Thousands, if not millions, of Malawians go to church today. They join billions of other worshipers worldwide and everyone is looking to get in God’s good books so that they can be saved on the judgment day. But according one interpretation of the Bible, God has already chosen those who will be saved and no matter how some of us try, we are doomed for hell? BRIGHT MHANGO examines the doctrine of predestination.
Predestination in theological terms describes the school of thought that says all events have been willed by God, the doctrine that God has foreordained all things; especially that he has chosen certain souls to eternal salvation.
King David wrote in his Psalms, saying: “Your eyes saw my unformed body. All the days ordained for me were written in your book before one of them came to be.” (Psalms 139:16).
The concept is directly referred to Paul’s letter to the Ephesians (1:11): “In him, we have obtained an inheritance, having been predestined according to the purpose of him who works all things according to the counsel of his will.”
The coming of Jesus Christ is one of the biggest predestined projects God ever implemented. He started giving signs of Christ many years before Christ was born through the likes of Isaiah. His birth, death and resurrection were all foreseen.
The idea of predestination is what informs what we can term prophecy; there cannot be seeing or prediction of future events if they are not meant to be.
The doctrine of predestination purports that some people are marked for salvation and others for damnation. This view is supported, according to some scholars, by the fact that God chose Israel among many of his nations.
John Calvin wrote that “…every man…is predestinated either to life or to death.” Calvin and his supporters say that among humans, some people have been singled out already; whatever happens; these people will live according to his will and will eventually be saved.
Several biblical verses support this notion. Here are a few of them:
For as the Father raises the dead and gives them life, so also the Son gives life to whom he will. (John 5:21)
“You did not choose me, but I chose you and appointed you that you should go and bear fruit and that your fruit should abide, so that whatever you ask the Father in my name, he may give it to you.” (John 15:16)
“For those whom he foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, in order that he might be the firstborn among many brothers. And those whom he predestined he also called, and those whom he called he also justified, and those whom he justified he also glorified.” (Rom. 8:29–30)
So, this is it? He has a list of his humans that deserve heaven? What about those that are marked for heaven and live righteously? What about his chosen who commit the most heinous of sins? What criteria did he use to choose one human and leave the other?
The topic has been burning throughout the millennia. People have been imprisoned over it, cast away from the church and schisms have developed over the topic, but even then, they all agree that God is absolutely free to do whatever he wishes to do because he owns the time and does not need to justify his actions to anyone.
John Calvin argued that predestination is “the eternal decree of God, by which he determined that he wished to make of every man.”
Calvinists hinge on the assertion that God alone determines who will be saved, as expounded in Ephesians: 2:8: “for it is by grace you are saved, through faith, and this not of yourselves, is the gift of God.”
Johnathon Edwards defended Calvin and argues that saying humans have a right to determine their destiny in terms of salvation is to deny the absoluteness and universality of God which he said is very wrong because in John 15:16, Jesus says, “you did not choose me, but I choose you.”
One of the most respected church fathers Augustine also supported predestination, saying human are marked for hell and those that will get saved will owe their salvation to the fact that God elected them.
The doctrine of predestination was highly contested by one Dutch pastor, Jacobus Arminius, whose theology on the matter earned the name Arminianism.
Arminianism rejected the theology that it is God who unconditionally elects some for salvation. Instead, he proposed that the election of God was of believers, thereby making it conditional on faith. He angered the church and his followers across Holland were removed from office, imprisoned, banished and sworn to silence.
But his theology is the less confusing one and reflects in the major churches theology. Some argue that the predestination of Calvin is a fusion of Christianity and something Greek philosophy and say God is the most loving, knowing, unchanging but not omni-everything.
One such scholar writes on an online forum to this end:
“In the Bible, he (God) not only responds to prayer and changes his mind; he is hurt and sometimes surprised by events on earth, (Isaiah 5:4).
Christian theologian, Aquinas, wrote in Summa Theologica, that “…man chooses not of necessity but freely…”
Argue as we might, it is good to leave the debate for each soul to decide its take on predestination as 1 Corinthians 2:7 states: “…but we speak God’s wisdom in a mystery, the hidden wisdom, which God predestined before the ages to our glory.”