Thoughts on “Double Predestination”

Do you believe in double predestination?

If you’re theologically reformed, as am I, sooner or later you’ll get that question. The first and most important step in answering it is to understand what the person means by that phrase. Defining terms should always be our first step in any theological discussion. Unless we mean the same thing when we use the same words, we’ll never know if we agree or disagree, whatever the topic.

If they mean that before the foundation of the world, God the Father chose a people for Himself who would be saved, leaving others in their sin then, yes, I believe that. I believe that because that’s what the Bible teaches. Many people, especially those unfamiliar with reformed theology, equate that belief with double predestination. But, that’s not what the term means in a classical sense.

True double predestination, sometimes called equal ultimacy, teaches that God is as active in the reprobation of the wicked as He is in the salvation of the elect.

If this is what the questioner means, my answer is “no,” I do not believe in double predestination.

To explain why, let’s start with what the Bible says about the salvation of the elect. The Bible tells us that before we can believe, God must change our hearts (Ezekiel 36:26, John 6:65). Left to ourselves, we will never seek God because our hearts are naturally opposed to Him (Romans 3:11-12). For those whom He’s chosen to save, God steps in and does a work in their heart so they will repent and believe the gospel.

If, then, God is as active in the reprobation of the wicked as He is in the salvation of the elect, that implies God must do a work in people’s hearts to cause them to reject Him.  That, in turn, implies that human beings start out neutral, neither rejecting God nor choosing Him, and only after God inclines them one way or the other do they reject or accept Him. The Bible does not allow that position. It is clear that all men since Adam start out as God’s enemies with no desire to please Him or follow Him (Romans 5:10). Therefore, God does not have to do a work in someone’s heart for them to reject Him. That is man’s natural state apart from the regeneration of the Holy Spirit. Men do not start out neutral, they start out in rebellion against God.

But what about passages like Exodus 10:20 and others? This seems to teach that God did a work in Pharaoh’s heart that caused Pharaoh to reject Him. While it does say God did something in Pharaoh’s heart, that does not imply that Pharaoh’s heart was neutral before God’s action.  God was in the midst of showing His power and glory to both the Israelites and the Egyptians. His plan was to do this through a series of plagues, each of which showed His power in greater and greater ways and which, when completed, would result in Israel being set free and Pharaoh, who fancied himself a god, shown to be merely a man subject to the God of the universe (Exodus 9:16).

There are many reasons wicked men pull back from their wickedness that have nothing to do with repentance. They might, for example, relent because the consequences of continuing cause them personal hardship or harm. In the case of Pharaoh, God did not want him to relent until all ten plagues had been carried out. Therefore, He strengthened Pharaoh’s resolve to resist so that His plan for Egypt and Israel could be fully worked out (Exodus 11:9). In other words, God wanted the people of Israel to be released on His terms, not Pharaoh’s. God was not hardening Pharaoh’s heart against Him –  Pharaoh was already opposed to God. God was hardening Pharaoh’s heart against letting the children of Israel go before the God-ordained time.

In summary, God does not work in the hearts of men to cause them to reject Him. He does, however, graciously choose to work in the hearts of untold numbers of men and women from among every nation, tribe, people and language causing them to see His beauty and accept Him and for that we should praise Him (Revelation 7:9).

 

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