A little over a year ago, I posted a blog on predestination, which said:
When we speak of predestination, we are talking about God’s choice of persons for eternal life or eternal death. Although used interchangeably with “election” and “foreordination,” they are not all the same. Millard Erickson says that foreordination is the “broadest term, denoting God’s will with respect to all matters that occur, whether that be the fate of individual human persons or the falling of a rock.” He continues that predestination “refers to God’s choice of individuals for eternal life or eternal death.” Finally, he says that election is “the selection of some for eternal life, the positive side of predestination.”
In talking about predestination there are three major views. (Note: The order that I put the decrees is the chronological order that they happened in according to the respective view.) First, there is what is called supralapsarianism. This view says that God decrees to: save some and condemn others; create both the elect and the reprobate; permit both to fall; and provide salvation only for the elect. Second, there is infralapsarianism. This view says that God decrees to: create human beings; permit the fall; save some and condemn others; and provide salvation only for the elect. Finally, there is sublapsarianism. This view says that God decrees to: create human beings; permit the fall; provide salvation sufficient for all; and choose some to receive this salvation. So notice with me that they say mostly the same things, but they change the order in which God did it or planned it out.
So what does this mean and what are we supposed to believe? I cannot answer this question for you. You will need to read and study and find out for yourself where you fit in the spectrum. However, I will offer you the view that I follow most closely just for your information. As I have stated at times in the past, Molinism is the view of salvation and sovereignty that I align most closely with. I will now present a summarized view of the Molinism perspective on this issue.
We first have to understand two essentials: sovereignty and permission. “God’s sovereignty is His lordship over creation. Divine sovereignty means that God rules and, yes, controls all things” (Kenneth Keathley, Salvation and Sovereignty, 139). “Permission is the decision by God to allow something other than Himself to exist…Using the word permission highlights the point that our freedom is a derived freedom. He gave us the ability to choose, and with this ability came the moral responsibility for those choices…[T]hough God controls all things He does not cause all things” (Keathley, 139).
Now when it comes to predestination, we really do not have a problem with election. John 15:16 shows us that we would not have chosen God had He not first chosen us. Then Ephesians 1:4, 1 Peter 1:1-2, and Romans 8:29-30, show us that election is clearly taught in the Bible. So where is the problem? It is when we get to the non-elect.
As we have established, God sovereignly controls all things. But we also talked about permission. This concept “entails that God has granted at least some type of libertarian choice to the moral causal agents He created” (Keathley, 149).
I still agree with everything that I posted at that time, but I have realized that there are still some looming questions in regard to this issue. The main questions come from the idea of God actually choosing those who will be saved, which leads to the counter question of what about the people He doesn’t choose. Let me try to explain both of these concepts as clearly as possible, once again using Molinism as the back drop and Scripture as the source.
“Molinism argues that God is able to exercise His sovereignty primarily by His omniscience. In this way God controls all things but is not the determinative cause of all things” (Keathley, 149). This is possible because of what is called God’s “middle knowledge.” (For more information on the three layers of God’s knowledge, see Keathley 38-41.) God’s middle knowledge “contains the contingent truths of what every possible creature would do in any possible set of circumstances” (Keathley, 39). What this means is that God “innately knows all free choices due to His omniscience” (Keathley, 40). Because of this knowledge, “God can infallibly assure the choices of free creatures” (Keathley, 150 emphasis mine).
Understand with me that simply thinking about God’s knowledge of all actual truths and also all possible truths is beyond comprehension for our finite minds. But we can comprehend that because of God’s omniscience, He is able to bring about His sovereign will (Keathley, 151).
With this in mind, we have to understand a few things. First, even with this understanding, we can affirm God’s genuine desire for all to be saved. To say that God’s omniscience leads to His sovereignly bringing about His will without violating genuine human freedom and choice (He knows what they will choose), might lead people to question God’s goodness. Why not make it so everyone chooses to be saved? The Bible is clear that God genuinely desires for all to be saved, but it also is clear that many will perish. It is an apparent paradox, but we can be sure that God’s will is done in it.
Second, we have to understand that God’s decree of election is unconditional while simultaneously His rejection of the unbeliever is conditional. Why does the unbeliever exist? It is because of God’s sovereign will. Why is he an unbeliever? It is because of his own unbelief (Keathley, 154).
Third, God is the author of salvation and He actively elects certain ones. God uses His omniscient knowledge to actively elect according to His good pleasure.
Fourth, God’s foreknowledge must be understood scripturally to play a large and important role in election. In other words, “among the many possibilities populated by the choices of free creatures, God freely and sovereignly decided which world to bring into existence” (Keathley, 156).
Fifth, we need to understand the biblical tension between divine sovereignty and human responsibility. For example, let’s look at Matthew 11:20-28. In verses 20-24, we see the aspect of human responsibility. In verses 25-27, we see the aspect of God’s sovereignty. What we learn from this passage is “God desires the salvation of all and is accomplishing the work of redemption in a maximal way, but this does not guarantee nor require that everyone have an optimal opportunity” (Keathley, 158). Although not optimal, “every person who dies unsaved has the sufficient ability and opportunity to respond to God’s graces” (Keathley, 161).
Sixth, we have to understand that this is not a question of God’s character but of His attributes. He is omniscient by nature. It is not a question of God’s goodness. Al Mohler, in a recent podcast, put it this way: The question is not how can God be good and create people that will eventually end up in hell; the question is how good is God that He would make a way for any of us to be saved. So as we continue to debate and discuss this issue, let’s not make it an issue of God’s character.
Finally, we have no right to ask “why” God ordained the world the way He did. Our goal is “simply attempting to demonstrate that it is logically consistent to believe that a good and sovereign God can purpose to create a world like ours” (Keathley, 163).
I know that this is a lot of information, and I do not claim to know everything about it. I have studied this topic a lot and I have settled on Molinism as what I believe to be the model that most closely follows the Scripture and logically lines up with Scripture. I suggest that you read “Salvation and Sovereignty” by Kenneth Keathley, because it is the only work on Molinism that I am aware of. I also recommend that you read other viewpoints, such as Wayne Grudem’s “Systematic Theology”, Millard Erickson’s “Christian Theology”, and Danny Akin’s “A Theology for the Church.” There are others as well, but those would be a good starting point.
In summary, let me say this about predestination: God foreknows what we as free creatures will freely choose. Because of that, He then predetermines/predestines/chooses (however you want to say it) the world we live in.