He chose me, he chose me not

“Whether it’s God who makes us puppets, or whether it’s genes…… it doesn’t matter much to me. I have little time for determinism. If it’s true then I can’t help but not believe in it, because, after all, I have not choice.”

This quote comes from Brian McClaren's book "A Generous Orthodoxy" and was referenced here as part of Geoff's comprehensive book review. Well worth a read, if you have read McClaren's book, or are thinking about it. Geoff highlights this quote as McClaren's contribution to the issue of predestination. I have pondered this question for years. The most interesting place I recall discussing it was perched high at the MCG for an Essendon match with an ex-Dutch Reformed Calvinist minister. I found a t-shirt on the internet somewhere that I seriously considered buying for him – on the front it said "this t-shirt chose me", and on the back it said "I chose this t-shirt".

I just can't reconcile myself to the fact that some are chosen to be saved, and some are not, and that in fact some are chosen for damnation (double predestination). I struggle to reconcile this with a God who is merciful, a "father", one who sacrificed beyond my comprehension for the sake of restoring relationship with His people. On the other hand, I realize that God has a whole lot to do with the conversion process, so I can't fully accept the Armenian position either. For those who are not familiar with Calvinism and Armenianism, these two perspectives sum up the dominant opposing views on the subject of predestination. The wikipedia offers a reasonable introduction to the topic. I have come to the conclusion that this issue is a) beyond my understanding; b) not something that should affect my salvation; c) not a very helpful evangelistic tool. Maybe this whole issue is a theological re-packaging of a problem endemic amongst Christians – the need to determine who is in or out of church, saved or unsaved, chosen or damned.

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12 thoughts on “He chose me, he chose me not

  1. If there’s one thing worse than noticing a spelling mistake in your own blog post – it’s noticing a spelling mistake when someone’s quoted your blog post. I’m pretty sure that deteminism is actually spelt determinism – sorry to have done that to you.

    A very embarrassed Geoff

  2. Geoff,
    I’ve read your blog, and find that you have made a very common logical error in your understanding of the nature of God. Quoting from your post…

    “I just can’t reconcile myself to the fact that some are chosen to be saved, and some are not, and that in fact some are chosen for damnation (double predestination). I struggle to reconcile this with a God who is merciful, a “father”, one who sacrificed beyond my comprehension for the sake of restoring relationship with His people.”

    The bible teaches that God is just (meaning he loves justice). His love for people can be equated to that of your parents. They love you, but that does not mean that they embrace / condone / pardon the things you do as a child that are contrary to (hopefully) God. God is much the same way. His son had to die on the cross, in order for there to be atonement for the sins of his people. Otherwise, justice would not be served.

    This only covers one issue within your post however, and does not address predestination specifically. This is an issue which took me a long time to understand as a developing Christian. I have resolved it in my mind using a stream of logic, which I will attempt to share with you…

    IF God is all Powerful / Knowing / Omnipresent (space and time)
    THEN God
    1. Can Create Me OR Not
    2. Knows At Creation if I will accept Christ

    IF God gives Man Free Will (He Does) THEN
    1. I can choose Him OR Not
    2. God will not interfere in my decision

    I therefore can reconcile my free will with God’s predestination. When God created me, he knew if I would accept him or not, a decision which he gives to me. I hope this helps to reconcile this issue for you, as confusing as it can be.

    -Dustin

  3. Thanks for dropping by Dustin. My best reconciliation of this issue to date is as you describe here – I personally don’t have a problem with the co-existence of foreknowledge and free will. Not all would agree that the choice rests with us though. It is the logical consequences of that particular thought that perturbs me.

  4. Ooh, philosophical stuff. πŸ™‚

    It is extremely difficult to reconcile predestination with free will because one necessarily overrides the other. Foreknowledge is not predestination; it’s foreknowledge.

    My logic is this: If God determines my future (as omnipotence and interventionism would suggest,) then I have no choice. If, however, I am allowed a choice, then God cannot be omnipotent and interventionist (which we know to be “true” from biblical texts). Either I am a free-will deist or a determinist theist. For me, there are no other logical positions to take on the issue.

    Of course, you know that I took the “third option,” Christina, and just disbelieved the whole thing. Any philosophical argument that takes a feat of logic to make sense of it, let alone believe it, is not worth taking on. It seems to be working for me!

    Good post, though, and good thoughts. Keep ’em coming!

  5. Hi, thanks for dropping by Will! Does foreknowledge (and therefore omnipotence and all the other omni words) have to preclude choice? I see it as more like God knows I have choices a to z to make (if he is all knowing he can generate all possible choices and outcomes – we can make a computer do that). Standing outside the confines of time, God is therefore aware of what choice I may and actually do make – hence foreknowledge without taking away my capacity to choose something. Where it gets tricky though is when we think about God’s role vs ours in the salvation process. If salvation occurs because of what God does, then how does choice feature? Perhaps I am too tired to think this through thoroughly. My logic feels a bit strained!

  6. I understand what you mean, Christina, being tired tends to mess with logical processes.

    Predestination, as I understand it, is where God chooses your final resting place, heaven or hell. However you look at it, two things are true: God hands out the tickets to heaven or hell, and God wrote ’em. If He saw what we’d do and wrote ’em that way, or if he just played bingo with our future, the end outcome is the same. Our choice is precluded because God planned it all anyway.

    If you could make every choice in the world except the one that mattered, what’s the point of making all the other choices? Nothing changed except the quality of the previews before the show.

    Foreknowledge does not eliminate choice, but what would the purpose of choice be if someone already knew what you were going to choose? Aren’t our choices then fixed in time by God’s knowledge?

    Strictly speaking, the Bible is very Calvinist on this topic. Paul heavily emphasized it, and there is no way around it. To be Arminianist, you have to jump through hoops to get past predestination. To be Calvinist, you have to be ok with God being indirectly responsible for sending people to hell.

    Any wonder why I picked door #3? This isn’t an issue that the Bible will ever solve. The idea of God that is stuck in my mind, the merciful Father who is ever-willing to forgive, doesn’t jibe well with either Calvinism or Arminianism.

    If any of that made any sense, please, reply. It’s 1:30am and I’m beat, and my logic is probably broken. πŸ™‚

  7. Without reading anyones comments…

    I feel that we are all chosen. Each one of us. God has pointed to us and chose us. But with that comes a choice on our behalf to accept what He has offered.

    Sadly, many choose not to walk the way God originally intended for them 😦

    I heard someone say once that hell was never created for humans, but it was created for satan and his demons.

  8. Hi,
    I guess for me, to be honest, you’d have to rewrite key verses to go with the predestination thing. For example: “God loved some so much that he gave his only begotten son that the one’s he picked out would be forced to believe in him and will have eternal life.”
    Dave

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