if this doctrine is true, how a God who abhors sin would deliberately allow or cause a person to commit sin.

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    1. Hi Catholic of Honour.

      My personal understanding is that all of the events of our lives are unfolded by God ‘as we go along’. So I don’t think the universe unfolds in such a way that the middle or the end are determined at the beginning, though this is of course what determinists believe.

      It is an area of confusion for me why a God who abhors sin would deliberately cause sin, so I agree with you wholeheartedly there. Unfortunately I am so persuaded that God is unfolding all events that I find it hard to deny that He causes all those aspects of our lives that Christians describe as sinful. To me, it doesn’t make sense that God would control some aspects of our lives (which I assume you might believe He does, such as answering prayers in a certain way) but not others. I cannot conceive of a God who controls the unfolding of some events, but not others.

      Thanks for your comment.

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      1. Thanks. As I see it, God knows already what we will choose and plans accordingly. I think He allows us to hate Him so that we can actually freely choose to love Him, as otherwise it would not be real love. If you start your views based on Total Depravity based on Original Sin, I think it follows that He did not originally cause Adam and Eve to sin anyway. However, I respect your views.

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