Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Does Predestination Make Sense?

Where we run into difficulties is when we try to reconcile Biblical statements about God’s love with theological systems attempting to comprehend predestination. It’s an old problem that has vexed people from Erasmus to the present day (and one I feel no desire to rehearse here). The problem is, the Bible everywhere assumes that human action and decisions are free, that is, unconstrained by a prior divine decision, and thus humans can and should be held responsible for their behavior. Even so, most reformed theological systems find a way to make room for human freedom and responsibility under an overarching if mysterious divine predestination. This of course makes no sense.

8 comments:

  1. It's a fantastic post isn't it.

    I wanted to say that on his blog but felt I wasn't adding anything.....cos I haven't really got anything to add, he's covered it beautifully.

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  2. Hehe, well you can always just comment to say, "nice job"! But I'm glad you've commented here as well. :-)

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  3. Merely commenting on the above quote (I haven't the time at the moment to read the whole post):

    ...the Bible everywhere assumes that human action and decisions are free, that is, unconstrained by a prior divine decision, and thus humans can and should be held responsible for their behavior.

    1. I'm not convinced the Bible everywhere does assume freedom of actions and decisions...at least, not in the way an Arminian would usually defend it. It's a bold statement. I'll have to see whether he tries to back it up in his post.

    2. Not sure that the whole sentence follows, i.e. it implies that responsibility necessarily and only flows from freedom of action and decision. A nice idea, but not without problems itself.

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  4. Hi Ali, :-)
    On 1. I think you are right, that needs nuancing.
    On 2. Responsibility without freedom to act and decide? In human terms, it is ridiculous to hold someone responsible for what they could not do otherwise. Be glad to hear why I'm wrong though!

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  5. Well, I'm actually a lot more deterministic than the following example, but if what you say is true, then how can anyone be held responsible for their sin?

    Or do you believe that a person is free to never sin?

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  6. Yay! I've managed to stump you!

    I know it's got nothing to do with you being busy.

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  7. sorry Ali, can't deal with this in any detail at the mo, I think part of the solution (in my own thinking at least) lies in the recognition that we Christians have tended to flatten sin out into a perfectly flat concept where all sins are equally evil and all should send us to hell, I don't think that is biblical. If, for example, you take the mosaic law as paradigmatic you see that different types and levels of transgression are dealt with by different types and levels of response. Are my daughters sinners? yes. Are they really on a par with rapists and genocidal maniacs? I don't think so. I realise that goes against every evangelistic speech we've ever been subjected to (give or take).

    Sorry just another thing to add to my backlog of things to do a proper series on. :-)

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  8. No worries, Jonathan. I agree that there are "levels" of sin. I also think that sin is far more complicated than normally spoken of. But the "hell-sending factor" is not the individual sins themselves per se, but the context in which they exist, recognising most importantly the sinful motives behind them, especially that of indwelling sin.

    But time...yes, time is always an issue.

    I still prefer just to say I've stumped you!

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